Link back to the discussion thread.


Europe

Ukraine

  • Ukraine, Russia see positive signs for grain deal; wheat prices ease Reuters

Major global wheat exporters Ukraine and Russia see positive signs in discussions which could lead to the resumption of Ukrainian Black Sea grain exports after Wednesday’s talks in Istanbul, their officials said.

Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations are due to sign a deal next week aimed at resuming Ukraine’s grain exports, Turkish defence minister Hulusi Akar said after the talks, although U.N. chief Antonio Guterres was a little more cautious.

Hungary

  • EU ‘shot itself in the lungs’ with sanctions against Russia, says Orban Euro News

The European Union has “shot itself in the lungs” with ill-considered economic sanctions on Russia, which, unless rolled back, risk destroying the European economy, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday.

The surge in gas and electricity prices forced nationalist Orban to curtail a years-long cap on utility prices for higher-usage households on Wednesday, rolling back one of the 59-year-old prime minister’s signature economic policies.

“Initially, I thought we had only shot ourselves in the foot, but now it is clear that the European economy has shot itself in the lungs, and it is gasping for air,” Orban, a long-time sanctions critic, told public radio in an interview.

Lithuania

  • Lithuania to keep Kaliningrad trade restrictions while working out new rules Reuters

European Union member Lithuania will keep restrictions on trade flows to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad while it works out new rules, Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte said on Thursday.

The European Commission said on Wednesday that sanctioned Russian goods could transit through the bloc’s territory by rail to the enclave, after tensions between Moscow, Brussels and Lithuania escalated.

“Controls will need to be in place for certain sanctioned freight… Lithuania will have to set rules for the controls, and until that time the current procedures will remain in place”, Simonyte told a press conference. She gave no timeline for creating the new rules.

Germany

  • Germany earmarks additional 2.4 bln eur this year for Ukraine refugee relief Reuters

Germany is earmarking an additional 2.4 billion euros ($2.40 billion) this year to cover the financial expenses of caring for Ukrainian refugees in the country, Labour Minister Hubertus Heil was quoted as saying by RND newspaper group.

Heil said around 800,000 people from Ukraine have sought refuge in Germany so far, of which 30% are under the age of 14.

  • German Energy Industry Warns Of High Prices & Social Unrest Oil Price

Energy costs for German households could soar significantly later this year, the country’s energy industry has warned, with one company suggesting this could lead to social unrest.

Per a Reuters report, energy sector officials said that household energy costs could increase threefold from current levels, with one industry executive saying annual costs could rise from 1,500 euros to 4,700 euros by October.

“We must help average households and set an upper limit for energy costs,” Roland Warner told Reuters in an interview, adding, “If we get social unrest the state won’t be able to cope.”

France

  • Low French Nuclear Output Is Bad News For The UK Oil Price

Low nuclear power generation in France, typically a net exporter of electricity to other European countries, including the UK, is setting off alarm bells in Britain, too.

The UK power system faces another winter like the previous one, when supply buffers were too thin and resulted in surging electricity prices, Fintan Slye, director of National Grid ESO, the UK network operator, told Bloomberg.

Italy

  • Ten years on, Draghi faces debt crisis words won’t solve Reuters

Ten years after his ‘whatever it takes’ pledge saved the euro, Mario Draghi is once again in the middle of a debt crisis - but the Italian prime minister and former head of the European Central Bank will need more than just words to solve this one.

Just like a decade ago, investors are questioning whether some euro zone countries can continue to roll over their public debts, which have ballooned during the pandemic and are becoming more expensive to refinance as the ECB prepares to raise interest rates.

This time, however, the epicentre of the crisis is Italy’s secular lack of economic growth, rather than the financial excesses that landed Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Spain in trouble 10 years ago.

The situation is now being exacerbated by another chronic Italian problem: political instability. Draghi is struggling to hold together his fractious multi-party coalition and could be on the verge of quitting as premier.

  • Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi Submits Resignation as Coalition Collapses WSJ

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi tendered his resignation Thursday after his coalition collapsed due to differences over how to respond to the fallout of the war in Ukraine, leaving the eurozone’s third-largest economy in political crisis.

Mr. Draghi said he would resign after a key party in his coalition pulled its support for his government following squabbles among the groups on whether to send arms to Ukraine and how much financial support to give to Italian families reeling from high inflation.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella said late Thursday that he wouldn’t accept Mr. Draghi’s resignation, adding to the political uncertainty.

Some parties in Mr. Draghi’s collapsed coalition are asking him to stay on and try to form a new governing coalition, something he has previously said he wouldn’t do. What will happen next could become clearer when Mr. Draghi addresses Parliament next week.

The political crisis shows how the combination of Russia’s war on Ukraine and the spike in energy prices and cost of living are weakening political cohesion in parts of Europe, making the formation of stable governing majorities ever more difficult. French President Emmanuel Macron recently lost his parliamentary majority in an election driven by voters’ inflationary concerns. In the U.K., Prime Minister Boris Johnson resigned last week in the wake of a series of scandals, pressured by Conservative Party lawmakers who worried those scandals would compound the challenges the government faces in responding to high inflation.

Asia and Oceania

China

  • Hong Kong sees boom in learning Mandarin Asia News

The number of people in Hong Kong who consider Mandarin to be their main language has increased from 60,000 in 2006 to 130,000 in 2016.

  • China rolls on with 5G deployment, development Asia News

As of the end of May, the domestic 5G network covers all prefecture-level cities, urban areas of counties across the country and 92 per cent of urban villages and towns.

  • Alibaba cuts a third of deals team staff after regulatory crackdown-sources Reuters

Alibaba Group is cutting over a third of staff in its in-house deals team, four people with knowledge of the matter said, after Beijing’s sweeping regulatory crackdown sharply slowed the Chinese e-commerce behemoth’s dealmaking pace.

Alibaba plans to reduce its strategic investment team of more than 110 people, mainly based in mainland China, to about 70, said two of the people, adding the company has already informed a bulk of staffers of their redundancy.

  • China’s President Xi visits Xinjiang for first time in 8 years, praises region’s ‘core hub’ role SCMP

There have been a number of articles about this in the western media with, as you can imagine, less positive titles, and I decided that I’m just not gonna deal with them.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said Xinjiang would be a main hub for connecting China to other nations, a statement made during his first trip there for eight years and the first since he ordered a hard strike on violence in a region that has become a source of friction with the United States.

