Link back to the discussion thread.


  • European Buyers Are Snapping Up the Most Russian Crude Since April Bloomberg

Russia’s crude shipments surged last week, recovering almost all of the previous slump. Seaborne exports to European buyers rose to the highest level since April, as some refiners continue to process barrels, even after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Total flows rose to 3.41 million barrels a day in the period to Aug. 19, vessel-tracking data monitored by Bloomberg show. That compares with 3.24 million previously, using a four-week moving average to smooth out variability in the figures.

All of the increase was to Europe, with shipments to customers in the Mediterranean, northern Europe and the Black Sea region all rising. Exports to Mediterranean countries rose by 140,000 barrels a day, the biggest jump. A European Union ban on seaborne imports of Russian crude is due to come into effect in December.

  • Europe’s Energy Prices Soar To New Records As Russia Plans Gas Cuts Oil Price

Energy prices in Europe soared on Monday to fresh records after Russia’s Gazprom said on Friday that it would halt all deliveries via Nord Stream to Germany for three days, raising renewed concerns that supply via the pipeline could be further cut or halted altogether after three-day unplanned maintenance at the end of August.

Europe’s benchmark gas prices at the Dutch TTF hub opened trade on Monday morning in Amsterdam, rallying 10% to $270 (269.50 euro) per megawatt hour, which is equivalent to $450 per barrel oil, Ole Hansen, Head of Commodity Strategy at Saxo Bank, tweeted today. During the course of the day, prices jumped by nearly 20% to another record of $289.20 (289 euro) per MWh in the early afternoon in Amsterdam.

Europe’s gas prices have been setting records in recent days amid uncertainty with the Russian pipeline supply, heatwaves driving electricity demand, and at the same time curtailing output from other fuel sources.

  • Aluminum Smelters Shutter Operations In Europe As Power Prices Soar Oil Price

Second-round effects from Europe’s astronomical power price increases are coming in hot and heavy.

With both French and German 1-year ahead baseload electricity prices hitting levels which mean only a handful of Europeans will be able to afford power in one year (and the rest will soon be short a kidney),Europe’s energy crisis has claimed another victim in the power-hungry metals industry, after Norsk Hydro said it planned to shutter an aluminum smelter in Slovakia at the end of next month, Bloomberg reports.

With Aluminum one of the most energy-intensive metals to produce, the closure of the Slovalco facility adds to growing signs of stress in Europe’s industrial economy as power prices surge to record highs. It’s why Hydro and others are now moving to shut down plants entirely. The region had already lost about half of its zinc and aluminum smelting capacity during the past year, mainly as producers dialed back output.

Hydro, Slovalco’s majority owner, said the closure was a response to adverse conditions including “high electricity prices, which show no signs of improvement in the short term.” The smelter was running at 60% of its 175,000-ton annual capacity and would suffer substantial losses if it continued operations beyond 2022, the Norwegian firm said. On Tuesday, Hydro said production at another aluminum plant in Norway would be impacted by a strike starting Aug. 22, adding to the strain on supplies.


  • Ukraine’s key food exports have fallen by almost half since Russian war Inquirer

Exports of key Ukrainian agricultural commodities have fallen by almost half since the start of the Russian invasion earlier this year compared to the same period in 2021, data from the agriculture ministry showed late on Monday.

Russia began its attack on Ukraine on Feb. 24, calling it a “special military operation”, and as a result of the fighting, Ukrainian seaports were blocked, leaving a vast amount of crops either unharvested or destroyed.

Agricultural exports between Feb. 24 and Aug. 15 this year fell to 10 million tons from around 19.5 million in the same period last year, the ministry data showed.

The 2022 grain harvest in Ukraine is forecast to fall to around 50 million tons from a record 86 million tons in 2021.

  • Zelensky ‘troubled’ as he questions inner circle’s loyalties – Erdogan RT

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky is concerned he is being taken advantage of by someone close to him, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, citing their conversation during the meeting in Lviv on Thursday.

Asked by a farmer about the Ukrainian leader’s “situation” on Monday during a visit to local vineyards, Erdogan claimed Zelensky was “very worried. There are people around him who deceive him a lot.”

Erdogan had not mentioned this confession during earlier public statements about the negotiations in western Ukraine, and he did not elaborate further on who Zelensky believed was deceiving him. The two men met with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and signed an agreement on restoring Ukrainian infrastructure destroyed during the conflict.


  • Moscow Exchange says it will stop accepting US dollars as collateral amid Russia’s move away from ‘toxic’ currencies Business Insider

On Monday, the Moscow Exchange announced it will stop accepting US dollars as collateral on the foreign exchange and securities market from August 29.

The exchange did not explain the new policy or provide further details, but it had already limited the use of the greenback as collateral to 25% from 50% earlier in August. The Moscow Exchange is the largest exchange in Russia.

  • Russians name key national symbols RT

Citizens of Russia associate their nation with its nature and people – and also its president, Vladimir Putin, a poll conducted by the state VTSIOM polling agency has shown. Published on National Flag Day, the survey suggested that people tend to link the word ‘Russia’ with the official national symbols, the Russian people and their motherland.

“Our fellow citizens have only positive associations with the word ‘Russia’,” the polling agency said in a statement, adding that these include “nature, history, architectural landmarks, cities, animals, culture and literature” among others.

The biggest group of respondents (12%) linked Russia to its national symbols – the flag, emblem and national anthem. Almost as many people, a respective 11% and 10%, said they associate it with “the people" and “home.” Around 7% of Russians named Putin as the symbol of Russia and just as many mentioned the country’s nature, such as the birch tree or Siberia’s Lake Baikal, the biggest freshwater lake in the world.

The poll showed that young Russians tend to associate their nation with Putin more closely than their older compatriots. Among those aged between 18 and 24, 10% saw Putin as the symbol of Russia. The bear was named by just 5% of respondents.

On Monday, Putin addressed the nation on National Flag Day and said that the flag “remained Russia’s symbol in difficult, challenging periods of its history,” including World War I and “the contradictory, arduous 1990s” that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union.

United Kingdom

  • Tuition fees for British students must be increased, university bosses warn Telegraph

Tuition fees for British students must be increased or even more places will go to foreign applicants, university bosses have warned.

The frozen rate of £9,250 for UK students is forcing institutions to take on an increasing number of applicants from countries such as China and India, who pay average annual fees of £24,000, they claimed.

The bosses of four universities - Sunderland, Cardiff, Sheffield Hallam and Gloucester - told The Sunday Times that the Government “urgently” needs to review funding for UK students.

  • Brits will be paid to go without power-hungry appliances RT

The UK’s National Grid will offer rebates to consumers who avoid using appliances like washing machines, cookers and games consoles during the evenings, several media outlets reported on Monday. Despite coming at a time of rising bills and the threat of blackouts, the service insists it’s “not about rationing.”

The scheme will see households with smart meters offered up to £6 ($7) per kilowatt hour to leave these appliances off during 5pm and 8pm, Express reported. The average washing machine uses between 400 and 1,400 watts of energy per hour, meaning a 1,000 watt machine running for an hour would use 1kWh, possibly entitling its owner to a £6 rebate.

