Wishful democratic thinking

‘How coronavirus is exposing authoritarianism’s failings in the former Soviet Union’, says a headline in this week’s New Statesman, followed by the subheading ‘Dictatorships in eastern Europe have struggled to respond to the pandemic in contrast to their democratic rivals’. That pretty much tells you the message that author Felix Light wants you to take on board – when it comes to dealing with the COVID crisis: ‘democracy good, authoritarianism bad’. It sounds nice. I’m a democrat. So are most of you, I imagine. We’d like to think that democracy works better than the alternative. But is it true?

‘In the former Soviet Union … if dictatorship is fumbling the coronavirus test, then democracy is passing with flying colours’, writes Light, contrasting the low infection and death rates in the ‘democratic’ Baltic states and Georgia with the higher rates in ‘dictatorial’ Russia, Belarus, and Central Asia (Ukraine doesn’t get a mention – perhaps Light can’t work out where to put it on the democracy-authoritarian spectrum, or perhaps it fails to fit his model). The reason, he says, is that ‘post-Soviet authoritarianism tends to mask relatively weak states. Even without a deadly viral pandemic, these regimes often find it difficult to perform bread-and-butter functions.’

There’s some truth to this, in that state capacity in many former Soviet states is relatively weak compared to, say, Western Europe or North America. But state capacity and democracy are not directly correlated. China has quite substantial state capacity, but isn’t democratic. Ukraine is considered more democratic than many other post-Soviet states but has perhaps the weakest state capacity of them all. Moreover, capacity is one thing; having the will to use it is another. When it comes to COVID-19, China has shown that it has both capacity and will; the United States, by contrast, has the capacity, but has shown relatively little will. Overall, looking at the data on which states have fared well and which states have fared badly during the COVID crisis, it’s very hard to see any correlation between success or failure on the one hand and state capacity on the other.

So let’s look at those statistics. Comparing them is difficult because some states do a lot more coronavirus tests than others, and so their higher infection rates may simply be a reflection of detecting a lot more asymptomatic cases. Also problematic is the fact that different countries use different criteria to classify the cause of death, with some putting the cause down as coronavirus if there’s even a suspicion that it might be, and others saying that it’s not an official coronavirus death if the deceased had the virus but actually died of something else. This produces wide differences in death rates from country to country. In the case of Russia, there are suspicions that the official death rate underestimates reality, perhaps by a factor of 2 to 3. There is some evidence to support this claim, based on the number of ‘excess deaths’ this year as opposed to last. However, this is hardly unique to Russia. According to the BBC today, the number of excess deaths in the past few weeks in the UK is around 50,000, whereas the official COVID death toll is about 28,000, suggesting that the official toll underestimates reality by a factor of 2. Given all these problems, the best we can do is accept that official statistics are questionable, but also recognize that the same errors arise across the board, and so take the data as a more or less accurate representation of comparative levels of infection and death.

And so what does the data tell us (focusing on death rates, as ultimately that’s what really matters)? Latvia has experienced just 19 coronavirus deaths, Estonia 61, and Lithuania 54. These seem like tiny numbers, but the population of these countries is very small too (Estonia being just 1.3 million). The death rates per million of population in these three countries are 8.3, 46.9, and 19.3 respectively, indicating quite a variation between them (Latvia doing quite well, but Estonia not so much).

Russia, meanwhile, has officially declared 2,305 coronavirus deaths, which equates to 16.5 per million inhabitants, a higher rate than Latvia, but much lower than Estonia, and a little lower than Lithuania. Belarus has declared 151 deaths, a rate of 15.9 per million – very similar to Russia, so again lower than Estonia and Lithuania. In Ukraine, there are 456 deaths, a rate of 10.1 per million. Kazakhstan claims only to have suffered 32 deaths, giving it a remarkably low rate of 1.74 per million. Uzbekistan says only 11 Uzbeks have died from coronavirus, despite a population of nearly 33 million, a death rate of 0.33 per million. And so on.

