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What then are we to become?

What then are we to become?

According to Boris Johnson, the economic dislocation which appears to be gathering pace across the UK is merely “a period of adjustment after Brexit.” In Johnson’s formulation, those who would turn the clock back are tacitly in favour of the low-pay and poor working conditions which were encouraged when the UK was a member of the European Union.  There is, for example, no shortage of lorry drivers in the UK.  More than 230,000 of us hold valid Heavy Goods vehicle licences.  Unfortunately for those who like turkey for Christmas dinner and petrol at any time, the pay and conditions in the haulage industry are so poor that most prefer to work elsewhere.  Cheap Eastern European drivers living out of their cabs and engaging in cabotage helped to paper over the cracks until the lockdowns began and some 20,000 of them opted to be quarantined at home rather than stay in the UK.

In the anti-Brexit narrative, the shortage of drivers, agricultural workers, natural gas, garden furniture and anything else which turns out to be in short supply, is the unintended consequence of an ill-conceived withdrawal from the EU.  But in Johnson’s formulation, the dislocation is no more than the intended first phase of a transition from the low-paid and low-skilled economy of the past to a new, high-paid and hi-tech “global Britain.”  It is not – his supporters claim – the government’s fault that these shortages are materialising now.  It is the fault of employers who – despite having had five years to prepare for Brexit – have failed to train enough workers and offer them decent enough pay and conditions to retain them in their respective industries…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

UK Tells People To Stop “Panic Buying” As “Winter Of Discontent” Fears Emerge

UK Tells People To Stop “Panic Buying” As “Winter Of Discontent” Fears Emerge

UK politicians are in utter panic as similarities to the 1970s-style “winter of discontent” of shortages and socio-economic distress could rear its ugly head in the coming months, according to Reuters.

A significant driver in what could very well be a hellacious winter for Brits is soaring natural gas and electricity prices that have already disrupted segments of the UK economy and sent shockwaves through energy markets, chemical producers, and the food industry, among others. Compound this all with labor shortages thanks to Brexit, and the dire situation may worsen.

Some Brits who remember the past worry a winter of discontent could be imminent. Many are facing extraordinary high power bills and sharp food inflation that are eating away at wages, along with shortages of goods at supermarkets.

The primary driver of this chaos is soaring natural gas prices due to declines in Russian flows to Europe, along with a drop in renewable power output. The soaring cost of natgas has pressured chemical firms that use the gas in production to limit or halt operations. One such industry is fertilizer that is a byproduct of natgas. From there, the decline of fertilizer has affected CO2 production, which heavily impacts food supply chains.

People are paying attention to the developments of the energy crisis and its immediate ripple effect across the economy and are taking no chances of being left without food. Many are panic buying food as government officials try to calm everyone down, reassuring everyone the winter of discontent is not upon them.

“There is no need for people to go out and panic buy,” Small Business Minister Paul Scully told Times Radio.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

BP Prepares To Ration Gas At UK Service Stations Amid Supply Woes

BP Prepares To Ration Gas At UK Service Stations Amid Supply Woes

Compounding the ongoing UK energy crisis is BP plc, a multinational oil and gas company, which said it plans to restrict deliveries of gasoline and diesel across its network of service stations in the country amid a truck driver shortage, according to ITV.

ITV, citing a BP spokesperson, said a shortage of truck drivers is inhibiting the oil company’s ability to transport fuel from refineries to its network of service stations.

According to ITV, the disruption is expected to cause BP to announce fuel “restrictions” at service stations “very soon.” 

The spokesperson said a “handful” of service stations have already closed due to the lack of unleaded gasoline and diesel.

Last Thursday, BP’s Head of UK Retail, Hanna Hofer, spoke with the Cabinet Office about the diminishing supplies and said BP had two-thirds of fuel stock levels required for normal operations. She expects fuel stocks to stabilize and began rebuilding in October, but there could be a few weeks of disruptions at the pump.

The spokesperson added:

“These have been caused by delays in the supply chain, which has been impacted by industry-wide driver shortages across the UK and we are working hard to address this issue.”

A lack of truck drivers is due to several factors, including Brexit and the virus pandemic. Since Brexit, there are estimates that several thousand truck drivers from the EU are thought to have been lost.

This is more bad news for Brits, who are already experiencing hyperinflating natural gas and electricity prices, along with other disruptions caused by the energy crisis.

