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My remont is approaching its long-awaited end – and its most intensive and costly period. To compound matters, I have also been rather under the weather these past few days. Nothing serious, but in between that and shopping all day, that has left little energy for blogging.

This will soon pass, but for now, here’s a fresh new open thread.

***

Thankfully there’s not much in the way of Big News. These Syria events are going to happen from time to time anyway, so I don’t know if it’s worth getting too worked up over them. Putin sure isn’t. In any case, I have said more or less all that I have to say about the Syrian conflict. I lukewarmly support Russia’s intervention there, but this is tempered by my perception that Russia is ultimately only there at the sufferance of Israel, Turkey, and the US. They set the ultimate rules of the game there. There is only so much (which is not a lot) that Russia can do to push them around. And Syria’s 85 average national IQ isn’t going anywhere. Fuck ups every now and then are inevitable. Some of them will kill Russians. But that’s the price of placing your training arena in the middle of a real conflict. Russia would be stupid to forget that Syria is anything more than a training arena. Fortunately, Putin is a bit smarter than certain commenters.

***

* ABC: Leave no dark corner.

I’ll admit when I first heard of early Chinese “social credit” c.2014 I thought it was just another Sinophobic fantasy. The initial scheme by Sesame Credit seemed in line with what American banks practiced as a matter of course.

But now it really does seem like it was the prelude to a hitherto unseen kind of digital totalitarianism.

You have some Chinese people saying that this will be good at tackling the problems of low trust in Chinese society, but it strikes me as a sovok maozuo solution to maozuo problems.

Anyhow, their country – their choice… at least for now. Something that you can’t say about the US, which wants to shove neoliberalism.txt down the throats of everyone in the world.

***

peppers

In lighter, spicier news, we chopped up the peppers with garlic and tomatoes, blended them, added salt and vinegar, boiled and stirred the mixture, and bottled it up.

It’s pre-ddy good. Thanks for all the recipe suggestions.

I am doing my patriotic duty to radically hotten up Russian food ways in preparation for runaway global warming and the immanentization of Tropical Hyperborea. You may not like it, but this is what peak cuisine looks like.

I found an ostrich egg at a provincial shop. Apparently there is now an ostrich farm in Lipetsk oblast. Isn’t capitalism great? We need ostriches for the coming deserts. Very scenic.

In unrelated news, I discovered Portuguese green wine at a Metro store. Also quite by accident. Kuban steak is equal to any American steak. I am not into cheeses, but from what I’ve seen, there are fully serviceable Russian equivalents to all the major French sorts (there’s a great selection at Danilovsky Market).

Anyhow, I really am amused by /r/politics-level discourse that Russians are eating tree bark. But some people really seem to believe it.

***

I am glad that German_reader has rejoined us. Thorfinnsson is an on/off sort of guy. I hope Randal and Guillaume Tell are ok.

 
• Category: Miscellaneous • Tags: China, Food, Open Thread, Syrian Civil War 
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The Russian MOD seems to have agreed with the Americans that it was Syrian friendly fire. Probably this wouldn’t have happened but for the recent Israeli bombings of Syria.

Elijah Magnier says it was to Syria’s and Iran’s advantage. Glad to hear that! /s

PS. In other news, the long-assault on Idlib has been indefinitely postponed. Following talks between Putin and Erdogan, there will instead be a DMZ separating Syria proper from Idlib, jointly patrolled by Turkish and Russian troops. The Turks have also reinforced their presence within Idlib itself.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Russia, Syrian Civil War 
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Electoral fraud in Russia exists, and is quite prevalent, tilting Putin’s and United Russia’s results upwards of where “they should up” by up to 10% points since the mid-2000s.

That said, Russian electoral fraud has generally not been banana republic tier for a couple of reasons:

  1. Electoral fraud usually happens in the counting stages, instead of the naked ballot stuffing that is often associated with fraud in the popular imagination (indeed, the latter is rather hard to do these, with cameras in the vast majority of voting stations). This fraud can generally only be detected through complicated statistical methods involving Gaussian curves and “nice fractions” that are rather beyond the comprehension of average laypersons.
  2. Electoral fraud generally happens at the local level, as opposed to being ordered from “on high”, as suggested by the fact that there are good correlations between electoral fraud and the level of corruption within the Russian regions). Although the incentives in play – lack of punishment for electoral fraud, rewards for regional bigwigs where United Russia and Putin get good results – strongly favor it. Nonetheless, this still distinguishes Russia from Belorussia and Central Asia, where elections the results really are written out in advance.

But these two mitigating patterns were not in display during the gubernatorial elections in Vladivostok.

At one point, the KPRF candidate Andrey Ishchenko was leading the Putin-endorsed United Russia candidate Andrey Tarasenko by 245,095 (49.9%) votes to 233,801 (47.6%), with victory assured. But when turnout reached 99.03, Tarasenko had surged to 247,396 (49.0) to the hapless Ishchenko’s 245,090 (48.6). Then one more voting station reported its results, and Tarasenko jumped up to 253,082 votes to Ishchenko’s 245,438 – even though no known electoral station in Russia has more than one thousand registered voters.

Consequences:

1. Although the magnitude of this fraud is not all that high in absolute terms, it did clearly subvert the will of the Primorye region, which voted against the UR candidate.

2. You need no fancy statistics, just arithmetic, to understand that this fraud was fraud. This is as blatant as the 146% turnout in Rostov oblast in the 2011 elections – except the latter genuinely was a technical mistake on the part of a single TV news channel.

3. The suddenness and last minute nature of the intervention suggests that it came from on high.

I have no idea why they did it. Irkutsk oblast has been ruled by non-United Russia governors for three terms, and nothing threatening has come out of it. Now, even assuming that protests remain lowkey – not something that can be guaranteed, since Primorye is a traditionally feisty region and gave Putin his third worst official results in the 2018 Presidential elections – United Russia will have a much harder time eking out a halfway respectable performance in that region come the 2021 Duma elections.

Well, come to think of it, I do have an idea as to why this happened, though it’s a banal and depressing one – that the worst kakistocratic impulses of the Putin regime are coming out into the open with increasing regularity.

Together with Head of the National Guard Viktor Zolotov’s bizarre rant on YouTube where he challenges Navalny to a duel in response to Navalny’s corruption allegations, and the clusterfuck of an interview with the alleged Skripal assassins, having all happened in just the past week, there is no escaping from this impression.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Elections, Russia, Russian Far East, Vote Fraud 
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map-russia-patriotism

The previous post featured a map of Russian IQ based on an online survey (n=238,619) for Russian men interested in serving as contract soldiers run by the Ministry of Defense.

The data has recently been released by Konstantin Sugonyaev (see PDF).

However, as was suggested by Sugonyaev at the start, it is also possible to calculate a proxy of “patriotism” based on the percentage of each region’s population that took the test during the 2012-2017 period that his paper covers.

Results

crimea-polls Along with the Altai Republic, the city of Sevastopol (5.4/1,000 took the test) is Russia’s most patriotic region; Crimea as a whole (2.2/1,000) is also well above the Russian average of 1.6/1,000.

This is bearing in mind that they only joined the “experiment” midway through. Adjust for that, and Crimea as a whole becomes one of Russia’s top 5 most patriotic regions at the very least.

So much for muh Russian occupation. (Isn’t it cool how entirely unrelated research demolishes Western propaganda?).

The more patriotic regions tend to be frontier areas with a heavy military presence (e.g. Kaliningrad, Primorye, Murmansk) and the Far Eastern region (e.g. Zabaikalye, Amur). The latter regions also vote relatively more for the LDPR.

Amongst Russia’s ethnic minorities, the Tuvans and Buryats stand out in particular for their patriotism.

Saint-Petersburg (1.8/1,000) is more patriotic than the Russian average, while Moscow (1.2/1,000) is considerably less patriotic.

The least patriotic Russian regions tend to be regions with large oil and extraction industries, such as Khanty-Mansiysk, the Yamalo-Nenets AO, the Sakha Republic, and Tyumen oblast. I assume this is because the men have much better financial prospects working in the local economy.

soviet-military-deaths-ww2-by-percentage-of-ethnicity The least patriotic regions are Ingushetia (0.3/1,000) and Chechnya (0.2/1,000).

As I pointed out, when you adjust for near endemic electoral fraud, Chechnya becomes Russia’s most oppositionist province. At one point, a disturbingly large percentage of Chechnya’s population were subscribed to an extremist Islamist social media group. This would be one more data point than Kadyrov is merely keeping a lid on things.

Anyhow, broader observation. Buryats – Russia’s most patriotic ethnic minority; Chechens and Ingush – the least.

Just like with Yaroslavl’s high IQ, there is what we might call deep history here. More Buryats died as soldiers in World War II as a percentage of their population than any other ethnicity bar Russians – around 5.8% in both cases. In contrast, only 0.5% of Chechens and Ingush died as Red Army soldiers – an order of magnitude lower than for the USSR as a whole.

 
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map-russia-iq-2017

Konstantin Sugonyaev, Andrei Grigoriev and Richard Lynn (2018): A New Study of Differences in Intelligence in the Provinces and Regions of the Russian Federation and Their Demographic and Geographical Correlates [PDF]

This is by far the largest survey of Russian IQ ever undertaken (n=238,619). The test was designed by the Ministry of Defense and is aimed at aspiring contract soldiers, consisting of 30 questions testing verbal, numerical, and logical skills. The data used in the paper (and in my map) was based on results from September 2012-December 2017.

