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Russiagate

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There’s nothing particularly new or interesting per se in the 37 page indictment of 13 Russian nationals, including its head Evgeny Prigozhin, for “meddling” in the US elections through online trolling.

The existence of the Internet Research Agency – or “Olgino”, as it is known in Russia, after the location of the first “troll factory” (since moved to Savushkina Street, Saint-Petersburg) – has been widely known in Russia for half a decade, thanks entirely to Russian journalists. Novaya Gazeta published a report on them in 2013. It is headed by Evgeny Prigozhin, a shady figure who did 12 years in a Soviet prison for robbery and fraud, but rose rapidly in the lawless 1990s in the restaurant business, and in more recent years has been entrusted with “black work” for the Kremlin. The most serious investigation about its involvement in the US elections was conducted by the Russian RBC media group, which came up with a figure of $2.3 million (that’s almost three orders of magnitude less than the combined $1.6 billion that the Clinton and Trump campaigns spent).

Moreover, as with the sanctions list – and despite the high-profile, seven figure lawyers recruited by Mueller for his investigation – there is a distinct tinge of incompetence to this indictment, suggesting a lack of conscientiousness and/or Russia expertise at the Department of Justice.

Here is what Andrey Zakharov, one of the co-authors of the original Russian RBC report, had to say about this in an interview with WaPo:

The other staff mentioned are very incidental. I mean, it seems like they put down all the names they could get. Some were people who worked there in 2014 — but most of these guys didn’t work for the troll factory for a long time. They didn’t even work there during the elections. Like Krylova, she didn’t work there then. [Aleksandra Krylova is one of the two named Internet Research Agency employees the indictment said traveled to the United States in 2014.]

It looks like they just took some employees from the that American department whose names they could get. But the American department was like 90 people. So my reaction was that, for me, it was like that curious list of oligarchs and Kremlin authorities where they put the whole Forbes list and the whole Kremlin administration on it. It’s very strange.

So it’s easy to make fun of this and slot it down as just another episode in the slapstick sitcom that is American domestic politics. As Alexander Mercouris optimistically points out, the indictment is “entirely declamatory,” since (1) there is zero chance that any Russian named in the indictment will be extradited, and (2) there are no claims that any member of the Trump campaign colluded with any of the people in the indictment.

I am considerably more pessimistic.

First, at the end of the day, free speech is free speech – what difference does it make even if it is done on the Kremlin’s payroll, or with the help of botnets? (Neither of which, incidentally, has been rigorously proven). This represents a radical retreat from the principles of the First Amendment, and one of that isn’t just going to impact Russians in the US and foreigners. With this new normal, mocking and trolling politicians remains all well and good – but only so long as the Russians (Chinese, etc.) aren’t behind it. And to ascertain whether or not that is indeed the case, you need investigations – investigations that will be overwhelmingly targeted against enemies of the centrist establishment from both Left and the Right. There is already a lot of squealing from Blue Checkmark Twitter and /r/politics on how the Russians aided Jill Stein and even Bernie Sanders.

Second, it expands the claimed sphere of American global jurisdiction beyond just espionage (Wikileaks/Julian Assange) to include – for all intents and purposes – the criminalization of foreign commentary on American politics during election years.

This is not an exaggeration.

While the Kremlin is obviously supportive of the Internet Research Agency, it has taken care to keep itself at arms’ length from it, and as with Wagner, no formal ties have ever been demonstrated; consequently, the indictment itself stops short of naming Putin or any Russian official figures. The flip side is that since so many Russians apparently work for or coordinate with the Kremlin in an official capacity, there is a new norm getting established that all Russians are suspect, the burden of proof is on them to demonstrate otherwise. As Leonid Bershidsky points out, this may result in Russians in the US facing “increasing scrutiny when applying for jobs, bank accounts and other attributes of a normal life in the US – and the burden of proof that they are not Kremlin agents will be on them.”

