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So as the facts roll this entire affair seems to become more and more slapstick, as we now learn that #FentanylFloyd was OD’ing on multiple drugs including fentanyl and methamphetamine.

Floyd was on 11ng/ml of fentanyl. That’s apparently a lethal dose.

He had also been infected with the coronavirus in April. Though apparently asymptomatic, this may have further increased his fragility.

He was also an on and off porn star (you can check out some of his “work” on PornHub if you are so inclined) so that’s also potentially a whole host of STDs.

Rather bizarre to me that a good majority of Americans decided to have a hysterical fit over the rather predictable consequences of some heavily drugged up career criminal getting arrested and restrained (Floyd’s rap sheet included threatening a pregnant woman with a gun in the course of a robbery).

But who am I to lecture Americans on their religious beliefs, LOL.

However, what I found even more interesting is that one of the highly multicultural (two whites, one Black, one Asian) policemen who “colluded” with Derek Chauvin (based name) to kill George Floyd speaks Russian.

An anon sends me the following message about J. Alexander Kueng:

There is speculation his father is Russian and his mother black, but this is just speculation. Other say he is a Tartar. There is a claim the “J.” is for Jermija which means in Russian “appointed by God.”

Further rumors say he inherited Russian citizenship. If he is Russian, that means false accusations have been made against a Russian and is being rail-roaded like Maria Butina. He was a new low-level rookie and it is obvious from the video that he had no authority in the situation and treated Floyd OK.

If he is Russian, how can Russians best rally to his defense?

Please forward this email to anyone that is against someone that is being persecuted because he is of Russian ancestry. If it turns out he is Russian the Russian-American community needs to generate support for his freedom.

The Russian language ability, at least, is confirmed: http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/www/groups/public/@mpd/documents/webcontent/wcmsp-224778.pdf

I think the libs are missing a golden opportunity to reinforce their narrative that it is Putler, the “godfather of extreme nationalism” (HRC), who is not just incidentally but directly responsible for their race war.

 
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I didn’t comment the story at the time because it seemed so absurd on the face of it, but who knows?

Anyhow:

“The entire case came into being as a result of internal feuding among workers at the embassy… with one of them sending made-up information to our (counterintelligence service) about a planned attack on Czech politicians,” Babis said in a statement carried live on television.

“We are interested in having good relations with all countries, but we are a sovereign state and such actions are unacceptable on our territory.”

Three politicians including the mayor of Prague were given police protection after reports that a Russian man who could be a threat to them had arrived to Prague.

The Russian Embassy denounced the decision announced by Babis as a “fabricated provocation”.

Fact of the matter is, Russian intelligence services are not cool enough (and perhaps not competent enough, either) to take out hits on foreign Russophobes.

Who are a dime a dozen, anyway.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Assassinations, Czechia, Fake News, Russia 
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When the results of PISA 2018 were unveiled, there was significant skepticism about the much improved results from Sweden, based on the unimpressive coverage ratio (86%, vs. 99% in Germany) and large share of pupils excluded on account of being “new arrivals” (11%, vs. 0.4% in Germany)

Expressen reports: Sweden’s PISA success is based on false figures (Google Translate):

When the PISA results were presented in December 2019, Education Minister Anna Ekström called it “a day of joy”.

“This is a message of strength, Swedish schools are strong,” Ekström said.

Swedish 15-year-olds performed better than in the previous test in all three subjects – reading comprehension, mathematics and science – and climbed to the top of the international ranking.

At the same time, critical voices were raised against Sweden having the highest so-called “exclusion rate” in the entire world. After deciding who would write the exam, eleven percent of the students were removed from the sample, either because of disability or because they were newly arrived with poor language skills to participate.

The Express can now show how a large number of foreign students were wrongly eliminated from writing the exam, in violation of the OECD rules. And that the National Agency for Education has made serious miscalculations in its attempt to map the extent of the error.

According to their calculations, adjusting for these unsanctioned exemptions would wipe out all the improvements, and then some, observed since the 2015 assessment.

I suppose fiddling with the numbers is one way to outrun Third World immigration-driven dysgenics.

Germany, at least, was conscientious about testing everyone:

In Germany, the country in the EU after Sweden that granted the most per capita residence permit to asylum seekers during the refugee crisis, only 0.4 percent of the students in PISA 2018 were removed because they were newly arrived.

The good news, at least, is that the 2015 numbers – which were still a significant improvement from the 2012 nadir – can be considered reliable:

 
• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: Immigration, IQ, PISA, Sweden 
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The Treaty of Trianon formally expired today, correcting one of the very greatest injustices of world history, which stranded three million ethnic Hungarians outside their country’s borders.

Worst day of every Hungarians’ life is now formally annulled!

Even as I write, reports are coming in that “Can’t Turban the Orban” has ordered his armored divisions to cross into R*mania, the Ukraine, Czechia, and Croatia to rebuild Greater Hungary.

All Hungarian males between the ages of 16 and 45 are required to report to their military commissariat forthwith.

The Turanian nations have expressed solidarity with the Hungarian cause and will be sending volunteers. My very high placed contacts in the Kremlin assure me that PUTLER is already prepared to issue a statement recognizing Hungary’s new borders.

This newly acquired Lebensraum will give Hungary the geoeconomic scope to launch its very own space program, which it needs to repatriate its people to the Sirius solar system which the Hungarians hail from.

 

 
• Category: History • Tags: Humor, Hungary, Trolling 
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The other day, Russian libertarians launched a #RussianLivesMatter action today in response to a police shooting. (The history behind this remains murky).

But there were misunderstandings with Ameriburgers for “appropriating” the BLM hashtag, which were supported by Russian SJWs.

So, Russian libertarians vs. US #BLM + Russian SJWdom.

