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Results of the 2020 Census have been released. Some links:

Here’s a table of the regional change:

2020 2010 %
Beijing 21893095 19612368 0.12
Tianjin 13866009 12938224 0.07
Hebei 74610235 71854202 0.04
Shanxi 34915616 35712111 -0.02
Inner Mongolia 24049155 24706321 -0.03
Liaoning 42591407 43746323 -0.03
Jilin 24073453 27462297 -0.12
Heilongjiang 31850088 38312224 -0.17
Shanghai 24870895 23019148 0.08
Jiangsu 84748016 78659903 0.08
Zhejiang 64567588 54426891 0.19
Anhui 61027171 59500510 0.03
Fujian 41540086 36894216 0.13
Jiangxi 45188635 44567475 0.01
Shandong 101527453 95793065 0.06
Henan 99365519 94023567 0.06
Hubei 57752557 57237740 0.01
Hunan 66444864 65683722 0.01
Guangdong 126012510 104303132 0.21
Guangxi 50126804 46026629 0.09
Hainan 10081232 8671518 0.16
Chongqing 32054159 28846170 0.11
Sichuan 83674866 80418200 0.04
Guizhou 38562148 34746468 0.11
Yunnan 47209277 45966239 0.03
Tibet 3648100 3002166 0.22
Shaanxi 39528999 37327378 0.06
Gansu 25019831 25575254 -0.02
Qinghai 5923957 5626722 0.05
Ningxia 7202654 6301350 0.14
Xinjiang 25852345 21813334 0.19
CHINA 1411778724 1339724852 0.05

Key highlights:

Population has grown by 5.4% from 1.340B to 1.412B. Its population was 10M higher than projected, entirely due to Guangdong (which has 126M, not 115M). This is obviously a case of internal migrants not being tracked.

North-East China (Dongbei), as expected, is in the throes of severe depopulation. Heilongjiang, which borders Russia, falls from 38.2M in 2010 to 31.9M now. For comparison, this is a faster rate of decline than what the Russian Far East experienced in the 1990s. This is the region from where the neocons and East European Russophobes were telling you that the Chinese would mount their demographic takeover of Siberia from. Meanwhile, Jilin with 24.1M people now has fewer people than North Korea which is creeping up to 26M.

What seems to be happening is that the entire region, only really settled in 19C, is emptying out towards the sunnier south, especially Guangdong and the Pearl River Delta, in a reflection of what is happening in many other countries. On the bright side, I suppose, this suggests that the stagnation in wages and GDP per capita and the ultra-low fertility rates in Dongbei are somewhat exaggerated if the underlying population base has been bleeding out so rapidly.

NBS statistics head says number of births fell 18% to 12M in 2020, for a total TFR of 1.3 children per woman. China seems to be plummeting to South Korea-tier fertility with a time lag of 20 years. This probably doesn’t have much to do with coronavirus. After all, China only had a short but sharp lockdown which successfully suppressed the epidemic and has since been living in normality. Desired TFR is 1.8 children per woman, and realized TFR is usually at least 0.5 children less than desired, so a recovery in this indicator cannot be expected any time soon. Probably not for decades.

Urbanization rate is at 64%. This is relatively low for a country at China’s level of development and its future rise will be a further dampener on fertility.

So it seems pretty clear that China’s population is close to its all time peak and will start to decline in the early 2020s.

The average age of the population is 38.8 years. For the first time in modern history, it is higher than that in the US.

 
• Category: Economics • Tags: Census, China, Demographics 

I visited the Central Cathedral of the Russian Armed Forces, just slightly less than a year after its consecration.

It is quite rare that reality exceeds visual media.

But the Fortress-Monastery does so, in spades, and that despite its already superlative neo-Byzantine steampunk aesthetics on screen, which are like something out of a Maxim Bedulenko painting.

Unfortunately, my cell phone battery expired with freakish rapidity when I came to the Fortress Monastery, as did my reserve bank. Presumably, the machine spirits within them were unsatiated with my lack of prayers to them. (Hence, most of these photos will be from travel companion VV, who was luckier at appeasing the machine spirits).

The references to Warhammer 40K are not even whimsical. All around the complex, both inside and out, liturgical chants percolate through the air. The only things missing are the Cherubim fluttering amidst the Cathedral’s vaults.

Brass cremation urns bear contain the remains of Russian soldiers from different WW2 battlefields.

They are arraigned in a semi-circle around a monument to the Mother of the Victor, within which burns an eternal flame.

The steps up to the gate, as well as the floor within the Cathedral, are made out of melted down German armor and weaponry.

Upon the main gates is an engraving of angels striking down the Reichsadler.

The dimensions of the Cathedral are symbolic. The diameter of the main dome is 19.45 meters, while the height of the small dome is 14.18 meters (the number of days in the Great Patriotic War).

The central apse features a metallic relief dedicated to the Resurrection of Christ. More than anywhere else, photos fail to do justice to what in real life looks like a divine being in 3D, a God-Emperor if you will, irradiating into the infinite blue, star-studded heavens.

The glass mosaics feature Red Army orders and ribbons. One of them contains a hammer and sickle. When the Cathedral was being constructed, there was a minor scandal about one of the murals depicting Stalin. It was later removed, his status as a persecutor of Christians being incompatible with being so honored.

The main dome is dominated by an image of the Savior Not Made by Hands. It is the largest mosaic of Christ’s visage in the world.

Most of the main murals on the ground floor are dedicated to the Great Patriotic War…

… as well as one that honors the heroes of post-WW2 conflicts up to the liberation of Crimea in 2014. Commenter Serg6499 points out that two of the soldiers here may have a resemblance to Givi and Motorola, two heroes of the War in Donbass.

FWIW, I didn’t see empty space for future conflicts. I wonder how that problem will be solved if/when the need arises.

The four murals above the main murals feature the the Napoleonic Wars, the Crimean War, the Russo-Japanese War, and World War I. My one critique is that I would have devoted more attention to World War I, this being, after all, a larger and more consequential conflict than the others. But it’s a minor one at that.

The underground crypt really gives off those Dwemer vibes.

One minor thing that you hardly notice – and that’s by design – is the painstaking attention to make everything fit congruently. The ornamental grillwork of the park benches corresponds to the patterns of the friezes on the Cathedral’s exterior.

Even the cafes and souvenir shops outside are painted green and don’t agree obtrusive advertisements.

***

The building encircling the Fortress-Monastery is a WW2 museum called the 1,418 Steps of Victory (=the number of days in the GPW) and is packed with highly immersive and interactive displays that obviously took a lot of money and effort to assemble.

As a visual and auditory experience, it is on a level with the Jewish Museum. The rooms are thematic and cleverly use light, sound, and in one case temperature (ice level air conditioning in the section on the Road of Life) to create an immersive experience.

There are two rooms showing short films, one of them featuring the history of the Night Witches, the other one something else (we didn’t stay to watch the it because the museum was closing soon).

One room off to the side from the main exhibition had graphic images and artifacts of Nazi atrocities.

One interesting room had small scale models of many of the monuments to Red Army soldiers in various European countries from Norway to Bulgaria. AFAIK some of them, e.g. in Warsaw, have been removed. It would be a nice additional touch to mark them out so.

Another room of the museum contained Hitler’s tattered uniform.

The final corridor has images of dead and surviving soldiers floating like a river of souls above candles in honor of them.

The screen at the end goes through the 27 million casualties suffered by the USSR across the 1,418 days of the war. The count does not go up linearly over time, so it seems that they took care to calculate casualties over precise time intervals.

***

The Military Cathedral and the Road of 1,418 Steps are just part of an entire complex that is run by the Ministry of Defense, which also includes a couple of military museums, a huge tank museum, a partisan village, a tank demonstration yard, a shooting range, and a huge expo center for exhibiting modern Russian weapons to foreign buyers (names like US-sanctioned Rosoboronexport are prominently featured).

Russian flags everywhere. It is, all in all, an unabashed festival of militarism.

And there are huge new buildings still under construction.

The military museum has a large collection of Soviet, German, Axis-aligned, Allied (mostly Lend-Lease), and even some Japanese tanks. There are also many other types of WW2 weaponry, as well as variants from the Cold War and even the modern era.

One section of the museum, pristine clinical white, is devoted to NBC warfare. These anti-gas masks for dogs were developed in 1932.