You can, of course, take the Central Asian results with a pinch of salt, if you want, but even if they are a substantial underestimate, there’s no evidence to suggest that the death rate there is any worse than in the Baltic States. Likewise, if you accept the claim that Russia’s official statistics underestimate reality by an order of 2-3, and simultaneously believe that the Baltic figures are 100% correct, then Russia’s true death rate ends up being pretty much identical to that of Estonia. And if on top of all that, you accept the classification of the Baltic States as ‘democracies’ and the other post-Soviet states as ‘authoritarian’, then Light’s claim that democracy is coping with the virus crisis better than authoritarianism simply isn’t borne out by the data.

And this isn’t the case only in the post-Soviet space. Let’s say that the Russian and Belarussian statistics underestimate reality by 200%, so that there are actually about 6,000 coronavirus deaths in Russia, and let’s also say (which, as we’ve seen, we probably shouldn’t) that official statistics in Western democratic states don’t underestimate at all. That would give Russia and Belarus a death rate of around 50 per million, while giving Western states the following rates: United States – 258; United Kingdom – 495; Canada – 141; Spain – 580; Italy – 499; France – 403; Belgium – 777; Germany (considered a European success story) – 94; and so on. The picture is pretty clear: while the situation is far from universally rosy and there are certainly no grounds for complacency, compared with the democratic ‘West’, all states in the former Soviet Union have fared reasonably well. Why that is the case is an open question, but regime type appears to have nothing to do with it.

The COVID pandemic, says Felix Light, has ‘underlined democracy’s public health advantages’, and ‘has simply incentivised governments to make sound pandemic policy decisions’. For simplicity’s sake, let’s put aside the somewhat unsophisticated division of states into categories of ‘democratic’ and ‘authoritarian’, and similarly for simplicity’s sake let’s accept Light’s formula for which states fit into which box (the West, the Baltics & the Georgia – democratic; the rest – authoritarian). Is it true, as Light claims, that ‘coronavirus is exposing authoritarianism’s failings’ and that ‘Dictatorships in eastern Europe have struggled to respond to the pandemic in contrast to their democratic rivals’? As I said, it’s a nice story, and the democrat in me would love to believe it. But, unfortunately for Mr Light, the stats say otherwise. It’s just another case of wishful democratic thinking.

42 thoughts on “Wishful democratic thinking”

  1. good article paul… the devil is in the details.. any way to put russia in a negative light is the ultimate goal, regardless of the details.. moa has an article up today that basically highlights the same…at what point does all this drop? these people have one story to tell and they will fill in the blanks any way they can! they still get the result they are looking for – spreading negativity towards russia… most people won’t look below the surface…

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    1. I wish Sarah noticed the same for me typical (first noticed while first watching him during the campaign) smallishly rounded mouth. Otherwise, the lip synch video is close to perfect:

      Yes to the extent SST descends for a felt more than 3 years now hunted by coup fears and defensive victimology, MOA or Bernhard rises.

      from the extremest upward of thy head to the descent and dust below thy foot

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  2. In the UK, the numbers of deaths in the home, accounting for some of the excess, is about 8200 over the five year average for the same period. Some are Covid-related (~2000, whether ‘with’ or ‘from’ is unclear). The majority however are individuals either too scared to go to hospital or kicked out by the NHS management to make way for the projected number of Covid patients.

    Dr Kendrick gives more insight on the UK position – How to make a crisis far, far, worse

    https://drmalcolmkendrick.org/2020/05/11/how-to-make-a-crisis-far-far-worse/

    There are also widespread anecdotal stories of people commiting or attempting to commit suicide, even a 10 year old girl who was scared to death by the fear mongering, and will probably be scarred until death.

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  3. The premise of the article (with which you, Professor, seem to agree) is the twisted application of the term “democratic”, which is wrongly paired with the equally wrong term “dictatorship/authoritarian power”. What the good author wanted to say, is that “Team Librul Rules”, while “Team All the Rest Drools”. That’s the peak of the intellectual input by that propacondom.

