Venezuela Events

Personally, I have a feeling that Maduro will make it to the end of the year.

PredictIt odds are hovering at 50/50. Worse than 70% a month ago, but better than the 30% they gave this January. The main development since January has been a collapse of oil production, but there is good reason to think that some of the lost output has merely been shifted off the books to Rosneft in conntection with US sanctions.

I am not going to comment much further, since I am in no way shape or form a Venezuela expert.

Film Review: Game of Thrones S07


RATING: 3/5.

I largely lost interest in Game of Thrones by the end of Season 5 (the only TV series I follow through the excellent cable alternative qBittorrent). So much so that it was not until just a week ago that I realized Season 8 had already started. As I explained in my review of Season 6, as the series has sprung ahead of the books, it has become increasingly clear that show writers D&D are talentless hacks who substitute expensive CGI and ever less subtle SJW propaganda in favor of a credible plot or genuine immersion in GRRM’s world. (Incidentally, now that GoT is finishing up, those two are now going to be working on a TV series about a scenario in which the Confederate States survive, which I imagine will be something like a cross between Django Unchained and the Draka Saga).

Since I have already invested quite a lot of time in the series, I’ll still watch the last season, and review it in due course. But first let me explain how it has continued going so horribly off the rails.

Any concerns about keeping logistics even halfway credible have been done away with. D&D essentially disappeared the 80,000 strong Tyrrell army, allowing the Lannisters – who had twice fewer troops, most of them worn down by previous wars – to easily take Highgarden (the richest and most populated province in Westeros). This is not credible, even taking into account Tarly’s betrayal of the Tyrrells. Moreover, the very fact that the Lannisters have any major supporters left at all is surprising, considering she’d just blown up a large percentage of the Westerosi nobility.

In my last review, I actually predicted this would happen; it wouldn’t be very interesting if the rest of Westeros were to just curbstomp them. But I also posited that the Lannisters would accomplish this through an alliance with Dorne, which has 50,000 spears and has also escaped war thus far. The 40,000 Lannister troops, 50,000 Dornish spears, and however many troops Tarly has would be comparable to the host mustered by the Tyrrells and their retainers, so a Lannister victory would at least be plausible. Thinking up of a reason for Dorne to ally with the Lannisters would be difficult, but not impossible. Perhaps an internal revolution?

But no, there was none of that. Just some handwaving about how the Tyrrells – the strongest military force on the mainland – are “not a martial house.”

Meanwhile, after casually kinslaying and kingslaying his way to leadership of the Iron Islands – things that used to be unspeakable tabooes, but which are now universally hunky-dory – Euron has embarked on a grand naval construction program. And what a program it is! The Iron Islands – a small piece of territory that has been described as “shitstained rocks”, and which I can’t imagine support more than 500,000 ironborn at the very most – have apparently built 1,000 longships over the course of a few months. 1,000 longships multiplied by a typical longship crew of 30 equals 30,000 reavers, or ~6% of their population (and that’s not counting Yara’s “defector” fleet). Medieval societies rarely mobilized more than 1-2% of their population. Moreover, the Iron Fleet appears to be imbued with magical enchantments, such as the “Invisibility”, “Telepathy”, and “Medieval Ekranoplan” perks. Or at least that would seem to be the most logical explanation, given how the Iron Fleet first ambushed and destroyed Yara’s fleet – somehow managing to sneak up on it in the open ocean during night-time – before swinging over to the other side of the continent in the very next episode and destroying the Targaryen fleet supporting the Unsullied assault on Casterly Rock.

I suppose that making the Iron Fleet so OP was necessary given the sheer disproportion that had developed between Lannister and Targaryen military power. But it was done in a way that left no room for suspension of disbelief.

Then there’s other small things which may not be critical by themselves but combine to massively degrade the quality of the series.

The Iron Bank isn’t going to side with Cersei because Daenerys disrupted the slave trade. The Iron Bank doesn’t invest in slavery. Moreover, as an institution founded by runaway slaves, it does not condone slavery. Braavos has even forced other city-states that it has defeated, such as Pentos, into abolishing slavery. Abolitionism is, like, its one value apart from making money hand over fist. They are not going to be impressed by Cersei’s arguments about the evil Daenerys freeing the slaves, sooner the opposite. But D&D couldn’t care less for world consistency.

How did Jaime manage to evade capture, and swim out of the river suited up in heavy armor? If I was writing the show, I’d have had Daenerys capture him, and Tyrion persuade her to use him as bait to draw Cersei into negotiations.

While there’s always been a bit too much of a grrl power element for a “gritty realistic” fantasy, in this episode it has been jacked up to eleven. Brienne has been built up to be this elite “tank” woman who can go head to head – and win – against people such as the Hound, one of the very best warriors in Westeros. But now we have a little girl who has been trained up by ninjas and maxed out her Agility and Dexterity stats into owning her with her little sword without so much as breaking a sweat.

The trial against Petyr Baelish was a sham. While we know all the accusations were true, the “evidence” in question wasn’t worth anything, and neither was Bran’s testimony, based it was on mere “visions” (which only we, the audience, can confirm). Moreover, I would point out that Sansa’s accusation that Baelish murdered Lysa contradicted her initial testimony to the Lords of the Vale, in which she claimed that her aunt had committed suicide. While the Arryn men were always suspicious of Baelish, why should they have trusted and automatically sided with Sansa? Now that she had directly contradicted her own, earlier testimony. Conveniently, Littlefinger broke down and appeared to (though not really) confess to everything, which prevented the whole thing from coming off as a show trial to uncritical viewers. But seen from the side, the Starks displayed far less concern for due process than either Lysa or Tywin had done with respect to Tyrion; both of the latter, at least, had granted the accused a trial by combat, as opposed to just slitting his throat. An ignominious end to one of the best characters in the series, and one that he was blatantly railroaded into by a pair of hacks with no regard for logical consistency.

More logistics autism. Ravens and dragons alike can now fly at the speed of the Corcorde airliner. Or perhaps the South American-sized continent of Westeros has shrunk down to the size of Great Britain now that winter has come.

Now I realize that that the show needs to strike a certain balance, to make things understandable for the audience and maintain the pace, which often comes at the cost of world consistency, logical plot progression, and suspension of disbelief. But I do strongly feel that D&D didn’t really even try. The entire narrative structure has progressively collapsed as the show has become more and more untethered from the plotlines laid down by GRRM in the books. The show writers are uninterested in continuing a great epic. They are interested in cheap drama, dumbed down plotlines, CGI porn, and getting a wide variety of sexual fetishes out onto the silver screen.

That said, the series does seem to have continued getting rave reviews since Season 5, when it all started going steeply downhill. So can one really blame D&D for playing to the peanut gallery.

I’ll review the eighth and final Episode in another couple of months or so.

Not Only Putler Reads Me, But Zelensky Too!

Guardian: Ukraine president offers Russians citizenship in snub to Putin

Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the comedian who last week won Ukraine’s presidential election, has dismissed an offer by Vladimir Putin to provide passports to Ukrainians and pledged instead to grant citizenship to Russians who “suffer” under the Kremlin’s rule.