The National Grid, which operates the UK’s electricity infrastructure, will reveal further details about the scheme in the coming weeks, following consultations with the UK’s energy regulator, Ofgem. According to reports, the National Grid wants the scheme in place by October, when the energy price cap is set to be lifted again, potentially bringing annual bills up to £3,576.


  • German recession increasingly likely, Bundesbank says Reuters

A recession in Germany, the euro zone’s biggest economy, is increasingly likely and inflation will continue to accelerate and could peak at more than 10% this autumn, the Bundesbank said in a monthly report on Monday.

With its oversized industry heavily exposed to Russian gas, Germany is among the most vulnerable to any cut off in energy supplies and soaring costs are already weighing on output with more pain expected.

“Declining economic output in the winter months has become much more likely,” the central bank said. “The high degree of uncertainty over gas supplies this winter and the sharp price increases are likely to weigh heavily on households and companies.”

Russia has been curtailing gas exports in response to Western sanctions over its war in Ukraine and many if not most economists now see a German recession as an inevitability.

  • Russia’s gas shutoff is forcing Germany’s energy giant Uniper to fire up a mothballed coal-fueled power plant Business Insider

Germany’s utility giant Uniper said it will restart a mothballed coal-fueled power plant to generate electricity after Russia restricted gas flows to the country again.

The Düsseldorf-based company, which is Europe’s biggest buyer of Russian gas, said it will temporarily fire up the Heyden 4 hard-coal-fired power plant to start generating power from Monday. It will provide electricity probably until the end of April 2023.

Uniper’s switch to coal, after ending operations in 2020 as past of its decarbonisation plan, highlights what one analyst has called a “scary” energy shortage in Europe as Russia cuts gas supply and heatwaves drive up demand.


  • Bulgaria’s return to Russian gas supply talks is ‘inevitable’ amid steep shortages, energy chief says Business Insider

Bulgaria’s energy minister Rossen Hristov said the country would likely go back to talks with Russia on resuming gas deliveries from state-run energy supplier Gazprom.

Gazprom provided 90% of Bulgaria’s natural gas until April, when it cut supplies after Bulgaria refused to pay in rubles.

“Given the demands of business and the trade unions, in reality, talks with Gazprom to renew supplies are inevitable,” Energy Minister Rossen Hristov said at a press event, according to Reuters.

He didn’t specify when the country would return to discussions with Russia on resuming gas supplies, but implied it would be soon.


  • Poland blasts EU over ‘imperialistic tendencies’ RT

Although Brussels claims to be standing up to the “imperialist” threat posed by Russia, the EU itself is not free of “imperialistic tendencies,” Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau has said in a lengthy opinion piece for the Polish Rzeczpospolita journal. Germany is one of the driving forces behind these “imperialist aspirations,” the official added in the article published on Monday.

The EU has frequently witnessed its larger members attempt to “dominate one’s partners, impose one’s arguments on them, disregard their rights, interests and needs, or pay no attention to their protests,” Rau stated, describing this behavior as part of their “imperialistic tendencies.”

It’s awesome that this language is coming out of a country that seems to only be saying this because it wants more leeway to oppress its LGBTQ+ population.

Asia and Oceania


  • China says heatwave poses ‘serious threat’ to autumn crops Inquirer

China’s long heatwave and drought is posing a “serious threat” to the country’s autumn crops and everything possible should be done to try to expand water availability, the agriculture ministry said in a notice posted on Tuesday.

The notice called on local authorities to “dynamically adjust” scheduling plans and make good use of water to guarantee supplies during a critical period for the autumn harvest.

It said more rockets should be made available to seed clouds and that machinery and motorised wells can be deployed to deliver water to regions that have no sources of their own. Regions with severe crop damage are also urged to replant.

  • China makes rare but ‘necessary’ foreign investment pitch as ‘they’re not writing cheques’ SCMP

China’s call this month for new foreign investment, a pitch that was more common 30 years ago, offers evidence of a concern in Beijing that recent setbacks in the world’s second-largest economy are keeping capital offshore.

Vice-Premier Hu Chunhua said last week that it is “necessary” to “make great efforts to attract new foreign investment”.

Hu also stressed that China needs to stabilise existing foreign investment, do more to steady supply chains and “strengthen the confidence of foreign-funded enterprises with practical actions”, according to a Ministry of Commerce statement.

Beijing is becoming increasingly worried that the economic setbacks suffered over the last year and longer-term market changes are stopping foreign firms investing more money into China, according to industry insiders and economists.

“They’re not writing cheques,” said Ker Gibbs, executive-in-residence at the University of San Francisco and a former head of the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai. “There’s a lot of hesitancy now.”

The major concern for American businesses is that they “can’t get a read” on the economy, Gibbs added.


  • Apple plans to cut iPhone 14 production lag between China, India Reuters

Apple Inc plans to start making the iPhone 14 in India about two months after its release out of China, in a move that will narrow the gap from the typical six to nine months for previous launches, Bloomberg News reported on Tuesday.

The company has been working with suppliers to ramp up manufacturing in India and the first iPhone 14s from the country are likely to be finished in late October or November, following the initial September release, Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the matter.


  • China begins shipment of high-speed trains to Indonesia China Daily

A high-speed electric passenger train and an inspection train, customized for the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway in Indonesia, left the port of Qingdao in east China’s Shandong province on Sunday.

The trains were designed and manufactured by CRRC Qingdao Sifang Co., Ltd. for the landmark project under the Belt and Road Initiative. The first trains will arrive in Jakarta by the end of Aug, and the delivery of the remainder will be completed in batches by the beginning of 2023, according to the company.

Relying on the advanced technology of the Fuxing bullet train, the trains have a maximum operating speed of 350 kilometers per hour and were designed and manufactured according to Chinese standards, and adapted to the local operational environment and line conditions in Indonesia, as well as to the local culture.

South Korea

  • South Korean anti-China sentiment at its peak: Survey Asia News

While South Korea and China celebrate 30 years of their diplomatic relationship this week, Koreans’ dislike for the neighboring country appears to be reaching its peak.

According to a survey of South Koreans by Hankook Research on Monday, China was the second-least popular country among five countries — the United States, Japan, North Korea and Russia.

The survey asked 1,000 South Koreans aged over 18 from July 15 to 18 to rank their positive sentiment toward five major countries. The US was on top at 59 percent, followed by North Korea, which got 29.4 percent. Japan ranked third with 29 percent. Only 23.9 percent expressed good feelings for China, only 0.6 percent higher than Russia, the lowest at 23.3 percent.

In America these days, almost any information about North Korea, be it rumor, fake news, or just plain silly, becomes fodder for the mainstream media. From TMZ to The Guardian, reporters know there is an insatiable appetite for anything that puts Kim and his regime in a bad or crazy light.

But when it comes to South Korea, which hosts 28,500 American ground troops and the Pentagon’s largest military base outside of North America, U.S. media coverage is, shall we say, highly selective. That was made resoundingly clear on August 14, when Seoul was the scene for the largest public demonstration in decades against the U.S. military presence in South Korea.