State media reported on Friday that Xi had visited the far western region of Xinjiang on Tuesday and Wednesday in his first public appearance since he was in Hong Kong to mark the city’s 25th anniversary of return to Chinese rule on July 1.

“The Belt and Road Initiative has yielded fruitful results over the years,” Xi was quoted by Xinhua news agency as saying, referring to China’s massive infrastructure and trade initiatives connecting the nation to others around the world, particularly in Asia and Africa.

  • Barclays seeks entry into China’s $4.3 tln asset management market Reuters

Barclays is seeking a Chinese banking partner to set up an asset management joint venture in the country, two people with knowledge of the matter said, as part of British lender’s plans to expand its footprint in the world’s second-largest economy.

Barclays' majority-owned China asset management venture will be set up via its unit Barclays Investment Managers (BIM), which currently has operations in Europe and Japan, the people said.

  • China’s ambitious rooftop solar pilot helps drive ‘blistering’ capacity growth Climate Home News

  • China Considers Lifting Australian Coal Ban Fearing Supply Squeeze Oil Price

China is considering lifting a two-year ban on imported coal from Australia, looking to avoid a repeat of the shortages and blackouts from last autumn once Western sanctions on Russian coal and oil enter into force, sources with knowledge of the deliberations told Bloomberg on Thursday.

Chinese officials will pitch the proposal to lift the ban on Australian coal to senior leaders, Bloomberg’s sources said.

China is concerned that the EU ban on Russian coal would intensify a global run for non-Russian coal supply that could weaken China’s purchasing power.

  • China willing to ‘recalibrate’ strained Australia ties, FM says Al Jazeera

I imagine this has something to do with the previous headline.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has told state media that Beijing is willing to reset its relationship with Australia after several years of tensions over national security and trade.

“The Chinese side is willing to take the pulse [on ties], recalibrate, and set sail again,” Wang Yi said on Thursday while visiting Guangxi province in southwest China.

Wang said, however, that mending ties would require Australia to “correct” its understanding of China while also refraining from trying to contain the rising superpower.

Japan

  • Japan PM Kishida: asked industry minister to have up to 9 nuclear power plants operational this winter Reuters

Sri Lanka

  • Sri Lanka envoy ‘confident’ that China will agree to aid requests ‘at some point’ SCMP

Sri Lanka is continuing negotiations with China for as much as US$4 billion in aid and is confident Beijing will agree “at some point”, according to a top envoy.

Colombo is asking China for a loan of US$1 billion to repay an equivalent amount of Chinese debt coming due this year, Palitha Kohona, Sri Lanka’s ambassador to China, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television on Friday. It is also seeking a US$1.5 billion credit line to pay for Chinese imports and activation of a US$1.5 billion swap, he added.

“We are confident that at some point the Chinese system will agree to our requests because these are not unreasonable requests,” Kohona said. “We have made similar requests to other creditors. Sri Lanka needs the funding to bring stability to our financial system and we are confident that the Chinese will come to the party sooner than later.”

  • Draft Agreement Reveals US Plan To Turn Sri Lanka Into Military Colony Popular Resistance

The draft copy of the ‘Status of Forces Agreement’ indicates a deep rooted plan by the U.S. to turn Sri Lanka into an American military colony.

The full text of the five page SOFA draft – which the Americans now also call the Visiting Forces Agreement to mislead locals – has been obtained by the Sunday Times and published in full.

The text reveals incriminating details of demands made by the U.S. to accommodate their military forces and the free movement and passage for military personnel, vessels and aircraft in Sri Lankan territory.

It also raises many questions regarding the U.S. agenda for Sri Lanka and raises serious doubts on the assurances given by U.S. Ambassador Alaina B. Teplitz that a U.S. military base would not be established in the country.

One of the agreement clauses specifically refers to waiving off of regulations or conditions for contracting material, equipment and supplies for services including constructions that are to be ‘furnished and undertaken in Sri Lanka’. What constructions the American military seek to undertake in Sri Lanka, has not been clarified yet.

Among the other demands that pose serious issues for national security, sovereignty and territorial integrity, is the demand to waive off criminal jurisdiction over U.S. personnel while in Sri Lanka, free exit and movement within the territory of Sri Lanka and the use of radio spectrum in the country.

DPRK

  • North Korea recognizes two Russian-backed breakaway regions in Ukraine: State media Asia News

North Korea has formally recognized two Russian-supported breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent states and pledged to develop “state-to-state relations” with them. In response, Ukraine has severed diplomatic relations with North Korea.

Middle East

  • Middle East Buyers Ramp Up Russian Fuel Imports Oil Price

Bloomberg reports diesel and other fuel products shunned by many countries in the West are heading to the Middle East. Increasing flows began after the Russian invasion of Ukraine and reached 155,000 barrels a day in June, according to new data from Vortexa Ltd. Meanwhile, European imports have slumped 30% since the invasion on Feb. 24.

Vortexa’s data shows most of the products arriving in the Middle East from Russian ports are fuel oil, diesel/gasoil, and more recently, jet fuel and kerosene.

Kazakhstan

  • Kazakhstan introduces visa-free travel for citizens of India, Iran, and China EU Reporter

Israel/Palestine

  • US, Israel sign joint declaration, vow to counter nuclear Iran MEE

US President Joe Biden and Israel’s caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Thursday signed a bilateral strategic partnership agreement, in which Washington said it would utilise “all elements in its national power” to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

The agreement, signed by the two leaders during Biden’s visit to Israel, outlines a number of issues of bilateral partnership, from furthering Israeli normalisation with Arab countries to securing a visa waiver programme for Israelis entering the US.

At the forefront of the agreement was a US commitment to counter Iran’s nuclear programme, a concern highlighted over the past year by Israel and a number of Arab Gulf countries including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons and has stated its nuclear pursuits are solely for its energy needs.

  • U.S. announces $316M for Palestinians as Biden visits West Bank Politico

In a small step he hopes pays off big, President Joe Biden has proposed a series of initiatives to mend America’s ties with Palestinians that the Trump administration relished in cutting.

After spending the last two days in Israel, Biden will travel to the West Bank for a meeting with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, and to visit a hospital in East Jerusalem.

Former President Donald Trump ended nearly all aid to Palestinians three years ago and fully sided with Israel’s positions in the decades-long dispute over a two-state solution.

That left Biden the enormous task of restoring Ramallah’s faith in Washington while breathing life into a peace process nearing death.