However, one might argue that Russians in the US at least generally made their own decision to live in the US, which implies acceptance of All-American norms (and if that comes to include entrenched Russophobia, that’s too bad; they are free to leave if they don’t like it). The same cannot be said about Russians living in Russia, who never even plan to set foot in the US. But while Russia will not extradite anybody in the indictment, the same cannot be said of American satellite countries, which include most of Europe. The people working at the troll factory are young, Anglophone, and not poor; it is almost inevitable than sooner or later one of them will set foot in such a country, and presumably more likely than not that they will be arrested and extradited. In this scenario, Russia can be expected to do as little (that is to say, nothing) for them as it did for the Wagner mercenaries – coincidentally, another outfit “curated” by Prigozhin – murdered by Americans in Deir ez-Zor a couple of weeks ago.

And apart from monetary compensation, there’s ultimately not that much separating a Savushkina troll from any regular shitposter in Russia or anywhere else in the world outside the US.

PS. NBC News recently released a database of more than 200,000 tweets [.csv] that Twitter claimed constuted “malicious activity” from subsequently suspended Russia linked accounts during the 2016 US elections.

I notice that the “stars” of the Russia watching and Alt Right world get nary a mention. Noted Kremlin troll and bête noire of Western neoliberals Mark Sleboda gets 2 mentions. Mercouris – zero. Peter Lavelle – one. The journalist Bryan MacDonald – zero. Richard B. Spencer – twice (quite sad from Putler, “godfather of extreme nationalism” ala Hillary Clinton). His wife Nina Byzantina (Kouprianova) – twice. Valentina Lisitsa, the musician no platformed by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra for her support of Russian on the Crimea – a barely more respectable five times. Yours truly – zero times. In the meantime, affirmative action Kremlinologist and Russia truther Joy Reid was “boosted” by “the Kremlin” 267 times.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Russiagate, Trolling, United States 
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rybka

Timeline of The Rybka Affair:

1. Nastya Rybka (real name: Anastasia Vashukevich, from Belarus; watch her “videos” here), an escort girl who does political inverse-FEMEN “performances” (e.g. a naked protest in support of Harvey Weinstein) under the leadership of “sex trainer” Alex Lesley (real name: Alexander Kirillov, a Belorussian fraudster turned PUA-for-girls guru), did one of their typical viral video stunt at Navalny’s HQ.

2. Navalny & Co. decided to track her down out of curiosity.

3. They discovered that she had published a book in which she described – concealed under fake but obvious identities – cavorting with six other girls with Oleg Deripaska, a Yeltsin-clique oligarch who is well known for his US visa problems and being owed $17 million by Paul Manafort. Also present on board was Sergey Prikhodko, a Deputy PM of Russia and a rumored “gray cardinal” of Russian foreign policy. Although it’s nice to think otherwise, Prikhodko did not participate in any orgies; his meetings with Deripaska were business-like, and Deripaska even seemed to be afraid of Prikhodko, deferring to him and calling him “Papa,” which is very normal and not weird at all.

4. Photos and videos of this deep state tryst were soon found on her Instagram, as well as other evidence (e.g. geolocationary), which confirmed the identities of the two men, and which Navalny packaged into a video.

The funny thing is she wasn’t even a spy as such, just someone in it for the sex, money, and publicity.

As Oleg and Papa discussed high affairs of state, the Belorussian wench – entirely oblivious to political import – was texting Lesley for further seduction advice. All the security a Russian oligarch’s billions can buy!

5. You might think it would be in neither man’s interest to draw attention to an event which:

  1. Formally qualifies as corruption (though to be fair nobody in Russia would care about something so minor as a top bureaucrat getting entertained by a billionaire on his luxury yacht);
  2. Draw even more attention to what can easily be construed as a direct link in the chain from Trump’s campaign to the Russian government.

But apparently ignorant of the Streisand effect, Prihodko proclaimed his desire to deal with Navalny “man to man,” while Deripaska went even further, preparing a lawsuit for violation of privacy against Rybka and Lesley, and got a pocket court in a small town he as good as owns to demand that Instagram and YouTube remove the offending material by February 14.

