Gene Logsdon: Gambling With Our Food


From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer

The drought that is affecting much of the Midwest is scary enough but what makes me even more nervous is the way speculators in the grain futures market are sending grain prices gyrating all over the place as they bet on what will happen next. Betting on the future supply of food is risky business. There’s too much chance for mischievous manipulation. It is risky enough to gamble with banknotes of one kind or another but they aren’t edible no matter how much good steak gravy you sop on them. Food, however, is everyone’s essential necessity and I wonder greatly about the wisdom of gambling with it especially when many of the gamblers can barely tell a stalk of corn from a hoe handle.

Like most everyone else, I’ve had orthodox economics drummed into my head. I know how economists argue that the speculators, by pooling the information upon which they place their bets, arrive at what is called “price discovery” that helps establish some kind of market  equilibrium overall, and helps farmers and processors and society in general adjust to the situation. The gamblers also benefit all of us, I’ve been taught, by “risk shifting” or hedging which provides producers and others with a way to shift the risk involved in ownership of a commodity to others

How to Bury a Throwaway Culture One Repair at a Time…


From SALLY McGRANE
Amsterdam Journal via NYT

An unemployed man, a retired pharmacist and an upholsterer took their stations, behind tables covered in red gingham. Screwdrivers and sewing machines stood at the ready. Coffee, tea and cookies circulated. Hilij Held, a neighbor, wheeled in a zebra-striped suitcase and extracted a well-used iron. “It doesn’t work anymore,” she said. “No steam.”

Ms. Held had come to the right place. At Amsterdam’s first Repair Cafe, an event originally held in a theater’s foyer, then in a rented room in a former hotel and now in a community center a couple of times a month, people can bring in whatever they want to have repaired, at no cost, by volunteers who just like to fix things.

Conceived of as a way to help people reduce waste, the Repair Cafe concept has taken off since its debut two and a half years ago. The Repair Cafe Foundation has raised about $525,000 through a grant from the Dutch government, support from foundations and small donations, all of which pay for staffing, marketing and even a Repair Cafe bus.

Thirty groups have started Repair Cafes across the Netherlands, where neighbors pool their skills and labor for a few hours a month to mend holey clothing

Three Big Lies Perpetuated by the Rich…


From PAUL BUCHHEIT
Common Dreams

When it comes to the economy, too many Americans continue to be numbed by the soothing sounds of conservative spin in the media. Here are three of their more inventive claims:

1. Higher taxes on the rich will hurt small businesses and discourage job creators

A recent Treasury analysis found that only 2.5% of small businesses would face higher taxes from the expiration of the Bush tax cuts.

As for job creation, it’s not coming from the people with money. Over 90% of the assets owned by millionaires are held in a combination of low-risk investments (bonds and cash), the stock market, real estate, and personal business accounts. Angel investing (capital provided by affluent individuals for business start-ups) accounted for less than 1% of the investable assets of high net worth individuals in North America in 2011. The Mendelsohn Affluent Survey agreed that the very rich spend less than two percent of their money on new business startups.

The Wall Street Journal noted, in way of confirmation, that the extra wealth created by the Bush tax cuts led to the “worst track record for jobs in recorded history.”

Ungrateful Conservatives…


From digby

Jake Tapper reports:

The New Hampshire Union Leader’s John DiStato today reports that in 1999 the business in question, Gilchrist Metal, “received $800,000 in tax-exempt revenue bonds issued by the New Hampshire Business Finance Authority ‘to set up a second manufacturing plant and purchase equipment to produce high definition television broadcasting equipment’…” In addition, in 2011, Gilchrist Metal “received two U.S. Navy sub-contracts totaling about $83,000 and a smaller, $5,600 Coast Guard contract in 2008…”

The businessman, Jack Gilchrist, also acknowledged that in the 1980s the company received a U.S. Small Business Administration loan totaling “somewhere south of” $500,000, and matching funds from the federally-funded New England Trade Adjustment Assistance Center.

“I’m not going to turn a blind eye because the money came from the government,” Gilchrest said. “As far as I’m concerned, I’m getting some of my tax money back. I’m not stupid, I’m not going to say ‘no.’ Shame on me if I didn’t use what’s available.”

