Another Piece of the Puzzle

The story raised eyebrows in my circles.  Vladimir Putin had dispatched one of his diplomats to the State Department in April to deliver a bold proposal:  an across-the-board re-normalization of the many channels that had been severed after Moscow’s military interventions in Ukraine and Syria — diplomatic, military, and intelligence.

“The broad scope of the Kremlin’s  reset plan came with an ambitious launch date,” wrote  John Hudson, a foreign affairs reporter for Buzzfeed: “immediately.” In early May, President Trump received Russia Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, and Ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, at the White House. The earlier overture remained secret until last week.

Johnson’s Russia List,  the most widely-read agglomerater of news about Russia, circulated Hudson’s story.  Putin’s press secretary confirmed the authenticity of the offer at a news conference in Moscow. The White House and the State Department acknowledged the offer had been received but declined to tell Hudson who had delivered the offer.

Thomas Grove, a Moscow correspondent of the WSJ, had replicated the  story and advanced it the next day: Moscow Acknowledges Effort to Woo Donald Trump’s Administration (subscription required). For the next four  days, The New York Times and The Washington Post gave Hudson’s scoop a good leaving-alone.  

Instead, the Times continued reporting on its discovery of “a cyberarmy of bloggers posing as Americans and spreading propaganda and disinformation about an American electorate on Facebook, Twitter and other programs.” It front-paged a dispatch on Russian military exercises: “With War Games, Russia Creates a Fake Enemy, but Real Alarm.”  And it reported that the US banned the use of Kaspersky software on computers of federal agencies.   

The story seem likely to appear eventually, but two things already seem clear

Putin  thoroughly misunderstood the political situation in the United State  as of April, when he made its offer.

The editors of the The New York Times, have a great deal of explaining to do. Editors are curators of narratives. They are entitled to mull over the meaning of Hudson’s story.  But they also obligated to report news when it breaks. Much is to be learned from the lags.

  .                                              xxx

Another report likely to be in the news for months to come appeared this week. “Are Ideas Getting Harder to Find?” published as a working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research.  Authors Nicholas Bloom, Charles I. Jones,  Michael Webb, all of Stanford University; and John van Reenen, of MIT, answer unequivocally in the affirmative.  

“Across a broad range of case studies we find that [new] ideas — and in particular the exponential growth they imply — are getting harder and harder to find.”

Among the case studies were Moore’s Law, or computer performance per watt of electricity; agricultural crop yields; and mortality and life expectancy and the productivity of medical research.
Economic Principals is traveling and unable to pursue either story. Expect more in due course.

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