Archives for June 2012

My Readers Are Indeed Social Contrarians

Though I do wonder about those six people who voted “none of the above” in my poll of attitudes towards the 10 odd theories that figure prominently in the Karlinist Weltanschauung… with all due respect, but what are you guys doing on this blog then? 🙂

The vast majority agree with Peak Oil, Limits to Growth, Intelligence Theory, and Human Biodiversity. The first three are not surprising, as they have been covered extensively since the blog’s inception, but I am somewhat surprised about the popularity of HBD – after all, I’m only an (open) convert to it fairly recently.

Slightly fewer agree with the precepts of AGW, Game, and 80/20 principle & Parkinson’s Law. Again, this is fairly surprising to me. After all, AGW is socially accepted nowadays; the exceptions are easier to list (e.g. American conservatives), whereas Peak Oil and Limits to Growth are still very controversial concepts with opponents from both sides of the ideological spectrum. “Game” gets an impressively good showing, though this kinda makes sense – it is almost intractably linked with HBD, since by accepting fundamental race differences, doing likewise for gender is a no-brainer. The 80/20 Principle & Parkinson’s Law is admittedly vague, but in essence it is meant to encapsulate the arguments contained within Tim Ferriss’ The Four Hour Workweek, i.e. that there are structural reasons for why organizations and their employees are very inefficient, and that there exist ways for committed individuals to break that cycle through shortcuts like “muses” (location-independent revenue streams) and geoarbitrage. I highly recommend readers look into these theories because just as with Game for dudes, they have the potential to massively improve life quality.

Only very modest support is voiced for Transhumanism and Technological Singularity, and understandable thing because (1) few people are deeply aware of them, even committed netizens, and (2) they are in ostensible contradiction to core AK themes like Limits to Growth and Peak Oil. But there is no contradiction. My longstanding view has been that IF global civilization manages to avoid collapse or severe degradation in the dangerous mid-century period, when pressures from energy shortages and climate change are likely to heat their peak, then transformative technological change is very likely to occur based on reasonable projections from current trends. Lifespan has already been successfully multiplied by several factors in laboratory mice by genetic tinkering, and it is surely only a matter of time before it these methods can be upscaled to large mammals including humans. Technological singularity is a more iffy possibility, despite Ray Kurzweil’s best attempts to argue for its imminent inevitability, but regardless I am of the opinion that the mind can be simulated on silicon substrates, that “mind uploading” is theoretically possible and may be achievable in practice sooner rather than later because of the exponential nature of growth of computing power, and that even if these exotic possibilities don’t materialize this century it may not be that big of an issue thanks to massively extended longevity.

Low carb diets (paleo, caveman) have by far the lowest approval rating. So I should definitely write a bit more on that. I think the arguments of their proponents are logical, humans simply have not had time to evolve to eat complex grains let alone have them constitute the bulk of their diet. Doing so leads to obesity, diabetes, and a host of other chronic ailments that plight rich country populations. As such I think the standard “food pyramid” advice peddled by nutritionists is bunk and even criminal taking into account the mounting evidence against it.

The World’s Sleaziest Magazine Plumbs New Lows

I really can’t figure what this Economist editorial reeks more of: Hypocrisy, mendacity, or pure delusion?

That is as it should be, for since his decision last autumn to return to the Kremlin, Mr Putin has been stridently negative and anti-Western, most recently over Syria (see article)

Being anti-Western is “negative”, even for daring to oppose Western-backed Islamist crazies who will back-stab their handlers as soon as they’re able to.

But the reset was based in part on two misplaced hopes: that Dmitry Medvedev, who had been lent the presidency for one term by Mr Putin in 2008, would genuinely take charge of the country, and that some in his government had sound liberalising, pro-Western instincts.

Note how “liberalizing” and “pro-Western” are conflated, because one can’t possibly liberalize without kowtowing to Western interests too. Furthermore, bear in mind the unspoken assumption that normal relations (“the reset”) are only to be rewarded for said kowtowing to the West. The concept of equality and reciprocity is alien to the minds of Western chauvinists.

