High Cotton

8 posts / 0 new
Last post
machinehead's picture
machinehead
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Mar 18 2008
Posts: 1077
High Cotton

"Everybody knows the deal is rotten; old black Joe's still pickin' cotton," says Leonard Cohen introducing his song Everybody Knows.

Hell, I'd pick some cotton myself if I had any. It's selling for nigh on $1.20 a pound. Listen to the papers:

Cotton prices touched their highest level since Reconstruction on Friday, as a string of bad harvests and demand from China spark worries of a global shortfall.

December cotton hit $1.1980 a pound minutes after the opening of trading on the ICE (Intercontinental Exchange) on Friday. It is officially the highest price since records began back in 1870 with the creation of the New York Cotton Exchange.

The Mississippi Historical Society has its own records that show cotton was changing hands at $1.89 a pound during the middle of the Civil War, which lasted from 1861 to 1865. In the early stages of the war, the South halted exports in a failed attempt to draw Europe to its defense. Then later, the North imposed a blockade, crippling the South's ability to ship cotton to Europe.

The U.S. was then the largest cotton producer at the time and the halt led to what was dubbed the "cotton famine."

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704300604575554210569885910.html?mod=WSJ_hpp_LEFTWhatsNewsCollection

A Degas painting depicting the post bellum New Orleans Cotton Exchange:

It all reminds me of a conversation between Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara around 1863, as recorded by the immortal Margeret Mitchell:

Life would be pleasanter if Rhett would recant his heresies. "Even if you think such things, why do you say them?" Scarlett scolded. "If you'd just think what you please but keep your mouth shut, everything would be so much nicer."

'That's your system, isn't it, my green-eyed hypocrite?"

"Well -- yes," Scarlett confessed reluctantly. "I do get awfully bored when they talk about the Cause, morning, noon and night."

"There are enough stupid patriots who are risking every cent they have in the blockade and who are going to come out of this war paupers."

"I think you are very nasty to even hint such things when you know very well that England and France are coming in on our side in no time and --"

"Why, Scarlett! You must have been reading a newspaper! I'm surprised at you. Don't do it again. It addles women's brains. ... No, Scarlett, the idea of assistance from abroad is just a newspaper invention to keep up the morale of the South. The Confederacy is doomed.  It's living on its hump now, like the camel, and even the largest of humps aren't inexhaustible. I give myself about six more months of blockading and then I'm through. After that, it will be too risky. And I'll sell my boats to some foolish Englishman who thinks he can slip them through. But one way or the other, it's not bothering me.  I've made money enough, and it's in English banks and in gold. None of this worthless paper for me."

"I think you are vile and mercenary," said Scarlett, but her remark was automatic. Most of what he was saying went over her head, as did any conversation that was not personal. But part of it made sense.

"Mercenary? No, I'm only farsighted. Any loyal Confederate who had a thousand dollars in cash in 1861 could have done what I did, but how few were mercenary enough to take advantage of their opportunities! As for instance, right after Fort Sumter fell and before the blockade was established, I bought up several thousand bales of cotton dirt cheap and ran them to England. They are still there in warehouses in Liverpool. I've never sold them. I'm holding them until the English mills have to have cotton and will give me any price I ask. I wouldn't be surprised if I got a dollar a pound."

"You'll get a dollar a pound when elephants roost in trees!"

"I believe I'll get it. Cotton is at seventy-two cents a pound already. I'm going to be a rich man when this war is over, Scarlett, because I was farsighted -- pardon me, mercenary. I told you once before that there were two times for making big money, one in the upbuilding of a country and the other in its destruction. Slow money on the upbuilding, fast money in the crack-up. Remember my words. Perhaps they may be of use to you some day."

"I do appreciate good advice so much," said Scarlett, with all the sarcasm she could muster. "But I don't need your advice. Do you think Pa is a pauper? He's got all the money I'll ever need and then I have Charles' property besides."

"I imagine the French aristocrats thought practically the same thing until the very moment when they climbed into the tumbrils. Always remember I never do anything without reason and I never give anything without expecting something in return. I always get paid." His black eyes sought her face and traveled to her lips.

