Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Economic Collapse Watch: Riots in Haiti over Food Prices

by NBBooks Thu Apr 17th, 2008 at 07:50:35 AM EST

In The Crash is past. Comes now Inflation, on March 2 (it seems so long ago), I warned that the official response to the financial crises so far was to save Wall Street and the financial system at all costs; that inflation was being unleashed; and this would mean a severe decline in our standard of living over the next few years. I alluded to a rise in food prices being one immediate cause of pain, and intimated that social unrest might be the result.

It's happening much faster than I thought possible.

From the BBC:

Hungry mob attacks Haiti palace
Crowds of demonstrators in Haiti have tried to storm the presidential palace in the capital Port-au-Prince as protests continue over food prices.

I learned of this just a few minutes ago, from this diary from someone who has a friend in the U.S. Embassy to Haiti: Haiti Riots - StateDept trapped. DAILY KOS FIRST

Promoted by Migeru


Tomorrow, the Guardian of London will be reporting Food price rises threaten global security - UN:

Sir John Holmes, undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs and the UN's emergency relief coordinator, told a conference in Dubai that escalating prices would trigger protests and riots in vulnerable nations. He said food scarcity and soaring fuel prices would compound the damaging effects of global warming. Prices have risen 40% on average globally since last summer.

"The security implications [of the food crisis] should also not be underestimated as food riots are already being reported across the globe," Holmes said. "Current food price trends are likely to increase sharply both the incidence and depth of food insecurity."

He added that the biggest challenge to humanitarian work is climate change, which has doubled the number of disasters from an average of 200 a year to 400 a year in the past two decades.

As well as this week's violence in Egypt, the rising cost and scarcity of food has been blamed for:

Riots in Haiti last week that killed four people

Violent protests in Ivory Coast

Price riots in Cameroon in February that left 40 people dead

Heated demonstrations in Mauritania, Mozambique and Senegal

Protests in Uzbekistan, Yemen, Bolivia and Indonesia

UN staff in Jordan also went on strike for a day this week to demand a pay rise in the face of a 50% hike in prices, while Asian countries such as Cambodia, China, Vietnam, India and Pakistan have curbed rice exports to ensure supplies for their own residents.

Officials in the Philippines have warned that people hoarding rice could face economic sabotage charges. A moratorium is being considered on converting agricultural land for housing or golf courses, while fast-food outlets are being pressed to offer half-portions of rice.

The impact of climate is one factor I definitely overlooked.

Display:
The answer is patently obvious.  We must help our leaders build more large stone statues with red stone caps on their heads

so they can acquire the manna to restore the island .. I mean planet.

As food prices increase and as the food available per person decreases the poor will starve to death.  And there ain't no way to increase food production.  In fact, total food production in the US and the world has reached maximum and has started to fall:  rice production in the Sacramento Valley, the salting of fields in the California Central Valley, the areas dependent on the depleting Ogallala Aquifer, the loss of topsoil in the US Midwest, the prospects of a fertilizer shortage,the collapse of the cod fisheries, and the threatened collapse of the tuna  and salmon fisheries as well.  This is a crises in food production such that many countries (pdf!) can no longer afford to purchase food, and they can't grow enough on their own to feed their population.

We live on an island in space

and just like the Eastern Islanders the human race is dependent on what the island can provide.  We can, like the Eastern Islanders, continue to build our little statues with the red top hats until the whole thing crashes or we can start doing what needs to be done to bring the population under control and move to a sustainable lifestyle.

Make no mistake, the population WILL fall over the rest of this century.  The question is the means and procedures by and through which it happens.

If NBBooks is correct, and the Ruling Class attempts to inflate their way out of the financial crises, the Third World will explode.  Inflating the currency means an increase in the price of food costed in that currency.  The Third World is already having difficulty buying the food they need.  Increasing the costs means pricing it out of their reach. People don't quietly sit down and starve to death.  They riot, revolt, migrate, take whatever they can to raise food or raise the money to buy the food they need.  

We're not immune to this crises.  One of the things they can steal are the mines, oil fields, and the other natural resources the First World depends upon for our industrial civilization.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Wed Apr 9th, 2008 at 12:51:54 AM EST
It's actually already been going on, via unfair trade deals (unfair both to workers in the so-called north and free-holders in the so-called south), under the auspices of the WTO, for the past two decades. The western elite attempting to inflate their way out of this crisis they themselves have created, is just the next step.

I'm on the other hand not sure the population has to fall, there's plenty of fallow land to till and plenty of space to house people. The important thing to my mind is striving towards equality; this is the way we make the transition to a sustainable planet, one which manages resources on a global scale, and with respect for all citizens of this globe without regard to passport, without the sorts of wars Michel Houellebecq intimates.

In any event, if certain folks would think propoerly about their carbon footprint, maybe we wouldn't be talking so much about using that land to fuel Tom Friedman's Lexus, eh?
 

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Wed Apr 9th, 2008 at 01:02:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sure it has.  The plutocrats have been stealing everything that isn't nailed down from both the North and the South for centuries.  (And if it is nailed down they go home to grab a crowbar.)  The only difference, this time, is they are using the crowbar on themselves too.

As to the second, actually there isn't.  There's plenty of land lying around but most of it (New Mexico, for one) is worthless for sustaining agriculture over time.  That's what is happening in the Central Valley and the Ogallala Aquifer regions; it worked for a while but now that while is up.  In theory some of the land (New Mexico, for one) lying around could be used in an energy-intensive kind of way, e.g., hydroponics, but that would require a complete turn-over in the agricultural work-force since the current - heh - crop of farmers don't know how to do it.  Problem: do you want to work your ass off for 10 to 14 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year for about $20,000 a year after investing about a half a million bucks?  

