April 20, 2015
Crisis: Chris Hedges, 442 Experts, Hillary, Alan Grayson, Elizabeth Warren
  "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
   -- Benjamin Franklin
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
   -- I.F. Stone
   "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton


1. Choosing Life
2. 442 Mental Health Experts Call for an End to Austerity
Hillary: a Disaster in the Making
4. Grayson on Money and Politics: "If We Do Nothing, We
     Can Kiss This Country Goodbye"

5. Elizabeth Warren (and David Hume)


This is a Nederlog of Monday, April 20, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about Chris Hedges on veganism and farming; item 2 is about over 400 British psychologists
who demand an end to austerity in England; item 3 is an item about Hillary Clinton (mainly here because it is critical); item 4 is about Alan Grayson; and item 5 is about Elizabeth Warren plus a small update about my progress on
annotating Hume's "Treatise of Human Nature".

1. Choosing Life

The first item today is an article by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:
The affable, soft-spoken dairy farmer stood outside his 70-stall milking barn on his 230-acre family farm. When his father started farming there in 1950 were about 800 dairy farms in New York state’s Orange County. Only 39 survive. Small, traditional farms have been driven out of business by rising real estate prices, genetic manipulation of cows, industrial-scale hormone use that greatly increases milk production, wildly fluctuating milk prices and competition from huge operations that have herds numbering in the thousands.
In fact, this article is about the horrors of industrial farming and the merits of being a vegan, where we will arrive later.

But first, I like to say that in fact I am (in a way) "a real farmer", namely in the double sense that I have worked as a farmer (and liked the work, unlike all other work I did, in spite of its being quite heavy) and also have a diploma as a cattle farmer, from a Norwegian agrarian school, that says I could take over farms and run them, as a farmer's replacement. [1]

In the event, I did not work more than 4 to 5 months in all, and it is long ago (forty years now), but even so: I was a farmer with a farmer's diploma, and was
educated and capable of running Norwegian cattle farms (in the 1970ies).

And I almost entirely agree with Chris Hedges:
I have a deep respect for the hard life of small dairy farmers. They are up at 5 or 6 in the morning for the first milking, work all day and milk the cows again in the late afternoon. This goes on seven days a week. They rarely take vacations. And their finances are precarious.
Precisely - except that in Norway I had to sit under the cow for first milking around 04.00 o'clock (which was one of the hardest things, for I am and was
a real evening person). And the job I was educated for precisely existed in
order to give vacations, rest or help to small farmers, who indeed worked
very hard for a small income. Also, I liked them: The Norwegian farmers I
met were not learned, but they were far from stupid, and also were capable
of many useful things few men learn as well or at all unless they own farms.

Here is how Chris Hedges introduces his vegan theme:
When I was in Minisink recently it was the first time I had been on a dairy farm as a vegan. I do not eat meat. I do not eat eggs. I do not consume dairy products. I no longer accept that cows must be repeatedly impregnated to give us milk, must be separated immediately from their newborns and ultimately must be slaughtered long before the end of their natural lives to produce low-grade hamburger, leather, glue, gelatin and pet food. I can no longer accept calves being raised in horrific conditions before they are killed for the veal industry, developed to profit from the many “useless” males born because dairy farms regularly impregnate cows to ensure continuous milk production.
This is a quite respectable choice, especially if one knows something about present day factory farming, which I agree is quite horrible. But I am also ill and quite poor (I have to live on $10 a day, which severely limits my choices and
possibilities), and it very probably would be impossible or - for me - very costly
to try to live as a vegan. So I do consume some meat and some eggs. I do avoid
dairy products mostly, but this is because they do not agree with me, which is the same reason why I avoid wheat.

There is considerably more in the article, including a long quotation from one of the German murderers who worked in the concentration camp Treblinka during WW II. I do not think myself - whose father survived more than 3 years and 9 months as a political prisoner in German concentration camps, and whose grandfather was murdered there, also as a political prisoner - that is quite fair, because human animals are different from non-human animals, though I agree that factory farming of animals is quite cruel and should be forbidden.

