August 13, 2011

Freedom, Responsibility, and Material Equality


This is adapted from a comment this morning on this thread at Naked Capitalism, because it goes to what we’ve been discussing here lately.

What happened next was extraordinary. The belief that citizens had to pay for the mistakes of a financial monopoly, that an entire nation must be taxed to pay off private debts was shattered, transforming the relationship between citizens and their political institutions and eventually driving Iceland’s leaders to the side of their constituents.

This, I would suggest, is real liberty at work. And it is probably an early example of what I expect will become an increasingly political debate, rather than a managerialist debate, about the direction of developed economies.

(Actually, the last I heard Iceland’s Leaders still wanted to go along with the neoliberal game plan, but the people were simply refusing. It was a stand-off, since Iceland’s consciousness still hasn’t yet advanced to the point of dispensing with Leadership completely. That post is from over a year ago, but I haven’t heard that anything’s changed.)
This is certainly a debate which will need to begin. This has long been nothing but politics, but there’s been no debate, just a unilateral assault by the rich and big corporations on the people, those who actually work, on civil society, on democracy, and on all freedom. This means the assault has been upon politics itself, to abolish it and replace it with direct administrative rule on behalf of corporations (globalization cadres like the WTO and IMF), wherever the corporations don’t exercise direct dictatorship.
The market ideology is simple: Only the rich and big corporate persons exist at all as citizens or even as human beings. They have infinite rights and zero responsibilities or risks.
Meanwhile human beings, except insofar as they have sufficient money, are not citizens or human at all, have zero rights, but do have infinite responsibilities to respect the prerogatives of their overlords. (The piece itself implicitly agrees, as we see with its drive-by attack on the uprising. More lies about alleged responsibilities of the poor to “society”. I’d say they have responsibilities to their own communities, and to their fellow impoverished elsewhere, but to nothing and no one else. Everyone else is simply part of a massive crime wave against them.)
The truth is the opposite. Freedom can exist only among peers. Being peers includes rough material equality. By definition it’s impossible for freedom, contracts, etc. to exist wherever there’s a significant material or other power differential. If you’re on the wrong side of such a differential, you’re already disenfranchised and dispossessed. You’ve already had your freedom and citizenship stolen, and probably far more. You’ve already been stripped of your rightful society (this was at the core of the Greek political concept of tyranny: the tyrant was one who usurped the entire political realm by setting himself above others and making political peer relations impossible). You certainly can’t have responsibilities to things that don’t exist. And you certainly cannot have rights under such conditions.
So why not live up to our human responsibilities, our responsibilities to ourselves, our friends and families, our communities, our lost democracy, by asserting our right outside this criminal system, and wherever possible against it? Toward it and all who support it, indeed, we should mirror its purely mercenary policy.