If you understand Russian, you can try the test yourself here: https://recrut.mil.ru/career/soldiering/test.htm

There are excellent correlations with my data on regional Russian PISA-equivalent IQs.

I blogged about Sugonyev’s work about a year ago, when he presented the preliminary results at the Institute of Psychology Russian Academy of Sciences.

A recap of some highlights:

1. Geography of Russian IQ: Despite individually small samples, even Russia’s regional PISA results showed a recognizable gradient of increasing IQ as you go north.

map-russia-iq

In Sugonyev’s data, it becomes even more distinct, with IQ rising in the areas of Finno-Ugric admixture, and falling as one goes south and east.

There is perfect and unsurprising agreement on the brightest regions (the two capitals), the dullest ethnic Russian regions (Zabaikalye, Stavropol), and the dullest ones overall (DICh, Tyva).

There is excellent agreement between these results and both statistical assessments and stereotypes about individual regions (e.g. recent story about a criminal band of alcoholics attacking a military formation in Zabaikalye).

While absent from PISA, Yaroslavl oblast performed as well as the two capitals. As I have pointed out, this has “deep historical” antecedents: Yaroslavl gubernia was the most developed ethnic Russian region in the late Russian Empire outside Moscow and Saint-Petersburg.

russia-pisa-performance 2. Flynn Effect: While people born between 1973 and 1987 performed at a stable 19.5-20/30, the post-1988 period saw a steady improvement towards an average score of 21/30. This is equivalent to a 4-5 IQ points increase. This is very substantial, being equivalent to the difference between the duller ethnic Russian regions (e.g. Orenburg = 98.6, 66th/85) and the brightest Russian regions (e.g. Saint Petersburg = 103.5, 1st/85).

This is plausible, because Russia’s performance on PISA – in which 15 year olds are tested on math, science, and reading – likewise started going up from 2009, with PISA-equivalent IQ increasing from 95 during 2000-2009 to 99 by 2015 (see right).

3. “Patriotism“: Since we have n’s for individual regions, we can calculate what percentage of each region’s population took the test, which would presumably be positively correlated with interest in military service and a general “patriotism” factor. I will create a map of “patriotism” based on this data a bit later.

But TL:DR, for the curious: The second most “patriotic” region is Sevastopol (5.4/1,000 took the test), and Crimea as a whole (2.2/1,000) is well above the Russian (1.6/1000) – and this is bearing in mind that they only joined the “experiment” midway through. So much for muh Russian occupation. Some other patriotic regions include Altay, Murmansk, Buryatia, Amur, and Zabaikalye. Saint-Petersburg (1.8/1,000) is more patriotic than the Russian average, while Moscow (1.2/1,000) is less patriotic. The least patriotic regions include Dagestan (0.8/1,000), Tatarstan (0.7/1,000), Yakutia (0.7/1,000), Tyumen (0.5/1,000), Ingushetia (0.3/1,000), and Chechnya (0.2/1,000).

Prospects

This is a huge database that keeps growing every day, as more and more people take the test. So far we have only scraped the boundaries of what we can do with it.

While the data for regional IQs has finally been published, the finer details of demographic structure remain unanalyzed. Which regions saw the biggest Flynn effects? (Related question: Is the lagging Caucasus converging on the Russian average?).

The geographic data in the database is finer-grained than oblast level, which allows for the creation of much more detailed maps.

The IQ part of the test is followed by a couple of personality tests to assess the aspiring soldier’s suitability for military service. This can open up entirely new avenues of psychometric mapping and analysis.

 
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chilli-pepper

I have more chilli peppers than I know what to do with (about 20 kg worth of it). Any ideas?

My “Stupid People” post has been phenomenally successful, generating almost 1,000 comments and more visits than other post of mine at the UR since The Road to World War III this April. It also generated a large discussion on /r/slatestarcodex: https://www.reddit.com/r/slatestarcodex/comments/9dj642/the_idiocy_of_the_average_and_why_it_matters/

This September is set to become a record breaking month, in an already record breaking year. Less than halfway through, I already have 26,000 visits (normal month of late: 30,000) and 80,000 pageviews (normal month of late: 120,000). Total pageview for 2018 now total a round 1,000,000. That’s 2.5x the rate of the entire of 2015, 2x the rate of 2016, and more than the 790,000 of the entirety of 2017.

***

Featured News

* SYRIA: Long awaited assault on Idlib is still up in the air. The Turks are digging their heels in, so perhaps the operation will end up limited to just taking the areas east of the M5 motorway? Anyhow, as I pointed out, it’s a tense situation – Russia is the midst of the massive Vostok-2018 (in which China is also involved); its armada is still of the Syrian coast; the US now has moved naval assets with a total of 200 Tomahawk missiles to the East Mediterranean. Intermittent reports from RT/Sputnik about an imminent gas attack false flag by the rebels and White Helmets. The Western propaganda wheels are also in motion.

* DONBASS: Assassinated Zakharchenko has been replaced by Denis Pushilin, with elections scheduled for November. Possible candidates include Pavel Gubarev and Khodakovsky. But Pushilin, a gray non-entity who promoted MMM pyramid schemes before the war, seems to be the Kremlin’s favored candidate. In other news, long-time informed DNR observer Alexander Zhuchkovsky reports that Prilepin’s battalion has been disbanded. Prilepin himself, a popular novelist, Donbass supporter, and editor of Svobodnaya Pressa (probably Russia’s best far left outlet), who had friendly relations with Zakharchenko, has reportedly been barred from entering the DNR, as have other close Zakharchenko associates. It’s hard to figure out what exactly is happening there, but my zradometer is tingling.

* NYT LETTER. I don’t buy that the NYT letter was written by Pence – I’d need more evidence than a fondness for the word “lodestar”. Also skeptical that the NYT invented it, as Paul Craig Roberts suggests. Amusing text analysis showing that it was Trump himself (h/t Emil Kirkegaard). My guess is some Nikki Haley or some other deep state bug(wo)man.

* FAKE NEWS? The Duran: 1 million Uighurs in Chinese “internment camps” (Video). Making the Chicoms out to be Nazis is amusing, but I have always suspected it is BS. A country that has affirmative action for minorities and condemns “Han chauvinism” is not going to be devising “final solutions” to the Uyghur Question. However, the timing of this Western media campaign is interesting.

***

Russia

* KREMLINOLOGY. Bloomberg’s interview with Olga Kryshtanovskaya – What Comes After Putin Could Be Trouble.

I looked at it using game theory, and concluded that the elite is likely to betray Putin. As soon as Putin indicates which group’s candidate he prefers, the optimal strategy for the other groups is to undermine that candidate — because if he wins, they stand to lose everything.

* STUPID SPOOKS. Former Putin bodyguard, former Ksenia Sobchak chaperone, and “highly qualified” person [according to Martyanov], and current head of the National Guard Viktor Zolotov posts a bizarre rant on YouTube where he challenges Navalny to a duel and promises to “grill him.”

I think this is a perfectly normal, rational response to Navalny’s corruption allegations.

* Russian spy service punishes trainees who drove through Moscow in a luxury convoy to celebrate graduation – and allowing themselves to be photographed. As I keep saying, these organizations don’t get the best.

* Skripal discussion here.

* SANCTIONS. Interest rates hiked by 25bp to 7.25%. This suggests that CBR expects very strong US sanctions come November. US State Department has recently said as much.

* SELF-SUFFICIENCY. Vedomosti: Aeroflot will order 100 more SSJ-100′s [in Russian]. Good news – in any case, bearing in mind current affairs, it hardly has any choice.

* CARS OF STATE. Remember the indigenous Russian replacement for Mercedes used during Putin’s inauguration? That “Kortezh” line under the Aurus brand is going into serial production.

* SINOTRIUMPH. Russia and China are looking at launching joint projects worth more than $100 billion

* ISOLATED RUSSIA. Taiwan removes visa requirements for Russian citizens. But China does not want Russia to reciprocate. For all my Sinophilia, I think we can talk if/when China recognizes Crimea.

* THE BILL/BORIS FILES. I don’t often cite Masha Gessen, but this is a good piece: The Undoing of Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin’s Friendship, and How It Changed Both of Their Countries

* NEOLIBERALISM (THE GOOD KIND). Vedomosti: IMF supports Russia’s pension reforms [in Russian]. As RT’s Bryan MacDonald wisecracked, not often that US/UK media propaganda runs contrary to IMF advice. I covered the pensions protests here.

* ORTHODOXY. Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople is moving towards granting autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The Moscow Patriarchate does not recognize his authority to do so, and if this goes through, this may well result in a schism between Constantinople and Moscow. Will have more on this later.

* RUSSIAN PROPHET. Egor Kholmogorov – The Ideology of Alexander Solzhenitsyn [in Russian]. This is the complete work. We have provided partial translations of this text here and here.

