who can give up essential
liberty to obtain a little temporary
safety, deserve neither liberty
-- Benjamin Franklin
"All governments lie and nothing
say should be believed."
"Power tends to corrupt, and
absolute power corrupts
absolutely. Great men
almost always bad men."
1. A Haven From the Animal
2. The Greek Coup: Liquidity
as a Weapon of Coercion
3. Postcapitalism: A Guide to
Our Future by Paul Mason
review – engagingly
written, but confused
Every One, A Basic Income? Yes! Radical
About Fixing Inequality
This is a Nederlog of Monday August 3, 2015.
This is a crisis
blog. There are 4 items with 4 dotted links: Item 1
is about an article by Chris Hedges on farming (and I do have a diploma
that qualified me as a cattle-farmer, in Norway, so I felt a bit more
addressed than many); item 2 is about a very
fine article by Ellen Brown on what is wrong with modern banking; item 3 is about an article on The Guardian that
criticizes an article of Paul Mason that I earlier reviewed, also
critically; and item 4 is about an article about an
English economist, who favors Thomas Paine's basic income, which does
seem a sound idea to me.
I also should say that I feel a bit better now than I did before the
last two days, and that I like the first two items, the first in part
because I once was a farmer with a farming diploma; the
second mostly because it is a very good and quite clear article you
should read all of.
A Haven From the
article of today
is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:
This starts as follows -
and perhaps I should give A Full Disclosure, also because I am a bit
proud of it: I am (well: I was) a real diplomaed catttle farmer
There are mornings when
Susie Coston, walking up to the gate of this bucolic farm in her rubber
boots, finds crates of pigs, sheep, chickens, goats, geese or turkeys
on the dirt road. Sometimes there are notes with the crates letting her
know that the animals are sick or injured. The animals, often barely
able to stand when taken from the crates, have been rescued from huge
industrial or factory farms by activists.
The crates are delivered
anonymously under the cover of darkness. This is because those who
liberate animals from factory farms are considered terrorists under
U.S. law. If caught, they can get a 10-year prison term and a $250,000
fine under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act.
Indeed, that is thoroughly
insane, and it also shows that the system of justice that prevails
in the U.S. is arbitrary, crude and cruel, and serves the rich and
their myths quite willingly, and does so in sadistic
ways: everybody who disagrees with the rich is blamed as a terrorist
("war on terrorism"), while anybody - and especially blacks - who gets
arrested with marijuana gets incarcerated for many years ("war on
drugs"). Also, the punishments for many crimes are barbarous (and
very different from what they were in the 1970ies).
As Hedges says (and
as I mostly agree):
Yes. You may reply this
mixes standards, which is true, but then these standards are also
applied by the U.S. government and its courts, that lock up
more U.S. inhabitants than anywhere else, and that do so - or so it
seems - because those who are incarcerated can be forced to work for 70
cents a day (!!), which gives the corporations exploiting them enormous
Only in the insanity of
corporate America can nonviolent animal rights activists be charged as
terrorists while a white supremacist who gunned down African-Americans
in a South Carolina church is charged on criminal counts. Only in the
insanity of America can Wall Street financers implode the global
economy through massive acts of fraud, causing widespread suffering,
and be rewarded with trillions of dollars in government bailouts. Only
in the insanity of America can government leaders wage wars that are
defined as criminal acts of aggression under international law and then
remain, unchallenged, in positions of power and influence. All this
makes no sense in an open society. But it makes perfect sense in our
species of corporate totalitarianism, in which life, especially the
life of the vulnerable, is expendable and corporate profit alone is
protected and sanctified as the highest good.
And it seems to me Chris Hedges is simply right when he blames "corporate profit" as the sole good and the main motive that drives all
this cruelty and sadism - for that is what institutionalized factory
farming is: a way to maximize profit by institutionalized sadism,
cruelty and neglect.
There is also
this, on some major side effects of cattle farming:
sends more greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere than worldwide
transportation. The waste and flatulence from livestock are responsible
for creating at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide per year,
or 51 percent of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. Livestock
causes 65 percent of all emissions of anthropogenic nitrous oxide, a
greenhouse gas 296 times more destructive than carbon dioxide. Crops
raised to feed livestock consume 56 percent of the water used in the
United States. Seventy percent of the crops we grow in the U.S. are fed
to animals. Eighty percent of the world’s soy crop is fed to animals.
It is a flagrant waste of precious and diminishing resources. It takes
1,000 gallons of water to produce one gallon of milk.
To be sure, I do not
know for sure all the numbers are correct, but they do roughly
correspond to some of the numbers I learned in 1977, for then there
also was some ecological concern, perhaps because it was Norway. 
