private thoughts of a physicist and chessplayer
“It is not who votes that counts, but who counts the votes”
On June 18, 2001 George Bush stated about Mr. Putin, “I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul.” Vladimir is still reaping the benefits of what must be a very deep soul knowing that his political aspirations are continually emerging while his counterpart is in the twilight of his career. How do you assess Garry Kasparov’s political future given he is only 44 years old but on the wrong end of a very imbalanced scale? He was also born in Azerbaijan which could be used against him to ever achieve any relative importance in the current pro-nationalist Russian government. Also, the KGB will always wield a strong stick regardless of who is in power or what name it’s under. It’s a shame that he retired from highest levels of competitive chess but very understandable from his point of view. What kind of relationship do the Russian HEP physicists and their programs have with the rest in your field? Is there any kind of interaction in terms of research or shared results? I was happy to see the Venezuelan voters rise to the occasion yesterday. We are a strange lot in that every single generation produces individuals that never want to relinquish power no matter the given circumstances.
On an unrelated note, Reuters has a small story about how Chechnya turned out to be a big success story for Putin in the elections there Sunday. In fact, in the Chechnya province, there was a reported 99.2% turnout and 99.3% of those votes were cast for United Russia. Compare with the figures for Russia in general– 62% turnout, 64% voting for United Russia. The article calls the merely “puzzling” and “head-scratching”. Just one of those crazy things, right? The explanation for why the numbers in Chechnya were so striking was that eventually offered was that it must have been due to the influence of former Chechnyan separatist Ramzan Kadyrov, who supported Putin in the election. Kadyrov himself explained the high numbers as Cechnyans having great “civic responsibility”. The Reuters article describes Kadyrov as saying this “without a hint of irony”.
“Half of the American people have never read a newspaper. Half never voted for President. One hopes it is the same half.”
— Gore Vidal
“The United States was founded by the brightest people in the country — and we haven’t seen them since.”
— Gore Vidal, “The State of the Union” (1975)
“Every four years the naive half who vote are encouraged to believe that if we can elect a really nice man or woman President everything will be all right. But it won’t be. Any individual who is able to raise $25 million to be considered presidential is not going to be much use to the people at large. He will represent oil, or aerospace, or banking, or whatever moneyed entities are paying for him. Certainly he will never represent the people of the country, and they know it. Hence, the sense of despair throughout the land as incomes fall, businesses fail and there is no redress.”
— Gore Vidal, “The Decline and Fall of the American Empire (1992)
I’m a big fan of Russian culture, & it’s contribution to the Arts & Sciences.
I was watching a documentary on Rachmaninoff, where they showed the NY Times letter he wrote (1931) about the current state of Russia. The word “thugs” was used (Stalin & gang). The same word is being used to describe the current leadership in USA.
I’ve been listening to a lot of Rachmaninoff lately on Youtube:
Op. 3 No. 2 In C Sharp Minor
[ in my grad school days, I listened to piano concertos galore. Rach Concerto #3 got me started. Have a whole set of Gilels & Richter LPs…still have them ]
& I found this really good description:
“Some say he meant it to symbolize the poverty in Russia. The first three notes where supposed to be the hungry saying ‘Give us bread’. The middle part resembles an uprising and the end resembles a war that is eventually lost.”
There is an interesting metaphor with this social repression in Russia & “Dark Ages” for Science in America:
[ 2 of my friends have said this to me personally, both U of Arizona alumni..1 is a former astronomer with Steward Observatory ]
Beginning: hungry saying ‘Give us bread’ [ Give us Knowledge ]
Middle: resembles an uprising [ surge of Science Outreach by scientists ]
End: resembles a war that is eventually lost. [ fatalist ending ]
Those same thugs created this ludicrous Man on Mars program (totally political motivations, just to make them look good). It’s had some disastrous repercussions:
“The low-temperature group at JPL is gone..& it will NEVER COME BACK”
— Caltech post-doc (in D. Goodstein’s group, Feynman’s “protege”), private communication to me
Your quote about Stalin is chilling reminder of “Convergent Evolution”, America is turned into a repressive state. Even Science is being repressed. Sure enough, there was evidence of voter fraud in both of the recent elections!
no wonder Bush is the US president… He has a knack for understanding people by looking at them straight in the eyes.
Kasparov may have a chance in the long run, but not until Putin falls in disgrace IMO… But GK is a smart guy, and unless they kill him, he will persist. Chess taught him that you have to fight hard to get what you want. Yes, it’s a pity he left chess, but on the other hand he was no longer the strongest in the world.
Yes, I work with russians too. There is a strong link here in Padova with researchers from Russia, who come and stay for a couple of years to work on silicon detectors in my lab. Some of them then take positions in western universities. Many work at CERN.
I did not know the fact you mention. 99.2%, LOL. What a shame! And Sarkozy congratulated very quickly with Putin. Shame to him too. At least Bush was more careful this time.
nice quotes, I particularly enjoy the second one, might use it soon.
About the US being a repressive state, please follow the link to Arun’s musings blog… The post he has out on “rendition” policies is astonishing.
In the news today I read chimps have a better memory than humans. Well I am thinking of a counter-example.
Guys, think about all those smart people that were fooled by Stalin. I know several physicists that were and some still are. Then there were those not so few that knew the truth about him contributued to fooling the others, the smart and stupid. Hitler. Germany was full of very smart people and several physicists too. So intelligence has little to do with it, and Gore Vidal knows very well.
Russia is still in a confused state. Glucksman, a not-so-new-philosopher, compares Moscow with Chicago in the 20s and 30s. Good knews from Venezuela. I am now optimistic about France. Italy is brain-dead. England? AM curious to see what happens. Germany? I kind of like Merkel. Better than the previous idiot.
thanks for this core dump of your like/don’t likes 🙂 I think the phenomenon you mention (intelligent people being fooled by dictators into supporting them) has a lot to do with the boundary conditions. In the pre-WWII soviet union, people had to face shortage of food which forced dire decisions on the government. It for some time looked as if Stalin was taking the right decisions. From inside, it is always hard to judge… I think those who supported Stalin at the beginning cannot be blamed with no appeal. The historical juncture and its repercussions on the life of people in a country has to be taken into account with care.
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