***

World

* FAREWELL AMERICANA. After a glimmer of hope this summer, I am once again skeptical about MAGA’s prospects. 538 is giving 5/6 chance to Democrats winning control of the House. There’s even a 1/3 chance that they’ll seize both the House and the Senate. Now I know people like to make fun of Nate Silver for “failing” to predict Trump in 2016, but in all fairness, 538 gave him an approximately 1/3 chance – way more than most “experts.” Now is he assigning exactly the same likelihood to an all-consuming Blue Wave – and this is happening at a time when the economy hasn’t been doing so well for over a decade.

* Electric vehicles sales in Europe surpassed 1 million. I think the algae/pond metaphor is applicable.

* Progressive Israel drafts law to imprison holders of the Palestinian flag.

* Since Putin is good friends with Bibi these days, perhaps he could take note?

bibi-strong

* Taiwanese population might start declining by 2022, three years earlier than forecast. Its TFR has been lower than 1.3 children per woman since 2003.

* Do Chinese believe in HBD? spandrell says no:

***

HBD/IQ

* Jonathan Wai et al. (2018) – Using Standardized Test Scores to Include General Cognitive Ability in Education Research and Policy

* LATTER DAY LYSENKOISM: Theodore P. Hill (Quillette) – Academic Activists Send a Published Paper Down the Memory Hole.

Colleagues I spoke to were appalled. None of them had ever heard of a paper in any field being disappeared after formal publication. Rejected prior to publication? Of course. Retracted? Yes, but only after an investigation, the results of which would then be made public by way of explanation. But simply disappeared? Never. If a formally refereed and published paper can later be erased from the scientific record and replaced by a completely different article, without any discussion with the author or any announcement in the journal, what will this mean for the future of electronic journals?

Seriously, read the entire piece – this is really amazing stuff. American academia is reaching levels of Lysenkoism previously thought to be impossible.

Here is the paper in question (he had a Russian mathematician as a coauthor, but he was too weak to resist the SJW pressure and asked to be taken off):

* Theodore P. Hill (2018) – An Evolutionary Theory for the Variability Hypothesis

* Robin Hanson: Sexism Inflation

***

Science/Culture

* TECHNOPHILIA (NextBigFuture):

* DW: Women increasingly drawn to right-wing populist parties, study shows. Hardly surprising – as I said, defining feature of female politics is that it is conformist. As right-wing parties become normalized, they’ll get more women by default.

* The Economist on how nudism is in rapid decline in Europe

* Nature: The quest to conquer Earth’s space junk problem

* Atlas Obscura: The Communist Cookbook That Defined Prague’s Cuisine. Wherever you look, commies ruin everything.

Cooks that wanted to deviate from these recipes had to get approval from the Ministry of Health, a request that could take years to go through. Most people opted for the easier route, which is how thousands of nearly identical menus came to be established across the country. Paired with limited ingredient diversity, the nation suffered a creative drought: It wasn’t just that all the same dishes were served, but the dishes were prepared exactly the same way, resulting in identical versions of dishes, too. Each bite was calculated as a means of productivity, and dining for pleasure was considered extravagant. “Special” meals were no longer considered, and the scope of Czech cuisine shrunk.

* Matt Phillips: How Spain’s bloody history gave it the world’s highest concentration of elevators (h/t Artir)

* E. Harding: Third Script for graphing Maddison GDP data (graphing groups of countries)

* Steve Sailer: Conspiracy Theorists vs. an Actual Giant Conspiracy.

The big reason that Bletchley Park was classified after the war was because the Brits distributed thousands of Enigma machines to its colonies after the war, who did not know they had been cracked. This allowed Britain spy on their communications for years afterwards.

* Good thread summarizing Adam Tooze’s The Wages of Destruction, one of the most interesting and original books on Nazi Germany:

***

Culture War & Powerful Takes

* Greg Hood (Amren) – How Twitter Promotes Verified Hate

* Tom X Hart: Future Analysis | The world in 2028

* Steve Sailer: Google Meltdown

(00:01:12) Returning to seriousness, Brin says he is “deeply offen[ded]” by the election of Trump, and that the election “conflicts with many of [Google’s] values.”

* GLOBOHOMOBEZOS:

  • Facebook censors British former ambassador/dissident Craig Murray
  • Facebook censors ThinkProgress, leftist fanatics who had hailed the censoring of Roosh V just a couple of days before. Poetic justice?
  • GloboHomoBezos Purges Roosh V
 
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Transcript here.

On a more serious note, this is a PR disaster. Even Margarita Simonyan herself visibly realizes as the interview goes on. Their tourism story reaches levels of implausibility that should not even be possible: We are just heterosexual business partners – but no, we won’t go into any details; our first sightseeing tour was cut short by snow, we live in the tropical part of Russia so we’re not used to it; we visited Salsbury twice just to confirm that yes, it has the highest spire of any English cathedral – no need to make a correction to Wikipedia!

Anyhow, I am not going to insult my readers’ intelligence by trying to fit their story into something consistent. In any case, since even the people who are generously compensated by Russian taxpayers don’t see it fit to do so, why should anyone else?

The only remaining question is:

  • The lingering one of whether this GRU hit was a “private” criminal one, or ordered by Putin. (In all fairness, this is now of largely academic interest. The Kremlin have just painted a bulls-eye on themselves).
  • Whether this PR travesty was a result of incompetence, sabotage, or an elaborate FU to the Britbongs. (Also largely irrelevant except insofar as it reveals something about the sustainability of the Putinist state; if the first option is correct, then with cadres like these, it needs no enemies).

Meanwhile, I expect this to lead to real world repercussions:

  • From now on, Britain has no out to quietly bury this affair, even if it wanted to. Further sanctions from the British are guaranteed.
  • Also I wonder if this is what finally gets RT booted off the British airways. If so – lame hill to die on.
  • It puts Germany, which has to date been courteously skeptical towards the Brits, in an impossible position. Had they kept that hapless duo off the airwaves, this is how it would have remained. But no longer.
  • Consequently, I would guess that further serious EU sanctions are now likelier than not.
  • Meanwhile, a State Department official announced that it is imposing “very severe” sanctions over Skripal. This probably came too soon after the interview to be a response to it. This suggests that the US is serious about hewing to the harsher options at its disposal under the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991.

In the meantime, things are slowly building up to a head in Syria. Russia is currently in the middle of Vostok-2018, and still has a massive armada parked off Syria. Turkey has come out against the planned offensive on Idlib (so much for the fevered talk about a new Russian/Turkish/Iranian alliance), and is reinforcing its military presence there. DNR head Zakharchenko has recently been assassinated in the DNR; its new leader pending elections, Denis Pushilin, is a person with a murky past who is directly beholden to Moscow. The US has moved naval assets with a total of 200 Tomahawk missiles to the East Mediterranean. RT keeps reporting on imminent preparations by the rebels and White Helmets to stage a false flag gas attack, even as the Skripal affair has just undermined Russia’s credibility on gas attacks and false flag conspiracy theories.

Hopefully, probably, these are just a series of coincidences. But if this was a Hearts of Iron game, my suspicion is that the “World Tension” meter would now be unnervingly high.

 
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shanghai-deus-ex

Wei Geisheing (2013). Aerial Shanghai by Crane Operator 2.

Let’s take the standard assumption that national power consists of three main elements: Economic, military, and cultural (“soft”).

Why can we be confident that China is on its way to superpowerdom?

Economic Power

China has already overtaken the US in terms of GDP (PPP) in the mid-2010s at the latest {here’s my 2012 article on this}, and will almost certainly repeat that in nominal terms by the early 2020s.

Chinese development is extremely similar to South Korea’s but with a lag of 20 years {East Asia’s Twenty Year Rule}. Consequently, a China that converges to South Korean development levels in relative terms – something that we can expect to see by 2040 – will automatically be three times the size of the US economy just by dint of its demographic preponderance. This is furthermore assuming that there is no serious US economic crisis during this period (e.g. there are estimates that US GDP is 5-10% more than it “should be” thanks to the USD’s status as the global reserve currency – what happens if/when that ends?).

There is absolutely no reason why this process of convergence must stall at any point, since average IQ explains almost all economic success, and Chinese IQ is comparable to those of the most developed OECD nations. To be sure, as I pointed out, developed East Asian nations tend to underperform their IQ; they are only as rich as European countries about 5 IQ points below them, such as France (in contrast, the Americans over perform their average IQ, probably thanks to their smart fractions, the USD’s status, and economies of scale). Nonetheless, this does mean that the average EU level is eminently reachable. And it is even possible that China will eventually do relatively better than Japan or Korea because of the unparalleled economies of scale opened up to it by its 1.4 billion population.

As China continues to develop, its economy will likewise continue getting more and more sophisticated – as of this year, it has twice as many industrial robots as the entirety of North America, and more supercomputers than the US. {China Overtakes US in Scientific Articles, Robots, Supercomputers}

Hence the utter stupidity of comparisons to the 1980s American scare over Japan. China is not the next Japan – it is the next TEN Japans {2011 article on Top 10 Sinophobe Myths}.

Military Power

Military power is primarily a function of economic power. This is a relation that is so obvious and well-established that it barely needs further elaboration.

