- War Spurs Ukrainian Efforts to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage NYT
Like many people at war in Ukraine, Olexander Shadskykh, 23, a combat medic in the army, has been forced to grapple with his own mortality. But he also has another fear weighing on his mind: What if he is killed and his boyfriend doesn’t find out in time for his funeral?
Under Ukrainian Ministry of Defense regulations, the military must inform the parents and spouse or other close relatives of a soldier who is killed. But in a country that does not recognize gay marriage or even civil unions, none of that applies to a same-sex partner. Mr. Shadskykh fears that if he doesn’t return home, his boyfriend, whom he asked be identified with only his given name, Vitalik, won’t learn about his death to say a final goodbye.
“My mother doesn’t know about Vitalik,” he said. “I want to tell her when I get home.”
Gay rights advocates said Mr. Shadskykh is one of hundreds — possibly thousands — of L.G.B.T. military recruits, facing a lack of legal rights for them and their partners that suddenly poses a palpable challenge in wartime. In Ukraine, they do not have the automatic right to visit a hospitalized partner, to share property ownership, to care for a deceased partner’s children, to claim the body of a partner killed in war or to collect death benefits from the state.
But the war is adding impetus to a drive to legalize gay marriage, with a petition recently reaching the desk of President Volodymyr Zelensky calling for same-sex partners to have the same rights as heterosexual couples, including the right to marry.
“At this time, every day can be the last,” says the petition, which has garnered nearly 30,000 signatures, enough to trigger a review by the president.
The petition’s author is Anastasia Sovenko, 24, an English teacher from Zaporizhzhia, in southern Ukraine, who identifies as bisexual. She said she felt compelled to draft the petition after reading an article about heterosexual soldiers rushing to marry their partners before heading to war, and feeling sad, angry and frustrated that same-sex couples did not have that option.
“They won’t be able to visit their soul mate in the hospital if something happens,” Ms. Sovenko said. “If they have a child, then the child will be taken from the parent who’s still alive if it’s not a mom who gave a birth. Because for the law they aren’t relatives. They are just two strangers. And this just could be the last one opportunity in their lives to get married.”
Mr. Zelensky can decline to act on the petition, or endorse it by drafting a gay rights bill and sending it for a vote in Parliament, where his governing Servant of the People Party has a sizable majority. He could also simply pass the issue on to Parliament for debate. Mr. Zelensky’s office did not respond to several requests for comment.
Any attempt to change the law faces a high barrier in Ukraine’s Constitution, which states that “marriage is based on the free consent of a woman and a man.” Amending the Constitution requires a two-thirds of Parliament.
I am genuinely curious what Zelensky is gonna do about this issue, because it really puts him in a bind politically. To the NYT’s credit, they do later mention how Ukrainians are not really accepting of homosexuality. It’s a case of - would he rather be popular with the West but unpopular with his own countrymen, or vice versa?
- As Russia Threatens Europe’s Energy, Ukraine Braces for a Hard Winter NYT
In a thickly forested park bordered by apartment blocks and a playground, a dozen workers were busy on a recent day with chain saws and axes, felling trees, cutting logs and chopping them into firewood to be stashed in concealed sheds around Lviv, the largest city in western Ukraine.
Ironworkers at a nearby forge are working overtime to produce wood-burning stoves to be stored in strategic locations. In municipal depots, room is being made to stockpile reserves of coal.
The activity in Lviv is being played out in towns and cities across Ukraine, part of a nationwide effort to amass emergency arsenals of backup fuel and critical provisions as Russia tightens its chokehold on energy supplies across Europe.
As President Vladimir V. Putin slashes natural gas flows to Ukraine’s European allies, the government in Kyiv has accused Russia of also stepping up the destruction of critical infrastructure that provides heat, water and electricity to millions of homes, businesses and factories.
“All cities are preparing for a hard winter,” said Andriy Sadovyi, the mayor of Lviv, where Russian rockets knocked out three electrical substations in April, temporarily cutting power to neighborhoods. “Russia has turned off the gas to our neighbors, and they are trying to pressure us, too,” he said. “Our goal is survival. We need to be ready.”
- Russia Says It Can’t Help With Nord Stream Gas Turbine Repairs Oil Price
There is little Russia can do to help with repairs of equipment at Nord Stream compressor stations, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
The situation with the necessary repairs needs to be resolved, but Russia can do little in this regard, Peskov told Russian reporters on Monday.
The Kremlin doesn’t have anything to add to what Gazprom has already said: there are equipment failures necessitating urgent repairs, and there are additional “artificial difficulties” caused by the “illegal sanctions and restrictions,” Peskov added.
The gas turbine manufacturer, Siemens Energy, has said, for its part, that it hadn’t received any reports from Gazprom about malfunctions, and so it had to assume the equipment was operating normally.
- Russian Oil Exports Have Stabilized, Revenues Steady Oil Price
Russia’s oil exports appear to have stabilized, based on Bloomberg data released Monday showing a steady level of 500,000 barrels per day below the peak reached prior to the February invasion of Ukraine.
Russian seaborne crude exports reached 3.5 million bpd in the week to July 29th, according to Bloomberg, while the four-week average shows about 3.2 million bdp–a figure that suggests stabilization.
