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Comment: Re:So much unnecessary trouble (Score 1) 566

by shutdown -p now (#47572255) Attached to: Satellite Images Show Russians Shelling Ukraine

What makes you believe that it's Putin that's playing for that side, and not the other way around?

One thing that I'm actually seriously afraid of is that Putin will use the separatists to stage a coup inside the country. Consider this: right now, it seems clear that without outside intervention, rebels are doomed - Ukrainian forces grind them down slowly but surely, even despite the heavy losses. They know it full well, and they have been demanding help from Russian government since the declaration of independence - and then complaining that what they get is still not enough (which is true). Some of the lower-level commanders and rank and file have already been calling Putin a traitor on record. But never the top brass, like Strelkov. In fact, Strelkov is pretty much always very deferential to Putin, and called him "supreme commander" on occasion.

Now, imagine what happens when the last stronghold is overrun. The remaining forces - doubtlessly, the most loyal and battle-hardened of Strelkov's troops - will try to retreat across the border into Russia. If, by some "miracle", they are allowed to pass safely through, what do we have? A charismatic leader, widely popular in Russia itself, with a clout of an almost-martyr for the cause that most people root for, valiantly and losing the battle only because of "traitors" - even if he's not pointing any fingers at them (just makes him that much more noble, hey!). And several thousand armed loyal troops at his command. Now, what if Putin declares that the only reason why he was not able to order a direct intervention and turn the tide is because of all the traitors in the government, and that he needs help purging them? Strelkov then turns the entire Dolchstosslegende around and says that, yes, the people who were complaining about treason were right all along, but Putin was not the traitor, the traitors were the one who bound him and prevented him from acting - and marches straight onto the Kremlin. No-one would stop him; heck, I know for sure that a lot of people would cheer, and most police and military units would just step aside if not join outright. Once he arrives, we have a bloody but brief purge, with some bodies displayed for the amusement of the crowd, and Putin is now officially a dictator for life, Defender of Holy Rus or whatever titles they decide to bestow on him, with his own personal loyal guard to protect him.

Comment: Re:So much unnecessary trouble (Score 1) 566

by shutdown -p now (#47567175) Attached to: Satellite Images Show Russians Shelling Ukraine

Yes, Ukrainians do in fact have a special place in that model - they are considered "Russians who forgot/rejected their roots" (ditto Belarusians).

At the same time, you're also correct that the current conflict raised the hostility between two nations to a level that was never seen before, and it is also felt in Russia. The rhetoric was updated accordingly: now Ukrainians are deemed to consist of two parts - the larger one that is the unconsciously subjugated Russian-at-heart majority that can be rehabilitated (by force of arms if necessary), and the minority of hardcore "true Ukrainians" who do the subjugation, and for whom hating Russia is in their very nature. The latter are generally associated with Galicia (many people have suddenly discovered that those lands have not been in Russia, or any state that Russia claims succession to, for over 700 years before the 20th century - and therefore decided that reclassifying the inhabitants as inherently hostile is alright after all).

Thing is, I don't think the people who run the country believe in all this crap. They peddle it to the population because it's an easy sell and meshes well with their policies.

Comment: Re:So! The game is rigged! (Score 1) 516

by shutdown -p now (#47563479) Attached to: 35% of American Adults Have Debt 'In Collections'

You might need to apply for a crappy card at first if you really have NO history

Getting a credit card with no history whatsoever might be tricky unless you're really young. But even in that case, pretty much any bank will happily give you a credit card if you place a security deposit with them (the credit limit will then be tied to the amount of said deposit). That still counts as credit and lets you build up credit score - and eventually they will release the deposit. I had to resort to that when I moved into US from another country - given my age and employment, combined with the complete and utter lack of any credit score records whatsoever, that's the only arrangement that I could find. I got my security deposit back on the second year of using the card, and started getting more card offers from other banks at about the same time, which I assume coincides with crossing some threshold on the credit score.

Comment: Re:So much unnecessary trouble (Score 1) 566

by shutdown -p now (#47561389) Attached to: Satellite Images Show Russians Shelling Ukraine

They already have to include non-Slavs, though. Remember that Russia is like 10-15% Muslim (depending on who you ask), and most of these are non-Slavs. Then of course you have a bunch of other guys like Yakuts or Buryats.

The overarching ideology is actually Eurasianism; Russians are seen as the "core nation" in that model, the one that binds everyone else together around it. Not dissimilar to how Stalin described USSR after WW2.

Comment: Re:Weakest Russia ever (Score 1) 566

by shutdown -p now (#47559835) Attached to: Satellite Images Show Russians Shelling Ukraine

You still missed the point, sorry :)

What I was saying is that your premise - "if he crashes the economy his country is no longer a threat to the world" - is incorrect. For one thing, it's always tempting to "fix" the crashed economy by going to war. But even if it doesn't actually fix it, it can be that last "okay, if we're going down, you're going down with us" sort of gesture. Yes, a country with a ruined economy won't be able to wage a protracted war, but it doesn't need to do so to make others hurt, and the bombs and the missiles won't magically disappear. Nor will the manpower - and said manpower is only going to be more desperate and therefore (with the right coaching) more angry.

Now, as to why I believe that such a war would work to bolster inner popularity. The trick, of course, is to present it in such a manner that the war is declared on you. Russian TV has already been quite successful at spinning things that way about Ukraine - a recent poll showed that 94% of Russians get their news primarily from TV channels (all of which are now state-run or indirectly state-controlled), and 75% believe that its coverage is truthful and objective. Only 25% believe that "propaganda" is an apt description for what they're seeing.

