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The world keeps turning and the resources get used up. It’s really quite simple.

Despite that fact, the debates rage over Peak Oil, Peak Food and peak everything else. It’s about as sensible as rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. So the “experts” continue to debate whether or not resources are running low. But the evidence is pretty clear, at least to this trader.

In the past year, we have seen the oil and agriculture markets explode. And this could be just the beginning of the rally, not the end, as some would have you believe. Personally, I think we are about halfway to the new top for many commodities. That means $200 oil (easily) and gold at $1,500-2,000. The agriculture markets have even further to go, in my opinion.

Key commodities are becoming more and more scarce. So we can expect to see more suffering in the poorest countries first. Then the economic impact will work its way up the food chain (no pun intended).

The facts are fairly grim if we look at them closely. There is going to be less of everything. Yet there will be more people who want those things. Let’s face it - wars have been fought over far less.

In her famous book, On Death and Dying, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross describes the stages of grief:

* Denial: “It can’t be happening”
* Anger: “Why me? It’s not fair”
* Bargaining: “Just let me live to see my children graduate”
* Depression: “I’m so sad, why bother with anything?”
* Acceptance: “It’s going to be OK.”

In my opinion, the American public is going through the stages of grief right now. Rising prices are just a market-based signal that we are losing our economic and resource abundance. As the American dream fades away, it’s like a death in the family.

Right now, I think we are between the stages of denial and anger. Ask yourself these questions: What do you think when you pull up to the fuel pump and have to pay $4 for a gallon of regular gas, or nearly $5 for a gallon of diesel? Or how about when you go to the supermarket and have to pay $4 for a gallon of “store brand” milk, or the same price for a loaf of “store brand” bread? Are your emotions between disbelief and anger? Are you saying to yourself, “Hey, what the heck is going on?” (I’m cleaning it up a bit because this is a family-friendly publication.)

I think folks mistakenly thought prosperity would go on forever.

Dinner is always fun until the waiter brings the check. Or as my colleague Byron King once said, “It’s easy to look rich as long as you don’t ever pay the bills.”

No sector has recently hit Americans in the wallet harder than energy. But even with those dramatic price increases, major changes are still not happening. We have seen a very small decrease in gasoline usage - only about 1% or so.

But while some travel may be down as costs have gone up, the numbers are not really dramatic. No, I am not pointing fingers. I live here too. If I looked at my own lifestyle, I couldn’t say that I am making radical adjustments, either.

We still like to drive our big SUVs. We still drive alone to work. Most people rarely take public transportation (if there is any). And we love to run our air conditioners full blast while watching the documentaries on global warming and dying polar bears on our 62-inch plasma TVs.

Yes, we like to grumble when we fill up those big SUVs, mostly because it’s easier to complain than make the tough changes that are needed. We feel entitled to keep living as we do. Hey, after all, we’ve earned it. Right?

Rather than make difficult choices, we are in that denial stage and buy the line from the government and media that all is well.

The facts and the fiction often get mixed up when discussing the issue of “Peak Everything.” Take the surging price of crude oil. Some people (including a lot of politicians) want to blame the traders and speculators. Other people blame farmers and corn-based ethanol. A lot of people blame OPEC. The list of culprits goes on ad infinitum.

The fact remains that it’s not just one reason or another that we are in this energy disaster; it’s actually all of these reasons and others. It’s a culmination of many years of poor energy policy, shortsighted planning (if you can even call it planning) and an overdose of arrogance that only superpowers can have.

It’s like a football team saying, “We’re No. 1 and will always be that way.” So the team stops training hard. Players quit working out and coming to practice. The coaches just relax and forget about recruiting or developing new talent. Nobody designs new plays or bothers to scout the opponents to see what they are up to. And then the team expects to go out into the world and bring home the trophy every year. “Hey, we deserve it. Right?”

Or go back to the analogy of the Titanic. The ship was state-of-the art. It was not “supposed” to be able to sink. But now as the water rushes in and the ship is dropping lower and lower into the sea, the cold water is hitting us all in the face. Now our lawmakers are scrambling to plug the holes, and it’s not working. The smart people (or maybe they were just lucky) are already in the lifeboats.

Only time will tell if the United States can actually move into the acceptance stage. But in the meantime, commodities will continue to dwindle.


Kevin Kerr
for The Daily Reckoning

Food Banks Are Running Into Troubles | Breaking Bad News

breaking bad news
STOCKTON, Calif. — Jackie Hoffman sifted through a laundry bin filled with aging loaves of bread. Like nearly a third of the first 50 customers to arrive at the Emergency Food Bank of Stockton that morning, Hoffman was new to the pantry. But since she lost her sales job at a local newspaper in December, she has not found work. “I’m down on my luck,” Hoffman said, squeezing and sniffing the bread. “And food is going through the roof. I need help.”