More specifically, while Bloomberg reported last week that there were indications Chinese and Indian buyers were slightly letting up on Russian oil purchases, Russia’s crude flows to Asia remain stable post-invasion. In April and May, we saw Russian oil flows to Asia soar to 2.1 million bpd, but July numbers show this leveling off now at 1.75 million bpd.
The end result is that Moscow continues to collect sizable oil revenues for its war coffers, with rising crude oil prices upping the ante and filling in gaps for any shortfall in outflows.
- Spain Short on Takers for $12 Billion in Semiconductor Subsidies Bloomberg
The Spanish government’s plan to pour more than 12 billion euros ($12.3 billion) into building a domestic semiconductor industry from scratch has run up against a major problem: chipmakers ready to take on the challenge are few and far between.
Financed by European Union cash allocated to offset the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, Spain’s chips push is being hampered by stiff competition from other EU countries to win over major investors, according to people familiar with the situation.
The main challenge has been to attract companies willing to commit to long-term investments that can run into billions of euros, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing confidential information. Firms have opted instead for nations like Germany that have a semiconductor ecosystem with suppliers and talent already established.
- Germany Restarts Oil-Fired Power Plants As It Seeks To Save Gas Oil Price
The utility in the large German city of Munich has restarted two power plants running on oil in a bid to save natural gas amid very low and highly uncertain deliveries of Russian gas ahead of the winter.
Munich’s utility Stadtwerke München wrote in an email to Bloomberg on Monday, “We reactivated oil burners in two heating plants that have previously been shut down.” The utility did not specify what type of oil is being used in the plants now.
Stadtwerke München has already reduced the temperatures at outdoor and indoor swimming pools and is closing saunas at the pools as of August 1 and until further notice, after gas supply from Russia to Germany via Nord Stream was further cut last week to 20% of the pipeline’s capacity.
- EU country may close stores to conserve power RT
Grocery stores in Finland could have to take turns closing for hours at a time to reduce their energy usage this winter, the country’s grid operator told news outlet YLE on Sunday. With fuel shortages expected, Finnish households will also be told to lower their consumption.
According to the grid operator, Finland’s roughly 2,800 food stores will need to come to arrangements with each other over who will close and who will stay open if power is rationed in a particular area. This kind of agreement is especially important in rural areas to ensure that all the outlets in one town or village don’t end up shutting at the same time, YLE noted.
Asia and Oceania
I won’t be covering the ins and outs of the situation - there are better people than me covering that - though I will post some media reactions to the visit, today and in the coming days.
- Nancy Pelosi’s expected visit to Taiwan risks upsetting Beijing to no advantage Guardian
In the era of US-China geopolitical competition, Joe Biden has been keen to ensure great power politics do not lead to uncontrollable escalation. Yet the expected trip to Taiwan by Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, is threatening to break what administration officials call “guardrails”. She will be the highest-ranking member of Congress to visit the island since 1997.
The move has certainly rattled Beijing in a politically sensitive year for the ruling Communist party, which is to hold its five-yearly congress in the next few months. It also comes as the People’s Liberation Army was celebrating the 95th anniversary of its founding.
The visit of one of Pelosi’s predecessors, Newt Gingrich, a quarter of a century ago also triggered complaints, but that time Beijing eventually swallowed its irritation. Not long before Gingrich’s visit, the Taiwan strait crisis lasted for a few months into 1996. Undoubtedly, China’s military capabilities today far exceed those of 26 years ago – although are still far behind that of the US.
Are you sure about that? Just looking at those hypersonic missiles that China has, and the US does not have…
Beijing today sees the unification with Taiwan as a part of Xi Jinping’s project national rejuvenation. The Chinese president has on several occasions expressed his preference for peaceful unification but, as has been the case with previous Chinese leaders, he has also vowed not to rule out a military option as a last resort. Unfortunately, as relations between China and the west deteriorate, talk of a potential move on Taiwan has been on the increase, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.
In this context, Pelosi’s visit does not stabilise an increasingly fraught US-China relationship, or advance American interests, or increase the security of the people of Taiwan, noted Robert Daly, director of the Kissinger Institute on China and the United States at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington.
“But Washington’s thinking on the trip is now driven by a second order concern, namely fear that, following Beijing’s promises to escalate its coercion of Taiwan if Speaker Pelosi lands there, not making the visit would make the US look weak and increase Beijing’s leverage over Taiwan,” Daly said.
In Beijing’s perspective, Pelosi’s visit is a “provocation” that will lead to further distrust of Washington in the long term. In the last few days, Washington has been keen to highlight the differences between the White House and Congress. But Chinese commentators seemed to conflate the position of the House Speaker with that of the White House itself, even though the two have separate constitutional roles.
Desperately explaining to China that the government doesn’t have any control over the people working in it to try and stave off a hot war, and that this is a good thing, actually, unlike those totalitarian states where the politicians can’t fuck around all over the world and ignite conflicts wherever they go.
