Monday, January 2, 2017

Putin and the Rearing of His Head

I've actually been fairly productive in the 3-d world. But it's the damned holidays so I've blogged a bit. A bit too much about USA stuff. I was hoping to say something about the Canadian scene before I go back to work. Alas! Responses to a comment I left at one of Montreal Simon's recent posts have caused me to wish another post about domestic US-American politics and US-Russian relations.

Let's begin with some stuff we can all agree with, shall we?

A nuclear war between Russia and the United States would be a bad thing. (Agreed?)

596 is a bigger number than 66. Much bigger really. Considering that those numbers describe the relative military budgets of the USA and Russia.

18.6 is bigger than 1.3. Which is to say that the USA's $18.6 trillion GDP dwarfs Russia's $1.3 trillion.

Again; can we agree on these simple facts? If so, then maybe we can try to agree on more speculative issues.

For instance; can we agree that a much smaller person, if they are of sound mind, will not pick a physical confrontation with a much larger, stronger person? Is this generally true? Because it seems to me that a sane Russian leader would not initiate a military confrontation with the USA. And, while we're all of us, at least a little bit crazy, and that those who enter into and rise to the top of evil and insane systems are, by default, crazier than we are, they are obviously still rational on some levels. Moreover, none of the actors I'm going to be talking about are absolute dictators. Were they to act insanely in such a way as to jeopardize the continuance of the insane, evil systems they are a part of, others within those systems would restrain them.

For example; both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are evil psychopaths. These qualities have helped them rise to the top (or so close to it!) of the system of evil insanity that is US politics. But Obama's insanity is not such as to lead him to chop his country's military budget by 99% and spend the savings on untied foreign aid. And even if he did try to do that, others around him would prevent it. In the same way, were the evil psychopath Vladimir Putin to decide to try to re-conquer Eastern Europe (much of which is now part of the NATO alliance) and also expand the Russian Empire into the Middle East, others around him would see him risking the continued existence of their country and they would restrain him. But Putin is not insane in that sort of way. In fact, he is fairly rational in that respect. Given the power imbalances between his country and the USA, he is forced to give much more consideration to his actions and he appears very rational.

Now then, while these assertions of mine are more subjective than the simple number comparisons that preceded them, I can't see how anything in them is controversial or really debatable. Neither the leaders of Russia, nor those of the United States, are gibbering lunatics screaming at their hallucinations between playing with their own faeces. In many respects Vladimir Putin is a rational actor who will have coherent reasons for his actions. Especially in foreign affairs.

Of the leaders, I will even say that when it comes to foreign affairs, Putin is more rational than Barack Obama and much more so than Hillary Clinton. He has to be because he has a weaker country. A much weaker country. If you have two high-schoolers, each of normal intelligence, and (by all of society's standards) fairly sane and rational, with one of them being a bully of great physical strength, and the other being a diminutive freshman, it first of all stands to reason that the diminutive freshman will not initiate a fight with the bully. (Just as I've been saying all along.) If either of them is going to start a conflict, it will be the bully. And in this scenario, it is easy to imagine that the bully's target will exert much more consideration and brain-power in trying to avoid a confrontation and to extricate himself from the conflict. The bullied person will be trying to preserve their physical integrity, their dignity, their capacity for future activity, etc., whereas the bully can spend more of his brain-power on pursuing his cheerleader girlfriend's best friend, and getting the answers for next week's math test from the nerd and about his campaign of bullying against other dweebs and frosh.

Some of you might object to my characterizations of the USA's political system as evil and insane. Some of you might concede to that characterization but not extend it to Obama and Clinton. (I'm going to assume that none of my readers have any objection to describing the grim, authoritarian cesspool of violence and corruption of Russia's system as evil and insane and extending this diagnosis to Putin.) This is a sign that you have been successfully brainwashed. Of course the USA's political system is evil and insane! It is based on capitalism! And standing alone, on its own merits, without any deflections about other political-economic systems, capitalism is based on the inhuman, amoral, psychopathic notion that personal profit is the highest aspiration and that other human beings are merely means to this end.

When the hero of "free-market" nincompoops, Milton Friedman, said that shareholder profit was the ONLY moral obligation of a corporation, he was being serious. For Friedman (and for all his deluded followers) environment, community, compassion, and much else besides, are all irrelevant. Putting such "values" into practice ... well, we don't have to imagine the consequences, we see evidence enough of the disaster throughout the history of the capitalist system and into the present day.

