Thursday 15 April, 2021

Small changes ahead…

Just a heads-up to let you know that after tomorrow this daily version of the blog will switch from seven days a week to five (Monday to Friday). The conspiracy-theory interpretation of this change will attribute it to sheer laziness on the part of the blogger. While plausible, this is a more entertaining explanation than the more mundane reality, which is that what are laughingly called his ‘day jobs’ have become more demanding as the academic world emerges cautiously from lockdown.

On a positive note, though, consider the upsides. Firstly, I have not used the abominable phrase “going forward”. And now you will have more free time at the weekends and not feel twinges of guilt when deciding that life is too short to click on Long Read of the Day!

(If you are curious about what I might be getting up to at the weekends, you can always check the online version of the blog.)

As ever, thank you for subscribing.

Quote of the Day

”The only man who really needs a tail coat is a man with a hole in his trousers.”

  • John Taylor (Editor of Tailor and Cutter)

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Jimmy Yancey | At the Window


This is one of my favourite recordings ever. It’s very old and so you may need to turn up the volume a bit.

Long Read of the Day

Why a Chinese invasion of Taiwan would be a catastrophe for China and the world

If they do it, it won’t be for the microchips

Fascinating blog post by Jon Stokes about the geopolitics of silicon chip manufacture.

U.S. Imposes Stiff Sanctions on Russia, Blaming It for Major Hacking Operation

Pardon me while I yawn. According to the New York Times,

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Thursday announced tough new sanctions on Russia and formally blamed the country’s premier intelligence agency for the sophisticated hacking operation that breached American government agencies and the nation’s largest companies.

In the broadest effort yet by President Biden to give more teeth to financial sanctions — which in recent years have failed to deter Russian activity — the actions are aimed at choking off lending to the Russian government.

In an executive order, Mr. Biden announced a series of additional steps — sanctions on 32 entities and individuals for disinformation efforts and for carrying out Moscow’s interference in the 2020 presidential election. Ten Russian diplomats, most of them identified as intelligence operatives, were expelled from the Russian Embassy in Washington. The United States also joined with European partners to impose sanctions on eight people and entities associated with Russia’s occupation of Crimea.

For the first time, the U.S. government squarely placed the blame for the hacking, known as SolarWinds, on the Kremlin, saying it was masterminded by the S.V.R., one of the Russian intelligence agencies that was also involved in the intrusion of the Democratic National Committee six years ago. The finding comports with the findings of private cybersecurity companies.

Yeah, yeah. But what we’d like to know is what the retaliation in kind is. After all, that’s what Jake Sullivan, now Biden’s National Security Advisor, was calling for before the election. It’s a racing certainty that the US has mounted a cyber-attack on Russian facilities where it will really hurt. I wonder how long it will take before we find out what form it took. And whether the Solarwinds attack has provided the Russians with opportunities for serious retaliation.

‘All I need is a pen, paper and the First Amendment’

This, from the Columbia Journalism Review, is truly extraordinary.

During the covid-19 pandemic, CJR received a submission, via the Empowerment Avenue Writer’s Cohort, from an incarcerated writer, Kevin D. Sawyer, who explained what it’s like to be a journalist in San Quentin State Prison, in Northern California. We felt it needed no editing, and that even the means of submission—typewritten, with corrections by hand—helped tell his tale. So we have reproduced it below as we received it.

You’ve got to read it. Deeply moving. But also an exhilarating confirmation of the value of reading — and writing. And of the usefulness of a battered typewriter.

Do click on the link to see it.

Another, hopefully interesting, link

  • The Last Time a Vaccine Saved America Yes — it was the Salk polio vaccine. Interesting to reflect on that experience. Link

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