There is a massive outdoor section with a wide variety of modern weaponry, including…

… a Su-33…

… as well as an S-400 (sic!) system, and a a truck that carries the A-135 nuclear-tipped missile defense system which defends Moscow.

Hangar belonging to the United Aircraft Corporation. I happen to own a (purely symbolic) amount of their shares.

***

The complex can also be said to include the Tank Museum at Kubinka, which I visited a couple of years ago. It is about 5 km away and has literally hundreds of tanks in six huge hangars, making it one of the largest tank museums in the world.

The first hangar contains early Soviet tank forces starting from their germination in August 19, 1914 (when the world’s first automobile machine gun brigade was formed), through to the 1930s.

The three main hangars are devoted to Soviet, German/Axis, and Western Allied tanks of World War II.

The last two hangars include Soviet tanks of the early Cold War, and of the late Cold War and modern era.

Here is a Hungarian 38M Toldi just for reiner Tor.

Mobile siege mortar “Adam”.

A special German anti-mine tank that looks like a ball.

Perhaps the most unique part of the collection is the world’s only surviving example of a Maus. Clocking in at 188 tons, it was the heaviest tank ever built. It crawled at 7 km/h and was too heavy for bridges.

***

I would say that at this point, Patriot Park is already well worth a visit if you are in Moscow for a week or so, especially if you are interested in military history, or more broadly the ideology of modern Russia: https://akarlin.com/travel/moscow/

As a religious institution, I would say that the Military Cathedral is my second favorite religious center in Russia after the St. Joseph of Volokolamsk Monastery (and ahead of the overly touristic New Jerusalem Monastery, and even the St. Sergius Lavra in Sergiev Posad). As a comprehensive military museum complex – in between the Museum of 1,418 Steps, the Patriot Park military museum, and the Kubinka Team Museum – it is, I think, ahead of anything in Moscow proper. If you want to comprehensively explore all of it, including the Cathedral and the three main museum, as well as the shooting range, the partisan museum, and other exhibitions, you will need at least two days, probably three.

 

Egor Ligachev, leader of the “conservative” wing of the CPSU under Gorbachev, died yesterday at the age of 100. He was a teetotaller who took good care of his health. The cause of death was bilateral pneumonia, though his son says it wasn’t COVID-19.

By all accounts, he was a decent and uncorrupt man, e.g. see this in a blog post by elections blogger and oppositionist Alexander Kireev, in which he imagines the outcome of a Soviet election in 1990 (coincidentally written just a few days ago):

I met Ligachev in Moscow not far from the State Duma building in 2004. He was already a former deputy at that time, but he walked towards her even at a surprisingly vigorous step for an 84-year-old man. I greeted him politely, because no one paid any attention to him. We talked a little: he was even glad that a young man like me knows him well. He gave me his book and wrote. Let me draw your attention: a member of the top leadership of the USSR, the former head of the Tomsk region (besides, under him at that time oil fields were developed in the region!) Went to the State Duma on foot. Maybe he lived within walking distance, I’m not sure. Yes, and it was in the summer, the weather was good. Of course, he must have had enough money for a taxi, but he still walked on foot. He was dressed simply, one might say in the Soviet way: an ordinary shirt and trousers. So it would have come out in 1980, not in 2004: no one would have paid attention. It seems to me that it was clear from everything that he was living the life of an ordinary Moscow pensioner, and not some kind of millionaire. Can you imagine this for the current leaders of Russia?

Yes, that’s quite hard to imagine. But it didn’t exactly do Ligachev or the classical Marxist-Leninist ideals he espoused a lot of good. He did always come across as a damp rag to me. He played a crucial role in promoting Gorbachev as the successor to Andropov, and supported him until he felt that perestroika had gone too far in the direction of Social Democracy; then he settled for writing complaints to Gorbachev, which were “ignored” and eventually led to his dismissal from the Politburo in July 1990. The author of the famous phrase “Boris, you are wrong” had also played a central role in promoting him into the Party’s Central Committee in the first place.

So, just as clueless on judging people as he was on understanding market economics:

One of the most memorable anecdotes from Stephen Cohen’s Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives is where he recounts a visit by Egor Ligachev, probably the second man after Gorbachev in the late 1980s USSR, to New York, in which he amazed his interlocutors by repeatedly asking who was responsible for organizing the food supply to the city.

Nor did he have the spine to support the August coup against Gorbachev. With limp-wristed “hardliners” like this, it is not as much of a surprise that the USSR fell apart.

Well, not limp-wristed except as concerns Russians and their self-determination, at any rate. He hated expressions of Russian nationalism, criticizing the KPRF’s turn to a populist pro-ethnic Russian position during the 2010s.

The blogger denalt has gathered some quotes he said on this matter from 2012:

The Pskov regional committee of the Communist Party, headed by him in the New Year’s address to the residents of the region, called on“ Russian to the Russian – help! ”. If this is not a manifestation of nationalism, so what is it, where is the “fierce struggle against the vulgarization of the Russian idea by nationalism?”

The divided Russian people arose as a result of the destruction of the Soviet Union, the dismemberment of the Soviet people. By and large, it should be primarily about the divided Soviet people. The reunification of the Russian people, like any other fraternal people, can be resolved only when the Soviet people are restored on the basis of the alliance of Russians with other nationalities, in the process of building socialism, eradicating nationalism and chauvinism. ”
… only Union 2.0. No Russia!

As for the labor migrants, which are referred to in the Party’s Address to the Russian people in a very unfriendly manner, without any “caution and prudence ”, then it is time to stop all kinds of vilification against them, accuse them of “settling in primordially Russian territories ”. After all, this is a part of the divided Soviet people, moreover, mainly the most disadvantaged … Apparently, it is necessary to thoroughly deal with migrants, their organization and political education.

They continue to insist that the Russian people are a state-forming people, thereby imposing the idea of ​​its unity. Although it is known that the state in a class-antagonistic society is formed not by the people, but by classes. After all, these are the basics of Marxism-Leninism.

Tsarism suppressed non-Russian peoples, sowed mistrust, discord between them, and equally instilled alienation among the Russians towards them. Native languages ​​were in the corral, to the point that it was forbidden to publish newspapers in them, and to teach in their native language in schools. The peoples of Russia were In a word, as it was said: in tsarist Russia there were two misfortunes: below – the power of darkness, and above – the darkness of power.
… In a word, if the tsarist autocracy was not, in the full sense, a prison of peoples, then, according to V.I. Lenin, it included “a bloody past, when the Russia of the capitalist oppressors played the role of an executioner over other peoples.

So no wonder that multi-national liberals (“noviops”) tend to have a bit of a soft spot for this sovok fossil.

Conversely, I suspect, this hints at a reason for a significant part of the revulsion against the “conservative” wing of the Soviet establishment on the part of ethnic Russians in the late 1980s.

 
• Category: Culture/Society • Tags: Communism, Obituary, Russia, Soviet Union 

This week’s Open Thread.

~ Emil Kirkegaard – Meta-compilation of HBD related materials. Very useful link. Also dug up this Blast from the Past: Who’s afraid of the big bad data?

~ NEW PAPER. Rieger, M. O., Wang, M., & Hens, T. (2021). Universal time preference. PloS One, 16(2), e0245692. (h/t @whyvert)

~ XENOS. Pop Mech: Scientists Believe These Photos Show Mushrooms on Mars—and Proof of Life. One of the authors seems a bit kooky. Still, there seems to have been a sharp increase in observations suggestive of alien life over previous years: Oumuamua; Phosphine gas on Venus; USAF releasing UFO vids; now these Martian shrooms.

~ Redditor writes about the gradations of wealth, which largely backs what I intuited here: Note that even this elite hobnobber, with his very fine grasp on social status associated with various wealth gradations, acknowledges that nothing much changes in the run up from ~$100M to $1B. Soppy conclusion.

~ Pro-Ukrainian band of white supremacists arrested in Russia (h/t Insomniac Resurrected). Backs my oft made point that the most passionarny champions of Ukraine are not actual Ukrainians but Russian Neo-Nazis. Worth bearing in mind that when commenters like “LatW” complain about Putin “repressing” Russian nationalists these days, it’s mainly people like these they have in mind.

~ Razib Khan: Our Three-Body Problem. I really think he overdoes this model of a tripartite cultural division (West/India/China), but worth reading anyway.