Chinese military spending is currently at a third of the US level, but it is soaring rapidly and – as in Russia – getting more bang for the buck due to China’s lower labor costs and large share of domestic armaments production. It is also seeing rapid technological convergence in key military technologies. Once this process is finished, it will be free to start engaging in a massive buildup, without the risk of its military falling into obsolescence. This is already happening: PLAN is slated to have more ships than the USN by 2030.

On my projections, comprehensive Chinese military power should exceed that of the US by the early 2030s, and Chinese naval power should overtake the US by the early 2040s – and this is under the assumption that China continued to spend a significantly lower percentage of its GDP than the US {Comprehensive Military Power}.

It’s also worth pointing out that as a Eurasian power connected to the rest of the World-Island through OBOR, and possessing unsinkable aircraft carriers in the form of its artificial islands in the South China Sea, China is less absolutely dependent on its Navy for its military security than the US. While China has been ballyhooed for its lack of power projection capability. As it happens, China recently announced plans to produce 1,000 Y-20 strategic heavy lift airplanes, which will eventually give it strategic airlift capacities well in excess of that of the US.

The fact that China is not (yet) throwing its weight around means absolutely nothing. “Lying low and not taking the lead” was a conscious approach formulated by Deng Xiaoping, and one that that has paid off handsomely to date. There is extremely little point to be had from forcing a confrontation when you are effortlessly and massively gaining in relative power on your potential adversaries with each passing year, at least so long as your red lines aren’t crossed (e.g. recognition of Taiwanese independence).

Cultural Power

According to the Nature Index, a proxy for high quality science production, China is now 50% – up from 25% five years ago, when the index was launched – as productive as the US, and far ahead of everyone else. Now I actually agree with China pessimists that the Chinese, or rather East Asians in general, are more conformist than Europeans, which limits creativity {Coffee Salon Demographics}. Japan’s and Korea’s underperform relative to their IQ on elite science even more than they do on GDP per capita. Nonetheless, even if China were to attain just the per capita performance of Japan and South Korea, it would still generate around 50% more elite level science than the US. By analogy with Japanese and Korean experience, I expect to happen by the 2030s.

I am more skeptical about China’s potential to be competitive in the cultural sphere. English is the world’s lingua franca, and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Its literary, film, and video game output is derivative and uninspiring. They can’t even create a good state-owned propaganda channel – how many Westerners watch/read CCTV relative to RT? It is only in the past decade that Japan has started generating significant cultural power, a generation after they became rich. By extension, I suspect we may have to wait for the second half of the century for a Chinese cultural renaissance.

TLDR

Even assuming no disruptive developments in the United States, such as a catastrophic unwinding of the dollar or secessionism provoked by ideological polarization, the emergence of China as the world’s preeminent superpower by the middle of the 21st century is near inevitable. It is a mere derivative of its demographic preponderance, and the close relation between national IQ and socio-economic development (buttressed by the prior experience of South Korea).

By the 2040s, China will have by far the world’s largest economy in both PPP-adjusted and nominal terms (2-3x that of the United States), its most powerful military, and comparable naval power and elite scientific production. However, it should still lag the US in cultural productivity. China will only truly regain its mantle as the Celestial Empire in the second half of the 21st century.

***

PS. As with my standard “futuristic” projections, all this assumes there are no radical discontinuities in our world – no machine superintelligence, no mass gene editing for superhuman IQ, etc. That said, is seems probably that atheist, technophile China is very well positioned to compete in these “transhumanist” scenarios, should they materialize.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: China, Futurism, Geopolitics 
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As their budgets have equalized with those of blockbuster movies, video games have likewise become a notable source of cultural influence. Meme phrases such as “the cake is a lie” (Portal), “war, war never changes” (Fallout), and “I used to be an adventurer like you, then I took an arrow in the knee” (TES5: Skyrim) have become as recognizable as any movie one-liners, at least the Gen X and younger crowd. They produce Culture Points for the countries and factions that they are associated with. Wolfenstein and Far Cry have joined the neoliberalism.txt culture war against Trumpism. Minecraft can be considered a digital complement to the Scandinavian world penchant for blocky chick, as expressed in Lego and IKEA. Deus Ex has become to cyberpunk in video games as Neuromancer is to cyberpunk in literature, Ghost in the Shell is to cyberpunk in anime, and Blade Runner is to cyberpunk on the silver screen.

One fascinating development in the past decade has been the relative success of Eastern European countries at producing video games. Though Visegrad and the Ukraine are overshadowed by the Anglosphere – Toronto alone probably rivals their entire output – their per capita performance is entirely respectable to that of the rest of Europe.

But I wouldn’t say that this was entirely unexpected, because as opposed to movies, it is much easier for video games to enjoy success beyond the cultural space in which they were created. Anglophone culture is globally dominant, and the world’s stock of A-list celebrities is so concentrated in Hollywood that the US rules the roost here almost by default.

mass-effect-vs-witcher

Mass Effect: Andromeda vs. The Witcher 3.

Video games are different. You don’t need celebrity actors – you mainly just need a technically talented programming and design team, some competent (not necessarily brilliant) translators and localizers, and good marketers. Places like Eastern Europe can be highly competitive, since they have high human capital at highly competitive wages, and don’t have to bow down to SJW ideology like Western media companies, which annoys most gamers.

Most of Eastern Europe except Russia, anyhow, which curiously seems to be underrepresented in video game development. GameDevMap is a database of almost 5,000 global video game companies. The United States, as expected, is far in the lead, with 1,525 companies; Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and the UK all have around 200-300 companies. Poland has 94, the Ukraine has 42, and Czechia has 39; Russia has just 73 companies, below Poland in absolute terms, and well below all of them in per capita terms.

This quantitative assessment is backed up by qualitative judgments, as I will shortly explain.

Poland Can Into Vidya

Cyberpunk 2077 gameplay.

Poland is a video game powerhouse, home to CD Projekt, the creators of The Witcher series – a more polished and much harder equivalent of The Elder Scrolls (though the latter is legendary for its wealth of mods). With the development of Cyberpunk 2077, they may well ouster the faltering Deus Ex series as the mainstay of cyberpunk in video gaming and come to become Europe’s equivalent of Bethesda, a behemoth that alternates between developing The Elder Scrolls (medieval fantasy) and Fallout (nuclear post-apocalypse). Poland also produced the Dead Island zombie FPS survival series, the Bulletstorm series, and emerging classic This War Of Mine.

kcd-army

Kingdom Come: Deliverance

Czechia also packs an incredibly hard punch for its demographic size. It has created the ARMA tactical FPS series, which is especially noted for its relative military realism. It grew out of Operation Flashpoint, which was released in 2001 and might have been the first Visegrad game to really make a splash. They also developed DayZ, which grew out of an ARMA mod; unfortunately, that project has been a complete failure, becoming a byword for the pitfalls of Steam’s Early Access program. Still, having spent many months in the top seller list, it must have nonetheless made Bohemia Interactive a lot of money. Space Engineers and Medieval Engineers are also both Czech games. I am not familiar with them, though the reviews I’ve read weren’t glowing with praise.

However, this doesn’t mean that the Czech video game industry is in the doldrums. Several months ago, new company Warhorse Studio released Kingdom Come: Deliverance, a first person RPG which has become famous for its degree of medieval realism – the architecture is very historically faithful, features the most accurate recreation of medieval swordplay of any major game, and comes accompanied by an in-game encyclopedia so that you actually learn things about medieval Bohemia. One of the more obvious things is that there weren’t any Negroes in that region in the 15th century. Chief developer Daniel Vavra’s resistance to SJW demands to “diversify” medieval Bohemia provoked leftist attempts to boycott the game; the happy reality is that it has sold very well and is becoming a classic in the genre.

metro-2033-station

Metro 2033

Stalker and Metro 2033 are both made by Ukrainian companies. Funnily enough, both are based on originally Russian cultural products – the Strugatsky brothers and Dmitry Glukhovsky, respectively. In a curious analogy, both the Strugatskys and Glukhovsky were/are dissidents against their surrounding culture – the “Land of the Unknown Fathers” in The Inhabited Island was too obviously a satire on the USSR to be unintentional, while Glukhovsky has come out as strongly pro-Ukrainian since 2014, to the extent of ruining the final book in his Metro trilogy with heavy-handed political commentary. Another great Ukrainian success was Cossacks, which might have been the first real time strategy game to feature hundreds of units operating smoothly on standard PCs – a stark contrast to Age of Empires II, which could support a maximum of no more than 125 units on the computers at that time without lagging.

World of Tanks, one of the world’s most popular military simulators, was developed in Belorussia.

Underrail, an RPG set in an underground post-apocalyptic world and the closest thing there is to the early Fallout games, was developed by a single dedicated Serb.

cuck-is-favorite-meme

Mount & Blade: Warband (Napoleonic Wars mod)

Finally, I must commend the Turks for creating Mount & Blade: Warband, the best video game ever created. I hope they release Mount & Blade: Bannerlord sometime this century.

As for Russia… well, it’s been underperforming ever since Tetris, created by a Russian, with 90%+ of profits accruing to a Japanese corporation thanks to the USSR’s complete inability to commercialize anything. For whatever reason, the only sustained success Russia has had in video games seems to be in air combat simulators: The Su-27 Flanker and Il-2 Sturmovik were some of the best in the genre, and the tradition continues with War Thunder. Otherwise, the only game that comes to mind is Pathologic, which is extremely niche, even if it has become a cult classic (perhaps Pathologic 2, currently in development, will draw a bigger player base). Escape from Tarkov, a gritty multiplayer FPS, also seems promising.

