Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Hooray! The Washington Post wakes up!

Finally- the Washington Post today has this:

"Speculators have always played a prominent role in commodities markets, but in the past year, they have literally overwhelmed them, causing a dramatic increase in trading volume, volatility and prices and disrupting many of the normal relationships between producers and end-users."

"The difference this time, however, is that even before it bursts, this bubble is causing economic discomfort for households and businesses around the world, and misery for hundreds of millions of hungry people who suddenly cannot afford a bowl of rice or scrap of meat."

Emphases mine.

Now.  We just have to get that broadly understood.

Spread the quotes- cite the article.

And here is exactly the target- foundations, and universities-

"Many of these were the same hedge funds and hot-money investors who had gorged on sovereign debt of developing countries, tech and telecom stocks, subprime mortgages and commercial real estate and now needed a new thing to focus on. Others -- including, it is said, some sovereign wealth funds -- looked to commodities as a hedge against the falling dollar. But perhaps the biggest push came from pension funds, foundations and university endowments whose managers had all gone to the same conferences and read the same academic papers, suggesting that a basket of commodity futures would provide a good hedge against stock and bond market declines."

If you're an alum- let your college know you are concerned about the university financing famine.  Do you contribute to a foundation?  Same thing.

A phone call is worth 20 emails.  But emails do count!

The iceberg CAN move.  :-)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Food profits - up!!

Food processing giant Archer Daniels Midland announced today that - happily - their profits for the last quarter are UP!  42%, overall.

And Wall Street rejoices to have some good news, somewhere, so stunningly out of touch with reality are they.

Reading the whole article- with a wary eye- is quite telling.  Gosh, it turns out that nice profit jump (ADM is enormous) stems mostly from - speculation.

"Results were driven by an almost sevenfold increase in profits at ADM's Agricultural Services division, from $46 million to $366 million. The division includes the company's grain-trading, -transporting and -handling businesses."

Ok?  "sevenfold" - is not 42% - it's 700% of normal.  They're playing down the huge jump by spreading the statistic over the entire company.  "grain trading, ... businesses."

Or a 600% increase.  Either way.


Somehow, the big corporations would like the world to believe that they are helpless to prevent these huge profits.  Gosh, they're just lucky, and the profits are being forced upon them by circumstances beyond their control!

But really- there's not a thing in the world stopping them from just saying- "Boy, our customers are suffering, I hear.  Maybe we should settle for a.... oh, 10% profit increase?  Instead of 600%?"  Incidentally, big boys- that might mean that your customers will survive - to provide you some profit next year.  They're starting to die, you know.  Because they can't afford your product.

Anybody home?

And, thank goodness, the UN is launching a special task force on the global food crisis!

They're begging for a paltry $700 million dollars- which any of these billion a year hedge fund managers could give them- this afternoon- out of their personal pocket.

Find a little time, and look at the comments on blogs around the world on hunger- search them for the words "speculation" or "profiteer".  They're not there.   We need to put them in front of the public.

Here's the current BBC comment URL

And here's one for the Washington Post.  And here is one for a live forum this afternoon on the WP - with author James Gustav Speth- (Dean of Environmental Studies at Yale - he thinks the current environmental movement is too wimpy) you can submit questions live or ahead of time...

The more times it's repeated- "speculation/profiteering is a big part of the problem- and it's one we could shut down, tomorrow" - the more that possibility will be mentioned.  We're at near zero right now.

Monday, April 28, 2008

and then...

I'm finding it hard to write the next post.  Probably for all the reasons you can imagine.

It's an incredibly tangled mess out there- getting rapidly worse.  I'm afraid Sharon's worst imaginings may not be bad enough.  Which is definitely depressing.  Which is one of the reasons I'm having trouble writing.

But there is humor available- abundant, indeed.  While all the major economic indicators point down - the stock market keeps going up.  If I had 2¢ in the market, I'd sure get out.  And the illustration is here; in a spectacularly clueless article on the world oil supply in today's New York Times.  I read it with my jaw dropped.  Goldman Sachs just got worried??

