Food Prices So Much More Than Advertised

April 30, 2008 at 10:37 pm (Food)

worthless rubles

Anyone diligently track their grocery expenses?  The Economist magazine did their recurring price comparison between now and April 2007 of, among other things, food.  The percentage increase in food bills they came up with year-over-last was an astounding 69%.

I say again, 69%!  Here is James Turk’s opinion on that

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve, along with “official” economists and commentators debate whether the inflation number is 2% or 3%.  Some even dare to say 4%.  What a joke.  I guess it’s true that prices of skis and leather chaps haven’t probably climbed much.  And hey, I’ll bet it’s just as cheap to gain admission to theme parks as it was last year.  Good thing that sort of item is included in the overall inflation numbers because that’s what people really need in difficult times.  Oh, and cheaper cell phones.

Not that doctoring the official inflation numbers (that are used as the basis for peoples’ social security checks and pension) is a local phenomenon.  The UK gets in on the fun too.

The government would disagree with The Economist, I’m sure.  The official food price increases are supposedly between 4% and 5% annually.  But as any careful shopper or receipt-saver will tell you, that’s just not true.  The Consumer Price Index is misleading because it doesn’t track the actual increases per good.  It follows a “substitution logic,” meaning the government assumes that if rice is too pricy, people will switch to lentils.  And if avocados are too pricy, people will use… well… mayonnaise.  Or something.  That way they can say the prices aren’t increasing too much (as long as you do the proper food substitution).  I’m not kidding, that’s really the way it’s calculated.  Take out your receipts.  Pick up any old newspaper ads from six months ago.  And be prepared to get upset.

Today’s article of doom: Bushonomics.


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Big Time Thought Police

April 24, 2008 at 9:37 pm (Big Brother)

Usually I talk about the economy.  However, the media has lately been doing an adequate job of documenting the downward spiral, so I don’t have much to point out there.  I did run into a disturbing article, however, which seemed innocuous enough at first.  Here it is.  You have a mentally disturbed guy who wants to take out his high school in a repeat of Columbine.  Bad, right?  Of course.  And there is really no question that he likely would have carried out his plan had his parents, and subsequently the cops, intervened.  So, it’s a no-brainer he should be tried and, if convicted, sent to prison, right (unless found mentally incapable of standing trial)?  Sure.

Well, here’s the problem.  Among other things, he was charged with “attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction,” which carries a lifetime sentence.  He never did attempt it, however.  He had materials that could be used to make a bomb, but he didn’t actually make the bomb.  He had a journal of hateful sayings and diagrams of his plans, etc, but he hadn’t acted them out.

I don’t have a problem with his arrest, or his being charged, but I do have a problem with what he was ultimately charged.  The list includes: attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, attempting to use explosives on a building that gets federal funding, using interstate commerce to obtain explosives to be used against people and property, making a bomb threat, and possession of bomb-making materials.

The only one that seems accurate to me is possession of bomb-making materials considering he never actually made a bomb, never threatened to make a bomb, and never attempted to harm anyone.  Now, I’m not saying he didn’t intend to possibly do all these things, but the point is that he hadn’t.  Yet.  Therefore, charging him for crimes he didn’t commit is thought-policing, and that scares me.  All he had was a journal and some fertilizer, and now, if convicted on the WMD charge, will serve life in prison.  Life in prison for THINKING about doing something and gathering materials that might be used to do it.  There are literally hundreds of thousands of people behind bars who have actually taken a life who do not have life sentences.

By that rationale, every person who gets cut off while driving and yells to their spouse, “I’m going to run that bastard off the road” should be tried for attempted murder, because as the driver, they were in possession of a potentially deadly weapon.  Even though they didn’t carry it out, they thought about it, and could have if they wanted to.

Similarly, having an empty wine bottle, some gasoline, and a rag is the same thing as owning a molotov cocktail because, as the police in the article mentioned, someone “could assemble a bomb with those materials in minutes.”  If he is convicted, this sets a very dangerous precident which is that thinking about doing something and making preparations to potentially do it is the same as doing it.  It is not. 

He might have had a change of heart, he might have gotten scared.  Hell, he might have gotten laid that day and changed his whole perspective.  Or he might have carried it out.  The point is he was stopped, which is good, but he didn’t attempt to carry it out, so he should not be charged as if he was one of the 9/11 hijackers.  But I suppose the Federal government has every motivation to consider him a crazed terrorist with WMDs.  Just for the record, I’m not scared of him.  I’m scared of the people who are charging him with those crimes.

Today’s (other) article of doom: Wall Street Journal recommends hoarding food.

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Oil Highest Ever — Ho-Hum

April 15, 2008 at 7:19 pm (Food)

Well, oil passed $113 per barrel but I didn’t see any headlines on it. Rice, wheat, corn, soybeans — all the highest ever. Yawn. $200 million in emergency aid to prevent widespread rioting. Not enough food to go around. Yawn.

