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#58 — The Putin Question

 
numinous_1
 
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numinous_1
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28 December 2016 14:10
 

This shows that just because you’re good at chess,doesn’t translate into real world common sense.  Chess has set pieces and fixed rules.  His take on CIA, election, history is interesting but amateurish.

Here is the list of governments the CIA overthrown in favor of brutal dictators
1949 Syrian coup d’état 1949–1953 Albania 1951–56 Tibet
1953 Iranian coup d’état 1954 Guatemalan coup d’état 1956–57 Syria crisis
1960 Congo coup d’état 1961 Cuba, Bay of Pigs Invasion 1961 Dominican Republic
1963 South Vietnamese coup 1964 Bolivian coup d’état 1964 Brazilian coup d’état 1966 Ghana coup d’état
1971 Bolivian coup d’état 1973 Chilean coup d’état 1980 Turkish coup d’état
1979–89 Afghanistan, Operation Cyclone 1981–87 Nicaragua, Contras 2001 Afghanistan
2011 Libyan civil war 2011–present Syria

K. says he knows Hillary, which he seems to have selective memory.

Watch discpicable Hillary Clinton endorse war criminal Kissinger
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KG9GFzM7zc4

About the election, still no proof, only CIA/FBI saying ‘liar liar pants on fire’.

The online cyber war begun years ago and started by who?  the CIA with from US industry, they inserted malware code into a pipeline control unit which then caused a pipeline to explode.  Later the retards at CIA/NSA not happy with only one front in a cyber war, opened up a front with the Iranians with stuxnet.

Previous politicians have railled about tryiing to reign in the CIA and that it should be shut down as a rogue criminal organization.

2014 Libertarian National Committee Chair Nicholas J. Sarwark released the following statement today:
“This is why we must shut down the CIA. Its 70-year history is littered with episodes of human rights violations, illegal activities, and deception, including:

Targeted killings and assassinations
Overthrowing democratically elected governments,
Human experimentation, including giving the hallucinogenic drug LSD to U.S. and Canadian citizens without their knowledge
Dealing heroin in Asia
Spying on Americans, members of congress, and foreign leaders,
Shipping war prisoners to foreign countries where torture is permissible (‘extraordinary rendition’).
Lying to Congress

Putin is a smart dictator, so what? This isn’t news.  It’s news that Obama’s foreign policy and lack of engagement will define his legacy of placating dictators, Putin, Erdogan, Chavez, etc.

 
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29 December 2016 15:18
 

I got about 20 minutes in to this podcast and couldn’t listen to any more - admittedly I was just getting back from a long drive so maybe I was just in a bad mood, I may try again later. But my general theory, in broad strokes, is that cultures evolve from tribalism towards liberalism by degrees (and I don’t think our current scenario necessarily represents the upper limits of liberalism, either) as resources increase. And I was somewhat dismayed to hear how far ‘down’ the ‘tribalism scale’ Sam and Garry sounded to me. I stopped around the time Sam was bemoaning that “...any notion of us really leading the world and trying to spread our values all the way across it is some kind of unethical claim upon empire. It seems to me that we have lost our sense that there really are right answers to questions of good and evil.” Maybe there is far more context there that I missed, but it seems to me that there is a ‘taken for granted’ axiom there that our values, personally, as a nation, are equivalent to universally correct values, or at least the closest current approximation.


Again, I will allow that I may have missed a lot of context later in the podcast, but in my framework, that’s something of an offensive thing to say when we have about half the world’s income and ‘tribal morality’ may well serve an important function for the portion of the world who is literally swimming and sinking in our waste. I mean geez, if we can’t have at least a somewhat more inclusive and gentle society given the amount of resources we’re working with, that speaks extremely poorly of us, and if we do, I think that’s more or less simply what one would expect, at a minimum.


I do not claim to know that is the case. Tribal stages of cultures strike me as relatively similar, but perhaps they are not. Perhaps you could very different arcs of development based on small differences in pre-industrialized ideology and so ‘beliefs matter’ more than ‘circumstances matter’. But what I see anecdotally leads me to believe the latter is a bigger contributor in beliefs, and so I am of the opinion that we should focus on changing circumstances, not beliefs. Defend when absolutely necessary, of course, but a proactive strategy should involve things like education, sustainability, global guaranteed minimum income, and so on.

[ Edited: 29 December 2016 15:21 by NL.]
 
 
Radmin
 
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29 December 2016 22:45
 
numinous_1 - 28 December 2016 02:10 PM

This shows that just because you’re good at chess,doesn’t translate into real world common sense.  Chess has set pieces and fixed rules.  His take on CIA, election, history is interesting but amateurish….

NL also hit the nail like numinous_1, but neither mentioned US involvement in meddling with other countries’ elections. Perhaps the chickens have come home to roost. Time may tell. Of course gutting the voting rights act, and not being able to guarantee the right to vote for every US citizen (upon birth or citizenship)  is a bit backwards and hypocritical for the so-called leaders of the free world. Being able to count and validate votes accurately seems like a good place to start.  The hard part is educating the electorate, and training them not to fall for the lesser… of anything.  Given the human record with religion, this is not going to be so easy.

