Saturday, May 02, 2009

Ship Deserts Sinking Rat

The Labour Party are distancing themselves from him.

Former ministers are putting the boot in.

Now Polly Toynbee has faced reality :

"Self-destructive and bungled tactical ploys mark the Brown era .. there are no ideas, no politics and no breath of life left"

I commented on her piece that this was the high-water mark of the 60s cultural revolution, and that's what I believe - but I don't expect to see the Tories rolling back the waves any time soon. With a few noble and notable exceptions, they are products of that culture themselves - and their libertarian wing don't believe in anything but 'do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law' anyway.

No, I think what'll roll it back will be 'events, dear boy, events'. Probably some not very nice ones, too. The Gods of the Copybook Headings will have to limp up to explain things once more. Don't expect things to happen at once. Even now, Harriet Harman is tweaking up some exciting new 'equality legislation' on the bridge of the Titanic. Word from the engine room takes time to get there. In the words of the late Jim Morrison :

This is the end,
Beautiful friend, the end
This is the end,
My only friend, the end
Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end

Thursday, April 30, 2009

New Threat To Israel

Gordon Brown to address Knesset.

They have lived surrounded by hostile forces for sixty years. But this might be too much for them.

Russian Demography ...

It's not that bad, says Russia Blog.

They don't think the Chinese will pour across the Amur either.

Roots of Politics II

More from Steven Pinkers "The Blank Slate". After his review of the competing Tragic and Utopian Visions :

My own view is that the new sciences of human nature really do vindicate some version of the Tragic Vision and undermine the Utopian outlook that until recently dominated large segments of intellectual life. The sciences say nothing, of course, about differences in values that are associated with particular right-wing and left-wing positions (such as in the tradeoffs between unemployment and environmental protection, diversity and economic efficiency, or individual freedom and community cohesion). Nor do they speak directly to policies that are based on a complex mixture of assumptions about the world. But they do speak to the parts of the visions that are general claims about how the mind works. Those claims may be evaluated against the facts, just like any empirical hypothesis. The Utopian vision that human nature might radically change in some imagined society of the remote future is, of course, literally unfalsifiable, but I think that many of the discoveries recounted in preceding chapters make it unlikely. Among them I would include the following:

· The primacy of family ties in all human societies and the consequent appeal of nepotism and inheritance.
(for which, see the Labour Party's selection procedures - LT)

· The limited scope of communal sharing in human groups, the more common ethos of reciprocity, and the resulting phenomena of social loafing and the collapse of contributions to public goods when reciprocity cannot be implemented.
(we've certainly got the social loafing - but so far, tax contributions to public goods have proven quite robust)

· The universality of dominance and violence across human societies (including supposedly peaceable hunter-gatherers) and the existence of genetic and neurological mechanisms that underlie it.
(I call it Original Sin. Tweedle-Dum and Tweedle-Dee called it 'who's to be master ?')

· The universality of ethnocentrism and other forms of group-against-group hostility across societies, and the ease with which such hostility can be aroused in people within our own society.
(In white people it's called racism, even when expressed in terms of love of one's own rather than hatred of others. Elsewhere it's called solidarity. But group-against-group hostility isn't necessarily ethnocentric.)

· The partial heritability of intelligence, conscientiousness, and antisocial tendencies, implying that some degree of inequality will arise even in perfectly fair economic systems, and that we therefore face an inherent tradeoff between equality and freedom.
(See also assortative mating. At the other end of the intelligence, conscientiousness, and antisocial tendencies spectrum, although to be fair there are some high-IQ psychpaths, see underclass)

· The prevalence of defense mechanisms, self-serving biases, and cognitive dissonance reduction, by which people deceive themselves about their autonomy, wisdom, and integrity.
(See under "Polly Toynbee")

· The biases of the human moral sense, including a preference for kin and friends, a susceptibility to a taboo mentality, and a tendency to confuse morality with conformity, rank, cleanliness, and beauty.
(A tendency to confuse morality with conformity, eh ? That's pretty much all of us)

It is not just conventional scientific data that tell us the mind is not infinitely malleable. I think it is no coincidence that beliefs that were common among intellectuals in the 1960s—that democracies are obsolete, revolution is desirable, the police and armed forces dispensable, and society designable from the top down—are now rarer. The Tragic Vision and the Utopian Vision inspired historical events whose interpretations are much clearer than they were just a few decades ago. Those events can serve as additional data to test the visions' claims about human psychology.

