I am indebted to m’learned colleague, Cy (see “Sumpnado” – here on WP) for hooking me up with a series of articles – nay EXPOSURES – written by Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone, a few months back.
Retired here to Thailand, one misses a lot. But even in the Land Of Smiles, one has not been able to totally avoid the effects of the monetary mêlée affecting The West, during the last four years.
Like, little did I know – while explaining to my Lady how our pile was SAFE, thanks to the post-1929 U.S. government’s installation of safeguards on its financial institutions – that even as I spoke, measures were being taken by Wall Street to REMOVE them.
I had told my Lady that no WAY would modern Americans queue for soup as they had in the Thirties. If the World’s (and thus, America’s) financial system collapsed – so would public order. The States would witness unrest of APOCALYPTICAL proportions. Thus her government had ensured it would never happen.
And to be fair, they HAD – until Wall Street began unravelling their efforts.
I had earlier discovered how crooked America’s banks were, when I had sent a trustworthy shop CASH for a classic record (having closed down my local “cyber account” due to my no longer needing it). I told them they could change my Thai money (Baht) for WELL over the amount needed to pay for the disc.
And that would have been TRUE – in BRITAIN.
However, having tried a FEW banks, the record shop-owner told me that in addition to the few percent transfer charges – ALL of the banks he had tried wanted “extra fees” that would have pushed their rate to around FIFTY percent.
I obtained and sent him U.S. dollars instead – and he sent me my Bahts and the record by return.
The delay actually BENEFITTED me, as the fifty-year-old 45 arrived intact – if he had sent it straight away, it would have been SMASHED. At that time, a sit-in protest at the airport had caused tons of mail to LITERALLY pile up – which had resulted in another disc bound for me, being cracked in HALF. Fortunately, THAT disc was an unimportant one – but it had been a DISK – specifically, a DVD! Ever tried to bust one of THOSE?! The vintage 45 would not have stood a chance.
Anyhoo – like I said, the effects of the fun and games on Wall Street HAVE affected me here.
That pile I spoke of is now worth only two-thirds of what it was. And the current Baht/GBP rate has knocked another third off THAT. Bringing my “worth” down to less than half of what it was.
But the LITTLE effects have been instructive.
The thing is, here – as in the U.S. – petrol pump prices fluctuate with the price of a barrel of oil (in Britain, they barely move – when oil goes up, HMG simply remove an equivalent amount from the punitive taxes they levy on it and compensate for THAT by reducing public services …or add another twenty pence to the equally-punitive taxes they levy on a packet of cigarettes …or both).
Thus, the first time I visited Thailand – in 1998 – a litre of car juice could be had for around 20p (30c). And when I moved here permanently – in ’02 – it had risen to around 40p (60c).
But these days, it stands at around 80p ($1.20). And a couple of years ago, it was higher than that.
The reason, I have now learned from Matt, was NOT due to supply/demand – but rather, to COMMODITY SPECULATION. Something that would have been illegal, before the deregulation.
And it had a bizarre side-effect, here.
As soon as fuel prices peaked, BIO-FUEL suddenly became economically viable – and Thailand quickly began converting to it. These days, PROPER petrol is only JUST beginning to make a comeback.
GOOD! – the eco-fascists (as m’colleague, Cy would call them) would say. Get RID of oil and go GREEN. Yeah – except that Green Petrol is INEFFICIENT and f**ks up the rubber seals in your car’s fuel system, unless you CHANGE them all.
I was LUCKY. A petrol station near me continued selling 91 octane PROPER petrol – with little cans of additive that effectively turn it into 95 octane – so my chariot still WORKS.
But there is a hidden cost.
A few months ago, Thailand suddenly experienced a shortage of COOKING oil. All supermarket shelves became DENUDED of it.
I was okay – cooking oil is one of a number of items I keep a surplus of, to save me from the incompetent restocking practices of local supermarkets. And by the time I was running out, a dribble of stock had started to reappear – and me and my Lady were fortunate to BE there when it arrived and GLOMMED enough bottles to carry us through until stocks had normalised.
(I heard some large local companies HELD ONTO stocks, to take advantage of the higher prices it would reach, before that normalisation – corruption is not limited to Wall Street).
However, while this shortage was only a minor inconvenience for ME – the practice of farmers growing crops that can be turned into more lucrative FUEL instead of FOOD, has caused HAVOC in Third World countries.
And all of this has been caused by Wall Street commodities speculators, providing fuel – for THEIR F**KING YACHTS.