Nonetheless, all post-Tetris Russian games combined don’t add up to the individual cultural impact of just Stalker, The Witcher, or even World of Tanks.

So why is Russia lagging on the games front?

I don’t think it’s brain drain, as commenter Daniel Chieh suggests. This should be even truer for East Europeans (Poles, Czechs, now even Ukrainians) who have access to Western labor markets – but as per above, all of those places are extremely productive. And it’s not a big deal for IT anyway. There’s plenty of IT jobs where you can earn Western salaries doing projects remotely while enjoying East European living costs. I know a few such people in Moscow alone.

It is because Russia is too underdeveloped? Well, if the Ukraine can create high-end video games – with a market that’s ten times smaller and an even worse business climate – then Russia certainly should be able to. Moreover, I have a theory that certain forms of backwardness – specifically those characterized by high average IQ coupled with bad institutions, instability, and a surfeit of roving bandits – should actually be GOOD for video games. In such an environment, there will be few people willing to built anything substantial like a multi-billion dollar factory (hence why Ukrainian heavy industry continues to coast on the ever depreciating Soviet legacy). But how much capital do you need to launch a middle-sized video game studio? Can’t imagine it’s much more than $100,000. Most of the value is in the brains. And if instability strikes, you just bug out to someplace like Cyprus or Malta (like 4A Games, the makers of the Metro series, did in 2014).

soviet-scale This would explain the remarkable fact that the Ukraine of all places has had more success with making successful video games than Russia, even to the extent of adopting Russian content, with the occasional amusing Ukrainian twist. For instance, in Metro 2033, ROGPR founder Kirill Nesterov once drew my attention to the fact that the abandoned stores in post-apocalyptic Moscow had Soviet-style scales (see right) – even though they had long since vanished from Russia’s capital by 2013, which is when the nuclear war is supposed to have begun. We can only assume that such scales survived in the Ukraine for much longer.

Unexpectedly, and paradoxically, another explanation might be that Russia is too advanced.

Due to its semi-closed IT market, and reasonably large economies of scale, it is the only European nation that has managed to build a comprehensive and at least partially autarkic IT ecosystem of the sort that only fully exists in the United States and China. Unlike Eastern Europe, there are legitimate tech giants in Russia. Yandex is not only Eurasia’s foremost search engine, but also runs its main cartographic resource (Yandex Maps), one of the region’s major payments processors (Yandex Money), and a very competitive taxi service (Yandex Taxi) which it plans to augment with self-driving cars through AI development. Kaspersky is one of the world’s premier anti-virus companies. 1C Company produces the most widely used accounting software in the former USSR. Vkontakte is a full-fledged, if inferior, analogue to Facebook; it is controlled by Mail.ru group, which also owns Qiwi, another major payments processor. These examples can be expanded on at length.

Consequently, I submit that there are three main factors as to why Russian tech is much less video game-”loaded” than the rest of Eastern Europe:

1. I assume that Russia’s own, partially independent IT ecosystem soaks up a much larger share of the local programming talent than is the case in East-Central Europe, where the great bulk of the IT ecosystem is an extension of Silicon Valley.

2. Since Russian non-IT companies are much less integrated into the global economy than East-Central Europe, I assume that its financial, oil & gas, and even defense companies will also soak up a relatively larger share of the local programming talent.

3. Finally, again thanks to Russia’s IT ecosystem being partially separate from the West, there may also be more money to be made making Russian analogues of American apps and platforms. After all, if such apps already exist and are successful, there is a good chance that they would also be successful in Russia, whereas the commercial success of a video game is far less predictable. It is therefore illogical for Russian tech entrepreneurs to go into video games.

If these arguments are broadly accurate, then we should not expect a video game renaissance in Russia anytime soon. On the other hand, I suppose it is an adequate price to pay for having one’s own IT ecosystem.

I also expect that much the same arguments will apply to China, which has not produced many (any?) video games of note either.

 
• Category: Economics • Tags: Eastern Europe, Russia, Technology, Video Games 
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Is this the Most Powerful Take yet on Russiagate?

Anyhow, it’s fascinating to see the Russia Truther/neoliberalism.txt convergence with J.R. Nyquist’s “Final Phase” theories, in which the USSR faked its own collapse as part of a deception operation to destroy the West. Proponents of this theory usually subscribe to the eschatological interpretation that Russia is Gog/Magog, and is destined to face an appointment with destruction on the mountains of Israel at the end of the world. (Or something like that – ask Unz.com commenter Quartermaster, as someone who subscribes to this theory I am sure he knows more).

Chris Nethery (Bio: *WINNING* the war against Russia’s influence operations and attacks on Western democracy, though Twitter and shitty website featuring Putin’s 39th brain DUGIN) doesn’t seem to be on the absolute fringes of Russia Trutherism. He has almost twice as many Twitter followers as I do. So when I speculated that in time the Holocaust could be ascribed to the USSR (= Russia = Nazis), it wasn’t entirely tongue in cheek.

russia-did-911

 

 
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Roosh V: Amazon Has Banned 9 Of My Books Without Explanation

Starting on Friday, September 7, Amazon has gone on a rampage and banned the paperback and Kindle editions of nine of my books, including my new release Game. The sales pages now give you an error message. Despite repeatedly trying to get answers from Amazon via phone and email, they will not tell me why the books have been removed. …

None of my books contain child rape scenes, physical abuse, pornography, or sexual violence, [like a whole bunch of other books that Amazon sells] and yet they were banned.

Were they banned because they were effective at helping men? Was it because executives at Amazon disagree with my political opinions? Was it an action from a rogue employee? They won’t tell me. Whatever the case, someone in the company clicked the delete button and I’m supposed to accept it, but it’s hard to do that when your livelihood depends on the basic assumption of fair business practices.

Is it just me, or is neoliberalism.txt really going on a rampage these past few days? (Just the other day, Sam Hyde’s subreddit /r/milliondollarextreme was shut down; a few days before that, @jack finally purged Alex Jones from Twitter).

Anyhow, I am aware that traditionalist and nationalist readers may have issues with Roosh V. Isn’t “game” driving licentiousness as surely as unleashed female hypergamy? Is it really a good idea to allow swarthy “players” such as Roosh into your country?

Well there’s a few things one can say to that.

1. It takes two to tango. As he himself has admitted, Roosh V is a product of modern society; there was no niche for people like him back in the 1960s. As for his international “bang” guides – well, the numbers of people who are going to embark on this “hobby”, damaging as they may be to the women in the countries they’ll drop by, are ultimately drops in an ocean. I am sure there are 1-2 orders of magnitudes more straight out sexpats in the Ukraine as opposed to aspiring Casanovas.

2. The rumors about Roosh V being a rapist are the result of a smear campaign. The only crime he is guilty of is being a humorless censor himself.

3. Needless to say, GloboHomoBezos is not “protecting” us from Roosh because he wants to maintain traditional values and/or secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.

There’s no breaks on this train. To date, Amazon has mostly limited its censorship to Holocaust denial books; a disagreeable policy, to be sure, but tolerable so long as it remained the limit – which it did for an impressively long time. But now the Eye of Bezos has shifted its gave on the “manosphere”. It can’t be long before books on all sorts of other “controversial” topics become memoryholed and “contrarian” thinkers become unpersoned. It’s time to stop relying on that platform.

Here’s a quick guide to offshifting from the Amazon ecosystem:

1. Get pirated, DRM-free books at http://gen.lib.rus.ec/ (though do show the authors appreciation by sending a donation and/or formally buying their books if they deserve it)

2. Organize your book collection with Calibre.

3. Comprehensive guide to removing DRM from your existing, legal book collection at Apprentice Alf’s Blog.

4. I use the Moon Reader to read my e-books on my Android phone. Reputable e-book readers should all work with .epub format. There are plenty of free converters to epub (.mobi, .fb2) on the Internet.

PS. The blaqpill here is that here’s few people disciplined enough to wean themselves off Big Tech ecosystems so fully and radically (each sale on Amazon still contributes to Amazon’s $1 trillion+ valuation), and conscientious enough to reward content creators whose material they pirate. So neoliberalism.txt censorship is still going to be effective at stemming crimethink. Indeed, it may be more effective than the traditional, heavy-handed censorship practiced by ancien regimes, because criminalizing content outright just makes it cool.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Books, Censorship, Game, Piracy 
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There’s been some discussion in the previous thread over whether or not Russian religiosity has increased since the end of the USSR, when for obvious reasons people weren’t polled on these questions.

It’s quite obvious to me that religiosity has increased.

1. Personal observations: Church services in provincial Russia 15 years ago – almost all elderly woman; today – still mostly elderly woman, but now joined by elderly men, middle-aged women, some families.

Commenters such as jbwilson24 and Big Red Scary concur so I don’t think I’m imagining things.

2. More and more churches are getting built.

3. The rise of Russian religiosity has been observed in many sociological works. It is not exactly a controversial theory.

Still, I agree that we need hard numbers.