The visions contrast most sharply in the political revolutions they spawned. The first revolution with a Utopian Vision was the French Revolution—recall Wordsworth's description of the times, with "human nature seeming born again." The revolution overthrew the ancien regime and sought to begin from scratch with the ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity and a belief that salvation would come from vesting authority in a morally superior breed of leaders. The revolution, of course, sent one leader after another to the guillotine as each failed to measure up to usurpers who felt they had a stronger claim to wisdom and virtue. No political structure survived the turnover of personnel, leaving a vacuum that would be filled by Napoleon. The Russian Revolution was also animated by the Utopian Vision, and it also burned through a succession of leaders before settling into the personality cult of Stalin. The Chinese Revolution, too, put its faith in the benevolence and wisdom of a man who displayed, if anything, a particularly strong dose of human foibles like dominance, lust, and self-deception. The perennial limitations of human nature prove the futility of political revolutions based only on the moral aspirations of the revolutionaries. In the words of the song about revolution by The Who: Meet the new boss; same as the old boss.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Rally For Mass Illegal Immigration !

via Socialist Unity, translation added in italics by LT. If you want to reward those enterprising souls who are here illegally, get down to Trafalgar Square on May 4th :

They propose that those who have been here for 4 or more years should be admitted to a 2-year pathway to full legal rights (“leave to remain”) during which they work legally and demonstrate their contribution to UK economy and society. After that 2-year period, subject to knowledge of English and employer and community references, they would be granted permanent leave to remain.

The benefits of regularisation

  • recognises the dignity of human beings who have made new lives in Britain (accepts that they've got away with illegal entry);
  • extends and reinforces the rule of law (totally undermines it);
  • levels the playing-field for low-paid workers (increases competition for entry-level unskilled jobs);
  • enables businesses to employ legally the labour it needs (because a) there are no unskilled unemployed in the UK, and b) as socialists we care deeply about business profits);
  • recognises the role that migrants already play in society (doing the jobs the natives just don't want to do);
  • ensures that tens of thousands of British workers receive the protection of the law(que ? I suppose anyone who's got here is British, aren't they ? Like Shaker Aamer.);
  • shrinks the black economy (aka we need more taxes);
  • frees up billions of pounds in taxes for the Exchequer(aka we need more taxes);
  • enables local authorities to plan better (aka enables them to ask for more taxpayer cash to provide services to these guys - that's why we need more taxes);
  • solves the expensive, inhuman delay in processing old asylum claims (aka the expense of making at least the pretence of controlling the borders);
  • builds a more cohesive British society (aka "we're taking the mick here");
  • and turns outlaws into neighbours - “strangers into citizens” –in the best British tradition of pragmatism and justice (aka "forget about the best British traditions of obeying the law and punishing those who break it").
Funnily enough they forgot to add 'Give the BNP another hundred thousand votes' to the list of 'benefits'.

Migrationwatch aren't quite so chuffed :

New research shows that an amnesty for illegal immigrants, or “undocumented workers” would cost £2 billion in its first full year of operation. As those concerned married and had families, the costs could rise to £4 billion a year.

Those granted an amnesty would be immediately entitled to apply for social housing, adding at least half a million to the waiting list (which is already over 1.5 million for England alone). They would also be entitled to bring over their families, thus moving up the queue which is largely based on “need”. Meanwhile they would be entitled to Housing Benefit which is included in this calculation.