Sofar I have been in broad agreement with Chris Hedges, but I get a bit
queasy when he comes to write about farmers who rescue some of the
victims of factory farming. Hedges reports them as saying things like
“Every animal [at
the farm] has a different personality, every animal has a name, all
have health records,” she went on as we walked to a barn that held
rescued pigs. “We are saying they are as important as any other
No, I am sorry - and I
have been a farmer, and I did treat the animals in my care well. But
they did not have "personalities" and
they were not "as
important as any other individual” (such as myself and my girlfriend,
for example), and to say
they do have personalities and are as important as any other individual
seems to me to claim far more knowledge than one has.
For I did not see much of a personality
in the animals I cared for: they had different temperaments,
and most were quite nice and quite patient most of the time, but communication
and understanding were quite difficult, even with the cat we
raised from a kitten and that we both loved and cared for: it could not
Besides (and I take it that is the case for all farmers), we really
spent too litttle time with most animals to grow any enduring
liking and understanding, for in fact you don't see any specific cow,
sheep or pig for more than a very short while each and every
day, and a considerable part of the time you see them you are not
occupied with them, specifically, but with cleaning away the
shit all produced, or giving food to all of them. And most of the 24
hours you simply did not see the animals the farm depended on. 
Finally, here is the ending of Chris Hedges' article, who quotes a
"To me, being
vegan is about trying to live as kindly as possible. That includes how
we relate to nonhuman animals, as well as to human animals, as well as
to the planet. It’s about creating mutually beneficial relationships,
instead of abusive and exploitive relationships.”
Well... yes and no.
First, about vegans.
The reasons given for veganism seem to be rather like those of the
philosophical poet and vegetarian Percy Bysshe
Shelley (who died in 1822) and I respect them. But I never got to
be a vegan, and one reason is that I like meat, and another reason is
that I know all animals that do not live on plants live
on other animals, that they generally have to kill, which may
happen in very cruel (if not intended) ways.
Second, about "nonhuman animals, as well as to human animals". I know I am an animal, as are all
other humans. But even so, I look quite differently on humans than on
other animals, and the basic reason is that I can talk with humans, and
I cannot talk with any other animal. Also, human beings are far
more developed in terms of ideas, technologies and culture than any
(other) animal species. And while you can look upon this from quite a
few different perspectives, there is a sound reason why the human
animal is the boss over all other animals: it is more
clever, it uses language, it developed culture.
Third, about "creating mutually beneficial relationships". Really now?! The reason for almost
any pig, any sheep and any cow's existence is that their existence is profitable.
Very few of the billions of cows, sheep and goat would
have existed without human intervention (and indeed most of the cows
get born by artificial insemination). So what you should say to any
animal like a pig that you keep as a farmer is something like: You are
here to get slaughtered and eaten (by me or others), but meanwhile
let's pretend it is in both our interests that I keep you locked up,
feed you on a schedule, and kill you when you are still young?!
No, it isn't. I
thoroughly agree with Chris Hedges that factory farming is
cruel and sadistic; I can understand most of the reasons for veganism;
and I insist that my girlfriend and I treated the animals we were to
care for as well as we could, as indeed I think animals ought
to be treated, but the end of farming is profit (which is - I
agree - a motive that is driven to insanity by factory farmers) and the
means of cattle farming are - if human beings are animals - animalistic:
we subject the weaker to the more clever, as indeed happens throughout
nature, where the strong either eat plants or eat other animals.
2. The Greek Coup: Liquidity as a Weapon of
The next article is by Ellen Brown (<-
Wikipedia) on Truthdig (and before on her Web of Debt):
This starts as follows:
Yes, indeed. And no,
there are no legal or moral arguments for this (other than of a
Donald Trump like quality, to the effect that a man like him can
exploit anyone because he is a superior man).
“My father made him an
offer he couldn’t refuse. Luca Brasi held a gun to his head and my
father assured him that either his brains, or his signature, would be
on the contract.”
— The Godfather (1972)
In the modern global
banking system, all banks need a credit line with the central bank in
order to be part of the payments system. Choking off that credit line
was a form of blackmail the Greek government couldn’t refuse.
Former Greek finance
minister Yanis Varoufakis is now being charged
with treason for exploring the possibility of an alternative
payment system in the event of a Greek exit from the euro. The irony of it all was underscored
by Raúl Ilargi Meijer, who opined in a July 27th blog:
The fact that these
things were taken into consideration doesn’t mean Syriza was planning a
coup . . . . If you want a coup, look instead at the Troika having
wrestled control over Greek domestic finances. That’s a coup if you
ever saw one.
Let’s have an
independent commission look into how on earth it is possible that a
cabal of unelected movers and shakers gets full control over the entire
financial structure of a democratically elected eurozone member
government. By all means, let’s see the legal arguments for this.
