Sunday, May 22, 2022

Facts about the food price crisis

This explains it, succinctly yet thoroughly, as well as anything I've seen does.
At the center of this crisis is the fact that the production of the world’s staple crops destined for export is concentrated in a small number of countries, and they are shipped around the world by a handful of trading firms. Much of this globally traded food is grown from a narrow range of seed varieties, using uniform industrial agricultural methods.

So, is it any wonder that a war involving two countries that specialize in producing two of these staples should spark a major global food crisis?

As we detail in the latest report from the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food), the world’s food security is built on a house of cards—the whole edifice can tumble when one card falls. The concentrated nature of the global food system creates vulnerabilities, which can have cascading consequences when there are disruptions to any part of it. These economies of scale might be designed for profitable efficiency, when things operate according to plan. But they’re neither stable, resilient, nor dependable in the face of risks, especially for vulnerable people.

Add to this concentrated global food system the financial markets, which can further exaggerate the effects of price shocks. - Civil Eats

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Tuesday's primaries were solid for progressives

Most of the results seem to be leaving Conservadems at a loss. But that's their problem.
Tuesday’s primary elections were defined by historic super PAC spending attempting to quash a number of progressive candidates and an attempted hostile takeover of the Democratic primary process like we’ve never seen. At last count, just a handful of super PACs had dumped $18 million to influence the outcome in favor of moderates.

The expectation in politics is that the person with the most money wins. And that played out in several races Tuesday night. In numerous races, massive super PAC money backed moderate candidates with institutional endorsements and little enthusiasm. But surprisingly, progressives largely won the argument that voters want to see their representatives fighting for an agenda rather than fighting to stop it. The candidates most tied to trying to slam the brakes on progress were defeated. The candidates who organized their communities in favor of getting things done for the people were successful. And in one incredible instance, voters saw through the hollowness of millions of outside dollars. - The American Prospect
Also worth noting is that attempts by MAGA kooks to take over school boards mostly failed. The author of that correctly points out that this is clearly a winning issue for Democrats, and many should make more effective use of it.

Rather intriguing, the most extreme Party of Trumpers did markedly better in races east of the Mississippi River. Maybe just an anomaly, maybe not.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

The U.S. is the worst financial secrecy enabler of all

Because the greedhead plutocrats want it this way.
A global index published Tuesday ranks the United States as the world's leading perpetrator of financial secrecy, citing the country's refusal to share key information with the tax authorities of other nations and its status as a generous tax haven for foreign oligarchs, rich executives, and other elites.

The ranking comes despite U.S. President Joe Biden's campaign-trail pledge to "bring transparency to the global financial system, go after illicit tax havens, seize stolen assets, and make it more difficult for leaders who steal from their people to hide behind anonymous front companies." - Common Dreams

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Young workers fuel the new labor movement

An upbeat take. Works for me.
This year, May Day was celebrated during a historic moment for the American labor movement. Nearly every day, news reports announce another example of workers exercising their rights as nonprofit professionals, Starbucks workers, and employees at corporations like Amazon, REI and Conde Nast announce their union drives. The approval rating for labor unions has reached its highest point in over 50 years, standing at 68 percent, and petitions for new union elections at the National Labor Relations Board increased 57 percent during the first half of fiscal year 2021.

Three years ago, we wrote an op-ed about how young workers in historically unorganized occupations — such as digital journalism, higher education and nonprofit organizations — were beginning to rebuild the labor movement. Today, Covid-19 has changed the way that we relate to work and created new sources of economic anxiety, while exacerbating old ones. Yet, young workers continue to fuel the new labor movement as they form new unions to win back a degree of control over their futures in a world fundamentally altered by a global pandemic. With momentum in union organizing and worker activism still growing, it is important to recognize the ways that workers in every industry are helping the labor movement live up to its values and reverse the years-long decline in union density. - In These Times

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Death to private equity!

The article I'm quoting from is just one in an issue of Mother Jones largely devoted to explicating p. equity's foulness.
If you were to sit down with a focus group and a whiteboard, you would have a hard time coming up with a policy with less populist appeal than the nearly three-decades-old loophole that cuts private equity billionaires’ tax rate almost in half.

The carried-interest loophole, Barack Obama said, upset “the balance between work and wealth.” Donald Trump claimed the fund managers who availed themselves of this tax break were “getting away with murder.” Joe Biden, like both of his predecessors, ran for president on a pledge to end it.

“People get this really easily—we’re giving a whole lot of rich people more money for no reason other than them being rich,” says Mandla Deskins, advo­cacy manager at Take on Wall Street, an organization pressuring members of Congress to jettison this tax break.

On paper, it’s an idea that almost nobody says they want. Polls show the public is overwhelmingly against it. Mitt Romney lost his bid for the presidency in part because of it. Tax experts think it’s unfair. Carried interest has no real constituency outside certain corners of Nantucket. But for a decade and a half, private equity’s favorite tax break, which delivers hundreds of millions of dollars annually to the guys in blue button-downs and matching fleeces who bought your company and laid you off, has been the most unkillable bad idea in a town with no shortage of them, a testament to the unstoppable combination of money and inertia.

Well, money mostly. - Mother Jones

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Big corporations are predictably mum on abortion rights

We may see some change on this, but probably not much.
In the days since a Supreme Court draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade leaked, corporate America has offered a familiar response: silence.

It mirrors the days following Texas’ implementation of its six-week abortion ban last September — silence from the many companies in the state. But in the weeks after Texas’ ban went into effect, some companies started to speak publicly and implement policies to assist employees who wanted to get an abortion out of state. That response to the Texas law, then the most restrictive abortion ban in the country, created a precedent that corporations could draw on now that it seems imminent that Roe will be overturned. So far, they have not. - AlterNet

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

A big rise in global hunger

American corporate media coverage of the Ukraine war could be worse. At least most of them aren't pro-Putin. But you don't see much about this.
While international news headlines remain largely focused on the war in Ukraine, little attention is given to the horrific consequences of the war which are felt in many regions around the world. Even when these repercussions are discussed, disproportionate coverage is allocated to European countries, like Germany and Austria, due to their heavy reliance on Russian energy sources.

The horrific scenario, however, awaits countries in the Global South which, unlike Germany, will not be able to eventually substitute Russian raw material from elsewhere. Countries like Tunisia, Sri Lanka and Ghana and numerous others, are facing serious food shortages in the short, medium and long term...

While the thousands of sanctions imposed on Russia are yet to achieve any of their intended purpose, it is poor countries that are already feeling the burden of the war, sanctions and geopolitical tussle between great powers. As the west is busy dealing with its own economic woes, little heed is being paid to those suffering most. And as the world is forced to transition to a new global economic order, it will take years for small economies to successfully make that adjustment. - Middle East Monitor