Foodie Elite Push Obama to Create National Food Policy

A group of prominent foodie intellectuals are
calling for President Obama to cement “his legacy” by implementing
a national food policy. In a recent
Washington Post op-ed
, author and Berkeley professor
Michael Pollan, New York Times food columnist Mark
Bittman, Union of Concerned Scientists researcher Ricardo Salvador,
and Catholic University human rights professor Olivier De Schutter
laid out their plan for driving American agriculture, food
production, and eating habits in the right direction via increased
federal micromanagement of the food economy.  

The national food policy Pollan et al. dream of wouldn’t simply
guide federal nutrition recommendations, public health campaigns,
or farm subsidies. It would include everything from environmental
policy to rules on food marketing to raising fast-food workers’
wages.

“When hundreds of thousands of annual deaths are preventable—as
the deaths from the chronic diseases linked to the modern American
way of eating surely are—preventing those needless deaths is a
national priority,” they write.

A national food policy would do that, by investing resources to
guarantee that: All Americans have access to healthful food; Farm
policies are designed to support our public health and
environmental objectives; Our food supply is free of toxic
bacteria, chemicals and drugs; Production and marketing of our food
are done transparently; The food industry pays a fair wage to those
it employs; Food marketing sets children up for healthful lives by
instilling in them a habit of eating real food; Animals are treated
with compassion and attention to their well-being; The food
system’s carbon footprint is reduced, and the amount of carbon
sequestered on farmland is increased; The food system is
sufficiently resilient to withstand the effects of climate
change.

Only those with a vested interest in the status quo would argue
against creating public policies with these goals.

That last little flourish is fun, because it positions anyone
opposed to massive federal intervention in the “food system as a
whole” as at worst cartoonishly evil—you’re either with us or
you want Americans to live on Cheetos and three-eyed fish!
—and
at best suspiciously interested in perpetuating the status quo.
There is no rhetorical room here to care about advancing nutrition
science, fixing federal farm policy, expanding access to healthy
foods, promoting humane treatment of livestock, or anything related
to agriculture and eating without endorsing intense government
action as the best way to accomplish these goals. 

The good news, they tell us, is that “solutions are within
reach”—and it’s here that this piece really start to get amazing.
The authors acknowledge that many of the problems with America’s
food economy are not market failures at all but “largely a result
of government policies.” So the solution surely must be to get
goverment meddling out of food and farm policy as much as possible,
no?

Ha!

“We know that the government has the power to reshape the food
system because it has already done so at least once—when President
Richard Nixon rejiggered farm policy to boost production of corn
and soy to drive down food prices,” they write. And because
government can, it should, apparently. The authors are somehow able
to see the corrosive effect of previous government overreach on our
food system, but they feel confident that this
time! 
they’ll get it right. “As Obama begins the last two
years of his administration facing an
obstructionist Republican Congress, this is an area where he
can act on his own—and his legacy may depend on him doing so,” they
suggest, urging Obama to “announce an executive order establishing
a national policy for food, health and well-being.” 

The idea that cooking, eating, and enjoying nutritious foods is
elitist is a silly and destructive one, and I’ve never been one to
mock folks like Bittman and Pollan for their kale chips or food
philosophies. But it doesn’t get much more elitist than thinking
the U.S. food system as a whole would be better off by
circumventing not just markets but also any Congressional debate.
Just relax and let the top men take care of it…

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Quote of the Day – An Incredible Statement from the City Attorney of Las Cruces, New Mexico

He describes to a roomful of local officials from across the state how Las Cruces police officers waited outside a bar for a man they hoped would walk out drunk because they “could hardly wait” to get their hands on his 2008 Mercedes, which they then hoped to put up for auction.

“We could be czars,” he tells the room. “We could own the city. We could be in the real estate business.”

