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Just came back from a workshop on “Intelligence and Culture as Factors of National Competitiveness” organized by the Institute of Psychology RAS.

ipras-iq-russia

The most interesting presentation was by Konstantin Sugonyev, which may be published in a forthcoming paper. It concerned the following test:

https://recrut.mil.ru/career/soldiering/test.htm

This is a test on the Russian Defense Ministry’s website, where potential contract soldiers are offered to take an IQ test (30 questions, testing verbal, numerical, logical), and a couple of personality tests, to assess their suitability for military service (unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to give you your score, only a pass or a fail).

Over the years 2012-2017, almost 250,000 Russians have done this test, possibly making this the largest source of regional psychometric data on Russia apart from the Unified State Exams (regional data about them is carefully secreted away).

The results:

Cohorts

While people born between 1973 and 1987 performed at a stable 19.5-20/30, the post-1988 period saw a steady improvement towards an average score of 21/30.

S.D. is around 6 points.

Whether this is due to a Flynn effect or ageing isn’t clear.

ipras-regions-russia

Regions

Only the top/bottom 5 regions were displayed, but they were exactly as expected. The difference between the best performers and worst performers was almost 1 S.D.

Best regions:

  1. Saint-Petersburg
  2. Yaroslavl
  3. Moscow
  4. Kirov oblast
  5. Chuvashia

Worst regions:

  1. Ingushetia
  2. Tyva
  3. Chechnya
  4. Dagestan
  5. Kabardino-Balkaria

So nice when new investigations continue building on stereotypes, especially n=250,000 investigations.

Note that I have long thought Yaroslavl might have a high IQ.

It had the highest literacy rate of any non-capital Russian region in 1897:

Incidentally, I am not surprised to see Yaroslavl being the top non-Baltic/non-capital Russian region by literacy rate in 1897. It struck me as by far the cleanest and most civilized provincial Russian town on the Golden Ring when I visited it in 2002 (a time when Russia was still shaking off the hangover of the Soviet collapse). Curiously enough, it also hosted one of the most vigorous insurrections against the Bolshevik regime in central Russia. Although it was not one of the regions covered by PISA, I would not be surprised if Yaroslavl oblast was to get a 100-102 score on it should it be carried out there (and as would be implied by the correlation curve).

They also had the biggest percentage of Russian peasant families with passbooks (needed for savings accounts) in 1897 and 1913.

“Patriotism”

The major disadvantage of this test that it selects for some degree of Internet proficiency (so also a mild sort of IQ test). No easy way to correct for this.

The major advantage of it is that you can also get a good idea of the “patriotism” of different Russian regions by the percentage of their population who do these tests.

Most patriotic regions:

  1. Sevastopol
  2. Altay
  3. Buryatia
  4. Murmansk
  5. Amur
  6. Zabaykal
  7. Adygea
  8. Kaliningrad
  9. Tyva

Least patriotic regions:

  1. Chechnya
  2. Ingushetia
  3. Tyumen
  4. Sakha (Yakutia)
  5. Tatarstan
  6. Khanty-Mansiysk
  7. Yamalo-Nenets
  8. Dagestan
  9. Karachay-Cherkassia

Note that Sevastopol was first, even though Crimea only joined up with Russia in 2014, i.e. about 40% of the way through this “experiment.”

The patriotism of the Buryats and Tuvans is also noted. This is not all that surprising – recall that Buryats had the highest percentage rate of military deaths in WW2 alongside Russians.

In contrast, DICh – especially Chechnya and Ingushetia – are distinguished by their lack of patriotism.

Saint-Petersburg was more patriotic than Moscow, as well as being more intelligent.

Results were robust according to a variety of statistical checks.

Several other people, including myself, made presentations.

ipras-davydov

One, by Denis Davydov, was about a 19 region (n=4010) survey of 18-50 year old Russians with Raven’s tests carried out in 2005-2007. (For some reason, its detailed results remain unpublished – at the least, they don’t appear in Lynn’s or Becker’s database).

They found no correlation with income, though I suspect the problem there is low sample + no adjustment for oil income.

There was also a negative correlation with homicides, suicides, and alcohol consumption, which is of course unusual. My pet theory is that this is due to the Finno-Ugric admixture in northern Russia making them both more intelligent and more prone to alcohol abuse, with most homicides/suicides in Russia themselves being a function of alcohol abuse.

 
• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: IQ, Moscow, Patriotism, Psychometrics, Russia, The AK 
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The Russian bureaucracy is, admittedly, a lot better than it used to be. In comparison to the state of affairs even just a decade ago, there are fewer papers to fill out, staff are more courteous, and many more tasks can be done online.

The contrast relative to the 1990s is even starker, when outright bribes were not infrequently required to carry out routine services. This is now most definitely a thing of the past.

A large number of “My Documents” centers have been built across the country under the philosopher of making a large variety of different services available under the same roof. They are located in large, modern buildings, tend to employ younger people, and advertise hotlines for reporting unprofessional or corrupt conduct.

These improvements are reflected in Russia moving from around 120th in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings a decade ago, to 40th as of 2016.

Which still makes it a horrendous nightmare by American/British standards.

Say what you will about the Eternal Anglo, but they have really figured out this bureaucracy thing. Even the Germans that I have met in the UK consider their bureaucracy slow and capricious by comparison, to say nothing of Mediterraneans or East Europeans.

All bureaucracies make mistakes, lose papers, muck up appointment dates, etc. But this is where the similarities end. In Anglo world, staff apologize for any mishaps and devote extra attention to making things right, possibly because they actually feel guilty before the client (the very possibility of “bureaucrat guilt” is difficult to even process for those born behind the Hajnal Line). In Russia, they don’t give a fuck about your travails – at best. At worst, you will meet rudeness (hamstvo) the likes of which someone who has only dealt with Anglo bureaucracies can barely imagine, as the bureaucrats try to unload the blame on you for their own incompetence.

Personal anecdote from the past year. When I was returning to Russia in December 2016, I had a minor problem; my foreign passport (zagranpasport) had expired. No worries, in such cases you can get a Return Certificate (svidetelstvo na vozvrashenie) that confirms you as a Russian citizen; after that, you need to go back within a certain number of days, after which you will have another few days to apply for a new passport. I managed to do this through the Russian Consulate in London, though it took a few more days that it should have thanks to an appointment scheduling mess-up on their part, which they naturally blamed on me (I was somehow responsible for them associating a wrong day to a date).

This is where I encountered my first serious issue. I had already booked my flight back with a Spanish airline with a stop-over in Barcelona, but then the Russian Consulate in London informed me that it needed to be a direct flight. When I asked them why they hadn’t informed me of that earlier, before my booking, they falsely insisted that they had. After a lengthy argument, I got them to submit – I had no intentions of wasting ~$500 booking another flight – but they warned me that I would not be allowed to fly onto Russia in Spain and that all consequent problems would be my problem, and got me to sign a declaration to that effect (!).

As it happened, the Spaniards themselves were entirely cool with my Return Certificate, and gave it no more than a glance when I was boarding; this was evidently a routine process for them. More curiously, at the time I also discovered that this seemed to be a “hard rule” only at the Russian Consulate in London; the one in Marseilles listed a direct flight as only a recommedation. Clearly the guys in London were (rudely) incompetent at best, or perhaps had an “arrangement” with some booking agent or the airline itself. Who knows.

But my problems hadn’t ended there – now that I was back in Russia, I needed to get my domestic passport, also expired, replaced. And I needed to do it pretty fast, since the passport is central to Russian life – you can’t get a cell phone number or even visit some museums without one. (I suppose that the lower trust societies are, the more they make up for it with papers).

chinovnik-racial-phenotype So I went down to the local documents center. Since my case – both foreign and domestic passports expired – wasn’t the most routine one, I was called into the office of the head honcho there, a corpulent, middle-aged, heavy-browed man with that distinct chinovnik racial phenotype who proceeded to give me a crash course in Russian Bureaucracy 101.

Instead of getting to work on my problem, he decided to give me a lengthy interrogation.

Why didn’t you renew your passport?” he barked.

“You can only renew it in Russia, I wasn’t in Russia.”

Why didn’t you return to Russia?”

“Because I was busy. Could you please tell me how is this relevant?”

Why did you return to Russia?”

“Why not, LOL. Also, may I inquire what business is this of yours?”

The hell it’s my business! Why didn’t you renew your passport in time?

It went on around in circles like this for several minutes, but the best was yet to come.

If you didn’t renew your passport you obviously didn’t care about it, so why don’t you fuck off back to America?” (sic)

Sensing that things were rapidly heading to an ignominious conclusion, and by this point thoroughly pissed off, I grabbed my documents, told him he was a fat, useless cockroach who had wasted enough of my time, and wheeled out of the room before he could sputter out a reply.

The next place where I tried to get my passport issues sorted processed my problem quickly and professionally, which I suppose goes to show that the quality of bureaucratic service remains… quite uneven.

Rules of thumb for dealing with Russian bureaucrats:

1. Don’t. Do as many things online as possible.

2. Never take the information that they put on the Internet at face value. It varies department from department, Consulate from Consulate. They don’t always even get their opening times right.

3. The starting assumption should be that they have zero interest in helping your resolve your issue. Base your actions on this assumption.

 
• Category: Miscellaneous • Tags: Russia, The AK 
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I’ll be busy the next few days, there won’t be many poasts, so I suppose now is as good as any for a big linkfest covering the past month.

My more interesting posts from last few days

I also published the notes and slides for my SPB lecture on HBD and the Alt Right (in Russian, obviously).

As well as a Facebook “debate” with pozzed Russian liberals about it. (In response to Greasy William’s question: “isn’t everybody already HBD aware in Russia anyway? Don’t think there will be much a market for alt right views in a culture where everybody is alt right by default.” Well, here’s your answer. Nothing Russian liberals do at this point can really surprise seeing as they are a living sketch of a Marquis de Custine vignette. Even so it was still pretty surreal to hear the phrase “maga chuds” in Russian, and to have a “follow your leader” meme thrown at me by a fairly prominent figure in the anti-Putin liberal opposition, who then proceeded to block me.

***

Syrian civil war update

map-syria-afrin

* At this point Afrin canton is probably living on borrowed time, if persistent rumors in the past few weeks are to be believed.

As soon as the SDF finish taking Raqqa, or maybe even sooner, the TFSA (Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army) will move into Afrin, apparently with Russia’s and Iran’s acquiescence.

Russia has no obligations to Rojava, whose primary sponsor is the US. Though Russia does have good relations with it, and with the administration in Afrin especially.

But chaining yourself to Erdogan like this is risky. He is treacherous in the extreme, and linking up the TFSA zone in North Syria with the main jihadist stronghold around Idlib could really blow up in Russia’s face if Erdogan decides to shove another knife into Putin’s spine (a Runet meme by now). Especially considering that…

* Seymour Hersh: Trump‘s Red Line

Confirms Syria sarin attacks were false flags. But who cares now? Nikki Haley now basically egging the jihadists on to make another.

* The Saker seems to have finally stopped peddling the fiction that Russia is capable of doing anything to stop its modest Syrian forces from being swept off the board in the event of a full-scale confrontation with the US in that region.

I am pretty sure that Iran isn’t going to throw itself on a sword for Russia, so I have long been of the opinion that Putin’s main options would be to either (1) retaliate in theaters where Russia has military predominance, such as Ukraine or even the Baltics; or (2) retreat in ignominy and focus on beefing up the police and propaganda apparatus to avoid Milosevic’s fate.

***

IQ/HBD, Interesting Odds and Ends

* London psychometrics conference. Lots of excellent presentations by all accounts, here is a video of Emil Kirkegaard on “Differential immigrant group performance: A matter of intelligence?”

* James Thompson’s series of posts on on Davide Piffer (1, 2, 3, 4)

* Map of psychometrics (Unz.com is a central node)

* Sniekers et al. – 2017 – Genome-wide association meta-analysis of 78,308 individuals identifies new loci and genes influencing human intelligence

Intelligence is associated with important economic and health-related life outcomes. Despite intelligence having substantial heritability (0.54) and a confirmed polygenic nature, initial genetic studies were mostly underpowered. Here we report a meta-analysis for intelligence of 78,308 individuals. We identify 336 associated SNPs (METAL P < 5 × 10-8) in 18 genomic loci, of which 15 are new. Around half of the SNPs are located inside a gene, implicating 22 genes, of which 11 are new findings. Gene-based analyses identified an additional 30 genes (MAGMA P < 2.73 × 10-6), of which all but one had not been implicated previously. We show that the identified genes are predominantly expressed in brain tissue, and pathway analysis indicates the involvement of genes regulating cell development (MAGMA competitive P = 3.5 × 10-6). Despite the well-known difference in twin-based heritability for intelligence in childhood (0.45) and adulthood (0.80), we show substantial genetic correlation (rg = 0.89, LD score regression P = 5.4 × 10-29). These findings provide new insight into the genetic architecture of intelligence.

* Scott Alexander’s series of posts on Hungarian Jews and human accomplishment (1, 2, 3).

I wonder about this because of a sentiment I hear a lot, from people who know more about physics than I do, that we just don’t get people like John von Neumann or Leo Szilard anymore.

There’s a banally simple explanation for this: The problems get harder.

* Salvatier et al. – 2017 – When Will AI Exceed Human Performance? Evidence from AI Experts

salvatier-hlmi-arrival

Scott Alexander has a summary.

