This is the big one folks. Whether the first test of the snowflake generation or the last gasp of an increasingly desperate kakistocracy, to date the Suez Canal blockage response has been dismal at best. “Whyfore?” the avid reader might ask. Because, dear reader, the Suez Canal is not just a “major artery of world trade,” the Suez Canal is the carotid artery of world trade.
Remember the carotid artery? When clogged, humans experience sudden numbness or weakness in the face or limbs, sudden trouble speaking and understanding, sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes, sudden dizziness or loss of balance, sudden, severe headache with no known cause. In other words, a serious medical emergency—a stroke of life threatening proportions, one that requires immediate EMS response because every minute counts. No, the first aid kit in the back seat of the car is not sufficient to deal with a problem of this proportion.
But for some unknown reason, all the usual nitwit news outlets have more or less yawned and thrown out a few headlines from the Institute of Alarming Studies about “supply train disruptions.” The same blasé reasoning offered for a worldwide assault on mom-and-pop enterprises from coast to coast and sea to shining sea in the United States and countries around the Pacific Rim, and elsewhere during a heavily exploited pandemic is now applied to the most basic human trade goods.
So, when a cargo ship ran aground blocking one of the world’s most important waterways and resulting in a loss of $9.6 billion in trade every day, one would have expected more than the tepid indifference we’ve seen from the Biden administration.
Fundamentally, this crisis is all about ball bearings or other critical machine components, a detail hidden way under the radar right now. For example, the list of companies sucker punched by Suez Canal turbulence includes Caterpillar, often described as the world’s largest heavy equipment manufacturer, but more significantly a source for many proprietary short life consumables—oil filters, seals and o-rings, sensors, remanufactured sub-assemblies, hydraulic components, even specialty commercial radios. A $946,000 627 K scraper could be sidelined for the duration if replacement hydraulic lines or oil filters are suddenly hard to find or completely unavailable.
Yes, this sudden shut down could even affect Nancy Antoinette Pelosi’s $24,000 commercial kitchen freezer if the spare parts needed to keep her ice cream hard frozen through all her Antoinetteian travails, present and future, are suddenly unavailable at any price. She may resort to looting used (ugh!) parts from the commercial freezer in the downtown pizzeria where Mom and Pop keep the ingredients for their community beloved deep dish pizza, but hey, we are all in this together. Right?
So this time, things could be a little different. This time discussion will not be centered around the difference between ground up dairy cow beef and Wagyu steak supply chain hardships. This time discussion will be centered around whether the conveyor belt that moves the ground up dairy cow beef and Wagyu steaks through the abattoir can be fixed in an economical and timely fashion. Or, more importantly, whether the ready-to-eat diced salad onions will arrive fresh from the field unmolested in their plastic clamshell packages after an uneventful wash, rinse, and dry through the processing plant conveyor belt system. No arguments about flattening the curve or mandatory mask policies need apply.
The crazy thing here is this incident might be a genuine Act of God and not some calculated Hitlerain feint crisis since militaries around the world have long understood the importance of free navigation through the canal proper and in surrounding international waters, and have doubtlessly war-gamed countless scenarios over the past fifty Cold War years. Which makes a limp, tepid response to the current event even harder to fathom. In Biblical Egypt, artisans cried out for straw to make bricks; in Revolutionary France, the peasant class demanded salt to make bread; in the 21st century, workers of the world demand free access to ball bearings because God knows growing food is a completely alien concept.
With luck this will all sort out soon. Otherwise, sic semper tyrannis.