But also involved in the conflict were Russian nationalists, who had come up with the #RussianLivesMatter hashtag a while ago to highlight abuses and human rights violations against ethnic Russians. Mikhail Svetov, the euphephile (of course) lolcow leader of Russia’s libertarians, has long attempted to outreach to Russian nationalists in an attempt to steal their discourse and audience. Hence the appropriation of their hashtag, which they in turn had originally appropriated from #BLM.

Now obviously most nationalists are not on board with the libertarian agenda, and didn’t appreciate Svetov’s intervention into their discourse, so this became Russian libertarians vs. US #BLM + Russian SJWdom vs. Russian nationalists.

Finally, Russia’s ageing NPC libs at the likes of Echo of Moscow and Novaya Gazeta noticed the kerfuffle, and while supporting #RussianLivesMatter, rushed to disavow “Svetov’s nationalist” rhetoric, with Novaya Gazeta in particular clarifying that Russian stands for citizens of Russia, not ethnic Russians.

So now it was Russian libertarians vs. US #BLM + Russian SJWdom vs. Russian nationalists vs. Russian libs.

Which if nothing else opened up unparalleled avenues for trolling.

I am happy to announce I managed to intimidate one of the SJWs, a “Bashkirian non-binary lesbian” (pronouns: they/them) into submission, speechlessness, and account deletion.

Pro tip – conceal power level until it’s time to pounce!

This revelation of pure power was, apparently, enough to drive her from the Internet.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: BlackLivesMatter, Police, Russia, Trolling 
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This Bogdan Vechirko story is just perfect on so many levels of “meme convergence”:

> Be Ukrainian nationalist from Vinnytsia.
> Leave for work in a Western country, just like any Ukrainian nationalist would given the chance.
> Work intermittently as truck driver in US since 2015.
> Become #MAGA chud.
> Launch your very own “Anti-Terrorist Operation” against crowd of Antifa terrorists in Minneapolis with lorry of peace.
> Rediscover your identity as a Russian thanks to the rainbow-flag #Resistance brigade on Twitter.

Moral of the story: No matter how hard you try and larp, you will never be a Ukrainian to any Westerner. You will always be a Russian to the outside world.

 
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Took a few days. It was revving up yesterday. Now it’s in full gear and will now soon be making its way into mainstream discourse.

As I keep saying, Russiagaters are perhaps the most hardcore Americanophobes on this planet. They believe that a few Russian shitpoasters on Twitter intimately control the political behavior of 330 million Americans.

I can barely imagine a more self-degrading national victimization narrative.

But if half of Americans really insist upon it to some extent or another… who am I to argue. It’s ultimately rather flattering to us. Jews reading the Völkischer Beobachter, etc.

 

 
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Hurricane Floyd has likely ended whatever meager chances the US still had of containing its coronavirus epidemic, so sealing the fates of far more people than will die in these riots.

I am not so much talking about direct transmissions between riots, and rioters and their families further down the line, which may not be all that consequential in the large scheme of things (there aren’t that many of them). But this does cardinally shift the media narrative away from the coronavirus, ensuring that people get the impression it’s a done deal – no matter that deaths continue running at ~1,000 per day and r0 seems to be creeping above 1 again. Meanwhile, prominent Dems directly rationalizing riots by their heavily suntanned Russian Nazi constituents has just discredited everything they ever said or will ever say about the importance of social distancing, at least so far as many Republicans are concerned.

Who does the US have to thank for this?

Ultimately, it’s the hacks and quacks who made lucrative careers feeding Blacks’ persecution complex, while harassing and deplatforming “racists” for citing statistics.

Many do-gooders, or concern trolls, like to ask why HBD people are “interested”, or perhaps “obsessed”, with the biological aspects of race differences.

Well, here’s yet another example for them.

[“Hurricane Floyd” is a term made up by David Pinsen. Meme via @MisterAntiBully. Graph from pp.24 of NYPD’s 2012 report on firearms discharge.]

 
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As I wrote a couple of months ago:

The ultimate reason for this mass psychosis is that Russiagate has simply became far too useful to the Western elites for it to ever be abandoned. They have discovered that Putler’s Russia, endowed with God-like powers, can be assigned blame for any problem, from the popularity of populist insurgents from the Left and the Right, to their own failures… This approach clearly works, given the overwhelmingly positive reception these stories generate amongst the “Intellectual Yet Idiot” class, at least judging by the reactions from the Blue Checkmarks or the sub-morons on /r/politics and /r/worldnews.

We are now at the point where BLM and Antifa have transmogrified into Russian Nazis. ℌ𝔢𝔦𝔩 𝔓𝔘𝔗𝔏𝔈ℜ!

 
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There is one, up until now relatively Sinophile, major European nation that will likely receive a massive influx of Chinese immigrants over the next decade – possibly as many a million – and radically transform as a consequence.

I am talking, of course, about Britain.

While there are currently 300,000 active BN(O)’s in Hong Kong, this is mainly on account of people who had let them expire; up to 3 million can (re)acquire them with relative ease. (Though this issue appears to have been made moot anyway). Now, following the new national security law, FM Dominic Raab is talking of getting rid of the current 6 month limit on Hong Konger stays in the UK, increasing it to 12 months, making it extensible, and “opening a path for future citizenship.” We may thus be in for a massive influx of Hong Kongers into the UK over the next decade.

What does this mean? Well, it probably makes this particular piece of speculation from 2018 is now obsolete:

Moneyed & highly educated, the Hong Kong emigre oligarchs will form a powerful anti-China lobbying group in UK.

The UK has been a relatively Sinophile part of the West. Search the Tweets of Tory bigwigs (BoJo, Raab, etc) and while you will find their Russia commentary to be almost uniformly negative, China was only ever mentioned in a neutral or positive light. Which is no surprise, as the UK doesn’t have the frictions with China that the US and even many of the major European nations have – no big manufacturing sector to pilfer industrial secrets from; financial sector that benefited from its connections to Hong Kong, China’s main pipeline for foreign investment.