Analysts at Barclays Capital said last week that non-OPEC supplies were “seemingly dead in the water.” Goldman Sachs raised similar concerns last month, saying that growth in non-OPEC supplies “can no longer be taken for granted.”

We can take comfort that our nations economic experts are so consistent!

Gallows humor, alas.

I'm not quitting on the hunger speculation thing- but in the long run, I cannot be the front figure.  I've already got 4 of my own icebergs - one of them already having to do with hunger- that desperately need my attention.  We need some folks who are willing to take on long-term leadership in the fight to get food speculation halted.

We haven't achieved the critical mass here- most of the journalists in this country are still writing about the typical causes- all except speculation.

There is, at least, a reasonably broad effort at coverage this week in The Washington Post; Global Food Crisis is a substantial feature, running all week- lots of attention, lots of places to comment.  Even some good journalism.  Lots of very grim stories.

Your assignment- get your comments up in these venues- ask why speculation is not mentioned- and then do it again.  Send them to the Spiegel article- which is one of the best summaries available still.

Other actions that can be fruitful- your college alumni association is a great place to hit, aiming eventually at pushing for "divestment" by college endowment funds of the corporations involved in food speculation.

That was a  noisy, and somewhat successful, strategy in the fight to end Apartheid in South Africa.

Start making a list of those companies.  We're going to want it.  Send me the names.

Keep plugging.  I'm working on pulling my depressed self back into shape.

Life continues.  Whether you're angry, depressed, ready or not.  This morning- Spice and Smidgen went out to the THWASPCO, for the normal purposes- and the potty house was functioning in one of its less obvious modes- as a wildlife blind.

A doe, on the other side of the little valley- dropped hard to her knees as Spice was watching- and started to give birth.

No kidding.  They zoomed back to get me- and the binoculars.  Smidgen got to see a 30 second old fawn, through the noculars.

Has to mean something.

Of course, our deer tick population is up about 400% this year, too.  Hard to know which way to jump.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

No, I will NOT calm down. Hunger Action Guide.

One HUNDRED MILLION MORE people are hungry today than only 6 months ago.

I don't think we can truly comprehend that number, but if it doesn't scare the living hell out of you, and make you FURIOUS, I have to doubt your intelligence and humanity.

Read the previous posts here if you're new to this.  Or look here. Our faithful reader "Anonymous" sent this link to an outstanding article, with great detail, in the online English version of Der Spiegel (New York Times if you're German...)

Sharon, bless her, actually thinks we may have something here.   And she's not easy to fool into blind optimism- which you can see with her post today (jeez, Sharon, I think you need to just be a little more serious about life!)    :-)
If you're here reading this- we're in the "pitchforks and flaming torches mob" stage of this movement.  Beyond angry.  We're demanding ACTION - RIGHT NOW.

Action, in fact, is POSSIBLE- right now.  We don't even have to move Congress in the US - just this weird little commission.  Five presidential appointees.  Just 5.  They could, theoretically, ban hedge fund and index fund money in the agricultural commodities futures market- oh, this afternoon.  No new money in.  No re-investing money already in.

Actually, this kind of a target should be HIGHLY susceptible to the pitchforks and torches.  Particularly if some of them are being carried by Senators and Representatives.

Here's what, and here's how.

A. We need a bigger mob- we're not big enough yet, even though others are moving too.
B. We need to sustain actions for the long term.
C. We need to have SPECIFIC - and realistic - actions to suggest/demand.

I'm going to give some quick answers to ALL those points right here.  This IS a work in progress, though, and I'm going to be amending/adding to this post many times in the next 2 days; so check back here to see where we wind up.  The first version is going to be sketchy; but it won't be sketchy when we're done.  Your suggestions are wanted to- and I'll incorporate them here; put them in the comments.