Hoffman, 55, is one of the growing number of “nontraditional” food-pantry clients across the country. They include formerly independent senior citizens, homeowners and people who used to call themselves “middle-class” — those who are not used to fretting over the price of milk.

In Washington state, “We’re hearing dozens of these stories every week,” said Shelley Rotondo, executive director of Northwest Harvest, which distributes food to 300 hunger programs statewide and operates a food bank in downtown Seattle.

“A lot of working folks are coming to us, people who were making it, but they’ve been pushed over the edge because of the cost of food and the cost of fuel,” Rotondo said.

Rotondo said food banks are “getting squeezed on both ends,” weathering sharp increases in food and fuel costs at the same time the need is increasing. The number of clients at the Seattle food bank has risen 10 percent in the past three months, while the agency has had to pay “fuel surcharges” adding up to 50 percent to the fuel cost of some shipments.

“What scares me the most is the uncertainty about where this is going to stop,” Rotondo said.

April saw the biggest jump in food prices in 18 years, according to the Labor Department. At the same time, workers’ average weekly earnings, adjusted for inflation, dropped for the seventh straight month.

To meet growing demand, America’s Second Harvest — The Nation’s Food Bank Network, pressed lawmakers for the past year to increase the annual level of funding for The Emergency Food Assistance Program, (TEFAP), from $140 million to $250 million annually.

A survey it conducted of 180 food banks in late April and early May found that 99 percent have seen an increase in the number of clients served within the past year. The increase is estimated at 15 percent to 20 percent, though many food banks reported increases as high as 40 percent.

The money was included in the Farm Bill recently approved by Congress but won’t be available until the next fiscal year, which starts in October.

“The way it’s going, we’re going to have a food disaster pretty soon,” said Phyllis Legg, interim executive director of the Merced Food Bank, which serves 43 food pantries throughout foreclosure-ravaged Merced County in California.

Food banks across the country are in similar straits. Some have had to cut back on how much food they give, or how often.

“If gas keeps going up, it’s going to be catastrophic in every possible way,” said Ross Fraser, a spokesman for America’s Second Harvest.

Stories of want and need are mounting. In informal surveys, America’s Second Harvest has found a growing number of food banks in crisis mode.

• In Albuquerque, N.M., the Roadrunner Food Bank reported that the pantries it serves are turning people away.

• In Baton Rouge, La., the public school system has found students hoarding their free and reduced-price lunches so they can bring them home and have something to eat at night.

• In Merced, the food bank is planning to curtail a brown-bag program, which supplies groceries to senior citizens, from once a week to once every two weeks, Legg said.

Even in San Francisco, a city that has been relatively unscathed by the foreclosure crisis and economic downturn, food pantries are seeing hundreds of new clients.

“We’ve gone from serving about 450 to 600 clients a day since Christmas,” said Sara Miles, director of The Food Pantry.

“This is one of the worst times that our food banks have experienced in recent years in terms of the level of need and our ability to meet the need,” said Vicki Escarra, president and chief executive officer of America’s Second Harvest.

The Emergency Food Bank of Stockton, which operates out of a warehouse at the fringe of town, now finds customers lining up several hours before it opens at 10 a.m.

That’s because, clients say, the best food — the fresh meat and eggs — goes first.

“If I get here too late, I’ll be left with Marshmallow Fluff for 14 days,” said Sondra Pearson, a mother of seven. “Not,” she added, “that I’m going to turn that down.”

[Via - SeattlePI.Com]

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Breaking Bad News: Violinist Smashes $1 Million Fiddle

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LONDON (AP) ― Can his fractured fiddle - a million-dollar Guadagnini - be fixed? It’s too early to tell.

David Garrett, a former model who has been called the David Beckham of the classical scene, said he tripped while carrying his 18th century violin as he was leaving London’s Barbican Hall after a performance, smashing it to bits.

“I had it over my shoulder in its case and I fell down a concrete flight of stairs backward,” Garrett said Thursday. “When I opened the case, much of my G.B. Guadagnini had been crushed.”

Garrett said he bought the 1772 violin for $1 million in 2003, and he is now hoping to get it repaired in New York, where he is based.

“I hope and pray that it can be fixed, but if it can’t, I hope my insurance policy will let me buy another great violin,” the 26-year-old musician said. He told The Associated Press that other published accounts saying the violin was a Stradivarius were incorrect. Guadagnini is believed by some to have been a student of Antonio Stradivari.

The accident occurred Dec. 27 but only became known this week when he returned to London for another concert at the Barbican and told British reporters what had happened.

For his Valentine’s Day concert there, he is playing a Stradivarius that’s been lent to him.

Garrett gained attention as a child prodigy. Before he was 10, he played as a soloist with the London Philharmonic, according to his Web site.

When he studied at the Juilliard School in New York, he became a part-time model to help supplement his income.

