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On Democracy, Sir Lewis Namir, and the Struggle of the Super-Rich



I spent most of this week in the press gallery of the House of Commons, not knowing whether to laugh or cry. Theresa May laid out the case for her deal on Tuesday, her voice so hoarse it could barely be heard and her body hunched over in a moment of both personal and national humiliation. Wednesday’s chaos, when Conservative MPs were first told they would not be whipped and then, at the last moment, that they would be sent back and forth, was a moment of high farce. And what do we do about Thursday when Stephen Barclay, the Brexit minister, spoke in favor of the government’s proposal in the control room and then left to vote against it?

But before we completely lose faith in British democracy, it is worth remembering two things. First, among the madness and slag, there were some beautiful speeches. Kenneth Clark, father of the house, was the most statesman. He made a strong case that the British had voted in a referendum to leave the political structures of the European Union but remain within the common market, and suggested that this could be a template for a compromise. He also had fun taunting Brexiteers who probably didn’t know what the WTO was a few months ago but now think it’s the source of all wisdom. (One of the oddities of the Brexit debate is that protesters are now praising the WTO instead of denouncing it.) Anna Soubry, a former Tory who joined the new Independent Group, says the harshest thing about the Brexit supporters who took over her party ( Shortly after her audition, I lined up for coffee behind Peter Bone, one of the leading Brexiteers, who started wearing dirty old sneakers as if he were preparing for a career as a beggar.) Hilary Benn pointed out a logical contradiction at the heart of Ms May’s policy : why is it wise for her to keep asking the same question in the House of Representatives when it was defeated twice by huge margins, and unwise to hold a second referendum after a relatively small vote in 2016? And on the government side, Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Agriculture, has proven once again that he is the best debater in the House of Representatives.

Second, remember Walter Baggot’s dictum that parliamentary government is “government by deliberation.” Debate could make narrow minds even narrower, and inflamed minds even more feverish: Sir Christopher Chop, another Brexiteer, even told the House this week that if Jeremy Corbyn issues a vote of no confidence in the government, he will consider voting for a move. which could lead to the collapse of his own government and the election of the most left-wing prime minister the country has ever had. Madness! But it can also make broad minds broader and reflective minds more reflective. I am amazed at the number of serious people who think seriously about some of their most basic beliefs: former Thatcher supporters who think about the failures of the free market that created such alienation in the north; ex-Blairists who think of a cozy political cartel that exacerbated this rift; and former members of the establishment who are thinking about how to revive British democracy. The importance of things like devolution, creating places, and building community is being thought about more seriously than it has been for many years.

The political class focused obsessively on the formation of a small new independent group of deputies. But something bigger and more interesting is happening at the broad center of British politics: the collapse of old beliefs and a desperate attempt to produce a new synthesis. The big question is whether the emerging center stage can come together in time, or whether the future belongs to the likes of Corbin and Bone.


DURING THIS debate, I often caught myself thinking that article Matthew d’Ancona guardians about what Britain’s greatest historian of “that wondrous microcosm, the House of Commons” Sir Lewis Namier (pictured below) might have made of the latest parliamentary machinations. Sir Lewis didn’t have time to think that politicians are driven by abstract things like political ideologies, let alone nonsense about the good of mankind. They are driven solely by self-interest – the desire for place, position and promotion, as well as an endless game of facts and connections. One of the reasons this Jewish immigrant from Poland liked the UK so much is that it was more honest than other countries in the fight for promotion. And one of the reasons he was so preoccupied with the House of Commons was that he thought it was the perfect booth for “battle, brawl and dominion.”

On the face of it, the Brexit crisis proves Sir Lewis wrong: a growing list of conservative politicians have given up high office (as well as a chauffeur and salary) to fight for an abstract ideal of sovereignty. But interesting? What’s striking about the Brexit rebels is how puffed up they are: look at Ian Duncan Smith and Owen Paterson marching down Downing Street to present legislation to the Prime Minister, or Sir Bill Cash making long speeches about a sub-item in Parliament.” Z” of the European Treaty.