Fortunately, the World Values Survey does “waves” of opinion polls once every five years across a broad swathe of the world’s countries on all sorts of questions.

Here are Russia’s results in comparative perspective.

Belief in God

1992 1997 2002 2007 2012
Belarus 36.4% 67.9% 84.9%
Poland 92.2%
Romania 92.3% 92.3%
Russia 35.2% 60.1% 73.3%
Sweden 48.2% 46.6% 50.3%
Ukraine 64.7% 87.8%
UK
USA 93.8% 94.2% 87.7%

Percentage of Russians believing in God has more than doubled since the early 1990s.

Importance of God in your life (/10)

1992 1997 2002 2007 2012
Belarus 4.15 5.97 6.51
Poland 8.73 7.95
Romania 8.03 9.17 8.93
Russia 4.00 5.39 6.12 6.68
Sweden 3.94 4.10 3.91 3.65
Ukraine 5.96 7.23 7.18
UK 5.26 5.59
USA 8.78 8.14 8.47 8.22 7.77

On average, Russians went from rating the importance of God from 4.0/10 to 6.7/10 from 1992 to 2012, an almost three point increase. In contrast, the United States – which has become markedly more secular in the past decade according to both my observations and opinion polls – only dropped by one point between 1992 and 2012 (though I suspect the fall has continued and maybe even accelerated since 2012).

In the longterm, I expect Russia’s figures to converge with Poland’s, which is to the contrary secularizing (and becoming more socially liberal).

Anyhow, I think we can consider this question answered.

 
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So the Russian Ministry of Defense is going to build a Cathedral of the Armed Forces at the Patriot Park in Kubinka, a town near Moscow which also hosts the country’s premier tank museum.

fortress-monastery-russia

It is supposed to become a “spiritual and educational center for soldiers, Orthodox priests, and Russian citizens.”

I think Russia is really on the right track with this.

Russian Orthodoxy already has all of the aesthetic accoutrements to become our world’s version of the Adeptus Mechanicus, at last melding religious zeal and scientific rationalism into a single unity.

cult-mechanicus-blessing-icbm

Atomic Orthodoxy: +25% splash damage on infidel cities; fallout lingers twice longer.

So the emergence of Fortress Monasteries is the next logical step:

A fortress-monastery is an enormous citadel where a Space Marine Chapter maintains its headquarters. Space Marine Chapters are highly monastic military organisations where the combatant members are all warrior-monks, and their fortress-monasteries are devoted both to battle and near-religious reverence for the Emperor of Mankind. Fortress-Monasteries are usually based on Imperial worlds important to the Chapter for recruiting purposes, or on deserted moons and asteroids.

It is better to die for the Emperor than to live for yourself!

 
• Category: Humor • Tags: Russia, Russian Orthodox Church, Warhammer 
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Sarah Manavis (New Statesman): How architecture-themed Twitter accounts became a magnet for white nationalism

Another account floating around in the architectural Twitter orbit is Wrath of Gnon. A self-described traditionalist, it is the account that was posting quotes from Leon Krier, Roger Scruton, and Theodore Dalrymple liked by ArchitectureRevival. These were posted alongside standard architecture tweets. Although the account functions as a yet another architecture Twitter account, those it follows include famed alt-righter Richard Spencer as well as a handful of accounts self-identifying as alt-right and posting Pepe the Frog memes.

Senior editor at CityLab, the Atlantic’s publication on urbanism, Amanda Kolson Hurley posted on Twitter that, although Gnon’s tweets on architecture can be unproblematic, the account is part of the same alt-right camp as ArchitecturalRevival.

Of course, you may be thinking, white nationalism on Twitter is rife in small, largely unknown alt-right accounts. But these architecture Twitterers are by no means small fry. Wrath of Gnon boasts over 28.8K followers and ArchitecturalRevival has accrued 32.8K. European Beauty, although not strictly an architecture account, is just shy of 40K. These accounts are not toiling in obscurity, but are leading voices in an ever-growing Twitter fandom.

Is 13th century urbanism the new gateway drug into Neo-Nazism??

 
• Category: Humor • Tags: Architecture, SJWs 
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1. There were no more than 2,000-3,000 people protesting in Moscow about the raising of the retirement age (at most). This is the definition of “storm in a teacup.”

2. Navalny bandwagoning on this issue is particularly implausible, since he is an economic neoliberal. Which, to be sure, is one of the exceeding few good things about him. (Before the Putin cultists get here – you do realize your god is an economic neoliberal too? And that’s a good thing, because we don’t want to end up like Venezuela, which is what would happen if someone like Glazyev was running the economy). But thankfully, Muscovites are intelligent enough to see through Navalny’s charade – even if Western PDS sufferers are not, seeing in this the germs of the next Russian revolution.

3. The usual photos of Russian policemen brutally harassing children were making the rounds on my Facebook feed. Here’s a more complete picture:

russian-police-killing-children

4. At the outset, I predicted that raising the retirement age (Russia’s is currently the lowest in all Europe) will be a temporary jolt to the Kremlin’s popularity ratings, just like the monetization of benefits reform in 2005, and will not translate into significant discontent.

This seems to have been correct. After having slumped from ~78% to ~62%, Putin’s approval ratings are slowly climbing up again in the past few weeks, and the protests have failed to materialize into anything substantial. Indeed, the pensioner protests of 2005 were significantly larger and more disruptive.

5. The main bad news is that the Kremlin has softened the reform, only raising the retirement age for women by 5 years instead of 8 years; consequently, there remains a 5 year gap between men and women.

Furthermore, there will be a year cut off for every child that women have above two, while the retirement age will remain 50 years for those with 5 or more children. While in principle I support lower retirement ages for women with children, on both “social justice” (there can’t be any reasonable doubt that women have to invest much more into children relative to men) and pro-natality grounds (Russia’s TFR = 1.6 children is not catastrophic, but trends are negative, and it’s still far too low), this seems like a pretty bad way to structure it, since it will overwhelmingly be lower IQ ethnic minorities benefitting from this. (Families of 5 or more amongst ethnic Russians are practically unheard of). This means that we might now get the spectacle of a Russian man in Irkutsk with an LE of 65 retiring at 65, while a Chechen woman with an LE of 80 gets to retire at 50.

Here is how I would structure the pensions reform:

  1. Equalize retirement age for both sexes at 63-65 years by 2030, then set at a percentage of life expectancy. The latter is a highly fair, sustainable, and technocratic solution that has already been implemented in Netherlands and Estonia, countries with highly intelligent and disciplined citizenries that enable the legislation of good policies.
  2. Drop the retirement age for women for every child they have up to some rational limit like 5 children. Also tie it to not having a criminal record.

Unfortunately, the Kremlin’s policy-making is far less effective than that, and regionally haphazard.

For instance, Moscow Mayor Sobyanin has informally promised that the retirement age will remain as is for Muscovites, with the city budget making up the difference. Moscow, as the only Russian region where life expectancy has converged to Western levels, obviously needs to keep the Soviet retirement age – when Muscovites lived a decade less – more than anybody else in the Russian Federation. But on the “plus” side, this helped Sobyanin to convincingly win the Moscow Mayoral elections yesterday, getting 70% of the vote.

All of these concessions to populist demotism have substantially weakened the benefits of this reform.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Color Revolution, Moscow, Politics, Russia 
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Government erred in claiming accused Russian spy Maria Butina offered to trade sex for political access

(CNN) Prosecutors said Friday that they misunderstood text messages used as the basis of a claim that Maria Butina offered to trade sex for access — an extraordinary admission that threatens to undercut the government’s cloak-and-dagger portrayal of the young Russian accused of working to infiltrate American political circles. …

The entire case is one big error, as I pointed out mere hours after Butina’s arrest.

Ironically, the Americans are prosecuting a Russian citizen who has helped spread American values in – or in the current rhetoric, exerted “foreign influence” on – domestic Russian affairs.

Nonetheless, ridiculous as this situation is, even this latest revelation does not fully clear her of charges that she was acting as an unregistered foreign agent (charges which, if true, would make her one of the most blatant and incompetent foreign agents in espionage history, who managed to get herself reported to the authorities by her fellow students at the American University on account of her excessive Russophilia and Putinophilia).

However, one of the central planks of the prosecution – that Maria Butina was exchanging sex for political access – has been demolished.

“I want the government’s walk back to get as much coverage, as prominently, as their initial false allegation,” said Robert Driscoll, Butina’s attorney.

I suspect Mr. Driscoll will be waiting a long time.

On the plus side, at least this has been widely reported, with the major MSM outlets running stories on it. However, public resonance has been muted. This news failed to even get onto the front page of Reddit, and was outright downvoted into negative territory by the Russiagate drone bots at /r/politics. The MSM has done too good a job of stirring up Russian spymania in general, and pleasuring themselves into images of Butina as a GOPe-slaying seductress in particular.

Butina has pleaded not guilty to charges that she was acting as an agent for the Russian government since her arrest in July. The about face by the government will likely take away little from the central case against Butina, which is bolstered by extensive communications she exchanged with her mentor, a Kremlin-linked banker, and meetings she had with officials from the National Rifle Association.

But the admission represents a victory for Butina’s defense team, which has attempted to soften the 29-year-old’s image and win her release from jail.

