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brexit-triggering

Article 50 has been triggered in the UK, after many merry months of triggerings of… another sort.

There has been a lot of wishful thinking in British liberal circles that some way would be found to circumvent Brexit. But calls for “the elites” to “rise up against the ignorant masses” were never realistic*, for all the childish tantrums on social media and the MSM. The Conservative Party has no good reason to torpedo itself by going against the democratically expressed wishes of its core electorate, the Middle Englanders who overwhelmingly voted Leave, and so the button was pushed as soon as all the judicial delaying procedures were exhausted.

I have been consistent that the adverse economic effects of Brexit have been greatly exaggerated by a Brexit-averse Establishment. As Bryan MacDonald pointed out last year, the apocalyptic rhetoric has consistently failed to translate into reality, and there is no reason to expect that to change.

To be sure, some global banks and companies will redirect more of their staff to Frankfurt, but London remains the world center of the financial industry – more so even than New York – and the concentration of human capital that props it up isn’t going to evaporate over a single year, or ten.

In the meantime, growth rates remain solid (the figures sync with my own impressions when I was in London), the devaluation is making British exports more competitive, and there will be a fiscal upside once the UK no longer needs to subsidize East European welfare leeches (currently, the average Briton paid a net 500 Euros to the EU in 2010-14).

brexit-2017

I also believe that the renewed worries about Scottish independence are exaggerated, the hystrionics of J.K. Rowling and Dawkins regardless. The Scots don’t want to hold a second independence referendum, and “No” consistently leads by at least 5 percentage points, just like in 2014, when they rejected it by a 10 percentage point margin.

Obviously the Scots are not very happy about Brexit, having voted against it 3-to-2, but it is still not something they want to break the Union over. The most likely avenue by which support of independence could grow is if the UK were to experience severe economic hardship as Brexit gets underway, but as I noted above, that is unlikely to happen.

* I gave a 90% chance of Article 50 getting invoked this year in my predictions for 2017, so I am not making this up as I go along.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Brexit, European Union, United Kingdom 
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sadiq-khan-london-its-safer-here

Anyhow.

The K/D ratio was pretty lame. Four dead, including the attacker, who was put down by one of the three armed policemen in all London. He could have at least used a heavy truck like his brother in arms in Nice.

Success in terrorism, as in all other walks of life, is g loaded.

Perhaps it’s a good thing that the cognitive profile of the Muslim immigrants to Europe is so… unprepossessing.

More competent terrorists could do more damage. See the Far Left terrorists of the 1970s-80s, or more recently, Breivik.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Terrorism, United Kingdom 
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PAPER REVIEW

Whitley, Elise et al. – 2016 – Variations in cognitive abilities across the life course


marker

whitley-2016-age-sex-differences

New paper by Elise Whitley et al. on age and sex differences in IQ for n=~40,000 British sample.

  • Five tests: Word recall, verbal fluency, and subtraction (loading ~0.5 on g), and number sequence and numerical problem solving (loading ~0.7 on g).
  • Males score about 4 IQ points more on the derived g-factor of cognitive ability.
  • … though this result should be treated with caution on account of: (a) g having different structure across the sexes; (b) it is not an exception to a common problem in IQ and sex studies, namely, the undersampling of men with lower cognitive ability.
  • Better subjective health was associated with higher IQ.
  • The overall pattern across age was a plateau from the late teens to age 65, then a steep fall soon thereafter.

I would say that the ultimate and really the only reason we have mandatory retirement policies are cognitive ones.

EDIT: Emil Kirkegaard had a closer look at the results, including a nicer graph of the age/sex results:

My guess is that the intercept bias/invariance has to do with the composition of the battery. There were only 5 tests, and their breakdown was: 3 math, 1 verbal, 1 memory. Women had better memory but there was no difference in verbal fluency (this is a common finding despite what you have been told). So, the problem likely is that the g factor is colored because 60% of the tests were about math, and that men have an advantage on the math group factor.

kirkegaard-2016-uk-iq-study

 
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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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brexit-vote-prediction Unless there is a truly stunning reversal soon, a victory for Remain is increasingly looking to be mathematically impossible.

England outside London is voting 60% Leave. The two biggest Remain hotspots, London and Scotland, do not have the numbers to make up for it.

Meanwhile, Wales and Northern Ireland are too evenly divided and too low in numbers to make a big difference anyway.

As of the time of me writing this sentence, Leave is on 53% and that is despite the fact that thrice as big a share of the votes have been counted from Scotland as from England.

The Independent has a list of regions (see full map right) to watch as bellweathers of the referendum result which are predicted to get 50/50 in the event of a split vote. In the event, these bellweathers seem to be consistently voting around 55% in favor of Leave.

(1) This looks like it is turning out to be yet another disaster for British polling.

