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Death Penalty

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This is an argument that is doing the rounds on the Internet after Iran’s condemnation of the Saudi execution of 47 people (including at least 4 “politicals”) to mark the New Year and the ensuing breakdown in Iranian-Saudi diplomatic ties.

After all, they say, Iran executes a lot more people than the Saudis.

saudi-iran-executions

 

One example is Peter Tatchell, the British LGBT campaigner, whose ideas of promoting gay rights in the Middle East center around the toppling of its secular autocrats (the only significant political forces there who aren’t much interested in throwing homosexuals off the top of high buildings).

There are more than a few problems with such simplistic soundbytes.

The most obvious one is the difference in population: Iran – 77 million; Saudi Arabia – 29 million. Adjustment for capita values alone narrows the execution disparity from sixfold to just a bit more than twofold.

Second, and even more significantly, Iran is a considerably more criminalized society than Saudi Arabia. Its homicide rate of 3.9/100,000 is 5 times bigger than Saudi Arabia’s homicide rate of 0.8/100,000. Ipso facto, as states that both prescribe the death penalty for murder, Iran will have many more executions just on that account, by an order of magnitude or so. Since the world’s two largest developed democracies – the US and Japan – both have the death penalty for murder on the books, you can’t view this as uniquely barbaric.

Unlike Saudi Arabia, Iran also has a massive heroin epidemic; by some measures, the world’s largest. By far the largest share of Iran’s executions are in fact related to drug trafficking. To be sure executing people for drug traficking might be viewed as overly draconian in liberal Western societies, but it is still not exceptional by developed world standards – as a matter of fact, Singapore’s drug traficking laws are if anything more hardline than Iran’s. In any case it is not political.

Here is a breakdown of Iranian executions in 2015 by type of crime according to a resource that tries to tally unregistered executions and is not friendly to Iran by any stretch of the imagination.

iran-executions-2015

The vast majority of executions are for “normal” capital crimes like murder, armed robbery, rape, and drug traficking that are not atypical for tough law & order-type states. One guy was executed for corruption (“peculation”).

Of the 22 Iranian executions that touched on political matters, six of them were for “assassination,” and one was for “kidnapping,” so they can be reasonably excluded. Of the remaining 15 cases, one was marked “political,” and 14 were marked Moharebeh (“war against God”) of which 5 were for belonging to armed separatist groups. These are also the specific cases which make Iran truly distinct in a human rights sense from typical liberal democracies, which it shares in common with Saudi Arabia, and with which the figure of 47 executed in Saudi Arabia several days ago should actually legitimately be compared to.

This is not to imply that Iran is awesome, but it is important to keep things in perspective – no, Iran is not worse than Saudi Arabia from a human rights perspective when adjusted for demographic and criminological factors, and probably significantly better. And far more importantly, it has now largely ceased trying to export its deranged ideology to more civilized parts of the world, while Saudi funded madrassas and mosques promote hate from Luton to Lahore. It is necessary to repeat these things so long as they help to subvert the propaganda efforts of Western neocon elites who will be happy to grasp at any straw if it helps them bring down Assad.

 
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In an interview with Dmitry Nadezhdin, Russia’s chief police officer says that he, as a citizen – if not as a government Minister – supports the return of the death penalty for the worst crimes. Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov says that it ain’t happening.

Vladimir Kolokoltsev: “The Death Penalty is Society’s Normal Reaction”

The Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev gave an interview to NTV, in which he laid out his position on several issues.

On the death penalty for child killers

Although I’m afraid of incurring the wrath of opponents of the death penalty, speaking not as a Minister, but as an ordinary citizen: I do not see anything reprehensible in reconstituting it for such criminals. In the EU, there is one approach; in the US, there is another. Every state has its own particularities, and these must be acknowledged. But for these subhumans, and for those who carry out terrorist attacks that kill multiple victims, I consider the death penalty to be society’s normal reaction to such facts.

On punishments for policemen

The severity of a punishment does not give anywhere the same prophylactic effect as its inevitability. In the past year, more than 1,700 police officers were fired for offenses committed by their subordinates. The principle of personal responsibility has to play a role.

On drunk drivers

For citizens with epaulettes, there can be only one road – either he sits behind the wheel in a sober state, or he writes a dismissal report on himself. We are working on a number of mechanisms for identifying such employees, who think it is acceptable to get in car and drive to work after an all night binge.

As regards civilian drivers, there is no option other than to make them more accountable for drunk driving. By that stage educating people is too late, we’re all adults now. One option is to confiscate vehicles. It’s a tough reaction, but a very effective one.

On corruption

Citizens accuse us for bribery being prevalent, and for the atmosphere of venality. But then, you ask this citizen, “Why do you give bribes?” There is an immediate silence.

That said, all cases of corruption within the Ministry of Internal Affairs have to be burned out with red-hot irons and punished most severely. This will then make a man wonder: Is it really worth raising his level of material wealth in this way and then going to prison, or is it better to work cleanly and professionally?

On ethnic crime

I have set the policy that a main focus of attention will be directed to the fight against ethnic Organized Crime Groups. And we will hold officers accountable for how this task is executed. Especially when it comes to cases of particular resonance, there should be no room for compromise.

A call to the Kremlin

Komsomolskaya Pravda placed a call to the President’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

KP: “Dmitry Sergeyevich, in recent months there’s been a terrifying wave of child murders, e.g. in Tatarstan, in Irkutsk. We assume that the head of state is aware that such crimes are being committed?”

DP: “Certainly. He receives daily reports on the matter.”

KP: “Have you seen how he reacts to such reports?”

DP: “He reacts like any citizen. This is of course an absolutely monstrous phenomenon.”

KP: “Do you remember any of the President’s words, reactions?”

DP: “In this case, it is not a topic for discussion”

KP: The Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev, in a recent TV interview, said that he – not as a Minister, but as a citizen – supports the introduction of the death penalty for criminals who distinguish themselves by exceptional cruelty. Do you think that the recent high-profile cases could influence the President’s position, his attitudes towards this highest measure of punishment?

DP: The President’s position has been known for a long time, and it is a consistent, reasonable, and well argued one. In this case, the Minister expressed a personal point of view. This is absolutely normal. Indeed, there exists a wide spectrum of opinion as regards the death penalty. This is a significant and very sensitive social problem. But we know the official policy on the death penalty that exists today. [Read further] {Translator: To summarize Peskov’s full interview, hyperlinked left, Putin’s position on the death penalty is well-known, he is not going to change it, and there are no questions of putting it up for a legislative vote.}

Meanwhile

The State Duma came out against the death penalty.

On Monday, 11 February, the head of the Duma Committee on Legislation Pavel Krasheninnikov commented on the Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev’s yesterday interview, in which he raised the possibility of bringing back the death penalty in our country. The deputies didn’t agree with the Interior Minister’s opinion.

“The abolition of the death penalty is needed, for the state shouldn’t be an instrument of vengeance,” Pavel Krasheninnikov said.

(Republished from Russia Voices by permission of author or representative)
 
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From the rhetoric, you’d think the People’s Republic of Berkeley was a sickle short of Communism.

In reality however the university itself is fairly standard, probably no more radical than any other in the US. I sat in on a political economy class today (full of PE majors who are in general quite leftist) and the professor took a poll. 39% (!) said the banksters deserved a bailout. A stunning 82% would have bailed them out (though granted, not doing so is more of a libertarian – or far left – position than anything else). However, only 12% said that the banksters should have been given bonuses. The feeling against banker bonuses however is so near universal that I don’t think this is much out of the ordinary. (On this point, I have to disagree – the banksters DO deserve their bonuses. If politicians are going to bail you out, with no popular opposition to boot, it is not only justifiable but a moral obligation to take any bonuses you are offered and give the finger to those suckers!).

Also, in response to another question about the nature of the “state of nature”, 7% said man is inherently good and cooperative; 47% the former, but that society corrupts him; and 47% said he was selfish and competitive. Berkeley students are therefore surprisingly realistic. Even a cursory reading of non-politicized anthropology will reveal that – with a few exceptions – primitive societies are extremely violent, competitive, and hierarchical.

And those respondents were for the most part social science people. Engineers and techies at Cal are considerably further to the right. More general freshman opinion polls show that Berkeley students aren’t all that much more radical than the average American population (e.g. opinion on the death penalty is split 50/50). Actually just considering that Berkeley is associated with the likes of John Yoo (the pro-torture lawyer) or Arthur Jensen (the HBD’er) should prove it is no seething, uniformly liberal hotbed. A year ago, the College Republicans organized a “Diversity Bake Sale” in which discounts were given to Hispanics, blacks, and women to protest affirmative action; a liberal attempt to get the university to ban it failed.

The impression I think arises from Cal’s close association with the City of Berkeley which actually is full of politically far left citizens.

(Republished from AKarlin.com by permission of author or representative)
 
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User Jennifer Hor writes:

Last time I looked at the financial cost of capital punishment in the US was several years ago and already in the late 1990s – early 2000s, the cost of executing someone was US$8 million in Florida… There are costs involved like the various appeals processes which take up people’s time and hiring and paying juries for several trials that might take weeks or months. Economic austerity may be the one thing that gets cash-strapped states like California to abolish the death penalty.

My highlights. The death penalty is expensive in America only because it chooses to make it so. I’m not much against that because the US is also clearly rich enough to afford the process. The only problem of course is that it in effect nullifies the deterrent value of the DP. I read in Freakonomics that the average life expectancy of a man on death row is actually higher than of a bro selling drugs in the hood. So what kind of deterrent is that? Either go the Singapore/China route of a quick trial and execution – or you might as well cancel it altogether.