  • Nine EU states reject Israeli ‘terrorist’ designation for Palestinian NGOs EU Reporter

Nine European Union states said on Tuesday (12 July) they would continue working with the six Palestinian civil society groups that Israel designated terrorist associations last year, citing a lack of evidence for that claim.

Israel designated the Palestinian groups as terrorist organisations and accused them of funneling donor aid to militants, a move that drew criticism from the United Nations and human rights watchdogs.

The groups include Palestinian human rights organisations Addameer and Al-Haq, which document alleged rights violations by both Israel and the Western-backed Palestinian Authority in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and which reject the charges.

In a joint statement, the foreign ministries of Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden said they had not received “substantial information” from Israel that would justify reviewing their policy.

It’s truly terrifying to see the return of such massive amounts of antisemitism to Europe.

Iran

Transit of commodities through the Iranian roads network increased 98 percent in the previous Iranian calendar year 1400 (ended on March 20), as compared to the preceding year, the director-general of Transit and International Transportation Affairs Bureau of Iran Road Maintenance and Transportation Organization (RMTO) said.

Saudi Arabia

  • Saudi opens airspace to ‘all carriers’ in gesture to Israel Inquirer

  • Saudi Arabia doubles Q2 Russian fuel oil imports for power generation Reuters

Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, more than doubled the amount of Russian fuel oil it imported in the second quarter to feed power stations to meet summer cooling demand and free up the kingdom’s own crude for export, data showed and traders said.

  • China stands in the way of Biden’s Saudi outreach Politico

In a Washington Post op-ed published last week, Biden argued that improving U.S.-Saudi relations was essential to positioning the U.S. “in the best possible position to outcompete China.”

Biden’s problem is that he self-sabotaged his own efforts “to reorient — but not rupture” U.S.-Saudi relations with his 2016 campaign trail rhetoric that accused the Saudis of “murdering children” in Yemen and promised to make Riyadh a “pariah” over the assassination of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

Those comments, along with Biden’s move to revive the Obama-era Iran denuclearization pact that former President Donald Trump killed, ruffled Saudi feathers and alienated Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. It also fueled doubts in Riyadh about U.S. reliability, boosting China’s efforts to position itself as a rising superpower alternative.

“The United States has been somewhat missing in action, has called [Saudi Arabia] a pariah and several administrations have said there’s a need to pivot towards Asia, inferentially meaning away from the Middle East,” said Robert Jordan, former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia and diplomat in residence at Southern Methodist University. “That makes it more attractive for them to turn to their largest customer as a country of considerable influence. China also has the added benefit of not lecturing the country on human rights.”

Working to Beijing’s advantage is a close economic relationship with Riyadh lubricated by China’s dependence on Saudi oil. China and Saudi Arabia sealed a “strategic partnership” in 2016 tied to “stable long-term energy cooperation.” It’s payed off: bilateral trade was valued at $65.2 billion in 2020.

By comparison, U.S.-Saudi bilateral trade — dominated by Saudi oil sales and the Kingdom’s purchases of U.S.-produced automobiles and aircraft — was a meager $19.7 billion that same year.

Riyadh took the China relationship one step further this March by announcing its intent to abandon U.S. dollar transactions for some of those oil sales and switch them to China’s currency, the renminbi.

Beijing has positioned itself as a nonjudgmental partner to Riyadh and as a counterpoint to a U.S.-Saudi diplomatic chill that hit new depths after Khashoggi’s 2018 murder.

Beijing enticed Saudi Arabia in 2021 into becoming a “dialogue partner” in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a China-initiated regional security and development grouping whose members include Kazakhstan, India, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has positioned the organization as a defiant counterpoint to U.S.-dominated multilateral groupings — with their pesky commitment to democracy and rule of law — by urging SCO members to “refuse sanctimonious preaching from those who feel they have the right to lecture us.” China is also seeking to connect its Belt and Road Initiative infrastructure development program with Saudi Arabia’s domestic infrastructure construction scheme.

Pakistan

  • IMF says staff-level agreement reached with Pakistan for release of $1.17 billion loan tranche Asia News

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) confirmed on Thursday that it had reached a staff-level agreement with Pakistan on the combined seventh and eighth reviews for a $6 billion loan facility, a development that paves the way for the release of the much-awaited $1.17bn.

Africa

Egypt

  • UN urged to move Cop27 from Egypt over ‘LGBTQ+ torture’ The Guardian

A White House adviser and his partner have called on the United Nations to move a key climate change summit from Egypt due to the country’s treatment of LGBTQ people, citing fears that they and other activists would be targeted by security forces if they attend the talks.

The couple, Jerome Foster and Elijah Mckenzie-Jackson, have written to Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to condemn the choice of Egypt as host of the Cop27 talks due to its “LGBTQ+ torture, woman slaughter and civil rights suppression” and that the decision “places our life in danger in the process of advocating for the life of our planet”.

Mali

  • Mali suspends all new rotations of UN peacekeeping forces Al Jazeera

The Malian foreign ministry has told the United Nations mission in Mali to suspend all flights scheduled to rotate peacekeeping forces days after the West African nation detained 49 soldiers from Ivory Coast who it said had arrived in the country without permission.

“For reasons related to the national security context, the government of Mali has decided to suspend, as of today, all rotations of the military and police contingent of [the UN Mission to Mali], including those already scheduled or announced,” the foreign ministry said on Thursday in a letter to the UN mission and seen by The Associated Press.

Zimbabwe

  • Development Bank Agrees to Help Zimbabwe Clear $13.5 Billion Debt All Africa

The African Development Bank (AfDB) agreed this week to help Zimbabwe clear its $13.5 billion debt during a visit by the Abidjan-based lender’s president. The AfDB has also started releasing loans from a $1.5 billion fund to help Africa avert a looming food crisis fueled by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Zimbabwe is one of 38 countries set to benefit from the bank’s fund, which is known as the African Emergency Food Production Facility.

North America

United States

  • Jamie Dimon battens down the hatches for a recession CNN

JPMorgan Chase kicked off the second quarter earnings season with bad news: The bank temporarily suspended share buybacks and fell short of analysts' expectations for earnings and revenue growth.

Profit declined 28% from a year earlier to $8.65 billion and the bank reported earnings of $2.76 per share versus the $2.88 expected by analysts. Managed revenue clocked in at $31.6 billion, missing the $31.95 billion expected, according to Refinitiv data.

Large market swings hurt dealmaking this quarter, the bank reported. Investment-banking fees fell by 54%, more than the 47% predicted by analysts.