    “in the ‘democratic’ Baltic states and Georgia

    The very same pundits (if they are aligned/money right) also like to point out, that the Republic of Sakartvelo is now “ruled informally” (c) by Bidzina Ivanishvili, “an oligarch who made his fortune in Russia” (c). Vah-vah-vah! No rest for dem journos with all this double-think, eh?

    “Ukraine doesn’t get a mention – perhaps Light can’t work out where to put it on the democracy-authoritarian spectrum, or perhaps it fails to fit his model”

    A liberal democracy. I insist! Just this week:

    – Under the pretext of combating “international crime”, that got more active during the pandemic, a Ukrainian police official demanded to know the names, addresses and phones of all the Jews in Kolomyya, a city in Best (Western) Ukraine. Ooooh, this is so 1942!

    – Now, something that affects every Ukrainian. It might passed below the radar of the Westerners, but since the start of the epidemic, the Ukraine began switching off its power stations, under the pretext, that with the factories no longer working, there is less demand for the electricity. There is one catch though – this whole thing turns out to be a two-part con. One – the government decided to switch off mostly nuclear powerplants (by 53% as of May 10). Two – the government put more demand (and subsidies) to the coal power stations and the so-called “green energy” sources. It is a mere, ah, coincidence then, that most of the coal mines are owned by one particular person (Rinat Akhmetov), who, in the recent years, also decided to outsource in the ownership of the “green” sources of the electricity. The results were predictable – such electricity became more pricey. Ukrainian MinEcon already warns that there will be increase in prices on everything.

    – One of the “green” sources of energy – hydroelectricity. Right now, the Ukraine is facing unprecedented drought (that might go on for years), and soon will have to start rationing water. If you somehow missed all the drama in the March, back then newly appointed PM Denis Shmygal suggested to restart water supply to Crimea. Mejlis crazies called this “a treasonous backstab”, while no less crazy current head of the Foreign Ministry Dmitry Kuleba insisted that water supplies to Crimea must be tied to conditions of the “de-occupation”. Well – no “de-occupation” now for the rest of the Ukraine, but less backstabs!

    – “But there are good news as well” (c). By mid-May at least 150 000 people filed for unemployment in the Ukraine. The solution offered by Vice PM Vadim Pristayko in the DW interview is start sending more labour migrants (“zarobitchanye”) in the EU, pronto! There are already deals to send slaves below the market-value priced labour to Finland, Germany and the UK. The separate deal with Israel is in the making. Taking care of their own citizens? Pristayko says the moment they arrive they are the host country’s problem. In the spirit of liberalism and free market, the government of the Ukraine won’t hinder the free enterprise with silly oppressive stuff like checking out the contracts! Apparently, they are also no hindering their labour force with excessive tests on Coronavirus as well, soooo… caveat emptor.

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  4. There is a lot of fearmongering going on as far as COVID is concerned. This may explain why very little statistics and historical data are produced in the media – 1 mln is more suggestive than 0,1%. Now there is also a political angle – why not if Russia and China can be kicked for free. A lot of that nonsense would fold like a house of cards if people were better informed.

    Regards,

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  5. Good article, Professor. I have seen pieces indicating that Inpatient hospital capacity is a major factor in covid deaths. Russia actually did better in this respect because proposed medical reforms (de-emphasizing inpatient and switching over to clusters of ambulatory clinics) had only barely just begun when the epidemic broke out. Thus Russia lucked out and benefited from its “archaic” sytem of excess inpatient beds.

    And this has nothing to do with “democracy” or “dictatorship”, just a legacy of a certain type of medical practice. It also helps to have a system of free government-paid medical services for the population. Not having that is why America is such a holy mess right now. Again, nothing to do with democracy or dictatorship.

    On the other hand, Moscow is truly a nightmare, and the main problem here is congestion of people. Scientists recently learned that the virus is airborne, not droplet-borne as was originally thought. In other words, it is spread not just by coughing or sneezing, but even just people breathing or talking! Which is the worst scenario possible. And why it actually is important for people to wear masks in public, and that’s not just a gimmick.