~ CRYPTO. PocketNet ($PKOIN) looks like a kind of Gab on blockchain. Laura Loomer recently joined – would be interesting if the deplatformed MAGA people start converging there. Anyhow, I am @akarlin there. I suspect decentralized social media will largely revolve around Holochain and Urbit, but it’s probably not a bad idea to snap up an account there too.

 
• Tags: Blogging, Open Thread 

This is Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s assessment of global excess mortality from COVID-19 from the beginning until May 3, 2021. (h/t Ron Unz)

You can read about the methodology here.

All in all, this sadly comports with the “millions” prediction I made in February 24, 2020. While at the end of last year I thought we would top out at 10 million, the spread of more infectious variants and vaccine distribution snafus means that we will almost certainly exceed that cumulatively by the end of this year. I also think it likely that even these excess mortality estimates substantially undercount India and Indonesia, as well as Sub-Saharan Africa (though the latter is insulated by its very low median age). Remember that statistics are often substandard outside the industrialized world, and more speculative than real in much of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Here are the top 20 countries by Corona mortality from March 2020 to this May:

Country Total COVID-19 deaths Reported COVID-19 deaths
United States of America 905,289 574,043
India 654,395 221,181
Mexico 617,127 217,694
Brazil 595,903 408,680
Russian Federation 593,610 109,334
United Kingdom 209,661 150,519
Italy 175,832 121,257
Iran 174,177 72,906
Egypt 170,041 13,529
South Africa 160,452 54,390
Poland 149,855 68,237
Peru 147,765 62,739
Ukraine 138,507 46,737
France 132,680 105,506
Spain 123,786 85,365
Germany 120,729 83,256
Indonesia 115,743 45,938
Japan 108,320 10,390
Romania 87,649 28,382
Kazakhstan 81,696 5,620

And here are the top per capita “performers” (deaths per 100,000):

Country Total COVID-19 death rate Reported COVID-19 death rate
Azerbaijan 648.8 44.6
Bosnia and Herzegovina 587.2 262.1
Bulgaria 544.5 238.7
Albania 525.7 88.0
Mexico 493.9 174.2
North Macedonia 467.9 230.0
Belarus 459.6 27.1
Romania 455.6 147.5
Kazakhstan 444.2 30.6
Peru 434.7 184.6
Slovakia 427.6 216.6
Russian Federation 404.6 74.5
Lithuania 395.1 141.7
Poland 389.9 177.5
Czechia 386.8 276.0
Hungary 386.7 288.2
Republic of Moldova 377.6 158.4
Montenegro 338.1 242.0
Ukraine 314.5 106.1
Latvia 312.6 111.9

In the end, there seems to have been very little difference in outcomes amongst the East Europeans, despite significant policy differences (e.g. Belarus never had a lockdown, Lukashenko being an outspoken floomer, while Ukraine had the strongest lockdowns). Russia, which didn’t have real lockdowns after the first one, is around the same ballpark as Poland, and Ukraine is catching up fast. If you’re not serious about suppressing Corona and then keeping it that way through centralized quarantines and technological means, then it’s best not to bother with lockdowns at all to at least keep the GDP pumped. This is why I refrained from endorsing the second round of lockdowns.

Anyhow, by and large, vaccines are now accessible to anybody who wants them. So I can’t say I actually care about deaths at this point, if elderly anti-vaxxers want to croak, then good on them for reducing the pensions burden.

Amusingly, the world leader in Corona deaths seems to be Azerbaijan. These are the Chads would marched through the streets of Baku, demanding “end the lockdown, start the war.” Azerbaijan had a good year, its territory expanded.

Serbia is conspicuous by its absence. Vucic has handled things extremely well. Its politicians might be more rational than in most of Europe.

 
• Category: Science • Tags: Corona, Coronavirus, Demographics, Mortality 

You missed the Big Tech explosion because you didn’t understand what de facto monopolies wedded to economies of scale can do. You have been deplatformed by Zuck and @jack for being a racist and a white supremacist, and you don’t even have their stonks for consolation. You didn’t hop aboard the Tesla train because you thought it was going to zero. You didn’t buy and hodl Bitcoin in 2013, Ethereum in 2017, or Chainlink in 2019. You kept your savings as certificates of deposit. You listened to Peter Schiff and plowed all your money into a shiny bauble that has been devaluing for centuries because the hyperinflation was going to take off any day now. You rushed into the GME squeeze just as the music stopped. You belated bought Coinbase to get crypto exposure against my advice and were dumped on by the founders.

You are now seething, coping, and on the verge of roping. (You, visualized, see right).

But opportunities come time and time again, and crypto aside, I think that one of the best candidates for OOM-tier increases this decade is Russian tech*.

First things first. Russian nominal GDP was just 7% of the US level in 2020. Russia has had a pretty bad 7 years since 2014, in which its prior one and half decades of convergence to developed world income per capita stalled. But national economic fortunes tend to come in cycles, so there’s good reason to believe that the 2020s will be one of resumed fast growth in Russia. There has been adjustment to the negative external shocks of the 2014 oil price collapse and the Crimea sanctions, infrastructure has been upgraded, zombie banks closed down, business regulations liberalized, the threat of further sanctions downgraded thanks to lesser reliance on foreign financing and more trade shifting to China.

The current capitalization of the Russian stock market is at 55% of its GDP, which is lower than its ten year mean of 62%. Meanwhile, the US at 190% is similar to that in 1929 and 2008 and by some measures is the single most overvalued stock market in the world. This does not necessarily mean that the American stock market is in a bubble and that a collapse is imminent. Unprecedented low interest rates, the increased prominence of tech stocks with their high p/e ratios (justified by their quasi-monopoly status), and broader market participation (i.e. zoomers plowing their Bidenbux into stonks and $DOGE on Robinhood) may mean that the US has simply become permanently more “financialized”. But, whether or not a crash is on the cards, it’s hard to believe that further rapid growth in US stocks this decade is possible, at least relative to opportunities in less pumped markets.

This is not the case in Russia, which is modestly below its historic average and which is now seeing a phenomenal increase in the amount of small time traders on the Moscow stock exchange. Thanks to the spread of cheap mobile brokerage services, the number of individual investors on the Moscow stock exchange has exploded in recent years, going from 417,000 in 2008 to 1 million in 2015, 2 million in 2019, 4 million in 2020, and 9.5 million this January. It is currently increasing by close to a million per month and now stands at 11.2 million. (In per capita terms, this is now not that far off from the $10M shareholders of Germany). This is driven by what seems to be a sharp change amongst the younger segments of Russian society to investment. While the Soviet generations are financially illiterate, some pensioners even preferring the mattress over bank deposits, zoomers are using mobile apps from companies like Tinkoff and VTB to play about with stocks, ETFs, and bonds just like the Robinhood degenerates in the US.

So what we have in Russia right from the get go is a virtuous trifecta in which GDP (PPP) is on the cusp of resuming upwards convergence to developed world levels, nominal GDP is poised to rebound even harder (Russia is literally the world’s cheapest country at this moment after Lebanon, as proxied by the Big Mac Index – more so than the likes of Ukraine and Vietnam), while the stock market in turn is poised to ramp up as a share of this GDP as the fintech revolution and fading sovok mores make Russia into a stock owning society again. (Incidentally, this would not be a novelty but a return to historic normality – Russia before 1917 had one of the world’s biggest stock markets, accounting for ~10% of world capitalization). This alone has a reasonable likelihood of eking out a doubling or a tripling during this decade and one that it’s possible to gain exposure to from some ETF that tracks the MOEX.

However, I believe that the real promise lies in Russian tech stocks. In contrast to Europe, whose native attempts to set up a tech ecosystem have failed/were brain drained away to Silicon Valley (only one of note is Sweden’s Spotify), Russia has its own, significantly self-contained IT ecosystem covering the broad range of search, e-commerce, social networks, car-hailing and ride-sharing, and fintech. But unlike American Big Tech, which has seen epochal increases in market cap over the past decade, the process is only in its incipient stages in Russia. They are ridiculous undervalued – but only so long as both Russians and foreigners don’t notice it.

That said, this isn’t an absolutely guaranteed money-making play. There are structural reasons why these prices will probably remain much lower than those of their American equivalents, even if the gap narrows. Hence, I’ll provision a “FUD” (fear, uncertainty, doubt) section to each stock.