Amazingly, not a word about the protest appeared in the U.S. media.

That Saturday, thousands of people chanting “this land is not a U.S. war base” demonstrated against Ulchi Freedom Shield, the first large-scale military exercises between U.S. and South Korean forces since 2017. The protests were organized by the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), South Korea’s second-largest labor federation. They were joined by a range of progressive allies, including People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD), an influential citizen’s group founded in 1994.

“At a time when military tensions on the Korean Peninsula are escalating and there is no clue for inter-Korean dialogue, we are concerned that an aggressive large-scale military exercise will exacerbate the situation,” PSPD declared. “We once again urge the US and ROK governments to suspend the ROK-US joint military exercise and make efforts to create conditions for dialogue.” At the demonstration, protesters took direct aim at the heart of U.S. policy in Korea, with signs that read “No war rehearsal, No U.S.” and “No Korea-U.S.-Japan military cooperation.”

Outside of the Korean press, the only outlets to cover this massive showing against militarism were Iran’s Press TV and China’s CGTN, which provided extensive video of the mobilization. The single print story on the march appeared in Xinhua, China’s daily wire service. Neither the New York Times or the Washington Post, which often set the pace for U.S. press coverage of Asia, deemed the demonstration newsworthy.

Hypocrisy? Yes. As I put it in a sardonic tweet, “Every rumor, fake news, intelligence leak or eyebrow twitch about Kim Jong Un and North Korea gets star treatment in the US media.” Yet, when “thousands of SOUTH KOREANS” march in Seoul against US-ROK war games, “NOT ONE PEEP.” The contrast seemed to hit a nerve: by the weekend, nearly 6,000 Twitter users had “liked” my post and over 2,000 had retweeted it.

The contradictions were evident on Twitter itself. As it often does with countries we’re not supposed to like, it slapped a label on one of my posts about the demonstration, urging users to “stay informed” because “this Tweet links to a Iran state-affiliated media website.” With that warning, Twitter was effectively delegitimizing my own coverage of the demonstration.


  • Aussie coal miners eye record profits, shareholder returns as prices surge Reuters

Australia’s biggest listed coal miners are expected to report record annual profits this week, underpinned by soaring commodity prices, even as they grapple with tight labour market conditions and inflation-induced cost pressure.

Global coal prices have shot up over fears of a supply crunch after the European Commission decided to ban imports from Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, while persisting supply-chain issues are likely to keep prices elevated.

That prompted Whitehaven, Australia’s largest independent coal miner, to forecast record fiscal 2022 core earnings last month. Analysts polled by Refinitiv estimate it would swing to a profit of A$1.89 billion ($1.31 billion).

“With an anticipated record profit, it is likely that the company will announce capital management measures including share buybacks and dividends, now that it is generating significant cash flow,” said Jon Mills, equity analyst at Morningstar Australasia.

Middle East


  • Turkey doubles Russian oil imports RT

Turkey has increased oil imports from Russia to average over 200,000 barrels per day (bpd) so far this year as of August, up from 98,000 bpd over the same period last year, Reuters reported on Monday, citing Refinitiv Eikon data.


Former prime minister Imran Khan has been charged under Pakistan’s Anti-Terrorism Act which marks the latest escalation in a bitter power feud between the ousted leader and the current coalition government. The criminal complaint is based on comments that Khan made that were perceived to threaten a judge and police but is clearly politically motivated. An arrest could lead to political violence.

Pakistan’s Anti-Terrorism Act is broad, often employed as a catch-all, and extends far beyond the popular understanding of what constitutes “terrorism.” So far Khan managed to secure pre-arrest bail until Thursday. After that time he could face arrest which would likely spark mass protests. Pakistan is currently facing widespread flooding and an economic crisis that has required bailouts from the IMF and regional countries. Factional politics in Pakistan are stronger than ever despite these collective crises.

Imprisonment of opposition political leaders is not an uncommon occurrence in Pakistan and members of the current government faced jail time during Imran Khan’s tenure. But in the current political environment an arrest of Imran Khan would mark an inflection point with the potential to turn violent.

It also fuels Khan’s populist message which is rooted in the notion that the current government’s power was won sneakily rather than through popular mandate. Khan was removed from office in April via a no confidence vote in the National Assembly. Since then he has railed against what he characterizes as a regime change conspiracy. An arrest would derail Khan’s campaigning but may also be a boon for his popularity.


  • Kazakh Oil Flows Interrupted Again Oil Price

The flow of crude oil from Kazakhstan via Russia has been interrupted by damaged equipment at the Black Sea terminus of the CPC pipeline, Reuters has reported, citing the pipeline’s operator.

The 1,500-km CPC pipeline from the giant Kazakh oilfields in the Caspian Sea to Novorossiysk, on the Russian Black Sea coast, moves over two-thirds of all Kazakhstan export oil along with crude from Russian fields, including those in the Caspian region.

According to CPC, two of the three mooring points at Novorossiysk have been shut down, leaving only one to handle Kazakh oil exports. The company’s majority shareholder, Russian state pipeline monopoly Transneft, said that the mooring points were suspended because of damage to “the attachment points of underwater sleeves to buoyancy tanks.”

Repairs have yet to be organized, and the company did not specify how long this will take.


  • Russia, Iran, and Azerbaijan strike deal to ease trade RT

Moscow, Tehran and Baku have signed a memorandum on facilitating the transit of goods, the Russian trade mission in Iran announced in a statement published on its Telegram channel on Monday.

“A memorandum between Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan on the facilitation of transit transportation was signed in Tehran on August 22. This document should contribute to the simplification and acceleration of customs procedures for foreign trade participants,” the statement reads.

Currently, the main overland route for cargo transit from Iran to Russia passes through Azerbaijan. This is a part of the so-called International North-South Transport Corridor, a 7,200-kilometer-long multi-mode transit system that connects ship, rail, and road routes for moving cargo between India, Iran, Azerbaijan, Russia, Central Asia, and Europe.

North America

United States

  • US strategic oil reserves have hit their lowest level since 1985 after Joe Biden’s record sales Business Insider

The US’s strategic oil reserves fell to their lowest level in 37 years last week as the releases ordered by President Joe Biden continued.

Strategic petroleum reserve (SPR) stockpiles fell to 453.1 million barrels in the week to Friday, according to Department of Energy data. That’s the lowest level since January 1985.

Stockpiles have fallen by more than 160 million barrels this year after the White House ordered the release of record amounts of crude oil in an effort to cool sky-high gasoline prices and tamp down on inflation.

Biden said in March that the US would release 1 million barrels of oil a day for six months as energy prices spiked in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — which adds up to about 180 million barrels. The White House then said in late July the US would release another 20 million barrels.

Meanwhile, the US has pushed for other countries to release oil from their strategic reserves in an effort to boost supply and cool the pressure in the market. In March, the International Energy Agency said non-US member countries would open up an additional 60 million barrels.

Analysts have said the releases have contributed to the sharp fall in oil prices seen over the last two months, although the key driver has been fears about a global economic slowdown.

  • 72% of economists expect a US recession by the middle of next year CNN

The Federal Reserve is unlikely to tame inflation without pushing the American economy into a recession, according to a survey of economists released Monday.