I take back everything bad I ever wrote about Zelensky – not when it emerges that he is my faithful reader!

I strongly approve of the Ukraine giving out passports to Russians. No oppressed Russian should be denied the opportunity to participate in Ukraine’s vibrant democracy.

Having proven their democratic and freedom-loving credentials by willingly assuming Ukrainian citizenship, the Ukraine must then also take the requisite steps to allow them to easily vote in Ukrainian elections. They must open polling stations in Russia to service their new loyal citizens.

As a long-suffering political victim of the Putler regime, I am willing to take up the duties of Ukrainian citizenship and so are millions of other Russian nationalists!

Russia Mulls Easier Citizenship for All Ukrainians

RT is now reporting that Putin said Russia may offer fast-track citizenship to all Ukrainians at the Belt and Road summit in Beijing.

He has also reacted forcefully to critics of giving Donbass residents citizenship:

These rumors are spread by people who don’t want Russia to support the people in Donbass. There will be no serious burden on the Russian budget, we have calculated everything.

So what did I tell you? This as good as confirms that PUTLER reads my blog. Back in October 2018, I suggested that best course of action now is to drain the Ukraine of human capital. This will now become much easier… assuming this is actually followed up.

Will it be?

Well, my/Kholmogorov’s suggestions from antoher post written soon afterwards have been adopted by the kremlins:

For instance, as Kholmogorov has recently suggested, one powerful way this ideological reformulation – if indeed it is to be taken seriously – can be implemented is in the Donbass, which is ripe for mass distributions of Russian passports. Furthermore, Putin explicitly mentioned the long-suffering Donbass in his speech, alluding to their struggle to preserve their national roots and traditions. But if Russians are henceforth to be defined by their Russianness, and the Donbass is fighting to preserve its Russianness, then it becomes ridiculous to continue portraying the War in the Donbass as an internal Ukrainian affair, as Kremlin propaganda has been doing since the end of the abortive “Russian Spring” in 2014.

But that post also included the following:

According to the latest report from Kommersant, the desirability of increasing labor immigration from the Ukraine and Belorussia has been explicitly specified. According to an anonymous official, the next legislative change could involve the cancelation of Russian language requirements for citizens of those countries for obtaining Russian citizenship: “They all speak Russian there anyway,” notes the official in question. There will likely be further deregulation of naturalization procedures for highly qualified specialists and people who finished university with flying colors.

So hopefully these general trends – making Russian citizenship easier to obtain for Russians abroad, and ultimately not just in the Ukraine – will continue progressing in that vein.

PS. It is very telling that “liberal” commenters, both in Russia and the West, have been so triggered by the passports decision. As Egor Prosvirnin noted on his livestream with Zhuchkovsky yesterday, internationalist liberalism ends when it comes to Russia issuing passports to Russians in the LDNR, and Russian socialism ends when it comes to paying pensions to Donbass grandmothers (a whole bunch of people who complained about Putin raising pensions now condemn him for deciding to subsidize Donbass parasites… even though this is not even strictly true, as people who continue to reside in the Donbass will apparently be ineligible for Russian pensions unless they move to Russia).

But back to the topic at hand. Is Russia forcing anybody to accept passports? No, it isn’t. It is offering people choices. Opening up borders. Isn’t labor mobility an important part of globalization, which has brought immense prosperity to the world the past few decades? Indeed, do not many other countries, such as Israel and Hungary, already long have such politicies, though even more implicitly ethnonationalist in character? Why are they not getting condemned and accused of “escalating” tensions? The answer is that their support for cosmopolitanism and globalization ends wherever Russia starts to benefit from them too.

PPS. Seriously, what happened to Putin to make him go from putlet to PUTLER within less than a year?

Quadruple Whammy

The judge in question was an Obama-era minority appointee. This may have played a role in her imposing the maximum sentence of 18 months requested by the prosecution, despite the ridiculousness of the case.

reiner Tor comments:

If I were a Muslim detainee arrested by the Dubya Government, I’d probably want a black judge. But being a white Becky from Russia, supporting Republican causes like the NRA, and helping them defeat the Democrats?

There must’ve been a convergence of Democratic resentment of redneck Republicans, black racial resentment of whites, normie Russiagate resentment of Russians, and feminist resentment of a prettier and younger woman here.

Book Review: Andrew Yang – The War on Normal People

Andrew Yang – THE WAR ON NORMAL PEOPLE (2018)
Rating: 5/5

You can access all of my latest book, film, and video game reviews at this link, as well as an ordered, categorized list of all my book reviews and ratings here:


I don’t normally read the vapid hagiographies that characterize most political manifestoes. The two exceptions are Trump’s ART OF THE DEAL, and Putin’s FROM THE FIRST PERSON. The former was a genuinely well-written book that provided many insights into real estate development, and really explained the logic behind Trump’s showman “style” of politics (see Scott Alexander’s great review). Though it wasn’t a Trump manifesto as such, having been written three decades ago by a guy who now actually hates The Donald, it was probably the closest thing to one amidst the meme wars of 2016. The Putin book was a relatively dull series of interviews, though it still accounts for a significant percentage of what we know about Putin’s career before the Presidency and remains required reading for any serious Russia watcher. That said, I imagine the vast majority of such books hew to the pattern of Hillary Clinton’s HARD CHOICES, which was apparently so bad that Amazon was forced to mass delete one star reviews to avoid embarassing their favored candidate.

So why did I make an exception for Andrew Yang’s THE WAR ON NORMAL PEOPLE? Well, part of it is that he is my favorite candidate to date (as a proponent of Universal Basic Income (UBI) since 2015, there is nothing particularly illogical or contradictory about that). His rational, common sense positions on a bewildering amount of issues help. But what really impressed me is a Twitter post that highlighted his familiarity with the work of Peter Turchin:

At this point, it was obvious that reading the rest of THE WAR ON NORMAL PEOPLE would not be a waste of time, even if Yang’s campaign was to otherwise pete out (ha-ha). And good thing I did. While I consider myself relatively well read, especially on “futurist” topics, I was nonetheless continuously regaled with all manner of original insights and things that I didn’t know before.


The Yang bio only takes up one chapter. This is a good thing. I don’t feel people should be writing about themselves unless they’re over 60, or have done something pretty impressive, or participated in a war or something. Quite the welcome contrast to Obama, who wrote an entire memoir on the subject at the age of 34.

Yang is highly intelligent. Both of his parents went to grad school, and his father made 69 patents over the course of his career. His brother is a professor. “Good genes, very good genes.” He got admitted to Stanford and Brown. He is obviously well read, and the literature he reads is K-selected. Apart from Turchin’s book, he also cites Yuval Hari (HOMO DEUS) and Martin Ford (RISE OF THE ROBOTS). After graduation, he worked as a corporate lawyer; as a Silicon Valley businessman; as the CEO of a GMAT prep company; and lastly, as the director of Venture for America, an NGO that provided training and seed money for aspiring entrepreneurs.

One curious, endearingly personal note is that it seems he was bullied at school:

“Hey, Yang, what’s it like having such a small dick? Everyone knows Chinese guys have small dicks. Do you need tweezers to masturbate?” Most of this was in middle school. I had a few natural responses: I became quite self-conscious. I started wondering if I did indeed have a small dick. Last, I became very, very angry.