But it’s not really an issue I care about much either way. It’s not exactly going to make the US or California bankrupt. As long as the DP applies for appropriate crimes (e.g. premeditated murder, serial murder, national treason during wartime, etc) and not stupid shit like blasphemy or drugs possession then I’m basically fine with it. I’m not a bloodthirsty person but why the hell should I care about the life of some lowlife who derives entertainment from killing people or eating children or whatever?

I submit that in some places and circumstances however the DP would be highly useful. In low IQ / high testosterone countries where violent crime levels are extremely high – and where policing isn’t very effective. Visceral demonstrations are very good deterrents and this is in fact probably the reason why virtually all pre-industrial societies enforced the DP. I submit that the DP would still be highly desirable in places where violent crime is out of control like Venezuela or South Africa.

(Republished from AKarlin.com by permission of author or representative)
 
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That is, when it happens to show that someone is a mental retard and as such shouldn’t be executed for murder.

Just the old liberal hamster wheel logic in action.

I’m actually quite indifferent to the DP. But I’m not indifferent to using mental retardation as a defense. If anything it is more of a reason to execute the murderer as the very dull operate by instinct and emotion, not cost/benefit calculations, and as such cannot be expected to reform and make positive contributions to society even if provided with incentives to do so.

The other reason is shown by the graph above. Stupid people are simply far, far more likely to be criminals than normal people. Making retardation a defense against the DP effectively puts the most criminally prone cognitive fraction of the American population above the law.

(Republished from AKarlin.com by permission of author or representative)
 
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In the first part of my series comparing Russia, Britain and the US, I am going to look at their levels of social freedoms. While political scientists go on about to what extent a country has “democracy” or “rule of law”, this ignores that these arcane concepts have practically zero relevance to the everyday lives of ordinary people. They are, however, much more concerned about issues such as their right to get a fair wage, travel to different countries, and smoke weed in peace. Who gets what ratings from Freedom House is a matter of indifference.

Employment & Social Welfare

Real wages for the majority of both American and British workers have stagnated since the 1970′s, while inequality has soared. The American Dream, with its promise of social mobility, has largely faded. In recent years, academic studies have shown that social mobility – as measured by your children’s chances of switching socio-economic classes – is now lower in the US than in practically all developed countries except Britain. This is a very worrying development, since social mobility has traditionally been an antidote to America’s high levels of inequality; without it, it begins to resemble the socially stratified and politically unstable Latin American countries.

That said, I believe the US remains by far the best deal for two kinds of people: the rich, and the entrepreneurial. Income taxes are low by UK (and European) standards, and property is far more secure than in Russia. Furthermore, as a rich, technologically advanced country covering half a continent with more than 300 million souls, the US offers unparalleled opportunities for all kinds of leisure activities and hobbies: flying planes; sailing; skiing; rock climbing; surfing; horse riding; gourmet dining; white water rafting; etc. Unskilled workers have less rights and more insecurity than in most of Europe, but for the upper middle class America is truly an oyster.

The US is an extremely attractive place for business development. The bureaucracy is minimal and registration of a Limited Liability Company (LLC) – the optimal structure for most S&M businesses, especially online-based ones – can be done over the Internet for about $200 (the best places for setting up an LLC are Nevada and Delaware, which are referred to as “onshore offshore” among some circles). The US consumer market is gargantuan, and for most categories of products, around five to ten times larger than the UK’s or Russia’s. The weirdest stuff, like bounce shoes, or medieval catapult replicas, or kombucha tea, finds its niche in the US.

Bureaucratic hurdles and a much smaller consumer market make the creation of small businesses more difficult in Russia. In fact, the country comes 123rd in the world in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index, in comparison to the 4th position of the UK and the 5th position of the US. The best opportunities in Russia now tend to be in the state sector. In contrast to the impoverished 1990′s, state coffers are now flush with money and salaries for managers in state companies, academia, the bureaucracy, etc., are increasing fast. Though relative to developed countries, salaries remain low – about $700 per month, or $1000 in Moscow, is typical – their impact is multiplied by cheaper staples (e.g. potatoes, meat, etc. cost 1.5-2x less than in the US or the UK), very cheap utilities (gas, water, electricity) and cheap transport. Since the mid-2000′s, Russia’s “brain drain” to the West (primarily Germany, the US, and Israel) has abated, while economic migrants have poured in at an accelerating rate.

Most "everyday" products in Russia are cheaper than in the West.

Most “everyday” products in Russia are cheaper than in the West.

Russian consumers are now relatively well-off by global standards. The GDP per capita, taking into account international price differences, is estimated at $19,000 by the World Bank for 2009. This compares to about $36,000 in the UK and $46,000 in the USA. Obviously Russia still has a lot of catching up to do, but it is no longer a struggling, collapsed superpower where the poor struggle to even feed themselves, as in the 1990′s, but an upper-middle income country not that far from Portugal ($25,000), Korea ($27,000), or even Italy ($32,000). The material accouterments of development, such as cell phones and Internet access, are now widely in evidence.

Got this done by a street artist in Moscow for 300 rubles ($10) back in 2003. Nowadays, such deals are much harder to find.

Got this done by a street artist in Moscow for 300 rubles ($10) back in 2003. Nowadays, such deals are much harder to find.

One consequence of high oil prices and economic growth has been a rise in prices relative to international levels. Back in the early 2000′s, it was possible to do cool stuff for a pittance, e.g. $25 for an hour of flying time. Now they are little different from prices in the US, and you’re better off doing your “geoarbitrage” – exploiting differences in international prices to have the most fun for the least money – in places like Argentina or China.

Though state sector jobs have usually been comfortable in both the UK and the US, their prospects have dimmed considerably due to their fiscal crises. Britain has decided to radically trim down the share of public workers in the labor force, but it’s unlikely that the private sector will be able to reabsorb most of them (thus, I expect many years of heightened unemployment, falling house prices, and depressed consumer activity). The budget cuts in the US are more symbolic, but some states are cutting down ferociously; thus, while federal employees are largely secure for now, the prospects of workers in local government are more uncertain.

One thing that all three countries have in common is that few of their citizens save any of their money. In fact, given Anglo-Saxon habits of treating their houses as a piggy bank, net household debt is on the order of 100% of GDP and quite a lot of Americans and Brits are now underwater. This figure is much lower in Russia, but only because its private lending sector is far less developed than in the West; credit-based purchases were just beginning to take off in 2007-2008, until the economic crisis short-circuited them.

Labor Rights

Americans are by far the most overworked (c.2000 hours / year). Holidays are few and far between, bosses are very powerful. (Combined with easy access to guns, this creates a few “going postal” incidents every year, in which angry employees gun down their bosses and coworkers). Testing employees for drugs is commonplace, which would be considered pretty absurd by most of Europe. Russians and British also work a lot (c.1700 hours / year), though not as much as Americans. (By comparison, central Europeans are real slackers, clocking in just c.1300-1500 hours / year). The workplace atmosphere in the UK and Russia tends to be more relaxed and easygoing than in the US. A Russian company of 10 people usually has 30 office birthday parties a year.

One of the foundations of the British welfare state.

One of the foundations of the British welfare state.

In the private sector, dismissals are quick and easy in all three countries. Unions are very weak; the prospect of them grinding the country to a halt, as regularly happens in France, is unthinkable. Americans live paycheck to paycheck, and rely for health insurance on their employer. Unemployment benefits are small and run out after 26 weeks; credit cards may fill the gap in the meantime. Russian labor laws are likewise ungenerous, and benefits are meager to the extent that most unemployed persons don’t even bother registering . In the UK, one could get very modest unemployment benefits (“Jobseeker’s Allowance”) for a year before the state forces you into a make-work job; however, IIRC, this has recently been shortened to 3 months.

The Homeless

There are far more beggars on the streets of US cities, though they are very noticeable in Russia and the UK too. The reason for the big rates of US homelessness is partly to do with the unstable nature of economic life, especially the dangerous dependence on debt for education, medical procedures, etc; another reason is that by law, it is much more difficult to institutionalize the mentally ill in the US (this is not necessarily a bad thing, as the procedure can be abused by unscrupulous family members).

Most of Russia’s homeless have become so through alcohol or drug addiction (though some became homeless because they were ethnically cleansed from parts of the former USSR in the anarchic 1990′s; others lost their homes to “black realtors”, the bands of thugs who use violence and trickery to steal housing; finally, many didn’t get just compensation for having their old apartments knocked down to make way for more elite developments).

The same major causes – drug addiction and alcoholism – appear to have been at play in the US too, at least until 2008, but since then the homelessness has exploded; in Berkeley, where I now live, I’d estimate their numbers have doubled or tripled. Their social composition also changed. Before 2008, probably 75%+ were African-American males; now, there are a lot of whites and women, too. I think this development is largely linked to the flood of foreclosures sweeping the US in the wake of the housing bubble collapse (foreclosure fraud has also become disturbingly prevalent). The economic situation in Britain is pretty similar to that in the US, so I wouldn’t be surprised if homelessness there has also increased in the past few years.

Prisons

The US and Russia, in this order, are global leaders in incarceration rates. Russian prisons are the toughest, as they involve forces labor, brutal criminal hierarchies, and rampant diseases such as tuberculosis and AIDS. However, sentences are much shorter than in the US. The typical sentence for murder is 6 to 15 years, while only terrorists and serial killers get life sentences. Many Russian prisons are located in Siberia, where the main obstacles to escape aren’t guards or walls, but the remote, inhospitable location. The system’s most famous prisoner is Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Russia’s richest man until 2003 when he was arrested for tax evasion. About 0.58% of the Russian population is imprisoned.