  • U.S. House passes bill boosting Biden’s record defense budget Reuters

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday paving the way for the defense budget to exceed $800 billion next year, authorizing $37 billion in spending on top of the record $773 billion proposed by President Joe Biden.

  • Opinion: Why Gen Z is done with Biden – and Trump CNN

Younger voters are frustrated and angry. To many of them, American politics feels broken. Elected officials are too old and out of touch. Gridlock and dysfunction have been the norm. On issue after issue, it seems crises go unaddressed.

Many young Americans who were keen to vote former President Donald Trump out of office are now profoundly unhappy with Biden as well. Only 1% of 18 to 29-year-olds strongly approve of the way Biden is handling his role, according to a survey from the Times and Siena College. To make matters worse, members of this age group were most likely to say they wouldn’t vote for either Biden or Trump in a potential 2024 face off.

It is not uncommon to hear people ask what we need to do to get young people more engaged in politics. As a university professor, this is the sort of query that often comes my way. Do the schools need to include more civic education? Should there be some sort of national service program? Can foundations provide grants and fellowships for young Americans who want to devote their lives to public service?

“Do we need to send even more young people through the intellectual carwash that is the university system, which is essentially a class-traitor factory, in order to thoroughly inform them that neoliberalism is the only viable path forward for humanity and that communism has never and will never work, while an artistic array of bone-white and sunburnt crowds of middle-aged chuds clap like seals at a rally where some overpaid dipshit makes a speech complaining about how every university and college has a secret Marxism indoctrination chamber? We just might."

These questions are important, but we also need to look at what our political system does wrong. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that many younger Americans look at Washington and state capitals with a sense of grave disappointment. After all, they have experienced firsthand a growing climate crisis, racial injustice, the breakdown of democratic institutions and norms, gender inequity and widespread economic insecurity – issues that have been much discussed but rarely addressed.

The rest of the article has no new insights, not even anything that I can really dunk on it’s so milquetoast, so I’ll just stop here.

  • Biden Is Losing His Base on Climate Change, a New Pew Poll Finds. Six in 10 Democrats Don’t Feel He’s Doing Enough Inside Climate News

Democrats who favor strong action on climate change are deeply dissatisfied with what they see as the slow pace of progress under President Joe Biden, according to a Pew Research Center report released Thursday.

The survey of more than 10,000 adults conducted in early May showed a deep partisan divide over Biden’s climate policies—much in line with the split between Democrats and Republicans that has shown up in public opinion polling for more than a decade. But a trend that is potentially ominous for the White House emerged in the views of the Democratic base.

Among Democrats who back the overall direction of Biden’s climate policies, 61 percent said the administration could be doing a lot more. Democrats don’t seem sympathetic to arguments that Biden’s hands are tied, for example, by an uncooperative Congress or the conservative courts; only 37 percent of Democrats who favor strong action to counter climate change said they think the administration is doing about as much as can be expected.

  • The US military just awarded a $10 million contract for what could be special operators' latest gadget: jet boots Business Insider

With the US military reorienting itself for a potential conflict with a highly capable adversary, the US special-operations community is investing in capabilities and technology that would give it an advantage in such a conflict.

A recent investment is in a futuristic piece of technology that would have a lot of benefits for one of that community’s toughest job: combat diver.

Jet boots use a battery pack and a brushless motor system to propel the diver. The boots have two thrusters on the side of each leg that the operator can maneuver with their body, freeing up their hands for other tasks.

Jet boots are primarily used by the Army Special Forces combat-diver teams and Navy SEALs, and versions currently in use can move a diver at speeds up to 4 knots while allowing them to be “completely relaxed” and conserve energy.

The consensus among special operators who have used jet boots is that once you get used to them they are very easy to use and operate. For example, special operators using jet boots during visit, board, search, and seizure missions or maritime counterterrorism operations could get on target faster and be more rested once they arrive.

“They come with a hefty price tag, but you get amazing results. You have guys doing 5-[kilometer swims] and using barely any oxygen and more importantly being completely rested and ready to go upon hitting the beach,” a retired Green Beret with extensive experience in combat diver operations told Insider.

Cuba

  • Russian fuel oil cargo arrives in Cuba as the island ramps up imports Reuters

A tanker carrying Russian fuel oil arrived in Cuba on Thursday, bringing supplies for the Caribbean nation’s sputtering power plants and giving Russia an outlet for products shunned by the West.

The Liberia-flagged Aframax tanker Suvorovsky Prospect arrived in Cuba’s Matanzas port carrying about 700,000 barrels of fuel oil, loaded at Russia’s Ust-Luga port. The cargo is worth some $70 million at market prices.

Global

  • Chemical Supply Squeeze Imminent As Refiners Prioritize Gasoline Oil Price

Costs of chemicals used in making key goods, including pharmaceuticals, rubber, and plastics, are soaring as the rally in crude oil prices this year pushed up the price of petrochemical feedstocks. But higher oil prices are not the only reason for record-high prices of benzene, toluene, and xylene.

Record-high gasoline prices and strong gasoline demand globally as consumption rebounded after the COVID-induced slump prompted refiners to prioritize gasoline production over chemicals production. The jump in gasoline refinery utilization amid robust gasoline demand has squeezed the global supply of the key chemicals for manufacturing essential goods, raising costs for producers of such goods and adding to already very high inflation.


Military

The Ukraine War

  • Ukraine’s Next-Gen Anti-Tank Drones Are Bigger, Tougher And Much Smarter Forbes

Ukraine is already using small drones to tremendous effect as tank-killing mini-bombers. An interview on Polish news site Onet reveals plans to make the drones even more effective – smarter, bigger, able to resist jamming and hit more targets at longer range including moving vehicles.

The interviewer talked to two software engineers, some of the thousand or so civilians who joined the volunteer group Aerorozvidka (“aerial intelligence”) from 2014 onwards to help Ukraine’s armed forces with drones and other technical support. Aerorozvidka started with small consumer drones – still widely used for tactical reconnaissance and directing artillery fire, as well as dropping hand grenades – and later built their own drone, the R-18 octocopter costing just $20k which can carry three 1.3-kilo bombs able to take out tanks.

The two engineers, speaking anonymously like most Aerorozvidka members, explained that one of the biggest problems is spotting targets which are under cover or camouflaged. Although the drone operator has a better view than a ground observer, it can be difficult to pick out the shape of a vehicle. Working with a team of several others, the engineers claim to have developed an AI system which is far better than a human operator at spotting vehicles below, and can flag them automatically and relay the exact GPS co-ordinates back to the operator.