I admit I chuckled a bit at the idea that there is perhaps a 6% chance (today’s odds on PredictIt) that high school taunts about anatomy might end up playing a role in creating America’s next President. Many of these bullied Asian-Americans tend to become bitter and withdraw into communities such as the SJWs at /r/azidentity or the Chinese nationalists at /r/Sino. Yang didn’t go down that path. That said, as someone raised in an Asian-American family, bused tables at a Chinese restaurant as a teen, and who has maintained strong ties to the wider Asian-American community, those ideological currents must have influenced him to at least some extent.

His father immigrated from Taiwan. Geopolitics regardless, many Taiwanese-Americans are very proud of Chinese progress. The early base of Yang’s support was predominantly Asian-American, and I was told that many of his earliest foreign fans were Chinese. I have a friend who was slightly acquainted with Yang before he became famous, and he confirmed my impressions – based on the exclusively positive mentions of China on his Twitter, and his website – that Yang is a strong Sinophile. As we saw with Trump and Russia – or for that matter, with Gabbard and Syria – being unseemingly friendly with or even just objective towards countries that have been declared strategic competitors, rivals, or enemies of the US isn’t all that great for your political capital. You heard it here first: If Yang somehow wins the Dem nomination, the possibility of a “Chinagate” cannot be excluded.


As Yang recounts it, his travels throughout America opened his eyes to the yawning gap between the flourishing coasts and its depressed hinterlands. From the chapter “Life in the Bubble”:

We joked at Venture for America that “smart” people in the United States will do one of six things in six places: finance, consulting, law, technology, medicine, or academia in New York, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, or Washington, DC.

Other parts of the book consist of depressive travelogues about cities in the Rustbelt, with their abandoned malls, dilapidated infrastructure, brain drain, opioid epidemics, and casinos filled with people who probably shouldn’t be gambling.

So he is quite aware of the distinction in outcomes between the “Belmont” and “Fishtown” of Charles Murray’s COMING APART (for a summary, see “Trump’s America” in The Wall Street Journal).

Moreover, I am reasonably sure that Yang is more or less directly familiar with Murray’s thesis:

Think of your five best friends. The odds of them all being college graduates if you took a random sampling of Americans would be about one-third of 1 percent, or 0.0036. The likelihood of four or more of them being college graduates would be only about 4 percent. If that described you, you’re among the educated class (even without necessarily knowing it; in your context, you’re perfectly normal).

This argument that America is developing into a meritocratic caste system is directly lifted from COMING APART, as is the “bubble” metaphor used to describe its Brahmins. E.g., see Charles Murray’s Bubble Quiz.

Today, thanks to assortative mating in a handful of cities, intellect, attractiveness, education, and wealth are all converging in the same families and neighborhoods. I look at my friends’ children, and many of them resemble unicorns: brilliant, beautiful, socially precocious creatures who have gotten the best of all possible resources since the day they were born. I imagine them in 10 or 15 years traveling to other parts of the country, and I know that they are going to feel like, and be received as, strangers in a strange land. They will have thriving online lives and not even remember a car that didn’t drive itself. They may feel they have nothing in common with the people before them. Their ties to the greater national fabric will be minimal. Their empathy and desire to subsidize and address the distress of the general public will likely be lower and lower.

That pretty much cinches it. “Assortative mating” isn’t the sort of term that everyone throws around; although it is a biological term, its popularization in sociology was led by Murray and other “HBD realists.” While I understand and sympathize that these people are generally “unhandshakeworthy”, and hence uncitable by someone running for the Dem nomination, I think it is legitimate to think of  THE WAR ON NORMAL PEOPLE as the solutions set to the problems posed by COMING APART.


Here are some of the main problems and challenges that Yang talks about:

  1. Automation. I won’t go on here at length, as this has already been widely covered in the media. I recommend Martin Ford’s book RISE OF THE ROBOTS, or at least this 15 minute video, for a full treatment. But the basic thing to take away is that automation is coming for many jobs, and it won’t just be manufacturing ones this time round. Some things that struck me as noteworthy:
  • There are now less than 400 NYSE floor traders, down from 5,500.
  • Legal review: Humans have 60% accuracy, AI already at 85%.
  • Friend of Yang’s who works in a ride-sharing company says that according to internal projections, half of all rides will accrue to autonomous vehicles by 2022.

This will eliminate jobs in truck driving, the ride-sharing sector (Uber, Lyft, etc.), and more and more repetitive cognitive white-collar work.

  1. Unsatisfactory jobs. There will be jobs to take the place of automated ones, but these will be low productivity jobs with lower salaries (which will further incentivize companies to automate them away). Perhaps uniquely for a politician, Yang is sympathetic to people who can no longer be bothered to pull themselves up by the bootstraps, as conservative orthodoxy dictates.

Imagine a 21-year-old college dropout who is not excited to make sandwiches at Jimmy John’s and prefers his gaming community. You could say to him, “Hey, this Jimmy John’s job could go places. Sure you make $8 an hour now. But maybe if you stick with it for a few years you could become a manager. Eventually, you could make $35,000 or so if you really excel and are willing to work long and hard hours, including waking up at 5 a.m. to slice up tomatoes and cucumbers every morning, and commit to it.” The above is possibly true. Or, the retail district around his Jimmy John’s could shrink and a management job might never open up. Or Jimmy John’s could bring in an automated system that gets rid of cashiers and front-of-house staff two years from now. Or his manager could just choose someone else.

  1. Video games. This explains why NEETs like the above have turned to video games; young men without college degrees now spend 75% of the time they used to spend working with gaming. This is easy, because the marginal cost of video games is near zero; as Yang sagely points out, they are an “inferior good” in economic terms. However, he also notes – as a onetime gamer – that while playing games for hours on end might seem “sad”, their satisfaction level is high, especially relative to their low social status and high rates of unemployment.

  2. Disability. More and more people, especially discouraged workers, are entering the disability rolls. This is an understandable reaction to the loss of good jobs. However, since most disability applications are more or less fake – rates have been soaring, even as the rate of workplace accidents plummets – this encourages a culture of dishonesty, and disincentivizes people from rejoining the workforce since they would then lose their disability “basic income.” There are no solid ways to disprove some common ailments, so getting a note from a doctor is relatively easy. This is a way of life for many depressed rustbelt communities.

  3. Other social maladies. These include:

  • Abandoned malls creating derelict no-go zones.
  • The poverty of communities left behind by falling manufacturing employment, soon to be repeated on an even bigger scale as automation takes off.
  • Rising white middle-aged mortality, in which he cites Case & Deaton’s research.
  • He is woke to the opioid crisis: “Many of the deaths are from opiate overdoses. Approximately 59,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2016, up 19 percent from the then-record 52,404 reported in 2015. For the first time, drug overdoses have surpassed car accidents as the leading cause of accidental death in the United States.” I assume he’s likelier to make progress on it than Kushner.
  • An army of drug dealers in suits marketed addictive opioids to doctors, getting paid hundreds of thousands to do it.