Alcatraz Prison, San Francisco; the most famous US prison, held Al Capone, now a tourist attraction.

Alcatraz Prison, San Francisco; the most famous US prison, held Al Capone, now a tourist attraction.

Even relatively minor felonies in the US can get you very long jail sentences. For instance, California’s “three strikes law” means that someone convicted of three felonies (e.g. burglaries, car thefts) may well never see freedom again. God help you if end up in a supermax. Prisoners are organized around race-based gangs (white Aryans, Hispaniacs, blacks), which maintain hierarchies and war with each other.

There is forced labor in US prisons. Many prisons are privately owned, and thus have an incentive to band together and lobby for harsher sentences; critics even point to the emergence of a “prison-industrial complex“. The prison population has quintupled in the past 30 years, so that now 0.75% of the US population is behind bars.

Though British prisons are no song either, at least by Scandinavian standards, they are far preferable to both Russian and American ones. The rate of imprisonment has risen in the past decade and overtaken most European countries, but at 0.15% of the population, the situation is still a lot better than in Russia or the US.

You want to stay out of a US supermax.

You want to stay out of a US supermax.

Why is this? Unlike Europeans, Americans tend to view crime not as an inevitable phenomenon borne of adverse socio-economic conditions (e.g. inequality, community breakdown), but as individual transgressions by bad men and women. This religious-tinted perspective, based on clear conceptions of what is good and what is evil, perhaps, also explains the relative harshness of US punishments. You have a higher chance of dying in a Russian prison, but you’ll stay much longer in a US one.

After extensive use in the Soviet period, Russia implemented a moratorium on the death penalty from the mid-1990′s. Though 65% of Russians supported capital punishment in 2005 (down from 79% in 2002), it’s not coming back any time soon due to its agreements with the Council of Europe. The death penalty was abolished in the UK in the 1960′s, and likewise its reintroduction is extremely unlikely (despite a slight majority of the British population being in favor).

The US had a moratorium from 1967 to 1977, but the death penalty is applicable in most states outside the North-East nowadays. While there is opposition to the death penalty in liberal pockets of the US, by and large it enjoys a lot of popular support, and is unlikely to make an exit any time soon. One recent improvement is that underage offenders can no longer be executed. Most executions are by lethal injections, and each one attracts a mass of anti-death penalty activists.

Freedom & Regulations

The TSA has courted controversy with its "naked body" scanners.

The TSA has courted controversy with its “naked body” scanners.

There is a lot of rhetoric in the US on freedom as an unalienable right. But things aren’t that straightforward. Many security-for-freedom compromises have been made under the rubric of the “war on terror”, and at least for practicing Muslims, or for those passing through an American port of entry, the Homeland now differs little from an authoritarian regime.

Speaking of airports… American ones have prying, time-consuming and ineffective anti-terrorist measures (some find them humiliating, I find them annoying). They can demand your fingerprints, and take away your notebook and other electronic belongings, without explanation. Russian and UK airports aren’t pleasant either in this respect, but somewhat better than American ones.

But in most cases, the US still far better on the free speech thing than our other two alternatives. Britain’s libel laws are (in)famous for being exploited by corporations and rich individuals all over the world for silencing those who publish unsavory or incriminating information on them; frequently, the threat of exorbitant legal fees is enough to force removal of the material. They can also obtain gag orders to prevent publication of such documents in the first place. The mere act of owning literature like the Anarchist Cookbook or “justifying” terrorism gives you a small chance of landing a hefty jail sentence.

In Russia, libel lawsuits have emerged as one of the most powerful defenses of corrupt politicians against valid criticism. It is the worst country of the three for “leakers”, whistleblowers and investigative journalists. Before you can air the elite’s dirty laundry you must get some kind of political cover, as Navalny almost certainly did when exposing corruption in state pipeline operator Transneft. But if a lowly police officer tries to expose his superiors’ corruption, the likelier outcome is that he’d be fired, and may even go to prison for “corruption” himself.

The situation in the US is far better. It has been widely criticized for its extralegal campaign against Wikileaks, but in a way, the very fact that the Department of Justice is finding it so hard to charge Julian Assange with anything is a testament to the robustness of its institutional safeguards.

On the positive side, Russia's police have excellent fashion sense.

On the positive side, Russia’s police have excellent fashion sense.

The police in big Russian cities, especially in the Metros, are omnipresent and provoke a sense of foreboding rather than security. They have the right to stop you at will and demand to see your documents (i.e. an internal passport); if you don’t have them, and a bribe doesn’t suffice, then it’s off to the police station to confirm your identity. But in practice, as long as you don’t have Central Asian or Caucasian features (i.e. a potential illegal alien or terrorist) or a young Slavic man (i.e. a potential draft evader) then you’re very unlikely to get stopped. (By the way, the recent immigration bill in Arizona effectively gives its police the same powers as those “enjoyed” by their Russian counterparts).

Most Russians dislike their police, which is unsurprising given their penchant for corruption and brutality. Americans and especially Britons regard their police much more positively, mostly seeing them as honest upholders of the laws. (Of course, certain groups such as African-Americans in the US, don’t share these views).

Russia has an onerous system of registration. To access social services, you have to be officially registered as living in the area of their provision. This shows up in your internal passport. There is no such system in the UK or the US.

That said, in one very real sense, Russians are far freer than Westerners. That is in the laxness of regulations or their non-enforcement. One advantage of life being more chaotic and improvised is that Russians don’t have to worry nearly as much as Americans or Britons about offending some local ordnance, getting a parking ticket, etc.

Gun Rights

The freedom to get armed and dangerous is one of America’s most cherished rights, to the extent that some states like Texas even allow concealed carry onto campuses. The most liberal firearms policy is supported by most of the US population, with the sole exception of some urban liberals.

Me at a California shooting range. Probably 2006.

Me at a California shooting range. Probably 2006.

You can go buy a gun after a quick background check (and you don’t even have to undergo that if you talk to the right people at one of the many gun fairs going on year round). Hunting rifles, shotguns, pistols (the Glock 17 is my favorite; costs about $400), semi-automatics (like the cool FS2000, costs about $3,300) are all good for the taking. There is a ban on the manufacture for civilian use of fully-automatics after 1986, resulting in soaring prices due to competition for the remaining stocks; an AR-15 of this type will cost around $15,000-20,000.

Citizens have the right of “concealed carry” in most of the conservative states; recently, Texas even allowed students to carry them onto campus. Except for a few limp-wristed liberals in degenerate areas such as the Bay Area, the vast majority of the American public supports gun rights.

As mentioned above, private gun ownership is very restricted in the UK. The main exceptions are low-capacity shotguns; single-shot rifles (e.g. bolt-action); low-caliber semi-automatics; and air guns. All kinds of handguns and fullbore semi-automatics are banned. This stance is supported by the vast majority of the population. There are rifle ranges where enthusiasts can practice rifle shooting (I did it at my school for free, though it was atypical in its close relations with the military), but ordinary Britons are far less into guns than Americans.

Russian laws are in between the two Anglo-Saxon countries. Acquiring licenses for shotguns and hunting rifles is easy. Getting one for a pistol is far harder; from what I heard, one common ploy is to register yourself as an employee of a security company (the authorities rarely bother checking up on it). Most Russians concerned with self-defense just get an air pistol instead. IIRC, its possible to get a license for a fullbore semi-automatic, but it requires a good reason and 5 years of possessing a license for other guns without incident. In practice, there are a lot of unregistered guns floating around in Russia, especially in the unstable North Caucasus region.

Many Brits and Russians smugly criticize the Americans for the “recklessness” of their gun laws, arguing that it leads to higher crime, etc. But they aren’t borne out by the facts. The homicide rate in Russia is 15/100,000; granted, it’s down from 30+/100,000 in the 1990′s and early 2000′s, but it’s still more than twice as high as in the US. The reason for this has nothing to do with guns. The average Russian murder, statistically speaking, is from stabbings or blows during a drunken argument between two middle-aged guys at an apartment. So these Russian critics are pretty hypocritical.

Britain is far safer, with a homicide rate of about 1.5/100,000 compared to America’s 6/100,000; perhaps a better argument for gun control? But then again, gun ownership in the US is concentrated in affluent suburbia, which are just as safe if not safer than their British equivalents. The rates of petty crimes such as burglaries and car thefts are certainly far lower. Homicide rates only truly go out of control in the inner city areas of places like Washington DC or Atlanta, rising to as high as 70/100,000; but these are caused not by (legally registered) guns, but by turf wars between drug gangs using unregistered guns. Due to the “war on drugs”, prices are high and so as profits, and people will kill for money no matter what. The solution to this problem is drugs legalization, not gun criminalization.

Alcohol Rights

The equivalent sacrosanct liberty in Russia is the right to be drunk. Gorbachev’s attempts at partial prohibition were unpopular and may have even contributed to disillusionment with the Soviet system. In public, on park benches or underneath them, or trundling in for the work day, nowhere will you see as many drunk people as on the streets of any Russian city.

The legal drinking age is eighteen, but I’ve never seen anyone being checked, including visibly underage buyers. It’s common to see people milling around beer stalls in public parks or tourist attractions, including teenagers. Beer is considered more as a soft drink than an alcoholic beverage.

In contrast, I’m always asked for an ID when shopping for booze in the US (unless I wear my camo pants and black wife-beater, in which case they ask no questions). This isn’t to say that there aren’t any shops or bars willing to sell alcohol to people under 21, but generally speaking they’re either in isolated rural areas or you have to really look for them. The situation is easier in the UK, because the legal age is 18; furthermore, even 16-17 year olds don’t face unsurmountable problems in getting served. The going rate for fake ID’s seems to be about $200 in both countries (there are cheaper alternatives but they tend to be unreliable).

