Navalny’s Popularity on the Wane

That’s what I counselled people hoping for (or fearing) that a color revolution was imminent a few months ago: Look at the numbers.

Well, since then, they have if anything plummeted further.

14% approval vs. 62% disapproval. Down from half a year ago.

Furthermore, while young people are relatively more pro-Navalny (this is not surprising: to those who follow my Russia blogging, I have been pointing out that Russian youth lean more liberal and more nationalist relative to the mainstream for several years now), there’s still nothing to write home about so far as absolute numbers are concerned.

Just 24% approval vs. 59% disapproval amongst the 18-24 year olds who constitute the spearhead of any color revolution.

In the Russian electoral context, it is all one big nothingburger.

Vkusvill Jumps the LGBT Shark

I wrote about Woke Capital making inroads into Russia after Netherlands HQ’ed Yandex.Taxi fired a driver who refused service to a rude Black foreign student last year.

However, not all such corporate attempts to signal fealty to progressive values are paying off.

Vkusvill is a nice chain of grocery stores that are somewhere in between budget outlets like Perekrestok (=Carrefour/Safeway in the Western context) and the snobbish Azbuka Vkusa (=Whole Foods). Trader Joe’s would probably be its closest US equivalent. But it is also expanding abroad, with two branches and a cafe in the Netherlands, and planning a listing in New York.

So it is not too surprising that Vkusvill thought that now might be an auspicious conjuncture to do this:

The ad featured a number of real-life VkusVill shoppers such as a student, a single mother, and two straight couples, then ended with the “matriarch”-led family including the lesbian couple, who declined to talk to the Financial Times.

The family of women posed for pictures with meatless burgers and coconut condensed milk as they espoused their support for veganism, recycling and polyamorous relationships.

Certainly not a bad idea to attract more hipsters.

(Incidentally, what’s even funnier is that the lesbian family in question is from pro-Western Georgia. Which happened to cancel its gay pride parade through Tbilisi due to Far Right attacks just a week ago ).

But this provoked a boycott from Orthodox non-GMO type shoppers who happen to form the other wing of their clientele. Quickly it became evident that they were more numerous than the polyamorous hipsters, forcing Vkusvill to backpedal.

They apologized, blaming an activist underling in the marketing department for the debacle, and replaced their photo of a Vkusvill family with a rather more traditional one.

This in turn enraged the liberals, who condemned Vkusvill for its cowardice and retreat before homophobia. Meanwhile, their Amsterdam branch apologized to the Dutch LGBT community.

Such are the woes of balancing between two stools for the managers of a company who don’t give a damn either way and just want to make money in this Clown World of ours.

In my observations, the saying “Go woke, go broke” is largely rightoid cope. It just doesn’t work, at most, the SJWs merely jump the shark by a couple of years.

That said, it might actually be true in a country where support for gay marriage is at less than 20% and most people are strongly repulsed by Woke signaling.

US Homicide Rate 60% Higher than Russia’s in 2020

This translates to a homicide rate of 7.4/100,000 homicide rate using the US population of 332M as the denominator.

I wrote about the history of the Russian homicide rates here. This is how the centennial comparison now looks like between Russia and the US after the latter’s embrace of #BLM and community policing.

US at 7.4/100k in 2020 would already be quite ahead of Russia, which was at 4.7/100k in the same year.

It’s quite possible that this year or next year the differential will be 2x over in Russia’s favor since US homicide rates appear to be still rising (if at a slower pace) while the number of homicides continues falling in Russia (-3.8% in Jan-May 2021 y/y).

Not that this is yet anything to write home about for Russia. After all, “demographically normed”, Russia’s homicide rates remain well above American ones. (As always, this is largely a function of middle-aged alcoholics knifing each other during their drinking bouts, as opposed to the “street criminality” that distinguishes African-American homicides). Nonetheless, these caveats aside, it now performs much better than the US so far as the raw per capita numbers are concerned, and vastly better than during the 1990s-2000s period, when late Soviet era “alcoholization” had reached its peak concurrently with the breakdown of law and order.

Open Thread 157

Another thing to note is that Bitcoin dominance never receded to the extent it did in 2018 (I was sure this wouldn’t happen, hence missed the peak). Back then, altcoins were just $ETH and shitcoin “BTC killers.” Now, there are tons of altcoins that actually do things across #DeFi and Web 3.0; yet even so, Bitcoin fell less as a % of the total, and even a large part of the altcoin gains accrued to dog-themed shitcoins and fossil coins while some actually world-changing coins like Chainlink remained in the doldrums throughout the bull run. But perhaps it’s good that normies didn’t “get” things like Aave this run. It gives us one last opportunity for accumulation on the cheap.