UK: Food Shortages ‘Inevitable’ – “The real food crisis for food supplies starts now.”

Industry experts are warning that food shortages are “inevitable” in the UK as crops rot without reaching retail. Imports of beef from the EU are to be cut 85% under Brexit, leaving Brits asking “Where’s the beef?” and seeing absurdly high prices. What’s more — the mainstream media is acknowledging the food shortages ahead, which means we are truly entering the “Problem/Reaction” stage of the dialectic intended to herd people into accepting the “Solution” of the fake food from the technocrats. The UK may be ahead of the curve here, but this is going global — watch this video to find out why.

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LINKS:

https://www.thegrocer.co.uk/supermarkets/food-shortages-now-inevitable-due-to-labour-crisis-industry-warns/657227.article

https://inews.co.uk/news/hgv-driver-shortage-food-fresh-produce-rot-price-rises-crisis-brexit-1047059?ITO=newsnow

https://www.fpcfreshtalkdaily.co.uk/single-post/an-escalating-crisis-fresh-produce-left-to-rot-and-prices-to-rise-amid-lorry-driver-shortage

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

EU can shut off power supplies if UK tries to seize control of fish stocks, small print of deal reveals

EU can shut off power supplies if UK tries to seize control of fish stocks, small print of deal reveals

Cables under Channel meet 8 per cent of demand – raising threat of higher prices and possible blackouts.

The EU has secured the ability to shut off gas and electricity supplies if the UK tries to seize control of disputed fish stocks in future, experts are warning.

The sanction – which would hike prices and possibly trigger blackouts – makes a mockery of the prime minister’s claim to have “taken control” of British waters in his trade agreement, they say.

The little-noticed clause in the vast 1,255-page text allows Brussels to kick the UK out of its electricity and gas markets in June 2026, unless a fresh deal is agreed.

The date set is – deliberately – the same as for the review of fishing rights, when Mr Johnson has insisted the UK will finally grab a large share of stocks, having failed to do that in his agreement.

The Institute for Government said Brussels had been determined to secure a connection “between energy and fish” in the negotiations that finally concluded on Christmas Eve.

“It seems that, in the weeds of the deal, they’ve succeeded,” Maddy Thimont Jack, the IfG’s associate director, told The Independent:

“By including annual negotiations on energy from 2026, it would be very easy to leverage access to the EU’s energy market in the annual talks on fish – also starting in 2026.

“This is just another reason why the UK will likely struggle to take back control of any more of its waters in the years to come.”

Losing power supplies could have a significant impact on the UK, which brings in about 8 per cent of its demand through huge power cables under the Channel.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Post-Brexit Agrochemical Apocalypse for the UK?

Post-Brexit Agrochemical Apocalypse for the UK?

The British government, regulators and global agrochemical corporations are colluding with each other and are thus engaging in criminal behaviour. That’s the message put forward in a new report written by environmentalist Dr Rosemary Mason and sent to the UK Environment Agency. It follows her January 2019 open letter to Werner Baumann, CEO of Bayer CropScience, where she made it clear to him that she considers Bayer CropScience and Monsanto criminal corporations.

Her letter to Baumann outlined a cocktail of corporate duplicity, cover-ups and criminality which the public and the environment are paying the price for, not least in terms of the effects of glyphosate. Later in 2019, Mason wrote to Bayer Crop Science shareholders, appealing to them to put human health and nature ahead of profit and to stop funding Bayer.

Mason outlined with supporting evidence how the gradual onset of the global extinction of many species is largely the result of chemical-intensive industrial agriculture. She argued that Monsanto’s (now Bayer) glyphosate-based Roundup herbicide and Bayer’s clothianidin are largely responsible for the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef and that the use of glyphosate and neonicotinoid insecticides are wiping out wildlife species across the globe.

In February 2020, Mason wrote the report ‘Bayer Crop Science rules Britain after Brexit – the public and the press are being poisoned by pesticides’. She noted that PM Boris Johnson plans to do a trade deal with the US that could see the gutting of food and environment standards. In a speech setting out his goals for trade after Brexit, Johnson talked up the prospect of an agreement with Washington and downplayed the need for one with Brussels – if the EU insists the UK must stick to its regulatory regime. In other words, he wants to ditch EU regulations.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

We Can Only Choose One: Our National Economy or Globalization

We Can Only Choose One: Our National Economy or Globalization

The servitude of society to a globalized economy is generating extremes of insecurity, powerlessness and inequality. 

