Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween ...

I've always loved Halloween, and am enjoying it again now through Smidgen. We grew some huge pumpkins this year, and I think we're going to wind up carving 6 or 7.

Good simple fun. Old traditions; always nice to keep them alive.

My big brother Lurk just sent me this, which is huge fun- these folks actually thought up something new for Halloween enthusiasts -

(Or go to YouTube if this player isn't behaving for you. )

I hadn't run into this thing before; but it strikes me as exactly the kind of prank/video that is likely to go viral, make people famous, and generate a lot of copy-cats.

So........... it yah wanna be reeeally creepy - the next stage in the trick would be to get a very bright kid to pretend to be a dummy- and just as they think they've got it figured out-

LEAP AT 'EM - and give them a good shriek. Now there would be some great video fodder.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

No, the economy isn't fixed.

In the spirit of trying to help folks understand what's hitting them; I'll share a metaphor that hit me, today, as I was attempting to respond to yet another bit of absolute nonsense in the mainstream media "financial chatter" pages.

So! The Eurozone leaders have reached an agreement! Hallelujah!! Hot Diggety! Man, now I can get some sleep; Happy Times Are Here Again!

I desperately need to find some more boggles, somewhere; I've gone through my entire supply at this point, the mind can't boggle any more; I've just used them all up. Here was my reply to one of the professional pundits, pontificating about "well, except for a few details" all is now, clearly, perfectly well.

"Nope. Fantasy is just not enough, anymore.

"Let's see if I can put this in terms the "econoastrologers" can actually understand.

"What they've just done is put more gasoline into the Automobile of Europe; which is stalled, engine dead, on the side of the road.

"Thing is; gasoline is not the problem. The problem: the engine has a cracked block; cracked wide open. It's broke- and dead; and all the gasoline in the world, will not fix it.

 Folks will hop back in the driver's seat; turn the key a few times- and the engine will not catch. Once again, they'll be out on the road trying to flag down help. But the engine block will remain cracked."

If you're reading all those financial sector headlines, and shaking your head a bit, mumbling to yourself; "but, that really doesn't make sense..." you're entirely correct.

It's the "Real Economy" that is truly broken. That's the phrase the econo-astrologers themselves use for it. Jobs? Work? Value creation? We ain't got none; can't see any in the pipeline, either; not here, not in Europe, not in China.

Eventually, the Real Economy has to pay ALL the bills for the debt; principle, and interest. And nobody has fixed it. The block is cracked; we're going to need a new engine- and nobody currently on the world radar has any clue of where to find one. And just maybe; there isn't one.

Quite possibly, that's why they avoid talking about the Real Economy. They have no idea what to say; and it's too depressing to dwell on. Bad for the markets, dude.

Oh, and incidentally, Big Oil is loudly announcing that they've siphoned another huge block of real money out of the Real Economy; $20 billion in the first quarter, just for Exxon and Shell. That'll help; as that money moves from Joe Lunchbox's savings into the stockholders' portfolios. And; of course, it's not Big Oil's fault; they just can't help it when prices go up.

Now if that doesn't cheer you up! I just don't know what will!!


Update; next day; CNN Money headline: European Rescue Sugar Rush Wears Off.

Fancy that. It's dawned on them that "this may not be enough." To succeed, there must be economic "growth" - and there is none, they know. So, are they now addressing the real problem? Don't be silly!

"Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi (Italy) has pledged to enact broad reforms to cut spending and boost economic competitiveness. But analysts say implementing those reforms could be difficult given the current political climate in Italy."

In our automotive metaphor, he's saying "We're going to install a new high efficiency fuel injector!"

You can put new wax on the car, too- but the cracked block is still not going to work.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


It's not like I have nothing else to think about; and I really prefer to not pass on depressing news these days. We all have enough of that.

But there was an event announced today which has been preying on my mind since I saw it; and which truly should not go unnoticed, unmarked.