    Moral of the story: If Moscow were less congested, then Russia as a nation would be practically covid-free.
    One lesson to be learned here: after this horror-show is over, the Russian government needs to find a way to benignly “de-populate” Moscow by incentivizing young professionals to move out to the regions.

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    1. A different and at least IMO (and that of some other)s more objective take on Vlasov, initially posted at a Russian venue not known for favoring anti-Russian perspectives:

      https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2019/12/14/czech-russian-relations-and-the-roa-conflicting-historical-narratives/

      I’ll add that it’s bizarre to claim that Bandera’s forces played any sort of a noticeable contribution to the liberation of Prague. That city honors the Russian liberation Army for doing so. I’m not aware of any such commemoration for Bandera’s group.

      Relations between Vlasov and Bandera weren’t good. BTW, Vlasov’s army (according t at least one source iIcame across) had anywhere from 30%-40% ethnic Ukrainians, including Sergey Bunyachenko, who commanded the Pargue operation.

      A good number of Vlasov’s forces were turned over by the West to the Soviets. Some of them ended up in the West nevertheless. I suspect many such fortunate individuals were born on territory which wasn’t part of the USSR prior to Stalin’s collaboration with Nazi Germany – seeing how the subject of collaboration with Nazi Germany has been raised.

      At the end of WW II, those living in the Baltics, western Ukraine and western Byelorussia, could legitimately claim a non-Soviet nationality based on the pre-Molotov-Ribbentrop borders.

      Vlasov’s forces didn’t do much fighting against the USSR. They don’t have the level of brutal baggage of the OUN/UPA and Ustashe. In Nazi captivity, Vlasov didn’t come close to slurring Russia in that way that some Russians do in the present and under much freer circumstances.

      Stalin was responsible for more Russian deaths than Vlasov.

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      1. Misha, in case it’s an issue: in my blogpost the mention of Bandera “helping to liberate Prague” was offered as a joke. Not sure even Ukrainians go that far in their rewriting of history!

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      2. Svidos to be exact. Not all Ukrainians are like them. No need to give the svidos any ideas. They’re creative enough.

        In addition to not liking Vlasov’s POA/ROA and the Soviets, the svidos aren’t so fond of Czechoslovak politics at large, just before and shortly after WW II. Czechoslovakia was genuinely pro-Russian and to a noticeable extent pro-Soviet. Events in 1948 and 1968 were to change that.

        This pro-Bandera and pro-Captive Nations Committee book is hardcore svido:

        Dubcek is disliked on account of his advocated socialism with a human face. The Ustashe leader Pavelic is positively referenced unlike Mihailovic.

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    2. I once met a woman who said she’d been an interpreter for Vlasov. My doctoral supervisor, Catherine Andreyev, also wrote a more or less sympathetic book about the Vlasov movement, mainly focusing on its political side and the role of the NTS. One point which struck me was that when Himmler demanded it, Vlasov refused pointblank to include anti-Semitic messages in his propaganda. There’s no doubt, though, that he picked the wrong side.

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      1. I’m aware of that book you mention. In the 19 seventies, several books about his army and himself came about.

        One of Vlasov’s hand men was a Trotskyite Jew named Lev Zykov. It has been written that Vlasov was able to save Zykov from getting killed by the Nazis. Peter Kranov, the Nazi allied Don Cossack wasn’t fond of Vlasov. Krasnov had some differences with Denikin and some of the other Russian Whites during the Russian Civil War.

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      2. From what I’ve read of Russian reactions to Vlasov the fact that he was a fairly decent general and even a decent human being makes his betrayal sting all the more and yet another reason why his name is used like that of Petain or Darlan in France – as a swear word.

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      3. He has also been likened to Draza Mihailovich. Towards the end of the war, there was an attempt (as per some historical accounts) to link his forces with Vlasov’s.

