…I don’t know if people still say it…but when I was a kid people liked to joke that the US & the UK were two countries separated by a common language…& there might be something to that…sometimes the same term can mean very different things…like “manufactured crisis”
Drivers refuelling their vehicles unnecessarily are causing shortages and queues outside forecourts across the country, the UK transport secretary, Grant Shapps, has said, as he hit out at what he called a “manufactured” crisis.
Ministers are scrambling to avert further panic-buying, after a lack of about 100,000 delivery drivers led to some BP petrol stations having to close and to pump shortages at Esso. Emergency measures to allow 5,000 foreign truck drivers into the country to help were approved by the cabinet on Friday, after a split about whether to ease post-Brexit immigration rules.
Playing down the threat of a lack of fuel, Shapps said there were no supply problems at the six refineries and 47 storage facilities across the UK, and he turned his ire on some motorists, telling them to “be sensible”.https://www.theguardian.com/business/2021/sep/26/grant-shapps-hits-out-at-manufactured-crisis-as-drivers-panic-buy
…it’s a curious thing…apparently in some places people have bought as much fuel in four days as would normally have been sold in a fortnight…which does sound like “panic buying”…& it would seem that it is true that there’s plenty of the stuff…just not where people can buy it
“With the intense demand seen over the past two days, we estimate that around 30 percent of sites in this network do not currently have either of the main grades of fuel,” BP, which operates 1,200 sites in Britain, said in statement.
The fuel panic comes as Britain faces several crises: an international gas price surge that is forcing energy firms out of business, a related shortage of carbon dioxide that threatens to derail meat production, and a shortage of truck drivers that is playing havoc with retailers and leaving some shelves bare.
Anglo-Dutch oil group Shell said that it had also seen increased demand for fuel.https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/bp-says-nearly-third-its-u-k-gas-stations-running-on-empty
…this is apparently on account of there not being enough people available to drive the trucks that refuel the filling stations…but the government would like to be very clear that it’s all because of the joint irresponsibility of the truck drivers for calling attention to the problem & the public for reacting to it…& absolutely not because they haven’t got their act together…& in no way because of brexit
The petrol crisis that has resulted in long queues of motorists at forecourts has been primarily blamed on panic-buying, but the government has also taken the opportunity to point the finger at an organisation that has long been a thorn in its side: the Road Haulage Association.
The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, said the panic was sparked after comments made by BP about dwindling stock levels at a Cabinet Office meeting were leaked by “one of the road haulage associations”. And in case there was any ambiguity, sources briefed the Mail on Sunday that the RHA was “entirely responsible for this panic and chaos”.https://www.theguardian.com/business/2021/sep/27/haulage-grant-shapps-petrol-panic-transport-fuel-shortage
What the RHA has done for several years is point out the growing lorry driver shortage, and warn that a supply chain crisis would sooner or later hit. A number of factors have contributed to the shortfall of an estimated 100,000 HGV drivers, but the chronic problem was vastly accelerated by Brexit and Covid.
Among a number of emergency solutions being considered to ease the supply chain crisis, most notably seen in long queues for petrol, ministers have said they will allow up to 5,000 EU HGV drivers to work in the UK up to Christmas.
Another plan, expected to be considered by Boris Johnson on Monday, would be for hundreds of soldiers to be used to deliver fuel to petrol stations running out of supplies amid panic buying and a shortage of drivers.https://www.theguardian.com/business/2021/sep/27/eu-lorry-drivers-not-help-britain-ease-fuel-crisis-union
Ministers are considering a range of options after BP said a third of its petrol stations had run out of the main two grades of fuel, while the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA), which represents almost 5,500 independent outlets, said 50% to 90% of its members had reported running out. It predicted the rest would soon follow.
…so…to recap…there’s a problem…it was foreseen some way in advance of a series of events that exacerbated it…nothing was done to mitigate it…eventually it had the predicted effect…& according to the government that’s the fault of everyone but them…like the people who irresponsibly failed to ignore the indications that there might be a problem…or worse still actually drew attention to it…because if they’d just ignored it then it wouldn’t have been a problem…so whose fault is that?