All we seem to hear about is the Chinese Olympic guards and the “Polygamist Ranch” and more Presidential candidate quips. There is a global financial crisis unfolding! All commodities are going up, up, up, and the number of people who can securely eat is going down, down, down. Inflation is rampant. The middle class is disappearing figuratively, and the poor might begin to disappear literally.

Today needs no article of doom.

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Food, Precious Food

April 11, 2008 at 12:04 am (Food)

There are some who still deny we’re in a recession.  Technically, since a recession can only be confirmed after it happens, and it’s entirely based upon the government’s interpretation of numbers, there is somewhat of an argument there.

However, back on Planet Earth, most people believe we’re in a recession.  Even the former chairman of the Federal Reserve has finally admitted as such.  Every move by the markets is geared towards managing this fact.  As a nation, we’ve been run off the road and now our challenge is to slowly let our foot off the accelerator and try not to hit a tree.  If the car gets ruined in the process, well, too bad.  It could be worse.  I’ll leave it up to you to decide who or what the car is.

How do we know when we’ve crossed the line from a recession to a depression?  There is some silly technical definition, but the practical one is: are most people having a hard time feeding themselves?  We’re not there yet, thankfully.  But the momentum heading towards that is undeniable.  And it’s not just us in the United States — it’s everywhere

There is plenty of blame to go around as to why there is not enough food to go around.  Some say it’s overzealousness towards ethanol, some say it’s due to hoarding, some say it’s due to bad harvests from global warming, and others say it’s because of the credit disaster pushing investors towards a safe haven.  Maybe it’s all of them together.  The fact is, however, it’s bad.

Here in the United States, we’ve seen grocery prices climb perhaps 15% or 20% in the last year.  It’s enough to worry people, and enough to be annoying, but we don’t spend half our income on food like those in poor nations.  However, higher prices are still on the way.  How much more will they climb?  Rather, what’s to stop them from climbing?  Decreased demand?  Increased productivity?  Deflation?  Not any time soon.  Of course, one can always stockpile a few airtight buckets of emergency food.  That’s never a bad idea.

Today’s article of doom: Former Navy Seals demolition team member and governor of Minnesota says the 9/11 official story is completely false.

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Big Brother is Definitely Here

April 3, 2008 at 11:53 pm (Big Brother)

We’ve all heard that the US government is spying on all of us, and most of us aren’t reassured by the President’s remarks that it’s only on communications with someone outside the country who is a member of Al Qaida.  But, of course, we civilians really have no idea to what extent the government is gathering information on those of us who don’t communicate with people in foreign countries who are suspected of being suspicious persons.  I’ve seen several interesting articles the past few days, however, that reinforce the ominous feeling that Big Brother is watching far, far more than we’ve been led to believe. 

The ACLU alleges here that the FBI is skirting the law in multiple ways to spy on people here in the US.  Also, the ACLU recently obtained a memo from the Department of Justice from 2001 saying the fourth amendment no longer applied when the President said so.  Finally, intelligence agencies across the country have access to pretty much all of your data anytime they ask for it.  It’s nothing most people haven’t suspected, but reading it spelled out so clearly and completely just gives me the shivers — as if the Bill of Rights only applies in trouble-free times.

Today’s article of doom: lots of food riots around the world.

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Foreign Papers Tell Different Story

April 1, 2008 at 4:32 pm (Media)

This British newspaper declared our Great Depression for us.  Meanwhile, over the pond here in the US, we’re growing more confident by the day that everything is all right.  We have to read foreign papers to get the dish on a plan to nationalize our bankrupt banks or to hear about how some homes are worth less than their copper pipes.  Reading about the US in foreign newspapers presents a completely different impression of us than we get at home, of course.  An Indian paper mentioned George Soros’s opinion of the US economy (hint: he disagrees with the optimists).  In fact, it almost seems as if we’re the homeless guy on the train who keeps coughing loudly, without covering his mouth, and the international community is slowly stepping away.

Instead we talk cheerfully about giving the Federal Reserve ultimate power as a solution to our very temporary crisis, which is especially appalling since the Fed has been proven in court to be a private institution.

Our papers lately have had very optimistic headlines.  Most economists feel that the health of a nation’s economy is a bit of self-fulfilling prophecy, and therefore consumers need to be encouraged in order to avoid hoarding and encourage spending.  That’s why we get so much cheerleading in the news, with naysayers being ridiculed.

It’s true we have a great country full of resourceful people.  But it’s also true that we’ve acted in a very short-sighted manner, and we’ve exported the industries that make a country fundamentally strong.  We’ve become a service-oriented country that primarily sells services to itself.  And now the people buying those services are running out of money.

Today’s article of doom: cell phones more deadly than smoking.

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