But this era will soon come to an end, firmly anchoring Britain within the American sphere post-Great Bifurcation and flipping it into one of the most Sinophobic nations.

 
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The betting odds between Trump/Biden (~45-50% vs. 40%-45%) have stayed remarkable steady since Bernie got put out of his misery.

However, there’s been one remarkable shift.

Whereas in 2016, support for Trump increased monotonically with age, more and more polls now appear to confirm that older people, especially Silents and Greatest are turning away from Trump to Biden.

Funnily enough, Trump’s most fervid supporters may now very well be Gen X. Which is not inappropriate, I suppose, seeing as his aesthetics and brash mannerisms are closest to that group.

I don’t know the reasons for this, though I can speculate:

  • Biden doesn’t trigger normie conservatives like Hillary did.
  • They don’t appreciate GOP’s stance on Corona.
  • More general matter of “civility brain worms” (though it’s not as if Trump was any less combative in 2016).

FWIW, my Twitter followers are split more or less evenly between those three positions.

Conversely, I don’t see why many normie young Americans should feel enthused about voting for Biden. He is less progressive on virtually all issues, from Medicare and student debt to climate change, than HRC. At least the Donald gave many of them a $1,200 check.

Matt Forney also has some interesting thoughts (see the full thread):

 

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Donald Trump, Joe Biden, US Elections 2020 
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So this is what Virgil was planning while “dead”.

Come to think of it, isn’t this, like, the ultimate proof of White Supremacy. We even do the chimpouts better. Burning down a pigsty is much cooler than looting some gay store.

In other news, Twitter’s gone to war with the bad orange man:

Will The Donald take getting cucked by The Jack in stride? Or will he strike back? Find out in the next episode and don’t forget the popcorn!

 
• Category: Culture/Society • Tags: Antifa, LOL, United States 
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In the absence of serious wars between serious countries since 1945, it’s difficult to approximate the “combat efficiency” of the various national militaries. All that’s available, it seems, are reference to history, national IQ, and anecdotal observations.

Nonetheless, I think there’s a couple of events that could be considered “international standardized tests” for this.

Strong Europe Tank Challenge

Crews from NATO and non-NATO partners compete in defensive/offensive mounted and dismounted operations. Platoons rotate throughout 12 events with 1,500 possible points in total.

Results:

Команда 2016 2017 2018
Germany 1 2 1
Austria 1 3
Sweden 2
Denmark 2
Poland 3 6 5
United States 5, 6 3 7
France 4 4
Italy 4
United Kingdom 6
Ukraine 5 8
Slovenia 7

The Germanics, and Scandinavians, uniformly do much better better than the rest – and it’s not necessarily due to them using Leopards either, which the Poles also use.

Now I am aware the modern German military is something of a meme, with Anglo MSM stories such as them using brooms instead of guns for training and whatnot. But apart from many of them probably being exaggerated, there’s also the factor of:

  • Not many problems with SJWs/woke commissars, which I am informed have crippled British military capabilities in the past half decade. If anything, they have more of a problem with overly testosterone-fueled race war enthusiasts in the ranks.
  • Their strong and highly consistent military record, registering ~25% superiority in combat efficiency over the Americans, British, and French in both the world wars.

Trevor Dupuy in A Genius for War suggests that this tradition of excellence was not destroyed in 1945:

Experience to date of the West German armed forces — happily never tested in battle — suggests that the strong efforts to ensure a measure of civilization and democratization within the Army, as well as the continuation of strong civilian controls, have not resulted in an inefficient, ineffective Army. Superficial evidence suggests that the units of that Army are functioning within the NATO framework with efficiency at least comparable to that of the two other major military NATO partners, the United States and Great Britain. … American officers who have seen West German training and maneuvers have commented with respect and admiration on the efficiency of German performance, and the capability of German troops to react quickly, flexibly, and effectively to unforeseen maneuver circumstances. West German General Staff officers have demonstrated outstanding capabilities on the various NATO staffs.

My guess is that the Germans could still put up a very good showing against Anglos or Poles if it came to it, and they had the requisite morale.

***

Biathlon World Championship

The tank biathlon is a mechanised military sport event promoted by the Russian military with some similarities to the winter sport of biathlon. It utilizes the complex training of tank crews including their rough terrain passing skills combined with the ability to provide accurate and rapid fire while performing maneuvers.

Results:

The table shows the teams’ places in each of the world championships. For 2nd division teams, the first number is the place within the division, and the second number is the absolute place. The teams are ranked according to their average (absolute) place.

Clear correlation with national IQ, as well as stereotype-based assessments of military proficiency.

Slavs and Chinese at the top. India not far behind – while the average is unimpressive, it has a billion people to draw from, including some very high IQ groups as well as “martial races”. The Africans are at the bottom – Chad Chad aside, they usually make Arabs look competent in military matters.

Unfortunately, no country that participates in the “Eurasian” tank biathlons also participates in the “Atlanticist” NATO games, so it’s not clear how to establish a common basis of comparison.

Russia, followed by China (Belorussians/Kazakhs being ~Russians), are consistently at the top. However, it is Russia’s event, and it probably puts the most effort into it, so I wouldn’t necessarily automatically put it above China. My guess is that Russia and China would be Poland-Anglo/French tier in a common ranking?

***

UPDATE: Canadian Army Trophy

h/t @whyvert in comments.

The Canadian Army Trophy (CAT) was a tank gunnery competition established to foster excellence, camaraderie and competition among the armoured forces of the NATO countries in Western Europe.