– From the NPR article: Police Can Seize And Sell Assets Even When The Owner Broke No Law

The above quotes refer to statements made by Harry S. Connelly, the city attorney of Las Cruces, N.M., in a video posted over the weekend by the New York Times. His comments refer to the feudal and tyrannical tactic known as civil asset forfeiture, in which police across these United States are allowed to intentionally steal citizens’ property based on “suspicion” alone, without charging them with a crime. This topic has as been a key theme on this site all year. In fact, one of my most popular posts of 2014 was: “Common People Do Not Carry This Much U.S. Currency…” – This is How Police Justify Stealing American Citizens’ Money. If you never read that post, or saw John Oliver’s hilarious video, I suggest checking it out.

continue reading

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US, China Hope To Avert “Military Confrontation”

While Putin was busy laying the groundwork for another major commodity gas pipeline expansion project, one that would make China the largest natural gas client of Gazprom, surpassing Europe and fully concluding Russia’s pivot from west to east, US president Obama had slightly less lofty ambitions out of the annual APEC summit in Beijing: coordinating with China’s leader Xi Jinping on how to best avoid war, or as the WSJ phrased it “military confrontations.” So in order to prevent military conflict in the coming years, China and the US have penned two deals.

As the WSJ reports, “one of the military agreements covers a mechanism for notifying each other of major activities, such as military exercises, and the other sets rules of behavior for encounters at sea and in the air, according to people familiar with the negotiations.”

So an early warning system: which is useful considering China’s recent announcement of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) erected over the East China Sea, and which clearly targeted Japan in the aftermath of the Senkaku island land-grab escalation, especially since a year ago China declared it is “Willing To Engage In A Protracted Confrontation” With Japan As “Prime Target.” And since it is unlikely that China will be conducting any major military exercises off the coast of California any time soon (or so one hopes), this is basically yet another veiled threat to the US that any developments in what China clearly has defined as its national interest area, even if it overlaps with that of America’s prime ally Japan, will be frowned upon.

What is left unsaid is what happens if the US does conduct military drills in the region without a prior warning, and whether this “arrangement” may have made actual military confrontation more likely.

This happens a day after Obama announced that the two governments had resolved lingering differences on a deal to drop tariffs on semiconductors and other information-technology products, which backers say could cover $1 trillion in trade. Once again, what was unsaid is how the US will assure China that any future trade will be NSA-inside free. Recall what happened to CSCO earnings almost exactly one year ago in the aftermath of the Snowden revelations, all thanks to a complete collapse in Chinese orders.

 

The other agreement that will supposedly prevent war between the US and China is climate change, as well as business visas.

Climate change is another area the two leaders are expected to reach agreement on Wednesday. And Monday, each side announced new, longer-term visas for business and education to facilitate travel and commerce.

The story of how the marginalized “leader of the free world” ended up here is well known.

According to the WSJ, “Relations have foundered over the past year on cyberspying, democracy demonstrations in the Chinese territory of Hong Kong and China’s rough-elbowed approach to territorial disputes with Japan and the Philippines, both U.S. allies. Discord between Messrs. Xi and Obama was also apparent at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, during which they championed rival free-trade pacts.”

What really is happening is the US is rapidly losing its superpower status, with first China, then Russia, the other BRIC nations, unafraid and willing to confront DC, and since retaliatory “costs” end up hurting US allies more than the adversary, it creates a closed loop where the US loses incremental leverage and clout with every passing day, even as former Cold War, and not only, foes become further emboldened.

Of course, this won’t be the first time the two leaders have tried to mend relations:

But both men appear eager to recalibrate the relationship that has largely failed to match the promise of their first summit 16 months ago at the Sunnylands estate in California, when they tried to establish a personal rapport with an informal shirt-sleeves meeting.

Ah yes, who can forget the “straight-to-teleprompter” president getting to work and rolling up his sleeves. Alas, this attempt to mend relations too will fail, as always happens when two superpowers, one ascendent and one declining, are about to see their relative power status intersect.

So instead, the White House is hoping that by openly admitting military conflict is possible it will stave off the inevitable.

White House officials declined to provide details of the military agreements to be discussed Wednesday. Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser, said the two sides had been discussing ways to address instances where U.S. and Chinese military assets “came a little too close for comfort.”

 

It’s incredibly important that we avoid inadvertent escalation and that we don’t find ourselves again having an accidental circumstance lead into something that could precipitate a conflict,” he said.