Whereas it was predicted that in the last days British voters tend to shift to the status quo, drawing on the experience of the Scottish referendum, it appears that the true underweighing was with regards to conservative positions. This was demonstrated during the UK 2015 general elections, which pollsters predicted would be a close run thing but in reality saw a decisive Conservative win. In other words, their tendency to underweigh conservative voters – the “Shy Tory” factor first identified in 1992 – remains as prevalent as ever.

Also contrary to conventional wisdom prior to this referendum, online polls have turned out to be more accurate (or rather less wrong) than telephone polls.

(2) It appears that Thomas Mair’s murder of Jo Cox did not impact on the Leave campaign as many people – myself included – anticipated it would.

eu-doesnt-take-no-for-answer(3) What comes next? Well, again assuming no stunning reversals, this is going to be a long, drawn out process.

First, as many referendums and dank memes attest, the EU doesn’t like to take no for an answer. This will be a long and drawn out process. The Guardian, the voice of the British neoliberal Left, is already beginning a discussion on whether the EU referendum is legally binding.

Alexander Mercouris argues the effects either way won’t be big because he no longer sees the UK as an influential Power. There is merit to that interpretation but I think he overdoes it. The EU is a fragile construction and once a big member leaves there might well be a tipping point, especially since the remaining rich members will have to foot more of the bill for Eastern Europe’s “convergence” funds and bailing out Greece every other year.

I think the effect on the British economy will be modest. All the economists forecasting doom belong predominantly to a London/Brussels/Frankfurt centered class that tends to have overly inflated ideas of the importance of the finance sector and free trade to economic growth (which Brexit is going to impact far more modestly and gradually than they project anyway). This is not to say I agree with Eamonn Fingleton that protectionism is some sort of panacea either (that particular honor belongs to human capital). But being outside the EU is not some kind of economic death sentence. It’s not like Switzerland is a byword for poverty and isolation.

 
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zyklon-ben-abandon-eu-ship

Source: Ben Garrison – Abandon Ship

In recent days the Brexit debate has suddenly gone from boring to interesting, with opinion polls swinging from a comfortable lead for Remain to a neck and neck race between staying in and leaving the EU. One of the most recent polls has even seen Leave take a ten percentage point lead over Remain, though it remains an outlier.

wikipedia-polls-brexit-2016The major financial institutions now rate the chances of Brexit at 30%-40%, which is in sync with the odds given by prediction markets. (Quite the change from the start of this year, when it wasn’t even clear that the Brexit referendum would be held in the current year and I gave it a 10% total chance of happening).

What must be especially worrying for Bremain supporters is that polls have historically tended to have an anti-conservative bias in the UK, the most famous example being the 1992 elections (which saw the coining of the famous “Shy Tory” term) and continuing through to today in both the 2015 elections (Conservatives did much better than expected) and the Scottish referendum (rejection of independence, a primarily younger and more liberal position, by a much larger margin than the polls predicted).

There are two big reasons for the turn around in the past few weeks.

First, there are problems specific to the Remain campaign, whose strategy basically boils down to: (1) Threatening Britons with negative economic consequences for Brexit; (2) Trundling out a bevy of Very Respectable People such as Barack Obama, Angela Merkel, Tony Blair, Tony Blair’s spinmaster Alastair Campbell, Peter Sutherland, George Soros, etc., etc., to make the case for Remain; (3) Displaying a “compendium of tabloid poltergeists” such as Trump, Putin, Le Pen, and ISIS who are alleged to support Brexit. Unfortunately, fewer people are impressed by such hamfisted tactics than were presumably hoped for.

pew-2016-eu-favorability-historical The second reason for the Leave surge is that it is part and parcel of the general disatisfaction with The Establishment sweeping the Western world, which has manifested itself in the good electoral performance of the Front National in France, the general swing towards nationalist parties throughout Europe, Corbyn’s successful takeover of the Labour Party in the UK, and the twin challenges of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump to the old order in the US.

This sense of disillusionment extends to the EU. Although the EU enjoyed a small bump in support in 2015 once the effects of the 2012 double-dip recession faded away, anger has since returned with a vengeance in the wake of the recent European immigration crisis and the widespread perception that it was disastrously mishandled by a dangerously out of touch globalist elite. There are also broader concerns with the EU’s lack of democratic legitimacy, opposition to national sovereignty, straitjacket monetary policies, and unsolicited geopolitical adventurism in Ukraine and beyond.

pew-2016-eu-favorability Indeed, one of the most stunning findings of a recent PEW poll is that Britain, once the central bastion of Euroskepticism, may have actually been superceded in its dislike of the EU not just by a Greece understandably upset with Frankfurt’s diktats (so hardline that even the IMF balked) but by a France where a majority now want a Frexit referendum of their own.