The United States is dominated by its capitalist class. In recent decades the leadership of that class itself has fallen almost entirely into the hands of the financial sector. In 1999, thanks to the determined efforts of both Democrats and Republicans, this sector was relieved of the legislative restrictions that had been imposed on them in 1933 after they had almost destroyed the world economy back in 1929. And what did they do with their new-found freedoms? They engaged in reckless and often criminal behaviour that ended up blowing-up in all our faces in 2007 and, as in 1929, almost destroying the world economy. Since 2008 we have been mired in economic stagnation as financial sector parasites, having been rescued from the consequences of their actions by taxpayer bail-outs, strive to wring whatever wealth has been created in the aftermath, leaving practically nothing for the rest of the population.

The US political system is about aiding and abetting these selfish monsters. That is why Barack Obama violated the US Constitution and had the Department of Homeland Security conspire with local "law enforcement" services to harass and crush the "Occupy" movement that arose to protest the travesty. It's why, after having had hearings (mainly to satisfy public outrage), the US legislative bodies eviscerated the laws that were debated (again, mainly for the public's consumption) to control these monsters.

The US political system serves capitalism. "Capitalists" are people with "capital." "Wealthy" people tends to refer to people who have a lot of financial wealth. Which is to say: "capital." (You can be "wealthy" in friends or good health. But see how far that takes you in this society.) To serve the wealthy (capitalists) the governor of Michigan cut their taxes. This resulted in revenue shortfalls to the extent that water treatment services were no longer affordable. Rather than reverse these cuts and restore the funding to ensure that the majority of citizens had safe drinking water, the governor of Michigan (himself a wealthy man) implemented some cost-cutting measures which ended up inflicting lead poisoning on the mainly poor and Black population of Flint Michigan.

Here, have a look at the impact of lead poisoning:

Lead poisoning usually occurs over a period of months or years. It can cause severe mental and physical impairment. Young children are most vulnerable.
Children get lead in their bodies by putting the lead containing objects in their mouths. Touching the lead and then putting their fingers in their mouths may also poison them. Lead is more harmful to children because their brains and nervous systems are still developing.
Lead poisoning can be treated, but any damage caused cannot be reversed.
Signs of repeated lead exposure include:
  • abdominal pain
  • abdominal cramps
  • aggressive behavior
  • constipation
  • sleep problems
  • headaches
  • irritability
  • loss of developmental skills in children
  • loss of appetite
  • fatigue
  • high blood pressure
  • numbness or tingling in the extremities
  • memory loss
  • anemia
  • kidney dysfunction
Since a child’s brain is still developing, lead can lead to intellectual disability. Symptoms may include:
  • behavior problems
  • low IQ
  • poor grades at school
  • problems with hearing
  • short- and long-term learning difficulties
  • growth delays
A high, toxic dose of lead poisoning may result in emergency symptoms. These include:
  • severe abdominal pain and cramping
  • vomiting
  • muscle weakness
  • stumbling when walking
  • seizures
  • coma
  • encephalopathy, which manifests as confusion, coma, and seizures
Here's an example of the moral degeneracy of Michigan's Governor Rick Snyder:

This was only days after Snyder was heckled so intensely for his scandalous non-governance during the Flint water crisis that he had to leave a bar—a bar next door to the site of this birthday party. You can understand why he wanted to have the windows “blacked out,” lest anyone see that he was actually enjoying a cake pressed into the shape of luxury store boxes, a Michael Kors bag, and a diamond necklace while his poorest constituents were drinking toxic sludge.
Look at the thing! The good attention to bad detail! There’s sugar tissue paper coming out of a sugar Chanel box. Is there a pair of confectionary gloves inside? 
What evil person’s Pinterest board was this lifted out of? What instructions were given when the cake was ordered? Was there not enough room for a Gucci receipt made out of sugar? Why not just make a cake that says FUCK YOU in red icing?

Finally, here's a look at how other capitalists (these from the pharmaceutical sector) responded to this humanitarian crisis:

Outrage is growing this week amid revelations that the pharmaceutical company Valeant raised the price for its critical lead-poisoning treatment by more than 2,700 percent in a single year.
Before Valeant took control of the medication, known as Calcium EDTA, in 2013, the average price for a package of vials was stable at $950, the medical news outlet STATreported. But once the notorious pharmaceutical company bought it out in a multi-billion dollar deal, it swiftly boosted the price to $7,116 in January 2014 and to $26,927 by December of that year.
"This is a drug that has long been a standard of care, and until recently it was widely accessible at an affordable price," Dr. Michael Kosnett, an associate clinical professor, toldSTAT. He also contacted U.S. Congress. "There's no justification for the astronomical price increases by Valeant, which limit availability of the drug to children with life-threatening lead poisoning."