6. While Instagram caved, YouTube hasn’t taken down anything, and there is no evidence to date that it is going to get blocked. I suppose Russia is not yet such a joke country as to block YouTube on the whims of a single embarrassed oligarch.

However, Navalny’s website is apparently beginning to get blocked, with not even a court order for formality’s sake.

alex-lesley

7. To put the final incarnadine cherry on the cream and meringue pie, it has just emerged that Lesley-Kirillov had a profile on the website of Dmitry Medvedev’s flagship “innovation center” Skolkovo, where this Belorussian fraudster turned gigolo was described as having the following credentials:

Director of science, ideologist, project investor. Patents in the USA, China, Russia. More than ten publications in English-language scientific periodicals (including the Springer Publishing House) on the project’s subject. Participant and speaker at the International Congresses in Harbin, Shenzhen, Hong Kong (twice), Venice, Israel, Detroit (USA, SAE), Milan. Supported by grants from DARPA and NASA. On the recommendation of American scientists, he led the structural session at 8WCEAM & 3rd ICUMAS, World Congress in Hong Kong with “Sessiom Title: PHM Cloud Claster and On-Board Recognotion Automata as Bases for Sel-Maintenance and Self-recovery Engineering” [AK: italics written as-is in English]. Author and developer of Artificial Intelligence systems with increasing K-complexity. Contacts: NASA, DARPA, Rafael, Boeing laboratory in the UK and numerous research centers at universities in the US, China, Western Europe.

I trust this needs no further comment.

It has long been obvious, even before Medvedev departed the Presidency, that the only “innovation” happening in Skolkovo pertains to stealing government money.

Meanwhile, Russia has the scientific output of Belgium and accounts for less than 0.1% of the world’s AI startups.

lesley-jungle

 
• Category: Humor • Tags: Corruption, Russia, Russiagate, WTF 
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The Treasury has come out with its list of 210 Russian oligarchs and politicians, ostensibly in preparation for targeted sanctions.

It’s a pretty hilarious affair, basically a copy-paste job from the Forbes list of Russian billionaires and a page listing biographies at government.ru .

If I wanted to try to split the Russian elite, I would publicly target specific people who are close to Putin, to let them know that they will have to pay a price if they want to support the regime (no Courchevel vacations, no Swiss bank accounts, no English boarding schools, etc.). As Bershidsky points out, this list sweeps them all up willy-nilly, including oligarchs who no longer maintain close ties with Russia let alone Putin (e.g. Yuri Shefler, Yuri Milner), as well as oligarchs who have had some part of their businesses expropriated by the Russian government (e.g. the brothers Ananiev, Danil Khachaturov, Mikhail Shishkhanov).

Consequently, there are three ways in which you could interpret this:

1. We doesn’t care about your ties with the Putin regime. If you’re a Russian oligarch, you’re in for a world of hurt.

2. We are doing this for formality’s sake. Don’t worry, nothing will come of it.

3. We outsourced it to some lazy intern, because we don’t give a shit about this (in other words, #2).

Either way you look at it, this is a victory for Putin. In #1, Russia’s elites stand to lose their access to Western amenities, but they won’t have an incentive to drop Putin since they are all gonna get hammered anyway. If #2-3, it’s just business as usual.

There’s also a fourth theory:

4. This is just the open list, the “closed list” has all the juicy details of the targets’ connections to Putin, as well as the real targets of future sanctions.

This theory is being advanced by both anti-Putin liberals (Navalny) and nationalists (Strelkov, Sputnik i Pogrom), although for rather different reasons. The former because well, Navalny really really hopes that the US implements hardcore sanctions against Putin & Co. to the hilt (as opposed to using Navalny as an expendable pawn every now and then), the latter because they view this as the US exploiting what they view as Putin’s very weak responses to US meddling in Russia’s sphere.

I don’t really buy this version for the following reasons:

1. No point in keeping this secret, just as there’s no point in keeping a doomsday machine secret.

Doing so annuls the main point of the list – to signal to the Russian elite that they should think about throwing Putin overboard, or at the very least jumping off his ship themselves.