Rejecting Sputnik to Own Putler

Yesterday the Levada Center released a new poll on vaccines that tends to confirm my contention that Russia’s tawdry pace of vaccinations is not a result of supply constraints, but the banal fact that many Russians (including in older age groups) would simply rather catch Corona than get vaccinated.

The first observation is that the percentage of people saying they won’t get vaccinated has been steady at more than 50% of population despite half a year and counting of increasingly intense government pro-vaccination propaganda.

The people who are open to getting vaccinated are doing exactly just that. 19% say they have been, which is close to the 18% of official statistics. Unless there’s some cardinal change of views, this means that Russia’s final vaccination rate is probably capped at something like 40-50% (short of it being made mandatory – but that is unlikely to happen, 58% oppose that idea and so does Putin).

Note that this poll was conducted in 24-30 Jun, when the Delta wave was already in full swing and Moscow restaurants were ordered to require QR vaccination codes for entry.

This graph, however, is much more telling. In most countries, it is the elderly who are much more eager to get the vaccine, for obvious reasons. In Russia, these inter-generational differences are much more modest. Almost half of 55+ year olds simply don’t want to get vaccinated and that’s that. Amongst those who do, half already had been.

This is the main and really only reason why in Britain, where vaccination of the elderly is at 95%+, mortality is drastically lower than in Russia where interest from that demographic (and in general) was so feeble that age restrictions on Sputnik access were withdrawn a month after it became publicly available in January.

Moreover, contrary to claims made by pro-Western propagandists (including some in comments to this blog), pro-vaccination sentiments, at least as concerns Russian-made vaccines, are much stronger amongst Putin supporters.

Of those who approve of Putin, 22% are vaccinated and 31% intend to (=53% total), while 45% would not.

Of those who don’t approve of Putin, only 14% are vaccinated and 14% intend to (=28% total), while 71% would not.

This is partially explainable by the age effect because younger people are more anti-Putin and also more anti-vaccination. However, since the difference between ideology is much stronger than the difference between age groups, this can’t be the main explanation.

Unsurprising. But worth keeping in mind, considering liberal/pro-Navalny elites’ belated attempts to pin the anti-vaxxer label onto Putinists, after having themselves engaged in bitter anti-Sputnik propaganda in service of their foreign sponsors several months ago.

I suppose a silver lining here is that mortality should become increasingly loaded against Putin opponents, many of whom evidently conflate their opinion with him and on anything made in Russia, and would rather get a foreign synthesized virus than take a Russian-made vaccine.

Open Thread 156

  • Scott Alexander – Welcome Polygenically Screened Babies. First baby polygenetically screened born to a family with a history of breast cancer which wanted to reduce to reduce those chances. SA implies the client was a reader. Eventually it could be possible to do this for intelligence and other personality traits.

  • Putin’s Q&A with Russia. I’ll have a separate short post about that.

  • Artyom Lukin says China made strategic decision to replace US corn with Russian wheat (based on convo with Russian agribusiness specialist).

  • BASED. Serbia’s Vucic stabs Drumpf in the back, reneging on the commitment to move his embassy to Jerusalem, also proclaims he “firmly believes that the Communist Party of China will continue leading the Chinese people to stride forward along the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics.”

  • As expected, US withdrawal from Afghanistan means China is sidling in. Plans for road to Pakistan.

  • Brian Jacques’ Redwall children’s fantasy series (essentially, heroic mice and surdy badgers fight evil rats and wicked weasels) is being made into an animated series. Minor AK lore: I pretty much learned English from reading this series.

  • /r/europe has Europe map of cash payments as % of transactions. Balkans not a surprise, but it’s curious how allergic the Germans are to going digital; or that Russia is more digital is more digital than Estonia.

  • Robin Hanson – The Coming Cosmic Control Conflict. Basically, if his Grabby Aliens model is correct (e.g. isn’t constrained by Katechon Hypothesis or something similar), the possible conflicts that may occur along the borders of their expanding spheres of control could make for epic stories.

  • Justin Murphy – Urbit and the Telos of the Creator Economy. (h/t MJ). The best introduction to urbit I’ve seen to date.

“If you think the stock price of woke politics is currently higher than it should be in equilibrium, then buying Urbit address space (i.e. Urbit “land”) is a way to bet on this belief.”

FWIW, I never bought the Moldbug association FUD. I don’t think it being loosely tied to an NRx thinker who has long distanced himself from the project will matter if it becomes attractive to use and people come there. Main risk is just that it’s outcompeted by some other solution, just like nobody now remembers Bebo. 95% of crypto-related smallcaps go to zero. Still, it’s one of the most solid projects out there, while I certainly don’t deign to give financial advice, picking up a star in the bear market might be an idea.