"So you always get paid, do you? And what do you expect to get from me?"

"That remains to be seen."

"Well, if you think I'll marry you to pay for this green taffeta bonnet, I won't," she said daringly and gave her head a saucy flirt that set the ostrich plume to bobbing.

His white teeth gleamed under his little mustache. "Madam, you flatter yourself. I do not want to marry you or anyone else. I am not a marrying man."

"Indeed!" she cried, taken aback and now determined that he should take some liberty. "I don't even intend to kiss you, either!"

"Then why is your mouth all pursed up in that ridiculous way?"

"Oh!" she cried as she caught a glimpse of herself and saw that her red lips were indeed in the proper pose for a kiss. "Oh!" she cried again, losing her temper and stamping her foot. "You are the horridest man I have ever seen and I don't care if I never lay eyes on you again!"

A youthful Peggy Mitchell (in a flapper helmet instead of a green taffeta bonnet) in the process of getting herself expelled from Atlanta's Junior League with her floor-scraping Apache dance:

History doesn't record the music they were dancing to, but here's an alternate soundtrack called High Cotton:

agitating prop's picture
agitating prop
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: May 28 2009
Posts: 854
Re: High Cotton

Once, while roaming the streets of Montreal, I came upon a little bronze plaque rivetted into the masonry of an old apartment building. It bore the inscription-- "Leonard Cohen was depressed here"! He's an amazing poet and his dark social commentary, viewed in retrospect has been eerily predictive. 

"Everybody knows that the dice are loaded, everybody rolls with their fingers crossed. Everybody knows that the war is over, everybody knows that the good guys lost. Everybody knows the fight was fixed, the poor stay poor and the rich get rich.

Everybody knows that the boat is leaking, everybody knows that the captain lied. Everybody got this broken feeling like their father or their dog just died."  --Leonard Cohen

This captures the gist of Rhett Butler, Scarlett O'hara dialogue you've transcribed above, too, Mhead. I wonder what a modern day "Gone with the Wind" would look like? Rhett Butler might be under contract to British Petroleum. A  modern Scarlett, might open a meth lab in an attempt to pay off her bills.

Crop failure, climate change, sky rocketing prices, war profiteering. The Cohen style dystopia we find ourselves in can only be off set by someone who understands it only too well...Cohen himself:

1000 Kisses Deep:

 

 

 

 

Full Moon's picture
Full Moon
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 14 2008
Posts: 1258
Re: High Cotton

pssst... save the seeds .

robie robinson's picture
robie robinson
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 25 2009
Posts: 1148
Re: High Cotton

....and don't ley anyone know you got'em... 

pressin sweet sorghum syrup... gonna cook it

 

robie

Full Moon's picture
Full Moon
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 14 2008
Posts: 1258
Re: High Cotton

 Just last night at a cowboy gathering I got to taste fresh pressed molasses ... yummy .

 But while talking I found some farmers who are not drilling wheat this year .  Said not any profit in it . We are the breadbasket of America !  Wow times are interesting .

 

FM

agitating prop's picture
agitating prop
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: May 28 2009
Posts: 854
Re: High Cotton

Time to run, not walk, to your nearest China-mart and git yer frilly knickers, ladies!

Financial Times:

"The surge in cotton prices could end an era of cheaper clothing, popularised by brands such as Zara and H&M, industry executives said. While the impact was likely to be muted on clothes with high mark-ups, such as jeans, it could be more noticeable in budget items such as underwear, they said.

Next, the popular UK-based clothing retailer, shocked competitors last month by warning of price rises of 5-8 per cent next year. “For 2011 we are exploring significant product cost price pressure from around the world,” it said."

 From same article--Addressing the Rhett Butlers of the world, piling onto seductive commodities, like drunken sailors on shore leave:

"A commentator on the China Cotton Association’s website also warned: “Those who are increasing cotton futures are those who hate the country to be peaceful. There will be serious social problems if increasing prices aren’t stopped.”

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/c2835ec6-d880-11df-8e05-00144feabdc0.html?ftca...