Germans again dominate:

Year Team/Squadron/Company Nation Tank Best Platoon or Section Nation Tank
1963 4e Lanciers BEL M-47 Patton
1964 4e Lanciers BEL M-47 Patton
1965 Royal Scots Greys UK Centurion Mk.5
1966 13th/18th Royal Hussars (QMO) UK Centurion
1967 B Squadron, Lord Strathcona’s Horse (RC) CAN Centurion
1968 1er Lanciers BEL M-47 Patton
1970 16th/5th The Queen’s Royal Lancers UK Chieftain Mk.3 16th/5th The Queen’s Royal Lancers UK Chieftain Mk.3
1973 3. Kompanie, Panzerbataillon 83 FRG Leopard 1 Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars UK Chieftain
1975 3. Kompanie, Panzerbataillon 84 FRG Leopard 1 A1 3. Kompanie, Panzerbataillon 84 FRG Leopard 1 A1
1977 Royal Canadian Dragoons CAN Leopard 1 A2 B Squadron, 11 Tankbataljon NLD Leopard 1
1979 2. Kompanie, Panzerbataillon 284 FRG Leopard 1 A4 2. Kompanie, Panzerbataillon 284 FRG Leopard 1 A4
1981 4. Kompanie, Panzerbataillon 294 FRG Leopard 1 A4 4. Kompanie, Panzerbataillon 294 FRG Leopard 1 A4
1983 CENTAG (West Germany) FRG Leopard 1 A4 1. Zug, 2. Kompanie, Panzerbataillon 293 FRG Leopard 1 A4
1985 NORTHAG (Netherlands) NLD Leopard 2 2. Kompanie, Panzerbataillon 244 FRG Leopard 2 A1
1987 CENTAG (United States) USA M1 Abrams IP 1 Platoon, D Company, 4/8th Cavalry USA M1 Abrams IP
1989 NORTHAG (Netherlands) NLD Leopard 2 A4 4 Platoon, A Eskadron, 41 Tankbataljon NLD Leopard 2 A4
1991 NORTHAG (Germany) GER Leopard 2 A4 3. Zug, 4. Kompanie, Panzerbataillon 84 GER Leopard 2 A4

***

Military World Games

This is just an Olympics for people who happen to be soldiers, so doesn’t mean much. Volleyball proficiency isn’t going to do you much good on a battlefield.

***

Annual Warrior Competition

Combat-oriented competition for the world’s special forces running since 2009. But I can’t find any convenient set of statistics for all years and I’m not sure it’s worthwhile expending the effort, as it doesn’t seem to be something that’s taken very seriously by the major countries (e.g. Brunei special forces took #1 and #3 place in 2019).

***

Over all, too little data/not standardized enough to be of much worth as an input into attempts to quantify national military power. But might be of use as a plausibility check.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Army, Germany, Military, Tanks 
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At the outset, I want to set out what this post is NOT about:

  • It is not, per se, either an endorsement or a refutation of “coronapilling” or “coronaskepticism.” (Though yes, obviously, I am personally closer to the former position).
  • It is not a judgment on how we should manage the tradeoff between lives and GDP/unemployment. This is ultimately a normative question.
  • It is not even a fixed assessment of ultimate success in the epidemic – if there is no vaccine within the medium-term, it is entirely possible that Corona rolling through most of the population in most countries may become inevitable (in which case Sweden & Co. will feel vindicated).
  • OTOH, if there is a safe and effective vaccine soon – or if technical/social innovations allow us to reliably push r0 below 1 at low cost – then Sweden & Co. may well feel stupid.

I think these are all pretty uncontroversial points that any reasonable person can agree with.

What this post is about is establishing just how well the ideologically highly ideologically heterogeneous “coronaskeptic” countries in terms of one of a state’s prime responsibilities (safeguarding its population) relative to culturally comparable neighbors.

There are now many online COVID-19 visualization tools, see here: https://akarlin.com/corona-resources/

I will be using Our World in Data’s Data Explorer.

Finally, an important note. Yes, there are a lot of confounds. Culture and general conscientiousness. Mask acceptance. Geography – population density, urbanization, international connectedness. Living arrangement. Automobilization. “Bottom-up” social distancing, which happens everywhere to some extent, regardless of government decree – and, incidentally, and together with the decline in international trade, also dooms the economy to recession, if a lighter one than in the absence of lockdowns. The severity and precise details of lockdowns vary across countries, regions, and time. Finally, even in all of the “coronaskeptic” countries, there are still substantial degrees of epidemic-related restrictions and/or regional defiance of central “coronaskeptic” decrees.

***

Sweden vs. Nordics

I don’t think extra commentary is necessary.

Sweden, the poster child for “coronaskepticism” amongst the Western countries, has had an order of magnitude more deaths than its Nordic neighbors and relatives.

Meanwhile, “herd immunity” is nowhere in sight (7.3% seroprevalence in Stockholm at end-April).

I don’t think you can ascribe the difference to plausible geographic/cultural factors. While Sweden may be more “central” than Norway or, especially, Finland – and the Finns are also famously solitary people, who “socially distance” by default – this does not apply to Denmark. The Danish population is much denser, and more than a third of it is concentrated in the Copenhagen metropolitan area, which hosts 2.1 million people – not that far off from Stockholm’s 2.4 million.

As Alexander Mercouris points out:

In Sweden the reputations of too many important people are bound up with the country’s mitigation strategy for it to be openly abandoned. However, restrictions have been quietly tightened throughout April.

This makes the discrepancy all the more glaring.

However, it is also important to note that Sweden’s approach enjoys broad-based support amongst its population.

***

Brazil vs. LatAms

Though eclipsed in parts by Ecuador – believed to be the epicenter of the epidemic in Latin America – Brazil has surged ahead and deaths have since outpaced even Ecuador and Peru.

Mexico, run by initially coronaskeptic AMLO, hasn’t done great either.

