Archives for August 2012

Authoritarian Parallels

One of the main theses of this blog is that in many respects, Russia is far more similar to the the “West” (and vice versa) than various democratists would have you believe.

Case in point (h/t Jon Hellevig):

When GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney visited an Ohio coal mine this month to promote jobs in the coal industry, workers who appeared with him at the rally lost pay because their mine was shut down. The Pepper Pike company that owns the Century Mine told workers that attending the Aug. 14 Romney event would be both mandatory and unpaid, a top company official said Monday morning in a West Virginia radio interview. … Moore told Blomquist that managers “communicated to our workforce that the attendance at the Romney event was mandatory, but no one was forced to attend.”

“Mandatory” but “no one was forced to attend.” Hmm… how does that work?

This episode of Ohio coal workers pressured to attend a Romney rally does in fact neatly parallel anecdotally numerous cases in the run-up to the Russian elections. I even accept that these cases are far more prevalent in Russia, though the reasons for this are structural. Whereas single industry towns with singular political allegiances – e.g., coal towns, for whom Romney is far preferable to Obama – are the exception rather than the rule in the US, there are hundreds of such “monograds” in Russia. These monograds tend to have authoritarian political cultures at the local level.

But its not like you never stumble across analogues to them in the West.

A Genuine Case Of Miscarried Justice

Taisiya Osipova was sentenced to 8 eight years in jail for selling and possessing heroin.

This was twice more even than what the prosecution requested. Even if the case was rock solid it would still be wildly disproportionate as she suffers from diabetes. But it’s not; to the contrary, there are reasonable suspicions that the drugs were planted by the police.

However Mrs. Osipova isn’t telegenic, and her politics are National Bolshevik, so she will get 1,000x less attention than the Pussy Rot whores.

Addendum 8/30: Certainly, unlike with Pussy Riot, I don’t see any Raskolnikov wannabe knifing a mother and daughter to death in their apartment and inscribing “Free Taisiya Osipova” in blood on the walls.

UC Berkeley Is Liberal LOL

From the rhetoric, you’d think the People’s Republic of Berkeley was a sickle short of Communism.

In reality however the university itself is fairly standard, probably no more radical than any other in the US. I sat in on a political economy class today (full of PE majors who are in general quite leftist) and the professor took a poll. 39% (!) said the banksters deserved a bailout. A stunning 82% would have bailed them out (though granted, not doing so is more of a libertarian – or far left – position than anything else). However, only 12% said that the banksters should have been given bonuses. The feeling against banker bonuses however is so near universal that I don’t think this is much out of the ordinary. (On this point, I have to disagree – the banksters DO deserve their bonuses. If politicians are going to bail you out, with no popular opposition to boot, it is not only justifiable but a moral obligation to take any bonuses you are offered and give the finger to those suckers!).

Also, in response to another question about the nature of the “state of nature”, 7% said man is inherently good and cooperative; 47% the former, but that society corrupts him; and 47% said he was selfish and competitive. Berkeley students are therefore surprisingly realistic. Even a cursory reading of non-politicized anthropology will reveal that – with a few exceptions – primitive societies are extremely violent, competitive, and hierarchical.

And those respondents were for the most part social science people. Engineers and techies at Cal are considerably further to the right. More general freshman opinion polls show that Berkeley students aren’t all that much more radical than the average American population (e.g. opinion on the death penalty is split 50/50). Actually just considering that Berkeley is associated with the likes of John Yoo (the pro-torture lawyer) or Arthur Jensen (the HBD’er) should prove it is no seething, uniformly liberal hotbed. A year ago, the College Republicans organized a “Diversity Bake Sale” in which discounts were given to Hispanics, blacks, and women to protest affirmative action; a liberal attempt to get the university to ban it failed.

The impression I think arises from Cal’s close association with the City of Berkeley which actually is full of politically far left citizens.

Boris Releases His Eighth (?) Dud

I can’t be bothered deconstructing it as I did with the demographic section of Boris Nemtsov’s last (seventh) white paper. But there are some things to be said about its claims as regards Putin’s lifestyle and its coverage in the Western media.

