Monday 21 February, 2022

The Boss

Imagine if your boss always looked at you like this. Well, mine does.

Quote of the Day

”Not in the clamour of the crowded street
Nor in the shouts and plaudits of the throng
But in ourselves, are triumph and defeat.”

  • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Muddy Waters and The Rolling Stones | Baby Please Don’t Go | Live at the Checkerboard Lounge


Chaotic and unforgettable.

Long Read of the Day

The German Bind

Nathan Gardels, the Editor of Noema magazine, has written an interesting essay about the standoff between Russia and the West. As I read it I kept thinking of Keynes’s famous 1919 polemic, The Economic Consequences of the Peace — in particular his insight into what the Allies’ determination to humiliate and punish Germany would do to that country.

Here’s the passage that caught my eye:

In 1996, well before Putin’s ascent to power, Alexander Lebed, a popular former Russian general and presidential candidate critical of the bibulous Boris Yeltsin, wrote an essay for my Global Viewpoint newspaper syndicate. Already then, the resentment at being played by those with the upper hand was gestating. As he framed the issue: “When politicians and military planners, who were so used to the lengthy ‘struggle of position’ against the USSR and the Warsaw Pact, found themselves in a very favorable position, it proved too difficult for them to give up the temptation to, finally, at long last, implement their former plans.”

For Lebed, this steady advance of a hostile military alliance into the space its own allied forces had just abandoned rubbed in the ignominy of defeat. “If this sense of loss and humiliation that comes with defeat is allowed to fester in the Russian mentality, it may lead to an inferiority complex that can only be overcome by gaining new victories, preferably over old rivals,” he warned, invoking the lesson of Hitler’s rise in the wake of Germany’s sense of humiliation after the Versailles Treaty that ended WWI. “Territories come and go,” Lebed wrote, “but humiliation of a nation’s dignity remains in the minds of the people. … It injects the virus of vengeance into the defeated nation.”

Presciently, he went on: “I doubt very much that pushing Russia to the backyard of Europe will increase the sense of stability and certainty, or make Russia more democratic and predictable. This approach by the West is destined, at best, to place both sides peering at each other suspiciously from across the fence, fists in our pockets.” And so it has.

Perhaps miscalculating, Putin seems to have sensed a weakness in the West relative to Russian strength and saw a chance to finally push back. He took his fists out of his pockets and moved massive military force to the Ukrainian border, in the process achieving the very opposite of his aim by fortifying the resolve of an alliance that was on its way to obsolescence.

Talk about unintended consequences.

DIY surveillance est arrivé

Yesterday’s Observer column:

Once upon a time, intensive surveillance was a prerogative of states. After the arrival of the internet, and especially the rise of companies such as Google and Facebook, ISPs (internet service providers) and mobile networks, it became a prerogative shared between the state and private companies – corporations that log everything you do online. Surveillance became a kind of public-private partnership. The companies do much of the work and readily cooperate with security agencies when they come armed with a warrant.

Way back in 2009 the German Green politician Malte Spitz went to court to obtain the data that his mobile phone operator, Deutsche Telekom, held on him and then collaborated with the newspaper Die Zeit to analyse and visualise it. What emerged was a remarkably detailed timeline of his daily life, a timeline that would have been readily available to state authorities if they had come for it with appropriate legal authorisation.

But in internet time 2009 was aeons ago. Now, intensive surveillance is available to anyone. And you don’t have to be a tech wizard to do it…

Brexit = ‘buy from Europe’

Coruscating column by Simon Jenkins.

A massacre is occurring. More than 35,000 healthy British pigs have been slaughtered and buried on farms since September, with an estimated 200,000 languishing in a backlog.

The reason is that abattoirs lack the staff to process them, largely due to Britain’s exit from the pan-European labour market. In October, the environment department offered 800 six-month visas for foreign butchers. But it insisted they go through its laborious scheme for seasonal workers: barely 100 turned up. Whitehall also refuses to curb imports of European pork – which now makes up 60% of the UK market and rising. To the National Pig Association, Brexit means buy from Europe.

And, later,

Leaving the EU had some arguments for it. Leaving the single market had none. “Soft” Brexit within that market would have been far been easier to negotiate. Leaving it has meant wrecked supply chains and terminated scientific collaboration. It has undermined recruitment patterns and destabilised Northern Ireland. It has crippled the fish industry and impeded billions of pounds of UK trade. Its consequences have wavered between nuisance and disaster.

So is Brexit a ‘success disaster’? Actually no: a success disaster is where something is so successful that it overwhelms its creator. Brexit is just a disaster.

My commonplace booklet

What it’s like having the Russian army around Interesting Twitter thread. Impossible to verify, though. Link

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