A. We Need More People; More Attention; 
More Discussion; More Anger.

1) There are many organizations in the world that deal with hunger- send these posts to them all; with your own comments-

2) re-email your friends; email more friends; let them know you're not quitting

3) email/call the CFTC Commissioners  directly (phone #'s)

4) Call your Senators/representatives AGAIN.  It counts.  US Senate contact,
5) Do you know any journalists, in any of the media?  Call/email- PUSH for coverage

6) Call in to any and all talk radio shows - National Public Radio, for example - and TELL IT.  Tell them about the specifics- (below) - that we're asking for temporary actions- and we want half the profits already stolen to be given back- to the UN food program- now-....

7) Anybody know Larry King?  :-)  Get him to invite George Soros on the show for a discussion of all this... and to ask him- why not just give half back?


B.  Sustaining Action Long Term

This is a big damn iceberg.  It does no good to push just once.  We have to keep pressure on the berg- for a long time.

1) BUDGET a little of YOUR time to work/call/email about banning speculation in food commodities.  How angry are you?  15 minutes a day?  1/2 hour a week?  Both of those can be hugely powerful.  Set aside the time; and make sure it gets done.

2) Do you have friends locally who could be pulled in?  Form a group- that MEETS, physically - once a week- to share and plan.

3) Get your church/synagogue, mosque, knitting club- to form a group

4) Link between groups- ally with other groups also acting-

5) Get the colleges and universities really involved.  Many have "world hunger" groups- talk to them- get them marching- poverty groups, humanitarian groups- it's everyone's problem really, of course.  Know some students?  Professors ?  Get in the doors, get the conversation started.  And the anger.

6) Don't get us tangled up in endless "definitions" discussions.  It's already happened a bit- just remember we're all on the same side here- we want profiteering stopped.

7) Don't let this drive you crazy.  It's an iceberg we're pushing on, and it's not going to feel like much is happening.  Budget your time- and spend time staying sane, too.  I'm not converting this blog to a world hunger blog- in the next few days I'll be posting on something nice, cool, sweet.  Puppies and kitties.  


C.  Specific - Realistic - Actions

1) Get the hungry country governments involved- and speaking up- and ACTING.  How incredibly embarrassing for the USA it will be when Canada, a nation mostly of grown-ups, takes action and bans speculative money in commodities markets NOW.  Or- Sweden.  Or- China.

2)  DEMAND ACTION NOW!!  There is NO excuse for not acting.  The advent of all this speculative money skewing the markets is RECENT.   As an INTERIM; TEMPORARY action- have the markets REVERT to the previous situation - FOR TWO MONTHS, only.  During those two months, we'll have time to think- and WATCH the markets when some of these pressures are removed.

3) FOCUS ON TEMPORARY EMERGENCY ACTION .  The profiteer opponents are already screaming "just let the market work!" - (translation - let us make more money yet, before we change things).  NO.  People ARE DYING - stop it NOW.  Make ANY action taken specifically temporary- and reversible.

4) ADD ENERGY SPECULATION to the demands- it's tied together, as we all know.  Farmers can't afford seed, or fertilizer; food can't be shipped where it's needed.  Hedge funds have been dumping billions into oil futures, too.  Driving the price higher.  It's in the postitive feedback bubble stage now- price goes up?  More billionaires invest- driving it up- etc.  Finally - an article stating that clearly by a US journalist - Energy Bubble - which nonetheless fails add 2 and 2 together.  The price of oil is killing economies.  Airlines have died, recently- and it's tied in like crazy to the cost of food.  It's got to stop.

5) WHAT WE WANT: is NOT the closure of the ag futures markets - but the exclusion of the billions of dollars being pumped in just for profit - and/or for hedging against the falling dollar.  Both are hugely destructive processes- regardless of details.

6) CALL FOR FULL CONGRESSIONAL HEARINGS/INVESTIGATIONS NOW; in all Houses; House, Senate, Commons, Lords, Whatever.

7)  DEMAND THE REPAYMENT OF PROFITS already extracted from these markets by outside profiteers.  (no, we probably won't get it; but boy I guarantee they'll pay attention to it when it's put on the list of what happens next!)  Why the hell don't some of those hedge fund managers who took BILLIONS in payment just - GIVE BACK HALF - to the UN food program?? LET'S ASK THEM.


Can't wait to hear their answers as to why they just can't.  (sorry, but I NEED all 2 billion, for my kids' college...)

