Wednesday 7 September, 2022

Sunset over the Staithe

Brancaster, Friday evening.

Quote of the Day

As you get older, you don’t get wiser. You get irritable”

  • Doris Lessing

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Kate & Anna McGarrigle | Hard times come again no more


I know I’ve recommended this Stephen Foster song before, but George Wilkinson emailed to suggest this version, which I hadn’t heard before. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Long Read of the Day

The Mysterious Murder of Darya Dugina

If you are — like me — puzzled by the murder of the daughter on an obscure Russian political philosopher, then join the club.

But then I know little about Russia. Masha Gessen, in contrast, knows a lot, and this piece by her in the New Yorker explores some interesting conspiracy theories about whodunnit.

Darya Dugina, a twenty-nine-year-old Russian television commentator, was laid to rest at an undisclosed location in Moscow on August 23rd. Three days earlier, Dugina had attended a festival called Tradition, a daylong event that, this year, included a lecture by her father, the self-styled political philosopher Aleksandr Dugin, on the metaphysical dualism of historical thinking. The gathering concluded with a concert called “The Russian Cosmos.” Afterward, Darya Dugina drove away in a Toyota Land Cruiser. The car exploded, killing her. Aleksandr Dugin was apparently travelling in a different vehicle, and it seems likely that whoever killed Darya had meant to kill her better-known father. There has since been much speculation about the identity and motives of the killers, but little is known for certain. Still, some theories are better than others.

Western media accounts have portrayed Dugin as a sort of Putin whisperer, the brains behind the Kremlin’s ideology. He is not that, but his story tells a lot about recent Russian history and the current state of Russian society…

Chart of the Day

California roasting

Just a local manifestation of a cooking planet. No consolation to those without air-conditioning, though.


Sauce for the goose…

Big news in the tech world in the last few days was the revelation that Nvidia, the outfit that makes the high-end processing chips that power a lot of AI (aka machine-learning) systems, has been barred from selling them to China.

The Chinese were incandescent about this step by the US. The Wall Street Journal reported its Ministry of Commerce declaring that “the U.S. move would damage the interests of both Chinese and American companies. The U.S. should treat enterprises of all countries fairly”.

This prompted a splendid rant from Ben Thompson, whose wonderful Stratchery newsletter is one of my daily treats.

China complaining that the U.S. should treat enterprises of all countries fairly is, while not surprising, one of the most absurd statements I have ever seen. Tech is the most obvious example: U.S. Internet companies have been blocked from China for going on a generation now, even as Chinese-owned companies like TikTok are allowed to take massive chunks out of the valuation and competitive position of U.S. companies like Meta. This is, to be sure, only the tip of the spear: I could talk about forced joint ventures in China that are glorified IP theft, a systemic refusal to abide by obligations under China’s WTO membership like equal access for banks and payment companies, or the fact that Chinese companies get to raise money in the U.S. with little or no oversight. But I’ll just stick to tech: China blatantly discriminates against U.S. companies, and even if you want to make the case this is smart — there is a case to be made! — it is, and always will be, infuriating to read cynical statements like this.

He also makes the point that, from a geopolitical standpoint, it makes strategic sense for the US to keep China from benefiting from its advanced technology because it provides an incentive for Xi Jinping & Co to play nice over Taiwan. While I have little sympathy for American hegemonic anxiety, I have no desire to live in a world dominated by the kind of regime now oppressing the Uighurs either.

My commonplace booklet

You are invite to visit our restaurant where you can eat the Middle East foods in an European ambulance”.

  • Hotel Notice, Ankara

(From French Widow in Every Room)

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