Western intellectuals and the misunderstanding of power

From The Wall Street Journal:

U.S., Europe Threaten to Punish Putin
Russia’s Crimea Incursion Sparks Demand for Withdrawal, Talk of Sanctions; ‘They Are Settling In’
By Jay Solomon, Carol E. Lee and Stephen Fidler | Updated March 2, 2014 10:25 p.m. ET

The U.S. and its European allies vowed Sunday to isolate Russian President Vladimir Putin and punish his nation’s economy, demanding he withdraw what they called an occupation force from Ukraine’s Crimean region.

Washington began canceling joint economic and trade initiatives with Moscow, including preparations for the summit of the Group of Eight leading nations scheduled to be held in Sochi, Russia, in June.

Senior U.S. officials said the administration was also beginning discussions with Congress on implementing targeted economic and financial sanctions on Russian companies and leaders if the Kremlin didn’t begin pulling back from Crimea.

“Russian forces now have complete operational control of the Crimean peninsula, some 6,000-plus airborne and naval forces, with considerable materiel,” a senior official said. “There is no question that they are in an occupation position in Crimea, that they are flying in reinforcements, and they are settling in.”

Officials in Washington and around Europe were searching for penalties to impose on Moscow, while acknowledging military intervention wasn’t among the possibilities.

More at the link.

As you’d expect, with military action off the table, all that remains available are diplomatic and economic sanctions. But, as we noted here, Russia is the largest oil, gas, uranium and coal exporter to the European Union, and the second and third largest producer of natural gas and oil in the world, respectively.  It’s kind of cold right now for the Europeans to risk Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin turning off the gas for a while.  As for diplomatic sanctions, what are they?  We won’t allow Russia to participate in the G-8 summit?  We might call home our ambassadors?  Ooh, now those are scary!

Russia, of course, is one of the five Permanent Members of the United Nations Security Council, and can veto any Security Council resolutions President Putin doesn’t like.

The Russians already know what the West’s righteous indignation amounts to:

“They talk and talk, and then they’ll stop,” Oleg Panteleyev, a member of Russia’s upper house of parliament, said Saturday, noting that the West had made threats that came to little when Russia waged wars in the past in Chechnya in the early 2000s and Georgia in 2008.

Yup, that’s about right.

Ukraine’s economy was already in shambles, and Russia’s was not all that strong, but Russia still has the huge economic hammer in this, with the ability to embargo the flow of natural gas and oil to Europe. Not only would it take time to replace those hydrocarbons from other sources, leaving many Europeans shivering — it is still winter, and Berlin, for example, is projected to have highs in the low fifties, with lows near freezing, for the next week — and many industries shut down, but the eventual replacement would result in skyrocketing prices for oil and natural gas, greatly damaging the Western economies. Russia could bear the economic consequences better, because those consequences would be slower to hit Russia.

The problem for the West is that we like to think that we are oh-so-evolved, with Secretary of State John Kerry whining:

You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pre-text. It is serious in terms of sort of the modern manner with which nations are going to resolve problems.

I’m sorry, Mr Kerry, but President Putin — a former officer in the Комитет государственной безопасности — understands what you do not: in the end, the game is all about power. One would have thought that Secretary Kerry, along with President Obama, would have learned this, considering the failure of the liberal idea of “Smart Power” in dealing with people like Bashar al-Assad and the Taliban, who don’t have the first bit of respect for anything other than strength.

Suzanne Nossel, Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations during the Clinton administration, is credited with coining the term in an article in Foreign Affairs entitled, “Smart Power: Reclaiming Liberal Internationalism“, in 2004:

Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, conservative foreign-policy makers have united behind a clear agenda: combating terrorism, aggressively preempting perceived threats, and asserting the United States’ right and duty to act alone. Progressives, in contrast, have seemed flummoxed. Stuck on the sidelines, they advocate tactics that differ sharply from those of the Bush administration. But they have not consistently articulated a distinct set of progressive U.S. foreign policy goals.