Travel Rights (Passports)

If you like to travel, the UK passport is the best there is. Thanks to its “special relationship” with the US, and links to the British Commonwealth and the EU, a British national can visit some 166 countries without a visa. The US passport is almost as good with 159 visa free countries (though Cuba is banned outright unless you have an approved reason for it). The Russian passport is far behind with just 95 countries. Good for traveling through Central Asia and the Middle East, you’ll need a visa to visit the developed world bar Israel.

Good for getting out of town.

Good for getting out of town.

Though many Britons complain about the difficulties of getting a Russian visa, they pale besides the troubles Russians experience with visiting the UK. They have to fill in multiple forms with confidential financial and personal information, and can be – and frequently are, after the Litvinenko Affair – refused entry for no discernible reason.

Russia operates on the principle of “visa free travel must be reciprocal between states”, which IMO is a respectable stance; hence, if the British (or Europeans, Americans) want to visit Russia without hassle, they should pressure their own governments to simplify or remove visa procedures for Russians.

You might not get what you want from them, but British Embassies are by far the most pleasant of the lot. Russian ones are staffed by rude people and rather anarchic; there was something close to a riot the last time I was in the SF Russian Consulate. American embassies are protected by intimidating layers of armed men, and their staff tend to be the most arrogant of the lot.

ASBO’s

Are an anti-freedom specific to the UK? The ASBO (Anti-Social Behavior Order) is a restraint order that allows for your activities – even if they’re legal – to be restricted by court order on the “balance of evidence” (i.e. not even proof of guilt). They can be imposed based on anonymous denunciations. Violating their terms can result in a prison term. Usually used against troublesome teenagers.

Gambling Rights

Now that's what I call dedication to the cause!

Now that’s what I call dedication to the cause!

Gambling is without doubt the most liberalized in the US. The main centers of the gambling industry are in Las Vegas, Atlanta City, and Reno. The latter is particularly suitable for North Californians, especially if they also like skiing (Tahoe is just an hour’s drive away from Reno). The glitzy mega-casinos of Las Vegas used to be the global gambling mecca, but in the recent years it has been decisively overtaken by Macao.

Any one of dozens of casinos in Vegas dwarf the biggest casino in Britain, where they are much more restricted (recently there were plans to allow the construction of a few “super-casinos” in the UK, but IIRC they’ve fallen through).

All casinos in Russia were banned in 2009, except in four remote regions without any existing facilities; idiotically, poker was amongst the “gambling” games banned, and as such Russian players typically go to Ukraine, Kazakhstan, or further abroad to Europe. As such, most remaining casinos in Russia are necessarily underground operations, that pay for police and/or political protection (the Prosecutor General’s son was implicated in a casino racketeering scandal a week ago). Being more risk-averse and less capitalistic than Americans, the conservative stance of the UK and Russia on gambling is broadly supported by the population.

EDIT 4/16/2011: The era of permissive US attitudes towards gambling may be waning, in the wake of the shutdown of the three largest online poker sites and arrest warrants for their CEO’s. Formally, what they were doing has been (arguably) illegal since 2006, but for whatever reason the Feds have only decided to move now. Online poker remains legal in the UK, (even) Russia, China, and most of Europe.

Violence & Nudity Rights

Grand Theft Auto, a quintessential American video game.

Grand Theft Auto, a quintessential American video game.

It’s cliché that American culture is violent, while Europeans are oversexed. I find this generally accurate. A German once told me about a video game in which some enemy characters were topless green fairies. When it came out in the stores, the Americans censored out the nipples; the Germans censored out the blood splatter. Nudity is far more prevalent on TV in Europe, even prime time, which would be unthinkable in the US with its more puritanical instincts. On the other hand, many aspects of American culture invoke the righteousness of controlled violence: Western shootouts; the Second Amendment; Grand Theft Auto; the entire zombie genre; grindhouse flicks (e.g.Texas Chainsaw Massacre); etc.

The UK has the worst – or the best – of both worlds. Violent imagery is not condoned as in the America and its gun laws are some of the most restrictive in the world (suffice to say that their Olympics pistol shooting team has to practice in France). And the general attitude towards nudity is still best exemplified by “No sex please, we’re British.” The placidness of British life is interrupted in sudden jolts by Friday night binges, in which they try to make up for days of rain-filled monotony with paroxysms of drunken licentiousness that is the stuff of legends throughout civilized Europe.

Female toplessness, let alone full nudity for men or women, is illegal in public for all three countries (if you want more liberality, then Germany, Scandinavia and Canada is where it’s at). On the other hand, it is not uncommon for young Russian women to wear see-through vests during summer. Their American counterparts like to wear opaque tights, while British girls have a penchant for short skirts.

The Americans and British favor swimming shorts for men and two-piece bikinis for women on the beach. Topless or clothing-free areas are atypical. Nowadays, Russia is drawing closer to the European mainstream in which female toplessness is more prevalent on the beaches. Russian men tend to wear swimming briefs, which are decidedly uncool in Britain and the US. Thongs have become popular in all three countries, but most remain too shy for string bikinis at the beach.

TV & Video Games

Russians are all round extremists. Back in the 1990′s, even prime-time TV was filled with images of the most blood-drenched inanity – what the eXile referred to as “death porn” – as well as real, hardcore pornography. Some sense of sobriety has since been restored to the TV stations and such scenes are now limited to late hours as in normal countries. The old atmosphere continues to reign on the Internet. It’s common to see photos of partial nudity on the more tabloid newspapers, which is unheard of on American ones and rare on British papers (to the extent that “Page 3″ is known by everyone to refer to The Sun‘s photos of topless models on, erm, the third page).

Not in Britain, please.

Not in Britain, please.

The British have by far the strictest ratings system for video games, with some like Manhunt 2 being banned outright. Almost nothing is banned in the US thanks to the First Amendment, though the age classifications system is pretty authoritarian. If there exists a video games classification agency in Russia, no one I know has ever heard of it; besides, it would be totally redundant since all video games are pirated there anyway.

One positive thing to say about Britain is that it has by far the most tolerable advertising on TV. It is shorter and not as in-your-face buy-my-product in style. The length of commercials makes watching TV in the US or Russia rather excruciating. One telling thing I’ve noticed is that about 25% of commercials in the US and Russia reflect their respective healthcare crises of obesity and alcoholism: high-carbohydrate, high-saturated fat foods in the US; beer in Russia. When watching Russian TV, you can tell when it strikes 10pm without consulting a clock, as the commercials become infested with beer promotions. One day about seven years ago I was watching a documentary on Russia TV that bewailed the nation’s economic and social crises and the government’s indifference – yes, contrary to what the Western media says, Russian TV does criticize the government – and one segment ended with some demographer citing the numbers of alcoholics in the country as evidence of social decline. This was immediately followed by a commercial for Baltika beer, as if determined to prove him right!

Abortion Rights

All three countries have abortion rights. The US since Roe vs. Wade in the 1970′s; the UK also since that period; Russia since Stalin’s death (and during 1920-1936). In the UK, a woman can get an abortion up until 26 weeks. IIRC, there are similar laws in the US; though conservative states put up a great deal of bureaucratic obstacles to women getting abortion. Some abortion doctors were even assassinated by religious fundamentalists.

In Russia, abortion is legal on request to 12 weeks, and for social reasons to 22 weeks. The country has the dubious distinction of having the world’s highest abortion rates. There were 2-2.5 abortions for every live birth in the post-Stalinist USSR, where it was used as a major component of birth control; though this indicator began to fall consistently from 1993, it was not until 2007 that live births exceeded abortions.

Driving Rights

In the UK, you can take a driving test at the age of 17. They are far more rigorous than in Russia or the US. Many people fail multiple times. In the US, it depends by state: IIRC, the California driving age is 16, and it’s as low as 14 in some of the more rural states inland.

Russians can take driving tests from the age of 18, IIRC. They seem to be about as hard as US tests, but the passing criteria can be lowered depending on the size of your bribe to the instructor.

In all three countries, there is a written (computerized) and a driving component to the test. The written material is hardest in the UK, and one section actually involves watching videos and making split second decisions on what to do in dangerous situations. The written tests in all three countries involve answering fairly simple multiple-choice questions from a booklet that you study beforehand.

As a rule of thumb, it is legal to drink one pint of beer, or a glass of wine, but NOT two, when driving in Britain and the US. It is very unusual to see drunk people behind the wheel in both countries. There are a lot of drunkards on Russian roads, however the problem has decreased markedly since the mid-2000′s when a no tolerance policy towards driving and drinking was introduced (having the slightest traces of alcohol in your body leads to a suspension of your license).

You drive on the left hand side of the road in the UK, but on the right hand side in Russia and the US.

Drugs Rights

The cool states are colored green.

The cool states are colored green.

The US has a reputation for maintaining a hard line against marijuana, but the situation is more nuanced in practice. In someplace like Tennessee, you could go to jail for mere possession. In Berkeley, California, you can light up a joint at any public park. Policing marijuana possession here was put on the very lowest priority, below jaywalking, so obviously no-one cares. You can extend weed coverage to the rest of the California by telling the doctor that you “suffer” from some kind of “disease”, e.g. “migraine headaches” that can only be “alleviated” by smoking marijuana. The doctor will give you the medical certificate for a small fee and you can go hit the bong.

Drugs off all kinds are far easier to acquire in the US than in the UK according to, erm, acquaintances. I don’t know about the situation in Russia.

