April 26, 2006

With a little help from the pirates!

Sir, with respect to the music industries woes with copyright thieves you very correctly state that “Realistic pricing is a more effective weapon than lawyers – to repel pirates” (April 25). That said your conclusion also points to the importance pirates might have assisting consumers in achieving realistic prices, when confronted by those manmade monopolies known as copyrights.

Is FT on its way to take sides against Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson? My new tune: equality on copyright, April 11.

Sent to FT April 26, 2006

Yes, that is an effective suicide method

Sir, Mr. Marcelo P. Lima is suggesting the US the “Solution - import ethanol from Brazil”, April 26. Yes, that should do it. Planting the whole Amazon with sugar cane, sounds like the mother of all effective suicidal methods that the world could come up with.

April 25, 2006

Another unforeseen consequence

Sir, I do not know whether Marc Levinson included it in his book as one of the “unforeseen consequences” of the container revolution in shipping, April 25, but as this must have reduced quite considerably the time ships stays in port to unload, it must also have impacted negatively that long honored sailor tradition of a girl-in-each-port, which is sad.

Sent to FT, April 25, 2006

April 21, 2006

Do not dare to abandon the fight!

Sir, focusing too much on fighting inequalities might indeed hinder economic growth but that is by a far stretch not a valid reason to “abandon the fight” as Moisés Naím calls for, April 18. Naím, as a Venezuelan, should be aware that it was exactly because society ignored the inequalities that the right conditions were created for that destructive Tsunami that has it currently running totally amok. Today, instead of abandoning the fight what we need is for some good drill sergeants to teach the generals not to interfere with the productive initiatives of the private soldiers, and, when trying to achieve some reasonable distribution of the produced results, that they limit themselves to the use of the strategic weapons of taxing and public spending.

Unfortunately, in too many countries the generals, for political reasons, frequently want to show off as entrepreneurs and good hearted distributors of anticipated spoils of war, and in doing so they most often turn themselves into the greatest promoters of inequalities.

We need so urgently to make certain that the future is equally shared among all that we cannot allow ourselves to be distracted trying to distribute equally the past.

Sent to FT, April 21, 2006

April 20, 2006

Go for an oil consumers' co-operative group

Sir, James Pinkerton suggests that “The world should get ready for a Nato-style oil alliance” (April 20), and although he makes it implicit that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries is the “enemy, he does not really explain what the alliance should be up to. Let me make three suggestions. First, forget about the NATO simile - too militaristic - and go for a simple Oil Consumer Co-operative. Second, the OCC should then start some serious introspection so as to realize that its biggest enemy, unchecked oil demand, is thriving behind their own lines. Finally it should look seriously into the alternative of offering the oil producing nations long-term supply and purchases agreements based on prices that are reasonable for both sides.

For instance if the price offered on a 50 years arrangement was 40 dollars per barrel, with adjustment for inflation, plus or minus 50% of the difference with the spot market, this would provide the producers with a floor of 30 when the spot hits 10 dollars, and conversely “only” charge consumers 70 when the spot rises to 100 dollars. Such an arrangement would not only stimulate new oil investments but also keep the hawks (those who love the NATO part) from trying their solutions, as wars mostly tend to erupt while fighting over bargains, like oil priced at its marginal extraction cost.

April 18, 2006

Oil does not have to be that volatile

Sir, in your leader of April 17 you mentioned important ways for achieving fuel security, but failed to include the use of long term contracts between consumers and producers. If for instance nations entered into 40 years binding purchase and supply agreements, at a price of 40 dollars per barrel plus or minus 50% of the difference to the market spot price, this would provide the producers with a floor of 30 if the spot price hits 10, and conversely “only” charge consumers 70 dollars if the spot rises to 100 dollars. Such arrangements would stimulate new investments in oil since let us not forget that there are no real reassurances that oil prices, because of an oversupply created by too much investments, or economic recessions, could not dive again below those ten dollars per barrel that so many pundits predicted in early 1998.

Unfortunately it would seem that there are many economic interests in maintaining the volatility of oil for these stabilizing long term contracts to come into fruition.

Sent to FT, April 18, 2006

April 07, 2006

'American Union' passports could work

Published in FT, April 10, 2006

Sir, It is sad in today’s globalized world to still find so many local Americans who believe that when they ship a criminal band member over the border, to someone much less resourceful, they have gotten rid of their problem.

In this respect, Jacob Weisberg, ("Immigration ideas bordering on perverse”, April 6), aghast with the current ideas on immigration law reform in the US, proposes not passing any reforms but to keep going as if nothing’s happening.

Another more transparent route would be to bite the bullet and accept that an “American Union” between North and Central America already exists, de-facto, and issue a common passport for all the citizens of the enlarged American Union.

Such a strategy would make it possible for many of the over 11 million illegal immigrants that dare not leave the US because they do not know whether they can later return, to be freed from their (also de-facto) mother of all jails, and go home, even on a temporary basis.

It would also help to realize that had the US spent an Iraq-war sized budget assisting Central America, as the European Union did with Spain and others, the whole immigration debate could have been a moot issue, with exception perhaps of all the aging baby boomers moving south to find care and services.

Finally, the fact is that when you see how all the Central Americans toil away in the US and help their families back home, you have to ask yourself whether this is not just part of the process whereby the US manages to renew its working and family ethics, in order to remain strong.