Sir Andrew Green, Chairman of Migrationwatch UK, said:

Clearly the British public can see that to reward people with a meal ticket for life for breaking our laws is an absurd proposition. It will only encourage others to come and take their place in the hope of a further amnesty. That is exactly what has happened in Italy which has granted five amnesties in the past twenty years and Spain which has granted six.

Claims of “a huge increase in tax revenues” are ludicrous when benefit payments are taken into account. So proponents of an amnesty are left only with their claim to be advancing the cause of social justice. However, the real victims are British workers whose wages are held down or perhaps their job opportunities taken by people who came or remained here illegally of their own volition.

"As we enter a recession, competition for work by illegal immigrants should be reduced, not encouraged. The government and Opposition are absolutely right to oppose this ill-considered scheme. The only amnesty worth considering is an amnesty on departure – allowing people already here illegally to leave within a defined window without fear of arrest for immigration offences.”

"Our increased reliance on laws to regulate behavior is a measure of how uncivilized we've become"

The great Professor Walter Williams, he of the amnesty for whites, on the way we were and the way we live now :

"During the 1940s, my family lived in North Philadelphia's Richard Allen housing project. Many families didn't lock doors until late at night, if ever. No one ever thought of installing bars on their windows. Hot, humid summer nights found many people sleeping outside on balconies or lawn chairs. Starting in the '60s and '70s, doing the same in some neighborhoods would have been tantamount to committing suicide. Keep in mind that the 1940s and '50s were a time of gross racial discrimination, high black poverty and few opportunities compared to today. The fact that black neighborhoods were far more civilized at that time should give pause to the excuses of today that blames today's pathology on poverty and discrimination. Policemen and laws can never replace customs, traditions and moral values as a means for regulating human behavior. At best, the police and criminal justice system are the last desperate line of defense for a civilized society. Our increased reliance on laws to regulate behavior is a measure of how uncivilized we've become."

(quoted at Booker Rising)

Roots of Politics

From Steven Pinker's excellent nature-vs-nurture book The Blank Slate :

The Right-Left axis aligns an astonishing collection of beliefs that at first glance seem to have nothing in common. If you learn that someone is in favor of a strong military, for example, it is a good bet that the person is also in favor of judicial restraint rather than judicial activism. If someone believes in the importance of religion, chances are she will be tough on crime and in favor of lower taxes. Proponents of a laissez-faire economic policy tend to value patriotism and the family, and they are more likely to be old than young, pragmatic than idealistic, censorious than permissive, meritocratic than egalitarian, gradualist than revolutionary, and in a business rather than a university or government agency. The opposing positions cluster just as reliably: if someone is sympathetic to rehabilitating offenders, or to affirmative action, or to generous welfare programs, or to a tolerance of homosexuality, chances are good that he will also be a pacifist, an environmentalist, an activist, an egalitarian, a secularist, and a professor or student.

Why on earth should people's beliefs about sex predict their beliefs about the size of the military? What does religion have to do with taxes? Whence the linkage between strict construction of the Constitution and disdain for shocking art? Before we can understand why beliefs about an innate human nature might cluster with liberal beliefs or with conservative beliefs, we have to understand why liberal beliefs cluster with other liberal beliefs and conservative beliefs cluster with other conservative beliefs...

The most sweeping attempt to survey the underlying dimension is Thomas Sowell's A Conflict of Visions. Not every ideological struggle fits his scheme, but as we say in social science, he has identified a factor that can account for a large proportion of the variance. Sowell explains two "visions" of the nature of human beings that were expressed in their purest forms by Edmund Burke (1729-1797), the patron of secular conservatism, and William Godwin (1756-1836), the British counterpart to Rousseau. In earlier times they might have been referred to as different visions of the perfectibility of man. Sowell calls them the Constrained Vision and the Unconstrained Vision; I will refer to them as the Tragic Vision (a term he uses in a later book) and the Utopian Vision.