 

Yandex (YNDX) is the biggest tech company in Eastern Europe. It has consistently accounted for 60% of the Russian search market (most of the rest accrues to Google), but it has its fingers in many other pies:

  • It not only owns Yandex.Taxi (Russia’s Uber), but has a dominant stake in Uber Russia. Accounting for ~60% and ~30% of the mobile ride-hailing market, this makes it a near monopoly in the sector.
  • It is working on self-driving cars and the results have looked promising from as early as 2018.
  • Yandex.Drive carsharing service.
  • Expanding into e-commerce sector with Yandex.Market, previously the dominant price aggregator/comparison site – now developing own capabilities to compete with main rivals Ozon and Wildberries.
  • Has a broad presence in various IT services in general: Personal assistant (Alice), cloud storage (Yandex.Disk), food delivery (Yandex.Food), and seems to be actively developing a YouTube replacement of late (Yandex.Efir).
  • Has the most advanced AI labs in Russia (though it pales besides Google, which controls two of the world’s top three, DeepMind and Google AI).

Market cap: $23B (60x lower than Alphabet’s $1,360).

FUD: Google dominates not just US search but global search, whereas Yandex only dominates 60% of the Russian market (though it also has a substantial presence across the CIS and even a minor one in Turkey).

 

Ozon (OZON) is Russia’s biggest publicly listed retailer, third biggest online store, and biggest multi-category online store.

Market cap: $12B (125x lower than Amazon’s $1,540B)

Its stock prices have gone up by 50% since it IPO’ed in December 2020. (I am very happy to have jumped on that train from the start). Even so, it remains a bargain basement buy in the long run.

To find out why, I would recommend Gleb Krivosheev’s article about Ozon at Seeking Alpha. But I will recount the main points in short here. The Russian e-commerce market was only worth $30B in 2019 (or just 6% of the Russian retail market), but has increased at a rapid clip over the past few years and CAGR for the next 4-5 years is projected to be 40%. Corona has helped this sector along as has a breakdown of hangups originating from the low-trust Soviet era and 1990s about paying for a product before it’s delivered. This will put the size of the Russian e-commerce market at $100B by 2024.

But another critical consideration is that the Russian e-commerce market, being in an earlier historical stage, remains highly fragmented relative to most other countries. The competition is likely to focus around Ozon (6% of the market in 2020), Wildberries (13%), Ali Express (8%), and Yandex.Market (2%). Wildberries is run by Tatyana Bakalchuk, who at $11B net worth is Russia’s richest woman (and probably the richest self-made woman outside China). It has branched out from specializing in women’s clothing and become Russia’s leading e-commerce store, with a very good distribution network but mediocre website. Yandex.Market represents Yandex’s foray into e-commerce and enjoys access to its parent’s technical expertise, but its distribution network is close to non-existent, it is starting from a very low base, and it will find it hard to muscle in at this stage (Beru, its prior e-commerce venture with state bank Sberbank, was folded up in 2020). Ali Express is a joint venture between mail.ru and AliBaba. Ozon has a very nice website – it is explicitly modeled on Amazon – but its distribution network and volumes remain inferior to Wildberries. Still, the money from the IPO has helped it grow and in my opinion it is in the best position to become Russia’s Amazon.

FUD: Ozon will never have the global reach of Amazon, it will not account for as big a share of the (much smaller) Russian market, and it also doesn’t have Amazon’s cloud services division.

 

mail.ru (MLRYY) is mainly known for its 100% ownership of VK (Vkontakte), the largest social network in Russia (43% of people on some social network use it), as well as the more boomer/prole Odnoklassniki (31%). This is the dominant social network in Russia and, confounding some predictions, has increased market share against Facebook (9%).

VK’s user experience is often considered to be superior to Facebook’s. It runs faster and more smoothly, has fewer weird bugs (Facebook’s codebase is atrocious), and doesn’t need add ons like Facebook Purity to restore some semblance of sanity to all the clutter.

It has its fingers in some other pies as well, such as cloud services, online games, and its own email and search engine. That said, Vkontakte is without a doubt the crown jewel in its portfolio.

Market cap: $6B (120x lower than Facebook’s $730B)

FUD: However, so far as social media goes, network effects are key and Facebook dominates the social network landscape not just in the US but across most of Europe as well as India. Meanwhile, VK has a merely preeminent position within Russia and the post-Soviet countries (even in Ukraine, despite VK being ostensibly banned).

 

TCS Group (TCS), more commonly known as Tinkoff Bank, is the largest digital bank not just in Russia but in the world by number of customers, who number 10 million.

Market cap: $11B

No obvious American analogues, but it’s an very clean and user-friendly product that dominates Russian fintech. Added bonus: Neo-Tsarist aesthetics.

FUD: Has already doubled in the past half a year, so will probably take a pause in further growth.

 

Another fintech company of note is payments processor Qiwi. However, it’s quite dated and much of its recent price movements are driven by rumors over an imminent buyout by Yandex (which has failed to materialize).

 

PREDICTION. Huge #FOMO into Russian “Big Tech” in next few years driven by increasing numbers of Russian investors and cheap American money migrating to emerging market for cheaper assets. This will replicate what happened in the US during 2010s. Yandex worth $250B by 2030, Ozon worth $100B. OOM-tier increase across this sector producing gainz rarely seen outside crypto.

 

Perhaps the very best thing about this is that the two most common and obvious objections FUDs against Russian Tech should in fact turbocharge it even further.

Sanctions Risk – In the short-term, increased American sanctions – should they actually happen – could drive out American investors, who despite poor US-Russian intergovernmental relations account for a stunning 50% of all foreign ownership of Russian stocks (the Brits account for another 20%… despite high trade flows, Europeans only accounted for 26%, probably due to continental aversion to stock investment). OTOH, this also increases the risk of significant Russian restrictions on American tech within Russia. There are already moves towards this that I have covered on this blog due to American Big Tech censorship of state-affiliated Russians – and this isn’t just happening in Russia, but in some other countries concerned with American tech pushing a culturally SJW and bluntly pro-American regime geopolitical agenda. Restrictions or outright blocks on American social media will unequivocally benefit their Russian competitors by opening up their market share to them. Restrictions on Google-YouTube and Facebook/Twitter will directly benefit Yandex and Mail Group in a sector that naturally tends to winner takes all. While those Russians who really need it for work or are heavily invested into Western networks will get around them via VPNs, the normies are unlikely to bother with it. Meanwhile, those Russian companies are insulated from counter-reactions by virtue of having very little presence in Western markets in the first place. Consequently, the trend towards national fragmentation of the Internet that Balaji S. Srinivasan often talks about constitutes a major downside risk for American Big Tech but an upside one for Russian Big Tech. (While being largely irrelevant to Chinese Big Tech, which completely dominates the Chinese online ecosystem thanks to American Big Tech having been barred from there from the start).

Rule of Law – Many Russian stocks trade at a discount relative to earnings on account of the perception (not on the whole unjustified) that Russia has inferior rule of law and property rights protections. (Though this disproportionately affects state-owned companies like Gazprom and Rosneft). However, this also happens to be a “fixed” factor and as such, irrelevant – it is, after all, the dynamics that are important so far as changes in valuation are concerned. At worst, perceptions on the Russian business environment will remain constant, which will keep the p/e ratio steady – you’ll still make tons of money when Yandex and Ozon earnings increase fivefold and they start paying dividends. However, should perceptions of Russia improve to the point that it becomes perceived as a “normal” developed country to do business in, then default p/e ratios could double and you could be looking at crypto-tier returns for Russian tech during the 2020s. Moreover, this should be set against the possibility of Western and especially American corporations being hamstrung by increasing inane social justice-driven ESG requirements.

 

***

* Necessary boorish disclaimer that this is entertainment not financial advice, invest at own risk, DYOR, etc, etc.

 
• Category: Economics • Tags: Finance, RTS stock market, Russia, Technology 

 

~ Fake News. Final unraveling of the Russian Bounties “story.” As I said from the beginning, if you believe that the Taliban need Russian rubles to kill Americans, you’re either a neocon or a moron.

Glenn Greenwald on this topic.

~ Scott Alexander – Prospectus On Próspera. Think of the flies. (Or, why I’m not a fan of “solarpunk”).