Numinous really said part of what I wanted to, thanks. On that note, this was a weak episode. By the end I was about to snap not only from what almost sounded like the “fake news” and “propganda” Kasparov lamented, but also because I couldn’t help but start to get annoyed with his repetition of the phrase “you know,” and “free world.” Sam upset me as well with his fandom and delusions about Obama as “ethical” (vomit). Not that there ever was a “leader of the free world,” but Obama certainly drifted the US away from that notion with his horrid civil liberties record, clamp down on whistle blowers, and Nobel prize winning drone warfare. I wait with great anticipation to see who he pardons. Beyond that, “there really is such a thing” as economic hit men. Leading and spreading “our” values is, and has been, unethical Sam (see above). That modus is “fundamentalism,”  if not “terrorism”—that is empire.

Speaking of tribalism, if not barbarism, why does Sam seem to want “enemies” to fear us?  Why not see us as a friend and non-threat that leads by example (but of course our example has been dreadful,  and some have followed it ). It’s one thing to play peacekeeper and try diplomacy, it’s another to destabilize in order to feed the war machine’s thirst for the “racket” capital has had for nearly a century.  School of the Americas anybody?

While I like Sam, it appears his skepticism and consistency only goes so far.  He finally figured out that his own diet is a good place to start, perhaps he will consider the diet of political economy at some point.

[ Edited: 30 December 2016 06:21 by Radmin]
 
Antisocialdarwinist
 
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30 December 2016 11:26
 
Radmin - 29 December 2016 10:45 PM

Why not see us as a friend and non-threat that leads by example…

Jesus tried that. Look what it got Him.

 
 
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30 December 2016 14:35
 
Radmin - 29 December 2016 10:45 PM

NL also hit the nail like numinous_1, but neither mentioned US involvement in meddling with other countries’ elections. Perhaps the chickens have come home to roost. Time may tell. Of course gutting the voting rights act, and not being able to guarantee the right to vote for every US citizen (upon birth or citizenship)  is a bit backwards and hypocritical for the so-called leaders of the free world. Being able to count and validate votes accurately seems like a good place to start.  The hard part is educating the electorate, and training them not to fall for the lesser… of anything.  Given the human record with religion, this is not going to be so easy.

Numinous really said part of what I wanted to, thanks. On that note, this was a weak episode. By the end I was about to snap not only from what almost sounded like the “fake news” and “propganda” Kasparov lamented, but also because I couldn’t help but start to get annoyed with his repetition of the phrase “you know,” and “free world.” Sam upset me as well with his fandom and delusions about Obama as “ethical” (vomit). Not that there ever was a “leader of the free world,” but Obama certainly drifted the US away from that notion with his horrid civil liberties record, clamp down on whistle blowers, and Nobel prize winning drone warfare. I wait with great anticipation to see who he pardons. Beyond that, “there really is such a thing” as economic hit men. Leading and spreading “our” values is, and has been, unethical Sam (see above). That modus is “fundamentalism,”  if not “terrorism”—that is empire.

Speaking of tribalism, if not barbarism, why does Sam seem to want “enemies” to fear us?  Why not see us as a friend and non-threat that leads by example (but of course our example has been dreadful,  and some have followed it ). It’s one thing to play peacekeeper and try diplomacy, it’s another to destabilize in order to feed the war machine’s thirst for the “racket” capital has had for nearly a century.  School of the Americas anybody?

While I like Sam, it appears his skepticism and consistency only goes so far.  He finally figured out that his own diet is a good place to start, perhaps he will consider the diet of political economy at some point.

Antisocialdarwinist - 30 December 2016 11:26 AM
Radmin - 29 December 2016 10:45 PM

Why not see us as a friend and non-threat that leads by example…

Jesus tried that. Look what it got Him.


Well, I think that’s the point. There’s a difference between promoting our interests as a country - which I don’t have a problem with, within reason (what you think is ‘within reason’ is a huge, huge side topic that I won’t even try to delve into here, but I’ll add that as a general qualifier). I think there will always be a dynamic tension between competition and cooperation - but I think it is counterproductive to confuse the two. For example, I agree with Will Durant on the role of religion in secularism in many cases:

Puritanism and paganism— the repression and the expression of the senses and desires— alternate in mutual reaction in history. Generally religion and puritanism prevail in periods when the laws are feeble and morals must bear the burden of maintaining social order; skepticism and paganism (other factors being equal) progress as the rising power of law and government permits the decline of the church, the family, and morality without basically endangering the stability of the state.


...so you can hardly say “Hey, we competed so (whatever positive or negative adjective you want to insert there, depending on your political beliefs) that we now have hella cash to support secular institutions and be all secular! So probably being secular is our inherent, DNA-like, sprung-from-the-ether value system that we should spread, because other people just never thought of this and we did!” No, in that case, I don’t think secularism is something that we just happened to think of and never occurred to others, rather, I think competitiveness was the underlying trait which eventually allowed for it. In which case you’re saying you should spread a value that people are already engaging in (competitiveness), while also saying said competitiveness in the form of “countries in a state of nature” is the very problem you want to solve by spreading values.


I don’t think any value is a standalone proposition (a focus on education is admirable, but much more difficult when people are engaged in subsistence farming and there’s not much opportunity for them to put a higher education to use, functionally, for example,) and while I think values are already fairly universal, there’s a lot to be said for looking at context when encouraging them. If you’re not ready to live a Christ-like life, then encourage some competitiveness, sure - but know that means you’re encouraging in others too, not just yourself.

 
 
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30 December 2016 19:35
 
Radmin - 29 December 2016 10:45 PM

but also because I couldn’t help but start to get annoyed with his repetition of the phrase “you know,” and “free world.”


