Thursday, October 29, 2015

Olives from Spain and tomatoes from Italy:  Why?

Various people exhort us to read the label on the bottles and cans that we buy.  Greenies want us to be sure that the contents have not hurt any whales, food-freaks want us to be sure that no salt has ever come near it and patriots want us to avoid buying anything imported.

And I DO read labels, but for a quite different reason from the three above.  I like the information they contain about economics.  They don't actually mention economics but they still tell us various things about economies.

The labels that particularly interest me are on the El-cheapo cans  on the bottom shelves of supermarkets -- usually bearing some sort of "House" brand. And what they tell us about the world is quite amazing.  They tell us that CHINA FEEDS THE WORLD.  Not only do they make almost all of our electrical gadgets these days but they also feed us all to a significant extent.  "Product of China" is what you nearly always read in the small print on those "Home brand" bottles and cans.  Chinese groceries now populate the world.

People tend to sneer at such goods but for the many who prefer to keep their money for beer and cigarettes, China is a godsend.

So how come?  Doesn't China have its work cut out feeding its own 1.3 billion people?  It's those clever Chinese farmers.  They can make crops spring lushly out of even unpromising ground.  Let me give an historical example of that:

Two of my great grandfathers were in on the Palmer River goldrush.  The 19th century was a century of goldrushes as new lands were opened up -- and one of the goldfields was on the Palmer river in far-North Queensland, Australia.  And much gold was dug there by people from all over the world.  And Chinese miners were there too.

Some of the Chinese, however, realized that they could win more gold by using their farming skills.  The miners had to eat and bringing in food from South was very expensive.  So the Chinese market gardeners got more  gold from selling their produce than they ever would have got by mining.

BUT:  The soils on Cape York Peninsula (where the Palmer lies) are notoriously poor and shallow.  So what to do about that?  Easy: The Chinese gardeners went all around collecting people's shit -- the traditional fertilizer of China, India and lot of other places. Shit-collecting is real shit-work but it is amazing what people will do for gold. And shit is great fertilizer so the Chinese market gardens flourished.  You can still see patches of lushness where the Chinese gardens were as you travel through the area to this day.

So the Chinese are great farmers and much of China is fertile so they coax amazing amounts of food crops out of their farms. China is about the same size as CONUS, Australia and Canada (around 3 million square miles in all 4 cases) so they do actually have a lot to work with -- enough to feed their own 1.3 billion people plus feeding lots of us.

And you can learn all that by reading labels!

But sometimes you can get a surprise.  You pick up a cheap can and expect to see "China" somewhere on the label but in fact see the name of some European country.  Why would Europeans want to send their stuff half way around the world to Australia?  Easy: Because of the EU common agriculture policy, which is mostly aimed at propping up French peasant farmers but which affects the whole of the EU.

Europe's problem is one that makes Greenies say "nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah" when you tell them about it.  Now that fracking has put panic about oil running out to rest, the Greenies these days are constantly prophesying that we will run out of food (Global warming, you know).  European agricultural administrators must wish there was some truth in that because their problem is the opposite: Europe produces TOO MUCH food -- more food than they can sell.  They pay their farmers big  subsidies to produce all the excess food and then pay Australians and others to eat it. Insane of course but that's politics.  You wouldn't want to contend with angry French farmers either.

So when I recently picked up from my local supermarket a very cheap bottle of Manzanilla olives from Spain and some very cheap canned tomatoes from Italy it was because the EU was selling the stuff off at a fraction of its cost just to get rid of it.  In the old days they used to donate it all to Russia (They did!) but Russia feeds itself pretty well now that they have got rid of Communism

Still, I suppose it is good that the Chinese have some competition.  Pity the European taxpayer, though.  Interesting things, those labels, aren't they?

Incidentally, olive trees grow so well in Australia that in South Australia they are regarded as weeds!


I am pleased to report that I have at least some readers who know stuff.  One reader has asked how I square surplus olives with reports that this year's olive crop is way down due to unfavorable weather

In a way, the question answers itself.  The big jar of olives that I recently bought is NOT the product of this year's crop.  It has been known since ancient times how to store olives and I am sure that the EU people of today are really good at it. And in the way of these things, the EU bods would not sell off their stuff straight away.  They would wait until all hopes of a normal sale were gone.  So goodness knows when my olives came off the tree. They taste great anyway

Another thing that I believe to be true but have not researched is that olives grown for oil and olives grown for human consumption are different.  So a shortage of oil olives may not tell us much about the supply of eating olives.