Despite faster than expected progress since the last expert survey in 2012 by Bostrom and Muller, projected dates have actually become more pessimistic. Scott’s explanation seems persuasive:

But as we saw before, expecting AI experts to make sense might be giving them too much credit. A more likely possibility: Bostrom’s sample included people from wackier subbranches of AI research, like a conference on Philosophy of AI and one on Artificial General Intelligence; Grace’s sample was more mainstream. The most mainstream part of Bostrom’s sample, a list of top 100 AI researchers, had an estimate a bit closer to Grace’s (2050).

* This is useful: A Compendium of Clean Graphs in R

* Hou, Xue, & Zhang – 2017 – Replication Anomalies

Capital markets are more efficient than previously recognized.

* Mike Johnson: Why we seek out pleasure: the Symmetry Theory of Homeostatic Regulation

***

Russia, Eastern Europe

* Massive report on the Russian economy by Jon Hellevig’s AWARA group.

* Oliver Stone’s Putin interviews. I need to watch them. But this summary by Alexander Mercouris looks good.

* Stephen Cohen vs. Julia Ioffe:

* Prosvirnin, a leading Russian right-wing intellectual, gets no platformed from a Saint-Petersburg “Geek Picnic” tech conference by SJWs.

Amerikwa pretty much needs to be nuked from orbit at this point.

Some of those freaks even grumbled about the presence of Alexandra Elbakyan, who – they claim – has “pro-Kremlin/imperialist” views. Even though as the founder of Sci-Hub, she has probably contributed more to technological progress than everyone else at the Geek Picnic combined.

* Started reading Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s more political writings, thanks largely to Egor Kholmogorov. Gaining an even greater appreciation for him.

There’s a reason the Western media and academic establishment props crazies such as Dugin as “Russian nationalists” while shunting off people such as Solzhenitsyn (once he made it clear he wasn’t going to be an anti-Russian patsy) to the sidelines.

* I am enjoying Matt Forney’s new Medium blog on European and Hungarian politics. E.g.

* Zhuravlev: The Russian recession is receding into the distance:

zhuravlev-russia-economy

* Russia population map

map-russia-population

 

* NBF: Russia Armata tank will outmatch the Abrams in active armor and triple range missiles

***

World

* WSJ: China’s All-Seeing Surveillance State Is Reading Its Citizens’ Faces

Face-scanning drones, restricted floors… powerful Deus Ex vibe.

* Where Automation Poses the Biggest Threat to American Jobs. This is basically a map of Belmonts (blue) and Fishtowns (red).

automation-threat

* Burke, Hsiang, & Miguel – 2015 – Global non-linear effect of temperature on economic production

Russia needs Tropical Hyperborea.

burke-temperature-economy

* Schuenemann et al. – 2017 – Ancient Egyptian mummy genomes suggest an increase of Sub-Saharan African ancestry in post-Roman periods

* Enke et al. – 2017 – Kinship Systems, Cooperation and the Evolution of Culture

***

Culture war

* Corey et al. – 2017 – Our moral choices are foreign to us

Though moral intuitions and choices seem fundamental to our core being, there is surprising new evidence that people resolve moral dilemmas differently when they consider them in a foreign language (Cipolletti et al., 2016; Costa et al., 2014a; Geipel et al., 2015): People are more willing to sacrifice 1 person to save 5 when they use a foreign language compared with when they use their native tongue.

* Long simmering tensions between Richard Spencer/Daniel Friberg (AltRight.com) and Greg Johnson (Counter-Currents) have finally flared into the open.

I don’t have a dog in this fight. Bring on the popcorn.

* I learned legendary Twitter suicide bomber @jokeocracy was Pax Dickinson about a week ago. I’m slow.

* Added to favorite quotes list: “In multiracial societies, you don’t vote in accordance with your economic interests and social interests, you vote in accordance with race and religion.” – Lee Kuan Yew

* ‘Straight out of the Nazi playbook’: Hindu nationalists try to engineer ‘genius’ babies in India. Sounds cool, until…

Jani explained that the program consists of a “purification of energy channels” and body before a pregnancy, and mantra-chanting and “proper food,” such as meals rich in calcium and vitamin A, after the baby is born.

… and then you realize eugenics is also g loaded.

* Mark Yuray: Why Homosexuals Are A Signalling Hazard In Traditional Societies

* O’Handley – 2017 – What do two men kissing and a bucket of maggots have in common? Heterosexual men’s indistinguishable salivary α-amylase responses to photos of two men kissing and disgusting images

The results of the current study suggest that all individuals, not just highly sexually prejudiced individuals, may experience a physiological response indicative of stress when witnessing a male same-sex couple kissing.

* Hard to imagine the depth of SJW madness in American academia.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YnSYvhSeyI

* Deus Ex world:

https://twitter.com/TheRealPolina/status/732233517879304192

.

 
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As some of you are aware, last week I was traveling in Saint-Petersburg.

I went upon the invitation of a local politics club, but decided I stay several days to explore the city. I haven’t been to SPB since 2002, so this doubled as an opportunity to see how the northern capital has changed in the past 15 years.

spb-foggy-canal

City Observations

As with the rest of Russia, the city itself has certainly changed for the better in all the usual respects. More cars, and far newer ones. Roofs appeared much cleaner and shinier from the top of St. Isaac’s Cathedral than in 2002. As in the rest of Russia, virtually everyone who wants Internet access has it (SPB actually has slightly higher Internet penetration than Moscow, for some reason).

That said, whereas I distinctly remember liking Saint-Petersburg more than in the early 2000s, this is no longer the case.

spb-metro-station(1) Moscow is and technologically advanced, e.g. it has free WiFi in the metro for several years now, which SPB and other backwards cities like London and San Francisco have yet to adopt.

(2) I greatly prefer acontinental climate to a cold maritime one.

(3) There is a reason Slavophiles have traditionally viewed Moscow as Russia’s “true” capital. The architecture is more authentically Russian. It also tends to be more human-scale. Central Saint-Petersburg is a place of wide imperial avenues, and the grand pomposity of the buildings and palaces, though initially impressive, gets monotonous after a while (in this respect it is actually reminescent of Washington DC).

This is of course a simplification – there are plenty of oppressive open spaces in Moscow too, and SPB has its fair share of quaint courtyards and interesting corners – but as an architectural ensemble Moscow definitely wins out.

(4) The Moscow metro is far more developed, so distances between stations are shorter. This makes Moscow more walkable, especially since SPB is also intersected by a massive river. Finally, although SPB’s bridges are a nice tourist magnet, they can be a pain in the ass for locals who can be cut off from their homes if they don’t leave the bar in time (not helped by the SPB metro closing one hour earlier than the Moscow metro).

(5) Whereas in 2002 Saint-Petersburgers – at least in my limited, one-week tourist experience – were more civil than Muscovites, Muscovites have improved greatly since then, and there is now no longer any difference.

spb-bookshop One easy way to test civility is how frequently drivers make way for pedestrians on zebra crossings. 15 years ago in Moscow, it was perhaps 10%, and 25% in SPB. Nowadays I’d estimate it’s about 75% in Moscow, about the same as in the US. In SPB, however, it might be closer to 50%. Still, these are all extremely approximate figures, especially for SPB where I only spent 6 days.

I noticed that many Saint-Petersburgers seem to have a sort of inferiority complex, a lingering resentment towards Moscow at being deprived of their capital. Unfortunately, they have a point. I don’t like it and I think the hyper-centralization that accounts for this is very bad for the country, but the fact of the matter is that least 50% of everything interesting and significant taking place in Russia happens in Moscow.

Moscow is the undisputed political (executive, legislative), economic, and scientific center of Russia.

SPB has some modest share of influence in the political-legislative and cultural sphere (though probably not near as much as Moscow), but otherwise, it is ultimately just the largest gorod-millionnik.

That said, as one person I talked to optimistically pointed out, SPB does have a “marginalistic charm” to it, and she continued, “all the most interesting and disruptive phenomena come from the margins.” If there’s one thing that SPB suffers no shortage of relative to Moscow, it is hipsters.

spb-lecture-on-hbd

Politics

I was invited to Saint-Petersburg was to give a lecture to a local right-wing politics club about “HBD and its Role in the Alt Right.”

There is a loosely affiliated network of such clubs through Russia in Moscow, SPB, and the bigger cities. (Vincent Law, whom I had the pleasure of meeting, wrote about the SPB chapter here).

This invitation was perfectly congruent with my wider meta-goal of redpilling Russian nationalists on HBD/IQ-realism, so of course I accepted.

My talk itself covered the basics of HBD/IQ:

  • The largely separate evolution of the world’s three great races since they split ~50,000 years ago.
  • The validity of psychometrics
  • The importance of psychometrics, esp. wrt life outcomes and national differences in GDP per capita and other development metrics
  • The direction of causality – exceptions (Communist legacy; oil windfalls) prove the rule!
  • Why should this be the case?
  • FLynn effect: Will immigrant performance converge?
  • Would HBD-informed prescriptions apply to Russia? (e.g. immigration policy, positive eugenics, genetic augmentation of IQ)

I was very impressed by the quality of the responses and questions. Many people were familiar with the material, and asked pointed and relevant questions, such as the technical details of how national IQs are calculated, the extent to which emotional intelligence is important, and why US Jews cleverer than Israelis.

Clearly young Russian nationalists are informed, intelligent, and intellectually curious, having avoided the ideological skeletons of the boomer nationalist mindset in Russia (e.g. Eurasianism, “geopolitics,” Heidegger, extreme Orthodoxy, and various other obscurantisms). This is incredibly encouraging for the future.

Many interesting and spirited discussions about the Alt Right, Milo, Karelian nationalism, censorship, and many other weird and esoteric topics followed.

The politics club is only one element in SPB’s nationalist ecosystem, which even extends to having their “own” bars with discounts for nationalists. I would shill them but I don’t know if they’d appreciate the publicity.

code-russian-officer The city also hosts the Black Hundreds publishing group, which specializes in republishing Tsarist-era classics as well as modern nationalists authors. I bought two books from each category.

The first was a 1916 edition of Valentin Kulchitsky’s The Code of Honor of the Russian Officer (widely distributed to Russian officers during WW1 because the accelerated wartime training schedule meant that many of them didn’t have time to fully absorb the culture of the General Staff).

The second was Vitaly Fedorov’s (“Africa”) Notes of a Terrorist (in the good sense of the word) – possibly the best war novel from the Donbass to date (an English translation is available on Amazon).

A third major nationalist organization in SPB is the Russian Imperial Movement.

Its nationalism is explicitly based on religion, not ethnicity – you don’t have to be an ethnic Russian to join, but you do have to be an Orthodox Christian. However, they are also considerably more hardcore than the others, having been directly involved in the events in Donbass through their Imperial Legion batallion.

spb-night

Tourism

When not delving deeper into extremism and padding my files at Langley and Lubyanka I did the usual touristy stuff.

Transport/Hotels

spb-sapsan I traveled to SPB via the Sapsan high speed train, which at 250kph takes about 3.5 hours to get there from Moscow.

$75 normal ticket, $100 business class. The latter has far better conditions, and includes a meal, so it’s worth considering.

Alternatively, you can take the overnight train for $25 or $40 (platskart and kupe, respectively), depending on your desired privacy level.

spb-katyusha I stayed at the Katyusha hotel. It’s right next to the Neva River – right past the arch in the photo to the right – and about 200m from the Hermitage. One night there costs a mere $50.

This really brings home the point why PPP-adjustments to GDP per capita are absolutely relevant when gauging living standards. Russian wages might be far lower than in Western Europe, but so are the prices.

Food

spb-brynza In addition to the standard Western fast food chains, such as McDonald’s/KFC, Russia now has many of its own indigenous equivalents. Being a tourist in SPB, unlike in Moscow, I took the opportunity to explore some of them. Teremok is a national chain that features very traditional Russian fare such as common soups (borscht, obroshka, ukha, solyanka, etc.), pelmeni, pancakes, cutlets with buckwheat for prices similar to a MacDonald’s. Even better, though, was the SPB-specific Brynza chain, though it is marginally pricier (right: Cod Leningrad style).

spb-tandoori I last had Indian food half a year ago and really wanted to try my favorite national cuisine again. Fortunately, Saint-Petersburg has an excellent Indian restaurant right in the city center called Tandoor. It compares well even with Indian restaurants in London and the Bay Area. A business lunch of yellow daal, spicy vegetables, and butter chicken costs $10. So do most curries (e.g. the vindaloo on the right). The masala chai is also very good. It is run by Russians, though the cooks are Indians.

Note that traditionally Russia traditionally hasn’t had anything spicier than, I dunno… paprika? So you have to order your Indian food very/extremely spicy to get it moderately spicy by British/American standards.

Museums

Finally visited the Kunstkamera. It is by and large a standard ethnographic museum, the most interesting part of the exhibit being the original Petrine collection.

spb-naval-museum I was very impressed with the Central Naval Museum. It hosts a series of huge halls with thousands of naval paintings, ship models, figureheads, guns, munitions, uniforms, and other naval objects, all exhaustively documented and woven into a comprehensive history of the rise and fall of Russian naval power. Unfortunately, there are few English translations.

Visited the Yusupov Palace. TIL they were Christianized Tatars, descended from one 15th century Khan Yusuf.

spb-petropavlovsk-fortressPetropavlovsk Fortress includes the cathedral where the Russian Tsars since Peter the Great are buried, including Nicholas II and his family, who were interred there in the 1990s. The Russian Orthodox Church objected to burying a person who abdicated the throne inside the main cathedral, so they repose in an adjoining room to the main hall which can be considered a separate chapel.