In the final “problems”-related chapter, he mentions the work of Russian-American biologist/historian Peter Turchin, one of the founders of cliodynamics, a new multidiscplinary field that aims to mathematize the cycles of history*.

In his book Ages of Discord, the scholar Peter Turchin proposes a structural-demographic theory of political instability based on societies throughout history. He suggests that there are three main preconditions to revolution: (1) elite oversupply and disunity, (2) popular misery based on falling living standards, and (3) a state in fiscal crisis. … Most of the variables that he measures began trending negatively between 1965 and 1980 and are now reaching near-crisis levels. By his analysis, “the US right now has much in common with the Antebellum 1850s [before the Civil War] and, more surprisingly, with… France on the eve of the French Revolution.” He projects increased turmoil through 2020 and warns that “we are rapidly approaching a historical cusp at which American society will be particularly vulnerable to violent upheaval.”

Turchin isn’t one of those “doomers” who have predicted all ten of America’s past zero collapses since he began predicting.

But he did predict the rise of Islamic State in Iraq back in 2005:

Western intrusion will eventually generate a counter-response, possibly in the form of a new theocratic Caliphate (War and Peace and War, Penguin, 2005).

And he predicted that populism and social instability in the US would increase through to the 2020s. This was well before either Trump or Sanders came on the radar.

So given this impressive predictive record, it’s certainly worth listening to what Turchin has to say.

In addition to Turchin’s analysis, Yang also mentions that there will be racial ressentiments:

A highly disproportionate number of the people at the top will be educated whites, Jews, and Asians. America is projected to become majority minority by 2045. African Americans and Latinos will almost certainly make up a disproportionate number of the less privileged in the wake of automation, as they currently enjoy lower levels of wealth and education.

… and suggests that SJW policing of speech will complicate frank discussions of these problems:

Contributing to the discord will be a climate that equates opposing ideas or speech to violence and hate. Righteousness can fuel abhorrent behavior, and many react with a shocking level of vitriol and contempt for conflicting viewpoints and the people who hold them. Hatred is easy, as is condemnation.

This could set the stage for RACE WAR NOW as economic dislocations produced by automation further turbocharge preexisting trends towards inequality and polarization:

After the riots, things continue to deteriorate. Hundreds of thousands stop paying taxes because they refuse to support a government that “killed the working man.” A man in a bunker surrounded by dozens of guns releases a video saying, “Come and get your taxes, IRS man!” that goes viral. Anti-Semitic violence breaks out targeting those who “own the robots.” A white nationalist party arises that openly advocates “returning America to its roots” and “traditional gender roles” and wins several state races in the South.

Incidentally, I would say that this explains the context behind Yang’s “whites will shoot up Asian-Americans in another generation” video.


Yang’s signature issue is UBI, so it makes sense that he devotes two entire chapters to the topic. Despite its current association with libertarians, crypto evangelists, NEETS, gamers, digital nomads, and various other eccentrics who have only begun spawning on a reasonably large scale these past 1-2 decades, it was once much more mainstream**.

It’s hard to fathom now, but the idea of a guaranteed annual income was mainstream political wisdom in the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Medicare and Medicaid had just been passed in 1965, and the country had an appetite for solutions for social problems. In May 1968, over 1,000 university economists signed a letter supporting a guaranteed annual income. In 1969, President Nixon proposed the Family Assistance Plan, which would provide cash benefits of about $10,000 per family and serve as a guaranteed annual income with some eligibility requirements; this bill was supported by 79 percent of respondents polled at the time. The Family Assistance Plan passed the House of Representatives by a wide margin—243 to 155—but then stalled in the Senate due to, of all things, Democrats who wanted an even more robust plan.

But then the Reagan Revolution rolled out, economists produced (now discredited) studies that UBI depressed work hours and increased the divorce rate, and the general public lost interest.

The literature that Yang has amassed tells a different story. He mentions a study by Evelyn Forget (2005) in Canada, who found the effect on work to be “minimal.” The only groups of people that worked substantially less were new mothers and teens, which seems to be a perfectly fine outcome. There was also a rise in high school graduation rates, a reduction in hospital visits, less domestic violence, and fewer cases of mental illness. Another study by Akee on Native Americans who got basic income from casino earnings found that children became more conscientious and agreeable.

I was genuinely surprised to learn that there is one major country that has already adopted UBI: Iran. During the 2011 reforms, it eliminated inefficient food and gas subsidies, and replaced them with basic income of $16,000 per year. (Strictly speaking, this is not quite accurate on Yang’s part; this is far too much for a middle-income country like Iran, and as I subsequently confirmed, $16,000 is their basic income NORMED to US standards, i.e. what Americans would get under a scheme that drew on a similar share of the national income). But in any case, there was apparently no reduction in hours worked. I don’t know what effect it had on Iranian economic productivity, and Yang doesn’t go into it. I would imagine that doing such analyses on the Iranian economy would be complicated by the relative opacity of its national accounts, as well as by the (much larger) economic shocks created by US sanctions over this past decade.

Either way, the general picture – so far as we can say based on the limited UBI experiments to date – is that they don’t have much effect either way on employment or GDP, but they do increase happiness and general welfare. But in any case, when the current President thinks it is very normal to mark Easter with an economic growth update…

… perhaps it is time to stop worshipping the latest quarterly GDP figures, as was suggested by Simon Kuznets in 1934, the inventor of the GDP:

… economic welfare cannot be adequately measured unless the personal distribution of income is known. And no income measurement undertakes to estimate the reverse side of income, that is, the intensity and unpleasantness of effort going into the earning of income. The welfare of a nation can, therefore, scarcely be inferred from a measurement of national income as defined above.

In Yang’s vision, the size of American UBI – the “Freedom Dividend”, as he calls it – will be $12,000 for each American aged 18-64, subsequently indexed to inflation. This is just above the current poverty line of $11,700.

But will it be affordable?

An analysis by the Roosevelt Institute of this $12,000 per year per adult proposal found that adopting it would permanently grow the economy by 12.56 to 13.10 percent—or about $2.5 trillion by 2025—and it would increase the labor force by 4.5 to 4.7 million people. Putting money into people’s hands and keeping it there would be a perpetual boost and support to job growth and the economy. The cost would be about an additional $1.3 trillion per year on top of existing welfare programs, most of which would be folded into the plan, as well as increased taxable revenue and cost savings. …

The cost of $1.3 trillion seems like an awful lot. For reference, the federal budget is about $4 trillion and the entire U.S. economy about $19 trillion. But there are myriad ways to pay for it. The most sensible way to pay for it in my view would be with a value-added tax (VAT)—a consumption tax—that would generate income from the people and businesses that benefit from society the most. …

A VAT would result in slightly higher prices. But technological advancement would continue to drive down the cost of most things. And with the backdrop of a universal basic income of $12,000, the only way a VAT of 10 percent makes you worse off is if you consume more than $120,000 in goods and services per year, which means you’re doing fine and are likely at the top of the income distribution.

This counters one of the central “leftist” arguments against UBI – that it is regressive, and falls disproportionately on the poor. Sure, they’ll be paying 10% more for most goods and services. But their income will also increase by at least 50%, and by around 100% if they work part-time. It will be rich consumers who lose out.