This is just one example of how the USA's political-economic system is evil and insane.

The USA's foreign policy (which includes the exercise of military power) is overwhelmingly dedicated to preserving access to the foreign resources that the USA's elites need to maintain their system as well as to spread the system itself world-wide. Here's former US Marine Major General Smedley Butler:

WAR is a racket. It always has been.
It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.
A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small "inside" group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.
Out of war nations acquire additional territory, if they are victorious. They just take it. This newly acquired territory promptly is exploited by the few -- the selfsame few who wrung dollars out of blood in the war. The general public shoulders the bill.
And what is this bill?
This bill renders a horrible accounting. Newly placed gravestones. Mangled bodies. Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes. Economic instability. Depression and all its attendant miseries. Back-breaking taxation for generations and generations.

Is anyone still so stupid as to believe that the USA invaded Iraq so as to destroy Saddam Hussein's "Weapons of Mass Destruction" and to implant the seed of democracy in that land? (They don't even have democracy at home!)

If anyone wants to dispute these simple facts with me, by all means, leave a coherent argument in the comments section.

I'd like to conclude this post with a proposition. This is that while neither the Democrats or even the Republicans are shrieking lunatics, they are more unstable psychologically than is Putin's crew. And the reason for this is "hubris."
exaggerated pride or self-confidence
The USA is, by far, the most powerful country in the world. It is arguably, relatively more powerful than at any other time in its existence. In 1945, all of Europe was prostrate, Japan was in ashes, China was an undeveloped, devastated basket-case. Russia though, ruled the Soviet Union. And while it, itself was devastated, it had a mighty, well-trained, experienced, permanent army and a new empire. The USA was just moving into the political space being vacated by the former European great powers.

Today, Russia is at a fraction of its powers. US-American corporations dominate pretty much all sectors. Its ideological strength (think popular culture) is paramount. Europe and Japan are wealthy subordinates. China is a rising power but in no way capable of initiating a serious challenge. It is not outlandish to imagine that growing up and coming to maturity within a country as powerful as this, and being such people as to wish to control and guide a country as powerful as this, that people like Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John McCain, Mitt Romney, etc., are all at least a little bent and that they would be susceptible to become mad with power. That like a bully who has no challengers and therefore has never felt truly threatened, the USA could become arrogant, sloppy, careless. (I left Donald Trump out of that list because there is no question that he is more unstable than all of them. He is, in fact, a symptom of the malaise that I'm talking about here.)

To make me sound smarter than I am, I shall appropriate for this argument the phrase "Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad."

If there is any country in the world in dangers of hubris, and therefore endangering the world as we know it, it is the United States, and not Russia.


Simon said...

hi Thwap...I agree with you, the U.S. and its out of control militarism is responsible for the mess we find ourselves in now. The invasion of Iraq was the worst mistake a country has ever made in my life. And you're right, compared to the military might of the U.S. Russia is a small player indeed. But using cyber warfare to try to influence the results of elections in other countries still cannot be justified, and could lead to a dangerous escalation that could leave us all in the dark. I also think that you are underestimating the threat posed by China which is going through a nationalist revival of its own. But beyond all of that I hope you understand that I do want an end to all imperialist games, so we can have peace on earth, and focus on saving our planet from the devastation of climate change. Happy New Year my friend...

Purple library guy said...

I've said it before: The odd thing about the demonization of Putin is that by world standards of political leadership he is actually so very ordinary. A bit smarter than average for the current crop, but on a moral and even an economic level he's so damned standard. The only thing that makes him particularly stand out is the simple fact that it is Russia he is president of.

thwap said...


There is no proof that Putin did this. He might have. But there's no proof. And IF he did, what did he do? He revealed that HRC and the DNC conspired to deny Democratic voters the opportunity to vote for Sanders for president.

That's far less than the interference of the USA in other countries' elections.

I do not like Putin but I hate nuclear war even more. And the level of hysterical bellicosity that you liberals have been expending on this nonsense is serving to help ratchet-up tensions between two nuclear powers.

It sickens me that one of the few semi-sane things that Trump ever said is being used against him in such a mindless fashion.

thwap said...


The military-industrial complex has to work with what it's got to justify its continued obscene profits.

Vile scum.