June 10, 2010

Eurozone Lethal Zone


An update on the latest stage of the crash in the tottering Eurozone. Over the past week the calls for calm were throttled into incoherency by new waves of bad news. Redolent of Greece last fall, Hungary announced that its impending budget deficits will be worse than expected. This resounded ominously among the similarly precarious budgetary perches throughout Eastern Europe. It’s unclear how exposed Austrian banks are. (By which I mean, whether they’re far more insolvent than we previously thought. Of course, all the banks are insolvent.)
Meanwhile Ireland, already deeply enmeshed in bailouts and “austerity”, indicated that its own ongoing bailout will soon need another bailout. But all of us who scoffed at there being any such thing as a final, sustainable Greek bailout were of course just being silly, right?
The Greek and Icelandic protestors who are in combat against embarking upon the bailout-austerity path in the first place are now proven correct. They saw what happened to Latvia, how the austerity immolation is burning the people alive while the bailout helped the banksters only. Now they see the same thing playing out in Ireland. Keep fighting.
Meanwhile the speculators, the finance terrorists, are extending their attacks from the Mediterranean countries to Belgium and France itself. Suddenly all “safe havens” other than the dollar itself don’t look so safe.
The response among the Eurozone’s stronger ( a relative term) economies looks to be pre-emptive austerity. Germany and the UK have announced the usual package of cuts in public sector jobs and spending. They’ve made the usual failure to announce any “sacrifice” on the part of the banks or the rich whatsoever.
Meanwhile Timmy Geithner of all people was in Europe to suggest that the trade surplus countries should NOT be thinking about austerity and what in the US would be called “fiscal responsibility”, that is gutting public spending in order to benefit the banks. Instead they should forget about deficits for now and focus on increasing domestic consumption.
Needless to say Timmy’s not becoming a born-again Keynesian. Rather, as he thrashes about looking for a way out of Bailout America’s debtor predicament, one of the mutually contradictory things he wants is to correct “trade imbalances”, and that would mean Europe imports more from the US. Trade imbalance of course means lowering the US trade deficit. So the euro has to become stronger relative to the dollar, which seems like it shouldn’t be so hard given the Fed’s churning out of free money to the banks and the US treasury’s continued profligate borrowing. But then in the same breath Geithner also wants the Chinese to stop “manipulating” the renminbi, by which he means they should let the Fed’s currency manipulation prevail to the point that the dollar strengthens vs. the renminbi. But how devalued can a currency get? The Fed already wants Goldman’s and JPM’s borrowing costs to be zero or better. The “primary dealer” banks actually lend the money they borrow from the Fed to the Treasury at a higher rate; they’re thus being paid by the government to borrow from the government. (Since, as MMT demonstrates, the currency is public property, if the Fed prints the currency it’s by definition part of the government. Having the Fed exist at all is simply adding unnecessary complexity for the purpose of enabling bank looting. It’s obvious from the public interest point of view the Treasury should directly issue the currency.)
So how can any of that work? Ask Timmy. It’s a complete mystery to sane people. Meanwhile, in spite of the Fed’s and Treasury’s heroic efforts to destroy the dollar, it’s still even now the last resort of for the markets, the last “safe” haven. Therefore try as they might they can’t weaken it enough against other currencies.
Prior to the crisis the EU was close to being in trade balance, and that’s the course Geithner was trying to convince them to maintain. But instead they’re starting to bail out on the Bailout, each man looking out for himself.
To Geithner’s pleadings, Merkel responded, “NEIN!” The Germans are trying to break free of the external round of bailouts (where they’re expected to dig deeper as bailout creditors, even as Geithner wants them to stop being such immense trade creditors; the contradictions abound), while they of course try to continue to bail out their domestic finance sector, and do it all while scapegoating those nasty spendthrift deadbeat “PIIGS”. But Germany has been so much in surplus and the Mediterranean economies so much in debt because the Eurozone strait jacket relatively devalued the euro in France and Germany while overvaluing it in the South. That can no longer hold. Therefore Merkel also shouted, “ACHTUNG! AUSTERITY!” It turns out she wants the German people to have to pay after all. Just, instead of being liquidated to directly bail out the Greek rich and indirectly bail out the German and French banks, they’re to be liquidated to directly bail out the German banks. I wonder how many German teabaggers will fall for that one? So far election polls and results look somewhat better than in Bailout America. Merkel’s neoliberal coalition’s being rejected.
At the same time French prime minister Sarkozy was heard to chirp happily, “I see only good news in parity between the euro and the dollar”. (Which is too much for the Germans, not wanting that much of a euro devaluation; thus we see more daylight between tottering France and the relatively stronger Germany. But don’t worry, in the end every debt domino will fall.) ECB honcho Trichet is mouthing the party line of deficit terrorists everywhere, we must give the markets what they may someday want, much lower deficits.
For everyone it’s going to be “beggar thy neighbor”, try to make him go into debt and not you. (Why this moral slogan? Funny how capitalism and “free markets” are supposed to be so dispassionate and “rational”, except where the game is going against a player. Then it’s suddenly immoral. How dare you try to beggar thy neighbor! Don’t you know we’re all in the same boat?)
As I’ve written, the system’s reaching the limits of what the Bailout can do by itself. The bailout’s unsustainability is now manifest, as mass defaults are imminent at every fractal level. As always, the entire bubble wants to deflate, and gravity becomes ever more insistent as more bailout weight is added to the agglomeration of debt. Perhaps in most places (but not in the US, alas) we’re at the political limits of the Bailout as well.
That’s why they’re moving on to the next step, “austerity”. They already foreclosed and repossessed your car. Now they’re going to directly mug you for what’s in your wallet. That’s also the purely economic reason (as opposed to any Peak Oil reason) why “free trade” will have to break down. It was always a scam to benefit the elites only, but now those elites will have to start throwing one another overboard, beggaring their neighbors.
But all of this can be swept away at any moment if the whole Tower of Babel simply crashes down all at once. That’s a possibility, and who knows what will trigger it. But whatever happens, our journey into the post-debt, post-oil age has commenced, and we should be preparing. That’s why I hope we in America look to a new convention.
As for Europe, they better look to their nation-states where relevant, and in most cases to their medieval cities. Because the ridiculous “European Union” sure won’t be making the trip with us.