For people who consider this farcical, consider the bailouts that took place during the financial crisis. You may not recall that the U.S. government printed over $4 trillion in new money for its quantitative easing program following the 2008 financial collapse. This money went to the balance sheets of the banks and depressed interest rates. It punished savers and retirees. There was little to no inflation.

This one is for the inflation bears.


While UBI is the mainstay of Yang’s policy platform, he has many other excellent ideas, which he elucidates in the three final chapters.

  1. Raise government worker retirement packages, with President getting $4 million per year. This is to be coupled with a lifetime prohibition on making money from their office through speeches, etc.

I very strongly agree with this, and have proposed this on many occasions in the past as well. Admittedly, I was talking about Russia, but it really applies to any country. Politicians and bureaucrats get less money than businessmen, even though they are often just as talented. This is a truism nigh well everywhere. This makes them resentful. Many of them want to close the gap. In the more corrupt countries, they do that directly, from pressuring companies to “contribute” to their family’s accounts (at best) to directly “raiding” successful companies and stealing from government accounts. In less corrupt countries, they tend to be slaves to lobbyist interests, on the unspoken understanding that they would be rewarded for their service once out of office (this describes the US). I suppose that in a few countries they might genuine “servants of the people” but the number of such countries isn’t all that high.

As it is, the only country that I am aware of that runs similar policies is Singapore, where Ministers get close to $1 million per year. As a high IQ authoritarian state, it is able to resist populist demotism.

  1. Stop corporate welfare. This one, I wager, would play well with both Bernie and Trump supporters:

Here’s an idea for a dramatic rule—for every $100 million a company is fined by the Department of Justice or bailed out by the federal government, both its CEO and its largest individual shareholder will spend one month in jail. Call the new law the Public Protection against Market Abuse Act. If it’s a foreign company, this would apply to the head of the U.S. operation and the largest American shareholder. There would be a legal tribunal and due process in each case. The president would have the ability to pardon, suspend, shorten, or otherwise modify the period or sentence. The president would also have the ability to claw back the assets of any such individual to repay the public.

  1. Education realism. He notes that while tertiary enrollment is rising, its efficiency is falling.

That is, only 59 percent of students who started college in 2009 had completed a bachelor’s degree by 2015, and this level has been more or less consistent the past number of years. For those who attended private, selective colleges, this number will seem jarringly low; the same number at selective schools is 88 percent. Among schools with open admissions policies the rate is only 32 percent, and among for-profit universities the six-year graduation rate is 23 percent.

This is inevitable. Only 25% of students can benefit from a university education, as there is only so much space on the right hand side of the IQ bell curve. Only choice is to fail more and more students, to lower standards, or to abandon the fiction that everyone is suited for university.

While Yang can’t exactly couch it in such terms, he is – unlike the increasing number of Democrats agitating for free college – obviously woke to the Education Question:

(a) Administrative staff at US universities is blooming, and they are passing on the costs to the captive student market. Meanwhile, they use their tax exempt status to run hedge funds.

One way to change this would be a law stipulating that any private university with an endowment over $5 billion will lose its tax-exempt status unless it spends its full endowment income from the previous year on direct educational expenses, student support, or domestic expansion. This would spur Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Princeton, MIT, Penn, Northwestern, and others to spend billions each year directly on their students and expansion within the United States. There could be a Harvard center in Ohio or Michigan as well as the new one they just opened in Shanghai.

Incidentally, describing the Ivy League colleges as hedge funds with a university attached is something that Ron Unz has also done, though his solution was to suggest forcing Harvard to eliminate its fees.

(b) He talks of the need for more vocational training and apprenticeships.

(c) Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are largely ineffective. While I wasn’t expecting miracles, I was still surprised to learn that Udacity’s course completion rate is only around 4%. They are not a panacea.

(d) He is especially hard on government “retraining” programs for displaced workers:

The reality is more often displaced workers spending government funds or racking up debt at the University of Phoenix or another for-profit institution in desperate bids to stay relevant and marketable.

In particular, he agrees that “learn to code” is useless advice for the vast majority of these people. They would be better off with a UBI.

  1. Mandate “serenity” settings for smartphones and social media. Currently it’s a pain to get notifications settings down to a manageable level. Would be good to have an all-in-one option.

  2. Social credits. No, this is not the quasi-totalitarian Chinese scheme to coercively promote good behavior. This is similar to a thing called “time banking”, which are already exisiting voluntary associations in the US where people get credits within communities by performing useful tasks, e.g. minor home repairs, walking dogs, etc. The idea is to have the government allocate these credits towards solving some major problem, e.g. “100 million DSCs to reduce obesity levels in Mississippi”, and let normal people sort out the details in a more efficient way than bureaucrats could dictate. Apart from the direct benefits, it should also help people feel more useful and enhance life satisfactino. I am not fully convinced having the government being involved in this is such a good idea, but I will reserve judgment until I learn more about it.

  3. Primary care doctors helped by AI in healthcare. This will also help keep costs down, and lessen the strain on overworked doctors.

Martin Ford, the author of Rise of the Robots, suggests that we create a new class of health care provider armed with AI—college graduates or master’s students unburdened by additional years of costly specialization, who would nonetheless be equipped to head out to rural areas. They could help people monitor chronic conditions like obesity and diabetes and refer particularly hairy problems to more experienced doctors. Call them primary care specialists. AI will soon be at a point where technology, in conjunction with a non-doctor, could offer the same quality of care as a doctor in the vast majority of cases. In one study, IBM’s Watson made the same recommendation as human doctors did in 99 percent of 1,000 medical cases and made suggestions human doctors missed in 30 percent of them. AI can reference more cases than the most experienced physician while keeping up to date with the latest journals and studies.

In return for a less hectic pace and greater freedom to focus on patients as opposed to paperwork, doctors will need to take a salary hit:

What’s required is an honest conversation in which we say to people who are interested in becoming doctors, “If you become a doctor, you’ll be respected, admired, and heal people each day. You will live a comfortable life. But medicine will not be a path to riches. On the bright side, we’re not going to burn you out by forcing you to see a million patients a day and fill out paperwork all the time. We’re going to supplement you with an army of empathetic people equipped with AI who will handle most routine cases. We’ll only call you when the case genuinely requires distincthuman judgment or empathy. We want you to become the best and most human version of yourself, not Dr. Speed Demon who can bang out a nine-minute appointment. Let’s leave that to Watson.”


It should be blindingly obvious, but yes, Yang is really the only US Presidential candidate that interests me at this point in time. I consider his policies to be head and shoulders above those of any other candidate. Note that many of his other great ideas, such as banning robocalls, regulating social media as a public utility, and promoting nuclear power are not even in this book. The one mostly blank spot on his policy agenda – admittedly, a very big one – is his stance on foreign policy.

However, the early signs are encouraging. His official policy is seemingly non-interventionist, and he has spoken out against sanctions on Venezuela.

In my view, Yang correctly identifies that a war is being waged on “normal people.” And he has a battlefield strategy – a mixture of paternalistic technocracy and capitalism with a human face – that has at least some chance of turning the tables.