I didn't think so.  I don't.  Nobody else does either.  And why few people are getting into high-tech agriculture.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Wed Apr 9th, 2008 at 02:17:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think you would be interesting in following the thread of this discussion on the DailyKos diary I linked to. Here's my original comment: http://www.dailykos.com/comments/2008/4/8/201936/8218/137#c137
by NBBooks on Wed Apr 9th, 2008 at 12:29:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm on the other hand not sure the population has to fall, there's plenty of fallow land to till...

It's not just land. Growing food does use up a lot of resources, such as fertilizers (which are energy), machinery (energy again); and it requires very well organized lines of supplies and deliveries, which again use up resources.

It appears more and more clearly that, yes, there is land to till, but the resources needed just won't be there - unless of course we go back to tilling by hand and accept low yields (no fertilizers), which mean high prices.

High price food is here, it will stay here as long as high priced energy is here, and the next step is peak food.

by balbuz on Wed Apr 9th, 2008 at 12:29:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
great comment, and images.

watching un peacekeepers, apparently earning $60-80 pd., firing rubber bullets at the starving haitians as they tried to batter down the gates of the presidential palace was horrible....that's not what they're for, thought i naively.

those mudcookie-eating folks hate the un, they accuse the un of ripping off their country.

then, watching the english, french and american police protecting the olympic flame, it occurred to me these might as well be paid by china, who owns the us economy, and has europe lining up to swap our birthrights for plastic geegaw landfiller too.

the same horror as watching italian police wailing on old ladies, just out to block an incinerator being opened next door to their families, and this under a lefty government.

same old...

new world order, no fries with that.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Apr 10th, 2008 at 10:27:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Bread crisis is developing in Egypt:
Across Egypt this year, people have waited in line for hours at bakeries that sell government-subsidized bread, sign of a growing crisis over the primary foodstuff in the Arab world's most populous country. President Hosni Mubarak has ordered Egypt's army to bake bread for the public, following the deaths of at least six people since March 17 -- some succumbing to exhaustion during the long waits, others stabbed in vicious struggles for places in line.

Similarly, rice crisis comes to Philipines, food concerns everywhere.

by das monde on Wed Apr 9th, 2008 at 05:29:15 AM EST
That Post article is really excellent, IMHO, and not just because of the snappy headline.  She really nailed the "two Egypts" problem -- the yawning and rapidly widening chasm between the very rich and the grindingly poor, at a time when the latter group is increasingly starting to encompass those who were, just last year, the middle class.  Doctors, civil servants, factory workers, university professors, administrators -- all these people have complained to me that they are having to stretch and adjust their budgets in order to keep affording basic foodstuffs.  These are people with good jobs, paying "good" wages (by Egyptian standards).

I mean hell, if I've fretted about how much higher my grocery bills have gotten -- on my hard-currency salary as a foreigner who is, comparatively, obscenely wealthy -- it's hard for me to imagine how terrifying this whole thing must be for someone on a pension or absurdly low government salary.  According to the World Bank, 20 percent of the population here lives on less than $2 a day (that's what they call the poverty line), and another 20 percent lives "just above" that line.  And food prices have doubled since the beginning of the year.  Doubled.

But prices have been rising for a while -- I've been hearing these complaints from workers for the last year, at least -- and the government is just now starting to sit up and take notice.  And they're doing what they can -- ordering the Army to bake bread, if that's not too surreal for us to comprehend -- but not really addressing the root of the problem here, which is not just rising prices (that's global) but stagnant wages and an entire wage system that's just corrupt and broken, and doesn't just encourage "rent-seeking" behavior on the part of civil servants, teachers, doctors etc., it depends upon it.  The entire wage and employment system is built on corruption, but it benefits the people making the decisions, and so they will order the Army to bake bread poor, but they will not change the system to really benefit the poor.

/ rant

For more reasoned takes on the situation in Egypt have a look at this blog post and a very interesting comment on it, and then this excellent assessment of the general strike dynamics, and this essay on the wider situation here.  (Full disclosure:  all of those posts and the interesting comment were been written by people I know to varying degrees... good god, this city of 18 million people is seeming rather small right now.)

So anyway, those riots in Haiti made me think, for some reason, of the classic song "Marcus Garvey" by Burning Spear...

Marcus Garvey words come to pass.
Marcus Garvey words come to pass.
Can't get no food to eat.
Can't get no money to spend....
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Wed Apr 9th, 2008 at 11:27:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was wondering if the Muslim Brotherhood could evade their ban by having people who stand as "independents" whom the MB would strongly endorse.

that might help free the log-jam. But it's the impossibiity of getting rid of the very top that makes it so hard.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Apr 9th, 2008 at 11:37:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, that's what they already do.  They can't actually back candidates as a party since they're officially a banned organization, but they back candidates that run as independents, who run with the same campaign slogan and are openly acknowledged as members of the Brotherhood.  But in this local election, the mechanisms of the state and the ruling party went to extreme lengths to keep everyone associated with the Brotherhood off the ballots -- there were 52,000 local council seats theoretically up for grabs, and the Brotherhood tried to back 10,000 candidates, and in the end they only got 20 on the ballots.  That's not a typo -- it's really 20 out of 52,000.