Piracy rights

In theory, Russia has copyright law; in practice, 90% of software in Russia is pirated and the chances off getting in trouble for it are virtually non-existent. Fire sharing is all prevalent. In the US it is an extremely serious offense, about on par with rape, thanks to the political power of the record companies. But fortunately for its tens of millions of illegal file downloaders, the individual’s chances of being detected and prosecuted are very low. Piracy is illegal and prosecuted in Britain, though the rare convictions that happen don’t tend to result in absurdly huge fines like in the US.

Conscription

Both the US and Britain have professional armies. The last time the US had conscription was during the Vietnam War, and though it is extremely unlikely to be used again, men have to register with the Selective Service System upon turning 18 in case of a future mobilization. They can theoretically be called up until the age of 25. Britons had a system of National Service from World War 2 until the early 1960′s.

Conscription remains a major institution in Russian life. The bulk of its military is made up of conscripts, though the numbers of contract soldiers are rising. Conscription is slated to last until at least 2020. In the recent past, the length of service has recently been shortened from two years to one year. This was accompanied by a narrowing down of deferments, and greater efforts to crack down on draft evasion. There are biannual drafts in the spring and autumn.

In a typical scenario, the future conscript receives a letter from the local Military Commissariat (voenkomat) upon turning eighteen, informing him of his obligation to appear at their office. Unless one has a valid deferment (e.g. a place in a university) or resides overseas, failing to do so is a fairly serious offence. Then he has to go for a medical checkup with military doctors to ascertain suitability for service; they will, of course, try to prove that he’s healthy and fit to serve. This is followed by travel to the marshaling ground, where he is assigned and transported to his unit in another corner of the Russian Federation. Alternate service lasts longer and is very unprestigious, involving dirty work like cleaning sewers, so few opt for it.

Many wealthy and well-connected families can find ways for their sons to evade conscription or to get assigned to elite units where there’s little hazing. The most common method is to get a “white ticket”, certifying an illness that makes one unsuitable for service. Sometimes the illness is real, but more often it is imagined and paid for; the going rate amongst doctors for signing the appropriate papers is $2,000-$5,000. However, this “white ticket” (its real color is red) often results in future job discrimination; furthermore, it is unreliable because the Military Commissariat may insist on its own medical tests if they have suspicions about the existence of the illness (the correct response is to deny them this request in writing; legally, they cannot force those medical tests on someone).

Therefore, other methods of draft evasion are preferable, e.g., a direct bribe to the officers of the Military Commissariat. Not everyone can afford this; even a few years ago, the typical payment was around $5,000-10,000 (the amount depends on the Military Commissariat: some are cheaper, some are expensive, others actually don’t accept bribes). Since then, there has been a fall in the numbers of eligible conscripts (due to the collapse in birth rates during the 1990′s), a halving of the length of service, and an increasingly serious anti-corruption campaign. This means that a rising proportion of each year’s male cohort has to be called up to maintain the Armed Forces at one million soldiers. As a result, successful draft evasions have fallen, while typical bribe sizes have soared well above $10,000.

Though training and conditions of service are better than in the cash-strapped years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, they are still very substandard and extensively criticized by human rights groups. In particular, hazing – called dedovschina (lit. “rule of the grandfathers”, i.e. of soldiers nearing the end of their service) – is prevalent in many units and directly results in the deaths of a few dozen soldiers every year. (In total, about 200-300 commit suicide in total out of the one million-strong armed forces; some would have done so anyway, but others are surely caused by hazing).

It was hoped that the reduction in length of service would reduce incidents of hazing, because it would (by definition) eliminate the “grandfathers”, but it actually may have had the opposite effect. When administered through the grandfathers, the system had a certain framework of rules and traditions to it; today, the hierarchy is no longer set by length of service, but by the rule of the jungle. With no tradition of a strong NCO corps, checking this chaos will be a major challenge in the coming years.

All that said, I stress that far from everyone regards the Armed Forces with fear and loathing. Of those I know who served in the Russian Army, most describe it as an exercise in pointlessness and boredom; what bullying they experienced happened to other people in other units. A few even look back in fondness. According to opinion polls, Russians are evenly split on whether to continue conscription. Some say it helps build character and discipline; others regard the Army as a dangerous prison, or at best a waste of time.

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
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I’ve remembered about the article What We Believe I wrote two years back, in the early days when I was still writing anonymously (as “stalker”) and was pretending to be a team. Had fun rereading it, almost like a time machine. My views on Russia have remained mostly unchanged. I’ve grown to become somewhat more positive about the legacy of the Soviet Union; like most Russians, I retain the same ambiguous attitude towards Stalin, whom I have described as “the despotic Messiah who led and ruled [Russians] like the God of the Old Testament”; and I am as convinced as ever of the hypocritical and double standards-laced coverage of subjects like Putin, Chechnya, and Russia’s human rights record in the Western media.

Furthermore, I’ve become much more skeptical about the universalism of liberalism and HR. Two years back I believed the West should be actively involved in cultivating social progress in regards to women’s rights, LGBT rights, etc, in backward areas of the Muslim world; not any more, though I remain a social progressive. It’s just that I’ve recognized that these concepts – liberalism, HR, etc – are but manifestations of a specific Romano-Germanic (Western) culture, and do not necessarily have much resonance with the cultural traditions of other civilizations. In some cases the cultural clash between the two leaves produced nothing but destruction. Other civilizations should be left free to forge their own path into the iron cage of modernity, or not.

Far more interesting was reading my own “General Values” from two years ago, back when the world was so different and global neoliberalism appeared to be at high noon – whereas in reality it is near sunset, in large part due to the imminence of peak oil and the creeping insolvency of Pax Americana. I too have changed a lot. Reading about myself from back then is almost like listening to a highly familiar, but nonetheless different, person. From economic centrism, of the Krugmanite variety, to Green Communism. From atheism to pantheism. Lots more postmodernist claptrap. Etc. Let me outline my beliefs two years on.

Political Compass

Da Russophile is economically centrist, extremely liberal socially and supportive of liberal democracy, albeit with an authoritarian streak. We are Economic Left/Right: -1.25, Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -3.59 on the Political Compass test.

Make that economically leftist, extremely liberal socially, and with an interpretation of political power that is much freer from forced categorization. Who is more democratic, the deaf “liberal” ideologue with a 5% approval rating or the post-ideological pragmatist / semi-authoritarian uniter with an 80% approval rating?* The post-historical “liberal democratic” country ran by socialist oligarchs or an unelected “deliberative dictatorship” that acts on opinion polls and executes corrupt officials using mobile execution buses? For what it’s worth, I am now Economic Left/Right: -9.50, Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -5.28 on the Political Compass. Quite a shift leftward if there ever was one.

Theophilosophy

We are atheists and have a secular worldview. We do not think religion is useful for anything other than some of its aesthetic aspects (like choral music and icons)…

I no longer agree with this at all. All worldviews are valid from within their own frames of reference. The Christianity of the Middle Ages – as reflected in the sublimity of their holy rites, the dark Gothic splendor of the cathedrals rising above the plains, etc – had at least as much meaning and validity to the West European peasant mind, as does the science-rationalism of the Machine to the modern Faustian mind. I have come to appreciate this, in a postmodern way, and have now embraced pantheism; all religions have validity, they are all slivers of one indivisible, unbounded whole, the Void. In particular, I appreciate Orthodox Christianity for its aesthetics, and the great Eastern philosophical religions – Taoism, Hinduism, Buddhism. I think there is great potential in synthesizing traditional belief with secular mythologies such as Marxism, achieving a sublation that reconciles social and cultural progress with eternal transcendental values and ideals such as the sobornost (the just social contract) and natural balance (ecological homeostasis, in the scientific jargon).

Death Penalty

Our position on the death penalty is that it is wrong out of a) humanitarian concerns (that is, death row syndrome) and b) the impossibility of making 100% sure that innocents are never executed. Nonetheless, we recognize that there is a (one) valid justification for the death penalty – deterrance. This applies particularly to those countries where violent crime is at very high levels (South Africa, Columbia, etc). We also accept its use as a deterrant against corruption, as is the case in China and Vietnam – this is because corruption also kills people, if indirectly. Since our goal is deterrance (rather than ‘moral’ reasons of ‘eye for an eye’ retribution), we see this as merely being consistent.

I have to admit I tend to oscillate in my support for the death penalty. At some moments I feel all humane and sentimental. At other points I follow the logic above, and support it for: murder, serial rape, child rape, human trafficking, treason, and gross corruption & sabotage (on the scale of >10mn $, say). After all, is it not an affirmation of a higher and noble form of love for one’s people, the love inherent in self-sacrifice, to vouch for the death penalty (which is an objective form of deterrent), despite one’s moral scruples?

Another idea I’ve had on this topic is to determine guilt by the standard jury method, but let the people decide the punishment. So the bad guy / gal gets to make an impassioned televised plea to the nation electronically voting on the punishment. If (s)he is convincing and / or pitiable enough, the sentence gets adjusted from the death penalty to community service, psychiatric treatment, flogging, deportation to the Canadian gulags, and reality TV gladiator death games like in the dystopian movies (maybe not). And it’s all very democratic. BTW, another thing – the current prison system should be eliminated or at least massively downsized.

Anyhow, reality supersedes individual beliefs. The social rifts that will be inevitably opened up by the shocks of peak oil and its consequences will probably lead to the reintroduction of the death penalty throughout Europe, and the expansion of its use elsewhere (e.g. for corruption and sabotage, which become far more serious issues in a world of scarcity and limits to growth).