FWIW, I think it’s a cool experiment, but I don’t think much will come out of it. It’s just downshifting on a very large & organized scale, but one that strips much of the benefits from it. Would you want to live in this ghastly modernist architectural ensemble, paying US-tier prices for property? What exactly is the point when you could go to, like, Puerto Rico – which I gather has become a playground for Bitcoin millionaires who don’t want to pay taxes? So Prospera will select for weird libertarian American ideologues, culturally insular ones at that (wanting to create their own bubble in the Third World) plus equally weird Hondurans with high % of confidence tricksters, etc. (more normal/talented ones can just go to the US). Doesn’t sound like a recipe for success.

~ Coinbase. Clown market values a CEX that’s 10x smaller and crappier than Binance at more than a third of that of the world computer (which I told you not to invest in). But imagine what happens when this boomer money goes into crypto directly.

~ Crypto bans don’t work.

~ Paul Robinson (RT) – Biden’s Russia policy ludicrous, unbelievable, contradictory & unprecedented: First offers Putin summit & then imposes sanctions

~ Moscow Procurator threatens to recognize Navalny’s organizations – the FBK, and the regional Navalny HQs – as extremist. Not illogical, it seems hardly wise to maintain a de facto network of soviets-in-waiting that answer to an increasingly hostile foreign Power.

~ Woke Spooks. I suppose it was the inevitable that the CIA would eventually drink its own Kool-Aid. This is good for the world.

~ Ukraine now says it believes Iran intentionally shot down Flight 752. What level of ass-kissing is this?

~ Guillaume Durocher – Bumbling Towards the Biosingularity. The contradictions of biopolitics: Leftoids often de facto pro-eugenic while decrying it, while populist rightoids de facto pro-dysgenic even while many of their brighter elements recognize its importance.

~ Twitter creates a #MilkTeaAlliance emoji. China is correct to block access to it as a tool of a foreign Power intent on its dissolution. Russia needs to follow suite.

~ RT: Our two mortal enemies are Russia & ISIS, says explosive new report on ‘existential threats’ from Georgia’s top security agency

Georgian: “You are worse than ISIS.”

Russian: “That is an interesting opinion, but I’m waiting for you to weigh the tomatoes.”

 
• Tags: Open Thread 

Society 282 in action!

But actually, it’s not just a “society” (as in “social pressure”, no matter how artificial) by now. No flight lists are compiled by the federal government. All that because Fuentes turned out to a (legal) protest for Orange Man.

You have Ricky Vaughn railroaded for literally posting memes on Twitter in 2016.

And now, thanks to the last bastion of free journalism in the form of tabloids like The Daily Mail, we now learn that the Feds had no intention of letting Derek Chauvin walk free even in the event that the jury voted him innocent of murder for failing to correctly diagnose a fentanyl overdose when arresting a violent repeat criminal.

Overall, it’s hard to dispute Fuentes’ own assessment of the situation:

PS. I warned you against buying Coinbase for purely technical reasons – if you want exposure to cryptos, get the real thing, as opposed to an overvalued cex that augments crypto exposure and with a vastly inferior instrument to boot that gives none of the actual benefits of crypto. (Correctly, as it turns out, as it was promptly dumped upon by its own execs). That Fuentes was kicked from Coinbase further reinforces this point: “Not your keys, not your coins.” Nobody can take your Metamask wallet from you for being an anti-USG dissident. Don’t use wallets that you don’t control for dissident fundraising! Especially not ones with strong KYC and in bed with the IRS like Coinbase. That sort of defeats the entire point of crypto as it pertains to censorship resistance!

 

US Embassy in Moscow:

Reduction of Consular Services – Effective May 12, U.S. Embassy Moscow will reduce consular services offered to include only emergency U.S. citizen services and a very limited number of age-out and life or death emergency immigrant visas. These service reductions are necessary due to the Russian government’s April 23 notification of its intention to prohibit U.S. Mission Russia from employing foreign nationals in any capacity. Non-immigrant visa processing for non-diplomatic travel will cease.

Trump – Muslim travel ban.

Biden – Russian travel ban.

Anyhow, as I keep saying, this “social distancing” from the US and the West in general is a good idea. It blunts the impact of bad Western memes and tars their promoters within Russia by association.

Meanwhile, it’s not as if Russians have much to do in the US.

Tourism? You can fly to well nigh anywhere in European Russia from Moscow for $50-$75. Why do Russians need the US when they have this at home?

Business? Trade with the US is something like 5% of Russia’s trade balance. The only “physical” American things I can think off from the top of my head that I use are Tabasco sauce and the garbage disposal unit (pretty exotic in Europe).

Education? So far as 98% of Russians who send their children abroad are concerned, a Western education is needed to signal their social superiority to vatniks, as opposed to human capital accumulation. There are edge cases where this might still be useful (e.g. grad work with specific specialists in some STEM fields), but otherwise, there is no meaningful difference between undergraduate or graduate courses as taught in Russia or the US. Barring voluntary-mandatory extracurriculars on white privilege – but somehow, I think Russians can do without it.

Birth tourism? Something that 1,000 Russians do per year. A drop in the ocean. Inconveniencing the type of people who do this can only be to Russia’s benefit.

That said, this is a significant development on two accounts. First, it means that restrictions on travel will probably ramp up in parallel between Russia and the EU, because Europe follows America’s lead (indeed, former Estonian President Toomas Ilves has suggested as much), and between China and the US, because much of what has been implemented against Russia is also getting copied over with respect to China as the cold war between them ramps up. Such a severing between China and the US will be much more significant, given the much more intensive people flows and economic links between them, than between Russia and the US.

Second, it constitutes an ironic contrast to the situation during the Cold War, when the USSR prevented its people from traveling abroad. Now it does not such thing, and it is, in contrast, the Americans who are now blocking Russians from visiting the US. Ironically, this most inconveniences money pro-American fifth columnists within Russia, not the vatniks who constitute the Putin base.

 

Population is power, so it pays to keep track of it (along with national IQ and GDPcc), for those with an interest in geopolitics and futurism.

I used to spend way too much time poring over statistics almanacs and the CIA World Factbook during my school years, so I have a pretty good fix on the populations of major countries.

That is, when someone names “population of-“, the first number that leaps to my head is:

  • Germany – 82M
  • France – 65M
  • UK – 65M
  • Italy – 60M
  • USA – 320M
  • Russia – 145M
  • China – 1.3B

These are all broadly accurate, though China is now converging to 1.4B, the US is at 330M, and some other minor discrepancies.

They are also major countries so I “update” them more frequently.

In the case of smaller countries, I am less accurate, because the information is less important and because I update it more frequently. For instance, earlier this year, I was shocked to discover that Serbia’s population was 7M, not 10M. I had obviously kept conflating it with all its rightful territories territories still intact. But such cases are rare, at least for Europe.

But this becomes much less accurate when you expand into Third World countries:

  • India – 1.1B
  • Indonesia – 230M
  • Nigeria – 150M
  • Bangladeshi – 150M
  • Egypt – 90M
  • Turkey – 80M
  • Iran – 80M
  • Ethiopia – 70M
  • DRC – 50M

I know in my head that all of these populations are larger, but those are still the first figures that tend to come to mind when those countries are named.

In reality, the differences can be pretty stark: India is converging with China to 1.4B, Indonesia is at 270M, Nigeria is approaching 200M, Egypt is at 100M, Ethiopia is at 110M, and the DRC is at 85M.

The Third World countries are underestimated, twice over for two reasons, first because they are changing much more quickly so it is easy to be left behind, and second because they’re less important so mentally updated less often anyway.

Then there are a few countries, mostly in Eastern Europe, which have instead lost quite a lot of people. For instance, Ukraine is probably around 35M now, but “mental image” is still at 45M or so.

This is something that affects me and that I find amusing. Also probably quite an important phenomenon as a source of bias (failure to update), and it doesn’t just concern demographics. It’s an even bigger issue so far as perceptions of economic development, or military strength, are concerned. For instance, many “analysts” seem to believe that China outside its eastern seaboard, and Russia outside Moscow, are a twilight zone of peasant hovels and dilapidated post-industrial ruins, respectively. Which may have had some element of truth in the 1990s but are absolutely outdated today, serving as cope for insular Westerners.

 
• Category: Economics • Tags: Demographics, Media Bias, Rationality 

I have compared the current standoff in Donbass to a poker game. By amassing troops around Ukraine, Putin let it be known that a Ukrainian attack on Donbass would be – well, if not assuredly catastrophic, then at least extremely risky for its continued statehood.