Does our economy serve our society, or does our society serve our economy, and by extension, those few who extract most of the economic benefits? It’s a question worth asking, as beneath the political churn around the globe, the issues raised by this question are driving the frustration and anger that’s manifesting in social and political disorder.

A recent essay examines these issues in light of Brexit, which the author sees as a manifestation of dramatic but poorly understood changes in Britain’s economy over the past 60 years:

How Britain was sold: Why we need to rethink the case for a national capitalism in the age of uncertainty.

“One of the reasons Brexit has become unstuck is that the changing nature of the British economy since the 1970s and 1980s has made it hard to identify what the economic interests of the nation really are.

If nothing else, Brexit has been a long overdue education in the realities of Britain’s economy.

While both liberals and Marxists argue that the nationality of capitalism does not matter, there is a need to rethink the case for a national capitalism in this age of economic inequality, political fracture and geopolitical uncertainty. If nothing else, by embedding the economy more deeply into the nation and the daily lives of its citizens, and by directing itself towards national purposes and having a greater stake in developing national skills and innovations, a national capitalism would underline and reinforce that lost idea of the common good.”

It’s shocking to recall that Britain had a large and vibrant domestically owned auto industry in the 1960s, and remained a major industrial power / exporter.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Finding our common ground and common purpose

Finding our common ground and common purpose


We are living in extraordinary, stormy times. In the political sphere, a sixteen-year-old girl speaks truth to powerful global leaders in New York; in the UK, the Supreme Court finds our Government has acted unlawfully in the proroguing of Parliament. In spite of all the promises and declarations, the planet is still set for 3 degrees of global warming above pre-industrial levels, sending us more rapidly towards the tipping point for our climate and all life on earth. We are travelling through unchartered territories. Tribal and polarised politics shape the public discourse. It can feel profoundly unsettling. Where on earth is the solid ground from which we can find common purpose and make the urgent progress we need on the really critical issues facing us?

In July 2019, The RSA Food Farming and Countryside Commission (FFCC) published a series of important reports. Funded by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, this two-year independent inquiry helped to shape a new vision for safe, secure and sustainable food and farming systems and a flourishing countryside. Initially focussed on matters raised by the Brexit vote, the inquiry quickly turned its attention to the urgent issues that transcend Brexit: the crises in climate and nature, health and wellbeing and rural communities. For eighteen months, we worked with business leaders and academics across different sectors, and with citizens in their communities around the UK, to arrive at the recommendations in our report, Our Future in the LandThe report garnered widespread – and cross-party – backing, both for our recommendations and for the process by which we arrived at them. We were determined that the many and diverse perspectives we’d heard through our inquiry were respected, and that everyone who’d given their time, experience and expertise to us so generously would see their voices in our reports. And make no mistake: this is contested territory.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Assange Is The Only One To Abide By The Law

Assange Is The Only One To Abide By The Law

Salvador Dali Self portrait  1921

On October 21 2019, Brexit became an entirely irrelevant issue. Or perhaps we should say it had already become that, but on that date it was exposed for all to see that it was. The parading into a courtroom of Julian Assange in London was all the evidence one could need that the UK government breaks its own laws as well as numerous international laws, with impunity. But that is not how the media reported on it, if it did at all.

And so, the core issue behind Brexit, i.e. who makes Britain’s laws, turned to nothing. If your government breaks its own laws all the time, what does it matter where those laws are made? They are meaningless anyway. Whether they come from Brussels or London make no difference if the government and judicial system don’t abide by them. Those million men marches for a Final Say look totally ridiculous once that reality sinks in.

I can’t get the picture of Julian Assange as he looked on Monday out of my head. I’ve written so much about him, tried so hard to find support for him, and now to see him withered away and perhaps not strong enough to see the end of his own extradition hearing is heartbreaking. So let’s go through the whole thing again; it’s not like I could write about anything else right now. I was thinking again yesterday about a song I used in an earlier article about Julian, I Fought the Law.

That is how the vast majority of people will see his case, that he fought the law and the law caught up with him. But that’s not at all what’s been happening. 