I actually thought that was the most interesting part of this podcast, because he sounds like a Russian who was raised by an Irish nanny while watching a lot of tv shows where people spoke with a cockney British accent or something.


I did finally listen to the rest of the podcast. Oy vey. I like Harris but geez, I cannot deal with the male chest-thumping that happens around any issue involving warfare and global competition. I know, I know, it takes all kinds, we need some hardliners and some diplomats, but I just can’t say I enjoy listening to him on those particular points. I was kinda over the whole podcast when I finished it and saw he had retweeted Kasparov:


“No, I don’t “miss the Cold War,” especially since those of us on “losing” side were real winners. But I miss the moral clarity that won it.”


...and was like - what? I mean really, what?! What universe did all this happen in? Moral clarity? We were lynching black people and enforcing segregation during the Cold War. We were forcibly sterilizing people during that time and also lying to them in order to withhold medication for treatable syphilis so that they could involuntarily be used as medical experiments. We involuntarily lobotomized people. The Cold War led to Vietnam which - what, now Vietnam was some kind of awesome moral success and victory for the US? And then the USSR pretty much went bankrupt and revolted on their own. Like what kind of alternate universe did that narrative happen in, where our awesome moral clarity just knocked down a whole regime? We pretty much spent decades telling them “fuck off we hate you” while they were like “fuck off we hate you too” until finally they went bankrupt. I don’t think moral clarity had much to do with it one way or the other.


My point is not to say that the US and USSR were morally equivalent, of course I don’t think that. But the black and white narrative of Us Good Them Bad is exactly what tribalism is all about, and, argh, it worries me to see it ramping up like this. Maybe we’ve reached the point where such tribalism is genuinely called for, but I really hope not. The world, despite all it’s problems, is historically rather peaceful at the moment (with much higher stakes in the form of modern weaponry, unfortunately, but overall I believe Steve Pinker on the general trend towards less violence overall). Maybe that’s a time bomb waiting to go off, but maybe we really are in a new era where diplomacy, not being the baddest dog on the block, is what counts.

 
 
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31 December 2016 10:37
 

@ NL

I got about 20 minutes in to this podcast and couldn’t listen to any more - admittedly I was just getting back from a long drive so maybe I was just in a bad mood, I may try again later. But my general theory, in broad strokes, is that cultures evolve from tribalism towards liberalism by degrees (and I don’t think our current scenario necessarily represents the upper limits of liberalism, either) as resources increase.

If a culture’s values are such that they reliably keep themselves from nurturing otherwise accessible resources, it would seem a perpetuation of tribalism is an inevitable outcome of such a culture. Example: cultures that value subjugation of women are essentially cutting off roughly half of their potential workforce from being able to participate in the creation, and thereby increase, of resources. In that way, if what you’re saying is in fact true, then those cultures are basically placing a cap on their ascent out of tribalism. This is bound to cause problems if other cultures in the world are not placing such caps on themselves via specific cultural beliefs because the in congruence between values is just a matter of time away and it’s only going to continue to grow without intervention.

I stopped around the time Sam was bemoaning that “...any notion of us really leading the world and trying to spread our values all the way across it is some kind of unethical claim upon empire. It seems to me that we have lost our sense that there really are right answers to questions of good and evil.” Maybe there is far more context there that I missed, but it seems to me that there is a ‘taken for granted’ axiom there that our values, personally, as a nation, are equivalent to universally correct values, or at least the closest current approximation.

If we let go of the notion that ‘the universe’ has some thought about what ‘correct values’ are, we’re left with two realities (1) we have to find a way to define values our selves, and (2) we have to reconcile the inevitable reality that incompatible values can’t be simultaneously respected.

In regard to the current dynamic of Russia, Israel, Iraq, and Syria (among other hot spots): it seems there is no good answer, and it seems this is the case precisely because the competing value systems at play are generally all incompatible with each other, and in many instances the maintenance of civilization generally. Of course, one could retort ‘who says the maintenance of civilization is important?” Sure, again, in the nebulously subjective world where we can’t really *know* anything, all conversations are rendered pointless. But if we choose to fall back on that claim, it’s not likely any other nation and/or territory is going to follow our lead and ‘agree to disagree’, so to speak.

So what are we left with? We’re left with a scenario where we can’t actually not do anything, because even inaction is ‘doing something’ in a very relevant sense. Consider last Friday’s UN reprimand of Israel: our nation abstained from voting…. and an international sh*t storm unfolded centered on us. By in large, the global discussion wasn’t about Israel’s actions that were reprimanded or the 14 countries that unanimously voted to sanction Israel, but rather was about the United States abstaining from taking a stance on the matter (i.e. officially being neither for or against the sanctions).

That’s the current reality we live in. We’re constantly facing choices like that and abstaining from getting involved is functionally impossible because even in doing that, we’re making statements about the values of the countries involved. Consider: we didn’t create the centuries long blood feud that has embroiled Israelis and Palestinians into a seemingly never-ending conflict. And it seems quite clear that throwing support behind either party in that conflict is to make allegiances with rather nefarious actors but throwing support behind neither is also seen as ignoring the nefarious actions of both.