But I leave this to your interests, and merely note some statistics that I did not know, and learned from the article:

There are 9 billion land animals (that is: fish are not counted) killed for food each year in the United States alone, and 70 billion land animals are killed for food each year across the world (which comes to: 10 land animals per human person get killed each year for food). And in the U.S. alone 4.5 million male calves get slaughtered, each year.

2.  442 Mental Health Experts Call for an End to Austerity

The next item is an article by Alexander Reed Kelly on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

Austerity cuts and “neoliberal thinking” among policymakers are having a “profoundly disturbing” effect on Britons’ psychological and emotional well-being, say hundreds of counselors, psychotherapists and academics in a letter to The Guardian.

The letter begins, “The profoundly disturbing psychological and quality-of-life implications of the coalition government’s cuts and policies have yet to be mentioned in the ... campaign [for the May 7 general elections in the U.K.].”

I start with noting this is British (rather than American), and should also note (this appears to be a day for personal things) that I am a psychologist, who also
has lived in England with an English woman (in the early 1970ies, but I did).

Here is part of the letter:

Counsellors and psychotherapists in the public and private sectors find themselves at the coalface in responding to the effects of austerity politics on the emotional state of the nation. The past five years have seen a radical shift in the kinds of issues generating distress in our clients: increasing inequality and outright poverty, families forced to move against their wishes, and, perhaps most important, benefits claimants (including disabled and ill people) and those seeking work being subjected to a quite new, intimidatory kind of disciplinary regime.

Where this includes the linkage of social security benefits to the receipt of “state therapy”, as announced in the chancellor’s latest budget, this is totally unacceptable. “Get to work therapy” is manifestly not therapy at all.

It is very similar in Holland, where I have been over 30 years in the dole, all the time ill, with an illness that is still not recognized, and meeting "people" in bureaucratic positions that I can only fairly and honestly describe as frightful sadists of extremely low intellect. [2]

Here is some more:

More generally, the wider reality of a society thrown completely off balance by the emotional toxicity of neoliberal thinking is affecting Britain in profound ways, the distressing effects of which are often most visible in the therapist’s consulting room. This letter sounds the starting-bell for a broadly based campaign of organisations and professionals against the damage that neoliberalism is doing to the nation’s mental health.

I agree (and I am a - n ill - psychologist), but I also should say I do not expect much from this initiative if the Conservatives win the elections.

3. Hillary: a Disaster in the Making 

The next item is an article by Robert Fantina on Counterpunch:
This starts as follows:
One longs for a candidate for president of the United States possessing those rare traits of statesmanship, honesty and integrity. One looks back in vain to see such an example, and the near and far horizons offer no such hope, either.
Well... the Roosevelts, Lincoln, Jefferson, Washington may not have been perfect,
but no man is perfect, and they were decent presidents, I'd say, judged upon the whole.

Then again, this is a critical piece (which is the only reason it is here, namely to balance the paeans of - faint - praise that are thrown out over Hillary Clinton, whom I indeed do not like) and it is about Hillary:
But on the Democratic side, no less a worthy than Hillary Rodham Clinton, lawyer, former First Lady, former senator, former Secretary of State, has slow-balled her tattered hat into an otherwise empty ring. Her handlers claim, disingenuously, that she expects competition, and a hard-fought primary campaign. Who, one wants to know, is going to take her on? She has a war chest rumored to hold $2.5 billion, more than twice what Republican Mitt Romney and Democrat Barack Obama each spent on their campaigns in 2012; the total is more than their campaign expenditures combined.
There is considerably more there, all of it critical (and I do not agree with all). Here is the last paragraph of the article:
One can generally rely on the Republicans to nominate a worse candidate than the Democrats; one hesitates to say the Democrat is usually better, since we are not operating in a ‘good, better, best’ zone here; far beneath it, unfortunately. But this time around, there may simply be no ‘lesser of two evils’ choice to make. And the U.S. will provide yet another tragedy for the country, and the world.
I also don't quite agree with this. That is, I agree Hillary is not a candidate who fits inside some "‘good, better, best’ zone", and she also is not at all admired by me, but I do believe that - so far, and with her being, as yet, the only Democratic candidate - she is less bad than the awful candidates proposed by the GOP.

But you got a criticism of Hillary Clinton "from the left side".