June 2, 2010

Beyond the Freedom Flotilla: Neoliberal Assault (2 of 2)


Outside the US tabloid media zone the world remains transfixed by the horror of the Israeli government’s murderous act of piracy and its ongoing holding of the boats it hijacked and hundreds of hostages kidnapped on the high seas.
As I said in my previous two posts on this, I think this act had a dual purpose. Israel’s specific, proximate goal was of course to enforce its illegal blockade. But the lengths of aggression and piracy (even technically to acts of war) to which it was willing to go, and the nature of the blockade itself, which the Israelis have openly admitted is intended not to achieve practical security goals but to punish the people of Gaza, demonstrate that this government’s mindset goes beyond any reality-based goal, and is really trying to enforce total domination for its own sake wherever these criminals believe their power prerogative extends.
In the end, as always with totalitarians, the true crime isn’t the proximate allegation, which in this case the Israelis can’t even get straight. (That the humanitarianism of the mission was bogus? But they have all the cargo now; they’ve had it for two days. The fact that they can’t even plausibly try to plant contraband proves the complete innocence of the cargo.)
No, as always with such thugs, the true crime is defiance itself. Sure enough, the Israelis sound the most outraged when they simply sputter that the Flotilla was a “provocation”. Yes, indeed it was, and was meant to be. It was meant to challenge Israel’s illegal and illegitimate blockade as such. It was meant to challenge this tyrannical arrogation of power, an arrogation based not on authority or law, both of which on the contrary it flouts, but on brute force. The mission was the same as the eternal mission of all decent people who challenge tyranny. And just as they challenge tyranny on principle, so tyranny seeks to prop itself up on its own anti-principle, which is simply the lust for power and greed for phony wealth itself.
Which brings us to the larger significance of this act. On a global scale a great crime is progressing. The criminals seek to condemn ever more people to permanent impoverishment and servitude. The goal of the global finance elite and its flunkey governments is the restoration of feudalism itself, not only across the Global South but throughout the West itself.
I’ll give a quick recap.
1. As capitalism matured it should, according to reality and to its own textbooks, have seen profits fall to marginal levels. There should be very little profit left in the economy by now. Instead, the entire economy should have long since been functioning smoothly and efficiently, with sufficient goods and services in every sector, while government largely shrunk as it would have little role to play as economic arbiter. There would be rough equality of wealth and power distribution, little wealth and power concentration. Democracy would become steadily more healthy and strong.
This is how capitalism was supposed to function. This is what its promoters always promised. This is what would have happened, if every word hadn’t always been a lie.
2. In the reality of greed fundamentalism, elites were never textbook capitalists but always gangsters. No one ever wanted to be a capitalist. No one ever wanted to compete and innovate. They wanted to concentrate wealth and power, period.
As capitalism reached its terminal profit crisis in the latter 20th century, the power elites resolved to deploy an ever more aggressive command economy. They’d use the power of government to substitute extorted and stolen rents for their diminishing “capitalist” profits.
Globalization and financialization comprised the campaign of oligopoly capitalism to prop itself up while stringing along the Western middle classes. They substituted debt for production while obscuring the assault on all public amenities and power. Real wages have steadily eroded since the 70s while wealth concentration has exponentially risen. (That juxtaposition right there is a basic metric of robbery.) The system attacked unions on every political and “legal” level. Social Security has been steadily undermined via ploys like the rigging of inflation metrics (to fraudulently depress COLA increases). Other entitlements have been similarly eroded. Globalization’s open border for unskilled labor provides the basic force of gravitation for all wages, while outsourcing and offshoring destroyed many mid-level jobs completely, forcing and ever greater number  of workers into the undifferentiated unskilled mass. (The system did somewhat protect most kinds of professionals for a long time, but now that’s been eroding for many as well.) Walmartization provides a kind of linchpin, the direct conduit for addicting ex-citizens to cheap consumerism while directly destroying self-proprietors and middle class jobs in general, along with the communities anchored by the people who held such jobs.
