a thoughtful web.
Good ideas and conversation. No ads, no tracking.   Login or Take a Tour!
comment by user-inactivated
user-inactivated  ·  2623 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: O’Reilly told Trump that Putin is a killer. Trump’s reply: ‘You think our country is so innocent?’

Look. I’m not being a simp and I’m actually kind of surprised you’re being so dismissive. I know that you know that I know that these things are a lot more complex than just saying “X is bad, therefore we shouldn’t do X.” Just the other week we had a relatively fruitful conversation regarding pacifism and you didn’t once see me write something as inane as “we can’t hug our kids with bombs.” So please, give me a bit more credit.

We could easily talk about trying to balance out moralities and making difficult decisions for hours on end. I’ll save us some time though. I understand most of what you’d have to say and I’d agree with it. You’ll understand most of what I’ll have to say and while you won’t agree with it all, you’ll appreciate the perspective I’m coming from and half respect it. We’ll both walk away in firm agreement though that needless deaths and ruin is unjust, shameful, and something we should strive to prevent.

So back to Trump’s statement and my response to your response. There is absolutely no denying that compared to a lot of governments, we’re in much better shape. That’s a huge part of the reason why so many people find Trump’s comments both so alarming and insulting. The problem is, we easily have the potential to go down that same road and that’s a huge reason why I say “the ends don’t justify the means.”

Let’s step away from the cloak and dagger shit for a minute and look at something else. General corruption. If we look at our own government right now, we’re seeing some very alarming things. We’re seeing attempts to take the teeth out of regulatory agencies such as the EPA and FDA, repealing financial reforms, restrictive voter laws, and on and on we can go. This type of behavior isn’t anything new. What is new is that it’s much more accelerated and much more aggressive this time around, though I think this is an anomalous time where everyone is trying to pull a smash and grab.

I think the mechanism behind this behavior is twofold. The people who often attempt these kinds of behaviors, whether they’re in the government, big corporations, or what have you, recognize two things. One, they can pull stunts like these and often get away with them. So they try again, with something new, and see they can get away with that. Every single time they get away with something immoral, it greatly chips away at any inhibition that is keeping them from acting immorally in the future. Similarly, when they pull things they can’t get away with, they start to poke and prod at the system, seeing just how far they can push the envelope, and see what’s holding them back. The problem with this is two fold. Through subtle pushing of the envelope now and again, they can often push things much farther than if they tried for one big push all at once. Additionally, by testing the system, they learn how they can push other envelopes as well.

So let’s back track again a bit, to my statement “the ends don’t justify the means.” Things like government surveillance (both foreign and domestic), drone strikes, asset freezing and asset forfeiture, and on and on we go are all very powerful and very effective tools, even if they’re sometimes flawed. The problem is they often cross the lines of being just and civil and every time our government decides to push the envelope a little further, that line gets a bit harder to find. Every time we as citizens allow it, or our courts of law say a certain act is admissible in a certain situation, a new and dangerous precedent is set.

The ends don’t justify the means because the means isn’t just typing a bit of code into a computer and now the government can see what people are typing. The means are also stripping away our rights and our dignity as human beings. The Patriot Act is more than just a law passed by congress. PRISM is more than a program implemented by the NSA. “The erosion of our civil rights” is more than a catchphrase and “the ends don’t justify the means” isn’t an “A because B” statement.

These things don’t worry us so much when the people in power are people we can trust. We can’t always ensure though that the people we trust will be the people in power. That’s why we need to be careful about the decisions we make. That’s why we need to have a never ending conversation looking inward, to who we are as individuals and a nation, and who we aspire to be.

Do I think we’re as bad as Russia? No. Do I think we have a lot to talk about that we aren’t talking about? Yes. Does that make me a simp? You tell me.

kleinbl00  ·  2623 days ago  ·  link  ·  

You're being a simp, and you're acting in a way that is deserving of dismissal. Worse than that, you're now attempting to put me in the rhetorical position of defending PRISM and extrajudicial killings.