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      4. What did Himmler do when Vlasov refused? From what I have read, Himmler did not take kindly to having his orders disobeyed! Did Himmler thrash around on the carpet frothing at the mouth?
        🙂

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      5. “My doctoral supervisor, Catherine Andreyev, also wrote a more or less sympathetic book about the Vlasov movement, mainly focusing on its political side and the role of the NTS”

        Ah! Finally! That settles it, Professor. Now we know the underlining reason for your rabid anti-Sovietism coupled with, ah, “a soft spot” for various right-winger ideologues.

        C’mon, Professor. A few more steps and you will come out your… “18/6-d way” closet!

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      6. “Pindo-khohol” – LMAO!

        Fortunately, not everyone in Russia is as twisted as yourself.

        As for who is asking for my opinions, who is asking for yours fool!?
        Like it or not, my opinions have been considered worthy by some objectively intelligent folks in Russia, the US and elsewhere.

        Your robotic sovok like replies downplay that Stalin is responsible for many more Russian and other deaths than Vlasov. Stalin at one point had collaborated with Nazi Germany.

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      7. More long winded BS from you. Regarding moi, what Nazi views fool!? Just as the Western allies of the USSR were largely non-Communist, some of those allied (in whatever form) to Nazi Germany weren’t Nazi. You’d have to be a thick sculled dope to not acknowledge this.

        Like some Navalny supporter with a portrait of Vlasov is now someone indicative of how Vlasov and most of his supporters (past and present) would view the current situation in Russia. This piece initially appeared in Russia:

        https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2019/12/14/czech-russian-relations-and-the-roa-conflicting-historical-narratives/

        Good luck getting that venue banned for the purpose of conforming with your Stalin like censoring approach.

        Regarding how you bring things up that you know nothing about, a good part of my ethnic background is from Belarus and St. Petersburg, as opposed to somewhere in southern Russia and/or the territory of modern day Ukraine. My other known backgrounds aren’t from southern Russia and/or the territory now making up Ukraine. My having any background from southern Russia and/or Ukraine would be quite distant.

        Actually fool, in the US there’re people of Russian, Serb, Ukrainian, Greek, Bulgarian and other backgrounds who (believe it or not) appreciate my input.

        Later chump!

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    3. Horsheshoe theory gonna horsehoe:

      Now waiting for inevitable “nuanced” commentary on Vlasovites (“heroe’s of the faggots”, in common Russian parlance), Banderites (ditto), Ustashes, “Forest Brothers” etc. filth to be counted among the “[innocent] victims of Stalinism” by the American leftist people with good faces.

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      1. You can be quite twisted. I’m pretty sure that in the present day, Vlasov wouldn’t be a kreakl, but more in line with the Russian government.

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      2. Somewhat related:

        https://www.rferl.org/a/thousands-protest-sarajevo-mass-honoring-pro-nazi-wwii-collaborators/30615906.html

        A photo of some Titoists is uncritically featured, without noting the murderous actions within their ranks during WW II, as well as for at least a brief period thereafter.

        This excerpt is oh so PC:

        “At the end of the war, the Ustasha, accompanied by civilians and Slovenian and Serbian collaborators, fled toward Austria, but British forces there refused their surrender.”

        *****

        Bosnian Muslims completely innocent? Never heard of the SS Hanschar.

        In more present times, anti-Serb bigotry contested in these recently posted videos. The first video starts getting to the point at about the four minute mark.

        Anti-Serb typically includes anti-Russian. Related:

        https://www.globalresearch.ca/twisted-history-against-russia-and-serbia/5390154

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      3. “You can be quite twisted.”

        No one has been asking arse-mouthed opinion from pindo-khohol, Mikhaylo.

        “Vlasov wouldn’t be a kreakl, but more in line with the Russian government.”

        Vlasov was and remains a traitor, who violated his oath as a citizen and military officer – a fact that Russian government (and Judicary) still recognizes. The fact that you, pindo-khohol, feel sympathetic to Vlasov and Vlasovites is no surprize for me:

        There is no place for the likes of you in Russia, Averko, except as in jail (see articles of the Criminal code such as “оправдание нацизма” and “extremism”). Stay where you are, pathetic svidomite, and keep whoring your useless “content” online..