I mean look, here is the situation come 2020:

  1. An orange man turned POTATUS whose foreign policy agenda is set by neocons and AIPAC, and who has gone from calling for a Wall to calling for millions of LEGAL immigrants to work in factories that will soon be swept away by automation. Yang, at least, will favor cognitively elitist immigration, i.e. which actually creates tons of value and will continue to be viable in the age of automation.

  2. A vomit-inducing brew of Establishment globalists, SJW-appeasing identity politicians, bland corporate stooges, Russiagate conspiracy theorists, and “liberal interventionists” who call Christians “Easter worshippers.” Sure, there’s one other decent candidate there, but she doesn’t seem to have policies between foreign policy and has a <1% chance of getting elected, while Yang has at least a distant shot at it.

  3. While I like people such as Tucker Carlson, the problem is that he is not running. It doesn’t seem that there will be any challenger to Trump from the Dissident Right. Fortunately, there is no great contradiction, as Yang and Carlson also seem to like each other. Furthermore, while both Yang and Carlson are concerned with automation, the Freedom Dividend is clearly a better and more adaptive policy than the latter’s Neo-Luddism.

Most likely, Yang will not win the Dem nomination, and will fade from the scene by this time next year. (Just like Audacious Epigone, I bet on Kamala Harris on PredictIt). This does not mean he will fade from history. Automation isn’t going anywhere, and pressure for UBI will continue to build up (and not just in the US). It is reasonable to posit that Yang will continue to serve as a figurehead for it within the US. However, at the rate that “contradictions” are piling up in US society, it is unclear if it will come about in time to prevent mayhem.

The choice is essentially to cut and run or to stand and fight. We must convert from a mindset of scarcity to a mindset of abundance. The revolution will happen either before or after the breakdown of society. We must choose before.

On the off chance that Yang actually makes it, I hope this book review will convince at least a few people into helping bring that about and launch fully automated luxury cyborg space human capitalism.

** I also learned that Thomas Paine was a fan, writing in 1796: Out of a collected fund from landowners, “there shall be paid to every person, when arrived at the age of twenty-one years, the sum of fifteen pounds sterling, as a compensation in part, for the loss of his or her natural inheritance,… to every person, rich or poor.”

Butina’s Show Trial Ends in 18 Month Sentence

This translates to nine months plus the nine months already served, which is the full length of time that the prosecution asked for (probation office asked for 12 months).

Here is how this stacks up against old FARA prosecutions:

One last point I haven’t made, and have seen few other people make, is that relative to the (very few) previous cases of recent US prosecutions under FARA, Butina’s indiscretions were trifling. For instance, in United States v. Samir A. Vincent, the accused was found guilty of acceptions millions of dollars from Saddam Hussein to lobby for the removal of Iraq sanctions (and he had serious contacts, all the way up to former President Carter). His eventual punishment was a fine of $300,000 and community service. The very latest case concerned Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai, a pro-Pakistani lobbyist who also received millions of dollars and had high political contacts, until the US clamped down when relations with Pakistan soured following the US raid to kill Osama bin Laden. He was initially sentenced to two years in jail, which was later reduced to one year and a half. However, his crimes also included tax evasion.

18 months is very fair and proportionate. /s

As I noted at that time: “Consequently, if prosecutions under FARA can be considered to be a gauge of American official attitudes, we may consider that the US is more hostile to Putin’s Russia than to Saddam-era Iraq or the country that sheltered a terrorist who killed 3,000 of its citizens.” We can now consider that to be official.

Strictly speaking, she was not indicted under FARA but under Section 951, but regardless, the key issue was the foreign agent registration part. This is furthermore despite the fact that she “fully cooperated” with the government. Doesn’t appear to have done her any good, LOL.

What makes this all the more amazing is that the judge Tanya Sue Chutkan suggested that Butina took part in “Russian interference” in the 2016 elections, despite her name not appearing anywhere in the Mueller report.

As we pointed out in a petition to free Butina in August 2018, this also sets a horrible precedent by essentially criminalizing Russian-American contacts of a political nature.

However, you don’t exactly have to be a “gun nut” to be concerned about the implications of this case for free speech in the United States, as well as the potential impact on public diplomacy between Russia and the United States – public diplomacy that is arguably needed more than ever, given the current state of relations between the two nuclear superpowers. But given this precedent, how can we reasonably expect ordinary citizens to practice public diplomacy – to learn, network, and exchange ideas with each other – when Russians face the real risk of arrest and imprisonment in the United States for having had associated with officials from both countries?

Some of my articles on Butina:

The first article, written hours after he initial arrest, established that Right to Bear Arms was a legitimate Russian civil society organization, not some false front set up to specifically give Butina cover to infiltrate the GOP/NRA/whatever as was widely claimed. Moreover, its relations with the Kremlin were not entirely cordial, as gun rights is not something that Russia’s rulers much care for.

The second article covered the news that Butina was not trading sex for political access, as the American MSM had claimed (selective American frenzies against “slut-shaming” regardless).

The third article was an extended commentary on the best and most comprehensive article on the Butina Affair to date by James Bamford, The Spy Who Wasn’t.

One revelation of many is that Butina rebuffed a guy who had a national security role in Trump’s campaign, which is the exact opposite of how either a spy or a foreign agent would behave. In the end, even Mueller wasn’t interested in pursuing the case, with it being taken up by a pair of provincial FBI agents with no experience in espionage or organized crime investigations.

LDNR Residents To Get Russian Passports

Putin has just signed a law on simplified citizenship for residents of the LDNR.

Any person with LDNR residency documents now has the right to apply for Russian citizenship, and can expect an answer within three months. Citizenship is immediately conferred upon a positive decision.


  1. Fundamentally, this is the humanitarian thing to do, as it rescues the Donbass from the state of legal limbo they have resided in since May 2014.

  2. This is a much more serious step than the recognition of LDNR documents and nationalization of Ukrainian enterprises in February 2017. All steps which, in retrospect, have led up to this moment.

  3. By the end of 2019, a large percentage of the LDNR’s 3.7 million residents will give up their their Ukrainian citizenships and become Russian citizens. Zhuchkovsky writes that the monthly applications processing capacity of the Rostov and Voronezh offices opened to process LDNR citizenship applications sums up to 30,000 a month, so in reality the processs will go a lot slower. Moreover, siloviks and bureucrats will have priority, so it will be a few months before ordinary LDNR citizens can get processed.

This conclusively ends the “Putinsliv” theory (the idea promoted by some Russian “zradniks”, such as Strelkov, that the Kremlin was preparing to cut its losses in the Donbass and withdraw its protection). In the aftermath of any putative Operation Storm, the Ukraine would now have a legal framework to mass expel its former citizens who have taken up Russian citizenship (as Croatia did to Serbs in Krajina). So allowing it to happen would now be even riskier than before in terms of political optics.

  1. There is an LDNR law that fixes its borders at the frontline, so any military attempt by the Ukrainians to revise Minsk II would presumably be followed by further avalanches of Russian passports in the areas subsequently liberated.