Abortion

We are in favor of full abortion rights, since it is our opinion that a) women should have full sovereignty over their own bodies and b) that a clump of human cells with no self-awareness should not be considered a person with rights. We view restrictions on abortion as violations of human rights.

I will take this opportunity to expound on an old idea of mine for a new ethics for the Information Age (though I can’t say I fully subscribe to it).

This is a values system based on patterns. Every human individual is an extraordinarily complex and interesting pattern. A pattern, formally defined, is a set of rules which can be used to generate things – the pattern is said to exhibit itself if the things created have enough in common for the underlying rules to be inferred. Hence, we can treat a specifically adult human pattern as a soul (with its capacity of around 10^26 calculations per second and specific software or neural makeup), and the set of all patterns in our universe as the Pattern; the values system will be based on patterns and their particular relationship, in complexity, interest and ‘meaningfulness’, to a soul; over time, of course, the latter two concepts will evolve with the whole Pattern. This opens up a Pandora’s box of possible repercussions, but they are all containable and can be used to justify a range of propositions.

For instance, abortion is permissible because the pattern of a human foetus is negligibly small compared with the soul of the mother-to-be; it is directly comparable to that of lower animals, depending on the state of its development. Outright banning abortion will inflict much greater net sin because of the psychological damage to the soul, and its possible total termination due to unsafe backstreet abortions. Furthermore, it can save souls by lowering the murder rate, as maintained by Steven Levitt… Nonetheless, such an ethics system does not make killing a human baby equivalent to killing, say, a parrot with the intelligence of a five year old, so long as the aforementioned baby has souls heavily devoted to it; by terminating it, one removes the neural connections stimulated or used to communicate with the baby, so one in fact destroys a significant part of several souls through such a deed.

This new ethics can be summarized with a rather freehanded conversion of Asimov’s original Three Laws of Robotics – these will be the Three Laws of the New Ethics.

  1. Preserve existing patterns.
  2. Expand patterns in scope and complexity unless it conflicts with the First Law.
  3. Future patterns also have value, but their sum converges to a limit.

The inevitable question – doesn’t this apply to the death penalty? Not really. While the death penalty destroys a soul (Law 1), the deterrent effect preserves a lot more further down the road (Law 3)

Drugs

Da Russophile supports a gradual decriminalization of all drugs. We consider ‘wars on drugs’, like ‘wars on terrors’, to be a cover for infringements on human rights and state corruption. Licensing them will take money away from criminal organizations and bolster government funds, which can be directed towards healthcare (including treating drug addicts). Marijuana, LSD and ecstasy are fun things and as such little different in essence from alcohol and tobacco, which are legal out of the force of tradition. We would also tax the fat, salts and sugar content in foods so as to cut heart disease and cancer rates and create incentives to move to healthier diets.

Yes, bring on the fat tax and libertarian drug laws.

Economic Philosophy

We would best be described as economic centrists, though in general we like to steer clear of labels, preferring to judge policies on their own merits. We support liberal ‘ease of doing business’ laws (e.g. on unemployment, starting up companies, etc) and private participation in the social sphere, e.g. healthcare, education, etc. In general, we oppose government subsidies to failing industries, preferring instead that they invest money into retraining workers. However, we support an extensive welfare state that would shield everyone and anyone in case of crisis – our role model is mostly Scandinavian.

Global capitalism, however thickly sugar-coated with socialism / welfarism, is incapable of resolving its fundamental contradiction – that economic growth is its essence, and thus ecological overshoot and collapse are inevitable barring a technological silver bullet, i.e., a deux ex machine. Read my post on Green Communism.

Trade & Protectionism

We support free trade so as to achieve the optimal division of labor and hence prosperity in the world.

Free trade is only good if it’s really free, which it is not. So I retract this. And let’s not even go into the energy and ecological costs of the freighter fleets and air transports fueling the global consumerist orgy.

Feminism

We support the goals of the feminist movement and consider that gender equality has not yet been achieved anywhere. Men are still more valued as bread-winners and women-more as home-makers, and changing these social perceptions is one of our goals.

Some musings I wrote on this, again quite a while back – a Hegelian interpretation of herstory.

Consider the dialogue of power between the sexes. In prehistoric societies, women held a rough balance of power, apparently independently procreating, augmenting the sustenance base through forage and practising medicine from the derived knowledge of plant properties. However, men’s focus on animal domestication – derived from their previous hunting specialization – drew their attention to the link between animal copulation and reproduction. Women came to be seen as mere vessels, defined as unwilling and unable to participate in battles for pure prestige and hence entirely subhuman. Furthermore, harsher tribal societies based on herding tended to subjugate agricultural societies and so embed their values upon their submissive populations. By the times of the Old Testament women were little more than chattel in the most advanced cradle of civilization, the Near East.

However, after thousands of years, Christianity (and Islam) came to be widely adopted: both proclaimed theoretical spiritual equality between everyone. In time the image of women was transformed into the ‘Lady’ of courtly love, an object of admiration and worthy of respect that was to continue on into the industrial era as the Victorian ‘angel of the house’, moral agent of cleanliness and sobriety. Yet the social agitation of the industrial ‘wage-slaves’ resulted in a clamour for extension of the democratic franchise, a wing of which included the suffragettes. The first part of the twentieth century saw the franchise extended to women in much of the advanced world, with a few local exceptions like Switzerland; the second part witnessed the active promotion of social equality between the sexes, enabled above all by the Pill (a facet of technology) that allowed the liberated feminist to reassert her own sexuality.

Hence we observe that the major step changes in feminist history – vessel, lady and woman – coincide with both social (slavery, feudalism and capitalism) and economic (agriculture, basic mechanization, industrialism) paradigm shifts, even though social transformations tends to be both blurred and lag behind economic changes. ‘Herstory’ is the collective history of the female thymos – the combined desire of women to achieve recognition as human beings and to reject their epithet as the ‘second sex’. That is the world-historical mission of the feminist movement, which has always existed even if it only recognized itself for what it was just two hundred years ago with the writings of Mary Wollstonecraft and other visionaries.

Things are now returning back to the future, which is a cyber-primitivist one, the circle returns to the original point but higher up (or lower down) on the spiral of history. Perhaps the circle will be broken entirely by the development of an artificial womb (more research and experiments should be done on this).

Limits to Growth

It is obvious that global warming is both real and anthropic. Furthermore, the latest research implies that it is catastrophic, threatning to go out of control once it passes certain tipping points – which may well have been passed already. Hence, man-made emissions, by raising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere and thus causing global warming, can trigger other mechanisms that will release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere – frozen methane clathrates under the world’s seas, methane in the Siberian permafrost and Indonesian peat bogs, and the vast amount of carbon locked into the world’s tropical forests. …

Yes, but even more so; I know support a global policy of “sustainable retreat” from industrialism in search of Green Communism. Furthermore, unlike 2 years back when I was a relative optimist on the energy front, I am now a full-blown “peaker” on oil and resource issues. It shows.

Other Issues

Unfortunately, LGBT rights are weak…

Yes.

We support testing on animals.

But with a lot more reservations and strict conditions than which I had in my days of tunnel-minded faith in the religion of science. We should recognize that pharmaceutical industries are bloated and corrupt; that in many cases traditional alternative approaches produce better results; and that in some sense (e.g. growing antibiotic resistance), industrial-era medicine is going down a dead alley. Quite literally.

We are against censorship.

At least in principle.

We are against gun control, since we think than an armed citizenry tends to reduce the crime rate. However, we insist on licensing and would stop short of allowing full-automatics to be sold.

Remove the full-automatics bit. One can never have too many guns.

For more on my beliefs, especially those related to Russia and being afflicted with a diasporic mentality, see my interview @ Siberian Light.

* E.g., Yushchenko and Putin, respectively.

Edit 2013: Needless to say I no longer agree with a lot of this.

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
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This is a summary of opinion polls conducted by the Levada-Center, Russia’s Gallup, since February 2009, and continues on from the first post. Along with the original post Lovely Levada, this series constitutes a unique English-language reference for social trends under late Putinism as expressed by the Russian people themselves, rather than the limousine liberals, pro-Western ideologues, and Kremlin flunkies who claim to speak for them. Unless stated otherwise, all opinion poll data refers to 2009.

2009, Dec 28: Around 60% of Russians are against the building of a sleek 400-meter skyscraper, the Okhta Center, in central St.-Petersburg, while only 21% are for. Myself, I’m of two minds about it. Though I like skyscrapers, I don’t want to see any public money going to Gazprom ego-building.

Dec 24: The Western tradition of celebrating Christmas on December 25th is not catching on in Russia, with only 4% of Russians saying they will do so this year.

1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
Yes 13 12 17 16 18 18 19 16 6 4 6 6 4

Nor are perceptions of the reform era getting any better. In 2009, only 29% of the population considers the post-1992 period to have been good for the country, whereas 49% disagree. Furthermore, only 23% feel they personally benefited from those reforms, while 50% disagree. However, a majority feel, nonetheless, that some kind of “perestroika” was necessary to reform the Soviet regime.

Today, the majority of the population – 51% – would like to see more state involvement in the economy and social protections, though only 15% would like a return to the Soviet model (down from 20-30% before 2006), and an even smaller 10% favor a course of reducing government and focusing on creating on more opportunities for entrepreneurs.

Summing up 2009, although Russians considered the year to be worse than 2007 or 2008, there is no evidence the economic crisis had an inordinate effect on their subjective perceptions of success.