The only places where the EU remains unambigiously favorable is amongst its newer eastern members, their contrarian yapping in opposition to mass immigration regardless (which is ultimately for show, since to be quite frank no refugee is going to be staying in Bucharest when he can move on to Budapest and then Berlin).

The reason for that essentially reduces to money:

eu-transfers-per-capita

SourceReddit, OP’s per capita calculations based on EU data.

Basically, the Eastern Europeans get huge amounts of gibs from the West Europeans, especially the Germans and Scandis. Poland alone got €57bn in 2010-2014. These numbers are rarely mentioned but they are quite huge – in fact, in per capita terms, they are comparable to what the Russian budget gets from the entirety of its oil and gas sectors. Those much vaunted economies (“Polish economic miracle,” “Baltic tigers,” etc) would look much different without the huge capital transfers implicit in EU structural funds.

The EU has also been good for the northern countries who, unlike the Mediterranean states, have the discipline to keep labor costs down without resorting to devaluations: The Netherlands, Sweden, and of course Germany. In contrast to the stagnation in the peripheries, their economies have generally done well since 2010 and they have become labor magnets stripping the south and east of their human capital.

But for most of the rest of the EU these arrangements haven’t been working out, with the result that support for the EU there has generally plummeted.

These internal economics explain much of the panic behind Brexit, which from a certain perspective is admittedly altogether irrational. The exit of the UK alone would remove 10% of total EU contributions and 15% of net contributions (based on 2007-2013 figures). This would increase the funding strain on the other rich members. If more of the core countries then started to withdraw, it would conceivably lead a cascading collapse in which the last man out has to pay the utilities bills. No longer accruing benefits from its competitiveness advantage, Germany is the last major net funder to throw in the towel, and thus only the husk of the EU is left, stretching all the way from Lodz to Lemberg.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Elections, European Union, United Kingdom 
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The results for all 650 constituencies in, time to make some brief observations.

(1) Almost everyone was wrong (including myself). It is 1992 all over again, with opinion polls massively understating Conservative support.

(2) Regionally, the story was essentially one of Conservative and SNP triumph in England and Scotland, respectively. Miliband (Labour), Clegg (LibDem), and Farage (UKIP) all resigned within the hour. The Tories can now govern for the next 5 years without having to accomodate any coalition partner. Cameron must be a very happy man today.

(3) Once again the inadequacies of the FPTP electoral model were on full display, with UKIP getting 3.9 million votes and one seat (!) while the SNP got 1.5 million votes and 56 seats. That is because the latter got pluralities in almost all Scottish regions, while UKIP was perenially scoring second place to the Conservatives in England.

(4) Our good friend Matthew Atkins, interviewed here, got 10% in his constituency of Lancaster and Fleetwood, which is a respectable result for a region where Labour is strong. If UKIP hadn’t been scoring 10%-15% across most of England – primarily to the loss of the Conservatives – then even more of England would have been blue, including Lancaster and Fleetwood.

(5) Bearing the above point in mind, the vision of the country by national lines becomes even starker than what would be implied by this map (Blue = Conservatives; Red = Labour; Yellow = SNP; Orange = Liberal Demorats; Green = various Welsh and Irish nationalists):

uk-electoral-map-2010-2015

EDIT: As whyvert points out in the comments, the 2015 map here seems to be based on forecasts, as opposed to the actual elections results. Here is the real map. Nothing changes cardinally, just the English/Scottish border is no longer delineated quite as neatly, and the Conservative victory in England becomes all the more absolute.

This is what we have now:

  • A very convincing Conservative win in England, where it has repositioned itself successfully as the party that looks after English interests.
  • A spectacular SNP sweep in the north.
  • Which is to the detriment of Labour, the party that has been historically strong throughout the Kingdom: In Scotland, the industrial northwest, immigrant communities, and the socialist parts of London.

With nationally-orientated parties in the ascendant throughout the country, questions must be asked as to how long the UK will be able to hold together, the failure of Scotland’s independence referendum last year regardless. The economy is in a stable long-term stagnation (real GDP per capita has even now yet to recover to its peak level of 2007), while big deficit spending continues. There will likely now be a further wave of austerity, which will not please leftist Scots. Cameron has also promised a referendum on EU membership for 2017, should the Conservatives win an outright majority in the current elections, which they have. Polls indicate this refenredum will probably fail, but as we have seen, polls can be deceptive. If that vote wins, it may well provoke another Scottish crisis, since Scots are very EU-friendly, and for many of them it would be just another case of the English deciding their fates.

This is not to say that I think the UK will break up sometime this decade. To the contrary, a whole chain of things still has go wrong (or right, depending on your outlook) for that to happen. No, my argument is far more minimal. It is that the political challenges the UK faces to its continued existence have not vanished after the failure of the Scottish independence referendum.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Elections, Scotland, UKIP, United Kingdom 
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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.