  2. Russian liberals already crying over this being a “knife in the back” in Ukraine’s new “peace-orientated” President. As I pointed out, this characterization was quite unlikely to be true.

In the meantime, Poroshenko appears to be exploring options to prevent Zelensky coming to power. Ideas include dismissing the head of the Constitutional Court, which would delay his inauguration. A more promising avenue is a law to strip the President of most of his powers and transfer most of them to the Prime Minister, which was submitted to the Rada soon after the first round of the elections (i.e. when Poroshenko must have realized he was toast).

Is Zelensky Putler’s Puppet?

Prokudin-Gorsky. Malorossiya, c.1905-1915.

In the 24 hours since the results of the second round of the Ukrainian Presidential elections became known, there has been a strange convergence of views on Ukraine’s course under President-Elect Zelensky from opposite sides of the barricades. Many “svidomy” Ukrainians are in tears over their “hoodwinked” or “stupid” compatriots electing a “clown” and Putler puppet as President. Meanwhile, a significant number of “Russophile” commenters – for once, not just Westerners, but even Russian nationalists – are besides themselves with glee, portraying this as a “rejection of the Maidan” and “anti-Russian hysteria.” This idea that the Dark Lord of the Kremlin has just subverted yet another plucky little democracy is also a major, if not dominant, theme in current discussions on large Western forums such as /r/worldnews.

As it so happens, all of these people are almost certainly wrong. Let’s recap some facts about Zelensky that I am sure will be rather inconvenient for all of these people:

  1. He is sponsored by Kolomoysky, a self-styled “Zhidobandera” (Jewish Banderist). He is the main sponsor of Dnepropetrovsk-based Right Sector, which played a key role in putting down pro-Russian rebellions in East Ukraine during 2014. He is also closely associated with hardline Dnepropetrovsk mayor Boris Filatov, whose proposed solution to the separatist problem is to “give the bastards all sorts of promises, guarantees, and concessions… And then hang them.”
  2. He is also supported by Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, the Kharkov-based sponsor of the far right Azov Batallion.
  3. He donated one million grivnas of his own earnings to the ATO.
  4. In the debates, he has stated that he supports Poroshenko’s work on building up the Ukrainian military, anti-Russian language laws, and his schismatic church. He said he would continue those policies, but with less stealing.
  5. His proposed Defense Minister, Ivan Aparshin, is staunchly pro-NATO, and his main beef with Poroshenko was his haplessness on military corruption. Many other members of his team are Maidan activists, including foreigns from the Baltics and Georgia, who were sidelined after the Maidan or left on account of disillusionment over continuing failures to tackle corruption.
  6. He has come out against autonomy for the Donbass, and against amnesty for the rebels. This effectively translates into repudiating Minsk II, just like Poroshenko. He has also ruled out against speaking to the rebels directly, and even wants to remove Viktor Medvedchuk – a politician with close ties to Putin who now plays a key role as a liaison between the Kremlin and the Bankova – from any negotiations.
  7. Moreover, he has stated he wants to expand the current Normandy Format to also include the UK and the USA, those well known epicenters of Russophile sentiment in the West.
  8. He intends to start paying out pensions to the Donbass again. While one can interpret this as an attempt at reconciliation, it is more logical – given the above – to interpret it as a statement that the Ukraine really is serious about getting those territories back. Many Ukrainian nationalists from Lvov don’t really view the Donbass as a core or integral part of the Ukraine; indeed, many of them are willing to accept cutting it off entirely as the price of consolidating their nation-state. Ukrainian nationalists from Dnepropetrovsk, the center of gravity of Zelensky’s support, do not share that outlook.
  9. There are doubtless heroes. Stepan Bandera is a hero for a certain percentage of Ukrainians, and that’s perfectly cool and normal. He is one of the people who defended Ukraine’s freedom.

Now just to be clear, I am not saying that Zelensky will be a “svidomy”, anti-Russian ideologue. He certainly cares much less for “culture war” issues such as Bandera, and soon after the Maidan, he even criticized the practice of banning Russian performers from the Ukraine. I allow that much of the above – especially the parts relevant to Donbass – are more campaign rhetoric than policy. There will now probably (hopefully) be fewer statues of Russian generals and statesmen getting toppled (generals who played a key role in opening up Novorossiya to Ukrainian settlement in the first place), there will be fewer gratuitous restrictions on the Russian language (most of which are not enforced), there will probably (hopefully) be fewer stupid, sovok-svidomy laws banning most of the Russian Internet (even if the Ukraine seems to be too incompetent to actually enforce them).

All I am saying is that the facts do not warrant getting ones hopes up about any imminent Russo-Ukrainian reconciliation.

Why? Because even if I am wildly wrong on all this, and Zelensky really is a hardcore Russophile in real life – as opposed to just in Poroshenko’s PR – there are a whole series of structural factors that will hamper any such efforts.

First, despite a few tentative signs of improvement, Russia and the Russian vector is much less popular in the Ukraine now than it was before 2014.

These elections showed that the pre-elections polls were very accurate. According to those polls, Poroshenko would have lost to any of the major opposition candidates, with the sole exception of… Yury Boyko. Now Boyko is a classic representative of the old Party of Regions (now Opposition Bloc), complete with the pre-elections flight to Moscow to ask for lower gas prices. Between Boyko and Vilkul – the latter is an Akhmetov-sponsored spoiler to ensure that Boyko wouldn’t make it into the second round in Poroshenko’s stead – this “Blue” or “sovok” faction gained 15% of the votes in the first round*. For comparison, the division was around 50/50 before 2014. Moreover, Boyko was the only major politician projected to lose in a head to head against Poroshenko, while anybody else was projected to win with handsome margins. So even a “classic” Party of Regions-style candidate would have lost to an extremely unpopular politician who jacked up gas prices and failed to do anything about corruption while reading the hoi polloi lectures about “Army. Faith. Language”, multiplying his wealth many times over, and sending family members gallivanting around London.

LegendUkrainian attitudes towards Russia [blue]; Russian attitudes towards Ukraine [orange]

As I have previously explained in rather exhaustive detail, this is part of a general “westwards” shift on the Ukrainian political compass. This shift occured as a result of both demographic change – the loss of Crimea and the most pro-Russian, urban part of the already Russophile Donbass; and of social change – Ukrainian anger over Russia stoking civil war in their lands, or outright “invading” them (opinions differ). The combined effect equals an approximately one standard deviation decline in “Russophile” sentiment. Before 2014, Ukrainians were 50/50 on joining EU vs. Eurasian Union, ~85% against joining NATO. Now the EU is vastly more popular, while opinion on NATO is 50/50.

Now on the Ukrainian political compass, Zelensky is a centrist; neither a svidomy, not a sovok (as was the old division). But as per above, that “center” has moved much further west after 2014, as Kiev became like Galicia used to be, Dnepropetrovsk became like Kiev used to be, and Kharkov/Odessa became like Dnepropetrovsk used to be.  Zelensky, in this situation, is as centrist as can be – for instance, whereas the “svidomy” late Poroshenko enshrined the goal of NATO membership in the Constitution, Zelensky now promises a referendum on the matter. A hypothetical “centrist” Ukrainian President would not be raising that issue at all before 2014.