Year Summary 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
Successful 36 37 42 47 51 42 47 49 52 46 43
Not Successful 51 51 38 37 34 37 34 29 28 32 37
N/A 14 12 20 16 15 21 19 22 20 22 20

Dec 21: There remains a strong nostalgia for the Soviet past, or what I like to call an “imagined past of a bright socialist future”. Around 60% of Russians still regret its collapse, so no wonder it is returning to its future.

Regret? 1992 1994 2000 2002 2004 2006 2007 2008 2009
Yes 66 66 75 68 67 61 55 60 60
No 23 19 19 25 26 32 36 30 28
N/A 11 15 6 7 7 7 9 10 12

Furthermore, the majority believe that Soviet collapse was not inevitable (a viewpoint backed by some theoretical work).

Inevitable? 1998 2001 2004 2006 2007 2008 2009
Yes 24 29 24 27 30 30 28
Could have been avoided 58 58 65 59 56 55 57
N/A 18 13 11 14 14 15 15

Proposed remedies for the future include closer, voluntary ties between the post-Soviet republics (27%), a Eurasian EU-like confederation (22%), a neo-USSR (16%), independent coexistence amongst the former Soviet republics (14%), and the continuation of the CIS in its current state (13%).

Dec 17: Putin and Medvedev continue dominating the political scene, and retain very high approval ratings. On the question of “tandemocracy”, 55% believe Medvedev is merely continuing Putin’s policies, and 48% believe power is shared equally between Medvedev and Putin (while 30% believe Putin is the more powerful player pulling the strings).

Dec 16: A stuffy, but insightful, and non-Kremlin-friendly, essay by Lev Gudkov, Levada’s founder, on The Nature of Putinism (in Russian).

Dec 15: Attitudes towards the West remain in a deep rut, its conduct during the South Ossetian War having left an irreparable cleft. Regarding the US, despite the election of Obama, Russia’s attitudes towards the US are today about as favorable as in November 1999, after the NATO bombing of Serbia (however, the depth of the animosity should not be exaggerated; for real anti-Americanism, one can do little better than stroll through the “Arab street” in the Middle East”).

Attitudes towards the EU are also on a long-term secular decline, though the slope is much less steep than for the US.

Attitudes towards Georgia remain highly negative, which is not surprising given the Georgian President Saakashvili’s deepening megalomania. Equally not surprising is that Belarus under Bat’ka remains far more popular than Ukraine, as demonstrated in this comedic song about “cutting off Ukraine’s gas“.

Dec 7: A majority of Russians support, to some extent, the slogan “Russia for Russians!“, though there hasn’t been any major upward trend in the past decade. So the theme about the uniquely prevalent nature of Russian racism should not be overplayed.

“Russia for Russians”? Aug.98 Nov.01 Aug.03 Dec.04 Jun.05 Nov.06 Aug.07 Oct.08 Nov.09
Yes – it’s about time we implemented this! 15 16 21 16 19 15 14 15 18
It would be a good idea to implement this within reasonable bounds 31 42 32 37 39 35 41 42 36
No – this is real fascism! 32 20 18 25 23 26 27 25 32
I’m not that interested 10 11 7 12 9 12 11 12 9
Haven’t thought on this 5 6 14 5 7 8 -* - -
N/A 7 5 8 4 3 4 7 6 5

Also, 61% believe the state should check unrestrained migration into Russia, and 35% do not feel too comfortable about the influx of foreign laborers from the “Near Abroad”. Neither of these have seen major changes in the past decade.

Nov 26: Very detailed historical information on approval ratings for Russia’s political forces – as of November 2009, President Medvedev had 74%, PM Putin had 79%, and the government had 50%. The economic crisis made nary a dent.

Furthermore, more Russians than not think Russia is moving in the right direction – again despite the crisis. This should all give pose to those who say that Putin’s popularity and Russia’s recent turn towards greater self-confidence was based exclusively on high oil prices and economic growth.

Nov 25: 63% of Russians think the situation in the North Caucasus is tense, but 64% believe it will remain stable during the next year. On the 15th anniversary of the First Chechen War, 43% think the Russian government was correct in its use of force to bring it to heel, whereas 11% believe it should have been granted full independence.

Nov 20: Russia extends its moratorium on the death penalty, despite that most Russians support it.

Death Penalty Feb.00 Feb.02 Mar.06 Apr.07 Jun.09
Should be resumed on early-1990′s levels 54 49 43 39 37
The current state of affairs (moratorium) should be preserved 15 12 23 19 20
Death penalty should be completely abolished 12 12 12 19 14
Death penalty should be expanded 10 19 8 14 16
N/A 10 8 14 10 13

What is the main point of the death penalty for Russians?

Why death penalty? Jul.07
Only as an extreme measure for punishing irredeemable felons 27
To deter others from committing crimes 18
Lawful measure for punishing especially severe crimes 18
To cleanse society of irredeemable criminals 10
Exacting vengeance on the criminal is justice 10
I don’t see any valid justification for the death penalty 7
To heal society and restore moral values 4
Other 6

However, for some classes of crimes support for the death penalty is significantly higher than when the question is asked in a more general way.

Death penalty for… Jul.07
Serial murder? 71
Child rape? 65
Premeditated killing? 48
Selling of drugs? 39
Terrorism, preparation for revolution? 32
Corruption? 16
Treason & espionage in peacetime? 13
Armed robbery? 11
Attempted murder of head of state? 9
Death penalty is always unacceptable 8
Other 1
N/A 4

Some 47% of Russians would feel personally safer if they reintroduced the death penalty, whereas 39% disagree.

Nov 18: Perceptions of subjective wealth have improved in Russia over the past decade, along with salaries and pensions. Today, far more shopping is done in big stores and supermarkets than a decade ago, whereas buying stuff on the streets is rarer. Again, not surprising given its economic growth.

Quality of life? Dec.99 Nov.09
Well-off 6 24
Middle-class 46 62
Barely make ends meet 35 10
Poor 10 3
Very poor 3 >1

Below is a more detailed breakdown.

Which group do you belong to? 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
Barely make ends meet – not even enough money for food. 22 19 15 18 15 12 14 9 10
Can buy food, but getting clothes is a problem. 44 42 45 41 37 35 33 27 30
Can buy the basics like food and clothes, but durable consumer goods (TV, refrigerator) present more of a problem. 27 32 31 31 37 40 37 48 48
Can easily get durable consumer goods, but truly expensive things are less accessible. 7 7 8 9 10 13 15 15 12
Can make really expensive purchases like apartments, dachas, etc, without problem. <1 <1 1 <1 1 <1 1 1 <1

Nov 6: Russia’s attitudes on the 20-year anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall – 63% are positive, and only 11% are negative.

Nov 5: The Russia-Ukraine relation in detail, at the level of peoples rather than governments.

What should Russia-Ukraine relations resemble? Russia Ukraine
Jan. 09 Jun. 09 Jan. 09 Jun. 09 Oct. 09
As is usual for states – closed borders, tariffs, visas 29 25 8 10 11
Independent but friendly states, characterized by open borders without visas or tariffs. 51 55 68 65 67
Russia and Ukraine should unite into a single state. 12 14 23 23 19
N/A 8 6 1 2 3

What do Russians think about Ukraine, and Ukrainians about Russia?

What do you think? Russians about Ukraine Ukrainians about Russians
Mar.08 Jan.09 Jun.09 Sep. 09 Apr. 08 Feb.09 Jun.09 Oct.09
Good / very good 55 29 33 46 88 91 93 91
Bad / very bad 33 62 55 44 7 5 4 6
N/A 12 9 11 10 5 4 3 3

However, given the choice most Ukrainians would prefer (re-)integration into Eurasia than Westernization. Only 17% of Ukrainians would have voted to join NATO in October 2009, whereas 63% were against. Furthermore, 55% of Ukrainians prefer a union with Russia and Belarus, compared to 24% who would prefer accession to the European Union.

EU or Union of Russia & Belarus? Ukrainians
certainly EU 12
sooner EU 12
sooner Russia & Belarus 30
certainly Russia & Belarus 25
N/A 21

This is one of the main reasons why it is likely that some kind of Eurasian Empire – be it an EU-like confederation or neo-Soviet Union – will be slowly but surely resurrected in the near future (as is indeed already happening).

Nov 5: What is your opinion on the October Revolution for Russia’s peoples?

1990 1997 2004 2005 2009
Opened a new era in Russian history. 23 23 30 26 28
Gave a push towards social and economic development. 26 26 27 31 29
It put a brake on development. 18 19 16 16 16
It became a catastrophe. 12 16 14 15 10
N/A 21 16 13 12 17

Oct 29: Only 4% of Russians celebrate Halloween.

Oct 27: Most Russians believe Putin represents the interests of the siloviks (27%), middle class (24%), oligarchs (22%), simple folks (21%), and his close friends (18%).

Oct 23: 71% of Russians believe they need a serious opposition party, while 47% believe that no such parties currently exist (38% disagree).

Oct 15: Russians on democracy – a series of very detailed and telling graphs.

33% believe Russia has some kind of democracy, another 33% think its democracy has not yet become firmly grounded, while 20% believe it is regressing. As of June 2009, some 57% believed Russia needs democracy, while 26% disagreed – these figures are changed from 66% and 21% respectively in June 2005.

According to the polls below, it seems that Russians have recently come to truly believe in “sovereign democracy“.

As of 2006, around 63% of Russians are basically “statists” – they believe the state should care about all its citizens and guarantee a fitting standard of living, whereas only 25% subscribe to the classical liberal position that the state should limit itself to setting and enforcing the “rules of the game”, and an even smaller 4% take the neoliberal view that government should minimize its involvement in its citizens’ economic affairs. These figures are changed from 71%, 19%, and 6% respectively, in 2001.