"Stop that" or "fuck you." Your choice.

Your whole word salad up there is an attempt to dance away from the fact that you offhandedly argued that a despot's power grab and the government sanction of clandestine warfare are equivalent. Putin had 300 Russians killed in order to start a war in order to consolidate power in order to crush the nascent democratic movement in Yeltsin's Russia and return power to the KGB/FSB. Doing this whole COINTELPRO dance of the seven veils may allow you to say that death is death and cruelty is cruelty and as a pacifist we're all morally inferior to you but no. Evil is not an absolute.

user-inactivated  ·  2623 days ago  ·  link  ·  

You know, I've been sitting and thinking here, and I really can't help but think you're very much in the wrong. Putin has a history of doing fucked up shit to consolidate and maintain power for him. America has a history of doing fucked up shit to consolidate and maintain power for America. They're different, but the same. Both are immoral. Both are selfish. Both create victims and enemies. Both of them create road maps for other people/organizations to try the same.

Tell me how they're different. Tell me how we have the high ground. Tell me how what we're doing isn't dangerous and wrong. Defend PRISM if you can. Defend extra judicial killings and puppet governments and propoganda.

I'm a complacent citizen in a first world country and my comfort and safety comes at the cost of the suffering of others and I am not okay with that. So tell it to me. Counter my idealism with your real world cynicism and make it a good, hard sell, cause quite frankly, I don't have much interest in buying anything here.

user-inactivated  ·  2623 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    Tell me how we have the high ground.

It's much easier to accept one person being in the wrong than a whole national government apparatus. You can blame one person because one person is obviously capable of nefarious acts, more so when you don't like that person. It's hard to blame a whole authoritative institution when you want to like it.

kb's trying to put it to make it look like the side is either right or wrong. I can give you a couple of first-hand examples of how Putin isn't an evil dictator (which is solely what kb implies), and I don't have to dig very hard to find you examples of the ill-doings the US government sanctioned. Vice versa works just as well. The world is more complex, which he fails to admit, for some reason. Dig at that reason, and something tells me you'll be able to push the issue forward - if His Majesty shall allow it, of course.

Don't listen to cynics telling you to stop with that silly idealism. They think that just because it didn't work for them, it can't work for you, and your persistence reminds them of your own resilience in the face of moral struggles - something they've lost a long time ago.

I don't know if it means much, but I'm with you. The US government has done a lot of good for its citizens, and it has done a lot of bad to them and to others. The Russian government has done a lot of good for its citizens, and it has done a lot of bad to them and to others. A lot of the good and the bad was sanctioned by the presidents of the two countries. As long as kb admits that both parties (or, all parties) can be wrong and right at the same time on different issues, there may be a conversation to be had; not otherwise.

kleinbl00  ·  2623 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    You know, I've been sitting and thinking here, and I really can't help but think you're very much in the wrong.

That much was obvious from the get-go.

    Putin has a history of doing fucked up shit to consolidate and maintain power for him. America has a history of doing fucked up shit to consolidate and maintain power for America. They're different, but the same.

Truth does not appear through repetition.

    Both are immoral.

And as we all know, there are two moral states in the world: 100% moral and 100% immoral.

    Both are selfish.

And as we all know, there is pure selflessness and there is pure self-interest and nothing in between.

    Both create victims and enemies.

And as we all know, the victim of a murder has been just as injured as the victim of a shoplifting. My distaste for Tom Brady is 100% equivalent to my distaste for Rodrigo Duterte.

    Both of them create road maps for other people/organizations to try the same.

Yes. It is a well-proven fact that those who smoke marijuana immediately begin freebasing cocaine.

    Tell me how they're different.