Ukraine could raise by going ahead with it anyway. It has spent the past couple of months mobilizing its troops, and not going ahead now will frustrate its aggressive nationalists.

At that point, Russia could call – defend the Donbass and throw back the Ukrainians. But then NS2 will be flushed and there will be a bunch of further sanctions (though their impact now will be modest).

It could raise again with a full on attack through Kharkov and Crimea to encircle the Ukrainian formations in the Donbass, from Crimea to Odessa, and even from Bryansk and Belarus on Sumy and Kiev.

Or it could fold and allow the Ukrainians to conquer Donbass. That would shatter Russia’s credibility, with focus subsequently turning to Crimea and provoking internal nationalist opposition to Putin. This would be the best scenario for Ukraine and the West. But, unlikely to happen – and the Ukrainians probably realize that.

Ideal scenario for Russia would be to retain NS2, which would have the side benefit of depriving Ukraine of $3B per year (its military budget is $5B per year and its GDP is $150B). At that point, Zelensky would have to make a choice between guns and butter, since speculations about a post-Maidan economic boom in Ukraine have turned out to be svidomy hopium, as a look at the statistics will immediately tell.

The US did use the opportunity to further wreck Russia’s image in the West and to strain relations with some ECE countries to near breaking point (looks like conjuring up Russian plots has become a hobby amongst ECE limitrophes from Montenegro and Bulgaria to Czechia). Then again, Russia doesn’t particularly need good relations with them. They are uninteresting from a trade or technology transfer viewpoint. That some moneyed Russians, many of them liberals opposed to Putin, buy up property in Prague doesn’t make Czechia important to Russia (Czech delusions aside).

Zelensky doesn’t really have any good options now.

He can still attack the Donbass, and indeed the incidence of Ukrainian shelling of Donetsk has increased today after the announcement of the end of the Russian “exercises.”

He can withdraw. But then he’d be inviting challenges from nationalist hardliners. And, come the NS2-related budget crunch, some hard choices between guns and butter. Elections are coming up in 2023.

Unless it can generate East Asian-tiger style economic growth, Ukrainian military power relative to Russian will probably peak in the early 2020s. Cheap assembly work for German firms (that even the Poles shun) and NEET ITshniki are not going to generate that kind of economic growth. Russia has internal economies of scale and technological clusters that Ukraine is not in a position to replicate. By the time Ukraine gets its masses of DIY Bayraktars, Russia will have Okhotnik drones that can sweep them from the skies. No less importantly, by that time China will have increased its relative power to the US further and the Taiwan issue will be creeping to a resolution. The US has steadfastly positioned itself as an enemy of Russia ever since the end of the Cold War. There will be no end of pressure on any Russian regime to settle scores with the US when it runs into difficulties in the Pacific.

 

The Navalny campaign is calling for nationwide protests on April 21 after the failure of their campaign to even get half a million people (quick arithmetic: 0.3% of Russia’s population) to register and commit to coming out and protesting on their website.

I don’t see much coming out of it. I correctly said that the previous protests would be nothingburgers, predicting that they would decline in turnout over time, and I was correct. So I think I speak with some authority when I say that this latest round of protests won’t be a big deal either.

That said, there’s one curiosity I’d like to highlight. Data blogger (and oppositionist) Seva Bashirov has a map showing the percentage of residents of Russia’s cities that plan to come out to these Free Navalny! protests.

Couple of notable things here.

First, Moscow (0.42% registered) is no longer the protest “capital” that it was a decade ago. It’s still relatively protest-friendly, having a high concentration of bobos/SWPLs. But not more so than Yekaterinburg (0.49%), which had an opposition mayor from 2013-18; Novosibirsk (0.41%);Tomsk (0.39%), and a bunch of other, mostly northern cities. BTW, this reflects a long-standing Russian electoral division between north and south, in which north is more “liberal” while south is more “traditionalist” (i.e., pro-Communist in the 1990s; pro-Putin from 2010).

Second – as per above – the south is more traditionalist. Though the least enthusiastic cities are the Caucasian ethnic minority cities: Khasavyurt (0.01%), Dagestan; Grozny (0.01%), Chechnya; Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia; Nalchik, Kabardino-Balkaria; Makhachkala (0.04%), Dagestan.

However, here are the more “stunning” results – at least so far as Westerners might be concerned. Excluding those ethnic minority republics, whose denizens are mostly apolitical, and some of whom (hilariously) view Navalny as a Russian nationalist, the least Navalny-enthusiastic cities in Russia are:

Sevastopol (0.09%), Crimea.

Simferopol (0.08%), Crimea.

The two major cities of the “forced to vote at gunpoint” for annexation into Russia show some of the least support of ethnic Russian cities. Presumably, they’re uninterested in Navalny’s idea of having a referendum on returning to Ukraine.

Shakhty (0.06%), right on the border with Donbass, and culturally a part of the Russo-Ukrainian mix that defines it. Its name literally translates to “mines” (i.e. coal mines). They do not like Navalny either

Pyatigorsk (0.04%), Stavropol. Stavropol region was 30-40% Ukrainian during the Russian Empire, which later Russified.

Stavropol, the regional capital: 0.20%. Still well below average for cities of its size.

Bryansk, which is decidedly Russian but has significant Ukrainian and Belorussian influences: 0.16%.

It is quite funny that the highest “Ukrainian” ancestry regions of the Russian world display the least support for Ukrainian nationalist Navalny, while arguably the most classically “Russian” (stemming from the Russian North-West) display the most.

Bearing this in mind, I suspect that the last defenders of the Ukrainian World will be ethnic Russian Nazis in the Azov Battalion in a Gotterdammerung-like last stand against the Putlerreich.

 

I sympathize with Navalny’s radical weight loss plan, I truly do. Following on from his looksmaxxing Novichok Protocol, like him or not, we have to recognize him as a man truly dedicated to self-improvement.

That said, I would strongly recommend supplementation if you plan to fast for more than three days.

I wrote a helpful guide here: https://akarlin.com/health/#Fasting

For extended fasts (>3 days), I would also recommend the following supplements to avoid feeling weak and light-headed after a couple of days:

  • Daily RDA of magnesium, potassium, zinc.
  • 2 tsp of Himalayan salt.
  • Cream of tartar.
  • Apple cider vinegar (with water) to enhance absorption of the above.
  • Multivitamins.
  • Plenty of water (tea, etc., also OK to flavor it with lemon juice).

Without supplementation, you start feeling quite bad after three days. With it, you can do it for at least a week or more often for several weeks on end.

If I’m ever imprisoned for my political beliefs, I will be sure to do a hunger strike. Maximizes public sympathy while looksmaxxing and cleansing toxins (for real, not like juicing fads). Hurts productivity but you’re not going to be very productive in jail anyway.

 

I would unironically endorse this, if perhaps not for Ilves Toomas’ reasons.

I wouldn’t have several years ago when I still thought there was some chance of productive relations between Russia and the West, and thought that examining misperceptions about Russia in the Anglosphere was a legitimate and effective way of achieving that.

But today, it’s more of a zero-sum game, in which Western antagonism works to Russia’s advantage:

  • Diminishes lustre of emigration (brain drain), while creating the converse effect with respect to repatriation.
  • Russian elites become at least slightly more recalcitrant to park capital abroad.
  • Makes the West and its bad Western memes (#BLM, etc.) as well as their domestic agents and promoters toxic by association.

There remain, to be sure, significant economic and technology transfer reasons to avoid a full breakdown in relations. But these have become much diminished through Russia’s own domestic development, the rising profile of China, and its development of good relations with third parties like South Korea and Israel.

I suspect, as with anti-Semitism and Jewish/Israeli interests, a background of moderate Russophobia is ultimately net good for Russian state and Russians. Probably in fact more so than the Jews/Israel, because Russia has economies of scale that they do not.

And those relative benefits have increased over the past year, as the West has become more unhinged and less attractive.

Last but certainly not least, is that precisely Russians who are likeliest to want to go to the West and associate/engage with it who are the most Occidentophile. It will be very funny to see the likes of @kirlant cope and seethe as they are deported the Central European University.

Even better, there will be a pack of svidomy Ukrainians and Butthurt Belters – their only sympathizers in Russia – mocking, heckling, and laughing at them receiving their just desserts, simply because they are just very hateful and not very bright people who hate them just for being Russians (even if they hate Russia themselves).

