The Long View 2007-09-05: Eureka; Babyboomski; Chambers Initiative; The Deal to Save Iraq


Demography is always more mysterious, and the data messier, than the models that get used often imply. In this post, John looks at early signs that Russian demographics were exiting the death spiral state of more deaths than births in 2007. The absolute difference wouldn’t cross zero for another five years or so, but the signs were there.

The birth rate appears to have started falling in Russia [the USSR then!] in the late eighties, and then the death rate really started to go up after the fall of the Soviet Union, in a phenomenon that looks a lot like Case and Deaton’s deaths of despair [Amazon link] in the United States a couple of decades later.


Eureka; Babyboomski; Chambers Initiative; The Deal to Save Iraq

Eureka! I thought, appropriately enough in connection with the SciFi Channel series, Eureka: I have figured out why I find the series strangely resonant. It's essentially the old Andy Griffith Show (1960-1968). Both shows deal with a small-town sheriff raising a child alone in a context that includes a distracting deputy sheriff and an oddly ubiquitous handyman. Both have a whistled theme tune: a dead giveaway of high concept, surely. I was just about to trumpet this discovery to the world when I thought to look on the SciFi fourm about the show. There I found that Mansquito had written on August 15:

I was just wondering (and maybe someone has already posted something like this) If anyone else had noticed parallels between the Andy Griffith Show and Eureka?...

But which Eureka character corresponds to Aunt Bea from Andy Griffith? Sarah the AI utility in the sheriff's underground house, of course.

* * *

What are Libertarian Demographic Doommongers to make of this news from Russia?

On Monday RosBusinessConsulting reported that Russia is experiencing the highest recorded birth rate since the collapse of the Soviet Union. According to the Russian government statistics presented by First Deputy Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev, two million women with children under the age of 18 months are now receiving child support allowances in Russia. In the first six months of 2007, the nation recorded 142,000 live births, with the birth rate increasing by 6.5% over the same period last year. Russia's mortality rate, one of the highest in the industrialized world, also declined by the same amount.

But why did these good things happen?

On December 22, 2006, a few days before President Putin presented his annual New Year's speech to the nation, the Duma passed a law raising government payments issued to Russian mothers who have a second child to 250,000 rubles (about $10,000). The payments are spread over the first several years of a child's life, and both parents must be Russian citizens to qualify. Russian couples who adopt orphans are also eligible for the government grants.

Someone should light a fire under those slackers at Demography Matters to crunch these numbers, but I am a little suspicious of a report that says the czar issued a ukase and forthwith the nurseries were full. During the Communist era several Eastern European states tried to halt demographic declined and discovered you can't buy babies. (Unless you are a celebrity, of course.)

* * *

Do the Russians have a working Doomsday Machine? No, they don't, but here is a walk down memory lane for those of us who don't have enough to worry about.

Fans of Forbidden Planet will recall that apparently every house on Altair IV had an easily activated doomsday machine, no doubt as a feature of the heating system.

* * *

Meanwhile, dark Eurasianist schemes are in fact being launched on other fronts. Persons who need to keep track of them might consult The Chambers Initiative. That's Chambers as in Whittaker Chambers. As we see from the blog's title page:

The purpose of The Chambers Initiative is to expose the agents of political and economic destabilization in America.

The objects of the blog's peculiar zeal are the NeoConned! [BIE I converted this to an Amazon link as the original site is long dead] books, whose editors are Traditionalists in the worst sense of the word. I don't know whether I can endorse everything on this site (is Gnosticism really the road to revolution?), but this is one area where a measure of paranoia is heuristically helpful.

* * *

Wholly unruffled is Peggy Noonan, however. She is actually fairly upbeat about Iraq, and a great fan of General Petraeus. In fact, she offers the president this advice about how to create a proper background for Petraeus's upcoming report to Congress:

It would be good to see the president calming the waters. Instead he ups the ante. Tuesday, speaking to the American Legion, he heightened his language. Withdrawing U.S. forces will leave the Middle East overrun by "forces of radicalism and extremism"; the region would be "dramatically transformed" in a way that could "imperil" both "the civilized world" and American security.

Forgive me, but Americans who oppose the war do not here understand the president to be saying: Precipitous withdrawal will create a vacuum that will be filled by killing that will tip the world to darkness. That's not what they hear. I think they understand him to be saying, I got you into this, I reaped the early rewards, I rubbed your noses in it, and now you have to save the situation....And here's the problem. The president's warnings are realistic. He's right. At the end of the day we can't just up and leave Iraq. That would only make it worse. And it is not in the interests of America or the world that it be allowed to get worse.

Would it help if the president were graceful, humble, and asked for help? Why, yes. Would it help if he credited those who opposed him with not only good motives but actual wisdom? Yes. And if he tried it, it would make news. It would really, as his press aides say, break through the clutter.

Actually, "Now you have to fix the problem" is a good description of the Bush Administration's approach to fiscal policy, but don't get me started. As for Noonan's suggestion, such a gesture would work only if it were a device for letting the Democrats get most of the credit for a successful outcome in Iraq. In effect, he would have to agree that the next president would be a Democrat.

Copyright © 2007 by John J. Reilly

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