- China targets imports from Taiwan RT
China has suspended imports of a number of Taiwanese food products, media reported on Tuesday. According to the island’s Central News Agency, these measures are interpreted as a response to a likely visit to Taipei by US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The Chinese government considers Taiwan to be a part of its sovereign territory and has warned of “serious consequences” if Pelosi’s trip to the island goes ahead.
The blacklist reportedly includes companies producing tea, dried fruit, honey, cocoa beans and vegetables. Produce from some 700 fishing vessels have also fallen under the ban. Shipments from more than 100 Taiwanese food exporters have been banned, according to Bloomberg.
Last year China banned imports of pineapples, wax apples and sugar apples from Taiwan. Most fruit produced in the territory is consumed domestically, but the bulk of exports go to China.
According to Taiwanese media cited by Bloomberg, the dispute stems from outdated information on import documentation, and the Taiwan Food and Drug Administration is currently trying to understand more about the problem.
- Tencent and NetEase video game drought continues as China approves another 69 titles, mostly from small developers SCMP
The gamer genocide continues. How can we let China get away with this?
China’s publication regulator granted 69 new video game licences on Monday, once again excluding Tencent Holdings and NetEase from the biggest batch of approvals so far this year.
The latest list from the National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA), China’s top watchdog for video games and other online media, includes 65 mobile titles, with two others for the Nintendo Switch, one for personal computers and one browser-based game. Without any new titles approved in over a year, the two largest developers in China’s US$49 billion video gaming market have been left out of the gradual recovery since the end of an eight-month licensing freeze in April.
The continued drought in August marks 14 months since Tencent last had a new game approved and 13 months for NetEase. With the exception of two prolonged suspensions in 2018 and 2021, the NPPA typically releases a list of new game approvals every month.
- Yen set for biggest run of gains in more than 2 years Inquirer
The Japanese yen was on track for its biggest run of gains since the depths of the coronavirus crisis in March 2020, as rising U.S.-China tensions over Taiwan and deepening worries about a global economic slowdown boosted the appeal of safe-haven assets.
Against the dollar, the Japanese currency was on track for a fifth consecutive session of gains on Tuesday, taking its cumulative increase to nearly 4.5 percent in five trading sessions. In early London trading, the currency was up 0.6 percent at 130.78 yen, just below a high of 130.40 yen, a level last seen in early June.
Jitters about the impact of an impending visit to Taiwan by U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi weighed on stocks and sent investors scurrying into U.S. Treasuries.
- Japanese whaling industry on the brink of collapse: less demand, less subsidies for whale meat MercoPress
The whaling industry in Japan is on the brink of collapse as young generations tastes have rapidly changed and government subsidies are beginning to shrink. The industry employed thousands of people in the decades immediately after World War II, and sustained entire communities during those difficult economic times, is today losing the government subsidies that has kept it afloat.
The whaling industry insists that it is pushing ahead with plans to modernize operations, cut costs and encourage more people to consume whale meat, but environmental campaigners says they are just delaying the inevitable.
Three years ago, Japan had become frustrated by its inability to convince other members of the IWC that there are sufficient whales in the world’s oceans to justify a return to commercial whaling.
At the same time, Japanese whalers drew international criticism for exploiting a loophole in the IWC’s regulations that permitted “scientific whaling.” Japan harpooned hundreds of whales across the Pacific every year on the pretext of studying their migration routes and to obtain data on whale numbers, their health and breeding patterns.
In order that the “byproduct” of this lethal research did not go to waste, the fisheries ministry was keen to emphasize that whale meat was then sold.
That’s so fucking funny, holy shit. Like, for sure, whaling is terrible and shouldn’t be done and so on, but that’s one of the best loopholes I’ve ever seen. They’re usually so boring, but this one is great.
- Georgia and NATO: Close cooperation but no membership EU Reporter
Georgia, along with Ukraine, was promised NATO membership at the 2008 Bucharest Summit but fourteen years on, both countries are still waiting to be allowed into the alliance. In the wake of the Ukraine war, Georgia who, over the years, experienced three wars including Russia, is reiterating its interest in joining NATO - writes Katarzyna Rybarczyk
Pushing for the membership more intensively comes as voices emerge saying that had NATO’s membership promise to Ukraine materialised earlier, maybe the ongoing Russian invasion could have been avoided.
With Finland and Sweden receiving an official invitation to join the alliance after the latest summit that took place in Madrid on June 28-30, NATO enlargement is in the cards. And yet, Georgia’s accession prospects remain slim.
Despite waiting significantly longer than the Nordic states, instead of being invited to join, Georgia was told that it would receive ‘tailored political and practical’ support.
Georgia is one of NATO’s closest partners and has been actively involved in a number of NATO-led missions such as Operation Active Endeavour, a maritime surveillance operation designed to counter terrorism and prevent the movement of weapons in the Mediterranean, or NATO’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan. Besides, ‘Georgia fulfills almost all criteria to become a member of NATO,’ according to what Anders Fogh Rasmussen, a former NATO General Secretary, said a while back.
So, why is Georgia stuck in what appears to be a permanent limbo?
Firstly, with Russia occupying two separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Georgia’s territorial integrity hinders accession talks.