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More Russians Vacationing Abroad

According to a recent Levada poll, more Russians are starting to go to fun places on vacation. The total numbers of those going to the Black Sea or the Far Abroad rises to 16% in 2012, compared with 9% in 2006, 5% in 2000, and 4% in 1997. The percentage of those saying they won’t vacation at all has halved from 31% in 1997 to 15% today. The biggest increase, albeit from a very low base, has been in the percentage of those saying they will go to the Far Abroad, which rose to 5%; the total for all foreign countries, including in the Near Abroad and Crimea, is 8%. This is still significantly below developed country levels like the US (20%) or the UK (34%) but again in this, as in cars, Internet penetration, and GDP per capita, convergence is undeniable.

  1997 2000 2003 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Dacha 23 25 27 22 21 22 24 25 24 24
Black Sea (Russia) 3 4 4 6 7 7 6 7 7 9
Crimea 1 2 1 1 2 2 2 2
Baltics <1 <1 <1 <1 1 1 <1 1 2 1
Other Russian place 7 5 5 6 6 5 5 4 5 6
Other ex-USSR place 1 2 1 3 1 2 2 3 2 1
Far Abroad 1 1 1 1 2 2 2 3 3 5
Remain at home 33 45 40 34 34 33 31 29 28 30
Won’t go on vacation 31 23 17 17 20 22 20 16 18 15
Not yet decided 10 6 8 11 11 15 13 18 14 15

Parting Thoughts On Euro 2012

So yesterday morning I was sitting at the bar with my homies, in a Russian sailor vest and with a big Russian flag draped round our table. It was 0-0. Whatever. Russia had mounted several good attacks, and was bound to score eventually, and even if it didn’t, as long as the Poland – Czech game remained drawn there was nothing to worry about. Russia would remain first in its group and wouldn’t even have to face off against the Teutons in the quarter finals. As the 2 minutes added time ticked down, I took my eyes off the screen, readying to order my second Shocktop (good thing about the Euro? One can legitimately start drinking from the morning). Then a blunder from Ignashevich sent the ball straight into the path of the Greek captain Karagounis, who got a clear shot straight into the Russian goal.

Now that I’ve calmed down a bit from the disappointment, and looking at things objectively, I do not think the Russian team played particularly badly – as was commonly argued by enraged Russian fans calling for Fursenko’s head. They made several strong attacks in the second half, hitting the bars twice, and a header from Dzagoev came close too. They had 70% possession, more attacks, and were tactically superior. The most impressive Greek effort came from Karagounis, who dived in the penalty box and got a yellow card for his trouble. While several commentators argued the Greeks should have gotten a penalty, on closer inspection of the video its clear to me that the Swedish ref made the right call.

Then the Czechs scored. This was fast becoming a catastrophe. At first, I wasn’t overly concerned because I was under the impression that goal difference took preeminence over face to face results. Only by the 75th minute did I discover my mistake; UEFA apparently no longer operated by FIFA rules in this regard. If Russia lost to Greece, it was out. And then, it was out for real, as a last ditch Russian kick went wildly overhead.

It’s a pity, and I don’t only say this because I was rooting for Russia. I agree with Owen Polley that Russia had the most entertaining play after Spain, and that the Greek side was “dreary and negative” (the Spaniards who knocked out Russia in 2008 were at least fun and elegant). And this disappointed a lot of people besides myself; Russia seems to have been everyone’s “dark horse” candidate (i.e., not Spain or Germany) to win the tournament. The only consolation I suppose is that the Poles didn’t go through, what with their hooligan attacks on Russian fans. I will now switch my support to Ukraine – though chances are, I’m sorry to say, it will be knocked out by a mediocre but nonetheless superior English team the day after tomorrow – and to Greece, for the elementary reason that if it manages to eke out further wins then Russia’s loss won’t look quite as dreadful in comparison.

