Tuesday 1 March, 2022

Smoke signals

Quote of the Day

”Well, if I called the wrong number, why did you answer the phone?”

  • James Thurber

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Jimmy Yancey | Five O’Clock Blues | 1939


Just as good at 9am IMHO.

Long Read of the Day

A Future For The Lakes

A fascinating and thought-provoking essay by Lee Schofield on how the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has been re-wilding a part of the Lake District that they lease. Includes a few paintings by the author.

As visually spectacular as the land we took on at Haweswater was a decade ago, it was damaged in all sorts of ways. Ancient woodland clearances, followed by centuries of grazing, coupled with peatland drainage, a superabundance of deer, river engineering, hedge removal, fertiliser and pesticide use had left the place in tatters.

An overgrazed, over-drained landscape is one in which water moves swiftly. The faster the water flows, the more energy it has, and the greater its capacity for erosion. Sediment reaching Haweswater reservoir, into which our land drains, is bad news for water quality.

Working in partnership with landowner United Utilities, we’re ten years into a transformation of our third of the reservoir’s catchment, restoring its ability to slow and purify water, alongside bringing back some of its natural riches.

Thanks to Andrew Curry, in whose blog I first saw it.

What if Putin turns out to be a ‘loser’?

Heather Cox Richardson’s wonderful blog set me thinking about the US Republicans…

Since 2016 there have been plenty of apologists for Putin here in the U.S. And yet now, with the weight of popular opinion shifting toward a defense of democracy, Republicans who previously cozied up to Putin are suddenly stating their support for Ukraine and trying to suggest that Putin has gotten out of line only because he sees Biden as weak. Under Trump, they say, Putin never would have invaded Ukraine, and they are praising Trump for providing aid to Ukraine in 2019.

They are hoping that their present support for Ukraine and democracy makes us forget their past support for Putin, even as former president Trump continues to call him “smart.” And yet, Republicans changed their party’s 2016 platform to favor Russia over Ukraine; accepted Trump’s abrupt withdrawal of U.S. troops from northern Syria in October 2019, giving Russia a strategic foothold in the Middle East; and looked the other way when Trump withheld $391 million to help Ukraine resist Russian invasion until newly elected Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky agreed to help rig the 2020 U.S. presidential election. (Trump did release the money after the story of the “perfect phone call” came out, but the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which investigated the withholding of funds, concluded that holding back the money at all was illegal.)

But rather than making us forget Republicans’ enabling of Putin’s expansion, the new story in which democracy has the upper hand might have the opposite effect. Now that people can clearly see exactly the man Republicans have supported, they will want to know why our leaders, who have taken an oath to our democratic Constitution, were willing to throw in their lot with a foreign autocrat. The answer to that question might well force us to rethink a lot of what we thought we knew about the last several years.

And of course we know that Trump’s favourite sneer was to call opponents ‘losers’. Which makes one wonder how he will respond if Putin turns out to have dug a big enough hole to endanger his political survival.

Bossware is booming

Further to my Observer column on Sunday, here’s a clip from a report by Valentina Romie in yesterday’s Financial Times:

Staff surveillance is at risk of “spinning out of control” Britain’s largest federation of trade unions has warned, adding to concerns that the UK has fallen behind its EU counterparts in this area of workers’ rights.

About 60 per cent of employees reported being subject to some form of technological surveillance and monitoring at their current or most recent job, in a survey by the TUC published on Monday — up from 53 per cent the previous year.

Three in 10 respondents agreed that monitoring and surveillance at work had increased during the Covid-19 crisis. The survey was conducted in England and Wales between December 14 and 20.

Also: A study by the European Commission found that “there has been a sharp increase in the demand for online workplace surveillance tools” as a result of the pandemic-induced shift to remote work.

BP sees the light

Well, well. The BBC reports that BP is to offload its 19.75% stake in Russian state-owned oil firm Rosneft after Russia’s “act of aggression in Ukraine”. So it has yielded to pressure from the UK government to make the move since Thursday’s invasion.

BP’s share in Russian state oil giant Rosneft has long felt uncomfortable; this week under heavy political pressure it became untenable.

The chairman of Rosneft, Igor Sechin, is a close ally of President Putin. Rosneft supplies fuel to the Russian army.

Immediately offloading the stake to a potentially inappropriate buyer was not an option.

The company has decided to “divest” – meaning it will sever its financial ties with Rosneft, stop taking a dividend and step back from its two seats on the board.

Company officials say it is too soon to say exactly how this stake will be disposed of.

It could potentially be seized, or sold.

It will mean a significant financial hit, but a price BP had little choice but to pay.

The BP CEO Bernard Looney said that he had been “deeply shocked and saddened” by the situation in Ukraine and it had caused BP to fundamentally rethink its position with Rosneft.

Interesting. Would this be the same Bernard Looney that the PA News agency reported as appearing on a panel with Putin last October, an appearance that he later described as a “privilege”? Shurely shomw mkishtake, as Private Eye would say.

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