Senate Republicans on Monday blocked a bill that would fund the government, provide billions of dollars in hurricane relief and stave off a default in U.S. debts, part of the party’s renewed campaign to undermine President Biden’s broader economic agenda.
The GOP’s opposition dealt a death blow to the measure, which had passed the House last week, and now adds to the pressure on Democrats to devise their own path forward ahead of urgent fiscal deadlines. A failure to address the issues could cause severe financial calamity, the White House has warned, potentially plunging the United States into another recession.
The most urgent deadline is midnight Thursday, at which point Congress must adopt a measure to fund the government or some federal agencies and operations will shutter starting Friday morning. And lawmakers also must act before mid-October to raise the debt ceiling, or they could risk a first-ever default, potentially destabilizing global markets.https://www.washingtonpost.com/us-policy/2021/09/27/senate-debt-ceiling-government-shutdown/
Senate Republicans say they believe the nation’s borrowing limit should be raised, and don’t want the United States to default on its financial obligations — they just don’t want any part in helping Democrats get it done. “This could not be simpler,” the minority leader, Mitch McConnell, said on Thursday. If the Democrats “want to tax, borrow and spend historic sums of money without our input, they’ll have to raise the debt limit without our help.”
One thing Mr. McConnell’s argument ignores is that lifting the debt limit would be necessary even if Congress didn’t spend another dime on Mr. Biden’s agenda. It must be raised because the government needs to borrow to pay all of its bills. And Republicans and Democrats alike are responsible for the gap between revenues and spending.
As Mr. McConnell delays the inevitable, he should keep in mind the harm that comes with merely flirting with default. Rattled by dysfunction in Washington, consumers spend less and businesses hold off on hiring workers and increasing investment spending. Uncertainty is corrosive, reducing confidence, dynamism and risk taking.
How do we know this? Look back at the debt ceiling crisis of 2011, when Republicans demanded spending cuts in return for lifting the ceiling: On the day before Republicans finally agreed to raise the ceiling, the S&P 500 stock market index was down around 6 percent relative to its high point that year. Stock prices fell even further three days later, when the S&P downgraded the long-term credit rating of the United States for the first time ever. In the summer of 2011, Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index plunged to levels not seen since the 2008 global financial crisis. This brinkmanship over the debt ceiling pushed up interest rates, costing taxpayers an extra $1.3 billion in 2011 and $19 billion over the ensuing decade.https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/26/opinion/republican-mcconnell-debt-ceiling-biden.html
No matter how far they take their threat this time, McConnell and Republicans are counting on Americans not understanding what the debt ceiling is — that’s the only way this scam can work.
The debt limit is a legal formality. It isn’t an economic constraint on the federal government’s ability to borrow. A vote to raise it isn’t a vote for more debt; it’s a vote to fund the debts the government already owes. The debt limit exists because some policymakers would like to turn the public’s general opposition to debts and deficits into legislation that would reduce them or at least control their growth.
But only one party brands its members as fiscal hawks. Republicans still try to claim that mantle, but they engage in orgies of tax-cutting (without corresponding “pay-fors”) whenever they get the opportunity. GOP notables such as former House speaker Paul Ryan, with his largely undeserved reputation as a green-eyeshade-wearing budget-cutter, have vanished from view. Despite professing outrage about deficits and debt, many tea partyers embraced Donald Trump, on whose watch the national debt rose by close to $8 trillion.
As McConnell put it during the 2011 debt limit crisis: “It’s a hostage that’s worth ransoming. And it focuses the Congress on something that must be done.” This time around, McConnell hasn’t specified his ransom, but it will undoubtedly be something unpalatable to Democrats. Democrats are playing their own game of chicken, with moderates and progressives not trusting the other faction to provide enough votes for final passage of both Biden’s infrastructure legislation and his overall budget proposal.
The danger, as with Cold War “brinkmanship,” is that you never know if things will go too far and someone will decide to test the nuclear option. The equivalent result in today’s budget fight would be a default, with an ensuing meltdown in financial markets if U.S. government bonds become questionable assets. Markets have always believed that a default on the federal debt would never happen. Up to now, that thinking has been right — but there’s a first time for everything: On Jan. 5, few envisioned the Jan. 6 insurrection. These days, McConnell’s caginess is offset by a lot of Republican craziness.
