The Minesweeper World
I like to make a lot of metaphors out of games, because games often tell you something about different kinds of choices. Depending on the game, it can tell you something very useful about how you make you make your choices, or what choices could be made. So, what does Minesweeper have to tell us? That there are is a world of threats out there, and the more you leave to chance, the more likely it will blow up in your face.
Minesweeper, for those who don't know, is a game where you have this grid. In some squares, you have empty spaces, in other squares, mines. If you trip those mines, your game is instantly over. Fortunately, you have information about whether mines are near, and if so, how many. Trouble is, it doesn't tell you where to look.
What you really want to do is nail down your information in a way where there is no question of what it means. Or, to put it another way, where you only have two possible mines nearby, and just two unexamined, unflagged squares. But what if you have a situation where what the numbers tell you is ambiguous, open to two separate, but entirely possible arrangements? That can be a bit unnerving.
The worst of all possible worlds is to just click randomly. If you have no information, no useful information about where it is, it's just a pure gamble.
So what's with the article I linked at the top?
I will freely admit that the world is more complex than minesweeper. Did Trump have to collaborate with Putin for Putin to help him win? Not necessarily. It is a possibility, though. It has to be proven first, in some way, shape or form. But Trump doesn't necessarily have to collaborate for this to be a problem. Staff could be collaborators. Paul Manafort's dealings with the Putin-friendly Ukrainian Government under Yanukovych certainly tell us that it's not out of the question. But let's draw back further: you have most intelligence experts people talk with pretty certain that Putin deliberately helped Trump win. The facts, who executed the hacks, so on and so forth, point towards Putin. This wouldn't be an isolated incident. Putin's manipulated elections elsewhere, mostly close to him in Europe.
I'm not going to spin this out into the realm of hacking the actual vote, but the use of propaganda and selective releases of stolen information... I have to ask, if the GOP is asking for the hacker's help, blithely accepting it... aren't they tapping on squares that might have mines underneath them?
Honestly, do you think that a cagey KGB fellow like Putin is offering his help unconditionally? Even if Trump has nothing to do with what Putin did, you still have the question of what happens if Trump doesn't do what Putin expected him to do. If Putin decides that Trump's going to be a first term President, he could easily turn around and release bad stuff about Trump, bad stuff from his campaign and/or his administration. If Putin has an interest in our politics, he could be running an operation right now to do just that. Or maybe it's already been done.
But one way or another, the next line of folks who get hacked could be Trump's administration. In fact, that may have been the original point of the helpful information beforehand! Not to have Trump win because Putin preferred Trump, but to have him win because Trump was so compromised that he could be blackmailed or easily pushed out of office. Either way, there's nothing that says that the law-breaking hackers that helped you while you were campaigning are obligated to help you now. You're just clicking in random squares in this minesweeper game, if you put your trust in agents of a foreign power.
That last part is what really disturbs me. Before the Berlin Wall fell, I remember a world divided between two superpowers. I remember it was pretty clear that you would be cautious with the Russians, because they were your geopolitical rivals. The hope was, the two sides would reconcile their differences before they annihilated each other in nuclear fire. The fall of the Soviet Union meant we could finally relax, and that the new Russia were now our allies, to a certain extent.
Only, now you have this Vladimir Putin in, and he seems to be ratcheting things back up, recreating the Soviet Union in all but name, the totalitarian communist regime in all but name. It doesn't particularly matter whether you call it socialism or whatever. Putin doesn't seem to have a problem with religion or the oligarchical kind of capitalism he pushed. But he does seem to have a problem with us, and with American power, and he just screwed with our elections, by all accounts, with the current President-Elect in mind. A President-Elect who seems suspiciously willing to deny who helped him, suspiciously open to help from hackers basically doing a Watergate Burglar's business in Twenty-First Century fashion, and suspiciously open to undermining the rival powers that would stand in Putin's way. We have Putin parking missiles in range of Eastern Europe, with word of more powerful nuclear weapons at his disposal.
The worst thing is, the people who call folks like me commies for the last three quarters of a century are cheering all this on. They're not saying, "Hey,wait a minute, do we really want this kind of help?" After years of being paranoid about communism, it seems it's alright to start being naïve about Russian aggression, because hey, guess what, their interference in our election was for the right guy! What could go wrong? After all, should we really be firm with Putin, because that might provoke him!