In this way the temporary “middle class”, fueled by debt and cheap oil, had the carpet slowly pulled out from under it. Meanwhile the basic unproductivity of the Western system was covered up by bubbles, culminating in the housing bubble (itself fueled propagandistically by the Big Lie that you should rely on your house to provide for your retirement, not any other pension; this nicely provided cover while public entitlements and private pensions were gradually being subverted).
3. The crash of 2007-8 was the beginning of the collapse of this final bubble. No bubble could any longer be sustained on just propaganda. Now the command economy had to take a direct, very heavy hand. Thus we’ve had the advent of the Bailout and a new level of the disaster capitalist rampage, since the global economy is now nothing but an ongoing disaster, and the criminals have no outlets left but to drive disaster ever harder in order to extract profits from it.
In the new regimes, Bailout America and the Bailout Eurozone, all government policy (not just monetary, not just fiscal, but all policy) is now predicated on massive redistribution of public wealth to the banksters. The mechanisms have been too many and varied for me to recapitulate them here, but I and many others have written about them many times.
But this Bailout can’t be propped up forever. How long will anyone keep buying dollars? The bonds of indebted countries? Everyone knows these are all ponzi schemes. So in the end the Bailout itself must succumb to the same diminishing returns on “confidence” which did in the “regular” debt economy. Again the bubble must collapse. Reality wants to deflate.
4. So the next step is liquidation. It’s the good old “structural adjustment”. The old odious debt which the criminal West used to inflict such suffering on non-industrialized economies is now being brought home to the Western middle classes themselves. Today the term of art is “austerity”.
The fact that the “conventional wisdom” (to paraphrase Voltaire, it’s neither “conventional” nor “wise”, but manufactured propaganda intended to whitewash crime) is now that of the deficit terrorists, that the message is “the markets don’t really fear inflation now but might fear it in the future, so governments should act in obedience to this hypothetical future fear”, means the finance vanguard thinks the end is in sight for what free money can do for them, and that in order to continue their extractions they’ll have to move into more direct class warfare. It’ll no longer be sufficient to simply gut the interest returns for savers on pensions; now the pensions themselves must be directly stolen.
In the Baltics, in Eastern Europe, now intended for Greece,  now intended for Iceland, and next up Spain, Portugal, Italy, Ireland, and soon after the UK, and soon after that the US itself, the non-rich will have their wages, salaries, and pensions liquidated (i.e. stolen) while all public property is privatized (i.e. stolen).
Even as you take home ever less in pay and see all prospects for paying for any kind of emergency, illness, or retirement become hopeless, at the same moment you’ll find yourself having to pay ever more extortionate tolls for anything and everything which used to be provided by the fabric of society itself. Driving on any road, receiving any government service, police, fire, calling 911 itself, are just examples of everyday critical extortions we’ll face.
Even basic health care will become completely unaffordable (and this at the same time that the system intends to collect Obama’s fascist insurance mandate for a worthless piece of paper), all public parks will be fee-generating private parks, libraries will cease to exist altogether, all environmental, health, consumer, and safety regulations will be removed. Access to the courts themselves will be restricted to the rich. Even the poll tax may be reinstated (although by now at least at the federal level the vote is so meaningless they might not bother with that one).