 

China’s defense ministry didn’t respond directly when asked for details about the two agreements. Its press office said that the mechanism for notification of military activities and the rules of behavior would have “important effects and significance for promoting China-U.S. strategic trust and building a new type of military relationship.”

What China means is that in the future, any time US aircraft carriers are located in the East China Sea, whether it is en route to Japan or checking up on Taiwan, they better have permission.

As for whether and how long the “military confrontation” between the US and China has been delayed, there is substantial time left under Obama’s reign for this hypothesis to be thoroughly tested.




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New Currency Wars Cometh – Gold To Be “Last Man Standing”

New Currency Wars Cometh – Gold To Be “Last Man Standing”

Currency wars are set to warm up again, after Japan’s radical decision to further debase its currency through an intensification of already significant monetary easing. There was a palpable coldness from China’s Premier Xi Jinping as he greeted Japan’s President Abe at the APEC summit in Beijing.


h/t Brian via Zero Hedge

Tensions are normally high between the two countries but are even more so in recent months. 

War grievances run deep and are never far below the surface. Along with South Korea, these are the big industrial powers of Asia who are competing for a share of the shrinking export market.

China’s economy is slowing. Official figures suggest that growth has slowed to around 7%. Some analysts say it is as low as 5%. While Western countries would rejoice at such figures it must be remembered that in 2012 China’s growth in GDP was over 10%.

The decline has affected employment in China which is causing social tensions. The U.S. has put diplomatic pressure on China to not devalue its currency in recent years. So the Chinese resent Japan’s unsignaled and unilateral debasement of their currency, especially if it comes with the blessing of the U.S.

It would appear as though Japan’s actions were not taken at the behest of Japan’s financial elites, even though they stand to gain the most from QE in the short term – especially if the U.S. experience is anything to go by. 

How China will respond remains to be seen. Recent renminbi currency swap deals with Canada and Qatar show the increasing risk posed to the dollar’s status as sole global reserve currency. 

If and when the dollar falls out of favour as the preeminent reserve currency it’s ability to run large deficits for months on end will be greatly compromised.

The symbolism of the official photograph of the APEC summit could not be more clear. Symbolism is important to the Chinese.

In the photograph (see above) are Xi Jinping along with the leaders of Brunei, the Philippines, and Russian President Putin on the left hand side. Far to the right is Barack Obama. President Putin is at President Xi Jinping right hand.

China is emphasising it’s influence in East Asia and it’s good relations with Russia. The U.S. is presented as insignificant and ineffectual, at least in the affairs of East Asia.

Currency wars are set to intensify again. Indeed, Saxobank has warned of a new “full scale” currency war. We are in a full-blown currency war and the ECB will feel under pressure to take part in that,” said Nick Beecroft, non-executive chairman and senior markets consultant at Saxo Capital last week.

Chief Economist and CIO of Saxobank, Steen Jakobsen warned yesterday that there’s an increasing risk we will soon see a “significant paradigm shift” from China in its attitude to the strength of its currency. He says we’re about to see a full-scale currency war, notably between China and Japan, two of the world’s greatest exporting countries.

Whatever action China chooses with regard to positioning the yuan as reserve currency and using its gold reserves, it seems sure that the U.S. will not be consulted. It is likely that China has enough gold bullion to dethrone the dollar in the event of a dollar crisis or a wider international monetary crisis. 

Volatility in the currency markets is likely to increase greatly. If the competitive devaluation of currencies accelerate, fiat currencies risk losing value versus gold. Indeed, in worst case scenarios some may revert to their intrinsic value – zero.

When the dust settles gold will be the last man standing as it cannot be created or destroyed by governments. It remains the best form of financial insurance.

Get Breaking News and Updates on the Gold Market Here 

MARKET UPDATE

Today’s AM fix was USD 1,151.25, EUR 927.90 and GBP 726.43 per ounce.
Yesterday’s AM fix was USD 1,172.00, EUR 938.20 and GBP 737.25 per ounce.

Gold fell $25.90 or 1.14% to $1,149.40 per ounce yesterday and silver slipped $0.18 or 2.2% at $15.56 per ounce.