2. It is a complicated 4D chess conspiracy theory, which goes contrary to both Occam’s Razor and a general rule of thumb – namely, that the American government bureaucracies – just like the Russian ones – are staffed by morons.

Recall this?

Rep. Jackie Speier (D., Ca): Do you know anything about Gazprom, Director?
FBI Director James Comey: I don’t.
Speier: Well, it’s a — it’s an oil company.

So no, I’m not expecting any particular Kremlinological expertise from a culture where Russia experts who consider knowledge of Russian optional find guaranteed employment.

 
• Category: Economics • Tags: Russiagate 
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Some numbers:

There are about 300,000 babies born to foreign citizens in the US every year, of which the vast majority will be accruing to Central American illegals.

Only an estimated 40,000 occurs due to birth tourism.

There are no hard statistics on this. However, some cursory searching gave me this thesis by Brandon J. Folse, which cites “more than 10,000″ Chinese women giving birth in the US in 2012, and 40-60 Russian women giving birth in Miami each month (based on a Moscow Times report). Consequently, its safe to say that the total figure is less than 1,000, since Miami is the center of Russian birth tourism in the US, not to mention the long-standing tendency of The Moscow Times to exaggerate Russia’s emigration stats.

This would furthermore be in line with general immigration statistics.

China also sends the largest number of immigrants to the US after Mexico, and accounts for almost a third of its international students. This is understandable. China has very close commercial and cultural links with the US, and all things American enjoy a great deal of prestige in China.

In contrast, Russian emigration to the US is much more modest, even in per capita terms. It does not make the first 20 countries by numbers of total immigrants, nor the top 10 by numbers of foreign students.

It also syncs well with other anecdotal evidence and pure logic.

Twitter user Richard Hollywood investigates: “searching for birth tourism and репродуктивный туризм on yandex only brings up news/what is this articles. there’s some dedicated birth tourism sites in russian but also in like five other languages

In fairness, he did eventually find the site SFF-Miami, which offers birth tourism services to Russians and Ukrainians in Florida. I checked its visitorship numbers on SimilarWeb; there weren’t enough for it to even register there. Which is not surprising when you look at the prices – the standard “package” there costs $19,500. Another similarly obscure organization, AmeriMama, offers prices starting from $17,000.

These are prices that only perhaps 1-2% of Russians are able to pay out on just a lark, since birth tourism is essentially just a gamble that their children would 1) want to emigrate to the US on reaching adulthood, and 2) be subsequently willing to being their parents over on a Green Card.

Another important point.

Although I can understand that red-blooded Americans may not like foreigners essentially buying up US citizenships for their progeny on account of some outdated document written at a time when the Americas were still an unpopulated expanse, it’s worth noting that it’s not as if the children of rich birth tourists are going to be any sort of strain on the US welfare system. They will give birth, fork over $$$ to the US medical system, hotels, etc., and go back home. Even if their children do subsequently go to the US, the chances that they will end up collecting welfare are close to zero.

Theoretically, the US should if anything gain financially, because it is the only country in the world (along with Eritrea) to claim taxes on the worldwide income of their citizens. I say theoretically, because in practice, I am sure that virtually no child of birth tourists is going to be doing that.

So why the media suddenly kvetching over this complete non-issue of a few thousand Russians practicing birth tourism and forming, as one Drumpf Resistor on Twitter put it, “the colony of Russian ppl (especially in NYC) nobodies talking about. Who I know coming here having babies getting public aid”?

As opposed to concerning themselves with the few million anchor babies planted by illegal immigrants in just the past couple of decades?

https://twitter.com/pnehlen/status/951193221169901569

Well, Paul Nehlen has some ideas.

 
• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: Immigration, Russiagate, United States 
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powerful-take

It will be the centenary of the October Revolution in a couple of days – the original color revolution that finished off a great and rapidly modernizing empire and handed power to a gang of Russia-hating criminals.

To mark the occasion, the next two weeks I will be documenting the dismal failure of sovok across almost virtually all spheres of life. Obligatory trigger warning for commies.