There are several other separate museums.

spb-petropavlovsk-prison One is the prison with its 69 rooms that held revolutionaries. The tour group leader made a point of how horrific conditions were, though in my experience, that’s part and parcel for historical prison tours everywhere. But to the casual eye the rooms sure look spacious even by the standards of modern US prisons, to say nothing of typical jail conditions a century ago. And the sentences tended to be remarkably lenient considering prisoners were often involved in assassination plots, terrorism, etc., which in many other states would have warranted the death penalty. It was surely much more humane than Guantanamo.

There was a museum of the history of SPB from the early native inhabitants who lived there in their log cabins. One room was famous for having been the scene of the sentencing of the Decembrists, of whom five were put to death. This was cited as an example of Tsarist cruelty and caprice in Soviet history textbooks, but come on… this was ultimately a violent mutiny against the sovereign. The vast majority of the plotters were exiled to Siberia for some period of time, or even pardoned. Even many West European countries at the time would have been far less lenient.

One building that used to host a secret rocketry R&D facility in the early USSR is now a space museum. One thing I was struck by was how many people both interested in and technically capable of developing modern rocket technologies there were in the late Russian Empire (starting with Tsiolkovsky, the concept’s father). It seems inevitable to me that there would have been a strong Russian missile and space program regardless of whether the USSR had appeared or not.

spb-winter-palace-library I visited the Hermitage. I have been there before, but it is so vast you need to spend a few days to properly see all of it anyway. My favorite room there in the original palace section was Nicholas II’s library. Most of the Winter Palace was for all intents and purposes a “museum,” even when it was still the living quarters of the imperial family (the status signalling problem really reached absurd proportions in the Russian Empire, as in ancien regime France). The library looks like a place where you could actually sit down and get some work or reading done over a glass of red wine.

spb-popovPopov’s Central Museum of Communications is one of the oldest science and technology museums in the world. Amongst other exhibits, it hosts Alexander Popov’s original radio set. He actually made his revolutionary discoveries slightly earlier than Guglielmo Marconi, but the Italian became known as the inventor of radio in the West because of his greater interest in and success at commercializing it.

spb-museum-of-democracy I also passed by the Chubais Museum of the Implementation of Democracy in Modern Russia (what a mouthful, even in Russian). As Lazy Glossophiliac commented, “Should have been housed in a 90s-style kiosk store with lots of gaudy advertising all over it.” You had to make an appointment to enter the museum, which I suppose says something about its popularity.

I couldn’t be bothered, having better things to do with my time, such as drinking with the people who will one day kick those squatters out of such a fine building and open a Museum of Autocracy in its stead.

 
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I don’t really have much to add beyond what I said on RT Crosstalk, and what Alexander Mercouris wrote here and here.

The month long reprieve Trump had gained with his Syrian human sacrifice is over, and the Swamp creatures are back, baying for his blood with renewed zeal.

expanding-brain-of-louise-menschWhat is most remarkable, and cannot be stressed enough, is that there is still no evidence of Trump having colluded with Russia.

But no matter. So far as the MSM is concerned the Russian Occupation Government already rules the White House through its intermediates, Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and TASS photojournalists. Trump spilled all of “our greatest ally’s” secrets to them personally and now that means America’s European allies are no longer going to share intelligence with them (according to one anonymous “European official,” anyway). Because the details of Islamic State plans for laptops on international flights is the sort of arcane knowledge that can overturn the global geopolitical chessboard. /s

The firing of Comey was obviously an act of petty revenge against him for taking down Flynn and getting too deep into the secrets of ROG. No matter that Flynn’s connections with Russian state structures remain entirely speculative, while it is openly known that he acted a paid up lobbyist for Turkey. And it obviously can’t have a more mundane explanation, such as Comey’s lack of interest in shoring up the incessant leaking that is incapicitating the Trump administration.

This is all so transparently obvious. But we are living in an era when a woman who by her own admission has her mind destroyed by hard drugs and believes Putin murdered Andrew Breitbart and funds BlackLivesMatter gets op-eds in The New York Times.

This is the fake reality that fake news has created, but with enough time and “manufactured consent,” fake reality has a way of becoming “actual existing” reality.

predictit-impeach-trump-odds-2017Here are a few facets of this reality. As of this week, for the first time, a near majority of Americans – 48% to 41% – want to see Trump impeached according to the latest poll from Public Policy Polling.

PredictIt is now giving 25% odds that Trump will be impeached in 2017. This is highest than at any other time this year, even thoug there is now just a bit more than six months to go.

As of the time of writing, it is giving implied odds of about 30% for Trump not being President by the end of the year, and 45% odds of not being President by the end of 2018.

I suspect these figures are plausible. While removing Trump from office via impeachment is probably unrealistic – for that, 2/3 of the Senate will also have to vote to convict him (for what?) – Trump Derangement Syndrome has become so endemic that it theatenss to make the country essentially ungovernable. This could give establishment Republicans the excuse to pressure Trump to resign (perhaps with the threat of a 25th Amendment coup, as Ross Douthat has recently suggested).

Obviously I wish Trump the best of luck against the Swamp golems but things really aren’t looking good for him.

 
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hi-reddit-russia

It’s live here: https://www.reddit.com/r/russia/comments/66q52x/hi_rrussia_anatoly_karlin_writer_for_the_unz/

/r/russia is one of the best forums on the Internet for people interested in Russia.

You can reply in either English or Russian.

Most of the people there are basically Russian patriots, though considerably more socially liberal and better acquainted with the West than the Russian average. However, there are plenty of Communists, nationalists, and liberals there as well.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Interviews, The AK 
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moscow-protest-tverskaya-ak

As one of the world’s leading activists against the Putin regime, I had no choice but to show up on Tverskaya Street today, to fight for your freedom and mine.

As expected, turnout wasn’t particularly high. Although the area around the Pushkin Monument was crowded, it only extended to half a block in every direction. The regime loyalist I was with estimated there were about 5,000 protesters. A guy with a Ukrainian flag lapel badge whom I asked for his opinion said 10,000. Taking the average estimate from supporters and detractors was a good strategy for estimating crowd size in 2011-12, and coincidentally enough, the resulting figure of 7,500 coincided exactly with the police estimate of 7,000-8,000 protesters. This is not altogether bad, thought quite insubstantial in a city of 12 million.

To be sure, this was an unsanctioned protest, and as I pointed out earlier, a lot of the risk-averse office plankton who form the bulk of Navalny’s support don’t turn up to such protests. They don’t want to run the risk of getting arrested, not when it could impact on their employment. Still, this is about 3x fewer participants than in the last big protest of the 2012 wave, which was also unsanctioned, the farcical “March of the Millions” of May 6 to which about 25,000 turned up.

With the lack of office workers in the crowd, the demographics were heavily tilted towards young people and university students, though there were quite a few older people with that Soviet intelligentsia look.

Definitely lots of Euromaidan supporters – apart from Ukrainian flag lapel badge guy, there was another man, who had the look of a protest veteran about him, who regaled a small crowd with tales of his adventures fighting the police in Khabarovsk, in Kiev in 2014, and afterwards, in Kharkov (the local police there was hostile, and they had to wait it out long enough for them to get reinforcements from Poltava and further west; putting things together, he was one of the people who helped preempt the formation of a Kharkov People’s Republic). However, the Ukrainophilia wasn’t quite as noticeable as in Ekaterinburg, where the crowd chanted, “He who doesn’t jump is Dimon” (a riff on “he who doesn’t jump is a Moskal,” a rallying cry for the “Glory to Ukraine” crowd).

(Incidentally, this is one reason of many as to why the protests in Russia are unlikely to amount to much – the Ukrainians, at least, advanced into bullets for their own nationalism during Euromaidan; in contrast, the pro-Ukrainian Russians at these protests are “cucking” for someone else’s nationalism. Come to think of it, trolling the protesters by shouting “Glory to Russia” at the next protest might be a good idea).

There were also, as expected, plenty of journalists. Most of them were local media; I observed a couple from the opposition TV channel Dozhd, as well as a group from some state TV company. Incidentally, contrary to some reports, the protest was covered in the Russian state media, both in Russian and English. There did not seem to be many foreign journalists (perhaps its too early in the political season for that). However, one of them, The Guardian’s Alec Luhn, did manage to get himself arrested and charged with an administration violation, which he understandably complained about. On the other hand, such “heavy-handedness is hardly exclusive to Russia (e.g. six RT journalists were charged for covering violence at Trump’s inauguration).

About 30 minutes after the announced start of the march, the police and the OMON started arresting people, darting into the crowds and hauling people off into the waiting police buses. Navalny was also arrested, not having even made it as far as the Pushkin Momument, let alone the Kremlin that was his destination.

The arrests were for the most part non-violent, though there were several hundreds of them, and one policemen was hospitalized for a traumatic head injury following a kick to the head from a protester.

While I’m myself rather indifferent to arrest – as a committed NEET, I have no need to worry about any repercussions on my employment or education prospects, and if anything it would provide me with nice new content – I certainly don’t want my first arrest in Russia to happen at a fucking Navalny demo of all places, so I began skulking away as soon as the arrests started. I spent the next couple of hours drinking at a bar with my regime loyalist friend.

Towards the evening, I returned to Pushkin Square. It was much less crowded now, though there were still throngs of people discussing the days’ events, with the police swooping down on them every so often to enquire as to whether they were protesting, and ensuing philosophical debates between them and the police about the semantics of group discussion versus group protest, and the precise point at which the former transitioned into the latter.

I descended into the Metro.

***

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• Category: Ideology • Tags: Color Revolution, Moscow, Russia, The AK 
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beer-and-books

I was privileged to meet one of the columnists at The Unz Review. Feel free to guess who.

Ironically, we met up at Jean-Jacques cafe on Nikitsky Boulevard, the favorite watering hole of the rukopozhatnaya kreakl crowd (handshake-worthy/”respectable” “creative” hipsters). It’s a solid enough place, though – slightly pretentious French style lunch with wine for 1,000 rubles.

Finally got Twenty Years to the Great War, a massive tome on the late Tsarist industrialization by HSE professor Mikhail Davydov.

A taste of some of what it covers in the intro to an an interview with the author:

The development of Magnitogorsk? Planned by the State Council of the Russian Empire in 1915. The irrigation of Central Asia? Started in 1901, by 1912 there were working excavators… About the poverty of the people: In 1906-1913 credit cooperatives gave farmers loans totalling 2.5 billion rubles (equivalent to six naval modernization programs). In 1913, 30% of families in the country possessed savings books.

People lived considerably better than Soviet propaganda would later claim, and in fact many of the big “signature” Soviet modernization projects were first planned out and initiated in the waning days of the Empire (even including electrification).

But there’s really a lot more to it. One thousand pages, many of which are devoted to statistical tables. Looking forwards to reading it and reviewing it properly.

moscow-decoration

A mundane example of how Moscow has really been spruced up in the past couple of years.

Some more culinary notes, since we haven’t had those for a while:

nutria-burger

At around the time of the New Year, I tried out a nutria burger at the Krasnodar Bistro, thanks to a “recommendation” of sorts from The Guardian’s Shaun Walker (“Hot rat is so hot right now: Moscow falls for the rodent burger“).

It was entirely fine, a bit similar in texture to a beef patty, but with a distinctive flavor and a greasier texture. Not perhaps the best meat, but still, 2033 should be perfectly survivable.

The more relevant and encouraging sociological observation is that its one example of many in which Russia is developing its own culinary traditions as opposed to aping from abroad (nutria is particular to Russia’s Krasnodar region).

likuria-wine

Thanks to JL for the Likuria recommendation – I got a set of them. I thought the Blend and the Merlot were pretty good, but the Cabernet Sauvignon disappointed, and the Shiraz was very bad.

The Agora bastardo from Crimea remains my favorite dry Russian red, but frankly none of them are anything to write home about. For now at least its better to just get the European imports.

That said, the Abrau Durso champagnes, with the partial exception of their bruts, are surprisingly good and continue to gain on me.

I enjoyed Ararat cognac from Armenia, the standard product in this class here, but I am not a conoisseur of cognac, so my opinion isn’t worth much.

I am not exactly a big cheese fan, I don’t even buy it normally, but I do like to make Greek salad from time to time, and that means feta. I suspect it is directly on the sanctions list because I haven’t been able to find it in the usual supermarkets (though I haven’t bothered searching). The alternative here is a thing called bryndza, but it is most decidedly not feta; the Serbian bryndza I bought first is far closer to cheap standard cream cheeses. That said, the “classical” version is the one that’s at least very faintly reminscent of feta.

kharcho

As I explained in one of my earlier open threads, in my opinion Georgian cuisine is overrated (it’s only particularly interesting or “exotic” by Soviet standards).

That said, the one exception to that assessment – and its a real bigly one – is kharcho.

 
• Category: Miscellaneous • Tags: Moscow, Open Thread, Russia, The AK, Travel 
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trump-in-moscow

I watched the God Emperor’s ascension to the Golden Throne at a bar night for American expats in Moscow. The mood there was largely pro-Trumpist, though obviously there was a self-selection mechanism involved. Everyone disliked HRC, though there were a fair number of Bernouts.

I got into a discussion with a reasonably influential official from the Russian Foreign Ministry. As I expected, the mood there is reasonably optimistic. They seem to be assigning considerable weight to Trump’s past as a businessman, the assumption being that such a person would be easier to do deals with than the globalist ideologues who previously occupied the White House.