In the Tragic Vision, humans are inherently limited in knowledge, wisdom, and virtue, and all social arrangements must acknowledge those limits. "Mortal things suit mortals best," wrote Pindar; "from the crooked timber of humanity no truly straight thing can be made,' wrote Kant. The Tragic Vision is associated with Hobbes, Burke, Smith, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, the jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., the economists Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, the philosophers Isaiah Berlin and Karl Popper, and the legal scholar Richard Posner.

In the Utopian Vision, psychological limitations are artifacts that come from our social arrangements, and we should not allow them to restrict our gaze from what is possible in a better world. Its creed might be "Some people see things as they are and ask `why?'; I dream things that never were and ask `why not?"' The quotation is often attributed to the icon of 1960s liberalism, Robert F Kennedy, but it was originally penned by the Fabian socialist George Bernard Shaw (who also wrote, "There is nothing that can be changed more completely than human nature when the job is taken in hand early enough")." The Utopian Vision is also associated with Rousseau, Godwin, Condorcet, Thomas Paine, the jurist Earl Warren, the economist John Kenneth Galbraith, and to a lesser extent the political philosopher Ronald Dworkin.

In the Tragic Vision, our moral sentiments, no matter how beneficent, overlie a deeper bedrock of selfishness. That selfishness is not the cruelty or aggression of the psychopath, but a concern for our well-being that is so much a part of our makeup that we seldom reflect on it and would waste our time lamenting it or trying to erase it...

In the Tragic Vision, moreover, human nature has not changed. Traditions such as religion, the family, social customs, sexual mores, and political institutions are a distillation of time-tested techniques that let us work around the shortcomings of human nature. They are as applicable to humans today as they were when they developed, even if no one today can explain their rationale. However imperfect society may be, we should measure it against the cruelty and deprivation of the actual past, not the harmony and affluence of an imagined future. We are fortunate enough to live in a society that more or less works, and our first priority should be not to screw it up, because human na﷓ture always leaves us teetering on the brink of barbarism. And since no one is smart enough to predict the behavior of a single human being, let alone millions of them interacting in a society, we should distrust any formula for changing society from the top down, because it is likely to have unintended consequences that are worse than the problems it was designed to fix. The best we can hope for are incremental changes that are continuously adjusted according to feedback about the sum of their good and bad consequences. It also follows that we should not aim to solve social problems like crime or poverty, because in a world of competing individuals one person's gain may be another person's loss. The best we can do is trade off one cost against another...

In the Utopian Vision, human nature changes with social circumstances, so traditional institutions have no inherent value. That was then, this is now. Traditions are the dead hand of the past, the attempt to rule from the grave. They must be stated explicitly so their rationale can be scrutinized and their moral status evaluated. And by that test, many traditions fail: the confinement of women to the home, the stigma against homosexuality and premarital sex, the superstitions of religion, the injustice of apartheid and segregation, the dangers of patriotism as exemplified in the mindless slogan "My country, right or wrong. " Practices such as absolute monarchy, slavery, war, and patriarchy once seemed inevitable but have disappeared or faded from many parts of the world through changes in institutions that were once thought to be rooted in human nature. Moreover, the existence of suffering and injustice presents us with an undeniable moral imperative. We don't know what we can achieve until we try, and the alternative, resigning ourselves to these evils as the way of the world, is unconscionable...

Those with the Tragic Vision are unmoved by ringing declarations attributed to the first-person plural we, our, and us. They are more likely to use the pronouns as the cartoon possum Pogo did: We have met the enemy, and he is us. We are all members of the same flawed species. Putting our moral vision into practice means imposing our will on others. The human lust for power and esteem, coupled with its vulnerability to self-deception and self-righteousness, makes that an invitation to a calamity, all the worse when that power is directed at a goal as quixotic as eradicating human self-interest. As the conservative philosopher Michael Oakshott wrote, "To try to do something which is inherently impossible is always a corrupting enterprise."