NATO is reluctant to welcome states whose territorial sovereignty is compromised as, considering the alliance’s mutual defense obligations, doing so could jeopardise the security of other members and trigger a large-scale military conflict.
Next, the pace of Georgia implementing the necessary reforms is slow and influenced by politial polarisation, which manifests itself through rising tensions between the ruling Georgian Dream party and the main opposition force, the United National Movement party.
Finally, allowing Georgia in now could be a counterproductive move that risks weakening NATO instead of making it stronger. When Finland and Sweden got invited to join the alliance, Vladimir Putin warned them about ‘serious military and political consequences’ should they proceed with deploying military contingents and military infrastructure.
As Putin said, however, Russia does not have ‘territorial differences’ with these two countries. This, unfortunately, is not the case with Georgia where one fifth of the territory is occupied by Russia and where the Kremlin has tens of thousands troops.
Hence, expansion to include Georgia would undeniably be seen by Putin as a more immediate threat to Russia.
- Israel army closes areas near Gaza citing reprisals risk Iraqi News
Israel’s army closed areas near the Gaza border to civilians Tuesday, citing a risk of reprisals, following the overnight arrest of two senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad members, the military and Palestinian sources said.
A 17-year-old Palestinian was shot dead by Israeli forces during a late Monday raid in the flashpoint West Bank district of Jenin. The army said it had operated alongside police, who arrested “two wanted terror suspects.”
- Iran deploys more centrifuges as it proposes new round of talks Al Jazeera
Iran has begun the process of feeding gas into cascades of new centrifuges as its top diplomat proposed a new round of negotiations in Vienna to restore the country’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
. Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI), told state television Monday night that an order was given to begin feeding gas into “hundreds” of both first-generation IR-1 and advanced IR-6 machines.
He said the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was informed of the move, which according to Kamalvandi is in line with a December 2020 parliament law that demanded increased uranium enrichment using advanced machines until such a time that unilateral United States sanctions are lifted.
This came hours after Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said Tehran is reviewing what was billed as a final proposed text by the European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell last week to “conclude” negotiations that began in the Austrian capital in April 2021.
“We have announced our readiness so in a specified time the delegations of Iran, 4+1 and the US – indirectly – can follow up on their talks in Vienna to pursue results,” Amirabdollahian said in reference to the nuclear-deal parties China, Russia, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom.
- Biden hails killing of al-Zawahri: ‘This terrorist leader is no more’ Politico
Stricken with Covid for the second time in two weeks, President Joe Biden nevertheless was a leader triumphant on Monday night, taking to the Truman Balcony to announce a foreign policy success that could very well help define his first term in office.
Dressed in a blue suit and red tie, the sun reflecting a solemn look on his face, Biden announced what had been reported just hours earlier: that the United States had successfully undertaken an operation that killed al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri in a drone strike.
The man who helped coin the term “Bin Laden is dead, General Motors is alive” at a DNC speech in 2012 trotted out a new one.
“Justice has been delivered,” he declared, “and this terrorist leader is no more.”
The remarks, which lasted roughly 10 minutes, hailed the end of a decadeslong mission to find al-Zawahri, whom he said the intelligence community had located in Kabul earlier this year. Biden said he gave final approval for a precision strike last week, when it was determined that conditions were “optimal.”
There were no civilian casualties, he added.
“People around the world no longer need to fear the vicious and determined killer,” Biden said. “The United States continues to demonstrate our resolve and our capacity to defend the American people against those who seek to do us harm. We make it clear again tonight that no matter how long it takes, no matter where you hide — if you are a threat to our people, the United States will find you and take you out.”
- Primary schools to teach English in ‘overdue’ move away from ‘colonial’ French MEE
Algeria’s decision to move away from the French language, a byproduct of France’s long and bloody colonial history in the North African country, and towards English has been perceived by many Algerians as long overdue.
“French is a spoil of war, but English is an international language,” President Abdelmadjid Tebboune said in an interview on Saturday.
- Number of Americans employed and hours worked falls in July, data show Reuters
The number of U.S. workers on the job and the total hours worked fell in July, industry data showed on Monday, days before the release of a monthly employment report that is expected to show the labor market cooled after a surprise economic contraction in the second quarter.
Employees worked approximately 12% fewer hours in July than in theprevious month, according to an analysis from Homebase, a payroll scheduling and tracking company that tracks data for about 2 million employees working for more than 100,000 small businesses.
- Gen Z is racking up credit card debt almost three times as fast as everyone else as inflation sinks in Business Insider
Young people are starting to see the effects of inflation in their credit card bills.
Gen Z, or young people 25 and under, saw their credit card balance increase by 30% in the second quarter, compared to a year ago, according to credit score company VantageScore. The rest of the population saw an 11% rise in their credit card balance, per the report. VantageScore’s data comes from a random sample of 12.5 million credit files in the US.
People with low credit scores under 660 also saw a credit card balance increase by almost 25%, over double the percent for the rest of the population. For millennials, the data found that their credit card balances went up by 22% over the past year.
- US VP Harris to announce $1bn to states for floods, extreme heat Al Jazeera
Kamala Harris, the vice president of the United States, has called climate change an “immediate” and “urgent” crisis as she detailed Biden administration efforts to respond to disasters such as the deadly flooding in Kentucky and wildfires ravaging her home state of California.