Namyer’s analysis of Brexiteers suggests that they are made up of three different groups of people who, for various reasons, have decided that their egos are best served by challenging their own government. First: ex. Mr. Duncan Smith was one of the most unsuccessful leaders of the Conservative Party. Sir John Redwood’s attempt at leadership is now remembered only by a photograph of his supporters looking like inmates from a lunatic asylum on a day off. Cast out on the pasture, they have now found a way to return to television and radio. Second: low-flying. The likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg, Steve Baker and Mr. Paterson will never reach the heights of the ordinary Tory Party, Mr. Rees-Mogg because he is too absurd, and Messrs. Baker and Paterson because they are too mediocre. But the creation of a parallel party structure gave them a chance to wield power and peacock eyes. Third: ambitious types like Boris Johnson and Johnny Mercer who think they can ride the populist tiger to power.


I THINK that one of the main themes of modern politics will be the struggle between the super-rich and the middle class. Old British families will be furious when they see places in the best public schools and houses in the best areas of London raised by tough foreign oligarchs. One of the biggest challenges facing the Tory Party (assuming it can avoid being torn apart by the Brexit frenzy, big guess) is the devastation of the middle class. You can already see journalists on DailyTelegraph And Viewerwho usually praise the free market for education and property, complaining about being forced to send their children to public schools and live in attics. Conservatism thrives when you have a broad middle class with country (and rural) roots, not when you have a global oligarchy that treats the world like a shopping center (Eton for high school, Yale for university, and chalets in the Alps ). for skiing).

This is also a huge opportunity for the far left. Smarter Corbynists understand that the worst thing for them is “status dysphoria”: all those young people who saw their parents grow rich throughout their lives, with high housing prices, solid pensions and a lot of money for vacations abroad, but who, after doing the right thing, working hard at school and graduating from university, find themselves clinging to the edges of the corporate world and living in a rooming house in Clapham or beyond, while executives receive multi-million dollar bonuses. and newly built tower blocks in the city center are almost empty, acting as Swiss bank accounts for foreign investors.


ANOTHER GREAT struggle that will determine the future is the struggle between the super rich and the just rich. We see it in the bitter struggle between the Tate Modern and the residents of the four glass-walled apartments next to the gallery. Tate Modern has built an observation deck that provides a “unique free 360-degree view of London” (pictured). Apartment owners are understandably outraged that the platform allows tourists to watch them dress and eat breakfast. After spending £4 million on an apartment so they can live in glass boxes in the sky with breathtaking views of London, they have now been relegated to the status of animals in a high-altitude zoo. The Tate administration suggested that residents could simply lower their blinds to avoid unwanted views, and a High Court judge, ruling that residents’ impressive views come at a “price in terms of privacy”, suggested that they could always buy clean curtains. In other words, accept that you ultra-rich bastards, us museum curators and high court judges, are on the side of the common people!

I don’t have a dog in this fight, but I think I’ve come up with a way for the super-rich to fight back: why not project hardcore pornography onto the walls of your glass nest whenever you’re outside? work, fill your suitcases with even more money or fly around the world? This may make the Tate Modern think twice before directing tourists to its observation deck. As an added bonus, this can get the mandarins of modernism to engage in tortuous debate about what might be called offensive in our nighttimes.

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Eliminate loopholes in food stamp work requirements



The new data shows how states are allowing recipients to get by with even part-time work.

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Starbucks Alliance requires the company to enter into a national contract



The president of the union that organizes Starbucks stores has a message for the coffee chain: come to the conference table – and let it be just one table, not hundreds.

Workers United has been trying to win first contracts for the more than 300 Starbucks locations that have been unionized since late 2021. But as these stores have unionized one by one, the coffee chain insists that each store must negotiate its own contract.

Lynn Fox, the union’s president, told HuffPost that the workers want to consolidate the talks so they can start moving forward on the deal. The workers have not achieved anything in the company, she says, although many have unionized over a year ago.

“The fastest way to do this is within the national framework at the same table and at the same time negotiating these universal issues,” she said.

Fox said Starbucks must agree to a broad contract that sets out a national minimum wage, “fair scheduling” procedures, a guaranteed minimum work day and an agreement on upcoming union elections, among other provisions. Regions and individual stores can then add additional agreements if they wish.