Featured

* gwern’s October 2017 newsletter

* Not only a good intro to Bitcoin per se, but an original (so far as I know) way of thinking about it: https://blog.chain.com/a-letter-to-jamie-dimon-de89d417cb80

There’s a TL;DR version at the end.

map-becker-world-iq

* James Thompson: The World’s IQ = 86: Test results of 550,492 individuals in 123 countries

Link to David Becker’s database: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B3c4TxciNeJZWUx5bzBWZ1BuMUk

The discussion is also worth reading.

* Heiner Rindermann has what appears to be a rather interesting book coming out on January 1, 2018: Cognitive Capitalism: Human Capital and the Wellbeing of Nations

poll-military-government* PEW: Globally, Broad Support for Representative and Direct Democracy (PDF)

Many interesting tidbits there but one table I liked is support for military government by left/right.

Mostly as you’d expect (right more supportive), with the understandable exception of Venezuela – and the less understandable exception of Hungary (unless you read hbd*chick).

* Emil Kirkegaard: About that blog: Italian IQs, Lynn IQs, brain size and doctors

* /r/gorgich: Cultural macroregions of Russia

* Daniel Treisman – 2017 – Democracy by mistake

How does democracy emerge from authoritarian rule?… In about two thirds, democratization occurred not because incumbent elites chose it but because, in trying to prevent it, they made mistakes that weakened their hold on power. Common mistakes include: calling elections or starting military conflicts, only to lose them; ignoring popular unrest and being overthrown; initiating limited reforms that get out of hand; and selecting a covert democrat as leader. These mistakes reflect well-known cognitive biases such as overconfidence and the illusion of control.

Leonid Bershidsky writes about it.

* 39% of French citizens spoke Occitan in 1860.

* A beautiful @WrathOfGnon thread about the superiority of medieval urbanism:

Russia

* Lucy Komisar: The Man Behind the Magnitsky Act Did Bill Browder’s Tax Troubles in Russia Color Push for Sanctions?

Attack on RT

* RT: Revealed: How Twitter pushed RT to spend big on 2016 US election; Twitter’s multi-million dollar US election pitch to RT revealed in FULL

kovalev-saudi-propaganda

Even some Russian oppositioners like Alexey Kovalev think it is ridiculously selective.

* RT: NGO publishes names of 2,300+ RT guests, labels them ‘useful idiots who undermine Western democracy’

I was amused to see that Nina Khrushcheva was on there (not sure about the “useful” part, though).

Alexander Mercouris: Blackmail and the latest attack on RT

* Michael Tracey uncovers Twitter’s criteria for being a Russia troll:

We took a similarly expansive approach to defining what qualifies as a Russian-linked account. Because there is no single characteristic that reliably determines geographic origin or affiliation, we relied on a number of criteria, including whether the account was created in Russia, whether the user registered the account with a Russian phone carrier or a Russian email address, whether the user’s display name contains Cyrillic characters, whether the user frequently Tweets in Russian, and whether the user has logged in from any Russian IP address, even a single time. We considered an account to be Russian-linked if it had even one of the relevant criteria.

Beware of the Cyrillic autocracy!

Russiagate

* Alexander Mercouris: Robert Mueller should resign

In other words instead of arriving its suspicions of Russian meddling in the Presidential election on its own investigations the FBI chose to rely on the work of two private contractors – CrowdStrike and Christopher Steele – both of whom were found and paid for by the DNC, and one of whom – Christopher Steele – was then passed on by the DNC to the FBI so that he could be paid by them as well.

That makes the FBI look more like an accomplice of the Democrats and the DNC than an impartial and objective police agency.

* But perceptions are another matter.

* Some stuff comes out further proving that DNC colluded with Hillary to give her the nomination.

Real Democrats: Donna Brazile was duped by Russia. Putin is God, etc.

* Latest video from Kirill Nesterov, chief editor of ROGPR podcast.

(It’s in Russian, but mostly just consists of translations of the most “powerful” Russia takes from Anglo Twitter).