Whether Republicans are still only bluffing, or if they’re really ready to gamble with America’s creditworthiness just to stick it to Biden, it would matter a whole lot less if they couldn’t rely on the public’s confusion about the debt limit. If raising it were properly understood for what it is — authorization for the country to pay what it owes — then it wouldn’t be a hostage worth taking. McConnell and Republicans would look like deadbeats.The debt limit fight is a scam. The GOP counts on voters not knowing that. [WaPo]
…in other words…that would seem to be a manufactured crisis…but like the proverbial man with a hammer who sees every problem as a nail…once you start looking at anything that might be called a crisis in the light of what caused it…it starts to feel like they’re pretty much all manufactured
Political reporting often portrays progressives as impractical and intransigent, unwilling to make the compromises needed to get things done, while centrists are realistic pragmatists. What’s happening in Congress right now, however, is just the opposite.
We can, of course, invoke the usual suspects: Corporate money and wealthy donors are surely having an impact. But I was struck by something Eric Levitz of New York magazine said in a recent article on this subject, which helped clarify a point I’ve been groping toward. Namely, some Democrats seem to have formed their perceptions about both economics and politics during the Clinton years and haven’t updated their views since.
Specifically, some Democrats still seem to believe that they can succeed economically and politically by being Republicans lite. It’s doubtful whether that was ever true. But it’s definitely not true now.
Beyond economics, in the 1990s many Democrats believed that they could mollify noncollege white voters through a combination of validating rhetoric — denouncing Sister Souljah, talking tough on crime — and cuts in programs widely perceived to mainly benefit Black people. Clinton really did end Aid to Families With Dependent Children, the program most people meant when they talked about “the bums on welfare,” without providing any real replacement.
But none of it worked. If racial antagonism had been driven by perceptions of inner-city disorder, it should have faded in the face of the spectacular decline in violent crime between the early 1990s and the mid-2010s. It didn’t. If this antagonism reflected the perception that many able-bodied Black men who should have been working weren’t, it should have faded when the problem of prime-age men not working (and the social disruptions that appear to go along with lack of jobs) became as severe in overwhelmingly white rural areas as in inner cities. It didn’t.https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/27/opinion/biden-centrist-democrats.html
In other words, if there was ever a time when individual Democratic members of Congress could hope to swim against the tide by positioning themselves to the right of their party, that time ended long ago. It doesn’t matter how much they force Biden to scale back his ambitions; it doesn’t matter how many pious statements they make about fiscal responsibility. Republicans will still portray them as socialists who want to defund the police, and the voters they’re trying to pander to will believe it.
Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, the inscrutable Democrat who may hold the key to passing her party’s ambitious social policy and climate bill, is scheduled to have a fund-raiser on Tuesday afternoon with five business lobbying groups, many of which fiercely oppose the bill.As Sinema resists the budget bill, she is set to raise money from business groups that oppose it. [NYT]
Ms. Sinema has said she cannot support a bill that large, and has privately told Senate Democratic colleagues that she is averse to the corporate and individual tax rate increases that both the House and Senate tax-writing committees had planned to use to help pay for the measure.
…it’s not exactly rocket science…with the margin in the senate as thin as it is…& with one whole side of that aisle happy to kill their own hostage rather than negotiate in anything approaching good faith…all manner of things turn on the choices of those deciding votes that determine a majority…even though when it comes to who ought to be making those decisions it’s pretty clear that the people wielding those votes would be most people’s last choice…but then…for too many people the last choice is the only choice available
Almost half a million American households lack basic indoor plumbing, with renters and people of color in some of the country’s wealthiest and fastest growing cities most likely to be living without running water or flushing toilets, new research reveals.
While some rural and indigenous communities have never had indoor plumbing, the vast majority of unplumbed Americans are in fact found in urban areas, with one in three affected households living in just 15 cities, according to research by the Plumbing Poverty Project (PPP), a collaboration between King’s College London (KCL) and the University of Arizona.