This is a mistake. Progressives now have a historic opportunity to reorient U.S. foreign policy around an ambitious agenda of their own. The unparalleled strength of the United States, the absence of great-power conflict, the fears aroused by September 11, and growing public skepticism of the Bush administration’s militarism have created a political opening for a cogent, visionary alternative to the president’s foreign policy.

To advance from a nuanced dissent to a compelling vision, progressive policymakers should turn to the great mainstay of twentieth-century U.S. foreign policy: liberal internationalism, which posits that a global system of stable liberal democracies would be less prone to war. Washington, the theory goes, should thus offer assertive leadership — diplomatic, economic, and not least, military — to advance a broad array of goals: self-determination, human rights, free trade, the rule of law, economic development, and the quarantine and elimination of dictators and weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Unlike conservatives, who rely on military power as the main tool of statecraft, liberal internationalists see trade, diplomacy, foreign aid, and the spread of American values as equally important.

After September 11, conservatives adopted the trappings of liberal internationalism, entangling the rhetoric of human rights and democracy in a strategy of aggressive unilateralism. But the militant imperiousness of the Bush administration is fundamentally inconsistent with the ideals they claim to invoke. To reinvent liberal internationalism for the twenty-first century, progressives must wrest it back from Republican policymakers who have misapplied it.

Progressives must therefore advance a foreign policy that renders more effective the fight against terrorism but that also goes well beyond it — focusing on the smart use of power to promote U.S. interests through a stable grid of allies, institutions, and norms. They must define an agenda that marshals all available sources of power and then apply it in bold yet practical ways to counter threats and capture opportunities. Such an approach would reassure an uneasy American public, unite a fractious government bureaucracy, and rally the world behind U.S. goals.

A lot more at the original. But, as Mrs Nossel condemned Bush Administration policies, telling us how well the use of progressive ideas and Western liberal notions would work around the world, she came up with this statement:

Much of the world still buys into the ideals of liberal internationalism. According to the July 2003 Pew Global Attitudes Project survey, even in Muslim countries such as Lebanon, Morocco, and Pakistan, most people believe that Western-style democracy could work well for them.

That was ten years ago, and in the interim we’ve seen just how well liberal internationalism has worked in Lebanon, Morocco — which avoided the so-called “Arab Spring” through a strong monarchy — and Pakistan. We’ve seen the Islamists take over in Egypt, and then, themselves, get kicked out by the Army, we’ve seen bloody civil war in Syria, we’ve seen the failure of any real democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the utter failure, over nearly two generations, of the Arabs to pay more than lip service to a diplomatic solution to their conflict with Israel.

Mrs Nossel’s vision of “smart power” was one which was willing to use military force if necessary, though it had a definite bias in favor of other forms of power.  The naifs of the Obama Administration, despite still being engaged in the war in Afghanistan, seem to have forgotten the military power aspect of it, and have put such an emphasis on economic methods — primarily, the promising of American aid — and diplomacy as to have forgotten that there are other people out there who do not share the same goals and values as Westerners; they seem to have forgotten that there are strongmen in the world who got their positions by being strong men.  What “Western style democracy” has mean has been mostly a tool to be used to obtain power, and is then quickly abandoned once that power has been obtained.  “Western style democracy” is just what the Islamists despise, because it is so opposed to Islamic fundamentalism and shari’a law, and what President Putin used trickery to sidestep, to enable him to rule Russia for over 14 years, with another 4 years remaining in his term.

It looks like Robert Stacey Stacy McCain was on the same track, noting:

Walter Russell Mead at the Public Interest:

Politico report calls it “a crisis that no one anticipated.” The Daily Beastreporting on Friday’s US intelligence assessment that “Vladimir Putin’s military would not invade Ukraine,” quotes a Senate aide claiming that “no one really saw this kind of thing coming.”

Op-eds from all over the legacy press this week helped explained why. Through the rose tinted lenses of a media community deeply convinced that President Obama and his dovish team are the masters of foreign relations, nothing poor Putin did could possibly derail the stately progress of our genius president. . . . Headlines like “Why Russia Won’t Invade Ukraine,” “No, Russia Will Not Intervene in Ukraine,” and “5 Reasons for Everyone to Calm Down About Crimea” weren’t hard to find in our most eminent publications. . . .

