April 23, 2008

Food Alarmism Underscores American Reality: "There will never be a shortage of bullshit."


bullshit-bag2.jpgIt seems like only yesterday that a New York Sun reporter noticed that purchases of huge bags of rice were being limited at Costco.

Food Rationing Confronts Breadbasket of the World | The New York Sun

Wait! Wait! It was only yesterday, or the day before, or just before that... It is so hard to tell when doom knocks on our door everyday.

Well, as usual, when you've got a little bit of freeze-dried bullshit excreted into the media well, it quickly expands to fill the well and then the collective media brainpan.

Here's the Wall Street Journal chiming in:

You've seen the TV footage of food riots in parts of the developing world. Yes, they're a long way away from the U.S. But most foodstuffs operate in a global market. When the cost of wheat soars in Asia, it will do the same here.-- R.O.I. - WSJ.com

I recall thinking when I first saw the rice/Costco item, "Doesn't that reporter know that people who run small businesses and restaurants use Costco to get their supplies whenever their own suppliers cut them short or gouge them?" Evidently not.

The backstory comes in from here:

Peak Oil News Discussion -- Food Rationing across NYC!

the main reason for the rice shortage(s) is that largely desired jasmine rice variety has been limited in export from thailand so they can feed their own people, which in turn affects the supply worldwide, so there has been a rush to buy what little supply remains. Then, of course, the price doubles for the remaining average rice, which in turn prompts the thrifty buyer to purchase some large bulk bags now to avoid any more price increases.

this has a domino effect. one event leads to another, then another. also, small businesses have tried to rush Costco to save some money by side-stepping their regular rice, wheat, flour, etc vendors. If Costco didnt limit purchases then there would be many people trying to corner the market on rice by backing up a flatbed, then selling the extras for a crazy high price and/or shipping them overseas to relatives for use/re-sale.

But will that blunt fact stop the "Food Shortage in America" wave of bullshit currently sweeping through the media. Not at all.

The media knows, first, last and always, that:

"In America you never outgrow your need for bullshit."

Bon appeitit!

UPDATE: Yes, Walmart joins the "rationing." Customers limited to 200 POUNDS of rice at a time.

Walmart Rations Rice

Shoppers at Sam's Club discount wholesale clubs will be limited to four bags of rice per customer. Wal-Mart "working with our suppliers to address this matter to ensure we are in stock, and we are asking for our members' cooperation and patience." It's not as bad as it sounds, the bags are still 50 lbs each.

What is driving this? Not hunger or fear, but speculation, "[Costco] had a two 50-lb limit on rice purchases as well to keep people from hoarding and reselling the rice."

The article also notes the "shortage" is for premium imported brands of rice such as Jasmine and Basmati. Standard American rice is not affected.

But, should the bullshit continue, it might well be since nothing drives speculation as much as bullshit. Especially from those invested in the speculation.

Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):

Posted by Vanderleun at April 23, 2008 10:57 AM | TrackBack
Save to del.icio.us


"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

I wondered what the real story was. Instapundit yesterday had a link to someone who noted that reports of food riots in Thailand are a tad exaggerated.

At least we don't have to hear more about disappearing bees.

Posted by: Julie at April 23, 2008 1:12 PM

I predict self-fulfilling shortages. Remember the great national toilet paper shortage?

Posted by: JGsez at April 23, 2008 4:13 PM

As usual you nailed it on the head and I had some good guffaws about it.

Too bad that media bullshit will never be in shortage mode, that is something I wouldn't mind seeing joining the Dodo and Great Auk.

Posted by: Pitt Man at April 23, 2008 4:15 PM

Right on. Not only that, but I am in Thailand and there is no such limit or easing of exports "to feed their own people". Thailand, decades ago, separated out a HUGE stock of rice for local consumption, and the export stock is totally different.

That hasn't stopped The New York Times TWICE from reporting totally, completely bogus "violence" and food riots in Thailand. There haven't been any. There hasn't been any violence, period, for anything.



Posted by: Alan Dawson at April 23, 2008 4:20 PM

If you don't use rice reasonably quickly, pantry moth larvae in it will develop and your house will be filled with pantry moths for a few years until you can trap enough to stop the population explosion. Hoarding is likely to backfire.

Of course pantry moths are protein, I guess. Bon appetite.

Posted by: Ron Hardin at April 23, 2008 4:22 PM

the price of corn has skyrocketed since the biofuel rage. I havn't seen anyone hoarding corn.

Posted by: pabird at April 23, 2008 5:30 PM

The right way to horde corn is to feed it to cows and get beef.

Posted by: vanderleun at April 23, 2008 5:35 PM


I'm making a fkin fortune in rice futures on the CBOT today ... just like Eddie Murphy taught me.