Same goes with the Syria, Russia, Iraq triangle of despair. No doubt our history in the Middle East since the 1950s has been a mess. But the region itself has been a mess for centuries. We clearly didn’t create the value systems that are inevitably causing chaos in that area. Our choice has always been, at bottom, either (a) leave it alone and let the humans rights atrocities such value systems inevitably bring out happen & *hope* the values leading to such chaos don’t eventually place a target on our backs too (b) OR get involved and immediately be guilty of ‘imposing’ our values. After all, even if we rewind the clock back to 2002 and we decide to stay out of Iraq, that just means Saddam Hussein is probably still there instead of ISIS. And if we rewind the clock back to 1988 and we don’t help Saddam gas the Iranians, it doesn’t appear there’s much of a chance the region would be more stable now either.

Add in the Russia/Syria alliance, and it becomes even more of a mess. Assad can claim he’s fighting ISIS/Islamic terrorists, and Russia can get behind Assad in that fight, but Assad’s also clearly cleansing his own countrymen in their own civil war too - something that predates ISIS. And Russia’s engaging in their own regional takeover as well, annexing sovereign territories with impunity. Yet, we do need support in Syria if we want to be effective in fighting ISIS in Iraq. Support Syria and Russia, thereby essentially turning a blind eye to their own tyranny, so that we can further guarantee success against ISIS & *hope* Russia and/or Syria don’t become problematic with power in the after math OR sanction and reprimand Russia and Syria’s tyranny now….. thereby possibly jeopardizing our fight against ISIS? It’s a grab bag of undesirable outcomes.

To close: I’d love to live in a world where everyone’s values were such that no reconciliation was necessary; that everyone’s values could be ‘respected’ as ‘universally correct’ (whatever that even means). But, that’s simply not the world we live in. And because it’s not the world we live in, it seems like a waste of intellectual capital to spend time talking about what values ‘the universe’ sees as ‘correct’, because that line of questioning has no accessible answer. It seems the conversation becomes much more productive when we acknowledge we’re making up values on our own (no supernatural edict) so we may as well get used to someone’s values not being ‘respected’. In that regard, we’ve got a pretty healthy amount of evidence to suggest which value systems are less conducive to positive outcomes for the health and well-being of humans. If we have no choice but to make them up on our own, and if ‘staying out of it’ isn’t an option for us either, it seems reasonable to avoid acquiescing to those value systems which reliably lead to deeper adherence to tribalism and human suffering generally.

 

[ Edited: 31 December 2016 11:13 by After_The_Jump]
 
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31 December 2016 12:16
 
After_The_Jump - 31 December 2016 10:37 AM

If a culture’s values are such that they reliably keep themselves from nurturing otherwise accessible resources, it would seem a perpetuation of tribalism is an inevitable outcome of such a culture. Example: cultures that value subjugation of women are essentially cutting off roughly half of their potential workforce from being able to participate in the creation, and thereby increase, of resources. In that way, if what you’re saying is in fact true, then those cultures are basically placing a cap on their ascent out of tribalism. This is bound to cause problems if other cultures in the world are not placing such caps on themselves via specific cultural beliefs because the in congruence between values is just a matter of time away and it’s only going to continue to grow without intervention.


That would be the alternate hypothesis in the “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” question of “which comes first, circumstances or values?” intuition. In broad strokes I say “circumstances come first” and you say “values come first” (although I think we’d likely both see at least some feedback in both directions, it’s just that we’d likely see one as more primary.) So in my framing, it would be like:


Me saying: “Happiness is preferable, so we should make people happy”


Other people replying: “Happiness is preferable, and so unhappy people must not have realized this and are therefore morally inferior”.


To which I would understandably go “WTF?”


In your framing it would be like:


You saying: “Look, some people actually want to be angry about something all the time because it’s written into their schema to see that as ‘good’ somehow, and until you change that underlying dynamic, you won’t truly convince people to strive for happiness


Other people saying: “Well, if they do that for long enough I’m sure it will evolve into true peace loving happiness eventually rather than escalate into more and more anger”


To which you would understandably say “WTF?”.


This is a question I’ve long said I’m agnostic on, btw, it’s just to me that anecdotal evidence seems to support the idea of a certain order to cultural evolution. I admit that’s highly speculative, though.


I think that pretty much speaks to the rest of your post, except the universal values thing, which I brought up because Harris talked about it. I’m not sure if you disagree with him or me or both of us on that general subject, then. I think we both believe in universal values but I believe in them for half philosophical half ‘spiritual’ (in that there are some assumed axioms in there) reasons and Harris believes in them because of what he talks about in The Moral Landscape.


I do think the role that Russia will play in future foreign relations is an interesting topic. I hope they are not so threatening as Harris and Kasparov seem to think - in hindsight I think at least part of the reason why people do not worry quite so much about Russia is that Putin has been the equivalent of a “cat playing the piano” pop culture meme in this country for quite some time, not really portrayed as a sinister, mustache twirling figure. That seems like a minor thing but I think cultural images like that shape our intuitions more than we realize. Also, while it is horrible to think that this should have anything to do with anything - and let me be clear, I am not ok with this, I’m just noting I think it may well be a factor - given how racially identified people seem to be lately, I think the fact that most Russians are white makes some people more accepting of them than other potentially hostile foreign powers. I think it’s much too early to have a sense of how that foreign policy relationship will play out under a Trump Presidency, though.

 
 
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31 December 2016 12:46
 

A correction - Kasparov’s comment on “moral clarity” at first struck me as some kind of “Care Bear Stare of Moral Purity Toppling a Regime” thing, and I was like “Whoa, chess players are really quirky”. In hindsight it occurs to me that he was probably referring to Just War Theory, which, while a controversial topic, at least makes more sense. Tweets are the worst. The worst, ha ha!