8) Organize, launch some ACTUAL demonstrations- MARCH - down the streets in the financial districts- Signs saying "MURDERERS!!"  and "100 MILLION MORE STARVING!!"  and "NO FUTURE for the World in Futures!!"  and "JUST GIVE HALF BACK- NOW!!"  and name names- "JOHN PAULSON - JUST GIVE HALF BACK!" "JAMES SIMMONS - JUST GIVE HALF BACK!" "GEORGE SOROS - JUST GIVE HALF BACK!!"   Soros actually - might.  Which would set an example for the others they'd be hard pressed to ignore.  Can you say, "huge news"?


Please comment here- suggestions- your actions.  It's HELPING.  I guarantee.

Are YOU, personally, supposed to pick up and do ALL this?  No, really.  Very few of us could.  For those with the passion- please go for it!  But for most of us- it'll be a matter of that 15 minutes- and one or two actions.  But do keep your mind open for opportunities.  And keep your ammunition ready.

Webcast going now-

For those interested in details- there is a Webcast going on right NOW (1 pm EDT) of the current US Commodities Futures Trading Commission.

You can dig in detail here; like the opening comment from the acting chairman:

" In the last three
months, the agricultural staples of wheat, corn, soybeans, rice and oats have hit all-time
highs. During the last year, the price of rice has increased by 118%, wheat by 95%,
soybeans by 88%, corn by 66%, and cotton and oats by 47%. "

more soon.  far as I can figure; most of them are saying; golly, no, we need to "let the market" fix itself; just needs MORE MONEY pouring in...

meanwhile: BBC - UN food chief urges crisis action: "Josette Sheeran told the BBC that an additional 100 million people, who did not need assistance six months ago, could not now afford to purchase food."


Monday, April 21, 2008

Farmers are losing too-

  A couple of commenters have noted that futures markets benefit farmers- which, I think, when only farmers and actual food industry people are in the market MAY be true-

But it's NOT TRUE NOW - USA farmers who hedged their sales by selling futures are finding - they're losing money on it.  

WHY?  You'll be astonished to learn that "experts are puzzled" - at the huge volatility in the current markets.

Gosh; do you think dumping $30 billion in outside hedge fund cash into a market could make prices go up- and make it susceptible to manipulation?  Ya think?

And who pays?  Always the little guys on the bottom- farmers- and people who eat.

More, on action, tomorrow.  Huge thanks to all who've reacted- stay furious, this iceberg isn't moving yet; but we've got a bunch of folks pushing on it now who weren't a couple days ago.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Hunger compilation - and ACTION

I'm heartened by the general response to my anger.  But it's not like there are millions of us.  Yet.  There need to be millions.  If you don't already know why I'm FURIOUS, read this.  (It's short.)

Today I'm going to treat you to a compilation of internet news articles on the current effects of hunger and associated poverty.  It will be painful to read- but it will give you ammunition.

From CNN: Food aid to Darfur has been cut.   "Ahead of the rainy season, which lasts from May into September, WFP trucks should be delivering 1,800 metric tons (1,984 short tons) of food to warehouses in Darfur, WFP said. However, deliveries have dropped to fewer than 900 metric tons (992 short tons) per day, it said.

Since January, 60 WFP-contracted trucks have been hijacked in Darfur, the agency said. More than half -- 39 -- are still missing, and 26 drivers are unaccounted for. One driver was killed in Darfur last month, WFP said."

From the Washington Post: US financial debacle hits Mexico:  "the downturn in the U.S. economy has cascaded into Mexico, causing a sudden, precipitous drop in the flow of money sent home by Mexican immigrants"

"Economists here believe the decline in remittances is already pushing thousands into extreme poverty and could lead to a significant increase in migration as desperate Mexicans, deprived of support from abroad, flee to an ever more difficult U.S. job market."

"Hernández, 80, doesn't take his diabetes medicine anymore. It costs too much, and he'd rather buy food than pills. Ever since his son, Alfonso, lost his home in the United States to foreclosure a few months ago and stopped sending money for medicine and farm supplies, life has been "a disaster, a total disaster," Hernández said."