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      4. Sorry this set of comments initially posted above shouldv’e been posted here.

        “Pindo-khohol” – LMAO! Lkkewise, calling me a svidomite will be news to those familiar with my views.

        Fortunately, not everyone in Russia is as twisted as yourself.

        As for who is asking for my opinions, who is asking for yours fool!?
        Like it or not, my opinions have been considered worthy by some objectively intelligent folks in Russia, the US and elsewhere.

        Your robotic sovok like replies downplay that Stalin is responsible for many more Russian and other deaths than Vlasov. Stalin at one point had collaborated with Nazi Germany.

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      5. “Pindo-khohol” – LMAO!”

        Yes – you are yet another example of the emigre cultural mule. You’ve failed to integrate into your host country, that’s why you does not warrant the title “American” – you are “pindons”. And you are also ethnically khohol – not even an Ukrainian. All you can do is boil in whatever fluids you and the likes of you excrete into a (very small) specially designated ghetto.

        “Fortunately, not everyone in Russia is as twisted as yourself. “

        The law in Russia is what it is. Trying to rehabilitate Nazis and their minions (what you are doing) is a crime here – as have found out recently 4 of pro-Navalny’s morons. Interesting – one of them used Vlasov’s portrait for his “prank”. If, “not everyone in Russia is as twisted as” me (your claim), then, according to you, both the people of Russia and the Powers that Be in Russia would have allowed this particular dipshit “a pass”. Somehow, the opposite happened. Maybe, you and your pro-Nazi views are the real problem, pindo-khohol?

        “As for who is asking for my opinions, who is asking for yours fool!?”

        Note – I was not answering your comments as of lately. I allowed you to go on, and on with self-whoring of your worthless “content” without saying a word. *You* chose to comment on me. Now you, pindo-khohol, got a much deserved feedback, which consist of the following – you are living in Imaginary Land. In real Russia, you’d be persecuted in accordance with the law and become toxit for literally everyone. You are a loser.

        “Like it or not, my opinions have been considered worthy by some objectively intelligent folks in Russia, the US and elsewhere.”

        Proofs or it didn’t happened.

        “Stalin is responsible for many more Russian and other deaths than Vlasov.”

        State has the ultimate power “to bind and lose”. To apply the ordinary human morale for the state is simply autistic/libertarian. Or you are a two-faced dipshit, who knows how it’s an incorrect analogy in the first place, but goes for that out of ideological perversity.

        Btw, by your own measure – all countries “collaborated” with Hitler. But here’s a “nuance”. Deals between the governments is not the same thing as being a literal traitor to your own oath, country and the people.

        I’d also like to thank Milkhail (Майкл) Averko, for spectacular pro-Nazi coming out that he’s been doing in this comment section for everyone to see. I really hope that the search-engine algorithms will point our here for everyone to see this.

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      6. Sorry, I did it again and repeat the following from further above:

        More long winded BS from you. Regarding moi, what Nazi views fool!? Just as the Western allies of the USSR were largely non-Communist, some of those allied (in whatever form) to Nazi Germany weren’t Nazi. You’d have to be a thick sculled dope to not acknowledge this.

        Like some Navalny supporter with a portrait of Vlasov is now someone indicative of how Vlasov and most of his supporters (past and present) would view the current situation in Russia. This piece initially appeared in Russia:

        https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2019/12/14/czech-russian-relations-and-the-roa-conflicting-historical-narratives/

        Good luck getting that venue banned for the purpose of conforming with your Stalin like censoring approach.

        Regarding how you bring things up that you know nothing about, a good part of my ethnic background is from Belarus and St. Petersburg, as opposed to somewhere in southern Russia and/or the territory of modern day Ukraine. My other known backgrounds aren’t from southern Russia and/or the territory now making up Ukraine. My having any background from southern Russia and/or Ukraine would be quite distant.

