Breadless Circuses

Is there anything good that can come out of the sharp inflationary spike in the global price of basic food? Maybe, says the Washington Post's Jackson Diehl:

As prices for bread and rice soar, dictators are tottering.

Oddly, one of them is [Hugo] Chávez, who lost a constitutional referendum in December partly because of the combination of soaring food prices and shortages he has inflicted on Venezuela. Another is Robert Mugabe, who to his surprise lost a presidential election in Zimbabwe three weeks ago, though he has yet to admit it. According to the U.N. World Food Program, the government of North Korea faces another food crisis; bread prices explain in part why Pervez Musharraf lost control of Pakistan's government in February.

Then there is Egypt, where the link between food and freedom -- or the lack of it -- has never been clearer.

Whole thing, including intriguing stuff about Egypt's new "Facebook Party," here.

Then there's this:

Soaring food prices and global grain shortages are bringing new pressures on governments, food companies and consumers to relax their longstanding resistance to genetically engineered crops.

In Japan and South Korea, some manufacturers for the first time have begun buying genetically engineered corn for use in soft drinks, snacks and other foods. Until now, to avoid consumer backlash, the companies have paid extra to buy conventionally grown corn. But with prices having tripled in two years, it has become too expensive to be so finicky. [...]

Even in Europe, where opposition to what the Europeans call Frankenfoods has been fiercest, some prominent government officials and business executives are calling for faster approvals of imports of genetically modified crops.

And finally, negotiators on Capitol Hill and in the White House have decided, given this unbelievably strong sellers' market, that the U.S. doesn't need to add to its cajillion-dollar deficit and generalized moral depravity by throwing another $286 billion at American farm companies over the next 10 years. Just kidding!

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  • ||

    The Administration's actually being pretty decent on the current Farm Bill negotiations (operating on the principle, one supposes, that they couldn't possibly object to a stupid bill passed by a Republican Congress but one by a Democratic Congress might at least require more complaining), but I expect that they'll roll over and sign whatever comes out. (If they didn't, I'm sure a coalition of 2/3rds would come together to vote for farm subsidies and override anyways.)

  • e||

    #include

    Anyway, this article uses "dictator" like it's a bad word. As long as he enforces property rights and contracts, who cares how he came to power? Probably better that he comes to power non-democratically as he's likely to last longer than a democratically-elected Libertarian ruler, right?

  • ||

    By pandering to Iowa voters and supporting biofuels the US is creating a worldwide famine. People are really starving and this is serious. Yet the House farm bill that just passed calls for US ethanol production to grow ten-fold.

  • ed||

    the government of North Korea faces another food crisis

    Well, as Gomer Pyle was fond of saying: Surprise, surprise, surprise!

    I expect the Dictator Dwarf to be toppled at any moment. Not.

  • Travis||

    Speaking of Iowa, Senator Charles Grassley is a farmer & collects farm subsidies in addition to his generous Senator salary.

  • ||

    So foreign aid props up dictators by allowing them to subsidize food for their starving citizens?

  • SIV||

    Is there anything good that can come out of the sharp inflationary spike in the global price of basic food?

    In the US it can help mitigate the scourge of obesity among the impoverished.Until the Dems fuck it all up by raising EBT card transfer payments.

  • Geotpf||

    I don't actually think that ethanol is causing people to starve. It doesn't help, but there are other forces at work here.

  • ||

    I love to see the people starve! go go green ethanol! go go credit expansion! go go trade embargoes on terrorist nations! go go operation enduring freedom!!

  • Zeno||

    American ethanol subsidies, combined with an Australian drought combined with other crop failures and a bunch of tottering regimes who didn't look to stable anyway...
    This might be a good year for freedom if food prices stay high.

  • ||

    #include expects "FILENAME" or <FILENAME>

  • ||

    No need to look very far...it looks like we've got our own red-blooded American food shortage on the horizon. In case I don't get the chance to say it in the future...

    IT'S PEOPLE! IT'S MADE FROM PEOPLE!

  • shecky||

    Ethanol subsidies, drought, $100/barrel oil, equal higher food prices.

    The survivalists on a forum I visit are getting antsy. They're hoarding ramen and beans for the pending global unrest.

  • polzoo||

    Hi, I've read your blog and think you are an excellent writer. I'd like to invite you to our new online community at polzoo.com, we are a user generated political editorial and social network.

    We also choose from amongst our own bloggers to be featured on the front page. I think your voice would be a great addition to our site.

  • e||

    #include <std_chavez_is_elected_not_a_dictator.h>

  • mike||

    How does Hugo Chavez qualify as a "dictator"?

  • ||

    polzoo,

    How much do you pay?

  • ||

    Ok, Chavez isn't a dictator. Hes a caudillo.