The full analysis, based on data from annual community surveys by the US Census Bureau, is published today in collaboration with the Guardian as part of our long-running series exposing America’s water crisis.
Clean, safe, affordable water and sanitation are essential for human health, economic prosperity and environmental justice. Yet when Covid struck and public health experts recommended regular hand washing to curtail the spread, an estimated quarter of the world’s population, 2 billion people, lacked clean running water, while almost half did not have access to proper sanitation, according to UN figures.
While the vast majority live in developing countries, at least 1.1 million people in the US, ostensibly the richest country in the world, also suffer the indignity of living in homes without running water, an indoor shower or bath, or flush toilet – because of incomplete plumbing. An additional 16 million people or so lose access every year when disconnected due to unaffordable, unpaid water bills.
Yet often, those without plumbing spend more on rent than those with running water and flush toilets. In 2017 the average unplumbed renter in San Francisco spent 44% of their monthly income to live in a home without piped running water, while the typical city resident spent 32% on a home with full plumbing.
Nationwide, plumbing poverty is usually clustered in small pockets, reflecting historical racist housing and infrastructure policies which have long discriminated against communities of color and tribes.
“It’s a confluence of forces and the underlying causes will depend on where you live, but the social safety net – including infrastructure spending – being hollowed out over the last 40 to 50 years, has impacted people everywhere. The role of race and structural racism is enormous,” said Stephen Gasteyer, associate professor of sociology at Michigan State University who researches water access.
“It’s solvable, but we’ve spent decades creating this crisis so getting out of it will take some time, money and creativity to rethink how we do infrastructure so that we can deal with emerging contaminants and deliver affordable water to everyone,” said Gasteyer.
The Bipartisan Plan that passed the Senate included $48.4bn – less than half what Biden proposed – for water programs over five years, including $15bn for lead and $15bn for PFAS, as well as $3.5bn for sanitation projects on indigenous lands.
It’s simply not enough, and means millions of Americans will continue to live without clean, safe affordable water for years to come.https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/sep/27/water-almost-half-million-us-households-lack-indoor-plumbing
…what do you know…”spent decades creating this crisis”…makes you wonder
In late June, the island republic of Nauru informed the International Seabed Authority (ISA) based in Kingston, Jamaica of its intention to start mining the seabed in two years’ time via a subsidiary of a Canadian firm, The Metals Company (TMC, until recently known as DeepGreen). Innocuous as it sounds, this note was a starting gun for a resource race on the planet’s last vast frontier: the abyssal plains that stretch between continental shelves deep below the oceans.
In the three months since it was fired, the sound of that shot has reverberated through government offices, conservation movements and scientific academies, and is now starting to reach a wider public, who are asking how the fate of the greatest of global commons can be decided by a sponsorship deal between a tiny island and a multinational mining corporation.
The risks are enormous. Oversight is almost impossible. Regulators admit humanity knows more about deep space than the deep ocean. The technology is unproven. Scientists are not even sure what lives in those profound ecosystems. State governments have yet to agree on a rulebook on how deep oceans can be exploited. No national ballot has ever included a vote on excavating the seabed. Conservationists, including David Attenborough and Chris Packham, argue it is reckless to go ahead with so much uncertainty and such potential devastation ahead.
History does not offer much encouragement to the denizens of the deep that the issue will be resolved in their favour. Mining has provided the building blocks of civilisation. Without ore, humankind could not have had the iron age, the bronze age and certainly not the great cultures of ancient China, Nubia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, the Aztecs or Mayans. In modern times, particularly the great post-second world war acceleration of the past 70 years, more has probably been gouged from the Earth than in all of previous human history combined.
The materials for a built and manufactured environment are extracted at the expense of natural beauty, resilience and stability. For most of human history, this was considered a fair trade-off. The costs – cleared forests, scarred landscapes, polluted water, air filled with dust, carcinogens and greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere – were either unknown or deemed small compared with the gains. They rarely appeared on corporate or national balance sheets. Miners extracted oil, gas, coal, iron, gold, copper, lithium and other minerals, while leaving other species, remote communities and future generations to pay the price.