Anyone who doubts the malevolent intentions of Obama and the US kleptocracy on this score needs to learn about Obama’s “deficit commission”. This Star Chamber is dedicated to achieving what Bush failed to do, privatize Social Security. (Thus Obama hopes to outdo his predecessor in consummating the heritage of their shared hero, Reagan.) Pete Peterson and the Washington Post have led the call to bring the full force of “austerity” to America. Obama is simpatico with this goal. With his extralegal and anti-democratic commission he hopes to achieve this and far more. The ultimate goal is to strip all government spending except on corporate welfare, war, and the police state. (Although both war and the police state are being privatized as well.)
5. So that sums it up, where we are today. The gangster elite intends to reinstate feudalism, with all of us reduced to the literal serfdom of debt. As our debts become utterly impossible to ever pay, we’ll be indentured in various ways, become sharecroppers at every kind of job, and debt prison under hideous chain gang conditions will be applied as a constant threat to anyone who doesn’t meekly comply with his servitude, since we’ll all be convicts anyway in one big country-wide debtor prison.
But there’s an obvious alternative to all this. We debtors and cash cows can simply overthrow the debt at will. We can impose the debt jubilee from the bottom up. (That’s the same debt liquidation “our” governments would have allowed to naturally transpire in 2008 the way the real market wanted it to, if these really were our governments and not irrevocably rogue kleptocracies.)
The kleptocracy must expect real resistance at some point. This isn’t like the 60s, which was basically political protest against political crime on the part of the system. It was epiphenomenal. Today the struggle is far more elemental. It’s a zero sum fight to the death at the socioeconomic core. This is end game for neoliberalism and corporatism – totalitarianism of total collapse of their wealth and power. Liquidation of the people, or liquidation of their own power.      
So however repulsively meek the American people have been so far and perhaps will be in the future, the elites don’t expect things to be so easy everywhere else. In Iceland and Greece especially we’re seeing some will to resist the gangsters. We can expect protest and resistance of many sorts to become stronger and to see people fight back with ever greater resolve, if the people can ever develop a real consciousness of the crimes which afflict them, and the morale of the struggle which feeds on struggle itself.
Conversely, the criminals must want to strangle the very thought of resistance in its cradle. A few well-placed blows could sufficiently demoralize people that they’d more pliantly submit to their fate. This is part of the classical shock doctrine. It’s worked before in specific countries like Chile. Today it has to work on a global scale.
If we put the murderous assault on the Flotilla in that context, it looks like a rather clumsy attempt to provide such an object lesson. It’s clumsy because Israel’s so hated that outrage over its crimes seems to be one of the few things that can reconcile many peoples and governments. Indeed it’s consistently been used as a divide-and-conquer astroturfing tactic by every Arab government. It’s also clumsy because much like the Wall Street banks, Israel itself can exist in this form only through welfare handed out by the US government. Israel’s gratuitous crimes, which the despicable Obama must now stand isolated to defend, add yet another burden to the already absurdly overextended US government commitment. Once again we see how the best thing we have going for us is the tactical incompetence of the system thugs.
So we’ll have to expect the gangsters to become ever more violent and tyrannical as they try to tighten their feudal grip. Throughout history it’s always been this way, and the end of the oil age, the end of the exponential debt age, portend the most vicious reaction yet. The restoration of feudal organization in the form of debt slavery can only be accomplished through a combination of extreme violence and extreme slavishness on the part of the victims. Shock treatment means, among other things, applying the former to enforce the latter.
So the Israeli pirates weren’t just firing literal shots into the boats, but a far more profound metaphorical shot across the bow of the much larger Freedom Flotilla in prospect, all over the world. The killers hope that if they demoralize us pre-emptively, they won’t have to board us on the high seas of history at all. They’ll board us in our docile ports, at our jobs, in our unemployment, in our homes, in our thoughts.
So that’s the way we need to see this, and this is the propaganda and action of terrorism we must never allow to defeat us. Another flotilla has already embarked for Gaza. Everywhere, let’s put our own ships to sea.