 Is it true ICE spokesmen were heard to reply, "Frankly China, we don't give a damn?"Wink

 

 

 

machinehead's picture
machinehead
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Mar 18 2008
Posts: 1077
Re: High Cotton
agitating prop wrote:

Once, while roaming the streets of Montreal, I came upon a little bronze plaque rivetted into the masonry of an old apartment building. It bore the inscription-- "Leonard Cohen was depressed here"! He's an amazing poet and his dark social commentary, viewed in retrospect has been eerily predictive. 

"Everybody knows that the dice are loaded, everybody rolls with their fingers crossed. Everybody knows that the war is over, everybody knows that the good guys lost. Everybody knows the fight was fixed, the poor stay poor and the rich get rich.

Everybody knows that the boat is leaking, everybody knows that the captain lied. Everybody got this broken feeling like their father or their dog just died."  --Leonard Cohen

Some real-world angst lies behind Leonard Cohen's recent tour -- he lost somewhere in the range of $8 to $10 million, ending up (in 2005) with only $150,000 and a multi-million dollar deferred tax bill. He blamed his plight on a girlfriend-manager and an investment advisor who drained his assets. They blamed it on his lavish lifestyle.

After a five-year stint in a Zen Buddhist monastery and various legal distractions, [Cohen] is back on the road: an undertaking that seems to combine his quest for spiritual fulfillment with an effort to regain his financial footing, lost when his former business manager made off with his money while Mr. Cohen was living as a monk on a mountaintop above Los Angeles.

“It was a long, ongoing problem of a disastrous and relentless indifference to my financial situation,” Mr. Cohen said on Friday of the resulting legal proceedings, which awarded him $9.5 million — money he has yet to collect. “I didn’t even know where the bank was.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/25/arts/music/25cohe.html

Many Boomers are going through Cohen's experience of thinking they were set for life, then finding out their assets weren't as bulletproof as they thought.

Leonard Cohen had his talent and his vast song catalog to fall back on. What do the rest of us have? It's a question worth pondering at length.

machinehead's picture
machinehead
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Mar 18 2008
Posts: 1077
Re: High Cotton

Another conversation between Scarlett and Rhett which rings true even today -- Scarlett leads off:

"Money can't buy everything."

"Someone must have told you that. You'd never think of such a platitude all by yourself. What can't it buy?"

 "Oh, well, I don't know -- not happiness or love, anyway."

 "Generally it can. And when it can't, it can buy some of the most remarkable substitutes."

"And have you so much money, Captain Butler?"

"What an ill-bred question, Mrs. Hamilton. I'm surprised. But, yes. For a young man cut off without a shilling in early youth, I've done very well. And I'm sure I'll clean up a million on the blockade."

"Oh, no!"

"Oh, yes!" What most people don't seem to realize is that there is just as much money to be made out of the wreckage of a civilization as from the upbuilding of one."

"And what does all that mean?"

"Your family and my family and everyone here tonight made their money out of changing a wilderness into a civilization. That's empire building. There's good money in empire building. But, there's more in empire wrecking."

 "What empire are you talking about?"

"This empire we're living in -- the South -- the Confederacy -- the Cotton Kingdom -- it's breaking up right under our feet. Only most fools won't see it and take advantage of the situation created by the collapse. I'm making my fortune out of the wreckage."

"Then you really think we're going to get licked?"

"Yes. Why be an ostrich?"

"Oh, dear, it bores me to talk about such like. Don't you ever say pretty things, Captain Butler?"

"Would it please you if I said that your eyes were twin goldfish bowls filled to the brim with the clearest green water and that when the fish swim to the top, as they are doing now,  you are devilishly charming?"

"Oh, I don't like that ... Isn't the music gorgeous? Oh, I could waltz forever! I didn't know I had missed it so!" 

"You are the most beautiful dancer I've ever held in my arms."

"Captain Butler, you must not hold me so tightly. Everybody is looking."

For 'Cotton Kingdom' substitute 'Greenback Kingdom,' and you'll know what I'm thinking. Printing $1 trillion -- or $300 trillion, if you please --  to buy up all the property on earth won't work.

If that were true, Zimbabwe would rule the world. Laughing

 

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Login or Register to post comments