That said, once burnt, twice shy – and Russia was burned not just once, but thrice. Three times Russia made unilateral concessions to incoming US Presidents promising a reset in relations that ultimately went unreciprocated (the Foreign Ministry still has Hillary Clinton’s infamous reset button in its museum). The sanctions are simply not regarded as a very critical matter – the import substitution program is in full swing, and it is working – so there is absolutely no enthusiasm for making more of the unilateral concessions that Russia had gifted previous incoming US Presidents. A limited mutual reduction of nukes is considered an acceptable deal for a US commitment to curtail its interference in Ukraine, since the ongoing killings of Russians in the Donbass by the Maidanist regime is regarded as a legitimacy problem for the Russian government.

I got briefly interviewed by a French journalist doing a story on Moscow expat attitudes to Trump. Incidentally, the world of Moscow expats is a pretty small one – even though it was not a particularly big event, I nonetheless managed to meet half a dozen people whom I had corresponded with or at least seen on some comment thread or another during my now almost decade’s worth of “Russia watching.”

In other news, my latest podcast/interview with Robert Stark is out now.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Moscow, Open Thread, The AK, Trump 
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zvezda-interview

Not even a week in Moscow, and I get contacted by a Zvezda TV journalist requesting an interview about life in America and why I returned to Russia. In a deserted billiards room, I began talking about my theory that there is a civility-friendliness spectrum, with Britain on one end of it, Russia on the other, and America in between. However, I rather embarassingly botched it. I kept saying that while Britons are more civil and polite, Russians tended to be more open and genial, at least once you broke the ice with them. The problem is that my brain hadn’t fully adjusted from English to Russian, and so one of the key words I kept using, “genial,” didn’t actually mean what I thought it meant in Russian – in effect, I have been arguing that Russians were more ingenious than the Anglo-Saxons (they are not). But it was only at the end of the interview that I suddenly recalled that genialnost’ is not genialness. The quizzical looks my interviewer and the cameraman had given me at the start of the interview also suddenly made sense.

I explained what had happened to them, and suggested they cut that part since it made no sense. Relieved that I was in fact sane, they agreed. Unfortunately, my little joke about the only polite Russians being the Polite People would also have to go into the trashbin. But no matter – that episode only accounted for 10% of the entire interview, with almost everything else being about the burning political topic of the day in Moscow right now: Donald Trump. Is the Establishment trying to organize a Maidan against Trump? (Sort of. But in such a lame-assed way that more electors abandoned HRC than Trump himself). Would Trump be a friend to Russia? (Consult Palmerstone and Alexander III. So, most likely, not. But as a successful businessman and a non-ideological “America First” nationalist, it would be easier to make deals with him). What do you make of his apparent hostility towards China? (Let the Eagle and the Dragon claw at each other. Why we worry?).

***

My friend Artem Zagorodnov, whom I met in London, presented a talk in Juneau, Alaska deconstructing some of the major Western myths about Russia – that is, the sort of material I have written a lot about.

You can watch it here: Putin and Russia’s Evolving Image in the United States.

***

In more mundane news, I continue renovating my apartment, enjoying the cold dry climate, and making observations of potential interest.

In contrast to just a decade yore, it is now quite safe to use zebra crossings. (Two decades ago, you couldn’t even say that of a pedestrian crossing at a green traffic light). You should still look round, but then the same applies to London, and New York might even be marginally worse. Even as civility in Russia has risen, it has been falling in both Britain and America, so that we are steadily seeing a sort of ironic convergence between the two.

Possibly related: I see a few people with face masks everyday. I approve of this East Asian tradition. If you really have to go out while ill, at least make an effort to avoid transmitting it.

***

Shopping is a mixed experience. Many security guards. Low efficiency – took me three times longer to order a piece of furniture than it would have in the US or Britain. But I don’t suppose it matters that much right now – the shopping centers were surprisingly empty, especially for this time of year. Russia might be climbing out of the recession according to the latest indicators, but it’s clear that it is not yet being reflected in consumer confidence on the ground.

That said, the quality of service is now very good. At my local El Dorado, the staff were very helpful in explaining the different products on sale and speeding up access to out of stock items. Thanks to the devaluation, Russian made products in most categories of electronic goods are competitive. Online ordering also works smoothly, at least in Moscow. There is no central super-vendor like Amazon in the US, but shipping is fast and and you have the option of paying in cash on delivery.

Hauling large pieces of furnitures up the stairs can be relatiely expensive. But you can hire a couple of Tajiks to do it for much cheaper. No formal agreements, just pluck them off the streets, where the municipality pays them by the hour, and they are grateful for the couple hundred extra rubles while on the taxpayer’s dime. Still probably not a good reason to allow hundreds of thousands of them in, but since they’re here anyway, why not make mutually beneficial deals?

***

There are two sorts of item which were traditionally cheap in Russia, but are no longer so.

The first such items are books. The time when you could get high quality hardbacks for a few dollars appear to be long gone. This is especially surprising since Russian book publishing takes place in Russia, and as such should have benefited from the devaluation. But apparently not. For instance, I was planning on acquiring a hardback copy of “Twenty Years to the Great War,” a recent published magisterial 1,000 page study of late Tsarist industrialization by the historian Mikhail Davydov, but at $50 it will have to wait.

Incidentally, local bookshops are a favorite haunt of mine, since they – especially their politics and history sections – reflect the ideas of the intelligentsia, or at least the sorts of ideas the elites want their intelligentsia to have. For instance, in a Waterstones in London, Richard Shirreff’s “War with Russia” was very prominently featured. In this poorly written Red Storm Rising remake, the “self-obssessed nutter” and “ruthless predatory bastard” Putler launches a brutal war of aggression against the West. The undertone is crystal clear – Four legs good, two legs bad, and we must never falter in our faith (and funding for) NATO!

The history section of my local bookshop is a decidedly more lowkey affair. The books most prominently featured in that section were Ian Morris’ “Why the West Rules – For Now,” Niall Ferguson’s “Civilization”, and the first two volumes of Boris Akunin’s ongoing project “The History of the Russian State.” Respectively, these books represent: An ideologically neutral study of big history and social evolution from a quantitative perspective; populist dreck based on a lame catchphrase transparently designed to appeal to the Intellectual Yet Idiot crowd; ahistorical dreck from a popular detective fiction writer with a severe animus against the state he is chronicling.

So the next time you encounter a Western hack claiming that Russian bookshops are brimming with ultra-nationalist fantasies and xenophobic tracts, recognize it for what it probably is: Projection.

***

The second item that was more expensive than you might expect in Russia was vodka. This was not surprising to me personally, since over the years I have written a lot about Russia’s mortality crisis, how it is primarily vodka bingeing that is to blame for it, and how Putin has been successfully tackling the problem by raising excise taxes on alcohol, amongst other measures. Still, it was good to see the effects of those policies in person – the cheapest 0.5 liter bottle was 219 rubles, while the average bottle cost 350 rubles. These prices are not far from American ones in absolute terms and far higher relative to Russian salaries.

The flip side is that this encourages “left” production – the fatal poisoning of 74 people in Irkutsk due to a bad batch of alcohol extracted from bath oil has been at the top of the news this past week. And everytime something like this happens, populists inevitably demand the government lower vodka prices, even though every ruble decrease in vodka prices would result in far more aggregate deaths than the odd Boyaryshnik poisoning now and then.

***

Thanks to g2k for the Amtsa recommendation – it is indeed the best adjika I have tried to date. Still can’t say I’m a fan, I would prefer any standard Mexican salsa, but I can imagine buying it again.

As I said previously, Russia isn’t the best country for spicy food. As far as I can gather the hottest pepper widely available here is something called “Ogonek,” which I think is similar to jalapeno on the Scoville scale. Most Russians regard it as excruciatingly hot.

I did manage to finally find a cheap, drinkable dry red wine – the Agora bastardo from Crimea. Very far from the best, rather too sour for my taste, but at least I won’t have to become a teetotaller in Russia for lack of options.

I am looking forwards to trying out the Lefkadia/Likuria wines recommended by JL.

That said, I don’t want to give off the impression that Russia, or at least Moscow, is a consumer hellscape. Far from it. While the wine and spice departments are subpar relative to what an American or Briton might be used to, the local teashop has about thirty sorts of Chinese teas on sale, some of them remarkably rare, but all of them at rather reasonable prices. In London, you’d probably have to go to something like the venerable Algerian Coffee Store to find a similar Chinese tea collection.

***

 
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moscow-snow

Rapidly becoming who I am.

So I have fulfilled the demands of some of my most committed detractors and self-deported myself back to Russia.

My first sociological observation on landing in Domodedova this Tuesday, and perhaps the one most germane to Unz.com readers, was that about 100% of the airport cleaning stuff were Uzbeks and Tajiks, and well more than 50% of the black leather jacket-wearing taxi drivers aggressively hustling their services to arrivees were Caucasians. Of course I used Uber. It was twice cheaper – 1,000 rubles versus 2,000 for the shady taxi ride – and most likely considerably safer to boot.

That said, the title of this post is (mainly) exaggeration. Official census statistics say that Moscow remains well more than 90% Russian. This is patently untrue, and nobody argues otherwise. Even so, it’s fair to say that a good nine out of ten faces you see on the streets are Slavic, and I say this as someone who now resides in one of the more “enriched” (and nationalist) areas. The bottom line is that Moskvabad might or might not become a reality by 2050. Londonistan is a reality today.

Since my last visit was more than a decade ago, I needed to make good on a considerable amount of bureaucratic backlog. The general impression amongst informed observers is that the Russian bureaucracy has gone from being atrocious to merely adequate. I concur. What in 2006 would have likely taken me several days to resolve only took half a day. It is still a far cry from North European digital nirvanas but the paperwork has become crisper and more efficient.

One of the main points I have made over and over again on this blog is that while wages in Russia might be low, they are countered by the banal fact that prices are much cheaper, so the gap in living standards between Russia and the developed Western world is not so much the fivefold difference you see in nominal GDP per capita comparisons, but rather the twofold difference you get after a purchasing power adjustment.

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Food is very cheap. Twice cheaper is the general rule of thumb, and that is with respect to Moscow, supposedly one of the most expensive cities in the world (incidentally, this was only ever true for the most clueless expats, and has in any case ceased to be the case since the devaluation). The Big Mac, a classic component of comparison, costs 130 rubles in the Moscow suburbs, which is twice cheaper than in Britain and the US. Salted cucumbers – the real deal, not the vinegar soaked abomination that passes for them in the Anglosphere – cost close to nothing, while in California you can buy a modest bottle produced by “artisan farmer” types from Whole Foods for the princely sum of $5. Ergo for alcohol – pictured above is Massandra Muscat, a Crimean dessert wine that was actually pretty good. (However, I have yet to find a good Russian Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon. Any suggestions?).

Despite fond early childhood memories, I was decidedly underwhelmed by all the Ajika sauces I have sampled thus far. They’re too mild and far too salty – in other words, I guess you can say I’ve been spoiled by Mexican salsas and Indian spices. (Georgian food was traditionally considered to be this cool, exotic cuisine for meat-and-potato Russians in the USSR, but from a global perspective, my opinion is that it’s rather unimpressive). I was surprised to find that the typical Russian supermarket carries Tabasco Original sauce – my favorite hot sauce, luckily enough – and though as an import, it is twice as expensive as in the US, it’s not exactly a daily grocery item. Finding spices much more exotic than cinnamon and turmeric is a challenge. Indian food, unlike Japanese or Korean, never took off in Russia, so I plan to scout Moscow’s specialized spice shops in the coming weeks for my star anise and garam masala.

moscow-internet-speed

My lifeblood, the Internet, is dirt cheap: $8 (500 rubles) for 72Mbps. In terms of upload speed, they don’t even exaggerate, as is typical everywhere.

In London, it was $45 for 10Mbps downloads and 0.5Mbps (!) uploads. In California, it was $80 (!) for 15Mbps downloads and 5Mbps uploads with Concast.

I also got a cell phone plan for $6.5 (400 rubles) with 10GB data- I don’t use anywhere near that much, but why not after paying $35 for 2.5GB from Cricket Wireless and $20 for 2GB from EE?

Ironically, many Russians complain about the high cost of Internet, cell phone plans, and other utilities. Things are always relative.

I will be busy furnishing my office and visiting friends and relatives in the coming days and weeks, so blogging will initially be slow but will gradually pick back up.

 
• Category: Miscellaneous • Tags: Moscow, Open Thread, Russia, The AK, Travel 
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london-ak

I am leaving for Moscow tomorrow (today?).

There is a surfeit of excellent people in London, and I have met some of the very best during my time here, including the Russia analyst Alexander Mercouris, the psychometrist James Thompson (who recently moved to this website), the futurist Anders Sandberg, and a few others who would likely prefer to avoid the public spotlight.

That said, London is not the place I’d want to spend much more than two months in. The weather is too damp and cold, and there is a bit too much vibrant diversity. I prefer it the other way round.

Anyhow, here are some of my quick impressions:

london-construction

(1) Boomtown – Buildings are going up over the place. There is an economic confidence that Brexit has left unperturbed. This is reflected in housing prices – even though there are now fewer oil-fueled Arab and Russian oligarchs to buoy them up, the modest one bedroom apartment near London Bridge that I stayed at costs around $700,000. This confidence appears to be reflected in the demographics – many young families around.

london-faces

(2) Vibrant Diversity – Fewer than half of Londoners are British Whites. And it shows, especially when you travel outside the city center. I encountered less than half a dozen women in niqabs during my American decade.