 
 
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31 December 2016 12:58
 

@ NL

That would be the alternate hypothesis in the “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” question of “which comes first, circumstances or values?” intuition. In broad strokes I say “circumstances come first” and you say “values come first” (although I think we’d likely both see at least some feedback in both directions, it’s just that we’d likely see one as more primary.)

While I think there’s a rather healthy discussion here about how ‘circumstances’ were similar for multiple cultures and yet some cultures moved from tribalism while others didn’t, it strikes me that even if what you’re saying is generally true, we are still in the circumstances we’re in in present day and we still are forced to deal in the here & now. Prior causes being what they may be, in the present we have cultures all over world who now have the benefit of access to information and yet still, in some relevant sense, insist on being stuck on tribalistic value systems that are supportive of human rights atrocities regionally and threatening peace globally in some instances too.

In that way, I’d liken it to someone who has a predisposition to harm children. Even if we acknowledge the premise that this person didn’t ‘cause’ their predisposition, and even if that recognition causes us to not have any feelings of retribution or vengeance toward the person because they had no control over the prior circumstances that led to their being, there’s still the question of what to do with the person. Once we know this person will reliably hurt children, ‘doing nothing’ doesn’t absolve us of anything. And deference back to philosophical statements like “yeah, but how do we know hurting children is ‘wrong’?” doesn’t get us any farther along either, because asking that question does nothing to mitigate the value clash of (a) a child who values not being harmed and (b) a person who values harming children. Again, it’s inevitable that we will ultimately pick a value-winner and a value-loser, even if we choose to do nothing. There’s no fence to sit on functionally (i.e. there’s no space to be functionally ‘agnostic’ on the matter).

That seems like a minor thing but I think cultural images like that shape our intuitions more than we realize. Also, while it is horrible to think that this should have anything to do with anything - and let me be clear, I am not ok with this, I’m just noting I think it may well be a factor - given how racially identified people seem to be lately, I think the fact that most Russians are white makes some people more accepting of them than other potentially hostile foreign powers. I think it’s much too early to have a sense of how that foreign policy relationship will play out under a Trump Presidency, though.

I think you’re absolutely right regarding our perception of Putin being influenced by all the things you mentioned. I’m quite perplexed by a contingent of the country’s general dismissive attitude about our nation’s intelligence agencies feeling strongly that Russia cyberhacked American political officials and then used that information to try to influence our elections. As you seemed to imply: if that allegation is leveled at a brown skinned foreign leader, I have to imagine there would be almost universal outrage from our populace. 

And while I would agree it’s too early to know what a foreign policy relationship will look like between Trump and Putin, the early signs seem cause for sufficient concern. Trump seems to be playing into (if not buying into as well) the perceptions about Putin that you mentioned. And Trump seems to be paving the way to work with Putin side-by-side against ISIS (including the threat/usage of nuclear proliferation)..... which puts us more or less side-by-side with Assad too. Trump however may have already somewhat boxed himself into a corner with Putin on Israel. Trump came out hard against the current Administration’s abstention on the UN sanction against Israel. Yet, Russia was one of the UN countries that pushed for the sanctions against Israel and one of 14 unanimous yes’s in favor of the action. That’s a potential mine field for Trump. Russia/Israel relations had been improving with their mutual interest in Syria bringing them together recently, but this is a clear schism. Trump crony Newt Gingrich pointed that out on Christmas Eve

 

[ Edited: 31 December 2016 13:02 by After_The_Jump]
 
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31 December 2016 16:31
 
After_The_Jump - 31 December 2016 12:58 PM

@ NL
While I think there’s a rather healthy discussion here about how ‘circumstances’ were similar for multiple cultures and yet some cultures moved from tribalism while others didn’t, it strikes me that even if what you’re saying is generally true, we are still in the circumstances we’re in in present day and we still are forced to deal in the here & now. Prior causes being what they may be, in the present we have cultures all over world who now have the benefit of access to information and yet still, in some relevant sense, insist on being stuck on tribalistic value systems that are supportive of human rights atrocities regionally and threatening peace globally in some instances too.


Yes, but the general trend seems to be that wealthy cultures with a lot of resources are more liberal, because secular morality requires a lot of resources to support. So what is the actual virtue being pointed at there? It seems to me that it’s wealth acquisition, and if that’s the case, how do you know other cultures aren’t pursuing exactly that already? (Don’t get me wrong, I’m not implying that there aren’t right and wrong ways to acquire wealth - meritocracy is obviously much preferable to plundering - but I think one has to get down to nuts and bolts to really think about core issues.)


My working intuition is that morality and values are functional, a way of dealing with current circumstances. Buy hey, to be logical that has to apply equally, so as it applies to you too, I don’t have a lot of ground to disagree with you - just say, “Hey, I didn’t pick this, clearly it’s just what functionally evolved for me”, ha ha! Maybe my stance is functionally rather similar to Harris’s on free will in that realm. Players play their individual roles but in the largest picture possible sense, no one chose them.

I think you’re absolutely right regarding our perception of Putin being influenced by all the things you mentioned. I’m quite perplexed by a contingent of the country’s general dismissive attitude about our nation’s intelligence agencies feeling strongly that Russia cyberhacked American political officials and then used that information to try to influence our elections. As you seemed to imply: if that allegation is leveled at a brown skinned foreign leader, I have to imagine there would be almost universal outrage from our populace.


