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Houthis Ruin Christmas

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Houthis | Osamah Yahya/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom

You’ve heard of the Grinch, but what about the Houthis? Yemeni Houthis, who are backed by Iran, have been targeting massive ships in the Red Sea with drones and missiles since the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel. Now, a bunch of shipping companies like Maersk—which had a ship attacked by Houthis last week—are avoiding the Suez Canal and diverting their ships around Africa via the Cape of Good Hope.

“Following the near-miss incident involving Maersk Gibraltar” last Thursday “and yet another attack on a container vessel” one day later, “we have instructed all Maersk vessels in the area bound to pass through the Bab al-Mandab Strait to pause their journey until further notice,” reads a press release from the company.

“As Israel ramped up its retaliation for the attack, the Houthis began targeting ships that it accused of in some way support Israel’s war effort,” reports CNN, “though multiple companies that have been targeted have said they have no connection with Israel or the war.”

The Houthis have launched more than 100 attacks on a dozen commercial vessels over the last month. This hasn’t happened at this scale in more than two decades, an American military official told CNN. Now, the Pentagon is assembling a security initiative alongside allied countries to attempt to secure the trade routes.

“About 50 vessels go through the Suez Canal a day, and recent data suggested that, as of Monday, at least 32 had been diverted, said Chris Rogers, head of supply chain research at S&P Global Market Intelligence,” per The New York Times. Another analyst called the situation “a slow-burning disaster.” In other words: Houthis are threatening the supply chain in a major way—roughly 12 percent of global shipping traffic goes through the Suez Canal—and, well, if your Christmas packages don’t get here in time, it’s possibly the Houthi militants’ fault.

The oil angle: Because of this unfolding crisis, BP has stopped sending ships through the Red Sea. But rerouting oil tankers will impose additional costs likely to have ripple effects. “Brent crude, the international oil benchmark, has risen about 8 percent since mid-December, to above $79 a barrel,” reports The New York Times. “But the move has only partly reversed a monthslong slide in the price of oil, which hovered above $90 a barrel in September and early October.”

The Red Sea disruption is an especially big problem right now because both Russian sanctions and the war in Ukraine mean Europe depends on Middle Eastern and Asian oil to a greater degree than in years prior. Bypassing the Suez Canal and going around the Cape of Good Hope tends to raise crude oil prices by nearly $4 a barrel, Goldman Sachs analysts predict.

In some ways, pandemic supply chain snarls—and their quick resolutions—have taught us that supply chains are more resilient than we had once feared. But in other ways—American reliance on Taiwanese semiconductor manufacturing, for one, which could all go to shit if China at some point tries to seize Taiwan—we’ve found ourselves vulnerable. This bizarre situation playing out in the Red Sea might not drive oil and gas prices up too drastically, all on its own, but when piled on to the pain Americans are feeling from sky-high inflation, it’s surely unwelcome.

Colorado screws us all saves democracy: Colorado’s Supreme Court ruled late last night that Donald Trump is not eligible to seek the presidency under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which prohibits those who have engaged “in insurrection or rebellion against” the government from holding office, which means his name will be removed from the state’s Republican primary ballot.

The “provision [was] originally intended to restrain former Confederates from seeking office after the Civil War,” writes Reason‘s Eric Boehm. But late last night, “in a 4–3 ruling, the Colorado high court determined that Trump’s role in instigating the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol was sufficient to bar him from the presidency.” Note that Trump has been convicted of no insurrection-related crimes.

The ruling will probably be appealed to the Supreme Court but, in short, the outcome probably won’t be pretty.

Scenes from New York:

“New York… This is a place where every day you wake up, you could experience everything from a plane crashing into our Trade Center to a person who’s celebrating a new business that’s opening. This is a very, very complicated city and that’s why it’s the greatest city on the globe.”

  • This is beautiful and insightful, on the joy of having children as well as how we ought to look at the current fertility crisis, by Alex Nowrasteh in Quillette.
  • A paper company in Guangdong, China, is saying that “employees need to clock 62 miles every month if they want to get an annual bonus worth 130% of their monthly salary,” and that they will be eligible for “an annual bonus equivalent to a month’s salary if they ran 31 miles every month.”
  • New episode of EconTalk from Russ Roberts (who was recently a Just Asking Questions guest, back before the rebrand) and Haviv Rettig Gur on the origins of Israel and the conflict in the Middle East.
  • More tax trouble for members of the Biden family, who can’t seem to figure out how to pay the IRS what they owe.
  • Unacceptable bullying from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.):
  • Minnesota Timberwolves player Anthony Edwards made headlines this week because he allegedly wired a model $100,000 to pay for her abortion and sent texts that made clear what he wanted her to do. “Hell Nawl can’t do dis,” say the texts, as well as the oh-so-eloquent “get an abortion lol.” After these texts were made public by the New York Post, he released a statement: “I made comments in the heat of a moment that are not me, and that are not aligned with what I believe and who I want to be as a man. All women should be supported and empowered to make their own decisions about their bodies and what is best for them.” You see, one is supposed to use the verbiage of the second statement, not the first, in polite society. (The actual morality of the baby-aborting doesn’t seem widely disputed in this case, just the way he talked about it.)
  • Yes:
  • “Today, the lifeblood of Southern California’s tech scene is charged by an unapologetically optimistic pack of engineers, machinists, and entrepreneurs building at the frontier of atoms-based technology,” writes Founders Fund’s Scott Nolan for Pirate Wires on El Segundo’s tech scene.

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