Seventy-two percent of economists polled by the National Association of Business Economics expect the next US recession will begin by the middle of next year – if it hasn’t already started.

That gloomy finding includes nearly one in five (19%) who say the economy is already in a recession, as determined by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). Another 20% of forecasters do not expect a recession to begin before the second half of next year.

  • Dozens of high-water rescues are underway as the drought-parched Dallas area gets a summer’s worth of rain in a day CNN

Dozens of high-water rescues were underway Monday – amid more than 450 such pleas since the prior night – as greater Dallas faces the threat of more flooding caused by sudden, climate crisis-fueled storms that have stunned parts of Texas afflicted by “flash drought.”

According to the National Weather Service office in Fort Worth, 9.19 inches of rain fell at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport during a 24-hour period that began Sunday. It was the second highest rainfall total for that length of time in that area and most since 1932.

Another area of Dallas had 15.16 inches, the according to the NWS.

A flood watch was in effect for Dallas and Tarrant counties continue until 8 p.m. CT Monday, the NWS said.

South America


  • Argentine workers hold ‘funeral’ for minimum wage Euro News

Left-wing social organisations held a demonstration in downtown Buenos Aires where they “mourned and buried” the Argentinean minimum wage.

The demonstrators marched in procession along the central avenue that connects the Government Palace to the Ministry of Labour in the Argentinean capital.

A group of women carried the coffin while others brought mourning wreaths to perform the rituals.

The minimum wage reached 47,850 Argentine pesos, or about $340 on the official market and about $160 on the informal market.

According to official figures, inflation in July was 7.4%, while the year-on-year base rate climbed to 71%, making Argentina one of the highest inflation countries in the world.

In recent weeks, social movements have urged the Workers' Central to call a general strike.


  • OPEC+ Is Now Almost 3 Million Bpd Behind Its Production Target Oil Price

OPEC+ members produced 2.9 million barrels per day (bpd) below their collective oil production target in July, two OPEC+ sources told Reuters on Monday.

The gap between overall quota and actual oil production from the OPEC+ members has been growing for more than a year, with many producers unable to raise production due to capacity and/or investment constraints, while the alliance has added more barrels to its monthly oil production target. Moreover, production in Russia, albeit stabilized at a level from February, just before the invasion of Ukraine, hasn’t increased as it should have been under the OPEC+ agreement.

Russia, the leader of the non-OPEC group in the OPEC+ pact, has the same monthly targets as OPEC’s top producer and largest crude oil exporter in the world, Saudi Arabia.

But while the Saudis have been raising production in recent months, Russia has not. In addition, many OPEC+ members, especially OPEC’s African producers Nigeria and Angola, have been significantly lagging behind their respective quotas.

So, in July, per Reuters’ sources in OPEC+, the alliance was 2.892 million bpd below quota, bringing compliance with the cuts to hit a mind-blowing 546% in July, up from 320% in June. Compliance at 100% means OPEC+ is pumping at the levels set out in the deal.


The Ukraine War

  • Ukraine - Dugina Killer Identified - War Of Attrition Continues MoA

I’m gonna skip straight to the war part of the update:

Meanwhile the fighting in Ukraine continues with recent Russian offenses launched on all fronts. In the north the slow move to Karkiv continues. The Russian forces in the south move towards Mykolaiv (Nikolaev). In the east attacks against Soledar and Bakhmut continue. All these moves are supported by intense strikes on every Ukrainian headquarter and troop concentration the Russian military intelligence can find. This hunting down and killing of complete battalions and brigades behind the immediate frontline is costing a lot of Ukrainian soldiers' lives and is preventing any Ukrainian countermoves. This is on top of the daily massive artillery use against Ukrainian frontline positions.

In a recent interview Colonel Markus Reisner of the Austrian army described the situation (in German). Some excerpts:

“If you look at the battles in detail, you can see one thing from a military point of view: the western arms deliveries are having an effect, but still not in a resounding and sustainable form. The result must be measurable. Only when the Russian attacks are completely stopped or when the Russian troops retreat (similar to the situation around Kyiv in March 2022) can one actually speak of a turning point in the war from a sober, objective and military point of view. The western arms shipments that have arrived so far mean that the Ukrainian armed forces have “too much to die and too little to live”. If the 16 HIMARS multiple rocket launchers delivered from the USA so far have achieved understandable success, the question arises: Why is the USA not delivering more?”

May be because it does not have more to give but more likely is that the U.S. wants to prolong the conflict at a near stalemate as long as possible.

“If the West does not deliver increased numbers of state-of-the-art weapons (including above all artillery and multiple rocket launchers, but also long-range anti-aircraft defense systems) to Ukraine in the coming weeks, Ukraine will not be able to win this conflict. It is therefore in the hands of the West how this war will continue. As long as Ukraine cannot protect its airspace against Russian cruise missiles and ballistic missiles, any regional military rearmament seems illusory. But this is necessary if Ukraine wants to regain possession of the lost land. Those areas that you need to be able to survive economically.”

It is highly unlikely that the Ukraine will ever regain the former Russian territory that in 1922 Vladimir Ilʹich Lenin, for whatever reason, gave to Ukraine and that Russia is currently taking back. A war of attrition, which Russia with its industrial capability to sustain endlessly, can not be won by Ukraine. Even more massive support from the ‘west’ would be insufficient.

But the war will be won on a different front:

“Modern warfare is above all a war of minds. The image we have of a conflict decisively shapes our opinion on it. It determines whether we perceive a conflict as “just” and whether we are willing to support it. At the moment, in the conflict in Ukraine, this support begins in our communications and ends in the delivery of weapons. It is therefore always the aim of the opponents to influence the respective other side. The military calls this approach “cognitive warfare.” A comprehensive war of attrition is rarely decided on the battlefield, but often in the minds of the population in the hinterland.”

“For the Russian side, the decisive point of attack is therefore the West’s willingness to continue to support Ukraine. Russia is therefore trying to weaken this willingness in all available domains (especially in the cyber and information space). Extraction of raw materials and threats of nuclear weapons are the weapons used here to achieve an effect. The West, on the other hand, is trying to hit the cohesion of Russian society. Sanction packages and economic punitive measures are intended to exert pressure. The Russian economy is already taking a serious hit. The question is, will these bring about a change in behavior or not? At the moment, decisive success cannot be measured either on the battlefield or on the home front, which makes it clear that the guns in Ukraine are far from silent.”

The extremely stupid European sanctions against Russian energy have caused severe damage to European economies. This is already breaking the ‘western’ will for further support of Ukraine. During July none of the bigger European countries has promised and delivered more heavy weapons to Ukraine.

On August 24 Ukraine has some independence holiday. Zelensky and his team will likely want to present some ‘success’ for that day. A nasty incident around the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, which the Ukraine continues to shell, or elsewhere can therefore be expected to happen over the next few days.

  • U.S. Steps Up Enforcement of Its Long List of Russia Sanctions WSJ

The U.S. has imposed a set of powerful sanctions against Russia’s economy to punish it for the invasion of Ukraine. Now, U.S. officials are pushing to ensure they are effective, closing loopholes, lobbying other nations for support, and cracking down on people abetting Russia’s evasion.