I wasn’t implying anything about the elections, I have no idea what that’s all about and my general attitude is that I guess time will tell on that one. I’m not crazy about the way democrats have picked up on “Everyone loved our strategy, the only problem was Russia!” as a byline, but then, if it’s just a convenient cover for wound licking (akin to shouting “Yeah?! Well, the _____ suck!!” while slinking out of a stadium of cheering fans after your team lost,) then I suppose it is, well, once again, functional. But I do think the general Republican / Trump attitude toward Putin is kinda… “Um…. okaaaaay. I thought you… but weren’t you guys like… I mean I guess I assumed… ok, never mind, whatever I guess…” It’s not what I would have guessed, given prior hardcore conservative stances on Russia.


Now if you’ll excuse me, I must do what I assume all people my age do on New Year’s Eve - go hold a couple of glasses of overpriced champagne from an ethical food store quite badly, then pass out around 10:30 before watching Ryan Seacrest or whoever The Young People are watching now do whatever the hell they do in Times Square these days (Ball drop? Electronic ball drop? Billboard of New Years around the world? I can’t remember.) Happy New Years!

 
 
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02 January 2017 14:02
 

I must say, after listening to this podcast and realizing my knowledge of Putin is limited to a few big news stories like Crimea and Syria, but for the most part consists of funny pictures of him rolling around topless on Ritz crackers. (Why Ritz crackers? No frigging idea, I am not the maker of the memes but I do not question their photoshop wisdom.), I read a bit more about him. Perhaps I am morally confused or naive or simply incapable of understanding politics or about to be on a watch list somewhere, but…. I dunno, I kinda like him. Or, I should say, I kinda like who he presents himself to be, with the understanding that his public image might be totally fake. Who he presents himself to be (purposely or naturally,) is, to my mind, a hybrid between a bit of a narcissist and a pragmatic moralist (I find hybrid-type narcissists are often quite interesting and often even very moral, if morally complicated, people. Total narcissists are functionally not the brightest bulbs because their overestimation of themselves means they just overplay their hand constantly, so the best they can aspire to is usually the role of con man to the easily suckered. Total pragmatic moralists, on the other hand, are admirable but often dull. There’s something that creates a lot of potential in a “Saul on the road to Damascus except for the purposes of this story let’s pretend only half to two thirds of the scales fell off his eyes so he was kind of a shithead but kind of an enlightened shithead but it was always interesting to see which way their development would go, towards the dark or the light side of the force” type.)


He seems like someone with basically two competing drives - one, that he is the quintessential “because I can” or “to see if I could” type when it comes to problems or puzzles or achievements. Maybe I’m wrong but he seems more like the guy who would climb a mountain because it was there or the kid who would take a toaster apart and put it back together just because he wanted to see if he could, not someone whose primary drive is to live old-school MC Hammer style. The other drive, unless he’s totally faking it, seems to be that he actually likes his country - albeit maybe mostly out of convention or because it’s a convenient backdrop for engineering puzzles he finds more interesting, but even so - at least the impression he gives off is that he does actually like Russia and wants to improve it for Russian citizens. And that it is largely a matter of circumstance that, functionally, that means acting like a mob boss in many cases, not that he simply has a drive to act like a mob boss, period. He gives off the sense that if he had to act like a snotty aristocrat or a good ‘ol boy or an entrepreneur or anything else he’d do that too. That doesn’t mean I think acting like a thug is morally acceptable, of course, I don’t think that - but it is one thing to do that in South Central because you’re protecting your family, it’s another to walk into a peaceful park and randomly act that way. I like to think the best possible moral character would find a way of not doing that in either instance, but there is a difference in context there.


I think what is most dubious about his character is whether or not he actually does have any fondness for Russia or is instead very craftily creating a huge kleptocracy for no other reason than, well, to live like old-school MC Hammer and have solid gold toilets or whatever. I think there is absolutely nothing to respect in that position and if that’s the case he’s every bit as awful as his worst enemies say he is.


It’s a weird dynamic. Unlike, say, ISIS, who make things much clearer, relations with Russia are very kinda coy Southern belle “ok what exactly are you saying and really saying here and what do you think my understanding of the subcontext here is vs what my understanding of the context actually is and…” To try to understand it I had to do some laughably “ok I feel stupid now” Google searches (“Why… is… Putin… bad… for… the… US?” - hey look, it’s an auto search, other people had to Google it too!) And nothing overt in terms of actions stood out - I mean yes he has done heinous things but so have many powerful people in the world. It was really all about perceptions (too bad for you Putin, you have total Bitchy Resting Face so no one will ever trust your intent), which I am agnostic on, especially given how roundabout and vague he seems to be on many topics. That could be playing the diplomat and statesman, or it could be deliberate obfuscation. Who knows?


Don’t get me wrong, I think in the real world one should always lean towards the most diplomatic relationships possible with a “trust but verify” and “tie up your camel” attitude, so for functional purposes I don’t know how much it matters. But as a character study, I find the topic quite interesting. Uber pragmatist who would have been overthrown by rival gang types long ago if he’d been a ‘nicer’ sort? Or traditional evil dictator? It’s an intriguing story.

[ Edited: 02 January 2017 14:05 by NL.]
 