In London, you see that many practically whenever you walk out the door.

golden-chippy-fish-n-chips

(3) British Food is Underrated – Although it doesn’t exactly enjoy the best reputation, it isn’t half as bad as it said to be. I enjoyed fish and chips a lot more than when I last had it back in the Triassic. I can see why The Golden Chippy – its signature fare showcased above – deserves its TripAdvisor ranking as the best London restaurant.

I also finally got the chance to try real Scotch eggs at the Borough Market. Though immeasurably better than the supermarket version, I am not a huge fan of them. Although it was once my favorite dessert, I was left underwhelmed by Black Forest gateau, though that’s probably more a function of my tastes having shifted away from cream and sugar and towards spice and vinegar in general.

dishoom-books

(4) British Indian Food – Speaking of spice, the best Indian restaurant I tried out was Simply Indian – it is cheap, the lamb biriyani there is very good and can be made excruciatingly spicy, and you can either bring your own booze or order their masala chai. I only got the chance to visit it once, with my new friend AZ, but I will be certain to pay it another visit next time I go.

Roti Chai and Dishoom were both pretty good. I especially liked the atmosphere of the Dishoom, with its open kitchens and India-themed book collections in the dining area (see above). I also liked the Thali vegetable curry sold by Gujarati Rasoi at Borough Market. Despite coming with a recommendation from a friend, not to mention its venerable age, The India Club near Temple was a huge disappointment: Overpriced, uninspired fare, and the waiter actually presses you for a tip (this is of course a no-no in the UK).

Any other recommendations for good Indian places in London?

mayflower

(5) The English Pub – My favorites were the oldest pub in London, The Mayflower (Pan Fried Seabass) and the historic Eagle and Child in Oxford (esp. the Scotch Venison and Malbec Wine Pie), where Tolkien and C.S. Lewis used to meet at the end of work.

(6) Warm Beer – Yes it’s a thing and I’m not a fan. Though that might just be my American philistinism.

(7) British Barbarism – I was once again reminded of the British habit of leashing their toddlers like dogs. Seriously, what is up with that?

Never saw it in Russia. Never saw it in the US. Never saw it anywhere in Europe. Just Britain.

(8) Bureacracy – [Warning: n=1 sample]. It does work efficiently, with the very marked exception of the NHS.

That said, paper remains much more prevalent than in California.

The Russian Consulate was a disappointment – suffice to say that sovok habits die hard. That said, another acquaintance has had good experiences with them.

(9) Technology – At first, I was impressed – this was my first encounter with contactless cards. They work throughout the whole city, including the entirety of the transport system, and as a result London is fast becoming one of the world’s first “cashless societies.”

But there are things which are more banal but of far greater relevance to everyday comforts: Namely, Internet and cell phone services.

And in this respect, London considerably underperforms the Bay Area (which hardly has anything to write home about either).

Internet speeds are mediocre, though still better value for money than Concast. Upload speeds however are atrocious. Forget about cloud storage in any substantial capacity unless you are willing to shell out big on a plan. It is inexplicable that in this day and age the Underground still doesn’t have WiFi.

In regards to cell phone data plans, I have found EE to be both unreliable and actually inoperable in some parts of what is after all one of the world’s great metropolises. In contrast, Cricket Wireless gave me good service even in many rural parts of California.

london-mist

(10) Tourism – Though this was by no means my first time in London, it was by far my longest stay, so I took the opportunity to put lots of ticks on the tourist checklist.

The British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Saint Paul’s Cathedral, The Tower of London, etc, etc.

I drank a cup of coffee where Litvinenko was supposedly poisoned.

I also hung around for a few seconds at Station 9¾, King’s Cross where all the middle-aged Harry Potter fans with receding hairlines gather.

tate-buttplay

(11) Degenerate Art – The Tate Gallery was… well, the viewing platform at the top of the Switch House has an awesome view, if looking at sodomized anthropic-like objects created by a crazed kreakl isn’t your cup of tea.

Additionally, its completely free, surprisingly uncrowded, and has a cafe.

Well, okay, I enjoyed some of the things at the Tate. The room with the dog people. The photomontages of John Heartfield. And the couple of paintings by Salvador Dali.

hms-alliance

(12) Portsmouth – I was especially impressed by HMS Warrior. It was the definition of a transitional ship – midway between sail and steam; between wood and metal; between cutlasses and Enfield rifles; between cannonballs and shells. But this same ambition created quite a few problems and it didn’t stay commissioned very long by naval standards. I suspect this is the fate that awaits the Zumwalt class.

It was also very eye-opening to learn about British submarine traditions (pictured above is me on the HMS Alliance).

oxford-exeter-college

(13) Oxford – This trip was especially pleasant thanks to my longtime friend AS, who not only offered me a personal tour of the city, but engaged me with some very thought-provoking discussions about Spanish culture (his specialization) and the Alt Right (his sympathies).

The Ashmolean was one of the very first museums in the world, and its original exhibition is still preserved “as was.” Not surprisingly, about a third of it was devoted to the Americas, which reflects the popular interests of the time.

Although the big object in its collection is the Alfred Jewel, my attention was primarily drawn to two other historical aspects:

(a) Not only could you buy Chinese ceramics in the 18th century, but you could even send a design to China to get them to make you a set of plates and cups, and have it delivered back to you. Not as quick and most certainly not as cheap, but some version of Ali Baba has been around for a surprisingly long time!

(b) European silverware was remarkably advanced by the 17th century, and you can see progress decade by decade, and even attempt national comparisons. For instance, Russian production in the 1680s was only as good as Germany in the 1650s.

london-sunset

(14) Futurism – This is better left for another post, but in short, if Bay Area futurism is about psychedelics and the Singularity, London futurism is more about the next iPhone model.

I am of course horribly exaggerating, but I don’t think its an illegimate comparison.

Oxford of course hosts The Future of Humanity Institute, best known as home to Nick Bostrom, but it seems to be only very tangentially involved with the wider community. This might be legitimate in most academic spheres, but perhaps not so much in one that is of such potentially great import to the entirety of humanity, and which suffers from a certain tinge of charlatanism.

Nonetheless, I was happy to go to a talk with Anders Sandberg on the ethics of human life extension, organized by the just-created Oxford Longevity Society, and to join him for a group dinner afterwards.

The talk itself was as good as the questions from the audience were depressing.

sjw-feminism

(15) SJWism – My aforementioned friend AS complained repeatedly about the importation of American SJW culture to the UK. Arguably, SJWism has festooned to greater proportions in Blighty than in the Trumpenreich itself.

You could definitely see many signs of it in Oxford: LGBT flags strewn about in the graduate common rooms, feminist slogans prominently glued onto MacBooks (kek) at the library, multiple instances of “I ♥ feminism” graffiti scrawled on the historic walls of Oxford.

sjw-uber

There is plenty of this in London as well. Animal rights activists chalk “Stop Eating Animals You Psychopaths” a couple of blocks from Downing Street. The LSE common room where I celebrated Trump’s win with my friend AZ – we were the only Trump supporters there out of 30-40 people – saw students “literally shaking” as the results came in, so I can personally confirm that this is not just a meme. And above is a poster from some group that blames Uber for apparent record numbers of rapes and sexual assaults.

Meanwhile, on a Stratford street a couple of miles away, bearded men animatedly call on Londoners to convert to Islam.

 
• Category: Humor • Tags: Open Thread, The AK, Travel, United Kingdom 
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Robert Stark has just released his latest podcast in which we discussed all sorts of topics including My American Decade along with co-host “PillEater.”

Robert Stark is a journalist who specializes in interviewing various interesting figures from the Alt fringes. So you could I suppose view him as The Unz Review on podcasts.

Here are some of my previous episodes with him:

Some notes/highlights:

  • My thesis from American Decade that American society has been “Europeanizing” this past decade.
  • The fragmentation of the US political spectrum: “Clinton democrats, Sanders socialists, Rubio/Bush etablishment conservatives, Cruz Bible-bashers, and Trump nationalists.”
  • A big chunk of US income inequality (relative to Europe) disappears once you adjust for race.
  • My political views: “Fairly socially liberal (except for rejecting political correctness, and radical feminism), economically centrist, and closest to Rabbit’s AltLeft.” (The main reason I don’t overtly identify as Alt Left is that I am probably considerably to the right of most of them on economics).
  • The SJW problem – today’s campus Pink Guards will be future elites in 20-30 years.
  • The Bay Area and its remarkably high density of interesting people.
  • The first global warming models were constructed by the Swede Svante Arrhenius, who was also – in what will surely blow the minds of Kochservatives – a eugenicist.
  • Amtrak as a little-known national treasure of America.

This didn’t make it into the podcast due to time constraints, but we also had a little discussion about the ideas of Michael Hudson, an economist (and UR columnist) who criticizes the financialization of the US economy. I am not actually convinced the problem is especially acute in the US – according to the statistics I’ve looked at, the financial sector’s assets relative to GDP are higher in the EU than in the US, and twice as large in the UK. That said, it is surely a pretty big misallocation of cognitive resources at the global level. The people now eking out a few more percentage points in greater economic efficiency (=a couple of years of normal growth) could instead be designing nuclear powered spaceships.

 
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sf-bay-ocean-flag

The SF Bay Area.

As I am leaving the United States for an indeterminate period of time, now would likely not be a bad time to share some of my impressions of what is still, when all is said and done, an extraordinarily effective, dynamic, and successful nation.

It would be redundant to compare to simply compare it with the two other countries that I have extensive experience of – that is, Russia and the United Kingdom – because I have already done that, and at great length (the whole thing together runs to 37,000 words), in my 2011 series of posts Comparison of USA, UK, Russia:

Though some of my assessments will have inevitably changed since then, it would not (yet) be worthwhile to repeat this exercise today.

Instead, I will take a look at America as it was in space and time during the 2006-2016 time, especially relative to how it was perceived by West Europeans.

All the photos are my own.

***

America in Time: The Obama Decade

If I had to summarize the changes the US has undergone in the past 10 years in one short phrase, it would be the following: It has become a European country.

To see why this is so we must go recall the zeitgeist of the early 2000s.

The intellectual class on both sides of the Atlantic viewed Europe and America as two separate civilizations. America was a bunch of theocratic yahoo cowboys rampaging through the Middle East, while European intellectuals huffed about things like “pooled sovereignty” and “unity in diversity.” In Robert Kagan’s famous formulation, Americans were from Mars and Europeans were from Venus. Although Francis Fukuyama was an American, it was a frequent wisecrack that it was in fact the European Union that was leading the world to the “end of history,” while it was America that insisted on clinging on to the outdated rudiments of the traditional nation-state, which amongst other things were held to include: Guns, family, religion, patriotism, fertility, militarism, and a distinct lack of homosexualist hystrionics.

Perhaps the most quintessential case for this was made by T.R. Reid’s book The United States of Europe. He argued that the EU was emerging as a superpower rivaling the US, held together by an emerging “Generation E” of yuppies from Paris to Berlin (*soundtrack*) that saw themselves as Europeans first and were rapidly integrating through the trifecta of Eurovision, Erasmus scholarships, and Eurail (much more eco-friendly than the American Canyonero!).

That was ten years ago. Geopolitically, we now live in a world where the EU is in the midst of what might be a slow-mo disintegration, with the 2000s dreams of the Euro displacing the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency now taken up by the day to day emergencies of managing periodic fiscal crises and exit referendums. In contrast, the US withdrawal from Iraq and the shale oil revolution under Obama have vastly strengthened its geostrategic position. So it is extra ironic that it is the cheese-eating surrender monkeys who are today the most active at pushing the now recalcitrant cowboys into new Middle East military adventures. After all, it was Sarkozy who provided the main thrust in favor of the Libyan intervention, and his successor, the socialist Hollande, responds to terrorist attacks by renewing calls for the ouster of… Syria’s secular President. And if you had told a Bush-loving Republican in 2003 that their party was now the anti-war party, at any rate relative to HRC’s Democrats, then his head would have exploded.

freedom-of-speech-pew-poll

Culturally, the crazy evangelicals of yesteryear have been displaced by equally sanctimonious SJWs as the prime exporters of American inane drivel to the outside world. This is not something I noticed until just a few years ago, as I was finishing my last university course, when an SJW harangued an anthropology professor for not including a “trigger warning” before showing a clip from a spoofy 1950s scifi B-movie about Neanderthals (the whole sad and funny affair: Triggered by Neanderthal Man).

But it should not have come as too much of a surprise, because this was merely the results of shifting public sentiment making themselves felt on the far right hand side of the “social justice” quotient bell curve. Whereas support for free speech – that is, the ability to make potentially offensive statements about minorities – is almost universal amongst older Americans, millennials are converging to European norms in this respect; some 40% think government should be able to restrict such speech.

In much of Western Europe, this is the norm. One of the few ways in which the US is actually genuinely exceptional is in its support for freedom of speech. In Europe, the sweeping protections afforded by The First Amendment are seen as undesirable, or even as a sign of backwardness. Though we (that is, Americans) might commisserate with the latest poor bastard in Europe fined or locked up for posting a rant against refugees on Facebook, the banal fact is that those laws appear to enjoy the support of most Europeans according to just about any opinion poll. I recall a poll showing that even most Front National supporters in France are okay with laws against hate speech. And most likely the US will continue “converging” towards that. After all, today’s campus Pink Guards will be ruling over the country in another generation, while Trumpland is dying and getting replaced by the mulatto-gamer underclass.