The Brotherhood knew this was going to happen to some extent, but they were even surprised by how far it went this time.  They had actually admitted that they were going to try to get "secret" candidates on the ballots, people whose affiliation with the Brotherhood was not publicized, but the NDP and the government (which are really the same thing) basically kept everyone off the ballots except people from their own ranks and a tiny number of people from established (but minor) opposition parties.  The so-called "independent" candidates who did run were mainly members of the NDP who quit the party having failed to secure its nomination, and who will re-join the party if elected.  (This happens in every election -- the NDP isn't really a party, it's a group of mercenaries.)

I've seen a lot of joke elections in my time, but this is the worst one.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Wed Apr 9th, 2008 at 11:47:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Crikey, that's worse than I imagined. No wonder the place has become a powder keg.

Mind you, this kind of ballot rigging is becoming the "acceptable" face of electoral abuse and, whilst it works for a while, it just makes the resolution more violent and destructive. Nobody benefits, but the despots can't resist clinging on for just one more election.

It's terrifyng to think how much of a mess the world will become in a few years and any solution is impossible cos the vested interests won't allow it.

ps Can't find out easily but aren't there significant freshwater wetlands in SW Africa somewhere ? Can't they become cultivated for rice ? Just a thought.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Apr 9th, 2008 at 12:00:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is all part of a plan -- they revised the constitution last year to require that any independent candidate for president must be backed by at least 140 local councilors (10 from each province) -- so now the claim will be that the Brotherhood (or any other party) can't back a candidate, only the NDP can because only the NDP has the councilors to do so.  There are similar requirements for the People's Assembly and the borderline useless Shura Council, which are the upper and lower houses of parliament -- the Brotherhood has enough deputies in the lower house, but they were all but shut out of the Shura Council elections by blatant rigging.

So voila, in the next presidential election (when, one assumes, the NDP candidate will be Gamal Mubarak, the current president's son) nobody will be able to meet the constitutional requirements and field a candidate, but it will all be perfectly "legal."

But the food riots in Mahalla (and my understanding is that it really seems to have been food riots by unemployed youth, not labor riots by striking workers) are really not about the Brotherhood.  The MB is not affiliated with the striking workers of Mahalla -- they are more closely associated with the leftists, although not entirely so, and some of them are actually members of the NDP as well.  But the Mahalla thing is emphatically not a Brotherhood-related matter.

Re: rice in southern Africa... There's the Okavango Delta, which is almost entirely a protected wilderness and wildlife area, with some mining concessions.  Both mining and tourism are more lucrative for Botswana (which is one of the most water-impoverished countries on earth) than agriculture likely ever will be, and then there's the whole issue of what to do with the elephants, zebras, rhinos, wild dogs, lions, cheetahs, etc....  Hard to really do crop cultivation around so many predators and rompy-stompy herds of elephants.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Wed Apr 9th, 2008 at 12:22:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's worth looking at Wikipedia on the Okovango Delta. A place I now understand better than I did.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Apr 17th, 2008 at 08:39:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Why, oh why, is this not a diary?

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Apr 17th, 2008 at 07:37:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Because you haven't cut-and-paste it into one?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Apr 17th, 2008 at 07:47:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I'll give tsp some time to act on my comment before I act on yours.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Apr 17th, 2008 at 02:09:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Thu Apr 17th, 2008 at 07:59:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
FT.com: Rice traders hit by panic as prices surge
Rice prices hit the $1,000-a-tonne level for the first time on Thursday as panicking importers scrambled to secure supplies, exacerbating the tightness already provoked by export restrictions in Vietnam, India, Egypt, China and Cambodia.

The jump came as the Philippines, the largest rice importer, failed for the fourth time to secure as much rice as it wanted.

The unsuccessful tender followed Bangladesh's inability to buy any rice at all this week.

Traders and analysts warned that rice demand was escalating in spite of prices rising to three times the level of a year ago as countries try to build up stocks.

by das monde on Thu Apr 17th, 2008 at 10:22:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Jesus H. Christ.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Sat Apr 19th, 2008 at 01:37:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I've been suggesting that there will be appreciable starvation/die off events across the globe for a little while.

I genuinely fear that the first will be the scariest when China starves within the next decade. Equally I fear that the UK is vulnerable because the economic structure has become entirely divorced from agricultural production. Too many people who will be economically unproductive without oil in places where food isn't and no good way to re-adjust that fact.

There are possible solutions, but I doubt they will allow more than a general deflation, we cannot go on growing population which is gonna piss off a lot of religious groups.

We could lose a couple of billion over a timescale of 10 - 50 years which is going to make political stability a commodity hard to find.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Apr 9th, 2008 at 11:32:43 AM EST
"...when China starves within the next decade."?

China is facing an obesity problem, and meat consumption there is climbing rapidly.

Calories per capita (admittedly a global average which can hide a lot) have been climbing for decades and would have to fall substantially to return us to the 1980s level. I don't recall any mass starvation at the time that wasn't the result of a war or of thugs in government.

From a post at The Oil Drum, data courtesy of the FAO:

Note that cereal consumption is down, which tends to be a sign of wealth -- for example, only nearly starving peasants eat almost all-rice diets.

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.

by technopolitical on Fri Apr 11th, 2008 at 03:44:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Good points techno.
A large portion of the world now is overeating and Obesity could end up killing more people that starvation in this century.

My post below and yours seems to be pointing out that famines are caused not by scarcity of resources but lack of democracy and of course good governance.

Rutherfordian ------------------------------ RDRutherford

by Ronald Rutherford (rdrradio1 -at- msn -dot- com) on Fri Apr 11th, 2008 at 02:02:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Been saying this stuff -- at MoA before ET, and before that at WB, and before that in living rooms and via email to anyone who would listen -- for so long I feel numb with my own repetitiveness... Cassandra-One-Note.  It is really nice to hear others at last talking over these issues seriously, rather than regarding them as lunatic-fringe topics, tin-foil hat and black helicopter stuff.