The two kinds of visionaries thereby line up on opposite sides of many issues that would seem to have little in common. The Utopian Vision seeks to articulate social goals and devise policies that target them directly: economic inequality is attacked in a war on poverty, pollution by environmental regulations, racial imbalances by preferences, carcinogens by bans on food additives. The Tragic Vision points to the self-interested motives of the people who would implement these policies—namely, the expansion of their bureaucratic fiefdoms—and to their ineptitude at anticipating the myriad consequences, especially when the social goals are pitted against millions of people pursuing their own interests. Thus, say the Tragic Visionaries, the Utopians fail to anticipate that welfare might encourage dependency, or that a restriction on one pollutant might force people to use another.

Instead, the Tragic Vision looks to systems that produce desirable outcomes even when no member of the system is particularly wise or virtuous. Market economies, in this vision, accomplish that goal: remember Smith's butcher, brewer, and baker providing us with dinner out of self-interest rather than benevolence. No mastermind has to understand the intricate flow of goods and services that make up an economy in order to anticipate who needs what, and when and where. Property rights give people an incentive to work and produce; contracts allow them to enjoy gains in trade. Prices convey information about scarcity and demand to producers and consumers, so they can react by following a few simple rules—make more of what is profitable, buy less of what is expensive—and the "invisible hand" will do the rest. The intelligence of the system is distributed across millions of not-necessarily-intelligent producers and consumers, and cannot be articulated by anyone in particular.

People with the Utopian Vision point to market failures that can result from having a blind faith in free markets. They also call attention to the unjust distribution of wealth that tends to be produced by free markets. Opponents with the Tragic Vision argue that the notion of justice makes sense only when applied to human decisions within a framework of laws, not when applied to an abstraction called "society." ...

Some of today's battles between left and right fall directly out of these different philosophies: big versus small government, high versus low taxes, protectionism versus free trade, measures that aim to reduce undesirable outcomes (poverty, inequality, racial imbalance) versus measures that merely level the playing field and enforce the rules. Other battles follow in a less obvious way from the opposing visions of human potential. The Tragic Vision stresses fiduciary duties, even when the person executing them cannot see their immediate value, because they allow imperfect beings who cannot be sure of their virtue or foresight to participate in a tested system. The Utopian Vision stresses social responsibility, where people hold their actions to a higher ethical standard...

Radical political reform, like radical judicial reform, will be more or less appealing depending on one's confidence in human intelligence and wisdom. In the Utopian Vision, solutions to social problems are readily available. Speaking in 1967 about the conditions that breed violence, Lyndon Johnson said, "All of us know what those conditions are: ignorance, discrimination, slums, poverty, disease, not enough jobs:'" If we already know the solutions, all we have to do is choose to implement them, and that requires only sincerity and dedication. By the same logic, anyone opposing the solutions must be motivated by blindness, dishonesty, and callousness. Those with the Tragic Vision say instead that solutions to social problems are elusive. The inherent conflicts of interest among people leave us with few options, all of them imperfect. Opponents of radical reform are showing a wise distrust of human hubris...

Those with the Utopian Vision see crime as inherently irrational and seek to prevent it by identifying the root causes. Those with the Tragic Vision see crime as inherently rational and believe that the root cause is all too obvious: people rob banks because that's where the money is. The most effective crime-prevention programs, they say, strike directly at the rational incentives. A high probability of unpleasant punishment raises the anticipated cost of crime. A public emphasis on personal responsibility helps enforce the incentives by closing any loopholes left open by the law. And strict parenting practices allow children to internalize these contingencies early in life.

The Utopian Vision is of course the Pelagian Heresy. And the finest exposition of the Tragic Vision is IMHO that of Rudyard Kipling.

Tautology Alert

This chap calls himself the Leftwing Criminologist. Don't find many of those, do you now ?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Too Naive To Make A Good Politician ...

'I am shocked and upset that a member of the Labour Party in this day and age could even think something like that, let alone say it.

'People should not be allowed to make racist comments like that. If someone in the party feels I cannot represent them because of my colour or religion, that's ridiculous.