For what it's worth, I NEVER these days buy ANY European olive oils -- not even the big green tins of "Olio Sasso.  Diretta importata dall Italia" that I remember from my childhood.  Italian and Spanish olive oil distributors have really blotted their copybooks with contaminant and substitution scandals so I now buy  Australian olive oil exclusively.  Australian olive oil is a Southern European product made with Northern European ethics. So there are pyramids of Spanish and Italian olive oil in my local supermarket but I bypass them all.


Obama's fundamental transformation of America is happening by way of unchecked immigration

Is Trump the only hope?

A column written by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA) should be required reading for those appalled by the “fundamental transformation” of America. Their warning couldn’t be clearer. “America is about to break every known immigration record. And yet you are unlikely to hear a word about it,” they write. “The Census Bureau projects that the foreign-born share of the U.S. population will soon eclipse the highest levels ever documented, and will continue surging to new record highs each year to come.”

The numbers are daunting. As recently as the 1970s, fewer than one in 21 U.S. residents were foreign born. According to the Census Bureau, over the next eight years the number of foreign born residents will reach an all-time high, with a total of 51 million immigrants accounting for more than one in seven U.S. residents, or approximately 14.8% of the nation’s population.

And it won’t stop there. If current immigration policies remain in place, the bureau is projecting an immigrant population growth rate nearly four times faster than that of the native-born population. Thus, the foreign-born share of the population will reach 57 million, or 15.8% of the population in 2030, 65 million (17.1%) in 2040, and a whopping 78 million (18.8%) by 2060. By that year the nation’s total population will grow to 417 million, representing 108 million more people than we had in 2010. “This increase is roughly equivalent to adding the combined populations of California, Texas, New York, Florida, and Massachusetts to the country,” the bureau explains.

Unfortunately, as more and more Americans are coming to realize, the ruling class in Washington, DC — more familiarly known as the entire Democrat Party and the Establishment wing of GOP — are embracing an unprecedented level of cooperation on this issue. In other words, Democrats are hard at work removing every obstacle to unassailable power, while Republicans are busy kowtowing to corporatist oligarchs looking to eviscerate middle class wages.

All while our reliably corrupt media sing the praises of “bipartisanship.”

“Consider the giant special interests clamoring for the passage of the Senate’s 2013 ‘gang of eight’ immigration bill: tech oligarchs represented by Mark Zuckerberg’s, open borders groups such as La Raza and the globalist class embodied by the billionaire-run Partnership for a New American Economy,” Sessions and Brat explain. “For these and countless other interest groups who helped write the bill, it delivered spectacularly: the tech giants would receive double the number of low-wage H-1B workers to substitute for Americans. La Raza would receive the further opening of America’s borders (while Democratic politicians gain more political power). And the billionaire lobby would receive the largest supply of visas for new low-skilled immigrants in our history, transferring wealth and bargaining power from workers to their employers.”

The inevitable implications? “This is not immigration reform,” they warn. “This is the dissolution of the nation state, of the principle that a government exists to serve its own people.”

That lack of reform includes last week’s failure by the Senate to pass the Stop Sanctuary Policies and Protect Americans Act. It would have withheld federal funds from sanctuary cities in open defiance of federal immigration law, and imposed a mandatory-minimum five-year sentence on any illegal alien that is deported and then returns. That element of the statute was better known as “Kate’s Law,” named after Kathleen Steinle, who was murdered by Juan Francsico Lopez-Sanchez, a seven-time convicted felon who had been deported five times.

The vote was 54-45, with Illinois Republican Sen. Mark Kirk voting against the measure, and Democrats Joe Donnelly (D-IN) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) voting in support. Thus, it failed to reach the 60-vote threshold necessary to break a Democrat filibuster and move forward. That would be the same 60 vote threshold ignored by former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who invoked the “nuclear option” in 2013, reducing the threshold to a 51 vote majority, so he could pack the DC Circuit Court with Democrat judges. By contrast, the reliably feckless Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has never seen fit to return the favor, making an utter mockery of the “stop Obama” mandate voters handed the GOP during the 2014 election. A mandate driven in large part by Obama’s lawless agenda aimed at flooding the labor market with illegal aliens.

It is an agenda utterly anathema to working class Americans. Brat and Sessions note that, following a large expansion of immigrants from 1880-1920, doubling the U.S. immigration population from seven million to 14 million, Congress passed a law to reduce the flow. Over the next 50 years, America’s foreign-born population shrank from 14 million to 9.6 million. “This period witnessed rapid wage growth,” the authors explained, one in which “the bottom 90 percent of wage earners saw an 82.5 percent increase in their wages.”