Argentina and Uruguay, which had both luck and locked down early, are successfully containing their epidemics at a low level.

Incidentally – like it or not, but it seems majority of Brazilians disapprove of Bolsonaro’s performance. His net approval rating fell from ~-5% in February to ~-15% now. As of the latest poll (XP/Ipespe, May 16–18, 2020), a net 37% of Brazilians are unhappy with his Corona response in particular. The coronaskeptics cannot claim that they have public opinion on their side, at least so far as Brazil is concerned.

***

Belarus vs. East Slavs

This is the one case that I am aware of in which there has been seemingly little difference in performance between countries, regardless of policy.

Amongst the three major Slavic countries of the former USSR, it was the Ukraine that had the hardest lockdown, while Belarus had no significant lockdown at all, with Russia intermediate between them. However, the Ukraine has consistently done very badly with testing, while both Russia and Belarus have done extensive testing; Russia’s numbers, in per capita terms, have always been comparable to those of the major West European countries.

UKROTRIUMPH. Contra my expectations at the start, it is in fact the Ukraine that has done better than either Russia or Belarus at suppressing deaths. It is perhaps my one Corona prediction that I got unequivocally wrong.

Now all else equal, Belarus was probably expected to do best by default. Minsk only has 2 million people, vs. 4 million in Kiev and up to 15 million in the Moscow metropolitan area. Though it now has (had) substantial numbers of Gastarbeiters in Western Europe, they were still 3-4x less prevalent than Ukrainians even in per capita terms, nor was there a ~70,000 strong community based specifically in Italy predominantly hailing from Ternopil oblast (which led to a localized but contained outbreak in that region).

Adjusting for Moscow, which officially accounts for more than half of Russia’s deaths (though very likely less in reality), and we see that Belarus’ figures are still essentially comparable to Russia’s.

Can we then say that Lukashenko, who refused to cancel in-person Easter services and the Victory Day parade, has been vindicated?

This certainly seems like one victory for the coronaskeptic camp, if the only one out of three.

However, against that, we need to point that just like with data from a certain number of predominantly southern Russian oblasts, where daily new cases have suspiciously clustered just below 100 for weeks on end (Lipetsk governor has even been recorded ordering subordinates to fiddle the numbers), the numbers from Belarus – which, unlike Russia, is an outright dictatorship, with no significant scope for investigative journalism – also raise questions.

The number of new cases in Belarus have, since the end of April, consistently clustered at just below 1,000 – almost as if the country was some crony-run Russian province in the boondocks, blown up tenfold. Are there any other countries with such remarkable, long-running day-to-day stability? Belarus does a lot of tests – as many as Russia in per capita terms, or at least it claims to – so this is presumably unlikely to arise as a result of testing constraints (as, for instance, happened during the first few weeks of the Wuhan epidemic). If you purposefully fiddle with case numbers, no reason to believe you’re not fiddling the deaths numbers either.

As I said above, I am not going to take away this “victory” from the coronaskeptics, in the absence of concrete evidence that Belarus’ numbers are fundamentally incorrect. But it is something to bear to mind.

For obvious reasons, it’s hard to impossible to gauge how happy Belorussians are with Lukashenko’s policies.

 
• Category: Science • Tags: Belarus, Corona, Epidemiology, Sweden 
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One thing I noted early on is the ideological heterogeneity of the coronavirus response internationally.

Yeah, you can dispute precise positionings in the political compass of “coronaskeptics” below, but it illustrates my point.

Conversely, that “coronaskepticism” is implicitly right-wing (& vice versa) is just a plebbit meme, if one that many right-wingers themselves – almost invariably American ones – have embraced.

  • Shinzo Abe, Orban, Modi, Erdogan, Putin – none of them are “corona-skeptics”. I assume they haven’t started identifying as leftists/liberals since January 2020.
  • Trump changes his opinions with the wind.
  • Bolsonaro is the only major world leader who qualifies, sticking to his guns from the start up to the present day.

Note that none of this so far is even a normative statement or judgment in favor of either the “coronapill” or “coronaskepticism”, but just an observation.

Coronaskepticism as a right-wing position does indeed generally apply to domestic US politics.

But the world at large rarely confirms to partisan American obsessions. And, come to think of it, isn’t that actually supposed to be a good thing – at least so far as most of us are concerned?

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Corona, Ideologies 
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There are at least many views on the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of lockdowns. The balance of the evidence suggests that they do work, though the effect is confounded in complex ways by people spontaneously engaging in risk-reducing (but GDP-lowering) behavior.

Be that as it may, the point is becoming moot, since they are ending across most of the world. Stocks of what I called “quarantine capital” are running low, the peasants are beginning to rebel. This is political reality, like it or not.

Subsequently, the only realistic way forwards to prevent the epidemic from again hurtling out of control – and this is a near inevitability, considering that almost nowhere have we reached “herd immunity” – is to adopt universal mask wearing

It is beyond doubt the face masks are both highly efficacious at preventing coronavirus spread (see Corona-Chan Didn’t Care Until I Put on the Mask for compiled evidence), and extremely cost-effective (market price of a surgical face mask is 5 cents).

My Twitter followers, at any rate, are quite optimistic about the potential of mass mask usage (80%) to ultimately suppress the epidemic, with 66% believing they can suppress r0 to below 0.9, while another 18% think they have the potential to at least fix the rate of new infections at a more or less constant number with r0 somewhere between 0.9 and 1.1; this will, at least, flatten the curve, and perhaps a new vaccine can be introduced before half the population has to receive the gift of Corona (as implied by r0=1). Another 11% are hardcore pessimists who believe they will make no major difference.

This sentiment may well be correct – a couple of studies published a month ago suggests that 80% mask wearing may be enough to push r0 below one just by itself. r0 plummets even under pessimistic estimates of mask efficacy.