But Starbucks said Workers United must stick to individual contracts as the union organizes stores one by one.

“This is a deliberate attempt to deflect attention from Workers United’s failure or inability to bid for nearly 300 individual stores as they successfully sued and took action against Starbucks,” company spokesman Andrew Trull said in an email. He added that the company has made progress on contracting workers at a Pennsylvania store who joined Teamsters last year.

None of the approximately 9,000 Starbucks corporate stores in the US had union representation until Workers United began organizing them in 2021. As groundbreaking as the electoral victories were, the hardest part was always securing the first contract. On average it takes more than a year for the new union to make a deal, and in many cases the unions never succeed due to litigation and employer delays.

“I am so proud of these workers. I really admire them. I think they’re shocked that the company they love is treating them so cruelly.”

– Lynn Fox, President, Workers United

National Labor Relations Board prosecutors charged Starbucks with multiple allegations of unfair labor practices, including refusing to bargain with employees. 163 shops. The NLRB board in Washington has already made a decision. one case that Starbucks illegally refused to bargain with employees at its back-up fryer in Seattle. The prosecutor’s office also says that the company violated the law, insist that workers bargain in personnot with the zoom option as suggested by the union.

“They didn’t agree to any of our proposals and made no counteroffers on any of our proposals,” Fox said. “The company had 15 of our main offers in seven months. They didn’t sign a single line or proposal, and they didn’t refute anything.”

Starbucks said it offered “more than 423 sales sessions at a single store,” but the union placed preconditions for those meetings, such as telecommuting for workers, to which the company did not agree. The company claims that Zoom talks are equivalent to recording sessions.

″[W]We believe face-to-face negotiations are not only required by federal law, but also to achieve the best results for our partners,” Starbucks said.

On Tuesday, Fox sent Starbucks General Counsel Zabrina Jenkins a letter urging the company to take the nationwide deal seriously. “Starbucks is engaging in increasingly outrageous delaying tactics that amount to an unacceptable denial of your 8,000 employees’ right to a contract,” she wrote.

Fox noted that during his recent Senate testimony, former CEO Howard Schultz said that awarding so many contracts at the same time created “significant difficulties and obstacles in the collective bargaining process.”

Schultz blamed the union for the problem, noting that Workers United had petitioned for elections at each store rather than on a regional basis as Starbucks had suggested. The union would have been less likely to win the larger elections, as this would have weakened their support in the stores, which were strongholds.

“Now we should be able to negotiate with individual stores one by one across the country and make individual appointments,” Schultz lamented.

But Starbucks doesn’t have to negotiate contracts separately — it can negotiate them within a national structure to speed up the process and reduce the number of lawyers involved. He decided not to.

“I can only guess [as to Starbucks’ motives], but I guess I’m deliberately complicating the process and lengthening it out,” Fox told HuffPost. “If you want to bargain in good faith, you don’t.”

Starbucks workers strike outside a Brooklyn store on November 17, 2022.

ANGELA WEIS via Getty Images

In fact, the company in the Starbucks position has little incentive to strike a deal that could stimulate the creation of more stores. Employers may delay the process in order to undermine the union’s broader efforts and lead workers to believe that the union will be a waste of time. A “bad faith” deal is illegal for an employer, but the penalties for doing so are notoriously weak.

Thrull insisted that the company had traded in good faith all along. “We remain interested and ready to bargain in person,” he said.

The union’s influence on Starbucks grows with every store it organizes – Workers United won 315 elections, or 81% of the vote, according to the NLRB – increasing the union’s chances of getting Starbucks to sit down at the same negotiating table to reach a deal. But the pace of organization has slowed since early 2022, and the union will have to work hard to keep stores already organized.

workers on three union shops petitions have recently been filed in New York for a vote to revoke the certificate to remove the union from these jobs, though it’s not clear if the effort will come to anything. This is another incentive for employers to delay the implementation of the contract – the workforce is changing, and unionists are being replaced by anti-unionists.

Fox said the union had foreseen such fights from the start.