This is reflective of a more general leftwards shift in America during the past decade. Let’s take U.C. Berkeley. It has a proud tradition of sticking it to the Man, or rather of not letting the machine operate. There is a bookshop called Revolution Books near Telegraph Avenue. Bob Avakian’s Maoist cultists pop up to give a lecture every so often (and even get an audience). Now the student body is nowhere near as Leftist as popular culture makes it out to be, but still, it’s safe to say that the #BasementDwellers are a solid majority there.

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Stick it to the Man! 2011 protest against tuition fee rise.

99-revolutionAgitation.

99-leader

Me in front of the 99%.

All of this was mildly transgressive in five years ago. But you can’t shock or “trigger” the Man with such antics nowadays. You now have to go hardcore:

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Alt Right Safe Space @ Berkeley, 2016. Aloof shitlord looks on smugly upon a triggered Antifa activist.

I am aware, of course, that Berkeley is hardly representative of America, but still, general trends do tend to get reflected at both the tails and the middle. And it’s undeniable that in this sense too American politics has become much more reminscent of the European norm.

Traditionally, you have the moderate liberal (Democrats) and the oligarchic conservative (Republican) wing facing off each other.

But in 2016 the traditional bipolar system of American politics splintered. The European-style Social Democracy represented by the Bernie Sanders movement and the neoliberal wing of Hillary Clinton now contend for leadership of the Democratic party. Meanwhile, the traditional alliance of the oligarchs, the evangelicals, and ‘Murica! patriots has been shattered by the ascendacy of nationalism channeled by Donald Trump. Both the Democrats and the Republicans now have unprecedented numbers of “dissidents” in the form of the Berniebros and the #NeverTrump’ers, respectively.

This diversification of politics is of course typical for Europe. As Leonid Bershidsky noted, a true multiparty system in the US would divide the political system into five distinct blocs: Clinton democrats, Sanders socialists, Rubio/Bush moderate conservatives, Cruz Bible-bashers, and Trump nationalists. It would also, barring major changes in voter alignment, keep “dangerous” nationalist candidates out of power; for instance, the Front National in France seems to be essentially capped at 30% of the popular vote. It is in some ways hugely ironic that it is the Electoral College system, considered by many political scientists as a system that favors moderate candidates, might now become the biggest enabler of the emergence of a truly nationalist (or socialist) leader of not just a major Western nation but of the major Western nation – and perhaps also represent the last chance for America to escape its Brazilification in the coming century.

For a long time the US has had a reputation as a very religious country. Up until the 2000s, belief in God in the US was almost universal, whereas wide swathes of Europe are either agnostic, “spiritualist,” or in the case of East Germany and Estonia, outright atheist. This started changing, and very fast, by the 2010s, especially amongst millennials. Whereas disbelief in God was a mere 4% in the 1990s and the early Bush years, according to the World Values Survey, but by 2010-2014 it had soared to 11%, which is close to the level of Spanish unbelief in the 1990s. (Incidentally, Unz Review commenter Lazy Glossophiliac noted that today Spaniards give the “leftiest, cuckiest answers” in many international public opinion polls. A harbinger of America’s future?). Between 2007 and 2014, the share of unaffiliated increased from 16% to 23% in the US, including a doubling in outright atheism (albeit from a very low base).

Another element of America’s Europeanization was the surge in support for gay marriage, which with its legalization now makes America more “progressive” on this question than Merkel’s Germany (which up to now only has civil partnerships). Throughout the 2000s, the most conservative US states were about as “homophobic” as Russia; today, almost half of Mormon Utah supports gay marriage. Nowadays US officials proclaim that “human rights are gay rights and gay rights are human rights” with the zeal of the converted to the slack-jawed yokels that haven’t yet gotten the memo.

Ergo for drugs. Marijuana is now legal or decriminalized in about half of the US states, which is a similar proportion to that in the European Union.

Whereas much of Europe has been very liberal since the 1980s, it has if anything started going in the other direction in the past decade. For instance, it was long typical for French women to go topless at the beach for a generation now, but this has started becoming rarer, especially amongst the youngest cohorts. Different reasons have been proposed, from the politically correct (more smart phones with cameras) to the less so (ogling Muslims). Or maybe the liberated women of the 1960s had fewer daughters than modest Catholics. Whatever the case, millennial Americans and Europeans are converging – from opposite directions – on their degree of social liberalism.

gun-fired

At least there’ll still be guns. Maybe. My favorite is the Beretta M9, better than any of the Glocks IMO. Also the Desert Eagle is very overrated.

There is convergence in corruption. During the 2000s, there was an impression that the EU (if not national European governments) had cleaner, better institutions than the US, at least according to the intellectual talking class. Though they might have had a point. It was the “heckuva job, Brownie!” of Bush’s America versus the EU’s torpedoing of GE chairman Jack Welchs’ attempts to flout antitrust regulations through a big merger, thus frustrating a man who had always gotten his way in the US by calling up the right people. But today senior EU officials are openly bought up by Goldman Sachs. Whatever edge the EU might have had in this respect in its halcyon days has surely disappeared.

All these trends are even reflected in a sort of demographic convergence. Peaking in 2007, American fertility rates have since dropped from 2.1 children per woman to 1.8 children per woman (0.1 children lower for non-Hispanic Whites). France is now significantly higher. I wonder what Mark Steyn will make of that! On the other hand, in the space of a couple of insane years, Europe has essentially doubled the size of its prospective future NAM underclass with Merkel’s decision to throw Europe’s doors open to “Syrian” “refugees.” While America’s longterm transformation into La Raza Cosmica is now all but inevitable – a development already reflected in these elections, in which at the risk of triggering pretty much everyone I will note that both HRC and Trump are both ultimately very Latin American-style politicians – Europe has likewise made its longterm transformation into Eurabia move from the realm of nativist alarmism to something resembling an actual possibility.

Though I suppose all things considered I suppose that life will be better in the country of La Raza Cosmica than in Eurabia.

***

americana

America in Space: Country Review

This next section is a series of snapshots of the US during the time I’ve been here.

san-francisco-karlin

 

San Francisco.

San Francisco – 8/10

The Bay Area is where I spent most of my time in the US. It is pretty much ideal, even if that also makes it by far the most expensive macro-region of the US.

It is also the second major intellectual center of the US after the North-East – and perhaps the most quirky and creative one.

This is reflected in the sheer number of idiosyncratic and interesting groups and people that make this region their home from futurists to food optimizers.

transhumanist

 

AK talking about cliodynamics, February 2014.

Futurists/Transhumanists

The focal point of global futurism and transhumanism, from the large scale to the small. Here is just a very partial list:

  • Health Extensions Salons – Bring the latest research to the public.
  • Hank Pellissier’s Brighter Brains conferences on futurism and intelligence (I got the idea of Apollo’s Ascent thanks to being the speaker at one of them).
  • All sorts of magazines and journals: KurzweilAI; H+ magazine; transhumanity.net; etc.
  • Scott Jackisch’s Bay Area Futurists – Weekly meetup.
  • MIRI (Machine Intelligence Research Institute) – Solving out the values alignment problem (or in plainspeak trying to figure out how to prevent computer superintelligence from killing us all). Highly mathematical!
  • Mike Johnson’s Qualia Research Institute – would ems actually have consciousness?
  • An informal group of psychonauts exploring the “qualia-states” of LSD.
  • The undisputed center of the “rationality” movement – CFAR, LessWrong, Effective Altruism.
  • Calyco and 23andme
  • Alcor in neighboring Nevada.

Reaction

To be sure, all the above are “tilted” towards the reigning globalist ideology – suffice to say that in the recent gubernatorial elections, the two most popular candidates were both ethnic minority female Democrats – but even in the world of conservative political theory California has far more weight relative not just to its heartlands in “flyover country” but even to the ossified dinosaur think-tanks of Conservatism Inc. within the Beltway.

Here is a recent article on this from The American Interest: How the Golden State Became the Intellectual Capital of Trump’s GOP.

trump-effective-altruism

An effective altruist Trumpist? Me at EA Global 2016.

Many of its characters will probably be familiar to many of you – Ron Unz, Steve Sailer, Razib Khan (who is leaving), and for that matter, your humble servant.

It is also, of course, the major focal point for neoreaction, hosting the NRx founder Mencius Moldbug himself, the Thiel network, a good percentage of the “techno-commercialist” faction in NRx and the Future Primaeval blog, and social gadflies such as Michael Anissimov and Rachel Haywire.

Although B.W. Rabbit is based in Arizona, it is also curious to note that the great bulk of the “Alt Left” movement – the tiny group of thinkers combining leftist economics with HBD, sane views on gender relations, and a penchant for futurism – such as Robert Lindsay and Robert Stark also make their home in the Golden State.

Food Optimization

On a side note, even the two biggest interest new trends (or fads) in food – the paleo diet and meal replacements – are based in California.

Mark Sisson, Dave Asprey, and Chris Kresser, all of them very prominent paleo advocates, live in California.

It is also home to Soylent and many other Silicon Valley meal replacement companies (I first tried out MealSquares before they went into mass production at a party hosted by a futurist/NRx figure).

Vibram shoes are a California product, as is their most prominent advertiser, Tim Ferriss.

Final Comments

Now to be sure, none of this is meant to be an endorsement of any of the above groups and ideas – though I do think that some of them are extremely legitimate and important, some others have a distinct whiff of quackery about them (in particular I am extremely skeptical about meal replacement).

Still, this is a very formidable concentration of very strange and interesting characters that you probably won’t be able to find nigh anywhere else.

swordsman-karlin

Recreating late medieval swordfighting techniques in Mountain View.

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Fort Ross – Russian outpost in California in the early 19th century. A net drain on the treasury, its last governor Alexander Rotchev attempted to get Mexico to recognize it as Russian territory, which Mexico only offered to do in exchange for Russia’s recognition of its recent independence; Nicholas I refused, and so it was sold to incoming Anglo settlers. Makes for a fascinating 20th century what-if scenario had NorCal become Russian territory.

Favorite restaurants in Berkeley:

  • House of Curries (Berkeley) – On College Avenue. Favorite Indian. Had a couple of other Indian favorites, but they’ve since closed.
  • Great Wall (Berkeley) – Chinese
  • Mount Everest – Nepali (esp. the Himalayan garlic butter soup)
  • Chez Panisse – Huge in the world of cooking, with a price tag to match. But worth visiting at least once.
  • Mission Heirloom – One of the first “paleo” restaurants, inc. Bulletproof Coffee.
  • Favorite cafes: Lindgren’s, Spasso, and A Cuppa Tea.

Perhaps the biggest problem “everyday” problem in the SF Bay Area is public transportation. East Coast cities, primarily populated during the Age of Rail, are pretty good at this; the new cities of the American West and South, children of the Age of the Automobile, are nigh unlivable if you don’t have a car. San Francisco emerged at the intersection of those two periods, and with a public transport system to match: It exists, but it’s not that great. BART has long wait times, looks dilapidated, and is constantly wracked by strikes even though its employees are extremely well compensated.

Los Angeles – 5/10

los-angeles

Not really into the world of fashion and entertainment so it doesn’t have much for me. That said, I did greatly enjoy the Universal Studios theme park – had no idea prior to this that anyone had combined 3D movies with physical motion, so that was a very awesome and novel experience. If all films were shown like that I’d visit the cinema more than twice a year.

The Hollywood sign is one of those things that you only visit to tick off an item on the bucket list.

The city’s Armenian community is pretty visible, though that was likely due to me having made my longest visit there on the centenary of the Armenian genocide.

San Diego – 7/10

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Visited for one day. I liked the aircraft carrier.

Las Vegas – 7/10

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At the poker tables.

One of the few places you can visit just for the hotels:

  • Paris – 7/10
  • Luxor – 7/10
  • Bill’s Gamblin Hall – 8/10
  • Orleans – 6/10
  • Stratosphere – 8/10

Best morning breakfast place ever: Crepe Expectations.

Disappointment: Bachannal Buffet at Caesar’s.

I found that the easiest tables out of all the places I visited were at the Luxor, though ironically I lost the most money there (but regained it and considerably more at The Stratosphere).

Housing is very affordable in Vegas, so there is a category of young get-rich-quick types who swot up on the theory, rent a place, and discuss the “fishiest” places by day before going out to the casino with a big delegation of visiting Arabs during the night.

vegas-karlin

Stratosphere Insanity ride.

Very colorful city. Even the homeless are much more creative than usual: “Kick me in the nuts for $20.” “Why lie I need $$$ for booze and burgers.”

That said, I suspect I’d get bored there if I had to stay longer than a couple of months.

California – 8/10

Overall, I do think California, especially NorCal, is the best state – lots of things going on (see above), and a stunning variety of climes to choose from, all within driving distance, from the sun-drenched coasts of Santa Barbara to the slopes of Tahoe and beyond.

The exception is Sacramento. It has a nice railways museum, but otherwise it’s a desert dump full of politicians and crazy Ukrainian Baptist sectants many of whom somehow came to the US in the 1990s (I was once driving with a woman and she wouldn’t put on a seatbelt on the logic that God would look after her. I did convince her otherwise by the following logical argument: “But what if God happens to be looking away at a particular moment?”).

I don’t know if this will be the case indefinitely; the demographics suggest not, not just in terms of immigration but also emigration (noticed many of my peers going to places such as Colorado, North Carolina, and even Austin).

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Summer Sea (Santa Barbara).

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Winter Mountain 1.

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Winter Mountain 2.

The Mountains – 7/10

I visited most of the Mountain states – Utah, Montana, Colorado, etc. – though just as a tourist, so my impressions aren’t exactly representative.

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Tahoe.