Intelligence staff can scan the drone video and verify whether the targets are genuine, and order in artillery strikes in near real time. Or, if the drone is armed, it can attack the target itself.

  • Gaps in Arms Supplies to Ukraine Point to Countries’ Divergent Strategies NYT

There is the war on the ground in Ukraine and the war over weapons supplies, on which the first war depends.

In the weapons war, there is a significant disparity between the flood of arms supplied by Britain, Poland and the United States, and what the rest of Europe is providing, which has raised the persistent question of whether some countries are slow-walking supplies to bring about a shorter war and quicker negotiations.

Those whispers, coming most loudly from countries on NATO’s eastern flank, closest to the war, have not stopped despite the very public visit to Kyiv in June by some of Europe’s top leaders — from France, Germany and Italy — aimed at reassuring the Ukrainians of their support.

If anything, the suspicions have intensified, as the economic pain of the war is felt more deeply in the West, the conflict enters a new phase of attrition and concerns ebb that the fighting will spill into Western Europe — unless, perhaps, Russia feels cornered and humiliated.

Taken as a whole, the West is providing Ukraine “just enough” weaponry “to survive, not enough to regain territory,” said Ulrich Speck, a German foreign-policy analyst. “The idea seems to be that Russia should not win, but also not lose.

What a strange position to want! A way for the war to continue indefinitely, and for neither side to definitely win! I bet military corporations are feeling very upset about a situation in which their services will be needed for many years, it sounds like a lot of hard work for them! Truly, we have never seen such a situation in geopolitics before, never seen any wars of the ‘forever’ variety!


Climate and Space

With 6,000 dairy cows, 5,000 beef cattle and thousands of tons of apples, potatoes and cherries produced annually, Royal Dairy in Royal City, Washington, uses hundreds of millions of gallons of water per year. All that water, once used, carries animal waste, pathogens and environmentally harmful chemicals, like nitrate, that can contaminate groundwater and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.

To prevent that from happening, though, Royal Dairy cleans and reuses its water more than 10 times before the water leaves the farm. The dairy has also cut its nitrate pollution and lowered its greenhouse gas emissions, all thanks to a new kind of wastewater filtration system powered by worms.

Every day, half a million gallons of farm wastewater is pumped through a gigantic bed of earthworms. The worms, wiggling in wood chips and sawdust, feast on the liquid manure and wastewater, removing nutrients and harmful chemicals from the stream. The water then percolates through a layer of crushed rock, collects at the bottom of the worm bed, and travels out an exit pipe for Austin Allred, the farm’s owner, to use on the farm once more.

Allred is one of two dairy farmers in the United States currently using such a system, called a vermifiltration system, to manage wastewater. The system, installed by a company called BioFiltro, could be one solution to agricultural pollution problems, especially as states require dairies to implement better water management plans and eliminate nitrate from their wastewater.

  • The skyrocketing price of one critical metal could put a stop to new solar projects worldwide Fortune

Commodity prices have begun to cool lately, even as inflation continues to rage at a 40-year high. But one critical metal is heading in the opposite direction—polysilicon.

The price of the ultra-conductive metal that is crucial to the production of solar panels soared 2.3% on Wednesday to $38.05 per kilogram. Since January 2021, polysilicon prices have jumped more than 190% to their highest level in a decade, according to a Wednesday research note from Solarbe, a Chinese solar industry analysis firm.

As a result, contract prices for solar from large-scale projects are up more than 25% from a year ago, Reuters reported on Thursday.

Solarbe analysts argue that if the polysilicon price hikes continue, it could make major solar projects around the world uneconomical, slowing the pace of clean energy adoption.

Backing up that claim, Morgan Stanley analysts said in a note last week that the Chinese firm Longi Green Energy Technology, the world’s largest solar developer, believes the industry is nearing a point where price levels no longer make sense for developers of large-scale solar projects, Bloomberg reported this week.

The incredible rise in polysilicon prices began with a surge in demand for solar power in 2021 from both corporations and governments worldwide.

China, for example, installed a record 54.88 gigawatts of solar capacity last year. And in 2022, Chinese officials expect to double that figure, installing 108 gigawatts of solar power nationwide.

Corporations worldwide also purchased a record 31 gigawatts worth of clean energy through long-term projects in 2021, with two-thirds of the spending going toward solar.

All of that additional demand has led to skyrocketing prices for the raw materials used in solar panel production, including polysilicon. And an explosion at a polysilicon manufacturing plant in Xinjiang, China, in June has only added to the problem.

I can’t believe China would intentionally explode a factory making solar panel components just to continue the Uighyur genocide.

  • China’s powerful sun-gazing telescope ready for launch SCMP

China will send a powerful telescope into space this autumn on a four-year mission to capture never-before-seen images of the sun during its stormy season, which will help scientists understand solar flares and other violent space weather.

The Advanced Space-Based Solar Observatory (ASO-S) is expected to launch on October 20 from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the Gobi Desert, according to a researcher familiar with the project.

It will join an international fleet of sun-gazing telescopes in space, including Nasa’s Parker Solar Probe and the European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter, to closely watch the sun as it nears the next solar maximum, a period of high solar activity expected to peak around 2025.


Dipshittery and Cope

  • Sri Lankan protesters deposed their president. Now the bankrupt country has no leader to negotiate a bailout with the IMF Fortune

Oh no!

The 18-year reign of Sri Lanka’s Rajapaksa dynasty came to an end by email. On Thursday, the president-in-exile, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, clicked send on his digital letter of resignation to Parliament, having fled the island nation to Singapore via the Maldives a day before.

The former president ran from protests that have gripped the country for months, with thousands of demonstrators marching against food and oil shortages caused by the government’s historic mishandling of Sri Lanka’s foreign currency and debt. The South Asian nation ran out of money for fuel imports in May and declared bankruptcy in early July.

The UN World Food Bank says 90% of Sri Lankan families are skipping meals in order to ration food, while 3 million individuals—13% of the population—are already receiving emergency aid. On Sunday, protestors stormed the president’s already-abandoned palace and torched the private home of the country’s prime minister. Demonstrators seized the official residence of the prime minister, too, turning the colonial manor house into a free community kitchen.

Weeks before the government collapsed, Sri Lanka belatedly entered discussions with the International Monetary Fund to receive a bailout for the country’s $51 billion of sovereign debt. With the president now deposed, Rajapaksa-appointed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is holding the government together, after returning to the post in May for the sixth time in his career. But Wickremesinghe has vowed to step down once Sri Lanka’s 225-seat Parliament elects a new president on July 20.