In 1965, led by the late Ted Kennedy, the floodgates were re-opened and a massive wave of primarily low-skill immigrants quadrupled the immigrant-born population from 10 million in 1970, to more than 42 million today.

The consequences? “The Congressional Research Service reports that during the 43 years between 1970 and 2013 — when the foreign-born population grew 325 percent — incomes for the bottom 90 percent of earners fell nearly 8 percent,” Sessions and Brat report.

Nonetheless, the entire Democrat Party is on board with eradicating American prosperity, because they would rather rule in a Third World hellhole than serve in an exceptional nation. They collaborate with the likes of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who would triple the number of H-1B visas, while he remains willfully oblivious to Disney forcing 250 American IT workers to train their foreign replacements or forfeit their severance packages occurring in his own state, or Jeb Bush, who countenances different treatment for border-busters if their lawlessness is motivated by “an act of love” for their families.

“After nearly half a century of massive immigration it is time to turn our attention to our own residents,” Sessions and Brat advise. “It is time to help our own workers, families and communities—immigrant and U.S.-born—rise together into the middle class. We need an immigration policy that shows compassion for Americans.”

We need far more than that. America is at a crossroad. Either we take our nation back from those with a treasonous contempt for national sovereignty, or we disintegrate into an amalgamation of sub-groups beholden to a self-anointed cabal of corporatist and political masters.

Make no mistake: immigration, both illegal and legal, is the issue in next year’s election because it affects everything else of importance, including the economy, jobs, crime, health care, welfare, and national security. Those who wish to turn this nation into a de facto clearinghouse for the entire world must be sent packing. In short, it’s either them or us.



Walmart Wage Hikes Come With a Steep Price

After years of being the whipping boy of the Left, Walmart finally capitulated to both the market and the catcalls by agreeing to raise the minimum wage it pays its employees. Walmart workers received at least $9 per hour beginning this past April, and that will rise to $10 per hour starting next February. That decision, though, came with an ongoing cost, as 450 workers at Walmart's Arkansas headquarters were axed earlier this month.

Meanwhile, the company's bottom line is also hurting as the retailer warned its earnings per share could drop as much as 25% by the end of next year. Share prices have also declined 11% for the year. While the Left has put forth plenty of theories about how Walmart could afford to give its workers a raise, the reality isn't panning out as planned.

Wages are getting upward pressure from the overall retail market, so Walmart isn't alone in its dilemma. The Gap began the wage-raising trend last year, with Walmart and Target following a few months later. Retailers remain concerned about keeping employees as competition in their labor segment intensifies, but some have also adopted more automation and self-service options, shrinking the labor pool over what it may have been before the wage hikes.

Spending more on labor, though, makes profitability more difficult. Craig Rowley, a retail consultant, warned that "we are still in a slow-growth economy," adding, "when you take on an expense like raising wages, you've got to take less profit." Overall, it's predicted that retailers could spend as much as $4 billion trying to match Walmart and the others edging up to the $10 minimum wage. The solution will likely lie in cutting jobs and unprofitable locations, as legacy retailers JCPenney and Macy's have already done or still plan to do this year.

It's worth noting, though, that these companies are increasing pay without being forced by Uncle Sam. Earlier this year, a minimum wage hike pushed by Senator (and now presidential hopeful) Bernie Sanders failed in the Senate as Sanders tried to sneak it into a GOP budget resolution. Executive action by Barack Obama and some local and state legislatures, however, has increased the minimum wage in some areas with negative effects on job creation and retention when the raise was too steep.

Yet what's missing in this minimum wage debate is the question of value. In simple terms, is the employee bringing as much worth to the company as he's being paid? Minimum wage has always been considered a floor for beginning employees, with the experience and skills they gain increasing their worth to the employer. In return, the employer either increases their wages or risks losing those employees to a competitor. It's been the way of capitalism for decades - at least until economic conditions over the last 50 years hollowed out the center of the job market for men ages 25 to 54. From 1948 until 1972, more than 95% of that group was employed. That number has now fallen to near 88% under Obama.

Minimum wage or not, this drop in labor participation will have long-term detrimental effects, as skills either atrophy or are never acquired. There's a fine line in almost any business between being profitable or going bust - in Walmart's case, the margin runs just 3%. Changing market conditions will always affect its bottom line, but if Walmart is struggling, those rose-colored economic glasses through which the so-called experts see the world may need a new prescription.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


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