 

There’s not much to add now except that we are approaching the moment of maximum danger. (I noted that if it happens, it will probably happen sometime from late April to July).

What I think essentially happened is that the Ukrainians wanted to do an Operation Storm on Donbass, which is why movements of military equipment into the region began to be observed more than a month ago. Russia cannot allow that to succeed, which is why it began its own mobilization to the Ukrainian borders.

As I pointed out from the start, Ukraine’s primary aim if it loses – as it would, if Russia was to openly intervene in Donbass – is to shut down NS2 and save its budget $3B per year (a significant sum for a country with a military budget of $5B and a GDP of $150B). It might also then get more support for NATO. This deal would not be to Russia’s preferences, so it raised, in poker terms, by credibly threatening much more significant consequences in both rhetoric (MFA spokeswoman Maria Zakharova made an oblique reference to “irreversible consequences for the Ukrainian statehood”) and boots on the border which now number somewhere in between 30,000 and 100,000*. Just a few days ago, Russia closed the Kerch Strait to foreign warships from now until October.

That said, it still doesn’t make very much sense to attack Ukraine when NS2 is on the verge of completion (it is not like anybody will buy into a false flag explanation).

On the other hand, there are other factors pushing the situation to a head. The Biden administration has finally gone ahead and sanctioned purchases of Russian OFZs, as well as put additional sanctions on companies in the Russian MIC (including one involved in producing the Sputnik V vaccine) and expelled 10 Russian diplomats. Bizarrely, the sanctions came soon after Biden suggested a summit with Putin, which made acceding to it impossible for Russia PR-wise. The US also sanctioned Russia media entities, such as Strategic Culture Foundation and SouthFront, that it alleges are controlled by Russian intelligence and their propaganda instruments such as Twitter promptly banned hyperlinks to them. Whether or not it was coordinated with the Americans is hard to say, but this was followed by with expulsions of Russian diplomats from Poland and Czechia – in the latter case, wheeling out a bizarre conspiracy theories about the Petrov & Boshirov duo blowing up weapons shipments bound for Ukraine back in 2014**. Faced with this sanctions and propaganda offensive, the desirability and indeed realism of maintaining some semblance of productive relations with the West must be diminishing by the day.

At the same time, Sino-American relations continue going from bad to worse, with China mounting unprecedented displays of force with respect to its own separatist svidomy entity. Conspiracy theories around the Putin-Burkhalter meeting aside, one other major explanation as to why Russia didn’t realize Novorossiya in 2014 was that China vetoed the idea. But now China is larger and stronger than back then and is rapidly decoupling from the American-dominated world order. So now this might no longer be a significant consideration. Notably, the Chinese recently sent a business delegation to Crimea after Ukraine – a paragon of rule of law – confiscated shares in Motor Sich, an aerospace engine manufacturer, from Chinese investors, probably under American pressure.

It’s anyone’s guess what will happen now:

  1. Perhaps there’ll be a few more months of posturing and war scares before the excitement dies back down. as Zelensky gets cold feet and calls off the mustering of Ukrainian forces in Donbass.
  2. Perhaps he doesn’t, and Russia lets Operation Storm succeed.
  3. Or it pushes it back from Donbass and leaves everything else unchanged.
  4. Or it launches the Operation Novorossiya that was canceled back in 2014 (assuming it existed back then for real – we don’t know that for sure, of course).
  5. Or perhaps Russia launches it anyway without prior Ukrainian “input”.

The one minimal thing I would note is that so far as Russia is concerned (4) would seem to be much more preferable to (3).

In this scenario, it will be painted as an aggressor (already has been) either way and will have a ton of sanctions piled up on it anyway, which will almost certainly include the cancelation of NS2 and a broad commitment to Ukrainian NATO membership. But in (3), it only gets the half of Donbass that it already de facto controls, while in (4) it gets a corridor to Crimea and Transnistria (including a resolution of the Crimean water problem), half a dozen major industrial cities, and 20M more people.

***

* I set out this version in my latest appearance on Sergey Zadumov’s show (in Russian).

** Commenter mal speculates about the Czech military supplies warehouse explosions, now being retroactively ascribed to Russia (the Petrov & Boshirov duo, to be exact, LOL), was related to CIA gun running to Syria:

My take on it. Petrov and Boshirov are couriers (possibly intelligence related) and Bellingcat somehow obtained their itinerary and is now hounding them for propaganda purposes.

On Czechia warehouse. That warehouse was storing weapons of Bulgarian arms dealer. Bellingcat says those weapons were supposed to go to Ukraine. But that warehouse blew up in October 2014 and the Atlantic Council (that pays Bellingcat) says Bulgaria started arms shipments to Ukraine in 2015. So how would people know to blow up that specific warehouse in 2014, if it wasn’t shipping anything to Ukraine yet? I mean maybe they saw preliminary contracts but seems like a stretch.

Anyway, Bulgarian arms dealer claimed he was poisoned in 2015. He tested positive for organophosphate by Finnish lab. That’s your Novichok and Petrov/Boshirov connection. And of course he survived, that’s how we can be sure it was Novichok. Unfortunately, Western media forgot to bribe their chemical weapons expert, and he looked at Finnish lab results and said “that’s pesticide”. Oops. So much for the most lethal chemical weapon known to man. That’s bad for the narrative, but explains why Novichok never kills anyone – it’s a garden chemical from a shop. There goes “only Russia can make it” story.

Back to the warehouse. It used to belong to Czech Army, but in 2011 it was rented to a very shady gun running firm called Imex Group. That timing is just perfect for Timber Sycamore startup. They were very sloppy and had a number of explosions.

TLDR version:

Western partners are trying to sabotage Rosatom nuclear reactor bid by blaming Russian intelligence couriers for weapons explosion caused by CIA asset incompetence while those assets were running guns to jihadists in Syria. I bet Hillary Clinton is in there somewhere.

 

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Russia, Ukraine, United States, War in Donbass 

Ethiopia has long done quite well by Sub-Saharan African standards. It has a good record of human accomplishment, being the only country in the region to have developed a literary corpus before European colonialism.

But it was, until recently, extremely poor. But no longer so after a decade of some of the highest growth rates in the world, which has been faster than China’s every single year during the 2010s:

Despite Corona and the ethnic unrest, growth remained at 6.1% in 2020.

This is a vindication for the HBD theory of economic growth, which says that over the long-term, as countries exit Malthusian traps and adopt development best practices, they should converge to a level correspondent with their human capital. Ethiopian polygenic IQ probably isn’t significantly worse than Kenya’s, which has the best psychometric performance in SSA, so I expect Ethiopia to sail smoothly to its level (political shocks aside). But whether it can continue China-level growth beyond a Kenyan GDPpc of ~$5,000 is another matter.

 
• Category: Economics • Tags: Ethiopia, Hbd, Iq and Wealth 

This week’s Open Thread.

(1) Vitalik Buterin – Prediction Markets: Tales from the Election. Best explanation of why predictions markets were giving Trump 10% well after it was clear it was <1%.

(2) Balaji – How to Start a New Country. One of my favorite Indians. He discusses his new website (amongst other things) with Tim Ferriss in podcast.

(3) Scott Alexander reviews a biography of Recep Erdogan. Important to understand

(4) Glenn Greenwald got violently robbed in Brazil and only mentioned it a couple of weeks later. Meanwhile, Blue Checkmark hacks whine about being subjected to violence for being criticized on Twitter.

Greenwald is becoming increasingly based in general.

(5) Robert Stark is now blogging at Substack. Latest: An Alternative Vision for California.

(6) Peter Frost – Recent cognitive evolution in West Africa. The Mende of Sierra Leone show much lower polygenic IQ scores than the Yoruba of Nigeria (who score almost as high as African-Americans). Unfortunately, no data on Igbo.

Not too surprised about this. The Benin metalwork I saw at the British Museum was quite respectable.

(7) Russia Warns of Anti-White ‘Aggression’ in U.S. Good troll.

(8) RT: Armenia’s hapless PM Pashinyan to resign

(9) Paul Robinson on Western propaganda vs. Russian vaccines while accusing Russia of promoting anti-vaxx sentiment.

(10) /r/slatestarcodex on superiority of bullet points over prose. I sympathize with this.

(11) The Hill: The new race to the moon: the Artemis Alliance vs. the Sino-Russian Axi s

(12) Roko on why rationalists (largely) failed to foresee crypto.