If mining in the deep ocean is technologically challenging and expensive, then independent oversight is even tougher: beyond all national jurisdictions, too expensive for environmental organisations to reach, too inaccessible for all but invited journalists to visit, and totally free of people so no chance of hold-ups by protesters. Fish, crustaceans and microbes might suffer, but they cannot complain.
Payal Sampat, mining programme director at the Earthworks environmental charity, said the rushed approach to deep-sea mining was reminiscent of the wild-west prospectors of the 19th century. “This really is a throwback to the early robber baron era. Our global heritage is being decided in small backroom discussions. Most people are completely unaware that this enormous planet-changing decision is being made. It is very non-transparent.” She said the mining industry had never been properly regulated. Today’s mega-pits are so big they can be seen from space, but they are governed by laws drawn up 150 years ago in the era of picks and shovels. “Deep-sea mining really represents a continuation of that destructive extractivist mindset. It is all about looking at the next frontier rather than using the resources we already have much better.”
Nauru ought to provide a salutary reminder of the destructive spiral that follows when an ecosystem is sucked dry. Once described as a Pacific idyll, the island’s topsoil was stripped of phosphate first by the British, then the Germans, then New Zealanders and Australians. They wanted the deposits to fertilise gardens and farmland in their own countries, and promised to restore the landscape and fully compensate those affected by environmental damage. By the time of independence in 1968, enough phosphate was left to briefly make the country’s 12,000 inhabitants the second-richest people on Earth. As phosphate prices rose from $10 a ton to more than $65 in the 1970s, gross domestic product per capita topped $50,000, second only to Saudi Arabia.
But within two decades, the resource was virtually exhausted, leaving an inland moonscape of gnarled, spiky rock and an economy in tatters. Restitution funds were supposed to rehabilitate 400 hectares (1,000 acres), but they have been frittered away in the past 25 years with barely six hectares recovered.
Archive documents show corporations have tried to influence the ISA since its inception. In the 1980s, multinational corporations, such as Lockheed Martin and Sumitomo, were lobbying governments to ensure the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea “should contain a bias in favour of mining production”.
In theory, every country in the world is involved in the ISA’s decision-making. In practice, power lies with a small group of experts that is weighted in favour of mining. There is no specialist environmental or science assessment group to vet applications for new contracts. Instead, new contracts are initially made by the ISA’s Legal and Technical Commission (LTC), which comprises just 30 members. Their decisions can only be overturned by a super-majority of two thirds of the full council, which comprises 36 states.
The commission has a 100% record of approving exploration applications, for which ISA charges a $500,000 (£365,000) processing fee. Membership of the LTC is skewed towards extraction rather than environmental oversight – a fifth of the members work directly for contractors with deep-sea mining projects. They include Nobuyuki Okamoto, who established Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation, which has started its own seafloor exploration, and Carsten Rühlemann, who works for Germany’s Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources, which holds exploration contracts in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Many others have a background in mining or oil and gas exploration. Among them are the chair of the commission, Harald Brekke, who is a senior geologist at the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate; Pakistan’s representative, Khalid Mehmood Awan, who has worked for offshore oil and gas companies; and an Australian geologist, Mark Alcock, who is listed as working previously in surveying for petroleum and minerals exploration. By comparison, only three members are obviously focused on marine ecosystems, such as Gordon Lindsay Paterson, a zoologist at the Natural History Museum in London.
The case raises still deeper questions about humanity’s treatment of the Earth, particularly the dangerous gap between caring for our immediate local environment while turning a blind eye to what happens in the planet’s more remote corners. The French philosopher Bruno Latour traces this back to colonial thinking, which continues in present-day neoliberal capitalism. “Every state delineated by its borders is obliged, by definition, to lie about what allows it to exist since, if it is wealthy and developed, it has to expand over other territories on the quiet, though without seeing itself as being responsible for those territories in any way,” he writes in his new book After Lockdown: A Metamorphosis. “That’s a basic hypocrisy that creates a disconnect between, on the one hand, the world I live in as a citizen of a developed country, and, on the other, the world I live off, as a consumer of the same country. As if every state was coupled with a shadow state that never stopped haunting it, a doppelganger that provides for it on the one hand and is devoured by it, on the other.”