So, really, all Putin needs to do to escalate to war is to keep provoking the West, and then blowing up any responses as something big. And heck, there are tried and proven methods to get a decent casus belli when the time comes - see Mainila incident for an example. After all the crazy conspiracy theories that are eagerly accepted for granted in Russia (by the population, not by politicians!) just to be able to preserve the "we are the good guys" mentality... something like that would be swallowed very easily.

And yes, the "patriotic" fervor in Russia today is such that, with the right sugar-coating, the population will happily swallow the war pill. If they are explained that all economic woes are due to Western shenanigans (and the occasional spy/saboteur - for the sake of some public circus).

Hell, they are already clamoring for war, seemingly more so than the government itself. Did you see #PutinVvediVoiska ("Putin, move the armed forces in!" [to Ukraine]) Twitter hashtag? It's only growing in popularity as more sanctions come in. Then there's another thing where people are mocking the sanctions themselves - that is also going pretty strong.

Comment: Re:Weakest Russia ever (Score 1) 566

by shutdown -p now (#47547387) Attached to: Satellite Images Show Russians Shelling Ukraine

Oh, and the other aspect of it is who is going to come to power if Putin steps away. If you asked me that question in 2011, I still had hopes that pro-western liberals had a chance (at least in a coalition with moderate nationalists). Now, though, I'd say that the people who will use the opportunity will be the ones like Strelkov and Borodai - and Putin will be a sane angel in comparison.

In fact, given that there is seemingly some bickering between Kremlin and DNR/LNR leaders, I would say that the most likely (as in, more likely than anything else - still rather unlikely in general) possibility of Putin being ousted at this point is if Strelkov and his guard escape Ukrainian forces, cross the border to Russia, and announce that they're heading for Moscow to punish the traitors who backstabbed them. There's already plenty of talk going around about how Putin is "betraying the Russian Spring" by refusing to commit full support to the rebels. If a charismatic figure like Strelkov would formally voice such a complaint, and have several thousand battle-hardened fighters standing behind him, I honestly don't know how that would go - except that there would be a rush of volunteers (from extreme nationalists, monarchists, maybe even some Stalinist-type communists) to his ranks.

Comment: Re:Weakest Russia ever (Score 1) 566

by shutdown -p now (#47547377) Attached to: Satellite Images Show Russians Shelling Ukraine

You missed the point. It will not take 2 or 5 or 10 years to get rid of him. If the economy crashes now (or in 5 years), he'll just blame the West (cuz sanctions), and will use it as an excuse to crack down on the "fifth column" and the "national traitors", that he already identified as the enemies in his speech earlier this year, even more. If it gets really tight, why, time for another war, nothing like some shooting to make sure people don't grumble too much about rising prices and lack of goods. Georgia, perhaps?

Comment: Re:Weakest Russia ever (Score 3, Informative) 566

by shutdown -p now (#47546305) Attached to: Satellite Images Show Russians Shelling Ukraine

The problem with economic sanctions is that they, ironically, work to solidify Putin's power hold.

The original reason for strong popular support behind Putin was that he oversaw a decade of steady economic growth. For many people in Russia, it was the time where they saw their lives change from borderline poverty to something reasonable. It can be argued that he is not the one to take credit, and that it's all due to high oil prices etc, but either way he got to reap the benefits. It's also what triggered the entire "imperial revival" mentality: people see that their country is more prosperous, therefore it is stronger, therefore it is time to remember the old squabbles.

Now, Russian economy was already in recession as it is, and likely one from which it will not require. The sanctions will undeniably accelerate it, but at the same time they give Putin and his clique the ultimate excuse with respect to anything bad that happens with the economy: "Americans did it". Thus, all the rage will be channeled overseas, instead of the people in charge. And if economy does collapse, what you have now is a country of 140 million, raging, armed to teeth, with a history of willing and able to pile up the bodies two to one (and even higher) to win. Oh, and with nukes.

I strongly suspect that, if the sanctions are ultimately successful, the immediate consequence will be the full-on ground invasion of Ukraine by Russia. Not the present proxy war with subtle aid here and there, but Russian tanks on the streets of Kiev, that kind of thing.

If the West really wants to help Ukraine, it needs to give it direct military assistance.

Comment: Re: Transparency (Score 1) 139

I do know a few right-wingers who discussed the subject even back in Bush days, long before Obama. For example, Matthew Bracken, who wrote "Enemies Foreign and Domestic" (it's basically a right-wing propaganda piece, with central theme being the govt cracking down on gun owners, but it also directly touches on surveillance and police militarization, and the use of terrorism as a pretext to curtail civil liberties; as I recall, it specifically mentions the PATRIOT Act). That book was written in 2003, back when Bush's reign was seen as uncontested, so effectively it targeted that administration.

You can also look at the Pauls. Say what you like about them, but they have been very consistent in arguing against all these things, and Rand at least counts himself as Tea Party affiliated (though many people in that movement would probably dislike him).

OTOH, yes, you also have large quantities of "I'm not racist, but why is he black?" guys there too, for whom it's just the convenient excuse of the day. But they're not all there is to it.

For every bloke who makes his mark, there's half a dozen waiting to rub it out. -- Andy Capp

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