There are essentially three lines of argument in the article, which is
very good. I will not quote the line about the bureaucratic bullshit of
Mario Draghi, for which you have to click the last dotted link. The two
other arguments are about the electronic liquidity that came in the
place of gold, and a run-down of the steps that were used to submit the
Here is the liquidity argument (which we owe to Richard Nixon, as we do
the professional US army):
1971, this “settlement asset” was gold. Later, it became electronic
“settlement balances” or “reserves” maintained at the central bank.
Today, when money travels by check from Bank A to Bank B, the central
bank settles the transfer simply by adjusting the banks’ respective
reserve balances, subtracting from one and adding to the other.
Checks continue to fly
back and forth all day. If a bank’s reserve account comes up short at
the end of the day, the central bank treats it as an automatic
overdraft in the bank’s reserve account, effectively lending the bank
the money in the form of electronic “liquidity” until the overdraft can
be cleared. The bank can cure the deficit by attracting new deposits or
by borrowing from another bank with excess reserves; and if the whole
system is short of reserves, the central bank creates more to maintain
the liquidity of the system.
Note that this is a thoroughly
crazy schema: First, there is no external standard of any
kind: all there is are 1s and 0s in electronic bank accounts; and
second central banks are free to create money as needed, again
without any external standard.
And here is a survey
of the steps that were used to submit the Greeks:
Were liquidity and
insolvency problems intentionally generated in Greece’s case, as Tankus
suggests? Let’s review.
First there was the
derivatives scheme sold
to Greece by Goldman Sachs in 2001, which nearly doubled the nation’s debt by 2005.
Then there was the
bank-induced credit crisis of 2008, when the
ECB coerced Greece to bail out its insolvent private banks,
throwing the country itself into bankruptcy.
This was followed in late
2009 by the intentional
overstatement of Greece’s debt by a Eurostat agent who was later
tried criminally for it, triggering the first bailout and accompanying
The Greek prime minister
was later replaced with an unelected technocrat, former governor of the
Bank of Greece and later vice president of the ECB, who refused
a debt restructuring and instead oversaw a second massive bailout
and further austerity measures. An estimated
90% of the bailout money went right back into the coffers of the
In December 2014, Goldman
Sachs warned the Greek Parliament that central bank liquidity could
be cut off if the Syriza Party were elected. When it was elected in
January, the ECB made good on the threat, cutting bank liquidity to a
When Prime Minister
Tsipras called a public referendum in July at which the voters rejected
the brutal austerity being imposed on them, the ECB shuttered the banks.
So there we are:
Fundamentally, a handful of mostly unelected moral degenerares
that make up "the Troika" (engineered by the American bank Goldman
Sachs) forced the Greeks into austerity, and then accused them
of "spending too much", so as to force still more austerity on
Here is the ending of
As Canadian Prime
Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King warned in 1935:
Once a nation parts
with the control of its currency and credit,
it matters not who makes the nation’s laws. Usury, once in control,
will wreck any nation.
For a nation to regain
control of its currency and credit, it needs a central bank with a
mandate to serve the interests of the nation. Banking should be a
public utility, serving the economy and the people.
Yes, indeed. And what
hope is there? I have very little hope, though I am fairly certain that
no system of greed and exploitation of the many by the few rich can
But this is a very
good article, that you should read all of.
Guide to Our Future by Paul Mason review
– engagingly written, but confused
The next article is by Chris
Mullin on The Guardian:
To start with, this article is
here because I reviewed a previous
article on The Guardian by Paul Mason himself about his new book,
that I started as follows:
I have done my best, and have read it all, but
little decent rational argumentation, amidst a lot of utopian thinking,
and a few more or less factual bits.
The present article starts
as follows (and refers to what I called "utopian thinking"):
Well... the end may be
nigh, but to argue that it will come around 2050 because of the
cycles of waves that are supposed to move capitalism is indeed utopian,
i.e. devoid of any realistic foundation.
At a time when, despite
the occasional hiccup, market forces appear to be triumphant
everywhere, up pops Channel 4’s economics editor, Paul Mason, to
predict that the end is nigh. Capitalism, says Mason, citing an obscure
early 20th-century Russian economist, runs in approximately 50-year
cycles or waves. The fourth wave came to a spectacular end with the
financial crisis of 2008. We are now embarking on the fifth and final
one, which, on past performance, is due to crash somewhere around 2050.
There is considerably more in the article, which was written by a
former Labour MP, whom I also don't agree with, but it is the type of
reaction I do agree with:
Mr Mason has basically only utopian ideas and very thin prescriptions,
to have reasoned that since he won't be there in 2050 he can
make a decent amount of money 35 years earlier (while no one
ever succeeded in fairly predicting what society would be like in 25
years), namely by pretending to be able to predict it, and indeed that
seems quite true, I mean that he was fairly certain he could make money
of it now.