“I’m sure it was part of a bigger plan,” she said of Starbucks. “In order for people to move on, there was a turnover, or people simply could not earn a living and had to leave to look for another job. We are ready for this.”

NLRB prosecutors filed 94 complaints against Starbucks, accusing the company of illegally firing union supporters, closing stores where workers organized and holding raises from unionized workers, among other allegations.

So far, ALJs have ruled that Starbucks violated the law in at least 14 separate cases.

“I am so proud of these workers. I really admire them. I think they’re shocked that the company they love is treating them so harshly,” Fox said. “Starbucks could have seized this moment to really become an industry leader and really value their employees, but they just chose not to.”

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The US needs minerals for electric vehicles. Everyone else wants them too.



For decades, a group of the world’s largest oil producers have had a huge impact on the US economy and the popularity of US presidents through their control of the world’s oil supply, and the decisions of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries determined how much US consumers pay. pump.

As the world shifts to cleaner energy sources, control over the materials needed to make that transition is still out of reach.

China currently dominates the global processing of critical minerals, which are currently in high demand for electric vehicle batteries and renewable energy storage. In an attempt to gain more power over this supply chain, US officials have begun negotiating a series of agreements with other countries to expand America’s access to important minerals such as lithium, cobalt, nickel and graphite.

But it remains unclear which of these partnerships will succeed and whether they can generate anything close to the supply of minerals the United States is projected to need for a wide range of products, including electric vehicles and solar energy storage batteries.

The leaders of Japan, Europe and other developed countries meeting in Hiroshima agree that the world’s dependence on China to process more than 80 percent of its minerals leaves their countries vulnerable to political pressure from Beijing, which has a history of using supply chains as weapons. during times of conflict.

On Saturday, G7 leaders reaffirmed the need to manage the risks posed by vulnerable mineral supply chains and build more sustainable sources. The United States and Australia have announced a partnership to share information and coordinate standards and investments to create more responsible and sustainable supply chains.

“From our perspective, this is a huge step — a huge step forward in our fight against the climate crisis,” President Biden said Saturday as he signed the deal with Australia.

But figuring out how to gain access to all the minerals the United States will need will still be a challenge. Many mineral-rich countries have poor environmental and labor standards. And while the G7 speeches emphasized alliances and partnerships, rich countries still compete for scarce resources.

Japan has signed a critical minerals agreement with the United States, and Europe is in the midst of negotiations. But, as in the United States, in these regions the demand for essential minerals to feed their own factories is much higher than the supply in abundance.

Kirsten Hillman, Canada’s ambassador to the US, said in an interview that allied countries have important industry partnerships, but they are also commercial competitors to some extent. “It’s a partnership, but it’s a partnership with a certain level of tension,” she said.

“This is a challenging economic geopolitical moment,” Ms. Hillman added. “And we’re all looking to achieve the same thing, and we’re going to work together to make it happen, but we’re going to work together to make it happen in a way that’s also good for our business.”

“We have to create a market for products that are made and created in a way that is in line with our values,” she said.

The State Department insisted on “mineral security partnership”, with 13 governments trying to encourage public and private investment in their critical mineral supply chains. And European officials are advocating the creation of a “buyers’ club” of critical minerals with the G7 countries that could establish certain common labor and environmental standards for suppliers.

Indonesia, the world’s largest nickel producer, has floated the idea of ​​teaming up with other resource-rich countries to create an OPEC-style producers’ cartel that will try to transfer power to mineral suppliers.

In recent months, Indonesia has also turned to the United States in search of a deal similar to the one between Japan and the European Union. Biden administration officials are considering whether to give Indonesia some sort of preferential access, either through an independent deal or through a trade framework the United States is negotiating in the Indo-Pacific.

But some US officials have warned that Indonesia’s lagging environmental and labor standards could allow materials to be imported into the United States that undermine the country’s nascent mines as well as its values. Such a deal could also spark fierce opposition in Congress, where some lawmakers have criticized the Biden administration’s deal with Japan.

Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, hinted at these compromises in a speech last month, saying that negotiations with critical mineral producers would be necessary but would raise “difficult questions” about labor practices in those countries and American politics. broader environmental goals.