Russia’s Gastronomic Revolution?

Following the precedent I set with Alex Mercouris – why should I write a post on something myself, when one of the commentators has already done something better? – I present this article on Russia’s recent gastronomic revolution by Ivan Golov:

I can assure you that Russia has been going through a mass gastronomic and retail revolution in the last 5 years, and of course I am not just talking about Moscow, but even cities which one might call isolated and remote. Your expectations seem somewhat unrealistic, because you cannot develop an advanced consumer and food-quality sentitive culture over a short time period and especially in a society that is still recovering from the soviet restrictions in this regard. It is more than evident that Russia is very quickly learning to appreciate good food and service at an affordable price.

Just a quick note – I am a repatriated Russian living in Izhevsk (not my home city, and not the first choice for most who come back to Russia seeking a place to settle). I have watched the impressive transformation of the local retail and food landscape during my frequent visits to the city over the last 7 years. I have been living here for almost a year now. What you mention about the quality food and price of wines seems very bizzare. I am not ruling out that Moscow is very different, but if that is the case then you are totally out of touch with the rest of the country and should not generalize here on behalf of Russians living elsewhere.

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Does UEFA Hate Russia?

One might have thought that football is one of those few places where politics can be left at the door. At least that’s the position of UEFA who constantly talk of the game’s potential to build bridges, etc.

However, consider the following litany of attacks. First, it is looking into punishing Russia for displaying the banner below. Because it is “far right extremist sloganeering” according to some anti-racism organization that has nothing better to do. What exactly is racist about it? How exactly was it brought into the stadium if the Poles themselves didn’t want it?

Then there were the clashes with the Poles when Russian fans marched in Warsaw to mark Russia Day. According to numerous papers like the WSJ and Daily Mail both sides were at least equally at fault, but more likely the Russkies.

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The 5 Types of Russian American

In my nearly 20 years experience as a Russian living in the West, I have found that almost all my fellows can be reduced to five basic types: 1) The White Russian; 2) The Sovok Jew; 3) The Egghead Emigre; 4) Natasha Gold-Digger; 5) Putin’s Expat.

My background and qualifications to write on this topic? My dad is an academic who moved to the UK with his family in 1994, i.e. an Egghead Emigre. Later on, I moved to California. Much of the Russian community in the Bay Area (though not Sacramento!) are in fact Russian Jews, who are culturally distinct from Russians, albeit the boundaries are blurred and there’s lots of intermingling though Russian cultural events. Topping off the cake, I have some White Russian ancestors, and am familiar with many of them as well as more recent expats via my hobby of Russia punditry.

I hope this guide will entertain American and Russian (and Jewish) readers interested in what happens when their cultures interact and fuse, as well as those very Russian Americans who will doubtless see traces of themselves in at least one of the five main archetypes.

***

Arrived in: 1917-1920’s, 1945
Social origins: Clerks, Tsarist officials, aristocrats, White Army officers, philosophers.
Culturally related to: Earlier Orthodox Slavic migrants from the Russian Empire who came from 1880-1914, though White Russians proper are more sophisticated than them as they tended to be high class whereas former were peasants.
Political sympathies (US): Moderate conservatism
Political sympathies (Russia): Putin, Prokhorov

No, I’m not talking about Jeff Lebowski’s favorite cocktail. The White Russians (or “White emigres”) are the officers, officials, and intellectuals who fled their country after the Russian Revolution. Prominent examples included Zworykin (TV), Sikorsky (helicopters), and Nabokov (writer). They did not necessarily come to the US straight away: Many came via the great European cities, like Berlin, or Paris, where in the 1920’s, old White Army officers sat around dinghy bars, drowning their sorrows in drink and spending what remained of their money on cockroach racing. Some took more roundabout ways. One girl I know originated from Russian exiles in Harbin, Manchuria (mother’s side) and Brazil (father’s side) who met up and stayed in the US.