Administration officials say the goal of this second phase is to cut off what avenues remain that provide revenue and imports President Vladimir Putin needs to prosecute the war, even as Europe continues to purchase significant volumes of oil and gas from Russia. That means targeting foreign banks and cryptocurrency platforms that help Russia maintain access to international currencies, taking over bank accounts and corporate assets of blacklisted oligarchs, and penalizing foreign companies caught exporting controlled goods to the country.

It also means trying to persuade countries like China and India, which haven’t joined the Western economic pressure campaign, to tamp down money and exports still flowing into Russia.

Okay, awesome! Thank god you haven’t done anything recently to piss off China and make them more willing to side with Russia against you! …right, America? Hang on, I’m getting a voice in my ear, gimme a… wait, WHAT did Pelosi do?!

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.


  • Some 9,000 Ukrainian troops killed during Russian invasion Al Jazeera

I believe the best estimates we have from the western “pro-Russian” military analysts like Scott Ritter are about 80,000 Ukrainians dead, 250,000 wounded, if taking into account the entire Ukrainian side.

  • Embarrassing losses are making Russian forces very cautious around one of Putin’s most prized military outposts Business Insider

Russian losses are at astounding lows, in fact. Scott Ritter estimates a casualty ratio between 10 to 1, and 30 to 1, depending on where you are on the front. A typical, symmetrical-ish war has casualty ratios between 1 to 1 and 2 to 1.

  • Crimea, Once a Bastion of Russian Power, Now Reveals Its Weakness WSJ

Technically Crimea is Ukrainian, according to all the maps I’ve seen. Is the Wall Street Journal recognizing the Russian ownership of Crimea?

  • Putin Accidentally Revived The League Of Democracies. Here’s What It Means For Business. Forbes

Oh come ON. You couldn’t have just had the first sentence as the headline? You really couldn’t keep that mask on for a second longer?

  • Putin Wouldn’t Shrink from Starting Chernobyl 2.0 in Ukraine Bloomberg

I was thinking yesterday about how nobody’s gone down the “Putin is an insane madman who wants to maximise human suffering around the world and is failing because he’s a stupid dumbdumb idiot but is also succeeding because he’s a big meanie villain” road in a while, but Kluth comes in to save the day. “Hell fucking yeah, let’s irradiate the area in which hundreds of thousands of people live and which I am currently trying to turn into de jure Russian territory”, said Putin to me after he gave me my Putinbux for the month. He then twirled his mustache and delivered a very evil laugh.

  • Whatever you hear about that Moscow bombing — don’t trust the Kremlin WaPo

Okay, I was curious and skimmed this one, and to be completely fair, the author does acknowledge that Dugin is an unimportant figure and not Putin’s brain, and it also won’t affect the war. But then it just descends into “Russia is 1984 Orwell ministry of truth” and there’s no coming back from that once your brainworms start writhing that much. All in all, not worth reading.

  • The global politics of Russia’s notorious nationalist ideologue WaPo

And then we have an article that contradicts the previous about Dugin’s role. I think that the western media is unable to fully agree - for now - on a single storyline is interesting, but with my sympathy to Dugin’s loss, I don’t think it was a big enough event to spill this much virtual ink over. If somebody closer to Putin gets murked then that might be more significant.

  • Russia ‘Stepping Up’ Civilian Strikes As Ukraine’s Independence Day Approaches, U.S. Warns Forbes

Alright, I’m assuming this means that we’re about to get a shitload of false flag attacks from Ukrainian paramilitary groups blamed on Russia that just so happens to have used ammo that only Ukraine uses.

  • Ukraine’s Russian ‘Liberators’ Are Seeing That We Live Better Than They Do NYT

Jesus christ, how many of these articles have been written today? Thank god I’ve given up on reading them now. By the way, Russia’s GDP per capita is like 3x Ukraine’s. Probably more like 4x once Ukraine’s GDP collapses. That’s not necessarily the best measure obviously as it’s skewed by oligarch money but nobody is gonna convince me that conditions are worse for the average Russian than the average Ukrainian. I also think this is sort of a common trope - the classic mental image of barbarians walking through Rome’s opulent streets and gaping at the riches they behold.


  • Of Dictators and Trade Surpluses NYT

Okay, this one is really funny, so I’ll quote a little from it:

One thing China and Russia have in common, however, is that both are currently running very large trade surpluses. Are these surpluses signs of strength? Are they evidence that autocracy works?

No, in both cases the surpluses are signs of weakness. And the current situation offers a useful corrective to the common notion — favored, among others, by Donald Trump — that a country that sells more than it buys is somehow a “winner.”

When the invasion began, there were widespread calls for an embargo on Russian exports of oil and gas. In reality, however, Russia has had little trouble maintaining its oil exports; it is selling crude at a discount, but high global prices mean that plenty of money is still coming in. And while there has been a sharp fall in Russian gas exports to Europe, this reflects the Putin regime’s efforts to put pressure on the West rather than the other way around.

What sanctions have done, instead, is undermine Russia’s ability to import, especially its ability to buy crucial industrial inputs. One example of the problem: Reports indicate that Russian airlines are grounding some of their planes to cannibalize them for spare parts they can no longer buy abroad.

So Russia’s trade surplus is actually bad news for Putin, a sign that his country is having trouble using its cash to purchase goods it needs to maintain its war effort.

China’s problem is different: Its trade surplus is a result of long-running internal problems that may, finally, be coming to a head.

And at a broader level, we’re seeing the trouble with dictatorships, where nobody can tell the leader when he’s wrong. Putin seems to have invaded Ukraine in part because everyone was too afraid to warn him about the limits of Russian military power; China’s Covid response has gone from role model to cautionary tale, probably because nobody dares tell Xi Jinping that his signature policies aren’t working.

So autocracy may be on the march — but not because it works better than democracy. It doesn’t.

Paul Krugman, in the alternative universe where Russia and China are at trade deficits: literally the exact same article but actually importing more than you export is bad because something something no self-sufficiency, whereas the United States is self-sufficient, baby!

United States

  • Scientists Love Issuing Warnings. Here’s One for Them. Bloomberg

From Covid to climate change, alarmism isn’t a viable communications strategy.

I do feel kinda bad about putting this article in this section because despite the headline, it isn’t actually what you think it is. It’s not your classic conservative article where they basically say “Scientists are being way too alarmist and exaggerating their findings on climate change, like saying that we essentially need to change our entire lifestyles and economic systems to survive this; something something hurts the working class, something something capitalism can solve this”, it’s actually sort of the liberal version of that, which I haven’t seen all that much of. Usually they just smile and nod like that one scene with the news anchors in Don’t Look Up, or go “Yes, we need major change. Let’s introduce a tax cut for billionaires who use 1% of their foundation’s income on carbon-free initiatives”. But it’s still not a good take IMO, so in this section it goes.

Climate-change activists should take some lessons from the mismanagement and miscommunication surrounding the pandemic. In both cases, people across the political spectrum feel helpless in the face of the problem. In both cases, experts need to figure out how to get people to overcome these feelings and act.