"The sons of at least three of Hernández's elderly neighbors have also lost their homes, their jobs or both, he said. The river of money from the United States that sustained this village is now drier than the desert that surrounds it."
From The New York Times: Hunger Brings Anger:   Just read this whole article; it's not that long.  "Saint Louis Meriska’s children ate two spoonfuls of rice apiece as their only meal recently and then went without any food the following day. His eyes downcast, his own stomach empty, the unemployed father said forlornly, “They look at me and say, ‘Papa, I’m hungry,’ and I have to look away. It’s humiliating and it makes you angry.”

That anger is palpable across the globe. The food crisis is not only being felt among the poor but is also eroding the gains of the working and middle classes, sowing volatile levels of discontent and putting new pressures on fragile governments."

"Last month in Senegal, one of Africa’s oldest and most stable democracies, police in riot gear beat and used tear gas against people protesting high food prices and later raided a television station that broadcast images of the event. Many Senegalese have expressed anger at President Abdoulaye Wade for spending lavishly on roads and five-star hotels for an Islamic summit meeting last month while many people are unable to afford rice or fish."

"Down Cairo’s Hafziyah Street, peddlers selling food from behind wood carts bark out their prices. But few customers can afford their fish or chicken, which bake in the hot sun. Food prices have doubled in two months."

"In Haiti, where three-quarters of the population earns less than $2 a day and one in five children is chronically malnourished, the one business booming amid all the gloom is the selling of patties made of mud, oil and sugar, typically consumed only by the most destitute.

“It’s salty and it has butter and you don’t know you’re eating dirt,” said Olwich Louis Jeune, 24, who has taken to eating them more often in recent months. “It makes your stomach quiet down.” 

"In the sprawling slum of Haiti’s Cité Soleil, Placide Simone, 29, offered one of her five offspring to a stranger. “Take one,” she said, cradling a listless baby and motioning toward four rail-thin toddlers, none of whom had eaten that day. “You pick. Just feed them.” "


A critically important bit of that NYT article is here:  " the spike in commodity prices — the biggest since the Nixon administration — has pitted the globe’s poorer south against the relatively wealthy north, adding to demands for reform of rich nations’ farm and environmental policies. But experts say there are few quick fixes to a crisis tied to so many factors, from strong demand for food from emerging economies like China’s to rising oil prices to the diversion of food resources to make biofuels.

There are no scripts on how to handle the crisis, either. In Asia, governments are putting in place measures to limit hoarding of rice after some shoppers panicked at price increases and bought up everything they could."


We need to get speculation into the public eye and mind- and get it talked about.  That's step one.


Also from the New York Times- Business Section...:  World Rice Shortage/Australian Drought:  
"The Deniliquin mill, the largest rice mill in the Southern Hemisphere, once processed enough grain to meet the needs of 20 million people around the world. But six long years of drought have taken a toll, reducing Australia’s rice crop by 98 percent and leading to the mothballing of the mill last December."

"The collapse of Australia’s rice production is one of several factors contributing to a doubling of rice prices in the last three months — increases that have led the world’s largest exporters to restrict exports severely, spurred panicked hoarding in Hong Kong and the Philippines, and set off violent protests in countries including Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Haiti, Indonesia, Italy, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, the Philippines, Thailand, Uzbekistan and Yemen."

"Drought has already spurred significant changes in Australia’s agricultural heartland. Some farmers are abandoning rice, which requires large amounts of water, to plant less water-intensive crops like wheat or, especially here in southeastern Australia, wine grapes. Other rice farmers have sold fields or water rights, usually to grape growers."

"Scientists expect the problem to worsen. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, set up by the United Nations, predicted last year that even slight warming would lower agricultural output in the tropics and subtropics."