4. Grayson on Money and Politics: "If We Do Nothing, We Can Kiss This Country Goodbye"

The next item is an article by Amy Goodman that I found on Truth-out (and which appeared originally on Democracy Now!):
I will quote two bits, one about candidates for Congress in general, and one about Alan Grayson (<- Wikipedia). Here is the first bit (and Alan Grayson is speaking):
I'm the only member of the House of Representatives who raised most of his campaign funds in the last election from small contributions of less than $200. (...) I am one - one - out of 435. On the other side of the building, over at the US Senate, there's only one member of the US Senate who raised most of his campaign from some small contributions. That's Bernie Sanders, who you heard earlier in this broadcast. That tells you something. In fact, to a large degree, in both parties, because of the absence of campaign finance reform, the place is bought and paid for.
Yes, indeed. Which also means that the United States is not a democracy anymore. In fact, it is very far from a real democracy, when precisely 2 out of 535 persons got paid for by ordinary people, and the rest is paid by the rich, and works for the rich, since that is what it comes down to, in the end.

And here is Alan Grayson:
(...) if we do nothing, you can kiss this country goodbye. Well, pucker up, because right now the millionaires and the billionaires and the multinational corporations are calling the shots with whatever they want in TPP, whatever they want in fast track - more generally, whatever they want. They get the bailouts. They get the tax breaks. They get the so-called deregulation. They get what they want here because they get what they pay for.
Precisely - and it is both a great shame and a sign of tremendous corruption that
I do not hear anything like this from anyone else in Congress, except from Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

5. Elizabeth Warren (and David Hume)

The last item today is the text of Elizabeth's Warren recent speech, that I first mentioned on April 18. Here it is, in pdf (that is read without difficulty by my recent Firefox 36.01, on Linux):

I have seen the speech again yesterday, and it is indeed a very good, a very important and also - properly considered - a very clear speech. I realize that it may seem a bit "technical" or "economical", which it both indeed is, but then again this is handled and presented very well, and cannot be handled without mentioning some economical and legal facts.

Why is it very important? Because Elizabeth Warren (<- Wikipedia) is both quite competent and almost the only one in the whole Congress of the United States who has clear and practical ideas how and why the enormous economical and
financial mess that exists since 2008 is to be cleaned up.

Here is her five point program as presented in the last paragraph of her speech:

We know what changes we need to make financial markets work better. Strengthen the rules to prevent cheating. Make the cops do their jobs. Cut the banks down to size. Change the tax code to promote more long-term investment. Tackle shadow-banking. The key steps aren’t hard. It just takes political courage and a strong demand from the public to complete the unfinished business of financial reform.

It really was well done, and therefore the text is in the last link, regardless of how few people will read it. And it may be it doesn't make any difference, but
if so, this is not because she did not try, but because most Senators and House members have been bought by the big corporations - for which see item 4.

Finally, I mentioned David Hume, between brackets, and this is a very brief progress report on my writing a long criticism of his "Treatise of Human Nature":

I am now busy with Part IV of Book I, which means that I have annotated the major parts of the first of the three books that together form the Treatise. I will probably finish Part IV within two weeks or so - when I still (also: probably) will not upload it, because I have decided to restate my notes in the form of a book that will be made up from restated summaries of my notes at the end of each Part. These I still have to do. But all in all I made decent progress, so far.


[1] This even had a special title (in Norwegian): Jordbruksavloysar, which means something like "farmer's replacement", and this also was a profession then: I was supposed to take over farms for a brief time, in order to allow the
farmer to take a holiday, go to the hospital etc. Then again, this all refers to
the middle 1970ies, when I lived in Norway, since when things no doubt have changed a lot - but I do have both the experience and the diploma, which are
two things I would not have expected before doing and getting them, and which
are also quite rare for most people who were born and grew up in a city (Amsterdam, in my case).

[2] I will write about the concentration canmp guards who sadistically and intentionally ruined my life and my chances, but probably not before August,
when I will be pensioned and when - if I get sufficient money to survive (!) -
I will at long last be free to say what I think about the very many bureaucratic fascists, terrorists, and scarcely human sadists I met as "a client of the Amsterdam dole" over the course of more than 30 ill years.

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