Harris on Monday was set to announce more than $1bn in grants available to states to address flooding and extreme heat exacerbated by climate change. The competitive grants are designed to help communities across the nation prepare for and respond to climate-related disasters.
- World is ‘one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation,’ U.N. says WaPo
The world is just “one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation.”
That was the dire warning from U.N. Secretary General António Guterres at a global meeting Monday on nuclear weapons.
Officials underscored the geopolitical risks from Russia’s war in Ukraine and simmering tensions in Asia and the Middle East — as they review a 52-year-old landmark treaty that sought to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.
“Crises with nuclear undertones are festering, from the Middle East and the Korean Peninsula to the invasion of Ukraine by Russia and to many other factors around the world,” the U.N. chief told officials and diplomats at the General Assembly Hall in New York.
“Nuclear danger not seen since the height of the Cold War” showed the need for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, he said.
Nearly 13,000 nuclear weapons are held in arsenals worldwide, according to Guterres. He said states were “seeking false security in stockpiling and spending hundreds of billions of dollars on doomsday weapons that have no place on our planet.”
The Ukraine War
- Russia’s Shoigu says 6 Ukrainian HIMARS systems destroyed Reuters
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday that Russia had destroyed six U.S.-made HIMARS missile systems since the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine, Interfax reported.
Shoigu said Russia had also destroyed five anti-ship Harpoon missile launch systems and 33 M777 howitzers since Moscow deployed tens of thousands of troops to Ukraine on Feb. 24.
- Germany sends rocket system to Ukraine RT
The third in a batch of Mars-II multiple-launch rocket systems (MLRS) from Germany has arrived in Ukraine, the country’s Defense Minister Alexey Reznikov announced on Twitter on Monday.
“Third brother in the Long Hand family - MLRS MARS II from Germany - has arrived in Ukraine. Thank you to Germany and personally to my colleague #DefenceMinister Christine Lambrecht for these systems. Our artillerymen salute our German partners!” the minister tweeted.
The Mars-II is a German, Italian and French-developed modification to the US-made MLRS M270 multiple rocket launcher. According to the German company KMW, one of the system’s producers, the Mars-II is capable of firing up to 12 missiles per minute with a range of over 70 kilometers. These missiles can be guided using a GPS or mine-ejecting missiles.
Berlin confirmed the shipment to Ukraine of the rocket systems last week, along with three PzH 2000 self-propelled howitzers, totaling ten such pieces of equipment. In her remarks last week on the subject, German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht also spoke of five self-propelled ‘Gepard’ anti-aircraft guns, whereas Berlin had previously promised at least 30. Kyiv confirmed receiving three of them, along with “tens of thousands of rounds” of ammunition.
Climate and Space
- The world is ablaze and the oil industry just posted record profits. It’s us or them Guardian
It is useful to think of capitalism as a robotic savant, spectacularly gifted at doing one thing and cripplingly blind to everything else. Global capitalism is an incredible machine for extracting fossil fuels from our planet, refining them, shipping them to every corner of the Earth and making staggering amounts of money doing so. The humming of this machine, the fuel and the money that it spits out, has powered a century of unprecedented production and consumption by the Earth’s first-world nations. Unfortunately the machine is also poisoning us all. But one of its exquisitely evolved functions is to make it almost impossible to turn it off.
Oil and gas profits in the most recent quarter were astounding. Exxon Mobil made $18bn in profits in the past three months. Shell and Chevron each made nearly $12bn. Those are all record numbers. More major companies will announce their figures this week, and they are all expected to be bountiful. The war in Ukraine, which has devastated a region of the world and displaced millions, has helped energy companies by driving oil and gas prices higher. In this, we see another key characteristic of the machine: the fortunes of nations may rise and fall, but the oil companies will always survive and thrive, floating above the chaos of the world like passengers on a private jet, shaking their heads performatively at all the problems below.
The price of oil fluctuates, but that short-term volatility masks the industry’s long-term certainty of success. A recent study showed that for the past 50 years, the oil industry has made profits of more than $1tn a year, close to $3bn a day. These profits are driven not by some fantasy of free enterprise and perfect competition, but by the exact opposite – cartels, mega-corporations and the regulatory capture of governments, conspiring to create a market free of both competition and of a price that reflects the actual cost to the world of the product that is being sold.
Fossil fuels make enough money to corrupt politicians, cause wars and bend public opinion through the brute force of a firehose of propaganda. The machine does not just extract and sell fossil fuels; it also concerns itself with ensuring that the entire world is arranged in a way conducive to maintaining the demand for those fossil fuels. The growth of oil profits even as the reality of climate change is burning before our eyes is proof that no single crisis, no matter how existential, will be enough to shut this machine down naturally. The machine must either be broken by us, or it will break us all.