 
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05 January 2017 06:49
 

Hmm. To be fair to Kasparov, I feel I should say I watched part of the “Putin’s Kelptocracy” documentary yesterday, and Putin certainly has been shady as hell in many areas. The apartment bombings case, for example (easily Google-able if you haven’t heard of it) - as an outsider very hard for me to know if that’s the equivalent of 9/11 truthers or if there could be some truth to it, but if there’s any truth to the FSB being involved, that is pretty much an irredeemable act wherein the only proof that you have a modicum of decency afterwards is to go become a monk. That he seemed to be siphoning money for poor Russians off to wealthy businessmen - possibly that could be the price of doing political business in Russia at all. If he really was siphoning it off for himself to build himself a palace with a Sistine Chapel on the ceiling, then again, just another run of the mill con man dictator. Glad poor Kasparov is out of Russia now, at least.


I must say, I do find it humorous that anytime Putin is mentioned people feel the need to say “Because he was a KGB agent,” like KGB agent were Jedi masters who can use the Force at will. I mean come on, we live in a country with some of the most sophisticated psychological research programs in the world, and people think that being a KGB agent gives people mind bending powers that makes George Bush like you with a “This is not the Putin you are looking for” hand wave? Geez. Other than the “We will kill you or destroy your reputation or have your doctor give you poison instead of medication for your illness behind your back”, I’m pretty damn sure there’s nothing KGB agents know about manipulation that your average Jewish grandma doesn’t. If anything, the fact that he has such a thing for Judo seems more explanatory of any persuasiveness to me than the KGB thing - I do think there’s something “to” eastern mind training and methods in terms of learning efficacy. But again, those are hardly little-known methods, so that aspect I found funny.

[ Edited: 05 January 2017 06:52 by NL.]
 
 
After_The_Jump
 
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05 January 2017 11:47
 

@ NL

I must say, I do find it humorous that anytime Putin is mentioned people feel the need to say “Because he was a KGB agent,” like KGB agent were Jedi masters who can use the Force at will. I mean come on, we live in a country with some of the most sophisticated psychological research programs in the world, and people think that being a KGB agent gives people mind bending powers that makes George Bush like you with a “This is not the Putin you are looking for” hand wave? Geez.

I’m not seeing how this has anything to do with the podcast because the discussion about Putin’s KGB background wasn’t a reference to some kind of surfeit of zen mind tricks; rather, it was a reference to involvement with nefarious organizations and entities generally. Specifically, Harris - around the 38 minute mark - asked Kasparov to talk about Putin’s involvement with the KGB as compared to Bush Sr’s involvement with the CIA. Harris stated the seemingly mundane point that no one saw Bush Sr’s CIA experience as connecting him to nefarious activity but saw Putin’s connection to the KGB as an indication of Putin’s less than honorable intentions. Kasparov and Harris both felt his was reasonable because the KGB’s history is much different than the CIA’s.

Along those lines, that’s almost always the context when someone mentions Putin’s KGB background; not that he’s some kind of super villain with mind snatching abilities but rather that the KGB generally was up to no good and it doesn’t appear too many former KGB members end up displaying redeemable intentions in their post KGB careers.

Additionally: the reference to Putin’s manipulation of Bush Jr came about 10 minutes before that and all Kasparov said was that Putin played on Bush’s religious devotion in order to gain Bush’s trust. As far as that goes, it doesn’t take a Jedi Master to recognize that Bush Jr. was susceptible to playing on his religious ideology.

 

[ Edited: 05 January 2017 12:12 by After_The_Jump]
 
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05 January 2017 16:43
 
After_The_Jump - 05 January 2017 11:47 AM

I’m not seeing how this has anything to do with the podcast because the discussion about Putin’s KGB background wasn’t a reference to some kind of surfeit of zen mind tricks; rather, it was a reference to involvement with nefarious organizations and entities generally. Specifically, Harris - around the 38 minute mark - asked Kasparov to talk about Putin’s involvement with the KGB as compared to Bush Sr’s involvement with the CIA. Harris stated the seemingly mundane point that no one saw Bush Sr’s CIA experience as connecting him to nefarious activity but saw Putin’s connection to the KGB as an indication of Putin’s less than honorable intentions. Kasparov and Harris both felt his was reasonable because the KGB’s history is much different than the CIA’s.

Along those lines, that’s almost always the context when someone mentions Putin’s KGB background; not that he’s some kind of super villain with mind snatching abilities but rather that the KGB generally was up to no good and it doesn’t appear too many former KGB members end up displaying redeemable intentions in their post KGB careers.

Additionally: the reference to Putin’s manipulation of Bush Jr came about 10 minutes before that and all Kasparov said was that Putin played on Bush’s religious devotion in order to gain Bush’s trust. As far as that goes, it doesn’t take a Jedi Master to recognize that Bush Jr. was susceptible to playing on his religious ideology.


I was apologizing for my first comments on Kasparov after gaining some additional context on Putin - and who he may or may not be as a person - as there is obviously a lot of backstory that they didn’t go into in that specific podcast. When I first heard it I was looking at his opinion of Putin only from that podcast with no background, which led me to somewhat different conclusions than knowing a bit more about his history with him. And from that angle, then saying I’m still not sure what to make of Putin and thus Kasparov’s take on him - it seems equally likely that he could be, in no particular order, just another narcissistic thug overlord who’s like “OMG look at me I’m a baller with my big money and cars” (puke); a cult of personality Big Brother type (creepily Orwellianly terrifying because really, he does look capable of putting you in a rat-mask until you betray the only person you love, I mean maybe that’s a mean thing to say but yeah, can’t you kinda see it?); or a genuinely complicated human being with at least some true good intentions and the engineering skills to execute them, albeit in an extremely macho and hostile environment that makes that process rather hard to watch (in which case I think he’s a really interesting character study).


