Friday 18 March, 2022

A message to the Russian People…

… from, Guess Who? None other than the Terminator himself. Not many people can pull off a piece like this — and hold one’s attention throughout. It’s nine minutes long and, I think, worth it.

Here’s the Link.

Quote of the Day

”Three hours a day will produce as much as a man ought to write.”

  • Anthony Trollope

He would know. According to some reports, he

paid a servant an extra £5 a year to wake him up at 5:30 am every morning and get him a cup of coffee. Trollope would then work on a novel for three hours. The first half hour was spent reading over what he had already written, and after that he wrote at a pace of 250 words per 15 minutes. So, over three hours, he would write approximately 2,500 words.

And he did that while holding down a serious job in the Post Office. Infuriating, isn’t it?

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Strauss | Four Last Songs | No 4 – Im abendrot | Renee Fleming


Strauss’s four songs were part of the programme at the Metropolitan Opera’s Concert for Ukraine the other night. This one is my favourite.

Long Read of the Day

 How Putin’s Oligarchs Bought London

Marvellous review essay by Patrick Radden Keefe on a number of courageous books which have revealed the extent to which the top layers of British UK have been compromised by the dirty wealth of Russians who are, in one way or another, obligated to Putin.

For the past several years, Oliver Bullough, a former Russia correspondent, has guided “kleptocracy tours” around London, explaining how dirty money from abroad has transformed the city. Bullough shows up with a busload of rubberneckers in front of elegant mansions and steel-and-glass apartment towers in Knightsbridge and Belgravia, and points out the multimillion-pound residences of the shady expatriates who find refuge there. His book “Butler to the World: How Britain Became the Servant of Oligarchs, Tax Dodgers, Kleptocrats, and Criminals,” just published in the U.K., argues that England actively solicited such corrupting influences, by letting “some of the worst people in existence” know that it was open for business.

Invoking Dean Acheson’s famous observation, in 1962, that Britain had “lost an empire but not yet found a role,” Bullough suggests that it did find a role, as a no-questions-asked service provider to the crooked élite, offering access to capital markets, prime real estate, shopping at Harrods, and illustrious private schools, along with accountants for tax tricks, attorneys for legal squabbles, and “reputation managers” for inconvenient backstories. It starts with visas; any foreigner with adequate funds can buy one, by investing two million pounds in the U.K. (Ten million can buy you permanent residency.)

It’s full of interesting stories. For example:

In 2014, the American political scientist Karen Dawisha submitted her book “Putin’s Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia?” to her longtime publisher, Cambridge University Press. After reviewing the manuscript, Dawisha’s editor, John Haslam, wrote to her praising the book but saying that Cambridge could not publish it. “The risk is high that those implicated in the premise of the book—that Putin has a close circle of criminal oligarchs at his disposal and has spent his career cultivating this circle—would be motivated to sue,” he explained. Even if the press ultimately prevailed, the expense of the proceedings could be ruinous, Haslam said.

It’s a terrific read. And also an infuriating one, not least because the sudden faux-outrage of the Tory party about the wealthy London concierges and legal pimps who service the needs of oligarchs is so nauseating.

Preparing for Defeat 

Francis Fukuyama in upbeat mode.

I’ll stick my neck out and make several prognostications:

1 Russia is heading for an outright defeat in Ukraine. Russian planning was incompetent, based on a flawed assumption that Ukrainians were favorable to Russia and that their military would collapse immediately following an invasion. Russian soldiers were evidently carrying dress uniforms for their victory parade in Kyiv rather than extra ammo and rations. Putin at this point has committed the bulk of his entire military to this operation—there are no vast reserves of forces he can call up to add to the battle. Russian troops are stuck outside various Ukrainian cities where they face huge supply problems and constant Ukrainian attacks.

2 The collapse of their position could be sudden and catastrophic, rather than happening slowly through a war of attrition. The army in the field will reach a point where it can neither be supplied nor withdrawn, and morale will vaporize. This is at least true in the north; the Russians are doing better in the south, but those positions would be hard to maintain if the north collapses.

There are ten more where they came from.

I hope he’s right. In the meantime, I liked Charles Arthur’s sardonic take on the piece. “Mr End Of History predicting End Of War. It’s probably as good an analysis as any.”

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