Tian, Liang, Xuefei Li, Fei Qi, Qian-Yuan Tang, Viola Tang, Jiang Liu, Zhiyuan Li, et al. 2020. “Calibrated Intervention and Containment of the COVID-19 Pandemic.arXiv [q-bio.PE]. arXiv. http://arxiv.org/abs/2003.07353.

We then estimate the reduction of the basic reproduction number R0 under specific disease control practices such as contact tracing, testing, social distancing, wearing masks and staying at home. When these measures are implemented in parallel, their effects on R0 multiply. For example, if 70% of the general public wear masks and contact tracing is conducted at 60% efficiency within a 4-day time frame, epidemic growth will be flattened in the hardest hit countries.

Howard, Jeremy, Austin Huang, Zhiyuan Li, Zeynep Tufekci, Vladimir Zdimal, Helene-Mari van der Westhuizen, Arne von Delft, et al. 2020. “Face Masks Against COVID-19: An Evidence Review.MEDICINE & PHARMACOLOGY.

Reducing disease spread requires two things: first, limit contacts of infected individuals via physical distancing and contact tracing with appropriate quarantine, and second, reduce the transmission probability per contact by wearing masks in public, among other measures. The preponderance of evidence indicates that mask wearing reduces the transmissibility per contact by reducing transmission of infected droplets in both laboratory and clinical contexts. Public mask wearing is most effective at stopping spread of the virus when compliance is high. The decreased transmissibility could substantially reduce the death toll and economic impact while the cost of the intervention is low. Thus we recommend the adoption of public cloth mask wearing, as an effective form of source control, in conjunction with existing hygiene, distancing, and contact tracing strategies.

In any case – we should all wear masks, especially indoors. While one can make entirely legitimate cost-benefit arguments for or against lockdowns, there are no such arguments against mask usage. Given what we already knew months ago, refusing to wear masks in places like supermarkets or public transport has long ceased to defensible under any normal ethical system.

Not to mention self-defeating even by the supposed values of this motley of “sovereign citizen”/anti-government types:

https://twitter.com/vilevarangian/status/1262344555661340674

A corollary is that mask wearing prevalence may well now be the single best predictor of the subsequent success or failure of nations to control the epidemic after reopening. As such, attitudes towards mask wearing practices would seem to be an important – and understudied – component of any attempt to forecast Corona’s trajectory across different countries in the coming months.

To date, the only large-scale international poll of whether people wear masks has been carried out by IPSOS.

The East Asians, as well as Italy and India, are all at ~80% or above. Vietnam tops the chart, and to date has registered just 325 cases and zero deaths. Japan was late to lockdown and easygoing about it,

The US is intermediate, with wide regional differentiation. From another poll:

The West does very well, especially California, which coupled with its early lockdown must have greatly help contain its epidemic at a very manageable level. According to Gallup, both the West and North-East are at ~70%. Lowest is the MidWest, with just 46%. Possibly they are now the biggest risk zone. The lowest numbers are in Montana at 23%. Though it’s not exactly that they need them – 600,000 people in a territory 50% larger than the UK, which makes the latter’s <20% all the more shocking.

The other European nations are much lower, with the UK at the very bottom, where just 16% say they are likely to wear masks. No wonder that the epicenter of the epidemic has shifted from Northern Italy to South England.

Consequently, I remain bullish on East Asia’s prospects of continuing to contain Corona, bearish on North-West Europe, and 50/50 on the United States (perhaps the West coast will succeed, while the eastern parts fall).

I would also stress that even in mask-disrespecting countries the situation can still be salvaged. Even 20% adaptation will jump up to 90% if it is legally mandated and backed by hefty fines. Will it create resentment? Perhaps, but far less so than prolonged lockdowns.

As the lockdowns peter out, many of us live in countries that are once again heading into what might be a patently avoidable tragedy.

***

Are these numbers accurate? I think they are – at the very least, they are generally backed by the observations of corresponding friends and acquaintances in various countries.

United Kingdom

Duran chief editor Alexander Mercouris in London, who wrote an excellent review of the coronavirus situation a couple of weeks ago for Consortium News, wrote to me on April 16:

Clearly there is a very deep cultural bias in the West against face covering… I don’t fully understand it myself… In my part of London, where the death toll has been very high (London accounts for around a quarter of British deaths, which are very high by every standard) I would guess that only around 15-20% of people wear face masks when they go out. Moreover because of the – entirely premature – softening of what was already a very soft lockdown, my impression is that the percentage of people who wear face masks in my part of London is actually falling.

The move to ease lockdowns is grossly premature. If it was accompanied with a mandatory requirement to wear face masks when in public, and a well designed system of testing and contact tracing, it might not be so bad. But in the UK nothing like that exists, and nor does it in any other European country that I know of. Even in Germany – which started well, and where I have many contacts – the lockdown has been lifted too early, wearing of face masks is sporadic, and after a very strong start testing has run out of steam. I am sorry to say that I expect a big spike in infections and deaths in Europe this autumn. Lockdowns will have to be reimposed, and morale at that point may start to collapse.

Alexander’s estimate perfectly dovetails with poll results. The observation that mask wearing is actually on the decline in London has been confirmed to me by a second observer.

On May 20, he added:

The parks are now packed with sunbathers and day trippers. I saw no masks and no attempt to maintain social distancing. Elsewhere, in the general area of my house, the streets are full of people, social distancing appears to have been abandoned, and I would guess that the percentage of people who now wear masks has fallen below 5%. Moreover I get hard looks and taunts from some people (mainly young people) precisely because I wear a mask and maintain social distancing rules. In theory social distancing is still mandatory and London is supposed to be still in some form of lockdown. However the government’s messaging is wholly inconsistent and the police are making no attempt to enforce anything anymore.