        Actually fool, in the US there’re people of Russian, Serb, Ukrainian, Greek, Bulgarian and other backgrounds who (believe it or not) appreciate my input.

        Later chump!

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  6. Why oh why would we talk about the efficacy of democracy when the cradles of modern democracy – the UK and the US look increasingly shaky not just in the monstrous response of right wing ‘populists’ Johnson and Trump to COVID 19 and also both states are starting to look like the USSR when it began to come apart with localities increasingly resenting getting no help and refusing to obey – are number 1 and number 2 fo deaths in the world. And both are helmed by leaders who are boasting at how well they have done while Putin has admitted he failed to do all he could do and that Russia has nothing to boast about. The former despite being from the countries with the longest and strongest traditions of liberal democracy in the world sound like boastful autocrats and the latter is from a semi-authoritarian country and is at least aiming to show modesty, humility and shame for not doing well. Meanwhile in Lithuania they did this: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/28/lithuanian-capital-to-be-turned-into-vast-open-air-cafe-vilnius

    I think this virus will severely wound liberal democracy because it has shown that democratic leaders are not necessarily more accountable, more concerned with human life, or even forced by institutions to act in a welfare maximising manner.

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  7. As somebody who was a child in the Soviet Union , Britain today seems very familiar.
    Queues to go to the shops which have limited choice or with empty e.g bog roll crisis, with express lines for special customers like party members or the NHS
    Limits to movement, association and basic rights enforced by police harassment and snitching by stasi neighbours
    Dreary propaganda on state owned tv with half truths and exaggeration, dissident voices shouted down, Other countries ridiculed But knowledgeable locals know what is really happening
    And worst of all compulsory clapping for our sacred heroes every Thursday

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    1. Haha, same in U.S.! In addition several American states, including the one I live in, are shortly (in the next week or so) going to introduce “Contract Tracers”.
      These will be sort of like neighbor STASI who will work for the state (as volunteers!!) to track down people named by other people as possible carriers of the virus.
      For example, if Jim Bob tests positive for Covid, then he will placed in lockdown for 14 days. Contract Tracers will then call or email him, and ask him to name names of those he came in physical contact with. Suppose he names a colleague from work named Billy Bob. Then STASI will contact Billy Bob and inform him he also has to stay in lockdown for 14 days.
      They say they will do this without violating anybody’s legal privacy rights to the privacy of one’s medical record. How? Nobody knows.
      Other unanswered questions include: What if Billy Bob disobeys STASI and ventures outside to buy food? Will he be shot down by Amazon drones?! 🙂

      All of this would sound extremely 1984-ish and very sinister, were it not for the fact that these local governments can’t organize a trip to the bathroom without screwing that up; let alone such a massive operation. They can’t even get people tested in the right numbers to even make it an issue.

      Complete bardak, in other words.

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      1. That’s exactly what’s been going on in Russia. Tracing and testing contacts while quarantining them till they test negative twice. Quarantining for 2 weeks people arriving not only from abroad but also other regions now, particularly Moscow, a.k.a. the plague ward. A lot of people (even some in Moscow) think Moscow should have been cordoned off much earlier. If your neighbours know you’ve arrived from outside the region and you don’t quarantine yourself, they can report you (although not all do by any means). If you are confirmed to have the virus and are caught breaking quarantine, there is a large fine and you can be hospitalised to make sure you don’t go around spreading the virus again. Moscow has digital passes for healthy people who need to leave home, and an app that COVID patients are supposed to install that checks at random intervals that they are actually at home, although apparently it’s rather buggy. Other regions are not quite there yet in terms of big brother watching since the situation is nowhere near as dire. In my city people have largely ignored the stay at home regime, wear masks rather haphazardly, and nobody has got around to enforcing either. When there are comparatively few cases it’s hard for people to see the danger as having relevance for them personally.