Whether America’s new agreements would take the form of a critical minerals club, fuller negotiations, or something else was unclear, Mr. Sullivan said: “Now we’re trying to figure it out.”

Cullen Hendricks, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said the Biden administration’s strategy to create more secure international supply chains for minerals outside of China has so far been “a bit inconsistent and not necessarily sufficient to achieve that goal.”

Demand for minerals in the United States was largely stimulated by President Biden’s climate law, which provided tax incentives for investment in the electric vehicle supply chain, especially in the final assembly of batteries. But Mr. Hendricks said the law appears to have had more limited success in rapidly increasing the number of domestic mines that will supply these new plants.

“The United States cannot handle this alone,” he said.

Biden officials agree that getting a reliable supply of the minerals needed to power electric vehicle batteries is one of their most pressing concerns. US officials say global lithium supplies must increase 42 times by 2050 to meet growing demand for electric vehicles. Forecasts of the International Energy Agency By 2040, global demand for lithium is expected to grow 42 times.

While battery innovations may reduce the need for certain minerals, the world is currently facing serious long-term shortages by any estimate. And many officials say Europe’s reliance on Russian energy since the invasion of Ukraine has helped illustrate the dangers of dependence on foreigners.

The global demand for these materials is causing a wave of resource nationalism that could intensify. Outside the United States, the European Union, Canada and other governments have also introduced subsidy programs to better compete for new battery mines and factories.

Indonesia gradually tightened restrictions to export raw nickel ore, requiring it to be processed in the country first. Chile, a major lithium producer, has proposed nationalizing its lithium industry to better control resource development and use, as Bolivia and Mexico have done.

And Chinese companies are still investing heavily in acquiring mines and refineries around the world.

For now, the Biden administration appears wary of making deals with countries with more mixed labor and environmental records. Officials are exploring changes needed to build U.S. capabilities, such as speeding up mine permit processes, as well as closer partnerships with mineral-rich allies such as Canada, Australia and Chile.

The White House announced this on Saturday. planned to go to Congress add Australia to the list of countries where the Pentagon can fund critical mining projects, criteria that currently only apply to Canada.

Todd Malan, chief external officer for Talon Metals, which proposed a nickel mine in Minnesota to supply Tesla’s North American production, said the addition of a major ally like Australia, which has high production standards for the environment, labor rights and participation indigenous peoples. , to this list was a “smart move”.

But Mr Malan said expanding the list of countries that would be eligible for benefits under the administration’s new climate law beyond countries with similar labor and environmental standards could undermine efforts to develop a stronger supply chain in the United States.

“If you start opening doors to Indonesia and the Philippines or anywhere else where you don’t have common standards, we will see it as going against the spirit of what Congress has been trying to do by encouraging a domestic and friendly battery supply chain. He said.

However, some U.S. officials argue that the supply of critical minerals in rich countries with high labor and environmental standards will not be enough to meet demand, and that failure to strike new agreements with resource-rich countries in Africa and Asia could lead to The United States will be in a very difficult position. vulnerable.

While the Biden administration seeks to streamline the process of issuing permits for the construction of new mines in the United States, obtaining approval for such projects can still take years, if not decades. Automotive companies, which are major employers in the US, are also warning of a predicted shortage of battery materials and advocating arrangements that will give them more flexibility and lower prices.

The G7 countries, together with countries with which the US has free trade agreements, are estimated to produce 30 percent of the world’s lithium chemicals and about 20 percent of refined cobalt and nickel, but only 1 percent of natural flake graphite. Adam Megginson, Price Analyst at Benchmark Mineral Intelligence.

Jennifer Harris, a former Biden White House official who worked on the Critical Minerals Strategy, argued that the country should move faster to develop and authorize domestic deposits, but that the United States also needed a new basis for multinational negotiations that included countries that are major exporters of minerals.

The government could also create a program to stockpile minerals like lithium when prices fall, which would give miners more confidence to find a destination for their products, she said.

“There’s so much to do that it’s a world of both,” she said. “The problem is that yesterday we need to responsibly pull a lot more stones out of the ground.”

Jim Tankersley report provided from Hiroshima, Japan.

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