American experts and academics assume that smart people everywhere must want the same things and reach the same conclusions about the way the world works.

How many times did foolishly confident American experts and officials come out with some variant of the phrase “We all share a common interest in a stable and prosperous Ukraine.” We may think that’s true, but Putin doesn’t.

One hates to wear out the Munich analogies by overuse, but this was in fact exactly the attitude of British supporters of appeasement in the 1930s: Reasonable civilized people simply cannot get it through their heads that there are people in the world who are neither reasonable nor civilized, and who can only be deterred by force.

The elites who run our government and the elites who run our media share the same kind of blindness, an acquired blindness that one can only obtain by attending the finest universities.

Well, perhaps not solely by attending our finest universities; I’m sure that such attitudes could be just as easily inculcated at places like Jacksonville State University as at Harvard.

The problem is a tremendous intellectuocentrism, to coin a word. For too many people, whether the elites or otherwise, there is a real failure to grasp that notion that not everybody else thinks the way that they do. I have harped written about this many time in the past, noting all of the scholarly articles in Foreign Affairs, presenting some (usually slight) variation on a good, solid, reasonable plan for peace between Israel and the Arabs, all of which try to somehow split the differences between the sides, all of which make absolutely perfect sense to Western intellectuals, and none of which have the slightest recognition that not everybody is a Western liberal.

The feminism I support!

From Breitbart:

Rehab Addict’s Nicole Curtis Demolishes Entitlement Culture of Women
by Elizabeth Sheld, | 20 Feb 2014

Nicole Curtis is the host(ess) of “Rehab Addict“on the HGTV/DIY networks. I confess to being a huge fan of hers, her show and HGTV/DIY. This morning Curtis took to her Facebook page to issue some smack down to “entitled” women.

Curtis’ show centers around her business of restoring historic houses in run-down neighborhoods of Detroit and Minneapolis. And she walks the walk. Curtis is a hands-on, ass-kicking contractor– knocking down walls, re-surfacing hardwood floors, installing plumbing to name a few things. A diva she is not. Her DIY bio reads:

A self-taught home rehabber and designer, Nicole Curtis is also a mom, a master of salvage picking, and a spirited advocate for saving old houses and rebuilding communities. Resourceful, creative and always in motion, Nicole is hands-on with all of her projects and wouldn’t have it any other way. Her work reflects her passion for repurposing and creating amazing budget-minded designs. In Rehab Addict, her series that airs on DIY Network and HGTV, Nicole harnesses her experience with interior design, contracting and real estate to rebuild neighborhoods one house at a time in Detroit and Minneapolis.

More at the link. Miss Sheld continues to quote Miss Curtis’ Facebook article:

In the past couple of weeks, I have had a few unpleasant experiences with women who actually had the nerve to state that they are a minority business owner (because they are a woman) and that should do what? This is where I bang my head — I am a business owner who happens to be a woman — don’t judge me on my gender — judge me on my work — ladies — you want equal ground — gain it by being equal in professionalism and quality of work — not by making excuses that you are a small minority business owner. It brings the rest of us down. I scrubbed floors for 10 years and worked my rear off to get where I am at-don’t think for a minute that I’m the person to whine to that you should be able to shortstep the process of dedication because you are a woman — last time I checked, I am too. We are all given opportunities when we put the time in and develop the drive — teach your daughters that that’s how you get ahead — no entitlement here, please.

Nicole Curtis on one of her jobsites. Click to enlarge.

On one of her projects, she had called in a licensed plumber to do some work,1 and the plumber’s helper/apprentice was his daughter. Miss Curtis made something of a big deal about that on the show, complimenting the young woman for going into that kind of get-your-hands-dirty work,2 and saying that she wished that more young women would enter trades like that.

Now that is the kind of feminism, that is the kind of women’s liberation your Editor absolutely supports. It is the kind of feminism which asks only for the opportunity to try, and everything else is based not on being given things or on special considerations, but on whether the woman does well or poorly, whether she succeeds or fails in what she attempts.