True, they aren’t perfect parallels; climate-change action faces a hurdle that hasn’t come up in the pandemic: a powerful fossil fuel lobby that’s been clever and influential, seeding public doubts about the science behind climate change. Still, climate-change denial is becoming rarer all the time, according to a survey released in April. It shows more than half of Americans believe human activity is causing climate change, and 64% say they are worried about it.

I would heavily dispute that there hasn’t been major propaganda intiatives from industries to downplay the pandemic. It’s literally why we get weekly articles on why China’s coronavirus response sucks so much - they just haven’t moved on! Everybody else has accepted that millions need to die for The Line!

That study comes from George Mason University and the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, founded by Anthony Leiserowitz. He says both Covid and climate change suffer from what he calls a lack of efficacy. Leiserowitz has looked at how public perception of the climate problem has evolved over the years. To keep up motivation to pitch in, he said, people need a sense that they can do something that’s effective — something that makes a true difference.

Such as a… say it with me… r… e… v…

With the pandemic, people are feeling “done with Covid” in part because they expended so much energy on things that, in retrospect, didn’t have much efficacy — from disinfecting mail to keeping kids out of playgrounds to attempting to jog in masks.

Due to misinformation because the US government fucking sucks. This kind of misinformation about masks and shit did not happen in China - or at least if it did, the government managed to sort it out pretty quickly, looking at their case numbers.

With climate change, the problem of emissions is so big people don’t know where to start. Everything we do and eat and buy leads to carbon emissions. “We have much more work to be done on that side,” Leiserowitz said. “Even the people most alarmed about climate change don’t know what they can do as individuals or collectively.”

Writing in The New Atlantis, social scientist Taylor Dotson uses the phrase “unsustainable alarmism” to describe the deflating bubbles of enthusiasm for Covid or climate mitigations. “[W]hile catastrophes often demand large personal sacrifices to overcome, the public’s capacity to sustain these sacrifices has hard limits, and we should not simply treat this as a moral failure,” he wrote.

I think you can see the pattern here. It’s a very individualist framing of the pandemic. Very liberal. Very “we accept the science but are unwilling to see it as a systemic issue that requires collective action to resolve; tell me what I, SPECIFICALLY need to do in order to feel good about myself even though it accomplishes very little in the grand scheme of things so that I can point and laugh at those idiots who aren’t doing they should be doing”.

Yet experts in both areas have been too condescending and too focused on how to manipulate people to behave, said Baruch Fischhoff, a professor of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University. “There’s very little emphasis in either domain on just getting the facts out or helping people,” he said. People need more steps they can take that have a positive impact and less guilt and blame for not being perfect.

For example, think about masks. Getting scientific information on the loose-fitting masks people find comfortable still isn’t easy; the limited studies on universal masking to protect society have shown small effects with lots of uncertainty. I tried recently to ask an expert about the efficacy of surgical masks — since that’s what most people are wearing — and all I got was a vague answer that high-quality masks work. But should surgical masks count as “high quality”?

Fischhoff said that to make matters worse, experts often harp on things people already know and forget what they don’t know. With climate change, he said, experts wrongly assumed people knew that excess carbon dioxide can persist in the atmosphere for centuries, when in reality people mostly thought it would dissipate quickly like many other forms of air pollution. They didn’t see it as cumulative. And with Covid, people are still unclear on which settings and activities pose the highest and lowest risks.

That’s because there’s two camps battling it out with opposing messaging: the people who care more about human lives and wellbeing and the people who care more about economic growth! Of course you aren’t going to get a clear-cut message if you have one group of people shouting that you need to be in quarantine for X number of days and not eat inside restaurants and not go to theaters; and another group saying that to be a good citizen, you need to maintain economic growth in your local community regardless of the dangers to yourself and others, so go out with your friends with no masks and breathe on eachother for an hour.

In both domains, experts have been slow to admit that all mitigation measures come with costs. Many people find it hard to communicate and be understood when masks are worn all day at work or school. Likewise, measures to reduce emissions will cause more pain for some than others.

Well, thank god that a solid 3/4 of emissions are caused by large corporations then! That means that only the capitalists will suffer if they’re forced to change their industries to emit less or no carbon! And they make up much less than a percent of the world’s population!

Of course, poor communication is far from the only problem. Political polarization has made it next to impossible for Americans to work together on climate. Every Republican in Congress voted against the Inflation Reduction Act, which appropriates an unprecedented amount of money to developing cleaner energy. And it didn’t take long for political fault lines to open up about Covid, either. It doesn’t have to be this way. Americans weren’t always so polarized on climate change, said Leiserowitz, and there’s little polarization in Europe.

I wouldn’t say that. I would say that Europe is BROADLY (though there’s certainly outliers) in the camp of “Climate change exists and we should probably do something about it”, it’s just that that something is usually orders of magnitude below what needs to be done, and there’s a ton of needless concern about nuclear energy when, for example, coal power plants have higher levels of radioactivity emissions. They’re treating it as a fun little side project for their economies instead of the reality of the situation, which is that you will need to bring all your bourgeoisie to the public square for a nice shave and a haircut if you want to have a planet worth living on by 2100.

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.

  • How Marxists Brought Science to Politics and Politics to Science Jacobin

The COVID-19 pandemic may have been a disaster for humanity, but it’s been a great boon for the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies. Our reliance on Big Pharma for lifesaving vaccines has reminded us how badly we need to understand the links between science, politics, and commercial interests.

For Marxists in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, these were some of the most important questions to be addressed in their work. The cross-fertilization between Marxism and science had major implications for the development of both.

Helena Sheehan is an emeritus professor at Dublin City University and the author of Marxism and the Philosophy of Science, a book that traces the history of this encounter.

This is a long interview, so I’ll quote the ending paragraphs:

I think what has weathered every storm are the core concepts of Marxism in its approach to science. There have been many debates about Marxism vis-à-vis other approaches, but as I see it, having studied all these debates, both the ones before I came onto the scene and those that have unfolded during my own lifetime, I believe that nothing makes so much sense of science as Marxism. Indeed, nothing makes so much sense of everything as Marxism.

I want to say clearly just what is distinctive about Marxism as a philosophy of science. It is materialist in the sense of explaining the natural world in terms of natural forces and not supernatural powers. It is dialectical in the sense of being evolutionary, processive, and developmental. It is radically contextual and relational in seeing everything that exists within an interacting web of forces in which it is embedded. It is empiricist without being positivist or reductionist. It is rationalist without being idealist. It is coherent and comprehensive while being empirically grounded.

It is an integral philosophy. It is a way of seeing the world in terms of a complex pattern of intersecting processes, where others see it only as disconnected and static particulars. It is a way of revealing how all forces in motion are products of a pattern of historical development shaped by a mode of production. It sees science as socially constructed, but at the same time as an empirically grounded revelation of the natural world.

Throughout the whole period of its history, Marxism rises and falls in its status and in its influence. The period now is not a particularly high point. However, I think that there is a revival of Marxist philosophy of science in response to the exigencies of ecological crisis and also in response to the current pandemic, which is still playing out. By the way, although there’s an atmosphere of the pandemic being over, this particular one isn’t. One point that is being reinforced by anyone who has dealt seriously with this pandemic, most of whom were Marxists, is that the conditions are still there for future pandemics.