May 24, 2010

Transparency vs. Kleptocracy (BP, oil spills, Wikileaks)


Over the last 24 hours the oil eruptions at the Deepwater Horizon volcano seem to have been escalating. Live blogging of the event seems to have observed several new eruptions and a major deterioration of the size of the crater. Observers say this may be the result of bursts of natural gas popping out through the chronic oil flow, further dislodging the structure, opening the wound wider, enabling the flow to accelerate. It’s probably not a coincidence that BP, while denying that anything new had happened, simultaneously announced it was delaying the “top kill” operation, its latest cockamamie scheme to stanch the flow, for at least a day.
Looking at it from the point of view of the big picture, it’s definitely no coincidence that on the same day we learn that since the first explosion Obama has rushed to approve further environmental waivers for his Drill Baby Drill offensive in the Gulf. They’re terminally committed to these crimes and will see them through to the end. (Though it seems to me this can’t even be called disaster capitalism. At least for the moment real wealth is being destroyed across the board, even for the criminals themselves. But even then they remain committed.)
It’s no coincidence that even with the belated live feed, and even before the new eruptions, it’s so hard even at this late date to gauge how much oil is actually hemorrhaging. This isn’t because the technology capable of giving an accurate measure wasn’t available right from the start (it is), but because BP refused to allow reality-based measures for public consumption even though this information is public property. (The imprecise live feed we have now was grudgingly allowed only under extreme political duress.) And because Obama is just a sniveling little corporate flunkey, he has meekly obeyed whatever BP’s Hayward has demanded of him. (Of course Obama’s not unique in this; by now all establishment politicians are such flunkeys, though perhaps they’re not all such wretched bootlicks by nature and preference the way he is.)
For a good example of BP occupation of what’s supposedly American sovereign space, including deputization of American government personnel, see this video showing Coast Guard personnel acting as privatized thugs, openly saying they’re under BP orders to drive off reporters. This is one example of how the US government is allowing a rootless multinational corporation to simply temporarily annex at will United States territory. Apparently wherever it considers necessary to its interests, BP simply declares “we hold the power and dictate the conditions.”
(It sure puts the old constitutional debates about sovereignty in perspective, doesn’t it? The American Revolutionaries and Framers seem not to have contemplated private corporations who have infinite rights and zero responsibilities or restrictions. Nor did the later debates over secession encompass these rogue “persons”. That’s just a glimpse of a line of thought I’ll develop further in later posts.)
There are so many aspects of this disaster to compel our focus – the destruction of whole fishing and tourist industries, the environmental havoc (god only knows the reverberations – for example, I read somewhere about what a critical point the Louisiana wetlands are for vast bird migrations, headed all over the northern and southern continents; if those wetlands are destroyed, the chaotic reverb could be astronomical), the implications for oil supply and energy consumption, all the same issues of neoliberalism, corporatism, and kleptocracy we encounter at every other turn.
Today I’ll just stick with the transparency issue. There are many aspects of criminal dereliction on the part of government which were kept secret as long as possible. The MMS has systematically refused to regulate, but on the contrary saw its real job as to make the permitting process as frictionless as possible, while enabling the greatest flow of taxpayer money to Big Oil’s treasure hoard. It flat out refused to perform inspections. And now following the explosion Obama has done all he can to help protect BP’s secrets, like how much oil is flooding into our gulf, and how much damage it’s causing. We just saw the deputized Coast Guard doing its part.
It sounds like this might be a job for Wikileaks. Clearly the Obama administration would fear and hate anyone who could publicize this or any other corporate/government (kleptocratic) information. Obama and Cheney are simpatico on that. That’s why, just like all criminal governments, the Obama government fears and hates Wikileaks.
As Glenn Greenwald detailed in this good primer, Wikileaks has long been a bane to the Pentagon in particular, culminating in its release of the infamous “Collateral Murder” video. But all governments hate it and have been stepping up their harassment. Most recently, founder Julian Assange of Australia had his passport temporarily confiscated on the grounds of its worn and torn condition. This was obviously nothing but intimidation on the part of the Australian government. They see Wikileaks as an enemy because it released a list of websites to be banned under the new Australian censorship policy. The list, including many political sites (and now Wikileaks itself), proved that the alleged censorship target (child porn) is really nothing but a pretext for censoring purely political content, public interest and therefore anti-government.
That particular incident is like a morality play revealing the bad intent of government, how it wants to censor all information in its own interest and the interest of corporations, and how heroic are the efforts of the few dedicated transparency activists like Assange and his colleagues at Wikileaks. (Needless to say, the MSM has largely abdicated, and plays the role of stenographer for kleptocracy far more than anything else.)
Here’s how Assange sees his mission, according to what he told Greenwald:

This information has reform potential. And the information which is concealed or suppressed is concealed or suppressed because the people who know it best understand that it has the ability to reform. So they engage in work to prevent that reform . . . .