The number of excess deaths in the UK (which I am sure is due to Covid-19) is now 54K. However most people at least in London think the Covid-19 epidemic is over. Note that the confirmed figure of 54K deaths is up to 8th May 2020. Most estimates assume that the true number is over 60K. If the UK has lost this number of people during a war there would be a huge political crisis. Yet because it is a pandemic and because most of the people who die are old the fact barely registers. I still find that fact staggering.

Looks like the limeys are dedicated Nurgle worshippers.

***

Ireland

An Irish friend writes:

The Chad Ireland is probably at 5%.

***

India

An Indian acquaintance, who also happens to have once been an expat in Russia, writes (also appending the following image):

Indians have just started venturing out and they are very likely – probably more than 90% will have a mask or a gamcha. Traditionally – and this goes back unknown times, Indians cover their face and mouth for hygienic reasons. They use a special hand-women cloth which goes into washing end of day. It is called a gamcha, Office people are already wearing surgical masks and all the rest of population is wearing this handmade gamcha. Modi has been wearing it on all his public TV appearances and country follows that example. In North India it also protects from dust and sand and when there is a heat wave, much like the Arabs, we cover our face with cotton cloth. South India and Western states follow different practices.

India is not a rich country, very crowded, can’t do lockdowns for long. It may thus be the ultimate test of masks’ efficacy under harsh, overcrowded Third World conditions.

***

Russia

I estimated that public mask wearing incidence topped out at ~33% of Muscovites by early April, rising from 25% in late March. (Our lockdown measures began in Moscow began on March 18).

This impression was broadly confirmed by the polls done by VCIOM, which showed mask wearing rising from 13% on March 26, 21% on March 20, and 30% on April 2.

Then it remained stuck at this level for the next month – 30%, I suppose, is Russia’s “steady state” level of mask wearing without government decree. While some other regions of Russia introduced mandatory mask wearing regimes, to seemingly good effect (though I have not done a formal analysis), Moscow’s usually competent Mayor Sobyanin dallied until May 12 to order mandatory masking (and gloving – which I consider needless, and which AFAIK only Romania amongst other countries has done).

Throughout this April, I was frustrated over what I saw as a bizarre commitment to the WHO’s criminal anti-mask recommendations. The Visegrad nations, Austria, and Ukraine – which all did introduce mandatory masking early on – seem to have done better than Russia, to the extent that comparisons can be made (there is no megapolis on Moscow’s scale there; OTOH, all of them have much greater travel links with Europe, and Ukraine had accepted back 100,000’s of returning Gastarbeiters). I am not sure that the Moscow detonation would have happened in the absence of this “West worship.”

Nor was Putin without blame – he delegated most of the responsibility for managing the outbreak to the regions (the non-systemic opposition, which I am hardly a fan of, spun it as an abdication of responsibility – and I can’t say I entirely disagree), and didn’t make at least a centralized federal recommendation (if not outright decree) to implement masking regimes across the country.

I later learned that the Moscow City government acquired Russia’s largest mask producer back in March, where it doubled production up through May. So as it turns out, Sobyanin was “maskpilled” after all, which made the lack of masking recommendations a “white lie” as opposed to blind worship of the West (or rather its ossified and Euro-supremacist public health bureaucracy). Though I still do not agree with its logic. Thing is, masks are easy to DIY. Sew one, or heck, cut up a Tshirt. Surgical masks can be reused – not good for personal protection, but protects others, which over time translates into the same thing.

This must be true due to convexity effects, a point that has incidentally often been made by Nicholas Nassim Taleb in recent months.

As of the time of writing, I would estimate that public mask wearing has increased to 60-70%.

Considering that transmissions outdoors seem to be very rare, this might not be that relevant. In supermarkets, they are at close to 100%, even if a few of the least socially responsible elements pull down their masks while walking about.

***

United States

American friends/acquaintances confirm that well more than 50% of people at least wear masks in supermarkets in the MidWest, and that’s supposed to be the worst region – so I suppose that’s good.

***

Finally, another open question is the extent to which people will continue to respect masking regimes in the future, whether they are largely “socially generated” (as in the Japan or the US), or legally mandated (e.g. Austria, Poland, now most of Russia).

I do not know the answer to this question.

Presumably, most people will continue to mask if they can be fined for declining to do so. Although whether a country like the US can keep it up is open to question – the example of its apathetic British brethren is not encouraging.

 
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In my review of Kroeber’s book on The Chinese Economy, I identified why the CPC was treating the Hong Kongers with kid gloves (relatively speaking):

Another facet of the FDI strategy was that much “foreign” investment was not really foreign. Nearly half of inbound direct investment has come from Hong Kong, and while much of that may simply reflect the activities of Hong Kong–based subsidiaries of American or European firms, it is clear that Hong Kong firms have been major investors in the mainland… Moreover, as much as a third of China’s reported FDI may in fact be “round-tripping”—investments by Chinese individuals and companies that are routed through companies in other jurisdictions, especially Hong Kong.

Now it appears that China has taken the decision to reintegrate Hong Kong ahead of schedule; in the process, it will lose its position as a privileged entrepot within the “Chimerica” world system, effectively eliminating it as China’s pipeline to Western capital and knowhow.

Given the Corona-accelerated drive towards the “Great Bifurcation” of the world economy between the American Blue Empire and the Sinosphere, I suppose the CPC sees the benefits as justifying the costs.

I am inclined to agree but YMMV.

As for Hong Kong itself, it was already in rapid, inexorable decline. It only arose to prominence by virtue of its unique legal regime and will now fade away into just another second-tier large Chinese city over the next decades.

 
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This is actually fine.

It seems like almost all, or all, of the major “superspreader” events have occurred indoors. E.g., in South Korea, the first and second waves were launched through a cult’s churches and gay bars, respectively.