We've lost another big animal. The "Javan" rhinoceros- which actually used to range from India and Burma throughout SE Asia- is now known to be extinct on the mainland, entirely. The last remaining Vietnamese rhino was poached.

For a long full story; a video from Vietnam is here. It works well at full screen. If you have children who can understand it, tolerate it, it would be great to share with them.

This is a bigger loss than the international press is recognizing, I'm pretty sure. The only remaining members of the species are the 50 or so in an isolated national park in Java. The island populations have been separated from the mainland animals for a very long time; while they were called just subspecies- I can guarantee they were genetically quite distinct.

The world is changing. Much of what we are losing is completely irreplaceable. The extinction of such a creature- so ancient- a species that has survived so many challenges over its existence- is sad beyond any words I can find.

I won't forget this day. But the truth is- the world has barely noticed; and this loss will change nothing about the way we do business. Maybe- time to boycott cashews. That seems to be the major factor in the loss of the rhinos' last Vietnamese forest. And- who knew? And what other species are vanishing, for a few luxury nuts, and a little money?

These are in Java, captured by camera trap. Palm oil may be the biggest real threat there. It's in everything processed in the US, these days.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Peanut alert.

Really. If you eat peanut butter; stock up today.

A CNN Business story today details the coming peanut butter apocalypse. Last year at this time, the commodity price for a ton of US peanuts was around $750. Today; it's about $1,200.

The reason they give: severe drought and intense heat in the peanut belt last summer, so the crop is down some 13% from last year. Ok. Yes, climate change/climate chaos is upon us, and the economic impacts are already hitting us quite hard. I can easily understand why a 13% decrease in the crop would result in a ~40% increase in the price.

Soon after giving the cheery statistics, they go on to point out what a great opportunity this is for money changers to make a little more profit: Safe Havens; Gold, Yen, & Peanut Butter.

It is, of course, perfectly all right to make all the money you can, any way you can. It's your guaranteed right, actually. Never mind that peanut butter is often the last source of quality protein the poor can afford, and that it's a critical component of the new famine medications urgently needed in Haiti and Africa. Fascinating that the story praising the heroes of Haiti is covered by CNN also.

Here's the math on "investing" in food. Take peanuts, for an excellent example. World production is around 34 million metric tons. In the process of buying the crop from farmers, getting it to the people who process it, store it, and sell it to consumers, the peanuts change hands quite a few times. To facilitate that, and to let processors be certain they will have nuts to process next year, there is a "futures market"; where contracts to deliver peanuts at a certain time, say next July, are bought and sold.

Inside the peanut world, let's just say there are $50 billion worth of peanuts (a made up number with likely not relation to reality.) The peanut processors have, let us say, $40 billion in contracts on the books. Then- after that lovely article in CNN, a billionaire or two, from Argentina, Iraq, India, China- take their money out of oil, which is looking very risky; and use it instead to buy peanut futures. Now, let's say, there are $60 billion in the futures market- all chasing what used to be $50 billion worth of peanuts. The contracts are bought and sold daily- if you can sell the one you bought yesterday at $3/share, and you can sell it today for $3.10 a share- why wouldn't you? And here I am, with $500 million in my pocket I just took out of oil, and I need to buy peanuts- will I pay $3.15? Why yes, I will. The price is going to go up, yes? Everybody says so.

More money in a market, chasing a fixed quantity of commodity, will drive the price up. It's a law of physics that could have been written by Newton. The speculators doing this shriek, when you point at them, and swear they are providing a desperately needed service; more "liquidity" to the markets. It's a transparent self serving lie, of course; the markets functioned just fine a few years ago, when speculative money in those markets was legally restricted. But we believe a great many of those these days, one more won't hurt.

Guess who eventually pays the real money, to pay for all the profits? It's the end user, of course, that's the entire idea. In this case- it's the poor and starving. Literally; the starving.

Nice place we have here. So; better buy yours now. Of course.

It strikes me that getting speculators out of agricultural commodity markets would be a good thing to put on the list, for the Occupy Everything folks. The math is just really clear.