Silver in U.S. Dollars – 10 Years (Thomson Reuters)

Gold remained firm near $1,150 an ounce as physical demand for gold bullion coins and bars especially from Chinese store of value buyers increased after yesterday’s weakness. 

Spot gold was flat at $1,150.45 an ounce at 1021 GMT, while Comex U.S. gold futures for December delivery fell $9.90 an ounce to $1,149.90.

Silver slipped 0.3% at $15.51 an ounce. Spot platinum was down 0.2% at $1,190.24 an ounce, while spot palladium was down 0.2 percent at $757.35 an ounce. Spot palladium was down 0.2% at $757.35 an ounce. 

Access 7 Key Bullion Storage Must Haves Here




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You May Have Heard That the KKK Is Now Accepting Black Members. Here’s What Is Actually Happening.

Here is a
misleading headline
in the International Business
Times
:

Similar stories, with similar errors, have appeared in
The Daily Mail
,
The Daily Mirror
,
The Huffington Post
, and other outlets.

The IMDb's description: "After a black man's daughter is killed by the KKK, he seeks revenge by becoming a Klansman."What you need to understand
here is that there are bunch of different organizations out there
that call themselves the Ku Klux Klan. None of them is “the”
organization, and none of them is directly descended from the
original Klan, which died out over a century ago. Anyone can buy
some sheets and set up shop as a Klan, but he won’t be speaking for
anybody but himself and whoever he can convince to join him.

In this case John Abarr, a Montana Klansman who claims to have
given up the idea of white supremacy, has created yet another KKK
grouplet. It’s called the Rocky Mountain Knights, and he says he’s
opening its doors to minorities. There are no signs that any have
actually joined. (This is not, I should add, just a case of white
separatists trying to cooperate with black separatists. That’s a phenomenon with a long history, but it does not generally
entail inviting African Americans into the klavern.)

Needless to say, if Abarr really has given up on the Klan’s core
ideology, it would make more sense to throw away the brand name and
call his club something else. But I suppose he thinks this will get
the group publicity, and evidently he’s right.

The IBT report wavers back and forth between
recognizing that this is one oddball’s effort and not a general
move toward a tolerant, cuddly Klan. It mentions that the Rocky
Mountain Knights are a “new KKK group,” and it quotes another
Klansman dismissing Abarr’s project. But it describes that critic
as coming from “the more traditional elements of the organisation,”
as though they were all paying dues to the same coffers.

If nothing else, this is an interesting inversion of a dynamic
that the far right saw in the
’90s
, when the militia movement came to prominence. The
militias tended to focus on issues such as gun control and
paramilitary policing, not on policing racial boundaries, and many
militiamen were overtly hostile to white supremacists. While some
racists returned the disdain, others tried to enter the movement by
forming militia groups of their own. If Abarr is sincere about his
ideological conversion—and that’s a big if—then this is
basically the same process happening in reverse.

I don’t expect it to go far, though, because I can’t imagine
many anti-racists would be interested in adopting the Klan brand
name.

Bonus link: For an interesting case in the ’30s of some
people who did use the Klan’s brand name for rather
different purposes, even inviting some nonwhites into the fold,
check out this story from Studs
Terkel’s
Hard Times
, in which a West Virginia Klan with two
black members staked out a militant position in labor’s battles
with the coal companies.

Another bonus link: I explored the Klan’s history in
this
piece
from 2005.

[Via
Corey Robin
.]

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Peak Patek: This Watch Is Set To Sell For Record $15 Million Today In Geneva

Just 24 hours before “the most important watch in the world” goes up for auction in Geneva today, the owner – 48-year-old Sheikh Saud bin Mohammed Al-Thani of Qatar has died suddenly; somewhat ironically confirming that “you never actually own a Patek Philippe, you merely look after it for the next generation.” Though, it appears, in this case, as Hodinkee reports, the sale of Henry Graves Jr. Patek Philippe Supercomplication – which is expected to sell for in excess of $15 million today – was due to the Sheikh running into financial difficulties.