Capitalism is not designed to look several generations down the road. It is not designed to sacrifice for the greater good. It is designed to maximize profits. To pump every last barrel of oil on Earth, sell it, take the money and build a luxurious space ship to leave the planet that has been destroyed by burning all of that gas is a perfectly rational course of action according to the logic of capitalism. As long as there is a trillion dollars a year to be made, the fossil fuel industry will take the money. It is enough money to build a nice villa far, far away from the wars and droughts and floods and wildfires that fossil fuels are causing.
These profits are illusory. They are plagued by an externality large enough to outweigh a trillion dollars a year – the costs that the climate crisis will impose on billions of people who are alive now and many generations to come. The fact that capitalism is unable to properly price a barrel of oil to account for all the pain it will cause to your grandchildren whose home is wiped out by rising seas is proof that the whole idea of an impartial system of costs and rewards for labor and risks is a big sham.
The fossil fuel industry as a whole is not just another business, providing a service to meet a demand; it is a predatory drug dealer that works every day to keep the world addicted to its poisonous product, knowing full well that it will eventually prove fatal. It fights to keep the population fooled about its costs, to keep the political power structure incapable of keeping the public safe from its damages, and to keep the flow of supply coming at full blast despite any human or environmental toll. It is not something to be applauded. It is a problem to be solved.
It’s no big mystery how to change this toxic dynamic. Merely putting a price on fossil fuel that accurately reflects its costs – for example, through a carbon tax – would do the trick, with time, as it rapidly became economically unfeasible to mortgage the health of the planet’s future on a carbon credit card. Better, and faster, would be straightforward regulations paired with enormous public investments to transition to cleaner energy sources, a la the Green New Deal. The barrier here is not ideas, but rather politics, backstopped with a wall of money. So long as America fails to regulate the influence of money in politics, we will by extension fail to adequately regulate fossil fuels.
It is folly to assume that a system that has been constructed in part by the corporate power of the energy industry will find a way to rein in that same industry against its wishes. It’s willfully stupid to imagine that electoral politics will be up to this task. This is an issue that is, more than most, begging for radicalism. It will take more than installing a solar panel on your roof. For older people with means, it will take agitating within each and every institution you are a part of to divest from the fossil fuel industry; for younger people with passion, it will take agitating in the streets. For all of us, it will take treating the tremendous but slow-moving threat of climate change with the deadly seriousness it deserves.
So next time you see young people sitting in at a senator’s office or blocking the streets or hollering at Joe Manchin’s yacht, don’t mock them. Join them. They will be living through a grim future long after all that sweet oil money has been spent.
Dipshittery and Cope
For bad takes, awful analysis that makes you wonder why these people get paid, predictions that reveal a staggering lack of knowledge, and hope for a future that would be worse than the present.
- Ukraine’s Coming Attack Could Win or Lose the War Bloomberg
The Ukraine war is entering its third phase, and this one could well be decisive.
Phase one was Russia’s failed blitzkrieg, meant to destroy the Ukrainian state. Phase two, which continues in desultory fashion, was Moscow’s push to seize all the Donbas area along the Ukraine-Russia border.
Phase three will feature a much-anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive in the south. If Ukraine can retake enough territory — without trying to do too much — it might tip the war conclusively in its favor. If it can’t, Kyiv will have a cold winter ahead.
The cold is, of course, a vital part of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s strategy. He believes time still favors Russia, at least in the near term. By the end of this year, the Western democracies will be running short of the weapons and ammunition Kiev needs. They will be tired of injecting ever-more money into Ukraine’s moribund economy.
Meanwhile, the global dislocations caused by disruptions of Ukrainian wheat shipments will intensify, even if the shaky new deal to resume exports from the Black Sea port at Odesa holds. And Europe will shiver as winter sets in and gas supplies run low — a shortage Putin is now ensuring by cutting gas flows so that European countries won’t have adequate reserves as cold weather approaches. His gamble is that economic discomfort will cause the West to yield before Russia plunges into economic disaster.
In these circumstances, Putin calculates, the aid Ukraine has received from the democratic world will wane; the pressure on Kyiv to accept a cease-fire will mount. Moscow could then claim victory on grounds that it holds significantly more Ukrainian territory than it did before the invasion on Feb. 24.
The Russians could also use this occupied territory to regroup for a future assault, whether next year or several years from now, to force the government from Kyiv or to cripple what’s left of Ukraine’s economy by taking Odesa. This might be a Pyrrhic victory for Putin, given the losses Russia has suffered, but it would be a catastrophe for a dismembered, abandoned Ukraine.
Thus the significance of Ukraine’s push in the south. It’s no secret that that Ukraine is getting ready to attack there. The government of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has warned civilians to leave the area and begun using long-range artillery to isolate Moscow’s forces. Ukraine is already retaking smaller towns along the route to the southern port city of Kherson, the first major population center Russia occupied, while massing units for a larger assault.
Although the conflict in Ukraine has slowed to a war of attrition, there is great urgency to this offensive. Ukraine needs to claw back territory in the south to preempt Russia from annexing those areas — in clear violation of international law — which would make their eventual recovery far less likely. A successful Ukrainian offensive could eliminate the danger of a renewed Russian push toward Odesa. It could also bring Russia’s transportation links to Crimea, as well as some key military installations there, within range of Ukrainian artillery.