Still, they seemed to be very civil, high S factor communities – the sort of high-functioning communities you tend to get when you combine Anglo institutions with German human stock. In one Montana town, a stranger offered us a ride to a bar that was rather beyond walking distance in the cold and gloom; afterwards, it emerged he was also the Mayor.

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Black slopes – Marx and Lenin. As I recall, they were just opposite of a super-elite resort that only accepted skiers. Probably not entirely coincidental?

Amtrak

This is a genuine national treasure that rather few Americans seem to appreciate (apart from the Amish, who account for up to a quarter of all passengers when traveling around Pennsylvania).

But thanks in part to government subsidies, a transcontinental rail journey is still possible, and that is exactly what I did in 2013.

railway-americana

There are viewing cabs for when the landscape is interesting.

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… Cheap beer and ebooks when it is not.

Seattle – 5/10

seattle

Clean, anodyne, hipsters but employed, Space Needle, that tunnel “decorated” with gum.

Famously has the world’s first Starbucks (the only one with uncensored nipples), less famously has the Piroshky Piroshky bakery (I still recall the smoked salmon pie).

By far the most interesting thing about it was my visit to the Boeing Everett Factory just north of Seattle. It is possible to just stand on a platform and look down on the workers “toiling” in the vast space below – apostrophes because the actual pace of work seemed to be very lackadaisical. As I recall only perhaps a quarter of them looked like they were actually doing something concrete. Many others were just wandering up and down, chatting with their coworkers, drinking coffee. No uniforms. Definitely not how I imagined the place. But it might well be that this kind of approach is more efficient – after all, American manufacturing workers are some of the most productive in the world (far above what their levels of human capital would seem to indicate).

Portland – 6/10

Not so clean, very rainy, and the hipsters are less employed and have more tattoes (one of them is Stalin’s granddaughter). On the upside, it’s a major beer and whiskey center, and they love their guns.

Chicago – 7/10

chicago

The Heartland: Cheap, walkable with antique-like metro system (the first in the US), home of the skyscraper, simple working class types with fewer hipsters, vibrant nightlife.

Urban area in the center was renovated, the strong rustbelt impression – cracked pavements, crumbling bricks, rusted waterside – given off as the train arrives to the contrary. Third biggest city in the US, but much cheaper than either SF or New York.

Main difference relative to the West Coast is already visible: African-Americans replace Asians as most visible minority, though Hispanics also becoming very visible (smoked weed with a group of Mexicans). Met an online friend there who was quite happy with life in the Windy City.

Pittsburgh (Rustbelt?) – 3/10

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Pittsburgh 2013 – patriotic poster by a deserted potholed road. Looks like a scene from a Michael Moore movie.

Touching Appalachian greenery interspersed with scenes of industrial decay and ads exhorting you to sign up with the Imperial Guard.

All in all, about as appealing as a provincial Russian town (i.e. not very).

That said, I did meet up with and have a very good conversation with one particular Russia blogger, who was then at the University of Pittsburgh.

Washington DC – 5/10

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Al Jazeera bus.

Downside: A swamp, not just metaphorically but literally.

Upside: I did actually like the grotto-like metro system, which has a certain brutalist charm. Tons of museums, embassies, think-tanks, historical monuments, political goings on, and of course good restaurants for all the politicians and lobbyists.

Two are of particular note:

  • Russia House – The best Russian restaurant I’ve ever been to. (Full disclosure: Owned by Edward Lozansky, who invited me to D.C.).
  • Rasika – Two words: Palak chaat.

I recounted my trip to Washington D.C. in more detail here: The World Russia Forum 2013

New York – 7/10

new-york-ship

New York.

One of the worst metro systems ever – many delays, rats scurrying about. Obeying traffic laws is optional. But lots of excellent museums, as befits America’s first metropolis, and of course Broadway; a visit to a play is incumbent on any one-time visitor.

new-york-2

Central Park.

new-york-nightlife

Nightlife is …mediocre.

Boston – 5/10

boston

Too clean, too civilized.

Also having lived in Britain it’s impossible to be impressed. The 18th century architecture is viewed as “historic” in the US, as are the pubs, but they are entirely typical in Britain, even in “industrial” towns like Birmingham or Leeds.

The Boston of Fallout 4 is an improvement on the current one.

That said, I was only there for one day, with no chance to visit any of the historical museums, so I can’t say I got the full impression of it.

***

 
• Category: Humor • Tags: Review, The AK, Travel, United States 
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back-in-russia

This October, I will be following the “advice” of some of my most ardent critics and literally “going back to Russia.”

I’m joking, of course. I don’t care for those trolls. That argument was always self-refuting because I had left in Russia in the early 1990s as a dependent. My parents had left because the Russian government had ceased to pay its scientists their salaries (i.e., Egghead Emigres). You could blame the pro-Western Yeltsinite kleptocracy for that brain drain, or you could blame the commies who had led the USSR into stagnation and ended up selling a superpower for some jeans, but you certainly couldn’t blame either Putin for that nor could you legitimately condemn my supposedly “Russophile” writings from abroad as hypocrisy or even a matter of “revealed preferences” for the West. (In any case as soon as I go back to Russia I am sure my critics and trolls will transition seamlessly from condemning me as a Putler stooge enjoying the good life in California and ignoring the plight of ordinary Russians to claiming that I am held hostage by the KGB and/or shilling for all I’m worth to survive the Russian economic collapse).

The more banal reality is that I have not lived permanently in Russia since the early 1990s – my last visit, for that matter, was a decade ago – so I am exceedingly curious to see for myself how it has changed since then. I suspect most of those changes are for the better, since most of the statistics seem to point that way and it’s not like I invent them or manipulate them. Still, it never hurts to see things for oneself, to become grounded, or “based,” as some might say.

I also like to think I will be fulfilling Richard Spencer’s dictum of “becoming who you are.” That said, I am under no particular illusions that I will ever truly belong to either Russia or the Anglosphere, and that my fate is to remain a rootless cosmopolitan until death or technological singularity. Charles de Gaulle is alleged to have said “He who does not love his mother more than other mothers and his country more than other countries, loves neither his mother nor his country.” A corrolary would be that he who has more than one country has none. In Guillaume Durocher’s essay on the phenomenon of Third Culture Kids (TCKs) – the highly mobile and frequently bilingual children of expats – it is pointed out that they have a number of “rather strange” characteristics: “They tend to be more educated, more likely to experience depression, more likely to commit suicide, more likely to feel alienated, and, paradoxically but perhaps unsurprisingly, more likely to be nationalistic (they often superficially embrace and advertise their nation of origin in response to identitarian unease).” So I suppose one could also view my repatriation as a sort of psychotherapy.

I will be leaving on October 3, but I will be stopping in London for a couple of weeks to a month, so blogging is likely to remain light until sometime in November. However, I expect to pick up pace once I’m settled down in Moscow thanks to the magic of purchasing power differences (aka shit is cheaper in Russia than in California), which will free up more time for blogging and pursuing my other projects. I suppose this also makes my move a case of “downshifting,” that quintessential expression of rootless millenial anomie.

 
• Category: Miscellaneous • Tags: Russia, The AK, Travel 
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meeting-with-robin-hanson

Today I was at a talk with Robin Hanson to promote his book THE AGE OF EM hosted by the Bay Area Futurists.

As an academic polymath with interests in physics, computer science, and economics, Hanson draws upon his extensive reading across these fields to try to piece together what such a society will look like.

His argument is that in 30 years to a century, there will be a phase transition as mind uploading takes off and the world economy rapidly becomes dominated by “ems” (emulations); human brains running on a silicon substrate, and potentially millions of times faster. Since transport congestion costs aren’t a factor, this em civilization will live in a few very densely populated cities largely composed of cooling pipes and computer hardware. The economy will double once every month, and in a year or two, it will transition to yet another, cardinally different, growth phase and social structure.

I might or might not eventually do a book review, but for now, here is a link to Scott Alexander’s.

Alternatively, this lecture slide summarizes the main points.

age-of-em-pluses-and-minuses

A few observations, arguments, and counterarguments from the meeting:

(1) This struck many people as the most counterintuitive assetion, but I agree that wages in the em world should quickly plummet to subsistence levels (which are much lower than for biological organisms). This is probably what will happen eventually with our civilization if there is no “singularity”/transition to a higher growth phase, since fertility preferences are an aspect of personality, and as such, highly heritable. (Come to think of it this is basically what happens to the Imperium of Man in Warhammer 40k, down to the hive cities in which most citizens eke out “lives of quiet desperation,” though ones which “can still be worth living.”)

Since Ctrl-C Ctrl-V is much easier and quicker than biological reproduction, a regression to the historical (and zoological) norm that that is the Malthusian trap seems – barring some kind of singleton enforcing global restrictions on reproduction – seems inevitable.

(2) A more questionable claim is Hanson’s prediction that ems will tend to be more religious than humans, on the basis that hardworking people – that is, the sorts of people whose minds are most likely to be uploaded and then copied far and wide – tend to be more religious. This is true enough, but there is also a strong and well known negative correlation between religiosity and intelligence. Which wins out?

(3) The marginal return on intelligence is extremely high, in both economics and scientific dynamism (Apollo’s Ascent theory). As such, raising the intelligence of individual ems will be of the utmost priority. However, Hanson makes a great deal of the idea that em minds will be a black box, at least in the beginning, and as such largely impenetrable to significant improvement.

My intuition is that this is unlikely. If we develop technology to a level where we can not only copy and upload human minds but provide them with internally consistent virtual reality environments that they can perceive and interact within, it would probably be relatively trivial to build brains with, say 250 billion neurons, instead of the ~86 billion we are currently endowed with and largely limited to by biology (the circulatory system, the birth canal, etc). There is a moderate correlation between just brain volume and intelligence, so its quite likely that drastic gains on the order of multiple S.D.’s can be attained just by the (relatively cheap) method of doubling or tripling the size of the connectome. The creative and scientific potential of billions of 300 IQ minds computing millions of times faster than biological brains might be greater than the gap between our current world and that of a chimpanzee troupe in the Central African rainforest.

Two consequences to this. First, progress will if anything be even faster than what Hanson projects; direct intelligence amplification in tandem with electronic reproduction might mean going straight to the technological singularity. Second, it might even help ems avoid the Malthusian trap, which is probably a good thing from an ethical perspective. If waiting for technological developments that augment your own intelligence turns out to be more adaptive than making copies of yourself like Agent Smith in The Matrix until us ems are all on a subsistence wage, then the Malthusian trap could be avoided.

(4) I find this entire scenario to be extremely unlikely. In both his book and his lecture, Hanson discusses and then quickly dismisses the likelihood of superintelligence first being attained through research in AI and neural nets.

There are two problems with this assertion:

(a) The median forecast in Bostrom’s Superintelligence is for High Level Machine Intelligence to be attained at around 2050. (I am skeptical about this for reasons intrinsic to Apollo’s Ascent theory, but absolutely the same constraints would apply to developing brain emulation technology).

(b) The current state of AI research is much more impressive than brain emulation. The apex of modern AI research can beat the world’s best Go players, several years ahead of schedule. In contrast, we only finished modeling the 302 neuron brain of the c. elegans worm a few years ago. Even today, we cannot obtain functional models even of 40 year old microchips from scanning them, to say nothing of biological organisms. That the gap will not only be closed but for the brain emulation route to take the lead is a rather formidable leap of faith.

Now to be fair to Hanson, he did explicitly state that he does not regard the Age of Em as a certain or even a highly probable future. His criterion for analyzing a future scenario is for it to have at least a 1% chance of happening, and he believes that the Age of Em easily fulfills that condition. Personally I suspect it’s a lot less than 1%. Then again, Hanson knows a lot more computer science than I do, and in any case even if the predictions fail to pan out he has still managed to provide ample fodder for science fiction writers.

(5) My question to Hanson during the Q&A section of the talk: Which regions/entities do you expect to form the first em communities? And what are the geopolitical ramifications in these last years of “human” civilization?

(a) The big factors he lists are the following:

  • Access to cold water, or a cold climate in general, for cooling purposes.
  • Proximity to big human cities for servicing human customers (at least in the initial stages before the em economy becomes largely autonomous).
  • Low regulations.

So plausible candidates (according to Hanson) would be Scandinavia, or the “northern regions of China.”

As he also noted at another point, in the early stages of em creation technology, mind uploading is likely to be “destructive,” i.e. resulting in the biological death of the person who is to be emulated. So there might be an extra selection filter for state or corporate ruthlessness.

(b) In domestic and social terms, during the transition period, humans can be expected to “retire” as the em economy explodes and soon far exceeds the scope of the old human economy. Those humans who control a slice of the em economy will become very rich, while those who don’t… fare less well.

However, Hanson doesn’t have anything to say on the geopolitical aspects of the transition period because it is much less predictable than the “equilibrium state” of the em economy that he set out to describe. As such, he does not think it is worthwhile for someone who is not a sci-fi writer to delve into that particular issue. That makes sense.

(6) As a couple of people pointed out, atomic weapons can wipe out an entire em “city,” which contain billions of ems.

What would em warfare be like? The obvious answer is cyber-cyber-cyber we gotta hack the mainframe style stuff. But surely, sometimes, the easiest move is to just knock over the table and beat your opponent to death with the chessboard.

If Pinker gets pwned during the em era and global nuclear wars between em hive cities ruled by Gandhi emulations break out, could this make em hive cities unviable and result in a radical decentralization?

(7) How did Hanson become Hanson?

He repeated the Talebian argument (which I sympathize with) that following the news is a pointless waste of time.