But (as I've also said) mass starvation is not inevitable:  it's only inevitable if we go on doing things the industrial-capitalist way, where the purpose of life and civilisation is to generate wealth for an accumulator elite.  If the purpose of civilisation was to feed and clothe and house people, we could feed and clothe and house people -- even the numbers of people alive today.  But we would rather fight wars, build obscene monuments to our own cleverness and "wealth" (yes, moai) and wallow in dreams of supra-pharaonic luxury... while we teeter on the edge of biotic bankruptcy, yada yada.

The most "efficient" (in terms of external resources) way to cultivate food is intensive polyculture.  But that requires intensive human involvement and expertise, local knowledge, skill, and the distributed custodianship of land by the people (not its concentrated private ownership by a tiny band of absentee overlords).  Yields per acre with intensive polyculture and biotic (non-petroleum, nutrient-recycling) methods are well documented as higher than industrial ag yields per acre -- especially if we count the (documented) higher nutritional value of biotically-grown food and the (documented) accumulation rather than liquidation of topsoil, and the greatly reduced "need" for irrigation (relieving the pressure on another precious resource, fresh water).  But intensive polyculture flies directly in the face of a century of Taylorism and the centralisation of power and authority that Taylorism both promotes and enables;  and it flies in the face of technomanagerial hubris w/its rather campy fantasies of totalising control and the "rationalisation" of all productive activity.

We are at a juncture, like many civilisations before us, where the maintenance of power and authority by the elite, and the core civilisational myths which legitimise that elite, are directly at odds with the survival of the masses and of the civilisation itself.  We know from the historical record that our chances of doing the smart thing and changing course in time to avert a serious trainwreck are -- what -- not quite so good as 50/50?

I don't know which is worse ... an inevitable Doom rolling down on us, majestic and terrifying and fateful -- or the maddening sense that there is nothing inevitable about it at all, that it's merely stubbornness, pride, greed and petty-power-madness (the Four Horsemen of civilisational collapse) that prevent us from exercising our clever-monkey adaptibility and common sense and dodging the cannonball.

Meanwhile, there's a lot of speculation (in the financial sense) going on in the ag sector, as the finance capitalists who got burned in the subprime crash and real estate bubble take their government handouts and go play in a new marketplace:  staple foods.  This speculation is helping to create a "food bubble", aided by the genuine drawdown of essential food producing resources (such as fresh water, viable topsoil, unpaved acreage, and stable weather).  Genuine supply failures combined with aggressive speculative profiteering:  recipe for disaster.

I have long thought that we need a two-economy (at least) model, in which certain basic goods are not available for speculative investment.  This has worked before for other cultures and could work again...  Basic foods, basic clothing, baseline shelter, basic (village doctor) medical care, should not be subject to profiteering (aka economic blackmail).  Luxury goods and/or imported goods might be left available as a speculative playground, but in a separate currency (so that speculative booms and busts don't touch the subsistence or household economy).  iirc Tainter documents this practise in one or more S American traditional cultures:  two currencies, two sets of business rules, to provide a separation between a stable economy of necessities and a risky/aggressive economy of luxuries.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Wed Apr 9th, 2008 at 01:29:16 PM EST
mass starvation is not inevitable

"There is no such thing as an apolitical food crisis."
  -- Amartya Sen

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Wed Apr 9th, 2008 at 01:36:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
mass starvation is not inevitable

Oh I woulnd't deny that, but let's be honest, the changes necessary are unlikely. The status quo has far too many moneyed vested interests to allow such changes.

My personal solution is to buy land with water enough to grow my own.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Apr 9th, 2008 at 02:40:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We could look at other reasons for these problems.
The one that seems obvious to me is from Haiti's Index of Economic Freedom. And Freedom House Haiti (2007) does not give it more than partially free although it notes the improvements lately.

From the first link, it is worth noting:


Freedom from Corruption - 18%

Corruption is perceived as rampant. Haiti ranks 163rd out of 163 countries in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index for 2006. Haiti's reputation as one of the world's most corrupt countries is a major impediment to doing business. Customs officers often demand bribes to clear shipments. Smuggling is a major problem, and contraband accounts for a large percentage of the manufactured consumables market.



Rutherfordian ------------------------------ RDRutherford
by Ronald Rutherford (rdrradio1 -at- msn -dot- com) on Thu Apr 10th, 2008 at 04:21:57 PM EST
It's not just Haiti.  

Bangladesh, El Salvidor, Mexico, South Africa, Ukraine, Philippines, Indonesia, Burma, Senegal.... do a quick search on your favorite search engine and check out the number of countries that have had food price riots or protests in the past 6 months.  

It's global.

by rast (deavod (at) hotmail (dot] com) on Thu Apr 17th, 2008 at 09:26:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But how much of it is due to bumping into the limits of carrying capacity, and how much of it is due to economic inequality?

Currently, Denmark is producing 25 million pigs each year. In a country with 5-point-something million people. Those pigs are being fed perfectly good grain that is completely suitable for human consumption. Suppose we stopped doing that?

Further suppose we started growing food crops instead of cash crops. How many people can you feed with the fields that are currently being used to grow tobacco? Coffee?

And then there's the utter insanity of cutting down tropical rainforest in order to graze cattle - with the predictable result that the ground becomes utterly barren in a few years and even at peak production, the calories yield is lower than what you can harvest sustainably in the forest in the first place.