Yet the real imperative is psychological. As military analysts Michael Kofman and Lawrence Freedman have argued, both sides are struggling to shape perceptions — each other’s and the outside world’s — of where this war is headed. Ukraine must show its Western backers that it can eventually win, so that they will stick with Kyiv and give it the wherewithal for more offensives in the future, even as the economic and military costs rise.
If Ukraine can do this, then time will likely be on its side after all. Recent research by scholars at the Yale School of Management indicates that government sanctions and private-sector ostracism are driving Putin’s economy toward the precipice. In a war that continues into 2023, Putin will also have to reckon with the exhaustion of his poorly motivated military, unless he undertakes a large-scale conscription of Russian citizens that would be full of political risk.
But the window for Ukraine to make its case won’t stay open forever. As the US midterm elections approach and other global crises erupt, Kyiv’s struggle could become yesterday’s news.
Zelenskiy’s government has a decent chance of pulling it off. Russian forces occupying Kherson are stuck on the north bank of the Dnipro River, which separates them from the bulk of their compatriots in Ukraine’s south. The Ukrainian military should be able to isolate those troops by destroying (with US-provided artillery) the bridges across the river. Undersupplied Russian units will then find it very difficult to hold a hostile city against a combination of insurgent violence and a well-planned attack.
*Watching people do military analysis with incredibly flawed and biased information is always so entertaining. They’re off doing calculations and shit with information that the Ukrainian government has basically invented out of nothing. “Oh, yeah, like a hundred thousand Russians are now dead or injured, uhh, we have like, only 5000 casualties on our side.” “Awesome, thank you Zelensky, time to plug that into our models… and… wow, look at that, Ukraine can still win! Time to write the exact same article I’ve been writing since April!”
- Keir Starmer is right – for Labour to win power, it can’t wade in on every strike going Guardian
There are few more ridiculous political ideas than the proposition that the Labour party should break its link with the trade unions. The union bond grounds the party and has saved Labour governments from the failed delusion of socialist economics. However, there is one idea that is far worse, and it is now gripping a small but noisy Labour faction: the idea that Labour should support every strike held in the UK.
Whatever the cause, whatever the case, some on the left of the party believe that “your struggle is my struggle” – hence the picket-line posturing and attention-seeking social media posts of some Labour MPs this summer. This is damaging for the party. At its heart, this returning to the 1970s sends one message loud and clear: that those MPs want Labour to be a party of protest rather than a party that is ever in power. That’s why Keir Starmer was right to ban frontbenchers from joining picket lines and absolutely correct to sack the junior shadow transport minister Sam Tarry after he freelanced on pay policy from an RMT picket line last week.
Since its foundation, Labour has been a party that aspires to govern – and when it governs it does so for all of the country, not just part of it. Labour governs for young and for old, for cities and villages, for north and south, for businesses and for workers – see Lisa Nandy, who, in contrast to Tarry, carefully made her encounter with CWU strikers on Monday a chance to meet her Wigan constituents, rather than a media round.
Strikes are disputes between workers and management, and they are resolved between them. Labour in government doesn’t pick sides in industrial disputes. Indeed, where a Labour government is the employer it has pay review machinery to make decisions independently of ministers. And where necessary – as with the firefighters’ strike during the Blair government – a Labour government has to face down the unions until a deal is struck.
We’re so far into neoliberal hell that the author literally cannot comprehend the idea that the government could have any effect at all on corporations or workers. According to him, the government is sealed in a hermitic bubble where it can’t do anything except, like, change taxes up or down and make official talks with other countries and occasionally declare war.
This should not be a controversial position – after all, the name is the Labour party not the Strike party.
THE WORKERS ARE THE ONES DOING THE STRIKING! WHAT DO YOU THINK “LABOUR” MEANS?
But it is one of the few remaining hangovers of the Corbyn era that supporting strikes is seen by a faction in the party as a shibboleth. The problem with this emotional Trotskyism is not merely that it is behaviour suited to an avowedly far-left party.
“And god forbid we become one of those!"
More importantly, it is simply so out of touch with the modern world of work, where fewer than one in four workers are in a union, far fewer have been on strike and virtually none have ever been on a picket line.
DO YOU EVER WONDER WHY THAT MAY BE? Of course he doesn’t. Why would he? The universe came into existence yesterday, and it would be heretical to try and change the divine capitalist order bestowed upon us. I’m not reading this terrible fucking article anymore. Fuck Starmerites, all of them should be [REDACTED].
For when people accept reality, though often not fully and not for very long.
Good Takes that are Dope
For good, or at least decent, analysis of an event or situation - particularly one that hasn’t been covered endlessly before or has a fresh angle.
- Recession or No Recession, This Economy Sucks Jacobin
Is the US in a recession or not? That’s the big question that’s obsessed Washington this past week. But here’s maybe a better question: Who cares?
We should, of course, care deeply about the very real, rising economic hardship ordinary Americans are enduring right now. But in the face of this suffering, meta-debates about whether these conditions technically count as a recession or not seem exceedingly trifling. The fact is that whether or not there’s strong job growth, or however little the economy contracted in this or that quarter, Americans are having a tough time in an economy they keep being told is actually really strong.