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“Israel Belongs To The White Man”

At least according to Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who is hilariously a Sephardi Jew, i.e. closer to Arabs than Europeans.

Well, all countries have a right to sovereignty over their own borders, and stemming the inflow of illegal African immigrants is perfectly justifiable in Israel’s case. To this end they are ramping up legal sanctions against them.

However, what’s striking is how little flak Yishai got for his White Nationalist-like outburst. When a Russian Federal Migration Services spokesman said immigration was putting the “future of white race under threat” in a BBC interview, he was promptly fired (which was, BTW, the correct thing to do). However, the incident was plastered all over the Western media. But in Israel’s case, in which an actual Minister was involved, the incident was only mentioned on Haaretz and a few blogs.

And in general, Israel gets away with a lot of things that would draw huge opprobrium if done by any other country. E.g., you can be convicted of rape for falsely claiming to be a Jew in a seduction. It imprisons several journalists (unlike, say, Russia) but organizations like Freedom House consider it to be perfectly democratic. Palestinians in the West Bank arguably have it worse than South African blacks under apartheid. At least the latter were left to themselves (“apart”) whereas Israeli right-wing settlers gobble up the best land and sources of water in Palestine.

Of course, begrudging Israel for this is stupid. As is blaming it on an imaginary Zionist conspiracy, as the guys at Stormfront would (for a start, Jews in the US and Israel are very, very different). No, it just speaks to the importance of having a powerful lobby in Washington DC.

Money Mania, By Country

The Economist lies about Russia, it has beef with France, and in general it is far more useful as a barometer of Anglo-Saxon elite opinion than as a good source of objective information on the real world. Nonetheless, it does have the occasional gold nugget, and even one gold vein – its Daily Charts blog.

After all, one can rarely argue with cold, raw statistics, and opinion polls.

Above is a chart from early April about the importance Europeans attach to being rich. It’s funny the extent to which it confirms almost every relevant stereotype in the book (in general, the act of stereotyping is very much maligned, but that’s for another post). Russians and Ukrainian gold-diggers, oligarchs, mafia. Israel – Jews LOL. Greeks have a reputation for being a very mercantile people. Czechs are individualists, so it makes sense that they’re high up there too.

At the other end of the scale, you have the Scandinavian countries that operate under the self-effacing principles of Jante Law, and the French with their rich anti-capitalist intellectual traditions and love for existentialist philosophy. In the middle we have quintessentially bourgeois nations such as the UK, and Germany – they love themselves some money, but Protestantism has long encouraged them to be low-key about it.

Is The Ukrainian Children Learning?

According to a recent Vzglyad article by Olga Gritsenko titled Universal Stupefaction, no they are not. Here are the cold raw facts:

  • Libraries stock 4% of books published in Ukraine, compared to 18% in Russia and 40% in the US and Canada.
  • The average Ukrainian spends $2.5 on books in one year, compared to $22 in Russia.
  • In 2010/11, the average Ukrainian spent just under 3 hours reading newspapers and journals per week, down 25% from 2007/08. The equivalent figure in Russia is 7 hours.
  • In fairness, their universities are rated higher than Russia’s (as well as Poland’s and the Czech Republic’s) by an outfit called Universitas 21.

Obvious counter-objections don’t explain these shortcomings. Russia has a higher Internet penetration, but nonetheless Russians read a lot more books and newspapers. Nor can a nearly tenfold difference in per capita book sales be purely or even mostly a reflection of lower book prices in the Ukraine.

That said, in a sense these statistics aren’t surprising. According to international student assessments, the level of human capital in Ukraine appears to be similar to the lowest ranked ethnic Russian provinces in Russia. This does not bode well for Ukraine’s future economic growth, given the tight interrelationship between human capital and development, and might go some way to explaining the already big – and growing – prosperity gap with its Moskali neighbors.