"Australia’s total rice capacity has declined by about a third because many farmers have permanently sold water rights, mostly for grape production. And production last year was far lower because of a severe shortage of water; rice farmers received one-eighth of the water they are usually promised by the government."
Also from The New York Times- Business section: Organic Food Too Pricey?:  "people who have to buy organic grain, from bakers and pasta makers to chicken and dairy farmers, say they are struggling to maintain profit margins, even though shoppers are paying more. The price of organic animal feed is so high that some dairy farmers have abandoned organic farming methods"

"Perry Abbenante, global grocery coordinator for Whole Foods Market, said sales were strong and customer counts were up. He said it might be too soon to know how consumers would react to higher organic prices, particularly in dairy.  “Man, $6.99 for a gallon of milk is pushing it,” he said. “We have to be very careful about not pricing organics out of the market.”  "

"prices for conventional corn, soybeans and wheat are at or near records, so there is less incentive for farmers to switch to organic crops; making the switch requires a three-year transition and piles of paperwork."

"Bob Eberly, president of Eberly Poultry in Stevens, Pa. The cost of raising poultry has increased 16 percent in the last six months, but he said his prices had increased only 7 percent."

Ok.  Gonna quit with the terrifying quotes here, before (hopefully before!!) I drive any readers into horrified catatonia.   That's NOT the idea.

One point about the business aspects of organic- eventually, the rising costs of fuel SHOULD make the competitive aspects of organic/non-organic tip in favor of ORGANIC.  Commercial fertilizer is made mostly from natural gas.  Then shipped - it's heavy, and takes a lot of diesel to move.  And spread.  Most organic farmers use only on-farm inputs; manure or green manure.  That's going to turn out to be a HUGE benefit, very soon.  Likewise- pesticides- can only get much more expensive.

This is already happening- acres planted to corn in the US will be DOWN 8% from last year.  Multiple causes- one of them being- the very high cost of fertilizer, which corn uses like a drunk on his last binge goes through Sterno.

My own guess about the organic industry is- it's going to be painful for a while- but reality will eventually kick in, and the day may well come when organic food is CHEAPER than "conventional".  Assuming the arctic methane doesn't get us first.  :-)


So.  For the first time, I'm going to ask the readers of this blog to DO something.  For us all.  

Many of the causes of the world food crisis are beyond our immediate reach; we can't fix global warming this morning.

But one cause is NOT beyond reach.  It's HUGE- and virtually UNRECOGNIZED.  

It's Food "Investment" - otherwise known as- SPECULATION.

Blog reader DC sent in a comment with this link; International Herald Tribune.  Even some insiders know it.

The politically engaged population of the US - and the WORLD - does not know it's there; and do not know that potentially- it could be OUTLAWED.  Next week.

It could.  Life-critical resources have always been protected from speculation (theoretically!) - it's an absolute obscenity to sell water to people dying of thirst- the whole species feels that way.

That's the anger we need to stir; and this post has been written as an introduction to the situation.

The starving countries SHOULD start the push- if we can alert the Philippines that half of the price of rice goes into the pockets of slimy weasel food profiteers- they can start screaming to the world- the UN, the World Court, the World Trade Association - that this MUST STOP.

The Philippines - Malaysia - Thailand - could actually pass legislation internally banning food speculation.  And then start boycotting international companies that facilitiate it.  

Of course it won't be easy to write the laws.  Of course the profiteers will scream bloody murder.  But yes, it can be done.

They will pass laws long before the US will.   Europe will pass laws, long before the US will.  But eventually the moral pressure will be huge.

In fact, at the moment, the ultra-rich in this country are just smugly grinning about how cool they are- outsmarting the markets.  Most of them have, pardon my Serbian, "shit eating grins" glued on.  (I think he's saying "yeah, sit on THIS, peon!"  But at least he's wearing his flag pin!)

But they ARE human.  If they continually wake up in the morning and have to read stories about how the rest of the world truly considers them to be lower than pond-scum- they will get depressed.  As people.  And start yielding.  Even pond-scum would LIKE to think they're "good people"- at least most of them; some of the time.


Do you have a blog?  Link to this post.  Write about it.  Spread it to other blogs.  Tell them to read the previous several posts here, too.

In 15 minutes:  Email this post to 10 of your contacts who may think as you do.  Ask them to pass it on.