Because when the CIA propped up the despotic Diem regime, our goal was to contain the deprivations and societal injustices of the Communist sphere of influence and forbid their spread throughout the countries we traded with, exchanged tourists with, and shared ideas with. WE WERE WRONG and we did a lot of bad shit but the general idea was "the world will be a better place if this dangerous way of life is discouraged from flourishing." When Mee Lai happened, there were congressional hearings.

When Vladimir Putin blew up a half-dozen apartment buildings, his goal was to panic Russians into accepting authoritarian rule and a drummed-up war against a pesky (muslim) separatist movement. The general idea was "the KGB wants to run the country." When Litvenenko fled Russia to tell journalists, he was poisoned in London.

One might argue that both sides are fighting for their ideals. However, one would then be forced (by me) to go through the thought exercise of James Comey not suggesting that mmmaybe they wanna take a look at Clinton's emails again, but of James Comey and a willing crony FBI carrying out the equivalent of eight Boston Bombings against the citizens they're sworn to protect in order to rule the country through terror... and then poisoning Robert Baer when he flees to Switzerland to write a book about it.

This is the problem of refusing shades of gray. This is the issue with taking the moral position that "all bad is bad." Yes. All bad is bad. How pedantic of you. But we are a species of big brains and pointy teeth and there is such a thing as "more bad" and "less bad" and when you decide that blowing up Anwar Al Awlaki's kids by accident is the same as drumming up a war with Chechnya on purpose... well, this is how we end up with Trump as President.

Know who leaders are? They're the people who make the least bad choices. Not the ones who make good ones.

Let's pretend it's 1942. You're Churchill. You know that Hitler is murdering Jews by the hundreds of thousands, if not millions. You've got intercepts of daily kill counts at Auschwitz. What do you do? Do you bomb it? It's deep behind enemy lines, it isn't militarily significant and you aren't in any position to win. Besides, if you bomb it, it'll probably start right back up again somewhere you don't know about. Plus, the Nazis will realize that one of their secret channels has been compromised. So you do the evil thing: you keep it quiet. You keep monitoring it. And you preserve that channel until you can do something about it. And you know that millions of Jews are dying because you lack the strength to act and win.

I'm not going to defend PRISM. I'm not going to defend extra-judicial killings. I'm not going to defend puppet governments or propaganda.

But I'm not the guy who said we're as bad as Putin as an offhanded aside.

You wanna see where, in your word salad, you lost the script?

    The problem is, we easily have the potential to go down that same road and that’s a huge reason why I say “the ends don’t justify the means.”

You say this the same way we say "the sky is blue" or "water is wet" when in fact it's one of the most heavily debated concepts in geopolitics. More than that, you're attempting to boil the entire nuance of geopolitics down to "the same road", much the way you're saying "all bad is bad." But worse than that, you present it as an accepted maxim and then run with it, stating that the fundamental mechanism of evil is the natural tendency of people to do whatever the fuck they can get away with.

You are arguing, in no uncertain terms, that evil is a function of "The people who often attempt these kinds of behaviors." In other words, if it weren't for the psychopaths we'd be fine. And that's beyond childish. It's beyond simplistic. And it's a ridiculously insulting framework to put someone else in, which is exactly what you're doing when you say Putin is evil, we're evil, and evil is a function of psychopaths therefore if you're defending evil...?

...I'm defending psychopaths?

No. I'm saying the world is a fuckin' messy place, global conflict is rarely a positive-sum game and I will ALWAYS pick a ruler doing evil for me and my 300 million fellow citizens over a ruler doing evil for himself.

Because good people often do evil in the name of good.

Virginia Woolf committed suicide because she couldn't stand to live in a world where the Armistice had fallen. My grandfather, on the other hand, built bomb casings to drop on Nazis. And they were fuckin' nasty bombs, too - they had these acetyl disks and weak acid in series that was set in air so that once you dropped the things they'd sit there unexploded in the dirt for hours, days or weeks. The point was to keep the Nazis from using their railroads and factories. The Nazis used Jews to clear them out. So. There's my grandfather. Not just making bombs, but making bombs to drop on civilian targets that largely blew up Jews.