The KGB thing was a random side note because people who don’t like him seem to invoke it (as in the documentary I mentioned), and I did just think it was kinda funny, the way it’s alway said with reverence, as if he was a wizard or warlock or something. Like, um, ok, sure, the leader of the free world who played politics well enough to survive and thrive in DC culture is going to be like “Oh mah gawd (flutter eyelashes and puts hand to forehead,) it never occurred to me that another person on the world stage might lie to me to curry my favor. Where is mah swooning couch?”. I mean geez, if you are one of the most powerful men in the world and it never occurs to you that people might lie to or flatter you, that’s not really the result of some crazy psychological manipulation, that just means you would have been better suited to teaching preschool or something. Was the cross thing a lie? I don’t know. But George W. looking him in the eye and saying “Vladimir, that is the story of the Cross” was about statesmanship and underlying dynamics, not literal truths - at least I would assume. (Hell, if nothing else, it made me like Bush for what he said, regardless of what actually did or didn’t happen with Vlad’s cross - sorry, sorry, I know as an atheist that will probably make you puke, just giving an honest description. Politics are a weird arena in that they’re not a dialogue between two people, they’re a dialogue happening in an arena of spectators, so rather different from typical conversation.)


The judo thing was also a bit off topic, just an aside that to the degree that Putin has ‘heart’, it seems to be in that realm, and after briefly Googling judo, that seems much more in line with his worldview and personal playbook than the KGB angle. Again, that whole general line of thinking sprouting from me trying to decide what to make of Kasparov’s impressions in a larger context (if I’m being totally honest, Kasparaov seems like a bit of a rabble rouser who likes to make trouble for the sake of it himself - that in and of itself doesn’t say anything about him, but whether he does it for good or just to pick fights does, so I was trying to get a better sense of that - unfortunately I think the Russian mindset is just too foreign to me to really grok so I find myself still agnostic on all those dynamics.)

 
 
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08 January 2017 10:34
 

[moved here from ]https://www.samharris.org/forum/viewthread/69150/#851399]

I am underwhelmed by the quality of the discussion. Maybe the question why Putin is so incredibly powerful and popular in Russia wasn’t at the centre of the inquiry but it should not have been ignored to the degree it has been. Saying that Putin is “evil” has zero explanatory power. Maybe a pro-Western opposition figure such as Kasparov cannot be expected to have a dispassionate analytical perspective towards his main object of hate, but if so, I doubt that he was the right person to have on the show.

Myself, I have been working with civil society, with human rights defenders (in particular indigenous ones) from Russia for about 25 years, and from my experience, I feel that the pro-Western opposition in Russia has failed to reflect critically on its own vision and on its role when it still was in government in the chaotic 90s, when under Yetsin the country was plundered in what is known as the “privatikhvatsiya” (a pun combining the Russian words for “privatisation” and “grabbing”) by the now oligarchs, while the leading pro-Western market liberal, prime minister Yegor Gaidar wanted to lead the country from socialism to capitalism within 100 days.

During that time, large parts of the population lost all their savings and dropped from decent middle class existences to below the poverty line. People lost their homes, life expectancy plummeted to third-world numbers, murders happened in the open daylight with impunity. To my knowledge, leading figures of Yabloko and other pro-Western parties have never delivered a critical analysis of those times and of their own involvement. So when Putin, aided by surging oil prices, rose and seemed to restore order and dignity to the country, he was in a position to own the narrative all by himself.

And to this day, “democracy” remains almost a dirty word in Russia because it seems so inseparably linked to radical Manchester capitalism and the lawless 90s. Putin is widely seen as totally unrelated and clean (which he isn’t but people believe him anyway)

Last September, Russia elected a new Duma (federal parliament). I happened to be in Moscow and Vladivostok during election days, and if you wouldn’t have known, you would hardly have noticed, there were almost no election ads in the streets anywhere. And the frontrunners were the same as 25 years ago: Zyuganov for the communists, Zhirinovski for the “Liberal democrats” (a proto fascist, ultra-nationalist crazy party), and Yavlinski (even though not officially) for Yabloko, the leading pro-Western party. So this ossification of the political system in Russia concerns not only the pro Putin powers but also the pro Western opposition. It seems to have no fresh ideas at all, no new faces, no serious idea to challenge Putin. They are pro-capitalist, but Russia is very very capitalist already (we in Germany live in socialism, by comparison), people are still relatively well off materially and that seems to be the main thing that counts for the majority, .

For the people I work with, Kasparov is largely irrelevant. Hardly anything he suggests is attractive for those defending the rights of vulnerable groups such as indigenous peoples, migrant workers from central Asia or Roma. Since the catastrophic failure of the 90s, the opposition has not developed a new vision for a democratic Russia, which protects not only civil and political but also economic, social and cultural rights. Navalny, the leading young opposition figure is vigorously anti-migrant. Yevgeny Royzman, another leading opposition figure who is the mayor of Yekaterinburg is conducting a “war on drugs” there, which involved gross abuses of drug users, yes and Kasparov himself still endorses the attack on Iraq. These are not the people who will force out Putin, they are marginal in the country and their ideas are not necessarily so much more humane than his. Well, a closer, more careful look at Russia would really be something Harris should consider.

[ Edited: 08 January 2017 14:19 by jro]
 
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