Another very good point here is that Big Tech sucks up a lot of human capital that could be more productively harnessed (just like the financial sector). Is Goolag really worth this? Relative to these misallocations, the energy costs of, say, running the Bitcoin network would appear trivial.

Connor, G., & Pesta, B. J. (2021). Linear and partially linear models of behavioural trait variation using admixture regression. In bioRxiv (p. 2021.05.14.444173).

All the expected results for US Blacks, replicated yet again.

  • Humorous but IMO accurate /pol/ explainer on what various lower IQ categories “mean” in practice.

  • Center of Bitcoin mining is moving away from China (to Kazakhstan, mostly, as I gather). It’s curious how few mention that this removes one of the big FUDs against Bitcoin.

  • IT’S COMING HOME? Not much into football. But my guess is that Italy beats Spain, England beats Denmark, and England beats Italy.


Generation Zyklon Loves CRT

Haha, any of you still remember that meme? It was admittedly some very good hopium from Audacious Epigone at the time. (Belated RIP to his blog).

But over time it became clear that the idea that zoomers were radically more “based” than previous generations was, at most, if not a complete myth – Richard Hanania mentioned that he couldn’t find anything about the methodology of the 2016 HS poll that supposedly had 81% of pupils voting for Trump – then at most a very temporary outburst of /pol/ meme-driven excitement that was soon confined back to its kennels by the Big Tech overlords and/or stamped out once they entered the universities. Subsequent polls have tended to show that zoomers are similar in outlook to millennials, and in fact more woke on some issues, such as personal pronouns and gender identities.

Well here’s a new poll to confirm that point (h/t Hanania).

That’s right, it seems like 46% of today’s College Republicans agree with CRT.

Moreover, so far as the woke Republican zoomers are concerned, their main difference from the Democrats is just that they want to pay less taxes while bombing more foreigners.

Nemets comments:

Anecdotally it seems right. At GOP meetings here the young people are supportive of most of the wokist pushes of 5 years ago, & only support GOP for tax cuts and militarism. Exceptions are the dwindling numbers of pious Christians.

Furthermore, a majority of students believe that the US history curriculum didn’t focus enough on race. As Hanania notes, “[it’s] clear that a vast majority either likes the current PC curriculum or wants it even more PC.”

Zoomer grugs reared on /pol/ and Big Brain “Facing Reality” readers might be “redpilled”, but so far as the normie majority is concerned CRT is part and parcel of Wokeism, the religion that has replaced Christianity for their generation.

And as such, like it or not, CRT is here to stay:

The Alt Right, /pol/, HBD autists, “radical centrists”, and anti-Woke grifters all failed. It is the true intellectual titans such as Ibram X. Kendi and Robin DiAngelo who have won the battle of ideas.

You will accept that, you will take the knee, you will acknowledge your white privilege, you will be happy.

Open Thread 155

Guirkinger, C., Aldashev, G., Aldashev, A., & Fodor, M. (2020). Economic Persistence despite Adverse Policies: Evidence from Kyrgyzstan (No. 2020-39). ULB — Universite Libre de Bruxelles. (h/t @whyvert). Finds the same thing even for Kyrgyzstan: Richer and more powerful tribes had greater representation in 1970s Soviet elite.

With gas prices low, I recommend content creators/brand owners to snap up an .eth domain. They are cheap but could become quite important come Web 3.0. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

  • UKRAINE. Ukraine using $2B of its meager resources to buy British warships and kneeling for the honor… well, I suppose the UK’s provocation of Russia by sailing its destroyer through Crimean waters was not so surprising. The “lost” documents about that were obviously a leak. Meanwhile, China also forces Ukraine to kneel by (allegedly) threatening vaccine supplies if Kiev had insisted on keeping its name on the list of states condemning its actions in Xinjiang.

Israel proved more faithful to the US, though. Hanania: “US loves Muslim rights so much, it pressures Israel to criticize China. Because that’s where Israel can make a difference in giving Muslims rights, in Xinjiang.”


What Next in Afghanistan?

[Epistemic status: Low, I don’t know much about Afghanistan, nor does it interest me much (except for the fascination multiple empires seem to have in expending their treasure there].

There appears to be a near consensus that the Taliban will take over most of Afghanistan soon after the US withdrawal and that they will do this rather quickly.

This assessment would appear to be backed up by the takeover of multiple provincial centers by the Taliban, who had previously mainly stuck to the countryside, in recent days.

Even on paper, the two sides are more evenly matched than many expect, according to a recent report (h/t Vendetta):

A glance at commonly cited numbers would leave the impression that Afghanistan’s security forces far outnumber the Taliban, by as much as a factor of four or five (352,000 to 60,000). A more nuanced comparison, however, suggests a different story. Most estimates put the number of Taliban frontline fighters around 60,000. The comparable number of Afghan soldiers is about 96,000. The only detailed public estimate of the Taliban’s militia elements—its “holding” force—is around 90,000 individuals. The comparable government force is the police, which has about the same number of people (84,000) in the field. Thus, a purely military comparison of strength shows that the government’s fighting force is only about 1.5 times the strength of the Taliban’s, while the two sides’ holding forces are roughly equivalent.

