Video of the day

Great video on how Clark Little gets the awesome shots as seen in today’s photo of the day (via NPR):

 

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Putin and the plane

Some really, really good takes on this.  First David Remnick who is easily one of the smartest and most knowledgeable people on Russia:

What’s far more certain is that Vladimir Putin, acting out of resentment and fury toward the West and the leaders in Kiev, has fanned a kind of prolonged political frenzy, both in Russia and among his confederates in Ukraine, that serves his immediate political needs but that he can no longer easily calibrate and control. Putin’s defiant annexation of Crimea and the destabilization of eastern Ukraine inflated his popularity at home. Despite a flaccid economy, his approval rating approaches levels rarely seen beyond North Korea. But the tactically clever and deeply cynical maneuvers of propaganda and military improvisation that have taken him this far, one of his former advisers told me in Moscow earlier this month, are bound to risk unanticipated disasters. Western economic and political sanctions may be the least of it…

Since returning to the Presidency, Pavlovsky said, Putin has “created an artificial situation in which a ‘pathological minority’—the protesters on Bolotnaya Square [two years ago], then Pussy Riot, then the liberal ‘pedophiles’—is held up in contrast to a ‘healthy majority.’ Every time this happens, his ratings go up.” The nightly television broadcasts from Ukraine, so full of wild exaggeration about Ukrainian “fascists” and mass carnage, are a Kremlin-produced “spectacle,” he said, expertly crafted by the heads of the main state networks.

“Now this has become a problem for Putin, because this system cannot be wholly managed,” Pavlovsky said. The news programs have “overheated” public opinion and the collective political imagination.

“How can Putin really manage this?” Pavlovsky went on. “You’d need to be an amazing conductor. Stalin was an amazing conductor in this way. Putin can’t quite pull off this trick. The audience is warmed up and ready to go; it is wound up and waiting for more and more conflict. You can’t just say, ‘Calm down.’ It’s a dangerous moment. Today, forty per cent of Russia wants real war with Ukraine. Putin himself doesn’t want war with Ukraine. But people are responding to this media machine. Putin needs to lower the temperature.”…

If it turns out that men like Strelkov and his fellow soldier-fantasists were responsible for the destruction of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 and all the people on board, the fever in Russia and Ukraine may intensify beyond anything that Vladimir Putin could have predicted or desired. It is long past time that Putin ended both the inflammatory information war in Russia and the military proxy war in eastern Ukraine that he has done so much to conceive, fund, organize, and fuel. There are hundreds of corpses strewn across a field today in eastern Ukraine. What is Vladimir Putin’s next move?

Josh Marshall:

Find extremists and hot-heads of the lowest common denominator variety, seed them with weaponry only a few militaries in the world possess – and, well, just see what happens. What could go wrong? …

In a paradoxical way, I think the future ramifications of this are almost greater because it is about Russia’s recklessness and bumbling than it would be if it were more clearly a matter of intent. This is a f’-up on Putin’s part of almost mind-boggling proportions. Yes, a tragedy. Yes, perhaps an atrocity. But almost more threatening, a screw up. Malign intent is one thing. So is aggression. But goofs of this magnitude by someone who controls a massive military arsenal and nuclear weapons are in a way more threatening.

And I particularly enjoyed how Big Steve put this in the principal-agent context:

The basics are this: whenever someone (the principal) hires someone else (the agent) to do something, the agent ends up knowing more about the details of the matter than the principal, including how the agent is behaving as it is doing the work (or not doing the work).  So, principals need to figure out how to get the results they want–by hiring people with similar outlooks, by managing discretion, by oversight and by providing incentives…

But what we do know is this: Russia has organized, facilitated, equipped, and staffed the separatist movements in Ukraine.  They may not be entirely of Russia’s creation and they are not entirely staffed by Russia, but it is clear that Russia’s politicians have seen these separatists as their agents–their employees–to do their bidding…

The P-A problem is particularly problematic whenever a country relies on proxies rather than their own military.  If one is relying on one’s own military, you can promote/demote/fire poorly behaving agents.  You can more easily control the assets they have, expanding or shrinking their authority and their capability.  But with proxies such as rebel groups?  Even ones which have members of your own military within them?  Not so easy.

If you among the more internationally-interested of my readers, you should definitely read all of these in their entirety.

 

Photo of the day

These shots of waves are awesome!

Clark Little

http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2014/07/17/332211283/ocean-waves-as-you-have-never-seen-them-before

Poet Laureates and Elitism

I couldn’t decide if I was going to blog about the fact that our governor named someone who’s entire poetry resume consisted of two self-published volumes to be the state poet laureate.   Sure, it’s small potatoes but it is indicative of McCrory’s overall cluelessness.  Apparently, there was nothing “written on the walls” for McCrory to consult:

“We were not aware of the traditional process that was in place, it wasn’t written down anywhere on the walls,” McCrory said, surprising reporters who told him it was online last week.

Might I suggest that next time something is not written down, the governor and his staff might consult google or bing.  There, they would quickly discover that the position of laureate is expected to have some eminence and esteem.  Nothing against the poor women who has already resigned.  Alas, the governor was far more concerned with knee-jerk anti-elitism:

“One of my objectives is to open up the availability of all appointments to people that typically aren’t inside the organized groups,” McCrory said. “We’ve got to open up opportunities for people that aren’t always a part of the standard or even elite groups that have been in place for a long time. And it’s good to welcome new voices and new ideas.”

Those stupid elitists!!  Like college professors who think they know more than other people on an topic just because they’ve devoted their life to studying it.  Raleigh’s Scott Huler has a brilliant response:

You have to give Gov. Pat McCrory credit: He’s doing everything he can to stamp out elitism in our state. Given how many years we’ve spent having people do jobs they were educated and trained for – ending up with nothing but one of the fastest-growing economies and best places to live in the nation – it seems like a worthy experiment.

His most recent attack on the “elite” came when he appointed to the position of poet laureate someone who apparently has never published a poem she didn’t pay for. He said one of his goals is to “open up opportunities for people that aren’t always a part of the standard or even elite groups that have been in place for a long time.”

And you can’t disagree; he has demonstrated that time and again since his inauguration. Sure, you can point out that a good thing for inexperienced poets to do is practice writing poems, but that would be like suggesting that inexperienced, say, actors should, oh, I don’t know, practice acting. When of course commonsensical anti-elitism says that what you should do is give them Academy Awards rather than keep giving the prizes to the same old Meryl Streeps and Daniel Day-Lewises who have been clogging up the ranks for so long.

Same, obviously, with physics and chemistry. McCrory has shown himself world class at ignoring scientists on topics like climate change, but that just shows what a maverick iconoclast he is. Do you want all these so-called scientists to keep getting all the Nobel Prizes and Fulbrights? Pshaw. We should be giving them to people who like to think they have something to say about those subjects. Waiting until people have in some way proven themselves is exactly the opposite of good old-fashioned American anti-elitism.

Right indeed.  I think Huler quite nicely makes the point that this self-evidently foolish choice of a poet laureate speaks to a larger, anti-intellectual “anti-elitism” that characterizes McCrory’s approach and does a huge dis-service to the state.

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