News & Notes 4/10/2007

April 10, 2007

Some interesting items you may not have seen:

  • Food costs are rising globally, thanks in part to increasing demand for biofuels. I’ve noticed that our average food bill is going up when we make our bi-weekly run to the megamart, regardless of my attempts to watch for sales, buy less processed foods and whatnot. I’m not keeping close tabs on our bill, but I’d say it’s risen on average by maybe 7-10% over the last six months or so.
  • Have I mentioned that I think ethanol is mostly a boondoggle for farmers? More writers are getting on the bandwagon.
  • When a financial website mentions that meat prices may be going through the roof, I’d suggest paying attention long enough to do some more research on the subject. I did the vegetarian thing in the past, and while I have no plans to quit eating animal products cold turkey (pun intended), I think that we’ll be eating a lot less meat in the future simply because most of us won’t be able to afford it. For myself, if I have an opportunity to get my mitts on a good source of protein, I’m not going to do a whole lot of soul-searching on where it came from. As Kunstler has written, some day our descendants will have trouble believing that there was ever such a thing as a bad calorie.
  • Anyone who thinks the subprime mortgage problem is either A) getting better, or B) going to be limited to that sector of the mortgage market needs to get a reality check. We are just starting to enter the main wave of ARM resets over the next six months or so. Bill Gross of PIMCO (a major bond company) thinks that housing prices could decline by as much as 20% by the time everything is said and done. That’s bad news for a lot of homeowners who have less than 20% equity in their houses, but it could be much worse… that’s getting off light in my book.
  • Needless to say, in any market there are winners and there are losers. The ratio of winners to losers is starting look a lot like it was back in the 1920’s. Von Hoffman’s comments on how the national candidates for both major parties are elected by the same 300,000 wealthy people in this country resonate with me…. probably because I’m not one of those 300,000.
  • Want to know what the future will look like? The UK Ministry of Defense has painted a picture that isn’t reassuring. That said, EMP weapons are hardly anything new unless they’re talking about one unaccompanied by a nuclear explosion.
  • In an unsurprising move, General Motors now appears to be backpedaling on their plans for their ‘Volt’ electric car. There still needs to be a major breakthrough in battery technology unless you think people will be satisfied getting only 20 to 30 miles per charge.

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