Saturday, May 24, 2008

And some not so bright signs.


I've got a series of articles to run past you here; on a variety of topics.  To me, they all point forcefully in one direction.  Which no one on the planet is taking; yet.  But we're going to have to, soon.  (Don't worry, Ilargi; I'm not really planning on trying to swipe your style...  :-) ).  

Be aware, in all this, that these headlines, and the news, are being "cooked", consistently, to make things seem a little nicer than they are.

(Incidentally, this is still not my promised "next" post- this stuff isn't requiring any thought- it hits me like a sledgehammer.)

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Article 1, Washington Post: "Food costs push Bangladesh to brink of unrest." 

No, it's not unrest, it's the brink of utter civic chaos, or revolution at least. 

 
"Last month, about 20,000 garment workers defied a government ban on demonstrations to demand higher wages and protest skyrocketing food prices, especially on such staples as rice, which have doubled in price since last year. Some of the workers, mostly women, hurled rocks and bricks at police and vandalized factories in what the local media dubbed the start of the 'Rice Revolution.'  Troops from the Bangladesh Rifles, a paramilitary force that normally patrols the country's borders, now operate and guard the crowded government-subsidized rice shops."

"Bib Norjaham, 40, and her three children said they thought they had already been through the worst of it when their rice and lentil farm was washed away during floods four years ago... 'We haven't had a full stomach in months, and work is very hard to find,' said Joshna, who said she is on a waiting list for a job as a sewing-machine operator. 'There isn't much we can do. The prices are just too high. We can't go back to the village. The land has eroded.' "

" 'If it weren't for emergency rule, there would be revolution right now. Things that would be happening in this country would be unbelievable," said Nazima Akter, 33, president of the United Garment Workers Federation, which has 20,000 members. "People are already really fed up when they are working hard -- sometimes 12 hours a day -- and they still can't afford basics.' "

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Article 2; Reuters/NYT; "Buffett sees long, deep recession." 

The second richest billionaire on Earth thinks things are much worse than most are saying, and the recession is not going away anywhere he can see.

One sign, besides the billions he's made by ignoring Wall Street pundits, that he's worth listening to: 

 "Buffett also renewed his criticism of derivatives trading.

'It's not right that hundreds of thousands of jobs are being eliminated, that entire industrial sectors in the real economy are being wiped out by financial bets even though the sectors are actually in good health.'

Buffett complained about the lack of effective controls.

'That's the problem," he said. "You can't steer it, you can't regulate it anymore. You can't get the genie back in the bottle.'  "

Sounds like good sense, with even a modicum of humanity in it.  

(Aside-  please notice that little phrase "in the real economy" ... people in the "financial sector" use it all the time.  See- there's a "real" economy- you know, where people produce actual goods and services, and buy and sell them?  Then- there's the "financial sector" - which they claim is desperately necessary in order for the "real" economy to function...  but you know what?  Their choice of words tells us- they know perfectly well we could all do without them.  They're just swapping piles of money around- charging fees for each swap and pretending to be doing something worth while- but they're just blowing up their own balloons.)

But even Mr. Buffett is not carrying that equation all the way out; and that's what it is, and that's what we MUST do.

Can't steer it.  Can't regulate it.  But it MUST be steered, and regulated- or we face utterly unforgivable amounts of human misery.  = ?

Are you listening Mr. Buffett?  Congress?  Anybody?  If the tools we have don't work; then: we must find, and use, different tools.  

That, of course, requires effective leadership, which as we know, the USA is utterly devoid of at the moment; and other world entities are not showing much either.

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Article 3; the BBC: "Tensions Flare In Central Sudan" .  No, they don't- they have a civil war in progress; again.  Over... oil.

Scavenger birds pick through the charred remains of houses and shops in the central Sudanese town of Abyei, four days after violent clashes between troops from the North and South of the country ended.

The place is almost empty - tens of thousands of people fled from the town and surrounding area to escape days of sporadic fighting.

Looters steal what they can - beds, pots and even clothes - from the thatch huts that are still standing, the northern soldiers who now control the town looking on.
There is almost nothing left of the once-vibrant market - just the charred skeletons of buildings

After a tour of the town in a UN armoured personnel carrier, the head of the UN mission in Sudan, Ashraf Qazi, was clearly shocked by what he had seen.

"We have been to the centre of Abyei and it doesn't exist any more," he told journalists travelling with him.