I think that Marxism is as relevant and as important today as it ever was — perhaps even more so. I think that Marxism needs to be constantly updated and developed to move forward. I always thought that there were areas where it was weak, such as psychology, although the foundations were there to make it superior to any other contending positions in psychology. But even in areas where it was most developed, such as political economy, the world is constantly changing — indeed it is doing so at an ever-accelerating rate.

There’s always much to do. I think that Marxism has showed itself to have that kind of dynamic capacity, and it is still developing further. I think that in its basic concepts, it is still the most coherent, comprehensive, and well-grounded philosophy on the horizon. Whether or not it is popular, it is right, and I still see it as the unsurpassed philosophy of our time.

  • Eugene Debs: Poverty Is Capitalism’s Great Crime Jacobin

Eugene Debs was famous for excoriating the barbarities of capitalism, including the right-wing notion of the “unworthy poor.” As Debs writes in the following 1915 article, republished here for the first time, every human deserves to be free from poverty.

The warnings which have recently issued from both the pulpit and the press in [Terre Haute] against the “unworthy poor” prompt me to ask these Christian gentleman if the great Teacher they profess to follow ever made any discrimination between the “worthy” poor and the “unworthy” poor. The poor were the poor to him, because he was of their number. Born in direst poverty, he knew their suffering and heartache, and when he ministered to their wants it did not occur to him to smell their breath to see if they, or possibly their grandsires, had not in some evil hour taken a drink of liquor as an excuse for branding them as “unworthy poor,” and turning them away to starve. Indeed, so completely and consistently did he love the poor, from whom he sprang and among whom he spent all the days of his sad and tragic life, that when he made any distinctions among them it was wholly in favor of the “unworthy” poor, by forgiving them much because they had suffered much. He did not condemn them to starvation and suicide upon the hypocritical pretext that they were “unworthy,” but they did apply the lash of scorpions without mercy to those self-righteous and “eminently respectable” gentlemen who robbed the poor and then despised them for their poverty; who made long prayers, where they could be seen of men, while they devoured widows’ houses and bound burdens upon the backs of their victims that crushed them to the earth.

Who and where are the “unworthy” poor and who dare in the name of Christ to judge them? I have seen the innumerable poor in all their agonizing poverty and hopeless despair, but I have yet to see an “unworthy” poor. They are all God’s creatures and they are all human beings, and how any one professing to be a Christian can warn the community not to give them a mouthful of food, but to turn them away to starve and die can only be reconciled with that whited sepulcher, which so often passes for “Christian charity.” A human being with a heart in him, unless it be of stone, would feed a hungry dog, to say nothing of a famishing fellow-being.

Do not tell me as an excuse that all these men could have work if they but wanted it. That is not true. On the contrary, it is palpably false. In the city of New York alone, according to the abstract recently issued by the national bureau of labor, there are nearly four hundred thousand of workingmen and women in enforced idleness and in the country at large there are literally millions for whom there is no employment. Here is where to place the blame instead of upon the helpless victims, the “unworthy” poor; and here, too, is where to apply the remedy.

But I do not blame even those who become hoboes and tramps, rather than spend their lives in slavish tasks for the benefit of others who look down upon them with scorn as beasts of burden. I would rather be branded as belonging to the “unworthy” poor than to be insulted by being classed with the “worthy” poor.

The “worthy” poor! Think of that! It is society’s inadvertent confession of its own crime. It is precisely as if we said “innocent convicts,” and yet made no pretension to setting the innocent victims free.

Bernard Shaw is right. Poverty is civilization’s greatest crime. And this crime cannot be atoned for by “charity.” Rockefeller’s Sunday school will count for no more than a brothel when the babies murdered at Ludlow confront him in the day of judgment.

Rockefeller’s income is a hundred million dollars a year. It is pure robbery. Not a dollar of it does he produce. It is all taken from those in whose sweat and agony it is produced, and that is the reason they are poor and tired and discouraged and get drunk and recruit the ranks of the “unworthy” poor. If I had to exist as many of those poor wretches do — and we have them at our very doors — I, too, would probably get drunk as often as I had the chance.

There is a cause for poverty, and that cause can be removed, and when it is removed there will be few, if any poor, “worthy” or “unworthy.” The very fact that a poor wretch is “unworthy” pleads most accusingly and irresistibly in his behalf. The cause of his “unworthiness” may be found in his heredity or environment, and in any event outside of and beyond himself, and he should no more be punished for it than if he were the victim of cancer or epilepsy.

A vast amount of fraud, hypocrisy, and false pretense parades as “charity” for the purpose of diverting attention from the cause of the poverty it affects to relieve.

It is not “charity” that the poor want, or that will change their unfortunate condition. It is justice, and to obtain that the whole modern world is in a state of increasingly intelligent and portentous agitation.

As long as the few own the sources of wealth, the machinery of production and the means of life, the many will be condemned to work for them as the miners of Colorado and Montana work for Rockefeller, with the result that the few pile up millions and billions and rot in luxury and self-indulgence, while the millions that are robbed riot and rot in poverty and filth. The exploitation of the many by the few is now on trial before the world, and when that trial is ended and the exploitation of man by man ceases and society is organized upon the basis of the enlightened mutual interests of all, democracy will dawn, men will be brothers, war will cease, poverty will be a hideous nightmare of the past, and the sun of a new civilization will light the world.

Bloomerism and Hope

For events that show that a better, more equitable, and happier world is possible than the neoliberal hell we inhabit.

  • Trader Joe’s Workers Have Won Their First Unions in America Jacobin

On August 12, a Trader Joe’s store in Downtown Minneapolis became only the second in the nation to unionize after winning an election, supervised by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), by an overwhelming margin of fifty-five to five. The first store, in Hadley, Massachusetts, won its union election in late July.

Instead of joining an established union like the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), which already represents workers at grocery store chains like Kroger and Albertsons, the workers in Hadley and Minneapolis formed their own independent union called Trader Joe’s United. Like the similarly independent Amazon Labor Union that won a union election at a warehouse in Staten Island, New York, earlier this year, Trader Joe’s United is taking on a major US corporation and winning despite being a brand-new organization with few resources and no staff.

Meanwhile, employees at a Trader Joe’s in Boulder, Colorado, recently petitioned for a union recognition election with UFCW Local 7. Workers at a Trader Joe’s wine shop in New York City were also preparing to launch a union drive with UFCW when the company abruptly closed their store on August 11, in what some workers describe as an effort to stop the growing campaign in its tracks.

  • Amazon Workers Are Going on Wildcat Strikes in Britain Jacobin

Faced with a financial squeeze from every side, Amazon worker Chris*, from Doncaster, England, recently had to go onto a debt management plan. His child maintenance payments alone have gone up £137 a month to cover spiraling prices elsewhere. “The cost of living is absolutely ridiculous,” he says. “My power bill and my gas bill have more than doubled. The cost of everything is going up, but my wages haven’t risen very much.”