I am not sure that we can support 6.5 bn people on this planet. But I am not sure we can't either.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Apr 17th, 2008 at 10:35:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Jake, maybe I am delusional, but I think the world can feed the 6.5 billion now and the 9 billion and change the world will reach at its height.

As far as pigs, I know from experience they can eat just about anything. When grain prices rise, this should rise the price of pig products and increase demand for alternative feed-stocks for the pigs. I do know they love our garbage (food waste products).

Rutherfordian ------------------------------ RDRutherford

by Ronald Rutherford (rdrradio1 -at- msn -dot- com) on Thu Apr 17th, 2008 at 07:16:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I can see it is global. But so is tyranny and oppression. While some on your list are not free by Freedom House standards others are partially free. I would suspect if someone was to analyze the list of those that actually face a starvation level of consumption are the ones that unfree and those that are rioting but have food now would be in the partially free.

But you should check this out yourself rast to how your list compares on economic freedoms.

Rutherfordian ------------------------------ RDRutherford

by Ronald Rutherford (rdrradio1 -at- msn -dot- com) on Thu Apr 17th, 2008 at 07:04:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Since the cause of the food shortage is likely to be economic inequality and a lack of means for redress within the legal and political framework, I would wager the opposite. The countries where people starve are, I should think, the countries where there is a lack of political freedom coupled with a high degree of economic "freedom." In other words, the countries where plutocrats are free, and proles are unfree.

As an aside, the Freedom House list is a sad joke. To take just a couple of striking examples, Liberia is listed as being more free than Lebanon, Columbia is listed as more free than Venezuela, Afghanistan is listed as more free than Russia and Iraq is listed as more free than Cuba. I call bullshit.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Apr 18th, 2008 at 02:46:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You may call it BS, but I can see the reasoning for their rankings.

Also note that there is a high correlation between economic freedoms and over freedom including political freedom. You somehow confuse anarchy with economic freedom.

Rutherfordian ------------------------------ RDRutherford

by Ronald Rutherford (rdrradio1 -at- msn -dot- com) on Fri Apr 18th, 2008 at 01:09:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Then please share those reasons with us rubes. Because I can't see them. I am pretty sure that if you look at - say - the number of death squads and/or political murders pro capita, all three of my pairs would come out the other way around.

I'll freely admit that death squads pro capita is a rather blunt metric for political freedom, but if you can't speak your mind without getting gunned down by goons then you can't very well have a free and open society, can you?

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Apr 18th, 2008 at 02:38:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Are you a rube? I don't believe I would even think in those terms.

If you want to use that gage as the amount of freedom, then so be it. But most use a wide variety of measurements to get the number.

And if you can't check out any book that you want at the library? Or even start your own book club for local residents-what does that mean?

I once met a group that traveled around Cuba for a while, and yes it was very enlightening for myself. But once they questions from the audience, I asked them if they had visited any libraries even if at universities. Well no they had not. They felt that was a trivial thing to explore and was not where true freedoms are measured.

From my experiences, I saw that any philosopher I wanted to read about was there. Orwell, to Marx to Hitler...

Rutherfordian ------------------------------ RDRutherford

by Ronald Rutherford (rdrradio1 -at- msn -dot- com) on Fri Apr 18th, 2008 at 07:30:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I don't know about the state of the universities in South America, but I am pretty sure that it is easier to check out a book you want to read in a Russian library than in an Afghan library. If for no other reason then because Russia has far more libraries and universities pro capita than Afghanistan. By some orders of magnitude, I am given to understand.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Apr 19th, 2008 at 02:10:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That seems to be my point. If you have followed some news out of Cuba, many people are trying to start their own book clubs and spreading information that is contrary to the ruling propaganda machines. So you might be right in Russia and Afghan but not in comparison between Iraq and Cuba. I would say the later pair has Iraq as the winner. Maybe you know of other information but those areas not controlled by AQ or any other extremist groups then CDs, DVDs and yes books freely flow and are exchanged.

Rutherfordian ------------------------------ RDRutherford
by Ronald Rutherford (rdrradio1 -at- msn -dot- com) on Sat Apr 19th, 2008 at 03:48:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe you know of other information but those areas not controlled by AQ or any other extremist groups then CDs, DVDs and yes books freely flow and are exchanged.

First, it should be noted that there is no Al Qaeda presence in Vietraq. There are various domestic partisan groups that like to style themselves "Al Qaeda in Iraq" but there is not a shred of indication that they have anything to do with what is usually understood as "Al Qaeda."

That being said, "in areas not controlled by partisans" is a pretty big qualifier. The Americans can barely keep the various Green Zones secure. And when it comes to that, I am pretty sure that you can't just walk into a bookstore in the Green Zone and pick up a book by Sayyid Qutb or Mahmoud Ahmedinejad... One person's anti-government propaganda is another person's terrorist tract and all that.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Apr 19th, 2008 at 04:15:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As far as AQ in Iraq and the parent organization, I see a difference without merit. As long as they believe in the philosophies of the group then they are the same with respect to the outcomes for the victims.

Notice I did not say partisans in that quote, it was extremists. How would you characterize Kurdistan? But maybe you have some information about what is accepted or not accepted in various parts of the country, no?

Rutherfordian ------------------------------ RDRutherford

by Ronald Rutherford (rdrradio1 -at- msn -dot- com) on Sat Apr 19th, 2008 at 04:24:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is not a "parent organisation." They have completely different origins and there is little and less reason to treat them as one organisation. If the way they treat their enemies were the deciding factor in whether an organisation was a part of Al Qaeda or not, the US Marine Corps would be a part of Al Qaeda. Well, except that I doubt that Al Qaeda has access to quite as much white phosphor.