A month ago, a Chinese study reported that in 318 analyzed outbreaks in China, just two out of 318 occurred outdoors:

Qian, Hua, Te Miao, L. I. U. Li, Xiaohong Zheng, Danting Luo, and Yuguo Li. 2020. “Indoor Transmission of SARS-CoV-2.medRxiv, April, 2020.04.04.20053058.

Home outbreaks were the dominant category (254 of 318 outbreaks; 79.9%), followed by transport (108; 34.0%; note that many outbreaks involved more than one venue category). Most home outbreaks involved three to five cases. We identified only a single outbreak in an outdoor environment, which involved two cases.

Two conclusions would seem to follow from this:

  1. We can take it easy outdoors – don’t arrest the people at the parks and beaches.
  2. Centralized quarantine!

This study has, more recently, been supplemented by a second one that seems to confirm its conclusions:

Leclerc, Quentin J., Naomi M. Fuller, Lisa E. Knight, CMMID COVID-19 Working Group, Sebastian Funk, and Gwenan M. Knight. 2020. “What Settings Have Been Linked to SARS-CoV-2 Transmission Clusters?Wellcome Open Research 5 (May): 83.

We found many examples of SARS-CoV-2 clusters linked to a wide range of mostly indoor settings. Few reports came from schools, many from households, and an increasing number were reported in hospitals and elderly care settings across Europe.

Spreadsheet with all the data here.

According to my tally, 95% of total cases accrued indoors, with the rest split between “outdoors” and “indoor/outdoor” category.

I have argued against arresting people at the parks and beaches because our “quarantine capital” (amount of stress people in democratic polities are prepared to put up with) is limited. It is becoming ever clearer that it is better expended elsewhere.

As the summer draws near, it is time to usher in a new age… of sun and steel!

  • Children enjoy the outdoors anyway – move school classes outside.
  • Order restaurants to serve food on the streets outside.
  • Outdoor food markets and bazaars instead of supermarkets and box stores.
  • Gyms need to “return to tradition”.
  • Not much of an issue for most office businesses, as most can remain work from home.
  • Otherwise, universal masking in places that can’t be feasibly moved outside, such as factories.

I don’t even know why the right-wingers are so obsessed with Corona conspiracies, this is their single best chance to push for national BAPism for at least a generation.

 
• Category: Science • Tags: Corona, Epidemiology 
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This week’s Open Thread.

EDIT: Well I am sorry for maligning ~20% of my readers – actually explanation is that we have not only been zucced, but also Googlehammered.

Blackpill – even on a “based” website such as The Unz Review, it appears that too many of our readers are weak Facebook drones. My visitorship/viewership stats this May have collapsed to late 2019 levels, when I was hardly blogging. Or 2017 levels more generally.

There’s an old solution to the vagaries of what the Zuccs and @jacks of this world want you to see and what they don’t: RSS feeds (you can access mine next to the symbol). If you have a dozen or more blogs or blog-type people (e.g. columnists) you regularly follow, at a certain point it becomes more convenient and reliable to follow them via a dedicated “RSS reader” (e.g. Feedly or Old Reader). On most readers, you can categorize your feeds by topic; search them all; sometimes even retain access to deleted posts.

This is what everyone was doing before the early 2010s when social media began to eat away the blogosphere like a venereal disease.

 
• Tags: Blogging, Open Thread 
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Less than a year after their coup, the Sovnarkom of the RSFSR abolished university entrance exams on August 2, 1918. The admissions process of 1918/19 was annulled and universities were ordered to open up to everybody, with no tests for subject knowledge or even literacy.

Thus came to an end one of the few unmitigated educational success stories of the Russian Empire, which at 127,000 students by 1913 constituted Europe’s largest national student body by far – as well as its most “diverse” (greater share of women and people of a common background than in England or Germany).

Subsequently, the Russian intelligentsia would be driven out of its own institutions (if not out of the country or into a hastily dug ditch), the student body replaced by Jews and affirmative action proles in the 1920s.

Here’s what Yuri Slezkine wrote on this in The Jewish Century:

The art historian A. Anisimov wrote to a colleague in Prague (in November 1923), “Out of 100 applicants to Moscow University, 78 are Jews; thus, if the Russian university is now in Prague, the Jewish one is in Moscow.” The father of a student about to be “purged” for alien origins wrote to a friend or relative in Serbia: “Pavel and his friends are awaiting their fate. But it’s clear that only the Jerusalem academics and the Communists, Party members generally, are going to stay.” And according to the wife of a Leningrad University professor, “in all the institutions, only workers and Israelites are admitted; the life of the intelligentsia is very hard.”

As it turns out, though, this wasn’t Russia’s first experiment with “open borders” higher education. It was predated by the Petrovsky Academy of Alexander II, which was opened in 1865 for the newly emancipated serfs. It was staffed with the best professors. Each individual course cost 5 rubles, while a year’s worth of education cost 25 rubles, though in practice most paid the former and enjoyed the latter since those rules were not strongly enforced.

Nice and well-intentioned as this project, unlike the Bolshevik one, was, it was not very successful, as its 1871 report made clear:

Most of the students, drawn by the freedom to access the academy without entrance exams, not having a clear view of what awaited them, and unaware of their lack of preparation to complete the courses, abandoned them after realizing their inability to cope with the material, having fruitlessly wasted their time on things that were beyond them. … The professors had to be aware of the level of their audience and tailor their lectures to them; they tried to do that as best they could, but there was still a gap to what they could feasibly do and the level of comprehension of their diverse mass of listeners.

By 1872, the Petrovsky Academy started requiring evidence of secondary school completion and passing an entrance exam.

As it turns out, either way, these “progressive” experiments in higher education don’t tend to end successfully.

 
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.