Thursday, May 21, 2015

This blog is on vacation

See y 'all the first or second week of June.

I'm about to leave and already American Airlines is announcing a $#@$$%%!! delay.

Who says I'm cranky?

Thursday, May 14, 2015

A few well-deserved squawks about what’s wrong with chicken farming — and how it’s going to smack the average American cluck square in the wallet

Let me start this discussion of chickens with a mention of beef steak. You remember beef steak, don’t you? 
Henny Penny told Chicken Licken that
the sky was falling. She didn't know
the half of it.
It came from cattle. It was red and gave off tantalizing aromas as it broiled and charred. It sizzled noisily sometimes. It came off the grill almost black the outside, and pink, juicy, and flavorful on the inside. Sometimes it came attached to a bone that you could gnaw on while your dog sat under the table, begging. And unless you were very  poor you could afford it on a fairly regular basis.

Well, that went away for a lot of people. Cattle growers began discovering that the price of feed was too high because chemical and bioengineering companies had instituted practices that were driving up grain prices. In addition, the price of corn was  driven up by people who were snapping it up not to eat, but to turn into ethanol. Today, we burn up about 10 percent of our corn crop in our automobiles. Check the chart. That annually-growing swatch of yellow metastasis  is corn-derived ethanol.

But there were always chicken and eggs. Eggs were cheap, and for the moment still are, although don’t count on it lasting for long.

And instead of a steak, you could always cook a chicken. Chicken was cheap. Once  the Republican Hoover Administration had been banished for eternity to the Great American Hall of Shame that we call history, there actually  could be a chicken in almost every pot in America, just as Hoover promised. At least on the weekends. As long as Hoover wasn’t around to screw it up.

Recently, that situation has eroded. These days you can pay for just enough ground beef to make a hamburger what you used to pay for a quarter of a pound of imported, line-caught, artisinally-smoked Scottish salmon. Never mind what the salmon costs these days.

That increase in beef prices drove people to chicken in increasingly growing droves. Which in turn inflated the price of chicken. In my supermarket the other day, chicken breasts were selling for something like eight bucks a pound. And now it’s about to get worse.

The New York Times reports a bird flu epidemic in the midwest and west that’s infecting chickens, forcing farmers to slaughter and destroy them. The infections can spread fast. That’s because the chickens are crammed together by the thousands — actually  the hundreds of thousands — in giant Buchenwaldish poultry barns. For example, the Times story mentioned that one egg farm was disposing of “about 5.5 million hens housed in 26 metal barns.” 

Do the arithmetic. We’re talking about over 192,000 hens per barn. Little wonder the USDA says that if you have an outbreak on a farm, every last chicken must die and then be cremated, composted, or buried. You can have enough infected chickens on one farm to infect the planet.

So now it’s a pretty good bet that the price of every kind of animal protein will move up a notch. The price of Scottish smoked salmon will cost what caviar used to cost. Steak will cost like Scottish smoked salmon. Chicken will cost like steak. 

That’s no skin off the noses of the one percent. If you’re earning a couple-a million bucks a year, so you pay 30 bucks extra for a sirloin steak. What’s the big deal? And why are all those middle class and working folks whining again?

As for the rest of us? Well, you remember what Marie Antoinette said. Or what she might have said, had she been living today.

“Let them eat cockroaches.”

Monday, May 11, 2015

Banks, crooks, and two news stories that say it all

"I am not a crook". And if you
believe that one, I have 
another: the banks are not 
crooks, either.
The following are excerpts from two Reuters news stories that appeared on the the Reuters website on Monday, May 11th:
Banks prepare defense for anti-Wall Street campaigns - WSJ
May 11 (Reuters) - Top executives from the biggest U.S. banks, concerned about anti-Wall Street rhetoric that is already bubbling up on the 2016 campaign trail, are working to push back against the prevailing narrative that "banks are bad", the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter….

… The banks that took part were JPMorgan Chase & Co , Citigroup Inc , Goldman Sachs Group Inc.,Bank of America Corp., Morgan Stanley, Bank of New York Mellon Corp., and State Street Corp.
Citigroup says could plead guilty to settle FX probe
Citigroup Inc said it could plead guilty to an antitrust charge to resolve a U.S. Department of Justice investigation of its dealings in foreign exchange markets…. 
…Citigroup is one of six major banks that have been under investigation over the past year by global authorities, including the DOJ, for trying to manipulate rates in the $5-trillion-a-day foreign exchange market…. 
…The banks have been accused of sharing confidential information about client orders and coordinating trades from 2008 until October 2013 to boost their own profits.
Any questions?

Monday, May 04, 2015

Senators and lobbyists to America's voters and their kids: "Drop dead!"

Has your home turned into
a killing jar for humans? 
This cranky post will tell you 
whom to thank.
I was eight years old when I learned about trapping and killing butterflies and other insects. It involved a killing jar — essentially a glass jar containing some wadded up cotton soaked in an awful-smelling chemical. The summer camp nature counselor who taught me about this stuff also taught me the name of the chemical. Formaldehyde.

Killing bugs with formaldehyde is no longer the most popular method. The professionals would rather use ethyl acetate, chloroform, or cyanide. Those are considered less harmful to you than formaldehyde. But there is one place where formaldehyde is still wildly  prevalent.  Your home.

Turns out that the glue that holds layers of laminated furniture together – not to mention laminated flooring and even certain items of clothing – is generously laced with formaldehyde, and those items gradually give off formaldehyde fumes. 

No, you’re not likely to keel over dead, like a bug in a jar, after a few seconds . But exposure to formaldehyde over time, even in small amounts, is associated with leukemia, especially myeloid leukemia, nasal cancer, and for good measure, asthma, according to the National Cancer Institute.

So the Environmental Protection Agency has been tying for the past five years to limit how much you can be slowly gassed to death by formaldehyde-laced products. Unfortunately, a small — shall we call it an impediment? — has cropped up: corruptible law makers under the sway of lobbyists with fists full of money.

Start with a guy who has already been labeled “Senator Formaldehyde,” — Republican Senator David Vitter from Louisiana. Although Republicans will tell you they’re not scientists and don’t know diddley squat about climate change, some of them suddenly turn to experts when it comes to formaldehyde. 

Vitter is a case in point. By his actions and things he said, he is implicitly in favor of poisoning of Americans with this subsance. Not a huge surprise considering that since 2009 he has graciously accepted approximately $900,340 in campaign contributions from the chemical industry and other industries that use various poisonous chemicals in the products you, I, and your children use and inhale the gasses from. Hey, the Supreme Court says it ain't bribery. It's merely freedom of speech.

Sad for this cranky old Democrat to say, it’s not just Republicans  like Vitter and Roger Wicker of Mississippi who are guilty of allowing industry to poison us and our kids to make a grubby buck. Senator Barbara Boxer and even the current White House are effectively co-conspirators, the way I read information recently published in a New York Times article.

One of he poisoned furniture and floor lobby’s arcane arguments is the cost of the illness and death their products spew into America. Under the pressure of the poisoners, reports the New York Times…
“the estimated benefit of the proposed rule dropped to $48 million a year, from as much as $278 million a year. The much-reduced amount deeply weakened the agency’s justification for the sometimes costly new testing that would be required under the new rules, a federal official involved in the effort said.’’
In other words, if the lobbyists manage to whittle down the value of your life and health, after a while you and your kids just aren’t worth saving. You're  just another bug in a killing jar. After all, a senator who graciously accepted close to a million bucks from America's Lucrezia Borgias doesn't need to worry about you. Or your stinking vote. You'll be dead anyway.