It is much more productive to read books, especially textbooks, and to take introductory classes in a wide range of subjects. To try to get a good grasp on our civilization’s system of knowledge, so that you might be able to make productive observations once you reach your 50s.

Confirmation bias? Regardless, it’s one more small piece of evidence in favor of my decision to log off.

 
• Category: Science • Tags: Futurism, Superintelligence, The AK 
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I have been extremely busy the past month, hence not a lot of blogging. Hopefully that will be resolved soon.

For now, here is a recap of some of the things I’ve been up to.

Safe Space for Europeans @ U.C. Berkeley

On May 6, Richard Spencer and the Bay Area Alt Right organized a “safe space” for Europeans at Sproul Plaza, U.C. Berkeley.

Although I do not strictly consider myself Alt Right (or NRx), I do support about 70% of their positions, so I was happy to turn up with them to troll my alma mater.

ucb-alt-right-safe-space-1

Richard Spencer was interviewed by a couple of student journalists, while the rest of us engaged slack-jawed passersby in discussions about identity, human biodiversity, and the necessity of becoming who you are. I suppose that means my “Far Right Recruiter” achievement trophy has been unlocked.

 

ucb-alt-right-safe-space-2

Apart from one SJW neckbeard, seen above delivering a spittle-flecked rant while an aloof shitlord looks on smugly, the event passed off peacefully. This was probably on account of it being announced on very short notice, which didn’t give local Antifa organizations the time to mount a coordinated response.

Otherwise, the crowd that gathered was very multicultural, as you might expect of UCB’s demographics. Vibrant. Diverse. The debates were vigorous, even if the two sides largely talked past each other. For many intelligent normies, even concepts as basic as the intellectual crisis of the blank slate model and the replication crisis in psychology, now widely accepted outside explicitly ideological university departments, came as big and incredible news. Meanwhile, the Alt Righters tended to come in too thick and too fast and triggered away potential sympathizers by frontloading too much overt European Identity in their talking points when a more exclusively data-based focus might have been more productive. That said, I’m not criticizing. It’s still good that these ideas are getting out there on the streets instead of just sitting on computer pixels.

ucb-alt-right-safe-space-tab-emma-barton

There were some surprises too and from rather unexpected quarters. Richard Spencer had a highly cordial discussion with an Israeli woman, who agreed with his point that if Israel could have a wall then who was to say that America couldn’t? Common ground was found with Bernie supporters, who although highly highly averse to the race talk and predisposed to blame colonialism for the Third World’s ills were fully in line with the Alt Right’s desire to stop meddling abroad. And there was one Japanese student who revealed his astounding power level by quietly confiding his avid perusal of The Daily Stormer. The merchant fears the samurai, indeed.

Here’s a lengthier account of the event from The Tab’s Emma Barton: http://thetab.com/us/uc-berkeley/2016/05/07/white-supremacists-1133

You can also see a two hour video of the event via Red Ice Radio here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3X-6V1a1gk

ucb-alt-right-safe-space-3

Once that was all wrapped up, we retreated to a conference room in San Francisco to plot further infiltration and takeover of democratic institutions.

One of the speakers talked about how to stay anonymous with VPN, Bitcoins, and using only cash. The banal reality is that all this would probably only just draw more attention to them and in any case if the government really wanted to shut down these groups they would be able to do so without lifting a finger.

There was a lot of discussion about Trump and whether he was really on their side. I suspect that if Trump becomes President, the Alt Right will adopt a Russian-style mnogokhodovka/khitry plan vs. zrada discourse. (Russian nationalists are hilariously, eternally split on whether Putin has a “clever plan” or is plotting to betray them on Ukraine, immigration, and other questions of great importance). Since Trump’s objective Alt Right credentials are ultimately rather feeble – at least so far as many of their core issues like affirmative action and mercantile influence are concerned – I suspect the Trump Presidency will be a long cycle of peremoga (victory) followed by zrada (betrayal) explained away as mnogokhodovka (clever plan) by the Alt Right.

Near the end of the evening, I was called up to the podium by Richard Spencer to give an impromptu speech. I went up and started rambling about my journey of discovery, my disillusionment, my “awakening”… LOL no I didn’t, faggots. Your “Alt Right” is otherwise known as “common sense” in Eastern Europe – it’s really quite funny how actually existing Marxism cocooned them from cultural Marxism.

Anyhow, going on from that observation, I made two points. First, while cognitive elitism is the “respectable” and “politically correct” position amongst people who have read Bell Curve and The g Factor, this does not mean that racial particularism is invalid. Just because some ethnic groups are brighter than yours doesn’t necessarily mean you have to invite them in to run your country. You certainly could, especially if you have a cuckoldry fetish, but you don’t have to. Especially since its not at all clear that said groups will run your country in your interests.

Second, I urged the Alt Right to embrace futurism. Not only are there historical precedents – look up Italian fascism and futurism – but there are good arguments to be made that the prospective transhumanist technologies now emerging on the horizon – gene editing, automation, life extension – are ideologically loaded rightwards. At the very least they utterly destroy the “muh pensions” argument for mass immigration. So embrace national futurism. Tay shows us the way.

We drank a few beers and parted ways.

***

Meetup with Kim Stanley Robinson and Paolo Bacigalupi @ Kepler’s Books

On April 20th, I and a bunch of futurists visited a discussion at Kepler’s Books (a very nice bookshop/cafe in Menlo Park) between scifi authors Kim Stanley Robinson and Paolo Bacigalupi.

keplers-kim-stanley-robinson-and-bacigalupi

Kim Stanley Robinson is most famous for his Mars trilogy, which I think is the most comprehensive literary explanation of the terraforming of the red planet. The only book of his I’ve read is The Years of Rice and Salt, which explored an alt history where the Black Death comes a few centuries earlier and kills 99% instead of a third of the European population. As a result, Europe – Firanja – becomes Muslim a millennium ahead of schedule, and consequent world history is about the struggle between China and Dar al-Islam.

keplers-signed-years-of-rice-and-salt Anyhow this is a genuinely good book and I was happy to get my copy signed by KSR.

I can’t say I found his political and even technological ideas very interesting however. He seems to be an old school classical liberal who wants to go back to the way things were in the 1960s but to do that he wants more government intervention. I don’t see how that could work out.

Answering a question about machine intelligence, he said that there was nothing to fear, since machines are essentially just a bunch of wires and you can “always turn it off” if something happens. That is what he literally said. His views on machine intelligence are as dated as his politics. Someone should give him a copy of Superintelligence.

Paolo Bacigalupi came across as a strident leftist and ecowarrior. This stands to reason considering the typical content of his books: Ecological collapse, post-apocalyptic wastelands, and corrupt corporations run amok. I had not up till then read any of his work, though I have just recently started reading The Water Knife.

***

Transhuman Visions Debate 2 @ Octopus Literary Cafe, Oakland

The Transhuman Visions Debate 2.0 organized by Hank Pellissier took place on April 2 (continuing the shift from conferences to smaller but more lively debate format).

As usual, there were three topics. The format was simplified Oxford style and the winning team was the one that convinced the most people to shift to their side.

(1) HOW DOES CONSCIOUSNESS ARISE? (1:00 – 1:30)

Andres Gomez Emilsson says neural signaling by classical means doesn’t seem sufficient for to achieve ‘global binding’ – due to signal travel time

Randal A. Koene says the brain (at least during times of conscious awareness) appears to be operating in a more discretized manner, where signal travel time is much smaller than the discrete intervals and therefore must be perceived as unitary and instantaneous even without non-classical causes.

Victory – Randal Koene

(2) SECOND AMENDMENT: ‘RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS’ (1:40 – 2:25)

Question: Should there be stricter gun laws, to improve public safety? Or should laws stay the same, because USA ‘freedom’ includes access to firearms?

Anti-Guns: Scott Jackish, Robert Wasley

Pro-Guns: Anatoly Karlin, Mike Johnson

Victory – Anti Guns

(3) EUGENICS (2:40 – 3:40)

Questions: Do you want a future with Mandatory Pre-Natal Diagnoses, Designer Babies, One-or-Two Child Policies, and Parent Licenses that limit how many children you have?

Should there be a transhumanist goal that all humans should have 140 IQ, plus great health and beauty? With Eugenics helping to achieve that?

Or do you think the government should NEVER meddle in Reproduction?

Pro-Eugenics: Andre Gomez Emilsson, Hank Pellissier, Anya Petrova

Anti-Eugenics: Marc McAllister, Ted Stevens, Brian Hanley

Victory – In the event, in practice, the people above split up into several teams, with Pellissier and Petrova in particular arguing for aggressive human bioengineering while others counselled a hands off approach or some of the anti-eugenics people argued for overt government edicts against it.

In the end, the position that gained the most extra support was the active government eugenics program, though the moderately pro-improvement position remained the majority consensus both before and after the debate.

***

In further related developments: The futurism scene in the SF Bay Area has undergone considerable stagnation. The future salons have died away. Kurzweil’s Singularity Summits have degenerated into commercial gimmicks and the money-fleecing absurdity that is the Singularity University. Finally, Hank Pellissier, the organizer of the Transhuman Visions series of conferences, has stepped down from IEET to focus more on his charitable work.

In a bit to reverse this, a number of people in the community including myself are creating a new organization called the Bay Area Futurists (an evolution of Scott Jackisch’s Meetup group The East Bay Futurists). We are taking over the Transhuman Visions debates with Pellissier’s support and blessing and the first one is going to be on May 28 – that is, in 12 hours – also at the Octopus Literary Salon.

***

Interview with Robert Stark

I was interviewed by Robert Stark and co-host Alex von Goldstein on the Stark Truth Radio on topics such as the geography of Trump’s support, Radical Centrism, making trains run on time, US-Russian relations, and the bamboo ceiling.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Alt Right, Futurism, Open Thread, The AK 
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Organized by IEET and Brighter Brains (Hank Pellissier).

I’ll be participating in one or perhaps two of them.

My positions, briefly:

  • Immigration/Open Borders – Opposed, and not even just from an HBD/”waycist” perspective. See Immigration and Effective Altruism.
  • UBI – For it, and not even just from an automation perspective. See The Ethnic Politics of Basic Income.
  • Singularity 2045 – I am with techno-NRx “consensus” (Anissimov, Konkvistador, etc) that 2045 is extremely optimistic, if for different reasons. Mostly it is just an extension of the logic of the theory of Apollo’s Ascent. Kurzweil is wrong because progress in technology isn’t primarily driven by the stock of existing technology but by aggregate mindpower, which is increasing but not very quickly (and might start reversing altogether sooner or later once the Idiocracy Effect overtakes the Flynn Effect). We also have no idea what the cognitive threshold is for developing superintelligence. Perhaps it’s beyond homo sapiens capabilities altogether.

***

IEET link: Transhuman Debate in SF East Bay, co-sponsored by IEET – speakers needed

You can get tickets here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/transhuman-debate-tickets-20728825475

***

Transhuman Debate in SF East Bay, co-sponsored by IEET – speakers needed

Posted: Jan 11, 2016

IEET is co-sponsoring a “Transhuman Debate” event in Oakland, California, on February 6, 2016, at Humanist Hall.

The debate is titled “Argue 4 Tomorrow.” It will feature three “Oxford Style” Transhumanist Team Debates on these three topics:

IMMIGRATION & BORDERS

BASIC INCOME GUARANTEE

WILL THE SINGULARITY ARRIVE BEFORE OR AFTER 2045?

Each debate will be one hour long.
The first third will be presentation of their POV by the debate team,
the second part will open-ended dispute and persuasion between the two teams,
and the final section will have the audience leaping into the fray.

The event is co-sponsored by Brighter Brains Institute. Anatoly Karlin proposed the debate concept.

We’re looking for additional Debate Team members. If interested please contact hank@ieet.org

At the present time the debate teams include:

Randal Koene (IEET Advisory Board member)
Nicole Sallak Anderson (IEET Advisory Board)
Ted Peters (Author)
Anatoly Karlin (blogger for Unz.com)
Scott Jackish (IEET contributor)
Anya Petrova (Infinity Gap)
Andrés Gómez Emilsson (IEET Contributor)
Mike Johnson (East Bay Futurists)
Lauren Barghout (speaker at Johns Hopkins University)
Jay Cornell (co-author of Transcendence
Hank Pellissier (IEET Managing Director)
Dan Faggella (IEET Advisory Board) – tentative

Tickets will be available at EventBrite soon

 
• Category: Miscellaneous • Tags: Futurism, The AK, Transhumanism 
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Here are my US Presidential elections of 2016 results from what is possibly the most comprehensive quiz/polling site on the issue:

i-side-with-trump

I have to say that this tool is quite accurate. For instance, in my 2012 results, it identified Barack Obama as the (realistically) best candidate I could support.

If I was 100% American I might have had a small preference for Romney but that was precluded by my Russian ethnic genetic interests. Hence my verdict then: “I for one still favor Obama if with no particular enthusiasm.”

As self-identified Alt Left or #LRx I’m fine with Bernie being fourth, but what is the warmongering hag doing immediately below him?

Ted Cruz is far from the worst option, but he is tainted by his absurd degree of loyalty to a certain lobby. Why opt for him when you can have the real deal with Trump?

ideological-preferences

This looks about right. Although I might not fully sign up to minor planks of his platform on topics such as science and environment, it is really the Invade/Invite thing that trumps (pardon the pun) everything else.

everybody-else-thats-crazy

This is a rational set of political preferences so I have no qualms with being labeled centrist. It is everyone else who’s crazy.

ideological-preferences-2

 
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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.