Let’s not kid ourselves: Miss Curtis is where she is, as a television star, because she’s — as one of the clients on her show once put it — hot and blonde. But being very attractive and personable was the part which enabled her to transition from a good rehabber to a television star; she had to become a good, hands-on residential rehabber on her own, before she ever got the shot at the television program.3 Had she not been so pretty, she’d (probably) never have gotten the television show, but she’d still be a good rehabilitation contractor and a success in that field. And the vast majority of successful people out there are people who don’t have television programs, who are mostly unknown to everyone but their friends and families.

Back in the early 1990s, a woman who drove a concrete mixer for the company for which I worked said that she was tired of driving a truck, and wanted to get into production. I happened to be the man she asked this of, and her “job interview” for the position was very short:

Me: Can you run a loader?4
Her: Yes.
Me: There it is; show me.

And for the rest of the afternoon — this was a Thursday — she ran the loader to fill the plant. On Friday, she was back on her mixer, because we had an assigned loader operator. On Saturday, that assigned loader operator broke his foot while working at home.

Come Monday, the regular plant manager and I were there, taking turns running the loader and batching. Trouble is, we had a night pour coming up, which either the plant manager or I normally handled, and a 600 yd³ pour set for Tuesday morning. There was nothing else to do: the regular plant manager did the night pour, I came in at 6:00 AM to do the big pour, and the woman who asked for the production job had to run the loader. Even going as fast as I could to load the trucks out, I never ran out of material with her on the loader. That’s performance, and that is how I judge people, period.

And when it comes to conservatives in general, performance is how they judge people. Most conservatives are perfectly willing to give anybody a fair try at something, and most of us judge people by how they perform. If someone gets a chance at the job, and proves he can do the job, we’re satisfied and pleased; if he can’t do the job, well, sorry, but he has to move on. To most conservatives, that’s what equal opportunity means: no additional points for being a particular race or nationality or gender, and no subtracted points for those things either; actual performance is the only important metric.

Nicole Curtis is a (fairly) famous television personality, in her own particular niche. She has really gotten ahead in life, and she did it by working hard at what she does. Thanks to the television show, what she says will be more widely disseminated than what most people say — celebrities have that extra platform — and she has really said nothing that thousands of others have not said before her. But she has done more than talk; she has worked hard and performed, and knows what she’s talking about.
____________________________________

  1. Miss Curtis is neither a licensed plumber nor a licensed electrician, a point she has made several times on her shows, and she points out that rehabbers should use those licensed professionals for plumbing and electrical work.
  2. Back in the late 1980s, I knew a man who was a plumber in Hampton, Virginia, and he told me that he made the big bucks because he was wiling to stick his hands into other people’s (insert slang term for feces here.)
  3. DIY Network and HGTV have several female contractors doing shows — Amy Matthews, Alison Victoria and Danielle Bryk come to mind — and all are very good looking, but the looks and personality got them the television opportunities; they still had to develop the skills and do the work before they ever got a shot in front of the cameras..
  4. A front-end wheel loader like this.

Ummm, Potential Game Changer For BO – What Will He Do, or Try To Ignore

And to think, The former and potential USSR recalled its Ambassador for DC over the wimpy words of BO. Putin must be doubled over with laughter. BUTT, a REAL Journalism Newspaper, from London of course because the Red Rags here don’t investigate anything other than BO’s alleged Enemies, or Enamas, Really dug and reported this. Meanwhile the NYT will interpret it that we will plant flowers in Ukraine. Butt as usual 90% of the population is fretting that the Red Carpet for the Oscars is soaked from rain and wonder what will be worn by whom. I, for one don’t give a crap about self adulation of Hollyweed. But, will tensions mount, or will we have a Red Boot up our Ass and wonder how it got there. Certainly we think BO has his Oscar score sheet ready and his “white flag?”

Fact Check: Could a Little-Known International Agreement With Ukraine Force U.S., Britain Into War With Russia?

The United States and Britain “reaffirmed” its commitment to protect Ukraine’s borders in exchange for the nation giving up its nuclear weapons in a little-known treaty known as the “Budapest Memorandum signed by former President Bill Clinton in 1994.