Right. Some of his personal tax dollars paid for all of that, including the roads he’s been using for decades and the education of his workforce and the police and fire protection and reliable energy

The Lamb Shank Redemption…


From JASON PETERS
Front Porch Republic

I walk through the door after a hard two hours at the office. Whew! That damn-near killed me. Good thing I had time to stop at the campus garden to harvest a little red romaine and arugula. And good thing I’m the faculty advisor to this great unremunerated, unknown, and unappreciated project.

Nothing like occupying an endowed chair and enjoying the same status as the groundhogs and rabbits.

And good thing I arrive at the garden in time. The heat later this week will render the arugula certainly, and the lettuce probably, too bitter even for the rabbits—well, maybe not for those fur-bearing varmints, as Yosemite Sam called them—but tonight these fine leaves will feed me and mine.

And what else will feed us?

Interesting you should ask. I see that the little missus, the goddess excellently bright, has boiled some bowtie pasta. This means two things: that bowties were made for eating, not wearing, and that she wants a green & pasta combo salad tonight.

The Careerists…


From CHRIS HEDGES
Truthdig

The greatest crimes of human history are made possible by the most colorless human beings. They are the careerists. The bureaucrats. The cynics. They do the little chores that make vast, complicated systems of exploitation and death a reality. They collect and read the personal data gathered on tens of millions of us by the security and surveillance state. They keep the accounts of ExxonMobil, BP and Goldman Sachs. They build or pilot aerial drones. They work in corporate advertising and public relations. They issue the forms. They process the papers. They deny food stamps to some and unemployment benefits or medical coverage to others. They enforce the laws and the regulations. And they do not ask questions.

Good. Evil. These words do not mean anything to them. They are beyond morality. They are there to make corporate systems function. If insurance companies abandon tens of millions of sick to suffer and die, so be it. If banks and sheriff departments toss families out of their homes, so be it. If financial firms rob citizens of their savings, so be it.

Occupy Wall Street: Reports From the Front Lines…



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From THE OCCUPIED WALL STREET JOURNAL

This week in Occupy, the 99 Mile March rocked its way across two states, the movement survived an NYPD smear campaign, Comic Con got #occupied, and banks continued their usual reprehensible behavior.

#Led by the Occupy Guitarmy, the 99 Mile March arrived in Manhattan via the Staten Island ferry to honor folk singer Woody Guthrie on his 100th birthday. The trek, which began in Pennsylvania on July 5 following the Occupy National Gathering, terminated at Liberty Square, where marchers were greeted by police. At least one was injured and three were arrested in the aftermath.

A Desert Beyond Fear…


From JANA RICHMAN
NYT Opinionator

Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom . . — Bertrand Russell

On a cold, sunny day in early March, my husband, Steve, and I layered up and took ourselves out to our backyard: Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. For a few days we had been spiraling downward through a series of miscommunications and tensions — the culmination of my rigorous dedication to fear, or what Bertrand Russell aptly coined “the tyranny of the habit of fear.”  A fresh storm had dropped 10 inches of snow with little moisture giving it an airy, crystallized texture that sprayed out in an arc with each footstep and made a shushing sound, as if it were speaking directly to me. Shush. Shush. Shush.

My fear began roiling, slowly at first, but soon popping and splashing out of its shallow container.

Moving into the elegant world of white-draped red rock is usually enough to strip our minds of the qualms that harass us, but on this particular day, Steve and I both stomped into the desert bearing a commitment to hang onto the somber roles we had adopted. Solemnity is difficult, however,

Rage Against the American Dream…



From THE AUTOMATIC EARTH

After Jared Loughner opened fire on group of people in an Arizona grocery store early last year, apparently targeting Congreswoman Gabrielle Giffords, I wrote a post called “The Lunatic is in my Head”. It questioned the mainstream narrative that we were fed about Loughner being a paranoid schizophrenic who had simply gone untreated for too long, and suddenly snapped. Let me be clear – in my opinion, whether Loughner was a “lunatic” or not is irrelevant to whether he should be held accountable for his despicable actions. There is absolutely NO excuse for such actions, and people like him should (and will) be punished to account for justice.

Fast forward to July 20, 2012, and we find ourselves confronted with a very similar tragedy. Police have identified James Holmes, a 24 year old studying for a P.h.D. in neuroscience at the University of Colorado, as the gunman who killed 12 people and injured 40 others at a Dark Knight movie premier in Denver. Should we chalk this horrendous incident up to the homicidal delusions of an abnormal person in an otherwise “normal” society as well, and then forget about it next week? Is there any connection at all between the actions of Holmes and the societal institutions and ingrained culture that surrounds us?