Reuters reports there are three frontrunners for the embattled country’s top job: opposition leader Sajith Premadasa; former journalist and longtime lawmaker Dullas Alahapperuma; and Wickremesinghe himself. Whomever parliament elects will face the dual challenge of heading negotiations with the IMF, as well as placating protesters thronging government complexes.

In the interim, the challenge of restructuring the country’s debts and pumping fresh financing into government coffers has stalled. Without an official president or a dedicated prime minister, the country’s central bank and finance minister—a role also filled by Ranil Wickremesinghe—are in the hot seat. But the IMF appears unwilling to progress with negotiations until the country has formal leadership in place once again.

Russia/Ukraine

  • Ukrainian forces could wipe out all of ‘exhausted’ Russian troops' territorial gains, retired US general says Business Insider

Ukraine could push Russian forces back to its pre-war borders by 2023 — wiping out its territorial gains — because President Vladimir Putin’s troops are “exhausted,” a retired US general said on Thursday.

Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the former commanding general of the US Army in Europe, told Insider that Ukraine’s ability to push Russian troops back to the existing borders depends on continued Western support through sanctions and weapons deliveries.

“The Russians are exhausted,” Hodges said. “They don’t have much else they can do right now.”

He added that much of Putin’s military is already committed to the war, but Russia has had little territorial success to show for its efforts after 20 weeks of war.

Oh, come ON, dude. Yeah, Russia hasn’t captured any large swathes of territories, nor several important towns and cities, in the war so far. Only, what, a quarter of Ukraine’s territory? Pathetic.

Hodges said the “full weight” of Western support is just now beginning to take shape with the delivery of long-range rocket systems — weapons Ukraine has begged for from the US and its allies for weeks.

“It looks to me that wherever the Russians do not have overwhelming firepower advantage, then the Ukrainians win one hundred times out of a hundred,” Hodges said. “So, providing the Ukrainian’s ability to strike Russian artillery, Russian rockets, their ammunition storage, and command posts, that’s what destroys and disrupts the one thing that the Russians have that is to their advantage.”

Ukraine also maintains a significant advantage in morale, Hodges said, while Russian troops are bogged down by a lack of resources and capabilities — preventing them from making any “meaningful progress” on the battlefield.

I do wonder if he actually believes this. Like, even the propaganda machine of the US has moved on beyond this level of utter delusion. Who is this for? I refuse to believe that this guy is genuinely this stupid. “The war in Afghanistan has taken a less-than-ideal turn to outside observers this past year, with the Taliban making some territorial gains, including the entirety of the country, but these are insignificant and minimal gains and I think very soon, the exhausted terrorist group will begin to be pushed out of the country by the US-trained forces."

  • Putin’s long game in Ukraine may not play out as he predicts WaPo

President Vladimir Putin is betting that a long war in Ukraine will exhaust his adversaries sooner than it does Russia. He might be right, but there are ways for the United States and its allies to confound this strategy.

The West’s trump card is its fundamental economic strength — if it can summon the will to exercise it. President Biden said on Feb. 24, the day the war began, that he would “impose severe costs on the Russian economy, both immediately and over time. … We’re going to impair their ability to compete in a high-tech 21st-century economy.”

This threat of an ever-tightening squeeze on Russia’s economy was underlined by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on April 25: “We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine.” Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks in similar terms of winning a “very protracted” conflict that could last years.

But the West has never been very good at strategic patience. And you can sense the worry among U.S. and European officials this summer that the Russians, inured to suffering, will be able to wait us out on the battlefield in Ukraine and in evading sanctions at home. The longer the war lasts, the better Russia’s chances will become, according to this increasingly widespread assessment. The West, it seems, is playing for a bloody stalemate, at best.

So how could the West reverse the pessimism of July so that, by wintertime, it’s Russia that is feeling the chill rather than Ukraine? The wisest answer is to enforce those economic sanctions so that they grip Russia like a steel vise. That will compound Russia’s greatest strategic weakness: that its forces are stretched very thin across a vast terrain.

You have got to be kidding me. What was the point of writing this article, David? Thanks for the brilliant advice! We should sanction Russia even HARDER! What could we even do at this point? What is the West not sanctioning that they could that wouldn’t destroy global markets even more drastically than they already have? Why do you think that the West will have MORE willingness to tighten sanctions as time goes by, rather than tiring out? Europe has dropped a brick on the accelerator as the brick wall in the distance gets ever closer, while Ursula von der Leyen and the EU’s host of parasites at the top levels of office host their umpteenth fucking conference on how the pressure is REALLY on Russia now! All the while, governments and economics around the world are cracking and sometimes collapsing under the pressure!

The best evidence that sanctions are working, albeit slowly, comes from Russian officials themselves. “The situation is not easy,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov acknowledged last month. Herman Gref, the head of Sberbank, Russia’s largest, warned: “We may need around a decade to return [the] economy to the 2021 levels.” He told journalists recently that cargo shipments to Russia had fallen sixfold because of Western sanctions.

“We’re playing the long game, too,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo told me on Thursday. The United States assembled a coalition of three dozen countries to support the sanctions, she noted, with this satisfying result: Exports of semiconductors to Russia have fallen 74 percent compared with a year ago. “You can’t sustain a modern military without semiconductors,” Raimondo observed.

I mean, it could help to be allied with easily the largest producer of rare earth metals, critical for producing electronics, on the planet. That might help Russia a little.

Because of high energy prices, Russia still has cash. But it’s growing harder for Moscow to buy what it needs because of Western export controls. A senior Commerce Department official told me that U.S. exports to Russia of proscribed products — basically anything that’s needed for the Russian military, technology companies or the energy sector — have declined 95.9 percent by value compared to a year ago.

The Biden administration might be overly optimistic about the effect of sanctions. But a study last month by the Peterson Institute for International Economics shows significant impact. Using export data from 54 countries (which accounted for 90 percent of Russia’s imports last year), they found that the sanctioning countries’ exports to Russia have fallen 60 percent since the second half of 2021 — and that exports from non-sanctioning countries have fallen by 40 percent.

There is some backfilling through front companies and corrupt intermediaries, but it’s less than expected. “We have not seen attempts by any country to do an end run around our export controls, including China and Iran,” Raimondo told me.