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Assange, Varoufakis, Brexit

Assange, Varoufakis, Brexit

Max Ernst The Angel of the home or the Triumph of Surrealism 1937

A friend of mine here in Athens, Greece, named Wayne Hall, who’s of Australian descent but moved here at about the time Napoleon headed for St. Petersburg, and works as a translator and language teacher, sent me a mail a few days ago that I thought was interesting.

In particular, Wayne referred to a video I didn’t know existed, of Julian Assange hosting a get-together in the Ecuadorian embassy in London on the night of the Brexit referendum, June 23, 2016, that includes a video (sound) link to Yanis Varoufakis who was in Rome at the time.

Julian was receiving visitors and broadcasting! How times have deteriorated, it’s heart-rendering, and it’s so painfully good to see him here in better days…. That video is below. The sound quality of Varoufakis speaking is really bad, and I don’t have the equipment here to work on that, but Wayne was kind enough to transcribe it. See also below.

What I found especially intriguing is the difference in view between the two: Varoufakis wanted (wants) the UK to stay in the EU, in order to reform it from within. And he thinks (thought) that his cross-European party, DiEM 25, can play a role in that. Even though it has no seats in the EU parliament, not then, and not now.

Assange, on the other hand, was pretty much pro-Brexit. He was quite clear about this (a few hours before the referendum results were in):

[..] if there is a Leave or even if the vote is very close, which it surely is, it is something that calls into question the political legitimacy of the European Union in the way it has been conducted so far. And really it’s quite incredible that it came to this. 

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Unsettled Weather

Unsettled Weather


After leaving the Bahamas for dead, Hurricane Dorian barely grazed the US mainland en route to the Canadian shoals of oblivion, perhaps saving America’s insurance industry. But the steamy west coast of Africa is hurling out a cavalcade of replacements as the high season for Atlantic storms commences, so better keep the plywood sheets at hand. Lots of things are looking stormy around the world just now: nations, markets, politics — everything really except all three divisions of the American League… yawn….

The world is in a nervous place these days The US is something like the world’s crazy old auntie, whom everyone else would like to lock in the attic. Except she happens to be cradling a bazooka, so they’ll go on trying to ignore her a while longer, hoping she doesn’t launch any rockets at the neighbors.

Britain courts chaos in its attempt to keep staving off the Brexit quandary, which itself seems to promise a hearty dose of chaos as thousands of unresolved trade issues threaten the country’s economic future walking out on Europe. The majority who voted Brexit feel that the EU is already crushing them under bureaucratic diktat and immigration quotas. New Prime Minister Bo-Jo has tried one ploy after another in his quest to reach the Halloween Brexit ramp. Everyone is ganging up on him, even his own brother, Jo Johnson, who has quit the cabinet and is ditching his seat in parliament. Bo-Jo wants to call an election because there is no one else to take his place, and many of those piling on him also detest the opposition Labor Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn. Events are outrunning anybody’s ability to see what happens next. Street violence is not out of the question.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

New World Order in Meltdown, But Russia Stronger Than Ever

New World Order in Meltdown, But Russia Stronger Than Ever

Last week was full of portentous events. Only somebody who has not been awake for the last few years will fail to realize how these at first sight unconnected events are part of the same matrix. There was the ever louder talk in mainstream media about an approaching global recession, inverted yield curves and the negative yields, which tell us that the Western financial system is basically in coma and kept alive only by generous IV injections of central bank liquidity. By now it has dawned on people that the central bankers acting as central planners in a command economy and printing money (aka quantitative easing) to fuel asset bubbles are about to wipe off the last vestiges of what used to be a market economy.

Then we saw Trump taking new twitter swipes at China in his on-and-off “great trade deal” and the stock markets moving like a roller coaster in reaction to each new twitter salvo. Also, we had both Trump and Macron sweet talking about getting Russia back and again renaming their club G8. Last Tuesday at a G7 presser in Biarritz, the Rothschild groomed Macron took it one step further opening up about the reasons why they all of a sudden longed for friendship with Russia: “We are living the end of Western hegemony.” In the same series, Britain’s new government under Boris Johnson was telling his colleagues in Biarritz that he is now decisively going for a no-deal Brexit, after which he went back to London and staged a coup d’état by suspending parliament to ensure no elected opposition interfered with it.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Brexit, Britain and the Permanent Crisis in the Gulf

Brexit, Britain and the Permanent Crisis in the Gulf

What on Earth were the British politicians and officials thinking who gave the go-ahead for the seizure of the Iranian oil tanker Grace 1 off Gibraltar on 4 July? Did they truly believe that the Iranians would not retaliate for what they see as a serious escalation in America’s economic war against them?