The moral choice was to be Virginia Woolf. The righteous choice was to be my grandfather.

    I'm a complacent citizen in a first world country and my comfort and safety comes at the cost of the suffering of others and I am not okay with that.

Then you should at least be okay with the fact that your country causes less suffering than Vladimir Fucking Putin.

user-inactivated  ·  2623 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I don't think we're talking about the same thing here. Iny original statement I acknowledge that our government often had to make hard decisions. However, I'm not talking about hard decisions involving war, conflict zones, or people who are open enemies with our country. I am talking about our history of interfering in world affairs and undermining sovereign nations and the rights of their citizens that we aren't at war with. Which is bullshit. Period. I am talking about domestic programs and trends that put our rights as American citizens at risk. Which is also bullshit. Period. I am also saying that when we create programs and precedents that can easily be abused, we're taking nasty risks that sooner or later, someone is gonna try and abuse them. Everyone's afraid of a madman getting their hands on nukes. People should be equally afraid of them getting their hands in other cookie jars.

These are the arguments you aren't addressing, merely handwaving away saying "Oh, rd95, you simple fool. If only you knew how the world really is." You're the one being disingenuous here, not me. So now you're pissed, I'm pissed, neither one of us is listening to each other, and this conversation is getting nowhere. So for now, we're done. Maybe next time this subject comes up, it'll go smoother. We will see then.

goobster  ·  2623 days ago  ·  link  ·  

This has been an interesting thread to read, as both of you stand side by side, shouting down the hallway, and not getting anywhere.

You, rd95 made the casual assertion that "America is as bad a Putin", essentially, because we have done some nasty underhanded shit, and so has he.

kleinbl00 countered with the basic premise that a leader, acting on his own behalf and not in the best interests of his country, is a bad man doing bad things for bad reasons. While a country, doing unsavory things to stop bigger, badder things from happening, is not the same, and drawing an equivalency between the two is not just lazy, it is dangerous.

Using KB's example of Auschwitz: Putin would not have even asked the question as to whether he should stop the atrocities there now, or wait until he could win the battle. He wouldn't have cared one way or the other, because intervening in Auschwitz would not forward his personal agenda.

Churchill, on the other hand, was faced with the moral dilemma of what to do, simply because he is a moral man that wanted the best for everyone. So he had to wrestle with the idea, and make a hard decision.

THIS is where you two keep missing each other. RD keeps trying to abstract the issues above the practical, and KB says you can't do that because that is exactly where the problem rests. One is a philosophical thought experiment about how the world could be different; the other is a practical examination of human nature in history, and trying to predict future actions based on past behaviors.

It's been a fascinating conversation to watch, actually.

illu45  ·  2622 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I agree that the different points of view are pretty interesting to see. It's also interesting to see the difference in approach and tone in rd95's and kleinbl00's replies.

user-inactivated  ·  2623 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Ok. I understand that you don't want to continue this conversation with the way it's going right now. So let's stop.

Please understand though that there is a very good chance that you and I both see these topics very differently (and that's why we are very much in disagreement right now) and it never was my deliberate intention and it will never be my deliberate intention to back you into a rhetorical corner. I was just bringing up examples of behavior that I find have very concerning implications.

Lastly, and I mean this in all seriousness, I don't mean to talk about pacifism in a "holier than thou" kind of way and if I ever have or ever do come across that way, I apologize, point it out, and I'll correct the behavior. I use it as a lens, a way to view the world and strive for better goals.

If you do ever want to talk about these things down the road, let me know. Hopefully by that time we'll both be in a better communicative mindset.

Have a good night.

user-inactivated  ·  2623 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I don't know, man. Have you considered that you might be a 'simp' (that's not even a thing, what the fuck's that?)? I mean, he quoted you line by line, with pictures, and everything that people do to have really dumb conversations on the internet.