Foreign support for Russian technology and communications companies is gradually evaporating. Ericsson and Nokia have curtailed operations there; more surprising, so has Chinese cellphone giant Huawei. Microsoft isn’t just halting its business in Russia; it’s actively working to subvert Russian cyberattacks.

The Russian military is losing equipment rapidly, and replacements won’t be easy. According to published Ukrainian reports (hardly unbiased but worth noting), Russia has halted or limited tank production at Uralvagonzavod Corporation and at Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant, and it has halted production of surface-to-air missiles at Ulyanovsk Mechanical Plant. Major Russian shipyards have also been affected.

Sanctions “have practically broken all the logistics in our country,” according to Russian Transport Minister Vitaly Savelyev. Take aviation: The United States and Europe have banned parts or services for the several hundred Boeing and Airbus jets operating in Russia, forcing Russian airlines to sharply curtail flights and cannibalize their fleets. A European Union aviation regulator said last month he was “very worried” about safety of these Western jets in Russia.

Let’s imagine that somehow, despite the sanctions, Russia staggers on with its bloody assault of Ukraine. What then? To think about Putin’s potential problems, just look at a map. Russia is the largest country in the world, by far. To support his reckless, illegal war in Ukraine, Putin has stripped forces from the Far East, the Baltic, the vast underbelly that borders South Asia. He has a country that’s in slow-motion collapse, and too few people to protect it.

Putin plays his hand boldly. But he’s holding fewer high cards than it might appear.

Delusional. Man, I feel kinda sad that I’m not as stupid and hapless as this guy - how much easier my life would be…

China

  • China’s Economy Hits a Slump as Covid Policy Takes a Toll NYT

The Blood Priests, gore dripping out of their mouths and onto their red-stained robes below, smile a malevolent grin and mutter “Why not give in? Why not send us your elderly? All will be forgiven, and your economy restored, if a small sacrifice of a… few million people are given to us outside of the Cathedral of the Blood Altar."

When countries around the world have stumbled in the face of pandemic headwinds, China has often stood apart, seemingly impervious to financial pressures that undermined growth.

But now, dragged down by its commitment to curbing the spread of Covid-19 with widespread lockdowns and mass quarantines, China has suffered one of its worst quarters in years, threatening a global economy heavily dependent on Chinese factories and consumers.

For the country’s ruling Communist Party, the downturn could put added pressure on Beijing at a sensitive moment. China is scheduled to hold its party congress later this year. A thriving economy and growing wealth was part of the bargain that Chinese citizens accepted in exchange for living under authoritarian rule.

We all live under authoritarian rule! Every single person on earth! It’s just whether that rule is governmental, religious, or corporate, or a mixture! Authoritarian is a meaningless word! All rule is authoritarian, including the rule of a pure democracy with no higher executives beyond the people - in that case, the “authoritarianism” is carried out by the people themselves! “Have these gentlemen ever seen a revolution?"

But the lockdowns, a staple of Beijing’s zero-Covid policy, have heightened the risk of instability — both socially and economically.

The National Bureau of Statistics in China said on Friday that the economy expanded 0.4 percent from a year earlier in the second quarter, worse than some economists’ expectations. It was the lowest growth rate since the first three months of 2020, when the country effectively shut down to fight the early stages of the pandemic, and its economy shrank for the first time in 28 years.

The 2020 downturn was short-lived, with the Chinese economy recovering almost immediately. But the current outlook is not so promising. Unemployment is close to the highest levels on record. The housing market is still a mess, and small businesses are bearing the brunt of weakness in consumer spending.

“China is the shoe that has never dropped in the global economy,” said Kenneth Rogoff, a professor of economics at Harvard University and a former chief economist for the International Monetary Fund. “China is no position to be the global engine of growth right now, and the long-term fundamentals point to much slower growth in the next decade.”

While much of the world has learned to live with the coronavirus, China has adopted a zero-Covid policy to do whatever necessary to prevent infection. Under that policy, residents of an entire apartment building could be confined to their homes for weeks if a single tenant were infected. A few positive cases could cause an entire section of a city to lock down.

Shut the fuck up! SHUT THE FUCK UP! WE WERE COERCED, VIRTUALLY AT GUNPOINT, TO “LIVING WITH THE CORONAVIRUS!” YOU DECIDED THAT WEALTH ACcuMULATION BY THE RICHEST PEOPLE IN HUMAN HISTORY WAS WORTH MORE THAN MILLIONS OF OUR LiVES! IN ANY JUST WORLD, EVERY SINGLE POLITICIAN AND PERSON OF ANY KIND OF SIGNIFICANT WEALTH WHO HAD EVEN A TANGENTIAL ROLE IN THE OUTCOME OF THE PANDEMIC WOULD, AT AN ABSOLUTE MINIMUM, FACE THE REST OF THEIR LIVES IN PRISON FOR CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY. THE MINIMUM PUNISHMENT THAT I WOULD DOLE OUT ON MY MOST KIND DAY IS THEM BEING PERMANENTLY LOCKED INTO A CONCRETE BOX.


Good Takes that are Dope

  • N.Korea says Ukraine can’t talk about sovereignty while aiding U.S. Reuters

North Korea’s foreign ministry said on Friday that Ukraine has no right to raise sovereignty issues after joining the United States' “unjust, illegal” actions that breached Pyongyang’s sovereignty.

North Korea’s state media released a statement from the ministry after formally recognising two Russian-backed breakaway self-proclaimed republics in eastern Ukraine as independent states.

Ukraine severed relations with North Korea after the move, calling it an attempt to undermine its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

But the isolated country’s foreign ministry defended the decision, saying Ukraine had already aided U.S.-led actions including sanctions over the North’s weapons programmes.

North Korea has said its nuclear and missile programmes are a self defensive deterrence, and accused the United States of maintaining “hostile policy” by imposing international sanctions and holding military drills with South Korea.

To say that the West, currently led by the dictates of U.S. imperialism, is in trouble would be an understatement. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson resigned on July 7th amid an escalating political crisis of legitimacy . Three weeks before Johnson announced his departure, Emmanuel Macron’s so-called centrist alliance lost its parliamentary majority in France. U.S. President Joe Biden continues to face his own crisis of legitimacy in the form of declining favorability ratings and public humiliation from Democratic loyalists such as Debra Messing . For the West, political crisis is undergirded by an unprecedented level of system chaos which has given the vast majority of workers and oppressed people little confidence in the future.