I don't begrudge him the money, but I don't believe his predictions.
Every One, A Basic Income? Yes! Radical Ideas About
The last article
of today is by Lynn Stuart Parramore on AlterNet:
This starts with the following
explanation, as the rest of the article is a rendition of an interview:
That settles the background. I
will give just two quotes. The first is about the idea of a basic
income, that is in fact quite old:
Tony Atkinson has been studying inequality — the gap in income and
wealth between the top and the bottom — for nearly half a century. Now
that the dogma of trickle-down has been exposed as myth, he sees
economists, policy-makers and the public finally waking up to the
seriousness of the problem. But how to fix it? In his new book, Inequality:
What Can Be Done? Atkinson focuses on ambitious
proposals that could shift the distribution of income in developed
countries. This post was originally published on the blog of the Institute for New Economic Thinking.
The basic income
is very close to the idea Thomas Paine put forward in the 1790s.
(Paine’s proposal, by the way, is on the website of the U.S.
Social Security Administration.) That proposal is something that I and
many others think is really interesting, which is that everyone, on
reaching the age of 18 or so, should receive a capital payment. It
would be like a negative capital tax. That idea was also proposed years
ago in America by Bruce Ackerman, a professor of law at Yale.
I like it and for the argument
of the principle, you can indeed consult Thomas Paine, whose text
(rather than in the link provided), and one reason I like it is that
this will offset the very unfair advantage children of the rich
get through being rich.
The other quotation is about the massive amounts of goodness
and honesty and equality that Thatcher, and Major, and Blair, and
Brown, and Cameron brought to the British:
I think it’s very
important to distinguish here between distribution of incomes and
distribution of wealth. On incomes, there’s very little dispute. There
is no doubt that income inequality in Britain today is very
significantly higher than it was a generation ago. The Gini
coefficient, which is used to measure it, is some ten percentage points
higher than it was in the 1970s. And that’s a very big increase. It
took us from being a country like the Netherlands or France to being a
country like the United States in terms of inequality.
As I said: The British owe
this to the concerted efforts of Thatcher,
and Major, and Blair, and Brown, and Cameron. And their own stupidity
or greed, of course, for they elected these obvious frauds and thieves.
 This is quite true, but it is also quite old, for
the diploma is from 1977 and is a Norwegian one, and most of the work
for it was done, also in Norway, in 1975. The reason to list it here is
that I am (or at least: was) a qualified cattle farmer,
diplomaed as fit to run a Norwegian cattle farm, which is something extremely
few persons like me, who grew up in a city as the son of proletarians,
and who was smart enough to go to a university, where he got one of the
best diplomas as an M.A. that were ever awarded in psychology, have
Also, it was unexpected for me, as was the fact that I liked
farming (although it was quite hard work) and (Norwegian) farmers, unlike
all the exceedingly boring and meaningless office-work I had done. It
also changed some of my values, though I never got to be a vegan (as I
will try to explain).
Finally, I should also say that this is the diploma I am proudest of,
although I got it easily: it was a real diploma, that formally
qualified me for doing work I considered quite sensible (unless
all the other work I have done) and that I liked doing, and that I had
worked hard for to get it, though the work required was physical rather
It is a better diploma than my academic ones, because the
academic ones only opened the way to a - very much better endowed - fundamentally
fraudulent academic career (or as an equally fraudulent health care
There are at least two reasons why Norway was a bit different. First,
although it still was in part an agricultural society, it
turned out that it had enormous supplies of oil (from
the part of the seas the Norwegians claim), which rather suddenly had
made it the richest or one of the richest countries in the world (in
part also because it doesn't have many inhabitants (a little over 5
million in 2013). Second, in the 1970ies one of the most well-known
Norwegians was professor Arne Naess, who had by then developed from a
thorough skeptic into an ecosophical (his term) prophet, who strongly
supported many radical ecological ideas, and whose influence under the
university-educated Norwegians was considerable. It is by now too late
for me (it is 40 years ago) to quantify the differences, but
they were both there, were easy to see for whoever read the
leading Norwegian papers, and were also both totally absent
from Holland. (The Dutch had some gas, but far less in value than the
Norwegian oil, while no Dutch philosophy professor ever got famous or
well-known, quite deservedly so, also).
Note that all of this paragraph is simple common sense: When
you care as a human being, probably with your wife, for 25 cows, 20
sheep, 2 pigs, 1 bull, 2 cats, and 4 dogs, every day, all year (and
this really was the minimum to survive on, 40 years ago), even
when you are the kindest of farmers, you in fact spend little
time per animal, and even if they were to speak as well as you do, you
would not have time to make much of any "personal relation".