Email this post to your legislators; if you know some, personally, send it personally, and ask to talk to them about launching legislation.

Do you have friends in hungry countries?  Email them this post- ask them to pass it on.  Get them to put it in the hands of their government.

Get this post to your pastor, rabbi, or imam- ask them to turn it into a sermon- and get your congregation RILED.

Do you have contacts in universities?  Get this post to activist groups on campuses- get them to work on... DEMONSTRATIONS.  There should be THOUSANDS marching down Wall Street, with banners saying-


  - and photos of the starving.  What the hell- have friends in Haiti?  Ask them to FedEx  you a few corpses.  They're cheap and don't weigh much.  Prop them up on the Stock Exchange steps.

Are you a member of a conservation group?  Get them this post.

Pass it on.  Talk about it.  GET ANGRY- just in case you're not.  Send your comments here about what you've done- and ideas of your own.  Let's get it moving.
(so far today a LOT of people have "hit" here; nearly a thousand so far- but only a few have commented.  I KNOW more of us have sent an email or two- please DO send me a comment, just to say- "I posted it: or I emailed it."  A movement needs people!)

Just take 15 minutes, please.

Think this kind of action can't work?  Take a look here- substantive change, happening right now, LONG before the laws change.

more to come.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Grinning While Rome Burns

Ah, the rewards of living a good honest life!  This, apparently, is what our world thinks is a "worth while" "job"-  conducting incomprehensible hocus-pocus with huge piles of money.  The benefits to the world are obvious of course- an improved standard of living, all around.

We DON'T have to put up with this, you know.  The laws could be changed.  In fact, it's time to OUTLAW the trading of food- and energy - for profit alone.  Just as it is obviously obscene to think about "holding" chemotherapy drugs for profit- it's JUST as obscene to hold FOOD- for profit.  And oil, at this point- people are dying- now for the lack of basic food and energy.  No, they don't starve- it's violence, first.

The big money managers are all a-flutter as to what to DO about starving millions- "oh, what can we do?!" they cry (see previous 3 posts).

NOT ONE of them, so far, has suggested CLOSING markets to speculators.  Would it be difficult?  Duh.  Could it be DONE?  


Start now.  Get the colleges riled up about it- START TALKING about it; CALL your legislator and RANT about the PURE OBSCENITY of "food profiteers" - and tell them you want hearings- and legislation - on how much of the increase in the price of food, and oil, is purely due to "speculation".

Start it moving.

Ask yourself.  Is it possible to truly "earn" - $3.7 Billion in a year?    From that article: "Combined, the top 50 hedge fund managers last year earned $29 billion." Personally, my answer is no, that's not "earning".  There's another word.  And golly, the World Bank can afford all of $10 million for the starving in Haiti.  

And- WHERE did that money come from?  It has to come from  somewhere.

Really?  Truly?  Ultimately it comes from all those like the people in Bangladesh - who last year were spending 40¢ a day on food - out of the $1 a day they have; and this year are spending 80¢ a day- on their one meal.  Out of the 90¢ a day they have.


So, today- crude oil hits a new record high; over $115- and the Dow closes UP 256 points?  Can you spell "totally clueless?"

Sorry, DC, I'm still really really pissed.  But I'm enjoying it, anyway.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Cargiburton Announces New Futures Market

World famous Cargiburton Corp. announced today that they've envisioned an even better way to accumulate wealth; by trading in medicine and medical supplies.

"Look," said CEO Darth Chainy, "we're already shoveling in the money by buying up corn, wheat, rice and crap like that- just hold it a while, and the price goes up.  So it occurred to me- why the hell aren't we doing this with medical stuff?  I mean, Jeez.  How dumb can we get?"  He admitted the idea was stimulated by his finally realizing how much money is already pumped out of those needing medicines.  "We just don't have any piece of that action, and I resent it." he grinned.

The Securities and Exchange Commission and Federal Reserve Bank reacted with enthusiasm, and pledged to work hard not to regulate this "brilliant new financial sector instrument."  "This really could be the answer to the burst housing bubble." burbled Ben-Bob Berninny, the Head Fed.  "I mean really, think of it- you buy up all these chemotherapy drugs- and hold them!  The price HAS to go up!"