Most Russians support a strong, centralized Presidency, and in contrast to the late Soviet period, support for what could be called “authoritarianism” has risen.

The share of Russians believing that Russia’s rulers only look out for their “material wellbeing and career”, which once hovered at 50-60%, has since 2007 fallen to 20-30% – nearly equalizing with those thinking it is a “strong team of politicians, leading the country along the right road”. This is yet another illustration of Russia’s recent, quasi-spiritual transition from “poshlost” to “sobornost”.

At the same time, the number of Russians considering themselves to be “free” in their society has increased under the Putin years. In 1990, 38% of Russians felt society had too little freedom, 30% enough freedom, and 17% too much freedom; in 1997, these figures were 20%, 32%, and 34%; in 2008, they were 18%, 55%, and 20%, all respectively. Ironically, the (perceived) decline in liberalism since 1998 has been accompanied by greater democratization, in that the state has moved closer to the “people’s will”.

Only a tiny minority of Russians, 2-3%, – interestingly, the same percentage that voices approval for Russian “liberals” like Kasparov and Illarionov – have ever regarded Western-style democracy as a necessary “savior” of Russia – many have the practical attitude that it has many useful things to offer (45% in 2008), or that it is not suitable for Russia (30%) or outright dangerous (12%).

All in all, this is all in stark contrast to the Western media theme that Putin, the tyrant, is forcefully re-submerging an unwilling populace back into its totalitarian past. See Armageddon, Putvedev is Russia’s White Rider, and Russia’s Sisyphean Loop for detailed discussions of these phenomena and trends.

Oct 9: Russia’s opinions on the US BMD program (ballistic missile defense). Whereas only 8% think the European installations are being built to defend against Iran, some 69% of Russians believe that it is to ensure its military superiority over Russia, pressure Russia geopolitically, or defend against Russian nuclear attacks.

Regarding America’s plans to postpone the European BMD sites, some 41% think it is a temporary concession, 16% think it’s just a move in a geopolitical “trade” between Russia and the US – while only 21% consider it a “victory” of Russia. The vast majority of Russians believe that the US will continue with its ABM program.

In other words, Russians are cynical about US intentions – and almost certainly correct to be so.

Oct 1: Russians have a great deal of skepticism towards the 1993 bombing of the Duma in Moscow – they perceive it as being evidence of purely inter-elite struggles, a sign of national decline, etc. Some 81% of Russians say both were wrong, both were right, or N/A.

Sept 8: After a peak in 2002, TV viewership is on a slow decline in Russia, especially amongst the young who have the Internet. However, it remains extremely prevalent, with 86% watching it daily or almost daily.

Sept 4: A slim majority of Russians do not consider Stalin to be a “state criminal”, or mostly responsible for the repressions of the 1930′s-50′s. Around half consider the USSR had some resemblances to Nazi Germany, whereas another half disagree. This illustrates the highly binaried view of Russian society towards Stalin – the despotic Messiah who led and ruled them like the God of the Old Testament.

Whereas 55% of Russians think it important to improve relations with Japan, especially in the sphere of hi-tech, most of them (82%) are against doing this by handing over the southern Kurils.

Sept 3: Around 70% of Russians support 1) the teaching of subjects at elementary schools in non-Russian languages and 2) the teaching of the controversial course “The Foundations of Orthodox Culture”.

Aug 31: A majority of Russians continue going out to pick mushrooms at least once per year.

Aug 26: The best Russian films of the last decade: The 9th Company, The Barber of Siberia, Admiral, Island, Twelve, Taras Bulba, Night Watch, The Turkish Gambit, The Irony of Fate 2, Brother, Love – Carrot, Bastards.

The 63% of Russians expecting a “second wave” of the economic crisis during autumn 2009 were wrong.

Aug 24: In July 2009, some 34% of Russians supported the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (the August 23, 1939 non-aggression treaty between Nazi Germany and the USSR), 23% condemned it, and 44% didn’t really know or care. Attitudes towards it seem to correlate with those towards Stalin.

Aug 17: Russians are thoroughly disillusioned with the events of the August “Putsch” of 1991, in whose aftermath the USSR collapsed – 42% think it was nothing more than an intra-elite struggle for power, 33% consider it a tragic event with ruinous consequences for the country and people, and just 9% believe it to have been a victory of democracy over the Communist Party.

Aug 7: The increasing penetration of electronic devices in Russia. Do you have a cell phone?

Jan.01 Jan.02 Jan.03 Jan.04 Jan.05 Jan.06 Jan.07 Jan.08 Jan.09 Jul.09
Yes 2 5 9 19 32 45 58 71 78 78
No 98 95 91 81 68 55 42 29 22 22

Do you use a personal computer? (yes if once a month or more; no if less than once per month).

Jan.01 Jan.02 Jan.03 Jan.04 Jan.05 Jan.06 Jan.07 Jan.08 Jan.09 Jul.09
Yes 4 6 6 7 13 13 16 23 30 31
No 96 94 94 93 87 87 84 77 70 69

The latest Levada figures show that 25% of Russians use email.

Jul 27: On the 10-year anniversary of Putin’s power, Russians credit him most with: increasing life quality, salaries, and pensions (22%); economic development (17%); raising optimism about the country’s future (9%); restoration of order and political stability (8%); and the strengthening of Russia’s international standing (5%).

Jul 20: Contrary to some opinions, around 67% of Muscovites approved of the closure of the Cherkizovsky market (20% disapproved).

Jul 1: Putin is most popular in Russia, India, China, and Ukraine; and unpopular in the West and “moderate” Islamic nations.

Jun 30: Some 45% of Russians are opposed to selling Iran nuclear and missile technologies, while 29% don’t mind. As for North Korea’s nuclear program, 70% of Russians prefer to curtail it via diplomatic negotiation or sanctions.

On the occasion of Barack Obama’s visit to Moscow, 57% of Russians thought relations hadn’t improved from the Bush-era nadir, and 55% are against cuts in their nuclear arsenal (bearing in mind that Washington is working on ABM).

Jun 25: Though only 5% of Russians tried drugs and 18% know of friends or relatives who tried drugs, almost all – 97% – consider it to be a serious problem in Russia. Another 65% believe that trying a drug just once may have the potential to create an addiction. (However, Russia’s drug laws are surprisingly liberal, given the conservative attitudes described above).

Jun 19: Why were Soviet losses during the Great Patriotic War significantly higher than Germany’s?

1991 2001 2006 2009
The suddenness of the invasion 21 35 31 35
Stalin’s administration didn’t care for losses 33 22 26 21
German military and technological superiority 16 19 18 19
Weakness and incompetence of Soviet command 12 11 11 10
Nazi cruelty 5 8 9 9
N/A 13 5 5 7

Jun 10: Russia’s friends and enemies – countries scoring more than 30% are highlighted. Friends: Belarus, Kazakhstan, China, Germany, Armenia, India, Cuba, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, France, Tajikistan, Bulgaria, Venezuela, Italy. Enemies: Georgia, USA, Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Germany, Japan, Israel, China, Romania.

May 18: Russians’ opinions about the Unified State Exam.

May 5: 63% of Russians celebrate Victory in the Great Patriotic War, and the same percentage think the USSR could have won the war without Allied help (27% disagree).

Apr 29: Another 57% celebrate May 1st, the labor holiday.

Apr 17: The 2008-09 economic crisis had a far smaller effect on Russians’ wellbeing than the 1998-99 crisis. While the percentage of the population barely making ends meet went up from 29% in July 1998 to 40% in December 1998, this figure remained stable at around 10% throughout the recent crisis.

The main shift occurred amongst Russia’s “consumer class” (the ones who buy cars, PC’s, etc), whose percentage of the population tumbled by a quarter from 19% to 14%, and perhaps explains the reason for its large drop in GDP for 2009. The silver lining is that this implies inequality has decreased during the crisis.

Mar 30: Opinions are highly split regarding conscription and the Army. 47% of Russians would like to retain mandatory military service, whereas 43% would prefer a full transition to a contract army.

Jan.00 Jul.00 Jan.02 Feb.05 Oct.05 Feb.06 Feb.07 Feb.08 Mar.09
Conscription 30 34 27 31 39 32 41 45 47
Contract army 63 58 64 62 52 62 54 48 43
N/A 8 8 9 8 9 6 5 7 9

If someone in your army was obligated to perform mandatory military service, would you rather they served, or searched for ways to avoid it?

Prefer him to serve in Army 50
Prefer him to try to avoid service in the Army 35
N/A 15

Rather surprising, perhaps, considering the Russian Army’s reputation for hazing (dedovschina). However, its severity may have declined in the past few years, what with the shortening of the term of service from 2 years to 1 year by 2008 – this automatically removed the “grandfathers” from the barracks (conscripts doing their last half-year of service), who tended to be responsible for the worst abuses. Add in the increase in patriotic propaganda and the start of efforts to repress hazing, and this may explain the recent social “rehabilitation” of military service.

Mar 3: More military questions and answers. Does Russia face a military threat from other countries?

2000 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
Yes 48 42 47 37 44 40 49 52 50
No 45 42 45 55 44 51 43 38 41
N/A 8 16 8 8 12 9 8 10 9

Is the Russian Army currently capable of defending the nation in the case of a real war threat from other countries?

2000 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
Yes 60 56 55 60 52 62 65 73 73
No 31 30 38 32 38 28 27 17 17
N/A 9 14 7 8 10 10 8 10 10

Hope you enjoyed browsing through these! ;)

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
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Anatoly Karlin
About Anatoly Karlin

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

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

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