The Daily Mail notes reports “if Russia has invaded Ukraine then it would be difficult for the US and Britain to avoid going to war.”

Sir Tony Brenton, who served as a British ambassador from 2004 to 2008, said war is certainly on the table if it’s determined that the Budapest Memorandum is “legally binding.”

According to the Daily Mail, Kiev has asked that the agreement be honored as it claims its borders have been violated.

More;

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/02/28/fact-check-could-a-little-known-international-agreement-force-u-s-britain-into-war-with-russia/

Rule 5 Blogging: Україна

It’s the weekend and time, once again, for THE FIRST STREET JOURNAL’S version of Rule 5 Blogging. Robert Stacey Stacy McCain described Rule 5 as posting photos of pretty women somewhat déshabillé, but, on this site, our Rule 5 Blogging doesn’t put up pictures of Sasha Beznosyuk in her summer clothes, but women, in full military gear, serving their countries in the armed forces. The terribly sexist authors on this site celebrate strong women, women who can take care of themselves and take care of others, women who have been willing to put their lives on the line in some not-so-friendly places, women who truly do have the “We can do it!” attitude.

This week, sadly enough, we will visit the Ukraine. Will any of these women have to fight for their county? We can’t know.

military_woman_ukraine_army_000049

Continue reading ‘Rule 5 Blogging: Україна’ »

From Around the Blogroll

In the first place we have John Hitchcock on Truth Before Dishonor, who tells us, “Hey Middle Class: I’m Baaack!”

Our favorite pirate noted that there’s yet another explanation as to why the settled-science climate change models have been wrong so far, and failed to anticipate the 17-year-hiatus in increasing global temperatures.

Warming “Pause” Excuse #9: It’s All A Coincidence
By William Teach February 28, 2014 – 8:07 am

We can add it to the list, via Climate Depot

Climate Depot Analysis: ‘There have been at least nine separate explanations for the standstill in global warming’ – 1) Low Solar Activity; 2) Oceans Ate Warming; 3) Chinese Coal Use; 4) Montreal Protocol; 5) Readjusted past temps to claim ‘pause’ never existed 6) Volcanoes 7) Decline in Water Vapor 8) Pacific Trade Winds 9) ‘Coincidence’

Remember, Warmists call this “science”

Mr Teach notes Bishop Hill, which cites a new paper by Gavin Schmidt and colleagues in Nature. These two paragraphs are laughers:

We conclude that use of the latest information on external influences on the climate system and adjusting for internal variability associated with ENSO can almost completely reconcile the trends in global mean surface temperature in CMIP5 models and observations. Nevertheless, attributing climate trends over relatively short periods, such as 10 to 15 years, will always be problematic, and it is inherently unsatisfying to find model–data agreement only with the benefit of hindsight. . . .

We see no indication, however, that transient climate response is systematically overestimated in the CMIP5 climate models as has been speculated, or that decadal variability across the ensemble of models is systematically underestimated, although at least some individual models probably fall short in this respect.

Cutting through the bovine feces, it says: Yes, our models failed to predict what actually happened, and a couple of them might be poorly put together, but, overall, we are right — even though we haven’t been right yet — and you’ll see, soon enough.

L D Jackson asks if our Christian beliefs have any place in our public lives.

On the Victory Girls, Kit Lange has A Message to the Patriots in Connecticut. The nutmeg State has passed a law which requires gun owners to register their guns with the state, and many people have declined to comply.

Karen, the Lonely Conservative, noted that the school lunches in school to which her children go are terrible, and that, now, the General Accounting Office has also concluded that:

The federal government’s changes to school lunch menus have been disastrous, causing problems for cafeterias trying to comply with the rules and leaving the menu so expensive or unpalatable that more than 1 million students have stopped buying lunch, according to a government audit released Thursday.