The accusation first made its way into the public eye eight pages into a July filing from the government that argued Butina was a flight risk and should be detained before trial.

“On at least one occasion, Butina offered an individual other than U.S. Person 1 sex in exchange for a position within a special interest organization,” prosecutors wrote in that filing, saying it supported the notion that her years-long relationship with Erickson was not legitimate, and merely cover that did “not represent a strong tie to the United States” that would prevent her from fleeing. …

Butina’s initial request to be released from custody was denied by a federal judge in July.

“The impact of this inflammatory allegation, which painted Ms. Butina as some type of Kremlin-trained seductress, or spy-novel honeypot character, trading sex for access and power, cannot be overstated,” Driscoll wrote in court documents last month.

In the meantime, she has been kept in solitary confinement and been denied access to an Orthodox priest.

The latter is particularly interesting in that it suggests that neoliberalism.txt’s Russia = Nazis equivalence also extends to Orthodoxy as a religion. Carl Bildt has done good work.

“The only evidence the government relied on for its explosive claim was an excerpt from an innocuous three-year-old text exchange” sent while in Russia between Butina and a “longtime friend” who ran public relations for the gun rights group she founded, Driscoll said.

After taking Butina’s car for an insurance inspection, the man, referred to by his initials, DK, texted Butina, “I don’t know what you owe me for this insurance they put me through the wringer,” according to the filing.

“Sex. Thank you so much. I have nothing else at all. Not a nickel to my name,” Butina replied — “jokingly” — her attorney wrote.

Butina later wrote that DK could “ask for anything,” adding, “That they hire you?”

The message was a taunt, meant as a “good-humored reminder that he already works for her gun rights organization, as well as advertising agency,” Driscoll wrote, demanding that prosecutors withdraw or strike the accusation.

It also becomes increasingly clear why the prosecution has sought to impose a gag order on lawyers defending Butina to prevent them from speaking to the public.

Prosecutors wrote in the filing that Russian government officials have made six consular visits to Butina while she is behind bars, and the Russian foreign minister has complained about the case on two occasions to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — actions that “confirmed her relationship with, and value to, her own government.”

The admission came amid a separate fight that has hung over the case for weeks — a proposed gag order that prosecutors want to prevent Butina’s attorney from speaking with the press in a way they say could prejudice a jury.

So what is the correct response in neoliberalism.txt world to politicized persecutions of Russian citizens? Ignoring it? Then again, I suppose that is the response they expect from banana republics, which Russia is as far as they’re concerned (“gas station of a country”).

Anyhow, if this isn’t clinging at straws, I don’t know what is – even if the terminal ROG theorists will happily lap it all up.

The only remaining question is whether American courts are still independent enough to resist deep state pressure and deliver a correct and speedy judgment (complete acquittal).

 
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On September 9, Moscow is electing its Mayor. The undoubted winner will be Sergey Sobyanin, who is poised to achieve about 70% of the vote.

The main “challenger” is KDPR candidate Vadim Kumin, who is slated to do at least twice better than LDPR candidate Mikhail Degtyarev. There are two factors favoring him. First, there is no “liberal candidate” (or “no oppositionist candidate”, in democratist discourse); under such conditions, oppositionist minded voters tend to vote for the commies, not nationalists (the only nationalists who are allowed to participate in mass politics must be strongly pro-Putin). Second, the pensions issue has swiped 15% points off “Kremlin” candidates across the board, at least for the time being; naturally, most of the surplus accrues to commies, who have made it their signature issue.

cyberpunk-moscow-2017

Welcome to City 17… it’s safer here.

Even so, the commies don’t pose more than a symbolic challenge to Sobyanin. He has been a highly efficient technocrat, and far less nepotistic than his predecessor Luzhkov. He has driven through the gentrification of Moscow, such that large parts of the megapolis are now a SWPL paradise, and comparable to some of the best European cities (but with more 24/7 establishments and less vibrant diversity). He is genuinely popular, and so far as I can see this is well-deserved.

ldpr-gastarbeiter

Even Gastarbeiters support LDPR. Sieg Heil!

My usual MO is to vote for the LDPR candidate on the basis that Russian elections may be considered as regime referendums. At the very least, a culture that is more nationalist will be a culture in which I increase my chances of being able to lawfully own a Glock and decrease my chances of getting sent to jail under Article 282 because some “linguistic expert” and graduate of Scientific Communism studies decides I’m an extremist.

However, in this case, I am sufficiently impressed with Sobyanin, and sufficiently unimpressed with LDPR candidate Degtyarev, to vote for the Kremlin candidate.

***

ldpr-rally-1

On September 2, I went to an LDPR rally in front of the US Embassy in support of #FreeButina, though it also doubled as election campaigning for Mikhail Degtyarev, the LDPR candidate for the Mayoralty.

ldpr-rally-2

I wasn’t personally impressed with Degtyarev, who talked about geopolitics as opposed to what he’d do as Mayor. Not that it’s necessarily a problem, since I’m personally always done for a fiery rant against American imperialism.

But it’s quite lame when he couches it in SJW speak (e.g. American policemen are shooting Negroes!).

He should leave the ranting to Papa Zhirik, and in all fairness to Degtyarev, at least his speech was mercifully short.

Zhirinovsky in the flesh! Strong performance. He condemns the Communists as anti-Russian nutjobs who killed millions of people, voiced support for the pensions reform (brave political move), and warns of American attempts to divide Russia and China. It was good to see there was none of the kneejerk Sinophobia that’s quite prevalent within their silovik constituency. I have been claiming China would be the next superpower literally since I began blogging a decade ago, and that gratuitous Sinophobia would be ruinous for Russia; bearing in mind the current trajectory of West-Russia relations, it’s safe to say that I have been vindicated.

ldpr-rally-4

ldpr-rally-5

PS. You can browse through my coverage of the Moscow Elections 2013 here: http://akarlin.com/tag/moscow/

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Elections, Moscow, Russia, The AK 
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In a recent post scriptum to one of his articles, Israel Shamir mentioned the trial of a Holocaust denier in Russia, a professor at Perm University called Roman Yushkov.

Yushkov’s “crime” was to approvingly repost a 2005 article by Anton Blagin, which is pretty much what it says on the tin: “Jews! Return Germans their Money for their Scam with the Six Millions!” Now just to be clear, I consider the broad contours of the Holocaust as presented in standard narratives to be true, and nothing I have read in the past couple of weeks of intensive discussion on this topic at The Unz Review has caused me to substantially revise this opinion. Blagin’s essay is no exception, which basically boils down to the argument that the Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe didn’t have it so bad on the basis of a couple of photos of apparently well-fed freed Jewish internees.

However, as a free speech absolutist, this is all quite irrelevant, so it has been good to hear that on September 5, Yushkov announced that he had been cleared under Article 354.1 (“rehabilitation of Nazism”).

roman-yushkov-extremist-post Unfortunately, celebrations are premature:

There is a nuance: The jury did find me guilty of insulting human dignity on the basis of nationality (Article 282) for my post “It’s Time to Stop Feeding Foreigners.”

Here are a couple of my past posts on Article 282, the primary “hate speech” law in Russia, usage of which has proliferated in proliferated in recent years and has come to affect more and more completely incidental people:

Incidentally, our resident Ukrophiles may be amused to hear that Egor Prosvirnin, Chief Editor of Sputnik & Pogrom and an energetic proponent of the Russian Spring, was almost charged under this law in 2015 – for “insulting the feelings of the Ukrainian people.” Fortunately, even the sovok cretins at the Center Against Extremism realized that charging him for this at a time when the Ukrainians were shelling Russian cities in the Donbass would look pretty weird, to say the least, and the charges were quietly dropped.

Anyhow, back to Roman Yushkov’s plight. In a recent post, he presented the article for which he potentially faces jail time (now only available as scans from the prosecution’s documents – see photos right).

Here’s a rough translation:

TIME TO STOP FEEDING FOREIGNERS!

This table convincingly answers the question of why we don’t need the USSR to come back, and why it should have collapsed. Because it was a big banquet at Russians’ expense. Russians in Russia and Belorussia [fed] the ethnic minority peripheries.

ussr-transfers

Who Produced and Consumed. Left – production; Middle – consumption; Right – balance; List of countries – RSFSR, Belorussia, the Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Lithuania, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkmenistan, Latvia, Estonia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Armenia, Tajikistan.

The table in question is directly drawn from an article by Alexander Zapolskis (Who Fed Who in the USSR and Who Lost Most from its Collapse) published in 2017 in Komsomolskaya Pravda, one of the highest circulation newspapers in Russia.

Consumption was especially lavish, of course, in the Caucasus… as we can, the Armenians ate enough for three; the Georgians – for four, while producing nothing. Those of us who grew up in the USSR remember well this obvious state of affairs: “Georgians” was a synonym for a millionaire, plenty of anecdotes about Georgians getting into a taxi with a briefcase while explaining that it is their wallet; how all the Perm restaurants were filled with Armenians and Georgians.

The great justice of our times is that the situation has now changes: Georgians are no longer synonyms for well to-do hucksters, but for thieves in Moscow railway stations, while the Armenians are now laying asphalt on the streets of Perm! Why? Why did the Tajiks and Uzbeks come here for earnings? Because we stopped feeding them all, and they can no longer eat three times more than they produce, as in the USSR.