[Via - CBS.Com]

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Breaking Bad News: Crazy woman makes 10,000 calls to ex

A dumped girlfriend plagued her ex with more than 10,000 calls and text messages in 65 days, a British court has heard.

Timothy Mortimore, 37, received the equivalent of one call or message every eight minutes, Britain’s Daily Mail reports.

His 23-year-old ex, Lee Amor, reportedly ignored police warnings about her behaviour after the end of a six-month relationship.

Pregnant, and wrongly convinced the baby was Mr Mortimore’s, she contacted him an “astronomical” number of times, the paper says.

The Daily Mail report says Amor appeared before South Devon Magistrates’ Court and admitted harassment “in texting, sending mobile video messages, telephone calls, and in person”.

She was given a two-year conditional discharge, told to pay £200 costs and made the subject of a restraining order barring contact with Mr Mortimore.

Mr Mortimore, of Torquay, told the court the experience had caused him “physical and emotional fatigue”.

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Breaking Bad News: Germany’s beer sales hit lowest point in 15 years

breaking bad news
BERLIN — Germany and beer go together like Porsches and the autobahn, but health-conscious residents are turning from the country’s traditional beverage in favor of juices and bottled water, sending suds sales down to the lowest levels in 15 years.

According to a government report released today, the amount of beer sold in Germany fell to the lowest sales figure since 1993 — dropping by 2.7 percent in 2007 to 22 billion pints, down 612 million pints from 2006.

The Federal Statistics Office said the drop in beer sales came as the demand for beer mixed with fruit juices, soft drinks and other nonalcoholic beverages rose 18.1 percent from 2006 to 2007, with some 887 million pints consumed by thirsty buyers.

Beer consumption in Germany has been falling steadily for more than a decade, a trend that experts have attributed to an increasingly health-conscious public and an aging population that is less likely to binge.

For last year’s decline, the German Brewers Association blamed a rainy summer, noting that foul weather dampens the mood for lifting a stein on a summer evening.

But the group also pointed to shifting tastes.

“Our regular customers are getting older and don’t drink as much anymore, and generally Germans prefer milder tastes today, and are more health conscious,” spokesman Marc-Oliver Huhnholz said.

For the country’s remaining beer drinkers, there’s more scary news: Their beloved beverage — often called ‘liquid bread’ because it is a basic ingredient of many Germans’ daily diet — is getting more expensive.

Some breweries have already raised prices, and many others say they will follow later this year.

The director of the famous Hofbraeuhaus beer hall in Munich said the brewery would increase its prices by about 74 cents per case in April.

“This is not about profit, it’s about cost increase,” Michael Moeller said, adding that the raw materials for the national beverage — barley malt and hops — have been getting more expensive.

Moeller said that per case of beer, the price of malt had increased by 30 cents and hops by 7 cents, and that energy costs to brew beer had risen by 10 percent.

On top of all the bad news, the southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg has said it is considering a ban on selling beer from midnight to 6 a.m.

It’s no wonder the Germans lost the title of biggest per capita beer drinkers to the Czechs a few years ago.

But, Huhnholz said, they still drink more than the Irish, who closely follow Germans.

[Via Passed Out Drunk]

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Breaking Bad News: Iraq’s Missing Billions

breaking bad news
A documentary created by Disptaches for Channel 4 in the UK. This report clearly highlights the massive ineptitudes involved with handling the Iraqi billions. This has to be the single and largest fraud ever.

'Stock' Beats 'Sex' on Google China

Man Buys A New Truck With Spare Change He Saved For 13 Years

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Breaking Bad News: Riders Take Off Pants For ‘No Pants Day’

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SALT LAKE CITY - Dozens of people riding on TRAX on Saturday were caught with their pants down — despite the January chill — as part of a national stunt.

Riders were encouraged to ride light rail without pants in conjunction with a comedy organization based in New York City. ‘Improv Everywhere’ organized Saturday’s event, which was part of a 10-city stunt designed to create unusual scenes and fun for riders of public transportation.

Improv Everywhere says nearly 1,000 people took part in Saturday’s events around the world. Besides Salt Lake City, the “No Pants 2k8″ train rides also took place in New York, Boston, Washington DC, Portland, OR, San Francisco, Chicago, Toronto, Adelaide, Australia and Baltimore, MD.

In New York City, pants-less riders navigated the city’s vast subway system while amused commuters looked on. In Salt Lake City, riders boarded near the EnergySolutions Arena and traveled around the so-called “Free fare zone.”

Utah Transit Authority did not sponsor or sanction the event in any way, but says the riders taking part in the public stunt were breaking no laws.

Pants-less riders were required to follow guidelines of dress to stay within the laws of public standards. Riders were asked to ride in their underwear, however no revealing attire — like thongs or lingerie — was allowed.

Formed in 2001, Improv Everywhere says its purpose is to cause scenes of chaos and joy in public places. This is the 7th straight year of the organization’s “No Pants” train stunt.

[Via - Weird Odd News]

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