* The insanity is not contained to the Left:

putler-welcome-to-resistance

* Daily Caller: Growing Evidence That Russia Using ‘The Resistance’ To Stoke Division

Powerful Takes on Manhattan Terror Attack

Other

* Paul Robinson: Wall of Grief (Putin on Stalin)

* Patrick Armstrong: How I Became a Kremlin Troll

* Chechens organize a queue for the new iPhone in Moscow, selling the first position for R300,000 ($5,000). A few hundred Virgin Kreakls – their idea of “creativity” consisting of being the first person in their tusovka to get a new iPhone – wait in line for a several hours… only for a gang of Chechen Chads to push them aside at the last moment, snap up all the iPhones, and put them up for sale on Russia’s eBay within a few minutes.

* Daily Beast: She’s in Pussy Riot. He’s on the Far Right: How Maria Alyokhina and Dmitry Enteo Fell in Love

Still a better love story than Twilight.

* Affirmative action Kremlinologist Terell Starr: “Ukrainians and black folk share common bonds when it comes to resisting supremacy, whether it is from “white people” in the U.S. or Russia.Memetic response.

Hell

Meanwhile, in the actual Putlerreich…

* Moscow authorities want to install a monument to Islam Karimov in the city center, a Central Asian tinpot dictator who removed all of his country’s WW2 monuments.

What makes this even “better” is that the Uzbeks themselves are slowly doing away with Karimov’s legacy, with their new President inching towards liberal reform and criticizing his predecessor for abuses. So it fails even as geopolitical bootlicking.

Almost certainly pointless petition against this: https://www.change.org/p/владимир-путин-против-установки-в-москве-памятника-президенту-узбекистана-исламу-каримову

* Leader of Tatarstan implicitly threatens Putin with low vote numbers if Tatar language instruction in schools is made non-obligatory (“We made it so that all the electoral processes are done by the directors of our schools“).

The problems of relying on ethnic minority states-within-states to give you a 10% point bump in elections…

* Meanwhile, the son of a Tatar director of a military academy (who is also a member of the pseudoscience organization RAEN) was arrested in Tajikistan for joining ISIS for 2 years. Previously, after completing his PhD under his dad at said military academy (nepotism), he was made responsible for ensuring the security of military R&D communications, and had the appropriate high level security clearance for it. Said military academy to KP journalists requesting comment: “We won’t say anything, the director isn’t here, and we don’t know when he will be.”

World

conferederate-iconography

* @tcjfs: Huntington argues the Confederate monuments to “the Blue & the Gray” were built thru 1920 to foster united American national reconciliation

Seems to parallel Soviet celebration of Victory Day: First Moscow May 9 parade after 1945 was in 1965; then 1985, 1990, became yearly event in 1995.

* Guardian: Romania shrugs off label of Europe’s poor man as economy booms.

* China unveils massive island-building vessel

Remarkable cultural continuity: Great Wall on land 2,000 years ago, now a Great Wall in cyberspace and on the high seas.

alt-right-bin-laden

* So Osama bin Laden was a gamer, like all the other great men of the 20th century.

BTW, Navalny is a console peasant, while proves he is not destined for greatness.

 

racism

Culture War

* Bread Pilled: Jordan Peterson turning young, Western men into Christians Again

Only heard of the guy thanks to spandrell. Sounds like a big phenomenon.

* #ItsOkayToBeWhite is a brilliant strategy. /pol/ continues to deliver.

* Frances Lee: Why I’ve Started to Fear My Fellow Social Justice Activists

* John Derbyshire: Geezers Don’t Care! Marc Faber Defies AntiRacist Moral Panic

* Feminist prof says ‘traditional science’ is rooted in racism

* Geoffrey Miller channels Taleb: To understand the present, read good books about our biological & cultural history, & sci fi about the future. ‘News’ is a distraction.

* Melissa Meszaros: Buzzfeed’s Male Writers Revealed to have Dangerously Low Testosterone

* Porn Addicted Bomb Nazi Mutilated Himself With An Axe. Exemplary commitment to nofap.

* Eliezer Yudkowsky’s struggle:

.

 
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.