(1) The definitions of what constitutes one of Putin’s “residences” is very loose. For instance, take this from Fred Weir at the CSM:

Nine of Putin’s state domiciles, including the lavish Konstaninov palace in St. Petersburg, have been constructed recently on his orders

The problem is that I have been to Konstantinovo Palace in 2003… as part of a tourist group. $250 million was indeed spent on it, but this was a Tsarist era palace that had been damaged in WW2 and otherwise fallen into neglect during the Soviet years. What happened is that it was repaired and reconstructed in the early 2000’s. It was used for official functions and conferences – it was the centerpiece of the G8 Summit in Saint-Petersburg in 2006 – but when it isn’t, you could book an excursion for a small fee. (The guide made a joke about how the bridges on the moat surrounding the palace could be drawn up to imprison visiting VIP’s who drew Putin’s displeasure).

Here is a picture of me (awfully dressed) inside a room, outfitted to look like a ship’s cabin, where Putin and Bush discussed stuff on several occasions.

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Russia’s Bizarre Preoccupation With The Idea Of The “National Idea”

There’s tons of criticism that Russia no longer has a “national idea.”

The sentiment comes from almost everyone: Nationalists, liberasts, Communists, foreign critics, Russian “experts” with far too much time on their hands, and even some otherwise astute observers.

I don’t disagree with the thesis, but do ask: Why is that such a bad thing?

Grand narratives and universal theories tend to be poor at describing the world as it really is, and not infrequently lead to large-scale mistakes and suffering when pursued with excess zeal. The USSR is a classic example of a country with a “national idea.” So was the US under the neocons.

Even when they don’t lead to stupid outcomes they are almost inevitably farcical when promoted by politicos, under virtually any political system. Instead of inspiring, the only thing “universal” about them is that everyone mocks them. Suffice to mention “The Big Society” (Tories, UK); “sovereign democracy” (Surkov, Russia); “harmonious society” (the Chinese Communist Party).

Putin himself put it best, in response the question, “When will Russia get an idea for which one can live for and create for?” He said, “Galina Dmitrievna, – for our children, our grandchildren, for our Motherland, Russia, it always was, is, and will be worth living for and creating for. What else is there? However we might try to come up with a national idea, it has to be said directly: There is nothing closer to someone than his family, his close ones, and his own country.”

Alternatively, the joke website Lurkmore too has a good article on the concept.

National ideas suck. Putin emphasizes pretty mundane things like conservatism, patriotism, pragmatism, and a growing GDP and I for one am more than satisfied with that.

Breivik’s Future

Is 21 years in prison, with the rarely mentioned (but real) addendum that it may be indefinitely extended if he is assessed as a risk to society. Which he no doubt will be.

If I were the judge I’d put him up against the wall and be done with it. On this I actually agree with Breivik himself:

Breivik derided a jail term as ‘pathetic’, and said acquittal or execution were the only reasonable outcomes, although the country does not have the death penalty.

As it is, he is going to live in fairly luxurious conditions (for a prisoner) featuring three rooms, each 8 square meters: A bedroom; his own private gym; and a computer, from where he will continue writing his opuses. (At least they won’t take recent moves to have Internet access declared a fundamental human right to apply to Breivik).

Don’t really have much more to say on this that hasn’t been said elsewhere. One thing that hasn’t been mentioned much is that Breivik is yet another quintessential example of beta male rage as in George Sodini, James Holmes, etc (though the driving causes in his case were quite different from what motivated most of the American mass shooters). Breivik was very beta: World of Warcraft junkie, no girlfriend, etc.

Another fun thing to consider is what Breivik will observe from his prison as the decades go by. There will be no uprising against “Eurabia” of the type he dreams about and hopes to foment. On the other hand the predictions of “Eurabia experts” about dhimmitude won’t pan out either. What will actually happen is that Norway’s population will continue diversifying, bolstered by millions of climate refugees – only a modest fraction of which will be from the Islamic world – ushering in a caste society by the time as the century goes on. In these new conditions I fully expect ethnic Norwegians to remain generally on top like the Kshatriya and Brahmans in India.

I wonder what Breivik would think about that?

My Piece On Pussy Riot At Al Jazeera

A PR disaster: Five views on Pussy Riot’s war.

Go, read. Comment there if possible.

Just a couple more notes:

  • Since I submitted the article, commentator peter made one of the most convincing arguments against the validity of the sentence against Pussy Riot. I suppose this will be raised in PR’s appeal.
  • Just to clarify, as I said in the piece above, I do not think consider 2 years to be a fair sentence. I’d have given them 50-100 hours of community service. I agree with Kononenko here.
  • But the law’s the law in Russia as elsewhere. On that note, see this story (h/t Jon Hellevig) in which it is said that three German PR supporters who disturbed a service in Cologne cathedral may be liable for imprisonment of up to 3 years.