 

 

As Hodinkee reports,

In absolutely fascinating news out of Qatar, the owner of the Henry Graves Jr. Patek Philippe Supercomplication, expected to sell for in excess of $15,000,000 tomorrow in Geneva, has died unexpectedly.

 

 

Its owner since 1999 when purchased at Sotheby’s for $11,000,000, Sheikh Saud bin Mohammed Al-Thani of Qatar passed away at his home yesterday, Sunday November 9th. Al-Thani was only 48 years old, and the official cause of death has not been released.

 

Al-Thani was a world-class collector of art, cars, watches, natural history, and well, just about everything. That is until he ran into financial difficulties and several of his pieces were put on the auction block.

*  *  *

The Henry Graves Supercomplication by Patek Philippe is, according to Sotheby’s, the most important watch in the world.

First commissioned in 1925, the Supercomplication has an astounding 24 complications, making it the most complicated watch ever made by any watchmaker without the aid of computer technology.

*  *  *

So is this Peak Patek, when even the oil-money is forced to sell assets?




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Solar Plant Wants to Pay Off Massive Government Loan with Massive Government Grant

Burns more bucks than birds.American taxpayers are on the hook
for the Ivanpah solar project out in the California Mojave Desert
close to the border of Arizona. The massive plant received $1.6
billion in loan guarantees from the Department of Energy to build
it, out of a total cost of about $2.2 billion.  

The plant went online in December of last year. After operating
for most of 2014, the plant seems to have hit a significant
problem. It’s only producing about a quarter of the power it has
promised. That could present a bit of a challenge paying back its
loan. So what are they doing? Why they’re asking for a federal
grant, of course. That is to say, they are asking for taxpayer
dollars to pay back the loan that they got from the federal
government that is guaranteed to be paid back with taxpayer dollars
should the project fail. Fox news has the details, with some

contributing analysis
by Reason Foundation Vice President of
Research Julian Morris:

After already receiving a controversial $1.6 billion
construction loan from U.S. taxpayers, the wealthy investors of a
California solar power plant now want a $539 million federal grant
to pay off their federal loan.

“This is an attempt by very large cash generating companies that
have billions on their balance sheet to get a federal bailout, i.e.
a bailout from us – the taxpayer for their pet project,” said
Reason Foundation VP of Research Julian Morris. “It’s actually
rather obscene.”

The Ivanpah solar electric generating plant is owned by Google
and renewable energy giant NRG, which are responsible for paying
off their federal loan. If approved by the U.S. Treasury, the two
corporations will not use their own money, but taxpayer cash to pay
off 30 percent of the cost of their plant, but taxpayers will
receive none of the millions in revenues the plant will generate
over the next 30 years.

Indeed, given that these guys are selling electricity to power
companies, we don’t even get the electricity! Taxpayers were
obligated to gamble their money with the loan, may possibly have to
give money to pay back the loan, and then Californians have to pay
for the electricity the company produces.

Fox contacted Morris for their story because the Reason
Foundation (publishers of this website and Reason
magazine) produced a report at the end of 2013 detailing all the
cronyism of the Department of Energy’s renewable energy loan
guarantee project. Read more of their research here.

The plant blames the weather for the underperformance of the
solar plant. It just wasn’t sunny enough in the middle of the
desert, in California, amidst a severe,
record-breaking drought
. Okay, perhaps that’s not quite fair.
As a former desert-dweller, I know you could see cloud cover
frequently in the desert without ever getting rain. But as a former
desert-dweller newspaper editor, I also actually met with
representatives of the plant’s developers prior to its construction
years ago. They made no bones about it: This solar project would
not be built without that big federal loan. It would not have
happened. Perhaps private investors suspected their output
predictions were a bit too sunny?

And one final, somewhat amusing note: How is the plant making up
for problems with collecting sunlight to produce energy? It has
gotten permission from the government to
use more natural gas
than it had originally planned,
potentially meaning that the biggest solar thermal power station in
the world may depend on fracking to supplement part of its
operations.  

Oh, and it murders
birds
by the hundreds, possibly thousands. Maybe they can
supplement their losses by opening a barbecue shack next to
Interstate 15?