  • ||

    God save us from cutesy C# programmers and their sissy #include statements. Here's a nickel, kid; buy yourself a real programming language.

  • charlie||

    Mike--

    What determines whether a foreign leader is a "dictator" or "a committed democrat" is whether they support the furthering of US hegemony.

    Hugo Chavez is an opponent of US imperialism and has authoritarian tendencies, ergo he is a "dictator" (never mind that he has been democratically elected twice now).

    In contrast, others such as Pakistani "president" Pervez Musharraf are "committed to democracy", according to the political and media elites in the US, because he is seen as supporting US imperial goals in the region, despite the fact that he came to power by, you know, overthrowing a democracy.

    Hope that clears things up.

  • ||

    That would be the same Musharraf that is included in the group of would-be-dictators in the quoted article?

  • ||

    Hugo Chavez is an opponent of US imperialism and has authoritarian tendencies, ergo he is a "dictator" (never mind that he has been democratically elected twice now).



    Napoleon was democratically elected, for God's sake. That proves nothing.

  • ||

    Hugo Chavez has brought about Venezuela's food shortages with idiot price controls, stupid "misiones" and "community councils", rife with corruption, and his insane macho posturing with Colombia. Mix in a murder rate that outstrips the civilian casualty rate in Iraq and Afganastan and even "president" Pervez Musharraf starts to look pretty good.

    Jesus, charlie, LEARN something about Venezuela before you try to "clear things up".

  • B||

    "Hugo Chavez is an opponent of US imperialism and has authoritarian tendencies, ergo he is a "dictator" (never mind that he has been democratically elected twice "


    "Authoritarian tendencies"? Hahahaha, talk about the euphemistic understatement of the fucking year.


    How many private industries does Chavez have to take over at gun point, how many media outlets does he have to bully or outright shut down for criticizing him, how many elections does he have to rig, or try to rig, how many laws have to be passed, in the name of "social harmony" making it illegal to publicly criticize Chavez, how many anti-Chavez protestors have to be beaten to a pulp, or be called traitors by Chavez himself before ignorant assholes out there quit defending this fucker? And for god sake, Robert fucking Mugabe was elected twice too. Are you going to claim he is a democrat? It is not a fucking democracy if the populace is "persuaded" from voting for the other guy.
    I guess you think Castro is a legitimate ruler too. After all, he opposes U.S. "imperialism", doesn't he? Don't let the the fact he didn't hold an election for fifty years deter you from labelling him a democrat as well. If I'm not mistaken there is a term for dumbasses like you charlie. I believe they call people like you "useful idiots". Correct me if I'm wrong.

  • SIV||

    The survivalists on a forum I visit are getting antsy. They're hoarding ramen and beans for the pending global unrest.

    shecky,

    Got addresses? I might be able to land my hands on a Toyota Tacoma 4x4 with the .50 BMG option.

  • e||

    atrevete I look forward to your stats showing that the murder rate in Venezuela is higher than Iraq. Hell I'd settle for stats showing that it's higher than Columbia.

  • matt||

    I'll guarantee it's higher than Columbia. Ivy League murder rates are at an all-time low.

  • ||

    Can anyone cite any good examples in history where food shortages actually led to democratic revolutions? Seems to me they usually result in the overthrow of the old corrupt regime, only to be replaced by a demagogic, often even worse regime. For example - Russia 1917 or the French Revolution. And truly evil regimes can use food shortages to reward supporters and punish opponents, actually strengthening the autocratic regime - i.e. USSR in the 1930s, China under the Great Leap Forward, North Korea today. Jackson Diehl's being very very optimistic.

  • ||

    e-

    I hear the murder rate in North Korea is really low.

    BTW, its spelled C-O-L-O-M-B-I-A.

    I guess you don't know your Latin American countries very well.

  • Rigoberto||

    B, in Cuba we call those people "come mierdas".

  • Naga Sadow||

    Survivalists are stocking up now? Haven't survivalists been stocking up for the last 60 years?

  • Naga Sadow||

    Does give me an idea to stock up on Monsanto shares though . . .

  • Kolohe||

    I'm glad I finally read through a thread before posting, vanya said everything I was about to say, but better. (See, south of the border outsourcing works!)

  • Brandybuck||

    #include <beer.h>

  • Ayn R. Key||

    Maybe Erhlich and the Malthusians are so frustrated that the population bomb and mass starvation never happened that they are trying to get the environmentalists to pass policies to make it happen.

    Hey, Socialists like to lie and say we support Bush because he's trying to prove government doesn't work.

  • ||

    Food shortages can promote regime change, but not necessarily good ones. Someone not so good can just as easily be replaced with someone worse.