Cargiburton announced new divisions specifically aimed at controlling the AIDS drugs markets, anti-malaria drugs, cold and flu medications, and medical oxygen.  Vitamins were ruled out- it's too easy for people to just eat green veggies, which they already control anyway.

And so it goes.


Apologies to Crunchy- no, this is not funny.  In case some of you can't tell, I'm FURIOUS at the moment.  

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Really, really egregious. (nasty naughty bad)

So, the world is running out of food?  People may starve?  Way cool!  We can make money!

"Investing in agriculture has been rewarding, even after a recent pullback. PowerShares DB Agriculture, for example, gained almost 19% through April 10 -- far outpacing the U.S. market. "

What a great idea.  Let's add to the cost of food- by adding food speculators to the scenario.  Those are people who buy "futures", which are a bet, basically, that it'll be worth more than the experts are guessing.  If they're big enough, they actually "hold commodities".  Waiting for the price to go- up.

Guess what?  Add a couple thousand "investors"- all buying- and.. hey, the price goes up!

Now here is a practice that the world should outlaw- NOW.  It serves NO useful public purpose- it's only to make people with money richer.

Shame on us.

Seriously.  Banned- Outlawed- now.  This is an obscenity.


update, 4/14-

Sorry; but obscene is the only word I can come up with.  How DARE we allow this?

I'm having trouble reading my calculator, but I think it's telling me that 10M is about 1% of 1.03B.  So the world is tossing the starving people of Haiti 1% - of the PROFITS - of ONE food processing company - for 1/4 of one year.  Huzza for us.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

And how to do it wrong..

In case you needed any more proof of the utter cluelessness of our "economic leadership"- this little bit in Forbes will do it.

Briefly quoting: 
'Food prices, if they go on like they are doing today ... the consequences will be terrible,' IMF managing director Dominque Strauss-Kahn said.

'Hundreds of thousands of people will be starving ... leading to disruption of the economic environment,' Strauss-Kahn told a news conference at the close of the IMF spring meeting here.

Development gains made in the past five or 10 years could be 'totally destroyed,' he said, warning that the issue goes beyond humanitarian concerns.

My bold.  IMF is "International Monetary Fund".  

Pretty grim.

Meanwhile, in lovely nice Minneapolis- the vandals are loose, and armed.

This is how

My good friend Crunchy Chicken has got an absolutely spectacular example of how to "just do it" up on her website today.

This is SO wonderful, and impressive.  She saw a way.  She just did it.  She didn't write to her congressman- she just got the job done. 

(No, I'm not saying don't write your congressman.  Just that it's not always the fastest, most efficient way to get something DONE.)

Very, very, well done.

Friday, April 11, 2008


If you'll allow me to continue the conceit- when you're pushing on icebergs like that- over 4' of open water- when something changes (like the iceberg moving a tad) you're quite likely to- lose your "grip" (if you can ever HAVE a "grip" on an iceberg) - and slip - and fall into the water.

Not necessarily a disaster, but it takes time to climb out.  What I was doing was some intensive people stuff for 2 days, and I do mean intensive.  When it was over, I slept, essentially straight, for 56 hours.  That's tired.

Climbing back out of the icewater now, but it's slow.  Scanning the headlines and trends, there's loads of bad news to crow about still, and that's getting depressing.  So I want to point you instead to a lovely example of how to do "it" right.  This is a well written article, too- Irish town - and points out beautifully what even mainstream people are slowly coming to realize: we're unbelievably wasteful- and if we can just cut out the waste, we quickly discover we don't NEED nearly the energy we're already consuming.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Maxed for a bit

It's aggravating, there are just tons of fun topics flying by these days, but I'm currently "maxed out"- and going to be that way for a while longer.

The image you may want to take with you- guy with two feet on the houseboat- and both hands on the iceberg, which is 10 times bigger than the boat, and currently 4 feet away.  So I'm mostly dangling over the water.

Back as soon as I can.