I think that Karen missed something here: this is actually a win-win for the nanny state. If the students keep bringing their lunches, the schools will save money on providing lunches, and, if the government wants to get really strong-armed, schools can just ban lunches brought from home:

At his public school, Little Village Academy on Chicago’s West Side, students are not allowed to pack lunches from home. Unless they have a medical excuse, they must eat the food served in the cafeteria.

Principal Elsa Carmona said her intention is to protect students from their own unhealthful food choices.

“Nutrition wise, it is better for the children to eat at the school,” Carmona said. “It’s about the nutrition and the excellent quality food that they are able to serve (in the lunchroom). It’s milk versus a Coke. But with allergies and any medical issue, of course, we would make an exception.”

Carmona said she created the policy six years ago after watching students bring “bottles of soda and flaming hot chips” on field trips for their lunch. Although she would not name any other schools that employ such practices, she said it was fairly common.

Emphasis mine. I am just amazed that the human race survived at all in the time before the government was there to tell us how to rear our children. dripping with sarcasm

Donald Douglas noted that ‘The vast majority of uninsured Americans do not know they must sign up for health insurance by March 31 or pay a fine, according to a new poll…’

From Protein Wisdom:

University of Iowa president apologizes to precious snowflakes for mentioning reality
By Darleen Click

That Sally Mason didn’t tell them to “grow up” should be firing offense.

In an interview published Feb. 18 in The Daily Iowan, President Sally Mason said she was dismayed by the reports of sexual assaults. She said “the goal would be to end that, to never have another sexual assault. That’s probably not a realistic goal just given human nature, and that’s unfortunate. …”Criticism erupted over the phrase that includes “human nature.”

The Iowa City Press-Citizen says Mason apologized during a President’s Forum on Tuesday.

Mason said she’s been told by several people in the campus community that her remark was hurtful. She said she was “very, very sorry for any pain that my words might have caused.”

The conceit that humans are basically good is a modern, secularist belief that has allowed for some of the greatest evils of the 20th Century by “Utopianists” who have no compunctions about spilling blood of those who stand in the way of the “perfect society.”

More at the link.

Years ago — fourteen of them, as it happens — I was on the “management team” at a large concrete company, and one of our measurable goals was to have a certain number of accidents. For anyone with common sense, that meant to reduce the number of accidents which were happening, with the new goal as the set point at which we could say that policies had reduced accidents. Naturally, some of us joked that if we were below our accident quota, we’d have to make sure we reached our goal, but we knew it was a joke.

And common sense would tell anyone that Sally Mason would certainly like to see zero sexual assaults on her campus, but that while policies could be put in place to reduce that crime — or any crime, really — it was foolish to believe that crime could be reduced to zero. Those who said that they were “hurt” that Dr Mason said that it was human nature that crimes would always occur have proved that common sense is not one of their strong points.

From Patterico’s Pontifications:

Federal Court: Kids Wearing American Flag T-Shirts Must Take Them Off, Because People Threatened to Beat Them Up If They Didn’t

 
Filed under: General — Patterico @ 5:53 pm
Just wait. That’s not the best part.

THE RULING: Kids wearing American flag T-shirts in school can be forced to take them off, because Mexican students threatened to beat them up if they didn’t. Meanwhile, kids wearing Mexican flag T-shirts are allowed to keep them on. Why? Because, silly! Nobody threatened to beat them up!

More at the link. But the underlying issue is simple: to wear the American flag is to announce that you are patriotic, and patriotism is simply at odds with liberalism. It shouldn’t be. It should be the case that liberals can be just as patriotic, just as American, love their country just as much as conservatives, but it just hasn’t turned out that way.

Finally, Robert Stacey Stacy McCain noted that Sarah Palin was right all along on Russian and Ukraine.

Palin Vindicated on Russia, Ukraine: ‘I Could See This One From Alaska’
Posted on | March 1, 2014 | 

She who laughs last:

Sarah Palin may be having a bragging rights moment.

In 2008, when she was the GOP vice presidential nominee, Palin questioned in a speech whether then-Sen. Barack Obama would have the foreign policy credentials to handle a scenario in which Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine.