Other non-MSM line coverage of the PR not mentioned in my Al Jazeera case includes thisthis, this, this, this, this.

There is also an active discussion of my Al Jazeera piece at reddit (h/t Sam Bollier).

PS. Also apparently the second link I threw in about Iran(ian universities banning women) isn’t as straightforward as that. h/t Fatima Manji

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Mystery Within An Enigma

mls13 writes:

“Anything goes,” eh? Okay, here’s an admittedly-asinine question for everyone: how is the Medvedev-back-to-Putin transition being addressed by Russia’s makers of political matryoshki? Are they doing Putin on the outside, then Medvedev, then Putin again and then Yeltsin, Gorbachev etc.; or are they being untrue to history by doing Putin-Medvedev-Yeltsin-Gorbachev…, or are they just cutting to the chase and omitting Medvedev all together? Personally, I can’t believe how they’ve managed to screw-up one of Russia’s premier products in the international-tchotchke industry! 😉

That is actually a very intriguing question. I suppose there’s a reason Matryoshka dolls weren’t invented in Italy!

New Delhi Cuts Ties With PISA

India backs out of global education test for 15-year-olds.

Indians were put to test for the first time in the last assessment in 2009. On the global stage, they stood second last among 73 countries, only beating Kyrgyzstan on reading, math and science abilities… This time around, sources said India shied away from the assessment as government officials felt our children were not prepared for such a test.

“India didn’t sign up for the PISA 2012 assessment because when countries were asked to sign up for that assessment, India had only signed up for the PISA 2009 assessment, which it carried out with a year later delay in 2010,” said Juliet Evans, who handles communication and administration for the PISA Secretariat. Unlike India, several other countries like Costa Rica, Malaysia, Georgia and the UAE who had carried out the PISA evaluation in 2010 did sign up for the upcoming assessment.

Which of these Soviet leaders does this remind you of?

Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev and Brezhnev are all travelling together in a railway carriage. Unexpectedly the train stops. Lenin suggests: “Perhaps, we should call a subbotnik, so that workers and peasants fix the problem.” Stalin puts his head out of the window and shouts, “If the train does not start moving, the driver will be shot!” But the train doesn’t start moving. Khrushchev then shouts, “Let’s take the rails behind the train and use them to construct the tracks in the front”. But it still doesn’t move. Brezhnev then says, “Comrades, Comrades, let’s draw the curtains, turn on the gramophone and pretend we’re moving!”

Anyhow, most countries will continue participating, including some new ones. I am especially looking forwards to seeing how Vietnam performs. It is about ten years behind China, and its genetic IQ level is probably about 5 points lower than China’s. As such, if its IQ comes out to be appreciable lower than 95 (my own estimate is 90-92) then it would be a further blow against Ron Unz’s theory of the East Asian Exception (to the Flynn Effect).

Minorities’ Cognitive Performance In The UK

Here is data from the Cognitive Abilities Test for UK students in 2009/10 via Ambiguous.

Some interesting things to take away here:

(1) The sample is very large. Verbal IQ has the highest correlation with academic performance in most subjects, followed by Quantitative IQ, and then Non-Verbal Reasoning (recognizing patterns and such, I imagine).

(2) Indians do almost as well as Whites, although the structure of their cognitive abilities are a bit different: About 4 points lower than Whites in Verbal, but almost 2 points better in Quantitative. As rec1man said, “The Patels and Sikhs are Upper-Shudra / Vaishya and this is 80% of the diaspora in UK.” So this is highly encouraging for India’s eventual prospects; in indicates that the broad middle can in principle build a reasonably wealthy, middle-class society.

(3) The Pakistanis and Bangladeshis also don’t do too badly – certainly better than I would have expected (I visited a Pakistani school once in the UK and it was horrific).

(4) This might imply we are actually looking at the following average-IQ groups in India: Lower 40% – 93; Middle 40% – 99; Top 20% – 105, for an overall average of 98 (once Flynn Effect is done with them). That’s better than Greece today and certainly good enough  to have a developed society. But there’s tons of challenges: Malnutrition, slums, poor education, widespread vegetarianism (both voluntary and involuntary – due to poverty) that have to be sorted out for India to perform to its potential.

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