I have heard the argument I would offer in counter-response quite often, but never used appropriately. We made a deal with Iran that made many, many requirements of them, in order to prevent them from developing nukes, such as shutting down key reactors and centrifuge facilities. For that, the ghost of Munich was brought up.
Yes, Munich. But now we have the Crimea, and bordering parts of the Ukraine with large ethnically German- I'm sorry, Russian populations. Hmm. Got confused there for a moment. You see, Hitler was trying to annex part of Czechoslovakia, parts which had large German populations. So, they thought, just hand this dictator what he wants here, and he'll be satisfied. The next year, the European powers are in a war with Putin- I'm sorry, with Hitler. Gee, I'm getting confused here. Could be that we have significant similarities here, and it's just hard to tell appeasement like Munich apart from the appeasement that we see the Republicans pushing for in the Crimea. Are we really so naïve as to think that Trump giving the Crimea to Putin, or relaxing or undermining NATO's opposition to him will do anything but invite what such weakness does invite from dictators like Vladimir Putin? This isn't making a deal with him for an orderly withdrawal from the Crimea. This isn't negotiating nuclear arms deals to reduce both our nation's capabilities of blowing each other to hell. This isn't whatever diplomacy Republicans want to label as appeasement, even if it involves pretty strong quid pro quos from the opposition.
The GOP's position is to cave in the face of a tyrant. After all the tough talk, after all these years, it seems the politics matter to them more than the real world. There was an ideological component to appeasing the Nazis, too. Many of the Conservative and right-wing political groups in both America an Europe liked that the Nazis were running off the communists, bringing law and order, tidying up the place, dealing with all the undesirables that people of that day and age unfortunately had their problems with. There were folks here, looking to import that brand of fascism. People scared that America couldn't remain both free and safe.
Do we import Putinism? His contempt for being held accountable by the media? His cynical promotion of religious prudery, which forgets the mercy and peace part of Christianity, as it bitterly tries to impose the law of the Old Testament on a world 2500 years past it? His build up of military might, and his insistence on impulsive use of military force to guard strategic interests, rather than diplomacy and international law? His cult of personality, his cadre of rich oligarchs, whose power is used not to benefit the people, but the wealthy?
I'd say we did import it. But let me tell you something: if Trump thinks he can smuggle in victory in the form of looking the other way of subversion of this country's interests, he doesn't know America. It's unfortunate that the GOP had so little pride that it accepted the help of our strategic rival, but you know what? I think they furthered their weakness rather than reduced it by taking that help.
I think in general, by adopting a sort of Pravda attitude towards the media, implicitly trusting the media message of one segment of the media, no matter how outrageous the stories or accusations were, the Republicans ended up embracing the most incompetent, the most useless, the most compromised of leaders, folks who can't do their job, and who often are no less befuddled and deceived than their constituents. The Blind leading the blind.
I don't hope the worst for my country. What I hope is that the mistake becomes clear very quickly, and that people react accordingly, and I think that Trump and the other Republicans can't help but do that. They've never really been held accountable, and when people aren't held accountable, they become screw-ups, because they've never felt the sting or the embarrassment of a mistake or the punishment for a bad action, and had to live with that. People sometimes figure out how to be good just by following the rules, but some folks... some folks only learn the rules by facing the consequences of breaking them.
Consequences that the Conservative news media always helped their people avoid. If every problem they face is a consequence of the liberal media being mean to them, if anything critical of them is now declared fake news... then what is there to discourage the scumbags and the demagogues from misbehaving?
Without good information (here's that extended metaphor again) you don't know which leaders you tap which will blow up in your face or not. You may not even realize that the fatal failure has occurred anyway, because the Right Wing media does such a good job of sugarcoating everything and putting partisan padding on all the sharp parts of the news.
You learn your lessons in a game like Minesweeper largely by your mistakes. You learn how to isolate what mines are where by remembering the history that came before you. You learn not to just do random crap, but to be methodical. You also learn that in some cases risks and failures are inevitable. But those cases become fewer in number if you recognize the patterns before you act. Risk can't be eliminated entirely. It can only be mimimized by the use of reason, and even in the case where a risk must be taken, you can learn how to take the least likely risk to blow up in your face.
But I'm pretty sure that won't help Republicans at this point, not as far as who they've selected to be President. That choice is blowing up in their face as they speak, whether they realize it or not.Posted by Stephen Daugherty at December 10, 2016 9:14 AM