This is not fantasy, folks- but the spread of war, focusing on control of oil, and its dollars.  Nigeria is already over the brink, too, though the world pretends otherwise.

This trend is not decreasing; quite the contrary.
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Vallejo is " Vallejo is the 9th largest city in the San Francisco Bay Area by population,the 45th in the state of California,and 189th in the U.S. by population also."  (Wikipedia)

" ...to deal with a ballooning budget deficit caused by soaring employee costs and declining tax revenue.   The San Francisco Bay-area suburb of about 120,000 residents became the largest California city to seek bankruptcy protection."  (CNN)
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"The Indonesian government has raised fuel prices by nearly 30%, prompting fears of widespread unrest. ... 

The government is struggling to meet the cost of fuel subsidies as global oil prices escalate. ...In several cities it is beginning cash handouts, intended to shield around 19 million poor families from the price rises.

But our correspondent says many Indonesians are worried the price hikes will mean that basic goods and public transport will also become more expensive.

After sharp rises in the price of rice, it could push many more families towards poverty, she adds.

Millions of Indonesians currently live on less than $2 a day."

BTW, I got word yesterday that Websters Interplanetary Dictionary is about the change to definition of "powderkeg";  to: "Indonesia".
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And we could go on, of course.  If you have an appetite for constant dire news, Ilargi is wonderful; likewise Sharon.  And as you know, I indulge myself from time to time.  It's not that hard to find it these days.

Which is the actual point of this post.  Little by little, the world IS recognizing that "things" are getting really really bad-

Then next thing you know, somebody is going to suggest - gasp - DOING SOMETHING about it.

No, really, I'll bet ya.  It'll happen.  Although at the moment, the only thing the "leaders", financial and governmental, are doing, is pointing fingers, and doing "analyses", all of which show- it's not their fault.  No action.

Possibly, when Bangladesh collapses into total chaos, and 100,000,000 (one hundred million) desperate, penniless refugees stream into India and Burma/Myanmar (I'm assuming 50 million straight deaths, first) - the world in general will say - "huh; should WE do something?"

What is the first tool at hand?  Available to all governments- and unused, so far?

RATIONING.

Fuel; and food.  Both need to be rationed- today.  First within countries- and then; for the first time- internationally.  

They won't be, of course.  We need a lot more dead bodies, first.  If you're tenderhearted, I don't recommend you look at this one from CNN: "Starvation claiming Ethiopia's tiniest".  Only 120,000, or so.  Twice the numbers just killed by the Chinese earthquake- to huge international attention, with a visit from Ban Ki Moon, in person.

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Unlike my previous request for your help in raising consciousness about the role of speculation in the world food crisis (which is still there, duh)- I don't see that there is anything effective for us to do here, yet.  The world in general is not ready to see the need; though it's obvious as all hell to anyone who actually thinks about it.

So here is my question to you- who- and where- on the planet will be the first to admit that rationing is needed?  And implement it?

Will it be Bangladesh?  One could hope- but it's a country, like many, with a wildly wealthy elite, who hold the power, and vast population of the utterly destitute.

Haiti?  If it's still there.  The UN has the only real police force in Haiti.  They could do it.  They should.  Can Ban Ki Moon find the will?

Who?  Where?  What's your guess?

5 comments:

DC said...

In your honor, Greenpa, I have developed a new board game to educate people about these types of problems.

Greenpa said...

DC - many thanks for the smiles- cracked me up, as usual.

Verde said...

Yea,your comments about the news media are a strange balm.

I begin to think I'm sort of losing it thinking things are bad and trying to watch the local news (the only kind we get - no cable) where everyone is well groomed and happy with only minor upsets to report.

Gina said...

Agree with Verde about the news thing.

I think the hardest part to some of this is that "we" (as in most of the world) have been taught little about how to step outside your own little world and actually do something. Who taught us these bad traits? Well, the gov, for one, our teachers, parents, friends, colleagues...it's a vicious cycle and one where we are severely lacking int he skills needed to overcome what we can see unraveling before our eyes.

Depressing to say the least...

(hope that makes sense)

Johan said...

on articel #4, I wondered since the crisis in Argentine a few years ago : what happens if a country (state, city, village) goes bankrupt ? do all their belongings go to the bank (public roads, public schools, firemen, policecars, ... )(as it goes for companies that fail) ? or does it mean slavery for all the affected citisen ?

And if that is thinkable : just suppose the USA went bancrupt : who will own the nukes then ? Please dismantle them (use the highly expensive explosives as fuel) before it's to late !