“After the Russian army invaded the nation of Georgia, Senator Obama’s reaction was one of indecision and moral equivalence — the kind of response that would only encourage Russia’s Putin to invade Ukraine next,” she said in Reno, Nevada on October 21, 2008.

The former Alaska governor was happy to highlight her prediction on Friday and scold those who criticized her 2008 comments.

“Yes, I could see this one from Alaska,” she said on Facebook. That remark was a reference to a 2008 interview in which Palin argued that Alaska’s proximity to Russia helped boost her foreign policy experience.

Saturday Night Live parodied her remarks in a now-famous sketch with Tina Fey, who played Palin on the show, saying “I can see Russia from my house.”

On Facebook, Palin continued to explain how she anticipated a growing crisis between Russia and Ukraine, where there has now been an uncontested arrival of Russian military forces by air at a Russian base in Ukraine’s Crimea region. They are believed to be Russian land forces, according to a U.S. assessment.

More at the link. And the story:

Kremlin Clears Way for Force in Ukraine; Separatist Split Feared
By Alison Smale and David M Herszenhorn | March 1, 2014

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine — As Russian armed forces effectively seized control of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula on Saturday, the Russian Parliament granted President Vladimir V. Putin the authority he sought to use military force in response to the deepening instability in Ukraine.

The authorization cited a threat to the lives of Russian citizens and soldiers stationed in Crimea and other parts of Ukraine, and provided a blunt answer to President Obama, who on Friday pointedly warned Russia to respect Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty.

Even before Mr. Putin’s statement in Moscow, scores of heavily armed soldiers had tightened their grip on the Crimean capital, Simferopol, surrounding government buildings, shuttering the airport, and blocking streets, where they deployed early Friday.

Large pro-Russia crowds rallied in the eastern Ukrainian cities of Donestk and Kharkiv, where there were reports of violence. In Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, fears grew within the new provisional government that separatist upheaval would fracture the country just days after civil unrest ended in the ouster of President Viktor F. Yanukovych, a Kremlin ally who fled to Russia.

In Crimea, in the south, scores of heavily armed men fanned out across the center of the regional capital, Simferopol. They wore green camouflage uniforms with no identifying insignia, but they spoke Russian and were clearly part of a Russian military mobilization. In Balaklava, a long column of military vehicles blocking the road to a border post bore Russian plates.

The Russian mobilization was cited by American military and intelligence analysts as the basis for Mr. Obama’s warning that “there will be costs” if Russia violated Ukrainian sovereignty.

Much more at the link, but I’ll quote the next two paragraphs as well:

On Saturday morning, there was no immediate response from the White House; officials had acknowledged on Friday that Washington’s options were limited.

There was also limited response from Europe. Carl Bildt, the Swedish foreign minister, issued a statement saying that Russia’s actions in Crimea were “contrary to international law and the principles of European security.”

Gee, I wonder if anyone said, before this happened, that “if Vladimir Putin decides to invade and conquer the Ukraine, perhaps setting up deposed President Viktor Yanukovych as his puppet, the United States, and NATO, and everybody else, will bluster and fuss and stamp their feet, but won’t actually do anything about it.”

That’s all for this week.

Gravity

I just watched this on my computer. It was, in fact, my first ever downloaded movie from the Internet. I guess this is now the wave of the future, what with Blockbuster being out of business, though I will still miss going to the video store and browsing through thousands of movie selections, often not having a clue in advance as to what movie I was going to rent.

Anyway, on to the movie. Visually, it’s great, and probably its best feature by far. The effects are so good you don’t even notice they’re effects, it looks like they actually shot this movie in real outer space.

As for the rest? The best I can say is the story is competent. For those who don’t know, it’s about two people standed in space after debris from several exploded satellites has taken out their space shuttle (didn’t the filmmakers know the Shuttle is now retired?). They are literally marooned with just their space suits for protection. The question then is: can they get to a nearby space station (in this case, Chinese) in order to find a capsule that can take them safely back to Earth?