  • ||

    e

    Vuelvo y repito...

    http://www.shoutwire.com/viewstory/126159/Venezuela_More_Dangerous_Than_Iraq

    Iraq's and Venezuela's populations are roughly comparable: 27.5 million versus 27.7 million. In the last three months, there have been 1498 civilian fatalities in Iraq. During this same time, roughly 3000 Venezuelans have been murdered.

    For the last three months of 2007, a Venezuelan was twice as likely to lose his life to violence as an Iraqi. It looks like its time for Hugo to put more attention on his abysmal security situation and less attention on Hollywood

  • ||

    Vuelvo y repito....

    -"(Venezuela's) Homicide rates are measured by the number of corpses that go through the morgue, but there is an additional category in public hospitals called "undetermined violent deaths. In 2004, there were 9962 homicides reported by the morgues, 2150 for "resisting the authorities" and 4298 "undetermined violent deaths". This gives you 74 violent deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, higher than Colombia's 54, but that country is in the midst of a civil war.."

    BTW how about the "2150 for resisting the authorities"? This is only what Chavez' government ADMITS to. Proportionately, if in the US, 25,000 people a year are killed for "resisting the authorities", how long before the President is called a dictator?

  • shecky||

    I'm still skeptical, atrevete. That reminds me of the story a while back supposedly demonstrating California's murder rate worse than Iraq.

  • ||

    California? Their population is 36 million or so. When the hell did they ever have even close to 15,000 murders a year? Or even better, 3,000 people killed for "resisting authorities", even in the worst ghettos?

    The statistics in my last post were from 2004. Murders in Vz have gone UP by another 33% or so, to 12,000 - that is from January to the end of November 2007.

    I have one daughter living in LA and the other in Venezuela. Guess which one I'm worried about?

  • e||

    http://icasualties.org/oif/IraqiDeaths.aspx

    "This is not a complete list, nor can we verify these totals. This is simply a compilation of deaths reported by news agencies. Actual totals for Iraqi deaths are much higher than the numbers recorded on this site. "

  • e||

    "I have one daughter living in LA and the other in Venezuela. Guess which one I'm worried about?"

    Hmm, have you thought about moving her to Iraq, since it's safer?

  • ||

    Hmm, have you thought about moving her to Iraq, since it's safer?

    and I'm sure she can make tons of money if she can work as a mercenary.

  • Other Matt||

    and I'm sure she can make tons of money if she can work as a mercenary.

    After she undergoes training at the cost of the US Taxpayer.

  • charlie||

    The question isn't whether Chavez is a bad dude or not -- he is. But he is not a dictator, as illustrated by his recent defeat on the constitutional amendments. That's not to say he doesn't rule as a thug -- he does -- but he has nowhere near total, complete power like some fearmongers in the US would like to argue. The same goes for Ahmadenijad in Iran.

    But again, Chavez is a "dictator" in the US not because of his authoritarianism or penchant for the use of state power, but rather for his opposition to US imperialism. Other, more repressive regimes get US support, and actual dictators like Musharraf are largely treated with kid gloves.

    Oh, and atrevete appears to be using outdated right-wing talking points put out by Rep. Steve King that were debunked almost two years ago -- http://thinkprogress.org/2006/05/31/dc-safer-iraq/

    Several national surveys of Iraq have found that the Iraq war has resulted in, conservatively, more than half a million civilian deaths. There's a reason why there are roughly three million refugees from Iraq, while you don't see refugee camps set up for people fleeing Venezuela.

  • ||

    So foreign aid props up dictators by allowing them to subsidize food for their starving citizens?

    It props up dictators by centralizing control over food, allowing them to use it as a political weapon - feeding their supporters, and starving the opposition.

  • ||

    "This is not a complete list, nor can we verify these totals. This is simply a compilation of deaths reported by news agencies. Actual totals for Iraqi deaths are much higher than the numbers recorded on this site."

    Well, no, it wouldn't be, would it. Just like the made-up "March of Dimes" "statistic" (that never was)that more women are killed by their husbands than die in car accidents - but actually we think it's much much more, blah, blah, blah. These people get hysterical because they have an agenda.

    Chavez ADMITS to over 12,000 murders for 2007. If that got "debunked over two years ago" it must have been by the santeria psychics he visits.

    Numbah one daughtah doesn't speak Iraqi, and loves Venezuela.

  • e||

    Wait, she loves Venezuela BEFORE we bring McCain brings Freedom to it in 2009? What's she got against Iraq; not only are there less murders, but it's been Free (TM) since March 19, 2003, whereas Venezuela labors under the lash of Chavez's Unfreedom (TM).

  • ||

    e,
    I love Venezuela for its beautiful beaches, mountains, rain forrests, weather, etc... I love Venezuela for its warm, funny and friendly people. I love Venezuela for its food and music, and culture in general.
    I am very sad that it is being run into the ground by the tyrant Chavez. I feel for the struggle of Venezuelans and Iraquis as well.

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