In reality, poverty is on the rise. With inflation going up and federal support ending, households are suddenly finding it much harder to make ends meet. Since the wildly successful Child Tax Credit expired in December, nearly half of the parents who benefited from the program have reported struggling to afford to feed their families, and more than 60 percent say they can’t pay for basic necessities. Child poverty shot up just under 5 percentage points between December 2021 and January 2022, meaning 3.7 million more kids were suddenly thrown below the poverty line.
It’s not just households with kids: 54 percent of elderly single women and 45 percent of elderly single men either qualify as poor or don’t make enough to pay for the essentials. Just under two-thirds of Americans were living paycheck to paycheck by this past June, up 4 percentage points since a year earlier.
The sterling-sounding job and unemployment numbers may be useful for White House press releases, but they don’t tell the full story. Understanding the limits of these figures, which don’t factor in underemployment and poverty wages, the Ludwig Institute for Shared Economic Prosperity (LISEP) developed a different measure of unemployment that looks at how many workers want a full-time job but don’t have one, or earn less than a meager $20,000 a year before taxes. By those measures, the unemployment rate in June 2022 was a whopping 22.1 percent, more than six times greater than the 3.6 percent recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics that month.
Those that do have work, meanwhile, don’t earn nearly enough from it. News about rising wages often ignores that the cost of everything else is rising, too, and at a faster rate than workers’ pocketbooks can keep up with. One in three workers make less than $15 an hour, which is already worth quite a bit less than it did when the Fight for $15 campaign started ten years ago, while roughly 243,000 workers earn as little as the federal minimum wage, which has been stuck at the same puny level an ungodly thirteen years, and is today worth the least it has since sixty years ago.
Americans in turn are less and less able to afford the skyrocketing price of keeping a roof over their heads. This past May, the median asking rent for the whole of the United States cleared $2,000 a month for the first time in history after rising 14.8 percent over the previous year. This effectively means that only households making $80,000 a year are now paying rent that’s officially “affordable” by government standards. Even mobile homes have seen their rent shoot up, thanks to private equity firms and other investors buying up them up as cash cows.
As a result, the already bad US homelessness crisis is getting palpably worse. Shelters across the country are seeing their waitlists double and triple, with single mothers and even families with jobs more and more likely to ask for help. This isn’t just anecdotal evidence: cities and states all over the map are recording an uptick.
All the while, Americans are winding up deeper and deeper into debt to keep their heads above water. Household debt is on the rise, and 43 percent of Americans expect to sink further in the months ahead, most of it thanks to increasingly expensive mortgages, but much of it through credit cards. For many, it’s the only way they can pay off treatment for health and medical issues, which, coupled with the dysfunctional, corporate insurance-dominated US health care system that chugs along unreformed, has left one hundred million Americans with some form of health care debt today.
Any sane person would read all this and tell you that job numbers and GDP — which tells us only about the total wealth of a country in a system where those at the very top are taking massive shares of it for themselves — don’t give you a very full picture of this economy. But we’re back in familiar territory. For years, Barack Obama pointed to growth and job numbers while Americans’ incomes fell and they dropped out of the labor market. Then it was Donald Trump’s turn to boast about macro numbers that disguised how unevenly the spoils were shared. And now, it’s Joe Biden’s.
So by all means ask if the figures point to a recession or not. But whatever the answer, millions of people will still be sliding deeper into debt, struggling to pay their rent, and skipping meals to feed their kids. Better to ask instead, what can the government do about it?
Bloomerism and Hope
For events that show that a better, more equitable, and happier world is possible than the neoliberal hell we inhabit.
- Western Sahara Will Be Liberated! Popular Resistance
In the course of the 20th century, peoples and nations across Africa won their freedom from colonial rule.
Western Sahara was the only exception — and remains so today. Spain, which had ruled over the colony, abandoned it in 1975, handing the territory to Mauritania and Morocco. Both countries soon invaded, and Western Sahara remains under foreign occupation today.
International institutions have failed the Sahrawi people. Over 100 resolutions adopted by the United Nations have recognized the Sahrawi peoples’ right to self-determination, to no effect. The International Court of Justice condemned Mauritania and Morocco’s claims to Western Saharan land as far back as 1975, but Morocco continues to occupy the land illegally. In 1991, the United Nations promised to hold a referendum on Western Saharan statehood, but that referendum has not yet come to pass.
Today, some 200,000 Sahrawis live in conditions of violent occupation in Western Sahara. Another 200,000 live in refugee camps in Algeria near the Western Saharan border and in parts of Western Sahara under the control of the Polisario Front. A 2,700km wall with an estimated seven million landmines separates the two territories.
Now, at the invitation of the Polisario Front, the Progressive International is mobilizing a delegation to Tindouf, Algeria, to support the Sahrawi people, bring the eyes of the world to bear on their struggle, and help build the infrastructures of solidarity that can help them win and thrive.
This delegation is just the beginning. The support for anti-colonial struggles is not a one-off event or action, but a long internationalist tradition and commitment. That is why we are now launching a global campaign to support Western Sahara’s struggle for liberation and calling on all our members and allies to support the struggle.