The plot makes some technical errors, but you can mostly ignore those and just enjoy the drama and the great visuals. There’s no need to spoil the plot, since there isn’t much of one. Either they get back to Earth or they don’t. Sandra Bullock does, I think, a pretty decent job, although she really doesn’t come across as a real astronaut but more like a Damsel in Distress set in space. Although she’s competent enough when she has to be, she’s much too emotional most of the time to look like someone who’s gone through the rigorous training and psychological screening given to real astronauts. And Clooney isn’t really acting at all, he’s just playing himself (wise cracking, obviously thinks he’s God’s gift to all women, etc.) only he’s doing it in a space suit.

This has been nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Will it win? Should it win? On the first, I doubt it, since space/Sci-Fi movies almost never win Best Picture. Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 didn’t (and it’s much better than this film) nor did any of the Star Wars flicks. Should it win? Probably not. The amazingly lifelike visuals (again, they really look like they’re in space, but then, so did most of 2001 and that was filmed in 1968) simply can’t make up for a pedestrian plot.

Or we’ll do what?

The tweet:

And the story:

Kerry warns Russia against intervention in Ukraine
Top US diplomat receives reassurances from his Russian counterpart while Kiev accuses Moscow of a ‘military invasion’
By Matthew Lee February 28, 2014, 7:48 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration expressed growing concern Friday over Russian intentions in Ukraine, with Secretary of State John Kerry delivering a blunt warning to Moscow against military moves in the country’s southern Crimea region that could further inflame tensions.

As pro-Russia gunmen patrolled Crimean streets in armored vehicles and took over airports there, Kerry said he called Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov for the second time in two days to press the Kremlin to hold to its promise to respect the former Soviet republic’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Kerry told reporters that Lavrov had once again repeated Russian President Vladimir Putin’s pledge to do just that, while also pointing out that Russia has broad interests in the former Soviet republic, including a major naval base in Crimea. But Kerry, in comments that highlighted Washington’s rising suspicion of Moscow, said the US is watching to see if Russian activity in Crimea “might be crossing a line in any way.” He added that the administration would be “very careful” in making judgments about that.

“While we were told that they are not engaging in any violation of the sovereignty and do not intend to, I nevertheless made it clear that could be misinterpreted at this moment,” Kerry said. “There are enough tensions that it is important for everybody to be extremely careful not to inflame the situation and not send the wrong messages.”

More at the link.

Let’s be very clear here: if Vladimir Putin decides to invade and conquer the Ukraine, perhaps setting up deposed President Viktor Yanukovych as his puppet, the United States, and NATO, and everybody else, will bluster and fuss and stamp their feet, but won’t actually do anything about it. Russia is the largest oil, gas, uranium and coal exporter to the European Union, and the second and third largest producer of natural gas and oil in the world, respectively. Russia’s economy depends upon those vast hydrocarbon exports, but could probably stand the loss of that income for longer than the Europeans could tolerate a cut off of their supplies.

So, if Vladimir Putin wants to flex his muscles, he can, and nobody can, or would even try, to stop him.

Oops!

From The New York Times:

U.S. Economy’s Growth Was Slower in Fourth Quarter
By Nelson D Schwartz, February 28, 2014

The economy grew at a slower pace in the fourth quarter of 2013 than first thought, weighed down by disappointing retail sales, inventory adjustments and a less robust trade balance.

The Commerce Department said Friday it now estimates the economy grew by 2.4 percent in October, November and December, down from an initial estimate of 3.2 percent released on Jan. 30.

Economists had been expecting the government to revise the estimated rate of growth downward to 2.5 percent.

At 2.4 percent, the revised figure represents a substantial slowing from the pace of growth in the third quarter, 4.1 percent.

More at the link.

I had seen a few gloating messages on Facebook, telling us how President Obama and his wise policies had the US in a strong growth pattern. Oops!

The article continues to tell us that “most experts” believe that the economy will continue to be slow, expanding at an annualized 2% rate for the first quarter of 2014. Your Editor would be surprised to see it that high, because the weather has caused significant economic problems for the entire month of February. Of course, your Editor isn’t an expert, is he?

Where’s my global warming?!?

Record low for February 28: +4º F in 1996. Current temperature: -3º F.

The Desiderata

The Desiderata

“Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”