The British cover story that the sending of 30 Royal Marines by helicopter to take over the tanker was all to do with enforcing EU sanctions on Syria, and nothing to do with US sanctions on Iran, was always pretty thin.

The Spanish foreign minister, Josep Borrell, has said categorically that Britain took over the tanker “following a request from the United States to the United Kingdom”.

One fact about Iranian foreign policy should have been hardwired into the brain of every politician and diplomat in Britain, as it already is in the Middle East, which is that what you do to the Iranians they will do to youat a time and place of their own choosing.

The US and UK backed Saddam Hussein in his invasion of Iran in 1980, but this was not unconnected – though it was impossible to prove – with the suicide bombing that killed 241 US service personnel in the marine barracks in Beirut in 1983.

Commentators seeking an explanation for the UK’s seizure of the Grace 1 suggest that it was suckered into the action by super hawks in the US administration, such as the national security adviser John Bolton.

But, given the inevitability of the Iranian reaction against British naval forces too weak to defend British-flagged tankers, the British move looks more like a strategic choice dictated by a lack of other options.

Confrontation with the EU over Brexit means that Britain has no alternative but to ally itself ever more closely to the US.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Politics and Algorithms

Politics and Algorithms

Edward Hopper Sailing  1911

It’s a development that has long been evident in continental Europe, and that has now arrived on the shores of the US and UK. It is the somewhat slow but very certain dissolution of long-existing political parties, organizations and groups. That’s what I was seeing during the Robert Mueller clown horror show on Wednesday.

Mueller was not just the Democratic Party’s last hope, he was their identity. He was the anti-Trump. Well, he no longer is, he is not fit to play that role anymore. And there is nobody to take it over who is not going to be highly contested by at least some parts of the party. In other words: it’s falling apart.

And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s a natural process, parties change as conditions do and if they don’t do it fast enough they disappear. Look at the candidates the Dems have. Can anyone imagine the party, post-Mueller, uniting behind Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders or Kamala Harris? And then for one of them to beat Donald Trump in 2020?

I was just watching a little clip from Sean Hannity, doing what Trump did last week, which is going after the Squad. Who he said are anti-Israel socialists and, most importantly, the de facto leaders of the party, not Nancy Pelosi. That is a follow-up consequence of Mueller’s tragic defeat, the right can now go on the chase. The Squad is the face of the Dems because Trump and Hannity have made them that.

The upcoming Horowitz and Durham reports on their respective probes into “meddling into the meddling” will target many people in the Democratic Party, US intelligence services, and the media. In that order. Can the Dems survive such a thing? It’s hard to see.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Blain’s Morning Porridge – 18th June 2019

Blain’s Morning Porridge – 18th June 2019

“Here’s to all the filthy money and where it went..” 

Happy Birthday David! 

Apologies for the lack of commentary y’day.. long, dull boring story involving the Isle of Wight Festival, transport hassles and a whiff of pot on a strike slowed train… 

So much to think and worry about the morning – the market showing its love and appreciation for BoJo and the heightened chances of a no-deal Brexit by spanking sterling to a 6 month low, or Boeing deciding to rename its troubled B-737 MAX by dropping MAX as Airbus orders come flooding in at the Paris Airshow, but the main story is the Fed.. or should that be how much faith the market is putting in the Fed and the FOMC meeting today/tomorrow? I’m not persuaded… 

The market consensus is the Fed will eventually ease US rates, but not this time. It’s how it communicates/hints at timing tomorrow that will be most closely analysed aspect. Expect pages of dot-plot analysis and explanations of whatever he said and meant. Fed-Head Jerome Powell has already made clear the Fed is willing to act to offset slower growth and counter a trade war; “we will act as appropriate to sustain the expansion”. 

This is where it starts to look messy. Is it the Fed’s job to “sustain expansion”? 

It’s clearly a laudable objective, but let’s not confuse the stock market for the economy! It plays right into Trump’s agenda, his simplistic message to the electorate that stock strength proves his deal making success. An ease would provide a potent hit of short-term ecstasy to an addicted stock market, and give Trump something to crow about – a factor the Liberal press is all over like the proverbial cheap suit.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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