Why do we in Russia now live quite well, why do Russians live better than they ever have in history – even if some continue to complain about poverty? Why has everyone who wants it bought a car? Even though we now work far less than in the USSR, and produce a lot less industrial and agricultural produce? Because we stopped feeding freeloaders!

And when the current power for some reason accepted Armenia and Kyrgyzstan into the Eurasian Economic Union, who we don’t need at all, who produce nothing and have negligibly small consumer markets, I ask, “Why??? Why do we need them??? Why is it again necessary for us to feed someone???” Because this is how it will end, Russians can help but give what belongs to them to blacks, otherwise they would no longer be Russians.

And when in this context somebody like Alexander Prokhanov [AK: a Soviet nationalist, or: "Stalinism is true Marxism, and that’s awesome"], a good publicist and writer, with whom I have warm personal relations, calls us to rebuild a Eurasian empire and hang these blacks around on our necks again, I shout, “NO! Never! No brotherly peoples! No more of this black underbelly, breeding like cockroaches, at our expense. Stop with this great self-destructive Russian generosity!”

That’s it. This post is essentially an economic history of transfers between the Soviet republics, or more specifically, how they benefited ethnic minority republics at the cost of the Russian core, coupled with a contemporary demographic analysis. Unlike Holocaust denial, this is not so much a conspiracy theory as a collection of banal facts that are attested to in countless academic sources, leavened with a few of the author’s normative assessments.

However, this case is hardly unprecedented. In a near mirror episode, one Russian nationalist, Konstantin Krylov, got convicted under Article 282 for his considered and entirely mild-mannered position on the issue of federal transfers to the Caucasus: “It it time to do away with this strange economic system.”

So much for life under the Putlerreich (“Godfather of Extreme Nationalism” according to Hillary Clinton).

Conclusion: You can deny the Holocaust all you want, and you won’t go to jail – at least for the time being. But God forbid you say something that “triggers” Jugashvili’s compatriots and it’s off to the Gulag with you.

As I pointed out in Country 282, while Jews are near the top of the Great Chain of Racial Privilege in the West, in Russia that coveted place is occupied by Caucasians. Could it be that ZOG is simply jealous? ;)

 
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Some data on this topic.

1. Via Egor Kholmogorov’s eponymous article for Komsomolskaya Pravda, source given as “Sovetskaya Rossiya 1992″, according to which the RSFSR and Belarus were the only net donors.

Image

2. Orlowski, Lucjan T. – 1995 – Direct transfers between the former Soviet Union central budget and the republics: Past evidence and current implications

ussr-federal-transfers-1989

Russia, Belarus, and Estonia only net donors, if marginal ones; Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan massively subsidized.

Armenia was massively subsidized, but part of that must have been an artifact of the 1988 earthquake.

Georgia had a reputation for being massively subsidized, but it seems the sums were relatively modest compared to Central Asia.

ussr-federal-transfers-gdp-1989

ussr-federal-transfers-budgets-without-transfers-1989

The figures in the article with their modest transfers seem more serious.

OTOH, I have talked with central Russians who traveled to other republics in the USSR, and the general impression was that living standards were higher – at least as proxied by availability of nice consumer goods, since that was the real limiting factor – outside the RSFSR, especially in Georgia, the Baltics, and Black Sea/Caspian coastal areas.

3. “Average deposit in savings accounts in the republics.”

ussr-savingsby-republic

Whatever the precise numbers, it is clear that transfers in the USSR went from the Russian core to peripheries. In economic terms, the USSR was the exact opposite of Russian imperialism.

The exact same thing continues in the RSFSR Russian Federation.

This has a very long history.

russian-empire-subsidies-turkestan

The Turkestan region was subsidized by the rest of the Russian Empire since its incorporation until its collapse, with a brief exception during 1908-1912 (left – spending; middle – income; right – balance; figures from Boris Mironov’s History of the Russian Empire).

 
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So one of my commenters keeps urging me to write something about the Skripal case, even hinting at a conspiracy to keep “bad news” from Unz.com denizens. I was going to briefly mention in my weekly Open Thread, but not anything more, because I don’t see this news are either important or unexpected. But given the urgency of these exhortations, and my respect for said commenter, I’ll do this right now.

We have two suspects who have been captured on CCTV, Alexander Petrov (a Russian “John Smith”) and Ruslan Boshirov (“Bashirov” is a typical Tatar surname, with 48 hits in a database of Russian military deaths in WW1; but there are no results for “Boshirov”, a surname which nobody seems to have heard of before and which gets underlined in red when I type it into my WordPress post creation box).

impossible-photo

Furthermore, as Craig Murray pointed out, the CCTV snapshot of the two men showed the exact same time mark to the second. As he himself acknowledges, there could be innocent explanations for this. Perhaps the two men passed through different gates in exact synchronicity – unlikely, but not impossible. Or as for-the-record suggested on my blog, perhaps the camera clock was stalled.

While a poorly executed stitch-up might not be the likeliest possibility, you can’t rule it out entirely. When I was just out of high school (“secondary school”), I recall browsing through a career book, in which I read that the starting salary in MI6 was around 18,000 GBP, compared to the 50,000 GBP or more you’d be making in London investment banking right off the bat. The spooks aren’t going to get the best people with these paltry sums. A couple of generations ago, when patriotism was less superficial, and income differentials were much smaller, you’d have had more competent spooks (though they were still pretty incompetent). Though in all fairness, their human capital isn’t any better in Russia.

Even if it wasn’t, as Craig Murray goes on to point out, it only deepens the mystery:

Meanwhile the new evidence throws the previously reported timelines into confusion – and demolishes the theories put out by “experts” as to why the Novichok dose was not fatal. …

The longest possible gap between the novichok being placed on the doorknob and the Skripals touching it would have been one hour and 15 minutes. Do you recall all those “experts” leaping in to tell us that the “ten times deadlier than VX” nerve agent was not fatal because it had degraded overnight on the doorknob? Well that cannot be true. The time between application and contact was between a minute and (at most) just over an hour on this new timeline.

In general it is worth observing that the Skripals, and poor Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley, all managed to achieve almost complete CCTV invisibility in their widespread movements around Salisbury at the key times, while in contrast “Petrov and Boshirov” managed to be frequently caught in high quality all the time during their brief visit. …

It is also telling the police have pressed no charges against them in the case of Dawn Sturgess, which would be manslaughter at least if the government version is true.

If “Boshirov and Petrov” are secret agents, their incompetence is astounding. They used public transport rather than a vehicle and left the clearest possible CCTV footprint. They failed in their assassination attempt. They left traces of novichok everywhere and could well have poisoned themselves, and left the “murder weapon” lying around to be found. Their timings in Salisbury were extremely tight – and British Sunday rail service dependent.

Murray also tosses out the possibility they might have been Ukrainians.

While some extreme Ukrainophobes claim that Ukrainians are too incompetent to carry out covert operations, such as the assassination of Zakharchenko, I would argue that they can do that – just not very competently, and with a tendency to collateral damage. The bombing of the Separ restaurant also reportedly killed five other people, and certainly severely injured a pure civilian, the leader of a Donbass youth group, Natalia Volkova.

But sure, I certainly don’t exclude that it could have been Russia too. The best Russians don’t go into espionage either. And it could have been botched on purpose, anyway. Commenter Dmitry has made good arguments that Russia’s ideal position wrt the West is a cold peace, and commenter Sean has made good arguments that this personally benefits Putin as well. My own sources tell me that Putin’s retirement is now one of the main topics in Kremlin circles, and any successor will find it far harder to make a heel turn towards the West – which would jeopardize the accumulated wealth of Putin’s elites and even Putin’s own safety – if relations between the two are purposefully poisoned.

Anyhow, you notice something? We are still in pure speculation mode. That the Brits would produce something eventually was to be expected, so I agree with The Big Red Scary that there is absolutely no reason to update our priors:

As far as I can tell, the British government has shown some pictures of some guys in what appears to be an airport, then some pictures of what appear to be the same guys on a street somewhere. They claim that these same guys entered the UK under some particular Russian names, and that they found residue of “Novichok” in their hotel room. Since the British government is not giving any means to falsify this story, and since they are known to lie about all kinds of other things, why should I pay attention?

Of slightly greater interest has been the effect on the world at large, but even there, this revelation seems to be a damp squib so far.

1. The USD – ruble rate has barely budged, and this probably was tied to a greater extent to general EM trends. The US sanctions process against Russia as it relates to the Skripals is potentially extreme, but it is already in process and its costs/risks must already be priced into the financial markets.

2. The UK by itself can’t do much against Russia.

It can kick out and harass Russian oligarchs, and many Westerners would love it do so. But for that matter, most Russians – including Putin – would love the UK to help solve their comprador elite problem for them.

But the UK isn’t going to do that. Not because Theresa May is controlled by ROG, or whatever the latest conspiracy theory is, but the rather more banal reality that wealthy Russians play a large role in propping up elite housing prices in London. A sector in which many British MPs are invested into.

3. The Euros will make ritualistic noises in support of the UK, but with things the way they are with Brexit, it is highly unlikely any of them will actually stick their necks out for them.

 
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.