That chaos was compounded by the murder of Japan’s former Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe on July 7th. Abe was an imperialist, a neoliberal, and the highest expression of what it means to be a puppet of the American Empire . Abe’s so-called Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) was a literal creation of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Other detestable qualities of Abe include his worship of Japan’s fascist war criminals, his membership in the fascist cult Nippon Kaigi, and his unapologetic defense of Japan’s history of brutalizing and super exploiting “comfort women” from its colonies. Most important to the United States, however, was Abe’s unquestionable loyalty to the New Cold War and the military encirclement of China.

Abe’s murder and the attendant political crises in the West are a clear demonstration that U.S.-led imperialism is the world’s leading purveyor of chaos in the world. At the economic base, the U.S. and the E.U. continue to prolong their proxy war with Russia through massive arms transfers and sanctions that have boomeranged back to spur shortages and inflation. Inflation has come with political costs. Already unpopular capitalist regimes in the West are finding themselves increasingly exposed as incapable of addressing the rising cost of living. It doesn’t help matters that the so-called military superiority of the United States and its imperialist partners is also being challenged by Russia’s successful special military operation in Ukraine.

Thanks to the U.S. obsession with NATO expansion, the future is bleak for Ukraine’s U.S.-backed coup government established in 2014. Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine has made immense progress in the Donbass region. An already fragile and privatized vassal Ukrainian economy can only look forward to more pain once the U.S. and its junior partners in NATO come looking for repayment on its exorbitant aid packages. And Ukraine is just the beginning. The recent admission of Sweden and Finland into NATO is yet another declaration of war with Russia which opens the door to future conflicts even more destructive than the ongoing U.S. proxy war in Ukraine.

It is an undeniable fact that chaos follows U.S. imperialism wherever it goes. In Latin America, stability exists only where leftist governments have secured sufficient sovereignty . In Africa, the spread of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has led to widespread destabilization and political insecurity in the aftermath of the U.S.-NATO-AFRICOM invasion of Libya in 2011. In Asia, U.S. militarism has facilitated war in the West and attempted to organize a coalition of vassal states against China in the East. U.S. meddling in Taiwan has created a dumping ground for defense contractors and prompted Joe Biden to articulate on three occasions that the U.S. is willing to militarily intervene to “defend” the island , a guaranteed nuclear exchange scenario.

U.S. militarism is the principal barrier to political stability around the world which is a prerequisite to addressing global challenges such as climate change and poverty. U.S. and E.U. sanctions murder thousands of people in poorer, non-white countries. U.S.-sponsored color revolutions and “soft power” maneuvers are preludes to regime change. So-called U.S. “soft power” strengthens the most reactionary forces in the world. The far right and fascistic Contras in Latin and Central America , ISIS in West Asia, and the Azov Regiment in Ukraine are all outgrowths of U.S. interference disguised as “soft power.”

A dialectical relationship exists between the U.S.’s domestic and foreign policy. U.S. imperialism is an advanced stage in the system of capitalism predicated upon slavery, colonialism, and racism. Jayland Walker’s brutal murder at the hands of Akron police is a near daily occurrence in the United States. Black Americans and Indigenous peoples have been subject to the cruelest forms of racist violence for centuries. The U.S.’s endless wars are an expression of this violence turned toward imperialist ends.

The chickens of chaos have come home to roost. The Euro-American imperialist world order is suffering from terminal contradictions. Political instability reigns supreme. Another economic crisis is said to be looming but is more than likely already here. Imperialist wars no longer hold any prospect for any real “victory” without serious consequences for the war-maker.

While material conditions are pregnant with possibilities, there is no organized and independent left challenge to the supremacy of U.S. capital and its armed guards of the state. That is the task ahead of the people’s movement residing in the belly of the imperialist beast. In the face of the unprecedented chaos produced by its leading purveyor, the United States, this is no doubt the most difficult one that the working class and oppressed in the long and storied history of resistance. But such a task is not a choice. It is forced upon us by the weight of imperialism bearing down on our necks.

We must not rest until we get the boot off by any means necessary.


Bloomerism and Hope

Only 36 percent of Americans believe that the U.S. system of government is sound, according to a new poll from Monmouth University. This number is a significant drop from previous polls which showed that even as recently as 2020, 52 percent felt the system was sound. This historic drop — down from 62 percent of responders who said that the system was sound in 1980 — is the result of sustained decrease in Americans’ faith in the government over the past several years.

A recent Gallup poll which measures faith in 16 different institutions — including governmental institutions as well as institutions more broadly defined such as the medical system and small businesses — backed up these findings. The poll found that the average level of faith in institutions is at an all-time low and that faith in 11 of the institutions that they measure has dropped significantly. The biggest drops from 2021 to 2022 were trust in the Presidency and the Supreme Court, likely a direct response to the ongoing political crisis of the regime. Interestingly, the only institution that saw no decline in faith at all on that poll was organized labor. These polls show an increasingly prominent crisis of the institutions, where more and more of the general population are breaking with their faith in these institutions which weaken their ability to control areas of society.

Other signs of this crisis can be seen in the historically low approval rating of the Supreme Court. Only 25 percent of Americans believe the Supreme Court is doing a good job and a majority believe that the court is driven by politics — an important rebuttal to the historic misunderstanding of the court as an apolitical institution. Recent far-right decisions, like the overturning of Roe v. Wade, have only intensified public dissatisfaction with the court as an institution, with “Abort the Court” and other similar slogans being common rallying cries at protests and online. Even members of the liberal intelligentsia — typically key defenders of the ‘institutions of American Democracy’ — have had to attack the court as an institution. Vox published a “Case Against the Supreme Court,” Jamelle Bouie of The New York Times declared that “the Supreme Court is the Final Word on Nothing,” and Ezra Klein said that Americans need to question the legitimacy of the Supreme Court.

This anger at the Supreme Court comes amidst an incredibly unpopular Congress (82 percent disapprove) and president (59 percent disapprove). In addition, 40 percent of Americans don’t believe Biden won the election. These results show that the political regime as a whole and as parts is despised by the majority.

As the two main capitalist parties fight amongst themselves for who should steer a sinking ship, the working class and oppressed are more and more enraged at the institutions that got us here. In the third year of a pandemic with yet another “once in a generation” financial crisis coming, a constantly worsening climate, and massive restrictions on our right to bodily autonomy, there is a real rage at the current situation that, so far, has remained relatively latent — though with some meaningful explosions such as Striketober, the recent protests against the Supreme Court, etc.. Yet the powder kegs are being assembled. It is only a matter of time until a match is lit.


Link back to the discussion thread.