A pithier argument is made by Will McCallum, head of oceans at Greenpeace UK, who fears the deep sea will suffer like all other newly opened territories. “Any claim of not being environmentally damaging is meaningless, as we have no idea now what that environment is,” he said.
“We have never entered a frontier and not fucked it up more.”https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/sep/27/race-to-the-bottom-the-disastrous-blindfolded-rush-to-mine-the-deep-sea
…so…since apparently today I’m just pointing out that everything bad is probably going to be worse…here’s another frontier we’re apparently looking at
The Republican Party today is a zombie party. Its leaders go through the motions of governing in pursuit of traditional Republican goals, wrestling over infrastructure spending and foreign policy, even as real power in the party has leached away to Trump. From the uneasy and sometimes contentious partnership during Trump’s four years in office, the party’s main if not sole purpose today is as the willing enabler of Trump’s efforts to game the electoral system to ensure his return to power.
With the party firmly under his thumb, Trump is now fighting the Biden administration on separate fronts. One is normal, legitimate political competition, where Republicans criticize Biden’s policies, feed and fight the culture wars, and in general behave like a typical hostile opposition.
The other front is outside the bounds of constitutional and democratic competition and into the realm of illegal or extralegal efforts to undermine the electoral process. The two are intimately related, because the Republican Party has used its institutional power in the political sphere to shield Trump and his followers from the consequences of their illegal and extralegal activities in the lead-up to Jan. 6. Thus, Reps. Kevin McCarthy and Elise Stefanik, in their roles as party leaders, run interference for the Trump movement in the sphere of legitimate politics, while Republicans in lesser positions cheer on the Jan. 6 perpetrators, turning them into martyrs and heroes, and encouraging illegal acts in the future.
The world will look very different in 14 months if, as seems likely, the Republican zombie party wins control of the House. At that point, with the political winds clearly blowing in his favor, Trump is all but certain to announce his candidacy, and social media constraints on his speech are likely to be lifted, since Facebook and Twitter would have a hard time justifying censoring his campaign. With his megaphone back, Trump would once again dominate news coverage, as outlets prove unable to resist covering him around the clock if only for financial reasons.
But this time, Trump would have advantages that he lacked in 2016 and 2020, including more loyal officials in state and local governments; the Republicans in Congress; and the backing of GOP donors, think tanks and journals of opinion. And he will have the Trump movement, including many who are armed and ready to be activated, again. Who is going to stop him then? On its current trajectory, the 2024 Republican Party will make the 2020 Republican Party seem positively defiant.https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/09/23/robert-kagan-constitutional-crisis/
“You could look at 2020 as the nadir of American democratic processes, or you could look at it as a dress rehearsal,” says Hasen, a professor of law at UC Irvine.
Hasen has ideas about how to preempt some of this — they range from the legal to the political, and are the subject of a major conference that took place Friday at the Fair Elections and Free Speech Center, which he co-directs at UC Irvine. But even as he and other elections experts warn of a three-alarm fire, he’s troubled that Democrats in Washington seem to lack the same sense of urgency and focus.
If the same state and local election officials are in place in 2024 as in 2020 — many of them Republican — Hasen is confident they would be able to stand up to Trump’s pressure to disregard the vote count and declare him the winner. But Hasen isn’t confident they will be in place. Many election officials are fleeing and, he says, are “being replaced by people who do not have allegiance to the integrity of the process.” (We got a taste of that this week, when Texas announced an “audit” of the 2020 election results in four counties some eight-and-a-half hours after Trump publicly called for one despite no serious evidence of problems.)
Or consider how things might’ve played out in January if Congress’s makeup had been different. “What would have happened if the election was exactly the same, except Kevin McCarthy was Speaker of the House?” Hasen asks. “I don’t know that we’d have a President Biden right now.”What If 2020 Was Just a Rehearsal? [Politico]
…but…well…I’m sure everything’s fine…it’s just me…right?
…maybe more coffee & some tunes will make everything seem better…so I’ll try to get to that part before too long