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Record “Singles’ Day” Sales Spark Biggest BABA Sell Off Since IPO

As everyone knows in today’s new normal world of investing, “good news is bad news” and indeed it seems a record “Singles’ Day” sales record of around $9.3 billion (up 59% YoY) was enough of ‘good news’ trigger to spark the worst day in BABA since the IPO. Today’s 4% drop of course is nothing compared to the 45%-plus gains off the Bullard lows, and we suspect the BoJ or GPIF will be back in action soon to BTFD. Profit-taking? Sell the news? Or perhaps it was Jack Ma’s Elon-Musk-esque comments on how his high stock price is based on very high expectations and he is feeling the pressure.

Selling started last night but The Jack Ma interview seemed to spark some further weakness…

 

Quite a ramp off the Bullard lows…




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Smith College Paper Considers the Word ‘Crazy’ an ‘Ableist Slur’

VoldemortThe campus far-left: Ruining
the English language for all of us.
This story
—an argument between the Foundation for Individual
Rights in Education and Smith College, a women’s liberal arts
school—is as insane an example of the zeal for self-censorship at
college campuses as any.

Here’s
what happened
: Wendy Kaminer, a First Amendment expert and
member of FIRE’s board of advisors, participated in a discussion
about free speech at Smith College in September. Kaminer was
unafraid to use the words n*gger and c*nt—instead of their frequent
replacements, “the n-word” and “the c-word”—reasoning that saying
the words aloud should be perfectly acceptable in an academic
context. Hurling insults is one thing; addressing a taboo word in
an intellectual setting is quite another, she said.

The usual outrage ensued. Kaminer was accused of committing “an
explicit act of racial violence” by a student
with a poor grasp
of what violence entails. Smith College
President Kathleen McCartney was criticized for not denouncing
Kaminer—presumably, the muzzlers would have wanted her to yell
“shush!” at the first sign of controversy.

But perhaps the most incredible facet of the debacle was the
Smith College student newspaper’s
transcript
of the Kaminer discussion, which was prefaced by the
mother of all trigger warnings:

Racism/racial slurs, ableist slurs, antisemitic language,
anti-Muslim/Islamophobic language, anti-immigrant language,
sexist/misogynistic slurs, references to race-based violence,
references to antisemitic violence.

You would be forgiven for thinking all this is absolutely crazy.
Of course, if you expressed that sentiment at Smith College, you
would be censored. Indeed, the word crazy was also
deemed offensive. In that very same paper, the transcriber replaced
all utterance of the word “crazy” with [ableist slur].
According to FIRE
:

This censored transcript is therefore itself an excellent
example of how censorship hurts dialogue. All instances of “nigger”
are written as “[n-word].” Kaminer’s use of the word “cunt”—which
she used one time, to clarify a student’s reference to “the
c-word,” was written as “[c-word],” resulting in this line in the
transcript:

WK: And by, “the c-word,” you mean the word [c-word]?

Clarification was evidently needed, considering that another
c-word was also censored from the transcript:

Kathleen McCartney: … We’re just wild and [ableist slur], aren’t
we?

That’s right, wild and crazy. It took my
colleagues and me a moment to figure that one out (it is audible in
the audio
recording
 of the panel). Despite this word apparently
being too offensive to reproduce in the transcript, it was spoken
by all three of the other panelists besides Kaminer, in addition to
President McCartney.

It’s impossible to overstate the sickly condition of the free
exchange of ideas at the modern college campus. Harvey Silverglate,
chairman of FIRE’s board, diagnosed the problem excellently in a
recent Wall Street Journal op-ed
titled
“Liberals Are Killing the Liberal Arts.” Silverglate
used a metaphor of which I am also fond: Campus censors are like
the cowardly wizards of the Harry Potter universe who are too
afraid to speak the name of the dark lord, Voldemort, instead
referring to him as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named or You-Know-Who. Harry
Potter and some of his allies, however, are unafraid to utter his
name. They correctly reason that making a word unsayable gives it
undue power over their emotions.

If only college students were half as wise.

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