'I felt particularly aggrieved because I have worked across all sections of the community, particularly with the Muslim section, and have been on official visits to Pakistan.'

Elaina Cohen may well be a terrific Labour candidate for the East Handsworth and Lozells ward. But she does strike me as somewhat unworldly. The fates of Lorna Fitzsymons and Oona King seem to have passsed her by. In Mr Blair's immortal words 'the rules of the game have changed'.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Hmm ...

We've all had words with the missus and felt a bit cross ... but all the same.

A Moscow police chief went on a killing spree early today after arguing with his wife at a celebration for his 32nd birthday.
While the whole thing is terribly sad and he should be shot or locked away for life, it's this bit that struck me :

The gun Mr Yevsyukov used had been recorded as missing from a criminal inquiry in Chechnya since 2000, a spokesman for the Investigative Committee of the Prosecutor-General's Office said.
Hmm. A gun goes missing from an enquiry in Chechnya in 2000 - and ends up in a senior officer's house in Moscow in 2009. The guy had only been in the force since 2005. That's what Moscow police are telling us. What is the story, I wonder ?

"a major step forward for pirates "

I don't know what's more striking - management-speak of the pirates :

Separately, wire service AFP quoted Mohamed Muse, reportedly the head of the pirate group, as lamenting their failure to take the vessel due to “technical reasons.”

The capture of such a large vessel would have represented a major step forward for pirates off the Somalian coast, but unfortunately their tactics were good and we could not board.

“It was not the first time we have attacked this kind of boat and we were very close to capturing it,” Mr Muse told AFP. “We really showered it with bullets.”

How long before they're talking about "a new parrot-digm" or "a raft of new initiatives" to "take piracy into the twenty-first century" ?

or the general floppiness of :

Mr Vago insisted that the company only carried arms onboard under exceptional circumstances, attributing the storage of “just a few pistols” aboard the MSC Melody to the recent escalation of pirate attacks off the horn of Africa.

He also claimed that, contrary to some press reports, security guards aboard the vessel had no independent access to the weapons. The pistols were kept in a safe on the bridge and released only at the discretion of the master.

At the same time, he admitted that the controversial issue of deploying firearms on passenger ships, which some believe will only lead to an escalation of pirate violence, must be debated.

Words fail me (that's a figure of speech - they don't really). Thus have we progressed from the days when captured pirates would soon be decorating the yardarm.

We're that near the gibbet that my neck's stiff with thinking on it. You've seen 'em, maybe, hanged in chains, birds about 'em, seamen p'inting 'em out as they go down with the tide. 'Who's that?' says one. 'That! Why, that's John Silver. I knowed him well,' says another. And you can hear the chains a- jangle as you go about and reach for the other buoy.
The late Captain Coulston would have known what to do with them. A cruise with him would have been something to talk about when you got back.

"The battle it commenced, brave boys, and blood in streams did flow
While undaunted did our passengers the pirate overthrow
The cries of women and children lying in the hull below
While the captain and his passengers the pirate did overthrow"
I'm all for merchant vessels mounting a few Oerlikons or Bofors - preferably hidden in Q-ship style (via which, the Baralong incident. Bad form and not something to be proud of. If they'd been pirates it would have been different).

Poor Old Russia

It's losing the one thing it always had in quantity - people.

Some people worry about authoritarian Russia, but others (Mark Steyn comes to mind) think it's only a matter of time before the empty Far East returns to its previous owners, who have people to spare. China lost it to Russia in the Treaty of Aigun 150 years ago.

Their demography makes the UKs look good - although the country is emptying rather than being kept topped up by mass immigration.

A spectre is haunting Russia today. It is not the spectre of Communism—that ghost has been chained in the attic of the past—but rather of depopulation—a relentless, unremitting, and perhaps unstoppable depopulation. The mass deaths associated with the Communist era may be history, but another sort of mass death may have only just begun, as Russians practice what amounts to an ethnic self-cleansing.