And of course you said "extremists." But you were talking about partisan organisations. And while I have not studied the matter extensively, I think it is fair to assume that it will be hard to find the complete works of Kemal Atatürk in the Kurdish territories. So no, I don't buy the assertion that you can pick up any book you like in Vietraq. Not even if you exclude the parts of Vietraq where people are shooting at each other on a regular basis. Which in any case makes any comparison apples-to-oranges...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Apr 19th, 2008 at 04:52:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Again Jake, I am talking about results or methods for grouping peoples together. Although I hope we both can see that happening a lot in politics. What I am saying is that no matter if Marxist is in Cambodia or in China as long as they believe the same things and pay allegiance to each other then for all intents and purposes they are the same group of extremists.

I can't imagine that we really want to see what their markets have and judge it by that, but if you want to pursue looking at any laws that prevents such books as you mentioned from being distributed, let me know.

Rutherfordian ------------------------------ RDRutherford

by Ronald Rutherford (rdrradio1 -at- msn -dot- com) on Sat Apr 19th, 2008 at 05:08:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Duh!!!
"Again Jake, I am [NOT] talking about results or methods for grouping peoples together."

Rutherfordian ------------------------------ RDRutherford
by Ronald Rutherford (rdrradio1 -at- msn -dot- com) on Sat Apr 19th, 2008 at 05:19:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You're succumbing to the "big man" fallacy of history writing. Or in this case the "big idea" version. Marxists in Cambodia are not the same as Marxists in China (or as Marxists in Nepal for that matter).

They may or may not have contacts with each other and may or may not be on friendly terms, but it is patent nonsense to claim that they are "the same group of extremists" when their organisational structure, political goals, strategies, tactics and membership are unrelated, evolved separately and will likely continue to evolve separately. Simply saying "here be commies" is not an argument.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Apr 20th, 2008 at 02:34:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Again, I am saying if they recognize each other and abide by the same philosophies and ideologies even to supporting each other in resources then they are the same. I see a lot less correlations with the Anglo-Disease than what I am talking about here.

I would also ask that you pay attention. Notice I did not say the Marxists in Vietnam and Cambodia were the same, I said China and Vietnam had the same goals and desires.

Now of course you could be right that they separate their ways, we have seen a lot of groups separate and go their ways. And from I read their was already some falling out during the control of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Rutherfordian ------------------------------ RDRutherford

by Ronald Rutherford (rdrradio1 -at- msn -dot- com) on Sun Apr 20th, 2008 at 04:02:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Again, I am saying if they recognize each other and abide by the same philosophies and ideologies even to supporting each other in resources then they are the same.

And none of your examples do. FFS, half of the partisans in Vietraq that are being labeled "Al Qaeda" are Shia Muslims. Calling them Al Qaeda is like accusing an Ted Haggard of being a member of the Opus Dei.

And besides, the Marxists in Cambodia (or Viet Nam, if you prefer) manifestly didn't have the same goals and desires as Marxists in China. Both wanted to kick the US out of Indochina and both groups were (more or less) Marxist, but if that's criteria for likeness, then the Pope and the American fundagelicals are the same brand of extremists - both are Christian of some description and both want to kick gays out of America.

Finally, you are begging the question when you argue that there has been "a falling out" - if there was no collusion in the first place, then a falling out is not really the proper description.

So can we please end this detour?

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Apr 20th, 2008 at 06:34:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Most food crisises are made worse by profiteering. Is the problem here mainly low harvests or is it mainly speculation in increasing food prices that drives food prices up? Is this yet another aspect of the wealth capturing financial sector?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Thu Apr 17th, 2008 at 10:21:27 AM EST
From my experience and research, most are caused by bad states. Of course this does not negate that private individuals could rent seek from the government for private gains.

Just as most of the grain that goes to North Korea ends up with the rich. At least one organization started providing wheat cakes. Wheat cakes are an Inferior good for Korean consumers. Thus they end up in the black market for a cheap price and the highly nutritious wheat cakes end up with the poor having at least some access to some basic nutritional foodstuffs.

Rutherfordian ------------------------------ RDRutherford

by Ronald Rutherford (rdrradio1 -at- msn -dot- com) on Thu Apr 17th, 2008 at 07:11:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I would say that if we have a systems of states that allow speculation to run up the prices on food and thus cause starvation, it is an example of a bad system of states.

With help from b at MoA I found that William Pfaff argues that speculation is a great part of the current price hike:

William PFAFF-The Speculators Driving Food Price Rises - Columns - News


On the Chicago CME Group market, which deals in some 25 agricultural commodities - it is a merger of the former Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Chicago Board of Trade - the volume of contracts has increased by 20% since the start of the year and now has reached the level of a million contracts a day. This will soon exceed the rate of growth reached in all of 2007.

The hedge funds are now active in commodities and are playing the futures contracts, where upwards of 30 million tons of soybeans for future delivery are contracted for every day. They are also buying the companies that stock grains.

The argument sometimes is made that this speculation is unimportant because the futures speculators will never take delivery; but this is precisely the problem. It is why this speculation is highly destructive of the true market.

Futures purchases of agricultural commodities classically have been the means by which a limited number of traders stabilized future commodity prices and enabled farmers to finance themselves through future sales.

Speculative purchases have no other purpose than to make money for the speculators, who hold their contracts to drive up current prices with the intention not of selling the commodities on the real future market, but of unloading their holdings onto an artificially inflated market, at the expense of the ultimate consumer. Even the general public can now play the speculative game; most banks offer investment funds specializing in metals, oil, and more recently, food products.


Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Thu Apr 17th, 2008 at 07:59:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Haiti has destroyed its forests, and deforestation leads to soil erosion and desertification. A country as poor as Haiti has to get by on subsistence agriculture, but with the severe depletion of their natural resources, they have to import food. As they have no money for such imports, they are stuck with foreign assistance to get by.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Thu Apr 17th, 2008 at 10:59:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Lets also remember that in the case of Haiti we are dealing with a country where leaders who are popular among the poor have a tendency to be overthrown by internal and external foes:

Jean-Bertrand Aristide - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Aristide was the second elected leader of Haiti and was popular among its poor inhabitants. He was overthrown twice, first in a military coup d'état in September, 1991, and subsequently in a February 2004 rebellion in which former soldiers prominently participated. After being deposed a second time he maintained from exile in South Africa that he was still the legal and legitimate president and that United States forces had kidnapped him.


Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Fri Apr 18th, 2008 at 07:02:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
death, have you seen the movie Agronomist?
An interesting film, that I think you might learn from-especially the view of another side of Aristide.

Rutherfordian ------------------------------ RDRutherford
by Ronald Rutherford (rdrradio1 -at- msn -dot- com) on Fri Apr 18th, 2008 at 01:15:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, I have not.

If it turns out Aristide is also a bastard, I am in no way surprised. Presidents usually are, or they would not have come that far.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Sat Apr 19th, 2008 at 06:45:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe just maybe, they should think about increasing economic freedoms. Singapore does not seem to have problems feeding their people even though they could never hope to feed all the people that live there with their little spec of an island.

Rutherfordian ------------------------------ RDRutherford
by Ronald Rutherford (rdrradio1 -at- msn -dot- com) on Fri Apr 18th, 2008 at 01:17:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Singapore is a city state. A joke economy. City states can get by on all kinds of shit. Lichtenstein, for instance, finances virtually its entire economy by protecting affluent tax cheats. This is clearly not a scalable model (or even, as the tax cheats in question will hopefully learn to their regret, necessarily a sustainable one).

Better luck with your next example.

And if you wouldn't mind, I'd like you to summarise what criteria Freedom House use when assigning scores for political and economic freedom. And what do they measure those criteria against? The laws on the books? The reality on the ground? Something in between?

Oh, and if you wouldn't mind, I'd like to hear the reason why Freedom House's ranking of political freedom doesn't seem to match Amnesty International's?

Specifically, try comparing the reports on Colombia and Venezuela. Compare and contrast your results with Freedom House's rankings.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Apr 18th, 2008 at 03:12:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Funny all that high tech industries they have in Singapore and their high standard of living (check where your hard drive is made). Computers and high tech industries seem to scale pretty easily up. Their commercial airline industry was the best I last checked. Actually if you notice Freedom House rates the freedoms there pretty low. I only wanted to point out that small nations can benefit from trade and commerce as well as large nations. Maybe Haiti will not be allowed to rely on their ecosystem so much in the next generation or so. Maybe they will have to find other comparative advantage items to excel at.

Thanks for your invitation to explore those avenues of intellectual thought. I have enough on my plate now. Maybe you can start a thread with what information you have accumulated so far. Might be interesting.

I have found some reports from Amnesty International of some validity but other times there seems to not know between genocide and limited rights of people. And lastly Jake, I do not see any ranking from AI. Is there a section that contains quantitative data for comparison purposes?

Rutherfordian ------------------------------ RDRutherford

by Ronald Rutherford (rdrradio1 -at- msn -dot- com) on Fri Apr 18th, 2008 at 05:52:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Funny all that high tech industries they have in Singapore and their high standard of living (check where your hard drive is made).

The producers are incorporated in California. I can't see where it's physically assembled without getting at the drive itself, but if I had to place a bet, I'd wager South Korea or Taiwan.

I only wanted to point out that small nations can benefit from trade and commerce as well as large nations.

It's funny how Singapore and Hong Kong are the two examples repeatedly trotted out by free-market-enthusiasts. The only two examples. Sure "do like Singapore" is a good prescription for wealth - assuming that you're located smack dab in the middle of one of the most highly trafficked straits in the world. Oh, and assuming that you're a city-state that doesn't have to worry about a rural population.

Thanks for your invitation to explore those avenues of intellectual thought. I have enough on my plate now. Maybe you can start a thread with what information you have accumulated so far. Might be interesting.

I have a couple of diaries on a back burner that I consider more interesting and informative than comparing and contrasting Amnesty International with some two-bit think thank operating out of the US State Department.

I have found some reports from Amnesty International of some validity but other times there seems to not know between genocide and limited rights of people.

They report, you decide. But they report everything, to the best of their ability.

And lastly Jake, I do not see any ranking from AI. Is there a section that contains quantitative data for comparison purposes?

Maybe I'll see about finding it if and when you explain what criteria Freedom House use to derive their numbers. For all I know, they could have pulled them out of their ass.

Until then, I suggest that you look at the number and severity of incidents reported by Amnesty and make an informed judgement. I'll give you a very broad hint: For three out of four concerns about Venezuela, the entry for Colombia raises equal or greater concern about the very same issues. Add to that the laundry list of offences by the Colombian government that has no match whatsoever in the Venezuelan entry.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Apr 19th, 2008 at 02:46:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Jake, I am  glad that we can discuss these issues in such a civil matter. Let me address just a couple of your good points you have made.
It's funny how Singapore and Hong Kong are the two examples repeatedly trotted out by free-market-enthusiasts. The only two examples. Sure "do like Singapore" is a good prescription for wealth - assuming that you're located smack dab in the middle of one of the most highly trafficked straits in the world. Oh, and assuming that you're a city-state that doesn't have to worry about a rural population.
I am not even saying this is an example of "free-markets" and I already noted that the people of Singapore lack many freedoms that you and I enjoy. I provide this as only that a country that engages in the world and tries to find its comparative nitch can succeed without natural resources. I also pointed out the industries that are not necessarily dependent on location. Thus no reason that Haiti could not benefit from its close relationship with the US and the proximity to large North American markets.