(13) Alexander Kruel – Fermi Paradox gets harder. Also on the seven tribes of intelligence in terms of mathematical abilities.

(14) Razib Khan – Enter Stepplandia

 
• Tags: Open Thread 

It strikes me that most of life’s most exquisite comforts can be had with ~$10M or so.

  • Apartment in the center of a world class city (luxury condo if in the Second World).
  • Holiday home.
  • Nice vacations and gourmet restaurants.
  • Model-tier gf.

^ The virgin financial docs sleuthing to suggest Bad Orange Man isn’t a billionaire vs. the Chad PHYSIOGNOMY proof of the same.

Conversely, though, it seems to me that you can’t do very much at all extra between about $10M and $10B.

Only significant exception that comes to mind is space tourism, for which you currently need ~$20M (so need to be at least $10Ms range). But that sort of proves the general point. And Papa Musk should lower that number a couple orders of magnitude anyway over the next decade, to something commensurate with taking a cruise on a Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker in the Arctic (~$40k).

I suppose another example is that owning and operating a private jet becomes realistic at $100M, whereas at $10M it would be highly profligate. But, again, that’s small peas in the grand scheme of things.

To radically transform the world – to start influencing major areas of research, funding insurrectionist and irredentist movements, etc. – you really need to be in the $10B+ range.

Bloomberg gives Soros wealth at $8B, but other sources peg it at closer to $25B. Musk of course is at ~$200B. He also has singularly big ambitions, such as Mars colonization, which will really require trillions.

Sean McMeekin estimates that the Germans gave the Bolsheviks 50 million gold marks (=$1B today) which would confirm the point.

Yes, you can strike lucky with more targeted spending (NRx/rationalist-sphere people make a big deal of “leverage”). But as with making money itself, you need both brains and luck to find that moonshot. German attempts to foment instability in Britain by way of Ireland failed.

The LDNR exists in significant part thanks to the semi-private efforts of Konstantin Malofeev. Another example of money “well leveraged” (= producing real world results).

But for every such effort, you have ten that involve throwing money into a hole. Bill Gates’ efforts to find the next African Einstein? Press X for doubt.

Scattershot policy in which you fund many different groups and people in the expectation that some of them strike gold. This describes Jacob Schiff and Soros. But you do need a lot of money for that.

You could have probably bumped up research in radical life extension forwards by at least a couple of years if you had invested hundreds of millions in it a decade ago. (Now the commercial private sector is taking it up, making it increasingly moot). But most billionaires didn’t get to be billionaires by throwing their money around on moonshots. They are spiritual normies. Musk and Soros, in their own ways, are not. But they’re the exception, not the rule.

Anyhow, what I’m really getting at here is that there’s a big filter between the mere millionaires and the billionaires.

Seems to me that most normies who do “make it” leave it that and enjoy life poolside. It takes true autism after reaching that point to trundle on into the billions.

But that, plus vision beyond those billions, seems to be a very rare thing.

PS. Bezos is also a normie. His main distinction from the normie normie is that he at least recognizes his normieness, but tries to disguise it by emulating Musk.

 
• Category: Economics • Tags: Billionaires, Money 

From the indispensable BioHackInfo:

China’s new Criminal Code, which came into effect four weeks ago on March 1st, has a new section dedicated to ‘illegal medical practices’, which makes it a punishable crime to create gene-edited babies, human clones and animal-human chimeras.

The new section is an amendment to Article 336 of China’s Criminal Law, and officially outlaws “the implantation of genetically-edited or cloned human embryos into human or animal bodies, or the implantation of genetically edited or cloned animal embryos into human bodies,” — with penalties ranging from fines to seven years imprisonment.

Back in 2018 on November the 25th, Chinese biophysicist Dr He Jiankui announced that he had used gene-editing tool CRISPR to create the world’s first gene-edited babies. Dr He had modified the babies’ CCR5 gene — which the HIV virus uses as a pathway enter the cell. Through this CCR5 modification, the babies were made immune to HIV infection, and quite possibly had their cognitive capabilities enhanced.

Dr He was widely rebuked for this experiment, and after a storm of media-generated outrage and mounting pressure from influential Western bioethicists, Dr He was detained, and on December 30th 2019, a Chinese court sentenced him to three years in prison.

And so China takes itself out of the race towards the Biosingularity.

This is arguably a more monumental development than the ordinary humdrum of news about Corona or Ukraine or Taiwan or whatever the latest /r/worldnews headline is, though one that will only be recognized as such decades hence.

Nor is it an entirely unexpected one:

Anyway, what I’m saying is, one shouldn’t necessarily expect the biosingularity to originate in East Asia. While before I thought China had much better prospects than the US, now I rate them about equally.

As I wrote back then, contra stereotypes about “rationalist” East Asians, in reality:

  1. Opinion polls show Chinese support for genetic edits to remove disease or increase IQ is very similar to American/Western ones;
  2. Chinese laws were already more restrictive on the matter (human germline modifications are outright banned);
  3. The prominence of SJWs aside, there is less acceptance of evolutionary approaches to human behavior amongst Chinese social scientists relative to North American ones.

It’s also not extremely surprising from a deep historical perspective. This was, after all, the civilization that gave up on oceanic expeditions because nomads were harassing their peasants (or some similar banality), and banned unsanctioned maritime trade (haijin) because they were afraid of Japanese pirates. It’s at root a very risk-averse culture, but only those who take risks get to drink champagne, as the Russians say.

Hilariously, it seems that this was in part thanks to the influence of Western bioethicists, a parasitic caste that should unironically be sent off to Gulags. It is amusing how, thanks to the respect and prestige they enjoy in the world, Westerners often end up “winning” even when they’re working to torpedo themselves (China sabotaging itself thus being good for the Western Powers). Then again, the early Chinese were apparently hanging on the words of Caucasoid shamans thousands of years ago, so has anything really changed?

 

That said, this doesn’t materially change the fact that the twin forces of SJW egalitarian zealotry and religious fundamentalism may yet make the Biosingularity unrealizable in the West too.

So which civilization is now humanity’s best bet to avoid the Age of Malthusian Industrialism – assuming, at least, that mainstream AGI timelines don’t pan out?

The answer may surprise you!

Partial list of worldwide opinion polls on genetic editing:

U.S., 1996: 35% support editing for physical traits
U.K., 1994: 8% support, 88% oppose editing for intelligence*
New Zealand, 1993: 24% support, 67% oppose editing for intelligence (n = 329)
Australia, 1993: 27% support, 62% oppose editing for intelligence (n = 201)
Japan, 1993: 26% support, 54% oppose editing for intelligence (n = 352)
India, 1993: 70% support, 23% oppose editing for intelligence** (n = 568)
Thailand, 1993: 74% support, 22% oppose editing for intelligence** (n = 680)
Russia, 1993: 35% support, 49% oppose editing for intelligence** (n = 446)
Israel, 1993: 22% support, 70% oppose editing for intelligence** (n = 50)

More recent poll:

Vedic Hyperpower 2100?

 

I know this will come as a shock to many of my regular readers, but I will nonetheless ask you to respect my new identity as a Black Trans Russian (#BTR, pronouns: she/her) and support me in my transition.

You can do that verbally, or even better, financially. Those surgeries don’t come cheap.

Black Trans Russian Lives Matter! #BTRLM

***

In other news:

~ Steady trickle of new escalations in the Donbass, with news of Russian military equipment being brought to the border. This is a Russian response to the Ukrainian buildup in Donbass, ongoing for two months. I think the Americans are frontrunning the narrative of Russian aggression for when Ukraine attacks the LDNR and Russia defends it, to create grounds for sanctions. My followers are about evenly split in assessing the chance of serious fighting in Donbass within the next half year between <20%, 20-50%, and 50%+, respectively.

~ mal comments on Russian developments in space radiator chillers.

~ Vladislav Inozemtsev – The Physics of Sanctions (h/t Thulean Friend).

~ Sber-chan

~ In addition to my stunning and brave decision to transition, Peter Schiff has unexpectedly endorsed Bitcoin and there are reports that Trump is seeking to buy Putin’s Palace in Gelendzhik and convert it into a 5 star hotel.

~ Global Times has also repealed a Report on Human Rights Violations in the United States in 2020. Foreword: “I can’t breathe!” — George Floyd.

 
• Tags: BLM, Open Thread, Transgender 
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.