The Afghan government forces have much more in the way of advanced tech, but they are too low IQ to use most of it effectively. So its value is limited and will plummet further once American advisors leave.

The Taliban believe in what they’re fighting for so their morale is much higher. Most ANDSF soldiers are in it for the paycheck. Corruption is rife and even those “elite” units (read: minimally combat-worthy) end up not getting promised support from other units, with the result that they end up falling into traps, getting massacred, and becoming demoralized themselves.

So on the face of it the situation for the central government in Kabul is bleak.

But will this mean that the Taliban takeover is guaranteed? No. At least, not all of Afghanistan.

The Taliban has traditionally been popular amongst Pashtuns. But they are only 42% of the population, while the Tajiks and Hazara are less enthusiastic about them and constitute 36%. This might be even more true today than a decade or two ago because the Taliban are reputed to have shifted a bit away from Islamic fundamentalism and more into the direction of Pashtun nationalism.

And indeed, check on the LiveUAMap of Afghanistan – a page that will grow in popularity in coming months – shows that virtually all the pins on the map denoting attacks occur in areas where Pashtuns are the majority.

This follows the classical trajectory of guerilla insurgencies against inept government forces in the Middle East/Central Asia. While they make excellent headway against government forces in areas where they have popular support, blending into the local population and enjoying an intelligence advantage, the going gets much harder once they leave those areas. (Hence, say, why Islamic State ultimately never had a chance of capturing Baghdad).

And even during the five years of Taliban rule in Afghanistan, there was the breakaway Northern Alliance in the Tajik north-east, as well as anti-Taliban guerilla movements in the Hazara and Aimak areas.

So my guess is that things will end up something like that this time too as opposed to any kind of unitary Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

Almost all the Pashtun areas will revert to Taliban rule, where they have no already done so. But the “Northern Alliance” will reconstitute itself and will, at a minimum, retain control over the Tajik, Hazara, and Aimak majority areas.

The key question is whether the Taliban will be able to take control over Kabul.

I suspect it will, because another constant of Afghan history is that outsiders tend to insist on involving themselves. One exotic but not unimaginable scenario is that China takes over the US as a security provider. China has a more legitimate interest in Afghanistan than the US because it provides a direct land route to Iran, whose relations have blossomed in recent years culminating in the signing of a $400B deal this year. China as the world’s biggest construction-industrial complex will be in a position to build the roads, railways, and pipelines to actualize that connection. Possibly China will even help it take back the Pashtun areas, with the help of the technologies and practices used to pacify Xinjiang.

Russia enjoys good relations with the current Afghan government (minor footnote: It was one of the few governments to recognize Crimea). (Incidentally, yet another reason why the fake news about Russia paying Taliban fighters bounties to kill US soldiers was so patently absurd). Iran was on the verge of invading Afghanistan a couple of times in the late 1990s. Both would be perfectly fine with such an arrangement.

This opens the rather amusing prospect of the US returning to tradition and supporting the Taliban in its liberation struggle against the Chicom oppressors and its Russian and Iranian lackeys in another decade. That is, after all, about how long it took the US to let bygones be bygones with Al Qaeda/Al Nusra.


US Reminder It Controls .com Domains

The US has seized the domain names of Iranian state news agency Press TV. It also seized Al-Masirah, a website owned by the Houthis in Yemen (the people fighting Saudi Arabia), as well as dozens of other websites from countries as disperse as Iraq, Azerbaijan, and Nigeria whose common denominator was that they were owned by or connected to Shi’ite Islam.

Apart from displaying the Biden administration’s continuity with Trump-era policy on Iran – as in many other things, both as regards domestic and foreign policy – this also constitutes a pretty significant confirmation of the thesis that the era of the Open Internet is over and its bifurcation along national and civilizational lines is inevitable. Given these developments, is it wise even for the English language versions of the websites of the likes of RT and Xinhua to remain on .com domains?

But this won’t improve individual censorship-resistance (except, perhaps, to the extent that one can geopolitically leverage – but that carries its own risks and tradeoffs). For that you need decentralized DNS such as ENS, HNS, Unstoppable, Blockstack. Actually, on that note, with gas prices currently quite low, now might not be a bad time to snap up an ENS domain for the next few years or decades if you (1) have some Ethereum in your own wallet, and (2) are in the profession of producing “content”, especially if it is often of an edgy nature. “Squatting” and “domain sniping” isn’t yet a thing there but it probably will be once Web 3 takes off.