Second, there are long-standing structural factors ensuring that Ukrainian politicians – even those that campaign on a pro-Russian platform – rapidly drift west relative to their constituents. That is because the Ukrainian elites are much more Western-orientated than the proles – adjusting for geography (the famous west-east Russophile gradient), and for age structure (younger people are more pro-Western), both pro-Western and Ukrainian nationalist sentiments increase with education**. Even a large percentage of Party of Regions elites (if not rank and file voters) are Westernizers. And the oligarchs, of course, hold their offshore accounts in Western jurisdictions. This means westwards drift in the wake of any election.

Third, Zelensky’s political capital is meager, only appearing large in relation to Poroshenko’s trainwreck. Ukrainian voters will soon realize he is not a miracle worker who will defeat corruption in a day, actualize their “tyscha v den'” (1,000 grivna per day, or 1,000 Euros per month), and end the war on Ukraine’s terms while forcing Russia to cough up reparations. So his ratings will start plummeting like those of all previous Ukrainian leaders. One area of particular concern is Kolomoysky, who has – in an event of impeccable timing – just won a series of court cases that allow him to stop contributing surety payments towards financing PrivatBank, which was nationalized by the Ukrainian state to save it from bankruptcy in December 2016. Apart from the direct effects of allowing PrivatBank to collapse, it also threatens an immediate cutoff of almost $4 billion worth of IMF funding. And come the end of this year, Nord Stream II is projected to come online, which will annul the great bulk of Kiev’s $3 billion worth of annual gas transit revenue. These are serious sums for a state with a nominal GDP of not much more than $124 billion.

Now I am not saying that the Ukraine necessarily faces a serious fiscal-debt crisis. I am expressly not one of those people who have predicted all ten of Ukraine’s zero collapses in the past half decade. However, what it does mean is that the Ukraine should not count on any extra cash coming in, so the austerity that killed Poroshenko’s popularity will have to continue for the indefinite future (just one day in, Zelensky has already poured cold water on his more rosy-eyed supporters by rejecting any decreases in utilities tariffs). Neither the Ukrainian deep state nor the oligarchs (insofar as they are even separate) are interested in a genuine anti-corruption campaign, and both hardcore svidomy nationalists and the military establishment view him with suspicion (the General Staff Tweeted an implicit condemnation of him after he called the LDNR forces “rebels”, instead of the politically correct “terrorists”). There are vested interests in keeping the Donbass War gig alive – neither hot, nor frozen – as it enriches many people through contraband, kickbacks on supply contracts, etc.

It is hard to see how Georgian libertarians, reactivated Maidan activists, and promises to legalize weed and gambling can be competitive with entrenched oligarchs, suspicious siloviks, and an electorate subjected to indefinite austerity. Once Zelensky’s approval rate begins to plummet, his position becomes precaurious and his options on pursuing any radically new policies with respect to Russia will dwindle.

Finally, there is also, of course, the banal fact that even though there is scant evidence that Zelensky is Putin’s stooge in any sane definition of the word, the association has still been made. This make provoke a similar dynamic to what happened with President Trump after the 2016 US elections, who was forced to pursue a much harder line than he wanted to as a candidate on Russia just to “prove” that he was not beholden to the Kremlin.

In my previous post on the future of Russia-Ukrainian relations, I posited a “Georgization” of Ukraine’s relations with Russia:

However, I think it is reasonable to posit that – all else equal, and with no drastic developments (e.g. a Democratic President in the US that has it out for Russia and starts to energetically lobby for Ukraine’s NATO membership, like George W. Bush in his second term) – that Ukraine’s course and social attitudes will converge to some point between those of Moldova and Georgia. This means the resumption of normal economic relations between Russia and the Ukraine, and direct flights between Moscow and Kiev. However, the victory of pro-Russian forces in the Ukraine has been ruled out for the foreseeable future, it will be consistently voting with the Western Powers at the UN, and deepening its security integration with NATO and EU structures as the opportunity presents itself.

This is still a possible – and, of course, positive – scenario.

For instance, Igor Ivanov, the head of a prominent foreign relations thinktank RIAC, has just written an article in Kommersant by (summarized in English here) in which he argues that the Ukraine crisis has effectively blocked productive relations between Russia and the West for the past half decade, to the detriment of both. One of his suggestions is to form a high-level Contact Group, as was the case in Bosnia. It even suggests expansion of the Normandy Format to include the US. This would be a stepping stone to discussion of “broader issues of European security architecture,” which is “indispensable for a complete resolution of the Ukraine crisis.”

That said, I don’t know how much pull (if any) these people – mostly systemic liberals who want reconciliation with the West – have within the Presidential Administration.

So far, I would make a couple of perhaps more germane observations. First, Putin has yet to congratulate or even to recognize Zelinsky as the winner of the elections (he took a month to recognize Poroshenko in 2014, whereas Yanukovych was congratulated and recognized after a couple of days). Zhirinovsky has even suggested that the disenfranchisement of Ukrainian voters in Russia could be used as a pretext not to recognize Zelinsky at all. Second, as I have mentioned, there have been rumors of mass giveouts of Russian passports in the Donbass since early this year; rumors which have just recently made their way into the Ukrainian media. This would effectively complete the LDNR’s Transnistrianization. Considering their current status of legal limbo, and the political impracticality of shoving them back into Ukraine unconditionally, this would also be the humanitarian thing to do.

In any case, today’s report in Komsomskaya Pravda suggests that no final decisions have yet been taking, and that the kremlins are now waiting for Zelensky to clarify his contradictory statements on the Donbass (i.e. promising to end the war, but rejecting autonomy and amnesty). One of the key questions going forward: Was Zelensky serious about ignoring Minsk II, or was it just campaign rhetoric?

  • Speculative alternate history path of victory for Poroshenko: Get somebody with a similar cool/populist profile to Zelensky to run as well, and split his vote (e.g. Vakarchuk); don’t rig the vote in Donetsk, and allow the Ukrainians in Russia to vote, propelling Boyko just ahead of Tymoshenko; beat Boyko in the second round.

** Incidentally, as I have pointed out, the latter correlation in particular is very unusual in the modern world, though it was common in the age of European nationalism during the late 19th century.

Easter Worshippers

Big Red Scary comments:

According to the Venerable Bede, the English word “Easter” comes from the name of an Anglo-Saxon month, which in turn was named after the goddess Eostre. With that in mind, “Easter worshipper” sounds decidedly pagan, which perhaps explains its popularity in this clique.

This “Easter worshipper” thing is a new literary construction created for the sole purpose of not mentioning Christianity.

/r/The_Donald user comments:

The oldest result I can find on Google is 1983 in the NYTimes. It doesn’t crop up again until 1994 (some weird blog) and nothing after that until 2000, yet it only really took off today. I’m sure a more detailed search would reveal additional uses of the term in the past, but it’s still very strange.

So weird that both of the two most prominent Dems, as well as one of their candidates, would all that Tweet that within ~3 hours of each other. Did they plan it out in some kind of globalist teleconference?

And then Blue Checkmarks “wonder” why conspiracy theories are on the rise.