[guest post by Dana]
First news item
President Zelensky has denied Russia’s claims that Ukraine was responsible for the drone attack over the Kremlin:
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY: You know, I can repeat– repeat this message, and I think it will– at least will be understandable for– for everybody. We don’t attack Putin or Moscow. We fight on our territory. We are defending our villages and cities.
We don’t have, you know, enough weapons for this. That’s why we don’t use it anywhere. For us, that is the deficit. We can’t spend it. And we didn’t attack Putin. We’ll leave it to tribunal.
Meanwhile, Russia is also accusing the U.S. of masterminding the attack:
On Thursday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the US was “undoubtedly” behind the alleged attack, without providing evidence.
“Decisions on such attacks are not made in Kyiv, but in Washington,” Mr Peskov said.
The U.S. has, of course, forcefully denied having any role in the event.
The two obvious explanations for the event:
1) It was a Russian false flag operation (which is what Ukraine claims)
2) Ukraine sent the drone (which is what Russia claims)
Of course, while both Russia and Ukraine could be lying, I just don’t see how sending a drone over the Kremlin benefits Ukraine. So I was glad to see Timothy Snyder address this:
Ukrainian[s]…would have nothing to gain from such an operation, and very much to lose. Their allies already deny them weapons on the grounds that they might use them to attack Moscow. Such a high-profile Ukrainian attack would thus hurt Ukraine by making it less likely that they get the supplies they need to win the war and stop the killing in their own country. The question of Ukrainian motivation tends to lead us back to the Russians.
With regard to Ukraine’s claims that they don’t have the capabilities to send drones to Moscow:
[L]et us assume the Ukrainians are lying…and do have the capability to carry out operations in Moscow. Even if all of that were true, would such a special Ukrainian team then expend such a capability and reveal its own existence by attacking a symbolically resonant but operationally meaningless target — a flag tower on top of a building? That doesn’t make much sense. If they were to take such a risk, they would do something meaningful.
Snyder goes on to point out why it is likely a Russian false flag operation, despite their denials:
Why would Russia stage the Kremlin incident? That is the easy part: to try to rally Russians to support the war, and to claim that Russia is its true victim and is permitted to do whatever it wants. Russian propaganda television used the incident to call for war crimes measures. Russia’s former president, Dmitri Medvedev, called for the murder of Ukraine’s president. The day after the attacks, Russia’s own press spokesman said essentially the same thing, in less wild language: this gives us permission to “retaliate” in Ukraine. In other words, the idea is the reframe the narrative so that Putin and Russia are the victims….
There is a final reason why Russia might have staged such an incident at this moment. On May 9, there were to have been the usual parades in Moscow and throughout Russia, celebrating the victory of the Red Army in the Second World War. Traditionally, Russians carry photographs of relatives who fought and died then. Horrifying numbers of young Russian men have died in Ukraine. If Russians marching on 9 May carried photographs of those loved ones, the men killed in this war, things could get out of control. Russians might look at one another and realize the scale of the calamity their leader has brought to them. Russian authorities are hastily cancelling those marches. Staging an attack on the Kremlin gives them an excuse to do so.
Note too that after the Kremlin was hit, Ukrainian cities reported widespread bombardments.
Anyway, here is another interesting view:
Whereas, for the average Russian, I’d imagine the takeaway from a drone exploding over the Kremlin isn’t, “We must have revenge on Ukraine.” It’s, “Putin can’t even protect the seat of government from Ukrainian attack. He’s weaker than we thought.”
Which, of course, is precisely why Ukraine might want to execute such an attack. They weren’t trying to assassinate the czar; they can’t afford to do that, as an escalation that momentous would spook their American patrons and risk ending Western support. But sending a drone to buzz the Kremlin a few days before Victory Day is a pithy way of demonstrating how badly Russia’s winter offensive has failed. Not only aren’t the Ukrainians licked, they’re capable of delivering payloads to the enemy’s capital if they want to.
It’s the Doolittle Raid, in other words, except in this case the good guys can’t take credit since even a symbolic incursion by Ukraine into Russia’s capital might make the White House jittery. Better for Zelensky and his aides to maintain plausible deniability.
Second news item
A.I. poses problems:
Top scientists and tech experts are calling on the federal government to restrain ChatGPT following the development of its new version, ChatGPT-4, which achieves top scores on common standardized tests.
ChatGPT-4, the new model released in March, can score in the 93rd percentile in SAT reading, 89th percentile in SAT math, and can achieve the highest score on multiple AP subject exams, according to OpenAI’s website.
The software also passed a simulated bar exam with a score around the top 10 percent of test takers and “is more reliable, creative, and able to handle much more nuanced instructions than GPT-3.5,” according to the site.
The major ethical challenges for human societies AI poses are presented well in the excellent introductions by Vincent Müller (2020), Mark Coeckelbergh (2020), Janina Loh (2019), Catrin Misselhorn (2018) and David Gunkel (2012). Regardless of the possibility of construing AGI, autonomous AI systems already raise substantial ethical issues: for example, the machine bias in law, making hiring decisions by means of smart algorithms, racist and sexist chatbots, or non-gender-neutral language translations (see section 2.c.). The very idea of a machine ‘imitating’ human intelligence—which is one common definition of AI—gives rise to worries about deception, especially if the AI is built into robots designed to look or act like human beings (Boden et al. 2017; Nyholm and Frank 2019). Moreover, Rosalind Picard rightly claims that ‘the greater the freedom of a machine, the more it will need moral standards’ (1997: 19). This substantiates the claim that all interactions between AI systems and human beings necessarily entail an ethical dimension…
Third news item
Tucker Carlson, the former Fox News prime-time host whose exit from the network sent shockwaves through political media last week, is reportedly floating the idea of hosting a Republican primary forum…
Carlson has even chatted about the idea with former President Trump, according to the report, who has threatened to skip one or both of the first Republican debates that are scheduled for the summer. The first GOP debate is slated to be hosted by Carlson’s former network, Fox News.
Carlson’s contract with Fox News reportedly runs through the end of 2024, which could limit his ability to dip his toes into other ventures until then.
The first Republican presidential debate is at least three months away, but Donald Trump is already stirring the pot.
He first declared last week on Truth Social that he’s inclined to skip one or both of the first two debates, and he blamed media hostility:
“When you’re leading by seemingly insurmountable numbers, and you have hostile Networks with angry, TRUMP & MAGA hating anchors asking the ‘questions,’ why subject yourself to being libeled and abused?”
That seemed like a pretty forceful statement that he’s going to blow off the early debates – the first one on Fox News, set for August – despite the schedule set by the RNC.
The former president soon offered a different explanation during a New Hampshire swing: “I have people at one half of 1%, one quarter of 1%, 1%, 3%, 2%, 4%, 7%. And Desanctis (sic) is very low and crashing… We’re at 60 and 70%. Why would you do that?”
Fourth news item
Border news. While President Biden will be sending 1,500 active-duty military personnel to the U.S.-Mexico border to do administrative work, thus freeing up Border Patrol officers to do their jobs, a bipartisan piece of legislation is in the works:
A Trump-era policy is set to expire next week, sparking warnings of an increase of migrants along the southern border. And now, a bipartisan pair of senators is trying to buy the Biden administration more time.
Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) are working on legislation that would grant a temporary two-year authority to expel migrants from the United States similar to what is currently allowed under Title 42, a law that permits the U.S. to deny asylum and migration claims for public health reasons.
Sorry, but I’m sick today and this is the best I can do.
Have a great weekend!