        Moscow OTOH seems to be close to overwhelmed. It is already number ten in the list of worst-affected cities/provinces across the world in terms of cases per capita, only surpassed by such in Northern Italy, North-Eastern US and Madrid in Spain (differences in testing rates have to be taken into account, over half the cases caught in Moscow are asymptomatic). Fortunately cases per day and most importantly hospitalisations have stopped increasing so hopefully they’ll muddle through. But the luxury of worrying about the civil right of potentially sick people to wander about is not something many can afford there.

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      2. Thanks for report, Olive. Moscow sounds like I have read about, with plague turning many people into Big Brother.
        I don’t necessarily criticize this system, by the way, in either country. Governments have to do what they have to do, when there is plague. My mocking tone more concerns the administrative failures and bardak in general.

        Americans would love to implement similar Big Brother/STASI type operations in every community, but they are simply not up to speed. They don’t have enough testing kits or “Tracers” or know how to pull this off. They have neither the technical means, nor the authority, nor the support of the populace. They can’t even answer a simple question, like will they still be maintaining legal privacy laws, which in the U.S. are known as HIPAA laws. Like, they might have to introduce exemptions into these laws, but who has the time for legislation right now?

        It’s just huge mess, in other words.

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  8. The assistant director of the WHO, an experienced epidemiologist, spoke admiringly – while in China – of China’s medical response to those hospitalized for coronavirus. If a ventilator did not seem to be working, the Chinese would cycle the patients blood out and treat it and cycle it back in, like the treatments used to keep Keith Richards looking …well..alive. He characterized it as ‘very aggressive medicine’, and encouraged analysts not to extrapolate the Chinese death rate (which was, at the time and outside of Wuhan, where it was considerably higher, less than 1%) to other countries (presumably including western countries) because the standard of medical care was not comparable. China is not overly democratic.

    In a recent brief, the director of the WHO’s Health Emergency Program, Dr. Ryan, remarked offhandedly that the coronavirus ‘might never go away’ – that it might be endemic, like HIV. That being the case, closing down virtually all economic activity did diddly to arrest its spread, and therefore there was no real need to do it. But then, a coronavirus that never goes away seems to be just what the WHO would like right now. Money is being thrown by the bushel basket at researchers developing a vaccine.

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  9. several coordianted releases of this sort in the British press in the last 7 days. Really its utter nonsense, the two ‘shining lights’ of the exceptionalist liberal western (dis)order (the US and the UK) have by far the highest rate of deaths on the planet. The ONS in the UK have the toll at well over 40 thousand – whilst the Govt hospital/care home deaths are around 35 thousand. They haven’t got a leg to stand on have they but still, this tripe must work on some otherwise they wouldn’t print it. Clearly it’s safer to live in Russia than it is in the UK, I think that’s all we need to know. In other more interesting news (which didn’t garner any headlines or paragraphs in the western press) the IMF released their list of projected GDP PPP for 2020. China far ahead of the US (by some 7 trillion) and Russia up to 5th (That’s pretty good for a gas station masquerading as a country) the British in a lowly 9th. I doubt they’ll even make the top 10 in a few years time. Bullshit talks money walks.

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  10. Not wishing to incite any more controversy, but Russian language students might be interested in this piece, which I just posted on my blog.

    It’s about the grammatical and pronunciation mistakes made by Russians themselves, according to the results of a sociological poll!

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  11. Of course illiberal regimes are much more efficient in dealing with national emergencies, resource mobilization, and so on.

    I don’t think this is even a controversy. Otherwise why would ‘liberal-democratic’ regimes need to declare the “state of emergency”, suspending their ‘liberal-democratic’ procedures.

    —–
    Hey Paul,
    I commented on this article yesterday:
    https://canadiandimension.com/articles/view/the-right-wing-checkpoint-for-canadas-intervention-in-ukraine
    It’s similar to what you often write. Right?

    Here’s my whole comment:
    “Decent article, but you could use a better editor. For example, there was no “Ukraine’s deal to join the European Union”; it was a mere ‘association agreement’. And, Lviv is, but Mariupol (not ‘Mairupol’) is not a western Ukrainian city.”

    …and they immediately removed it. WTF?

    Like

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