Since 1992, Russia’s human numbers have been progressively dwindling. This slow motion process now taking place in the country carries with it grim and potentially disastrous implications that threaten to recast the contours of life and society in Russia, to diminish the prospects for Russian economic development, and to affect Russia’s potential influence on the world stage in the years ahead.

The current Russian depopulation—which began in 1992 and shows no signs of abating—was, like the previous episodes, also precipitated by events of momentous political significance: the final dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of Communist Party rule. But it differs in three important respects. First, it is by far the longest period of population decline in modern Russian history, having persisted for over twice as long as the decline that followed the Bolshevik Revolution, and well over three times as long as the terrifying depopulation Russia experienced during and immediately after World War II.

Second, unlike all the previous depopulations in Russia, this one has been taking place under what are, within the Russian context, basically orderly social and political circumstances. Terror and war are not the engines for the depopulation Russia is experiencing today, as they have been in the past.

And finally, whereas Russia’s previous depopulations resulted from wild and terrible social paroxysms, they were also clearly temporary in nature. The current crisis, on the other hand, is proceeding gradually and routinely, and thus it is impossible to predict when, or whether, it will finally come to an end.
It's a post-Soviet thing. Lots of abortions, which was characteristic of the old SU, but now lots of cohabitation and lower fertility.

In 1990, the end of the Gorbachev era, marriage was still the norm, and while divorce was very common, a distinct majority of Russian Federation women (60 percent) could expect to have entered into a first marriage and still remain in that marriage by age 50. A few years later, in 1996, the picture was already radically different: barely a third of Russia’s women (34 percent) were getting married and staying in that same marriage until age 50.

Since the end of the Soviet era, young women in Russia are opting for cohabitation before and, to a striking extent, instead of marriage. In the early 1980s, about 15 percent of women had been in consensual unions by age 25; twenty years later, the proportion was 45 percent. Many fewer of those once-cohabiting young women, moreover, seem to be moving into marital unions nowadays. Whereas roughly a generation earlier, fully half of cohabiters were married within a year, today less than a third are.

Is Russia’s post-Communist plunge in births the consequence of a “demographic shock,” or the result of what some Russian experts call a “quiet revolution” in patterns of family formation? At the moment, it is possible to see elements of both in the Russian Federation’s unfolding fertility trends. Demographic shocks tend by nature to be transient; demographic transitions or “revolutions,” considerably less so. But this much is clear: to date, no European society that has embarked upon the same demographic transition as Russia’s—declining marriage rates with rising divorce; the spread of cohabitation as alternative to marriage; delayed age at marriage and sub-replacement fertility regimens—has reverted to more “traditional” family patterns and higher levels of completed family size. There is no reason to think that in Russia it will be any different.

Don't even get him started on Russia's public health disasters.

By 2005, male life expectancy at birth was fully fifteen years lower in the Russian Federation than in Western Europe. It was also five years below the global average for male life expectancy, and three years below the average for the less developed regions (whose levels it had exceeded, in the early 1950s, by fully two decades).

And the people who ARE having the babies tend not to be "the indigenous ethnic groups of the country". That at least is familiar.

First, along with the overall decline, differences in birthrates and survival rates among the indigenous ethnic groups of the country and among immigrant populations mean that depopulation will be accompanied by “a change in the nationality composition of Russia,” with the titular nationality forming an ever smaller share.

Second, depopulation will threaten the foundations of the preservation of the titular nationality's “self-consciousness” and entail “the loss of national traditions,” especially if, as seems likely, the majority nationality by the middle of this century will be a nation other than the Russians.

Third, she writes, depopulation will threaten the ability of the country to maintain its territorial integrity and the well-being of the population. Russia is already one of the least densely populated countries on earth, and it will soon lack the numbers of people needed to hold its current borders if they are challenged within or without.

Fourth, the country will face an increasing shortage of workers, a trend that will make it ever more difficult for the population to maintain its standard of living and force the government to withdraw support from the kinds of projects that could reverse this and other dangerous demographic developments.

Don't get her started on the other six !