I have a friend that was engaged in some tourism development in Haiti in the early 80s. Well instead of these projects going to Haiti they ended up in Dominican Republic. Much to do with attitude.

True they could have pulled them out of the arse. At times other reporting agencies seem to do that also, but for a look at something that might be of interest:
Survey Methodology
And more information at here for some PDFs:
Freedom in the World 2008 Survey Release

Carry on and I look forward to seeing some diaries from you on these subjects.

Rutherfordian ------------------------------ RDRutherford

by Ronald Rutherford (rdrradio1 -at- msn -dot- com) on Sat Apr 19th, 2008 at 04:16:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The plural of "anecdote" is "anecdotes" not "data."

The list of standards and methods sounds good (except that they have a rather one-eyed focus on government propaganda, and seem to completely exclude oligarchic control of the press from the list of indicators).

However, when I compare them with the list of rankings, I find that they have clearly not been consistently applied.

Under the criteria provided, for example, the USA is only partly free.

  • There is no genuine multi-party system, and oligarchic interests completely dominate both parties.

  • There are not equal campaigning opportunities for all parties, since the opportunity to campaign is intimately tied to the campaign budget, which again tilts the playing field in favour of the oligarchs.

  • There is no rotation of power among parties representing different interests - because both parties represent broadly the same interests.

  • There are no serious attempts to curtail the influence of oligarchs upon the political process.

  • People's political choices are completely dominated by economic oligarchies.

  • Civil servants are employed and promoted chiefly based on political affiliation.

  • The federal authorities routinely and openly discriminate against minorities.

  • The United States torture with impunity. Both in the military system and in civilian prisons.

  • US prisons are notorious for their lack of concern for basic human rights and dignity.

  • The US arbitrarily arrests and detains without trial.

I didn't keeps accurate score, but my guesstimate is that on at least two thirds of the bullets being evaluated in the first half of the list, the USA would score less than half points. I could probably go on through the second half of the list as well, but frankly I have more interesting things to do with my time.

None of the points I raise are particularly controversial. Except perhaps the claim that the parties are largely indistinguishable. But that is documented to excess here on ET: If either party didn't represent the moneyed interests, it would be making noises about cutting off Wall Street's and K Street's balls and hanging them from the nearest streetlight.

And yet the USA gets a perfect score in Freedom House's assessment. That really ought to tell you everything you need to know about them.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Apr 19th, 2008 at 04:43:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This avenue of discussion has been very interesting but I have to say I disagree with your assessments of the USA. And under the 6 sigma standards most European countries would do badly also.

Let us talk latter, seems that this thread has gone off stream to a degree.

Rutherfordian ------------------------------ RDRutherford

by Ronald Rutherford (rdrradio1 -at- msn -dot- com) on Sat Apr 19th, 2008 at 05:17:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Which parts of my assessment do you disagree with?

Does the US torture, according to you? Does it treat its prisoners inhumanely? Does it arbitrarily arrest and detain without trial both its own citizens and foreign nationals?

If you answer no to any of these, how do you explain the concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay, which fulfils all these criteria and is long-standing policy.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Apr 20th, 2008 at 02:42:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I guess it would depend on what you define as torture.
No, not any more than FRANCE, no. Guantanamo Bay is not a concentration camp, only a prison detention facility off shores.

I use the six sigma to signify that if you find a trace of something negative then the whole is corrupt. But we are not judging against a perfect God like powers but humans. As noted above Asylum and immigration has some interesting information to peruse. Also HRW has some interesting things to say about France also: Insufficient safeguards in national security removals.

And the British have some nasty immigration "centres". Hell they seem to be more like concentration camps...

Rutherfordian ------------------------------ RDRutherford

by Ronald Rutherford (rdrradio1 -at- msn -dot- com) on Sun Apr 20th, 2008 at 04:42:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Tu Quoque.

- Jake

PS: I don't define torture. The international treaties that forbid it do. If you have an alternate definition, then let's hear it.

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Apr 20th, 2008 at 06:38:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's happening much faster than I thought possible.

I've believed for several years that the US would eventually be forced to inflate the dollar. As I see it, they really had no other choice. They either had to let the money pipes run dry, or else fill them up with newly printed (that is, loaned) dollars.

And letting the pipes run dry here in the US, even for a few days or weeks, would cause trading halts, many bankruptcies, bank closures, an effective halt on real estate sales, and so forth. The result, and quickly, would be that no one could transact much business, except for barter. Trucks might even stop moving for a time, messing up the flow of goods, including food.

That scenario is just too disruptive. Of course our "leaders" will continue to cave to the most obvious short-term fixes, because that is how our system is structured now.

What surprises me is the quick appearance of these widespread, almost synchronized food riots. It's true that in theory, food should be the next problem, but I thought that would begin slowly with sporadic trouble in various places, followed by government intervention, rationing, feeding stations and so forth. It didn't occur to me that even before actual shortages appeared, food would become too expensive for most people (globally) to afford.

If this is what "demand destruction" looks like at $110 per barrel, I conclude that the world is going to be changing faster and sooner than even the pessimists expected.

by Ralph on Thu Apr 17th, 2008 at 11:30:46 AM EST


Display:
Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]