Chris is explaining why he joined hundreds of his colleagues in a recent wave of wildcat strikes. Unofficial action began on Thursday, August 4, at the Amazon site in Tilbury over a proposed 35 pence pay raise, which Chris describes as “insulting” and “inadequate.” Then the strikes spread, with workers at a number of sites including Bristol, Coventry, Doncaster, Rugby, and Rugeley staging sit-ins in canteens in protest at the measly offer made.

“It’s just disgusting and disgraceful,” says Sarah*, another worker who has taken part in the walkouts at the Amazon site in Bristol. “It goes to show the contempt they have for us. We’ve been driven to take action by desperation. People are worried about how they will be able to provide for their families.”

  • Are “Payment Strikes” About to Become a Regular Feature of the Economic Landscape? Naked Capitalism

The reemergence of “payment strikes” is perhaps a sign that as economic conditions deteriorate, people will begin to leverage the only real power they have left in today’s hyper-consumerist societies — i.e., as consumers.

In 1990, British people did the most unBritish of things — they revolted en masse against a deeply unpopular government policy. Across the country, beginning in Scotland, hundreds of thousands of people rioted against the Thatcher government’s poll tax, which was levied as a fixed sum on every liable individual, regardless of income, resources or ability to pay. Households covering almost a third of the British population refused to pay the tax even though such an act could lead to prosecution. It was the largest payment strike of modern British history and ultimately sowed the seeds of Margaret Thatcher’s downfall.

Now, the UK may be about to see another, albeit very different, mass payment strike. In response to runaway energy price rises, a seemingly grassroots movement called Don’t Pay UK, modelling itself on the poll tax resistance, has called on one million of the UK’s 28 million electricity consumers to boycott the energy companies this Fall. Formed in June, the campaign has already gathered over 110,000 pledges not to pay energy bills after October 1, unless the government and large energy companies reduce bills to an affordable level.

Even by European standards, energy prices have soared for British households over the past year. In April, the UK’s Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem)– tasked with overseeing the country’s privatized grid — hiked its price cap on energy bills (the maximum amount energy suppliers can charge each year) by 54% to £1,971. The next price cap, for October, is due to be published this Friday. Energy market intelligence consultancy Cornwall Insight has forecast it could rise by as much as 70%, taking the cap to an estimated £3,582 a year for a typical home.

From October, the price caps will change every three months instead of every six, opening the way to more regular price rises in the future. Ofgem may raise the price cap to £4,266 in January, says Cornwall Insight and to over £5,000 in April, according to Citi’s estimates.

That would represent a more than four-fold increase in energy bills in the space of just one year, at a time when most people — particularly those at the lower levels of the income scale — have seen their real salaries fall sharply. To make matters worse, as the British chartered accountant and political economist Richard Murphy notes in a piece for The Scotsman, the burden of the price rises will fall disproportionately on lower income households […]

I personally need more evidence that will be a successful movement, as things that are promised on the internet have a tendency to fizzle out, but even if this specific campaign doesn’t work out, I do find it difficult to imagine how these energy bill changes are going to work out in general. Like, it doesn’t really seem mathematically possible for large numbers of people to be able to afford appreciable amounts of energy. Maybe we just get a massive rise in theft or something.

The article goes on to describe the mortgage payment strikes in China, which have already been covered in the updates a little so I’ll just briefly mention it:

China is already witnessing a full-fledged payment strike that is causing havoc for some of the country’s lenders and many of its embattled real estate developers. The fact this is happening amid an acute property downturn, with sales forecast to drop by as much as a third this year, hardly helps matters.

The initial inspiration for the mortgage boycott appears to be a series of protests between April and June against the freezing of roughly 40 billion renminbi (or about $6 billion dollars) of retail deposits at rural banks in Henan Province. In early-to-mid July, an online crowdsourcing group (“WeNeedHomes”) began grumbling about the failure of property developers to deliver apartments on schedule, despite the fact they had taken out — and were, at least at that point, still servicing — mortgages to pay for these as-yet-unbuilt apartments.

After WeNeedHomes followed through on its threat to withhold mortgage payments, the mortgage payment strike went viral, quickly becoming a national phenomenon. As Michael Pettis notes in a paper for Carnegie Endowment, by late July more than 320 projects in a multitude of cities were affected by the mortgage boycott. Pettis cites a report by Caixin, which lays out some of the “peculiarities” of the pre-sales process in China […]

Then, in the US:

Another country where debtors are threatening to stop paying their debt is the US, where activists belonging to the Debt Collective, a debtors’ union dedicated to ending student debt, have threatened to go on strike if Joe Biden doesn’t deliver on his pledge to provide debt relief to the 45 million Americans who hold student debt. Borrower balances have effectively been frozen since the COVID-19 pandemic, but the moratorium on $1.6 trillion of student loans is set to expire on August 31.

On the campaign trail Biden had promised to cancel at least $10,000 per borrower, but has so far done taken only small targeted measures, such as cancelling debt for students of now-defunct educational institutions and temporarily expanding the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which forgives the debt of government and non-profit workers after 10 years of payments. But it falls far short of his campaign pledges.

“To highlight the destructive impact of student debt on older Americans,” 50 student debtors over the age of 50 highlight will begin striking in September, the Debt Collective said in a press release. Many of them have already paid tens of thousands of dollars in debt payments yet the principle remains higher today than at the loan’s inception.

The strike will form part of a larger effort by the Debt Collective to stir as many borrowers as possible to withhold their student loan payments. This doesn’t entail defaulting on payments, the group says, which has unpleasant long-term side effects for student debtors. Instead, the group encourages borrowers to take every step possible to shrink their regular payments to $0, such as through public service student loan forgiveness, by applying for waivers for people who have debt from predatory for-profit schools, or other methods.

Granted, a 50-people debt boycott is unlikely to make big waves but if the Biden government were to let the moratorium expire without taking broader action on student debt, which is unlikely given the fast-approaching mid-terms, many more student debtors could end up joining the debt strike, for the simple reason that they are not in a financial position to continue servicing their debt. A survey earlier this year found that 89% of full-time employed student loan borrowers are not financially secure enough to recommence payments, and the recent months of high inflation are unlikely to have eased this problem.

Then in Mexico:

In neighboring Mexico, local politicians in Puebla have announced plans to organize popular assemblies to urge local citizens to stop paying their water bills after the city council voted to allow the private water supplier to raise water rates. The water supplier plans to hike rates by 4-7% in the coming months and will be able to adjust its charges as often as it wants, which is “totally irregular” for a public service, says Francisco Vélez Pliego, the director of the Institute of Social Sciences and Humanities of the Autonomous University of Puebla (UAP).

This is happening as Mexico’s water crisis escalates. Even as drought grips vast swathes of northern Mexico, drink manufacturers, including Heineken and Coca Cola, continue to extract over a billion liters of groundwater for their bottling plants in Monterrey. As Kurt Hackbarth documents in Jacobin, water in Mexico has long been “transformed from a public resource into a commodity to be sold for profit. It means that corporations can consume water in high quantities while people lack basic access to drinking water.”

[Link back to the discussion thread]