Doesn't matter if there's a REAL shortage of something. If people THINK there's a shortage, well then there is.

Please, keep writing about this run on rice. Tomorrow, the libs will be blaming this all on global warming.

I'm gonna be RICH I tells ya.

Posted by: shhhhhhhhhhhhhh at April 23, 2008 6:44 PM

I must disagree. The proper way to hoard corn, or any other grain, is whiskey.

Posted by: ThomasD at April 23, 2008 10:22 PM

you show your total ignorance with this article. it simply doesn't matter if it is bullshit or not, because perception is reality and the very same perception that there is a shortage creates runs on the same commodity. same as the rumor that collapsed bear stearns. this is no joke, and pretending otherwise is plain stupid. btw i am writing from thailand where we now have rice rationing. i am also a wall st careerist working in commodities, so take that as you may.

Posted by: bkkexpat at April 24, 2008 12:53 AM

Oh, this is too good. Can I steal the Doomwatch graphic if I link back to you?

Posted by: Sam_S at April 24, 2008 1:42 AM

I'm trying to figure out how this food crisis meme got started. It's like it just appeared all of a sudden - one day we're muddling along as usual, next day we're facing global starvation. Not just that, either. The 'consumption bubble' is going to burst as well. It seems like the collapse of housing prices sent the media off on a disaster hunt. Is there really some kind of economic chain reaction going on, or are the media just feeding off each others' rumors?

Posted by: Bugs at April 24, 2008 8:17 AM

Well, media is as media does. Taking the man from Thailand at his word, I'd have to say that the US does not equal Thailand. In addition I note that the types of rice said to be effected are "Jasmine and Basmati" -- rice types imported from or to Thailand.

As to where it began, it began according to the first link when a reporter from the New York Sun noticed something -- a policy at a Costco -- and spun a report on it. The me-too effect is well-known and well-documented in the media.

It's like saying "My Costco painted itself puce today." Other editors at other media outlets say, "This SOB at the Sun says his Costco's gone puce, get out there and see it our Costco is puce ... and see what color the Sam's Mart is while you're at it." Result: "PUCE BREAKS OUT AT COSTCO AND SAMS!"

As for the Doomwatch graphic, all are welcome to it. Especially for a link, since I hunger for links.

Posted by: vanderleun at April 24, 2008 8:54 AM

Although I found no answer to my previous question, I did locate something that puts the prophets of doom in perspective: http://www.michaelcrichton.com/speech-whyspeculate.html

Posted by: Bugs at April 24, 2008 10:54 AM

Sorry, vanderleun - missed your comment before I replied to my own. Thanks.

I guess what worries me the most is not that I'll believe the bullshit - it's what other people will do because they believe the bullshit.

I hope not too many people believe the bullshit.

Posted by: Bugs at April 24, 2008 10:59 AM

Alas, people love bullshit. It is so much easier to work with than the truth.

Posted by: vanderleun at April 24, 2008 12:04 PM

Followed a link here from Small Dead Animals. Very interesting and informative-here's a clearcut example of MSM incompetence and irresponsibility actually hurting people and causing bad news by falsely creating bad news.

Apparently, most of the grandees of the MSM didn't learned a profoundly important principle in Journalism School. A functioning Democracy always requires intelligent, responsible Citizenship to sustain it's health. For every right in a functioning Democracy, there are paired responsibilities. With the MSM's right of Freedom of the Press, there come paired responsibilities to be professionally competent and honest and unbiased in all reporting.

In these false food shortage stories, we're seeing an absence of all these responsibilities.

Posted by: Dave in Pa. at April 24, 2008 12:20 PM

It's a good thing I don't much like rice.

Posted by: Mikey NTH at April 24, 2008 4:11 PM

At a recent party a man gave me a hot tip.

"Buy rice," he proclaimed with a knowing smile. "There's a shortage, you know. Gonna last for years."

Now my garage is full of rice and I'm gonna have a house full of pantry moths.

Why didn't I listen to Michael Chrichton?

Posted by: Jimmy J. at April 24, 2008 7:29 PM

Keep in mind that consumers rushing to buy large amounts, worrying about future price increases, signal to markets that there is a surging demand....thus increasing prices. However, those consumers now have 6 months of rice at home, meaning that in one month the demand falls drastically - everyone has rice and no one needs to buy it.

(Meanwhile, the high price could have tempted people to plant rice in less productive land, etc., bringing more supply.)

This can lead to boom and bust cycles.

Posted by: Aaron at April 25, 2008 12:50 AM
Post a comment:

"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated to combat spam and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Remember personal info?