There are reasons I do it that have to do with wanting to reform civilization, and selectively targeting information will do that — understanding that quality information is what every decision is based on, and all the decisions taken together is what “civilization” is, so if you want to improve civilization, you have to remove some of the basic constraints, which is the quality of information that civilization has at its disposal to make decisions. Of course, there’s a personal psychology to it, that I enjoy crushing bastards, I like a good challenge, so do a lot of the other people involved in WikiLeaks. We like the challenge.

It’s no coincidence that Assange has made Iceland one of his four “bases” and has been spending a lot of time there, given how one of the ways in which the people of Iceland are trying to fight back is their idea of turning Iceland into a transparency haven. This would be a great boon to efforts like Wikileaks and hopefully many more.
When we compare the magnitude of kleptocracy with such a small, threadbare yet courageous web outfit, we see the potential of Internet democracy and the decentralization of power, through the dissolving of top-down information monopolies.
Of course there are Internet fascists as well. The likes of Mark Zuckerburg, Scott McNealy, and Larry Ellison take brown-shirt pride in sneering at individual privacy, saying there is no such thing, and that the very idea should be under total assault. But the truth is the exact opposite. It’s power, either corporate or government, which has no right to secrecy, since all power and wealth (all sovereignty) comes from and remains the property of the people, even if it’s been temporarily stolen.
Stolen. That sums it up. Government is now kleptocracy. All the rationales for secrecy are clearly false. There are no longer “national security” issues. National security is meaningful only to the extent that the keeping of a secret is really necessary to defend against some level of existential threat. America isn’t under any existential threat whatsoever. The “war on terror” is a fraud on its face, since terrorism is and can be nothing more than a nuisance. It can certainly never do anywhere near as much damage as BP or Goldman Sachs, let alone Smithfield or Monsanto. It’s well known that jihad isn’t intrinsically attractive to the Muslim on the street, but that only the US’s imperial aggression itself drives this will to fight. As I’ve previously written, the Global War on Terror, really a corporate looting project, counts on riling up enough resistance to it to justify its continued existence.

So it’s terminologically sound to call it a war on “terror”, precisely because terror is merely a tactic of the weak trying to fight back vs. America’s pointless endless bullying aggression, while the war on terror is simply this aggression seizing upon the resistance to itself to further justify itself. As we know, the main driver of terrorism is the American presence in these countries, so the self-feeding aggression creates the very rationale used to sanctify it.

So it’s a lie that the security of the country itself, or even the continued existence of the power structure, depends upon secrecy. On the contrary, all top-concentrated power is soon to unravel, soon to collapse and decentralize and simplify anyway, thanks to Peak Oil and the debt collapse. Keeping Peak Oil and the real state of Wall Street’s balance sheets a secret isn’t going to save them. Maybe just delay the inevitable for a few days.
Soon to collapse, delaying the inevitable. That sums it up. All policy and propaganda is now intended to prop up power for its own sake. Why did the Bailout do nothing to reform the finance sector or bolster Main Street? Why is there no real finance reform bill or jobs program? Why is no one from Wall Street in prison? Because the system’s one and only priority in all things is to prop up the parasite rackets.
Parasite rackets. Here’s another point about secrecy. The government has been oh so solicitous about the “proprietary information” of the likes of BP, or the control of the banks’ reputational information which would be so adversely affected if we knew how much taxpayer money the Fed had shoveled out via its “facilities”, and to whom. But this is all a lie.
Again, Peak Oil renders moot most economic information about the exponential debt tower. But even without Peak Oil, most if not all sectors are mature by now. Finance and fossil fuels definitely are. There is no longer any “innovation” among these rackets such that we need this kind of secrecy regime. In these sectors there’s no reason for private enterprise to exist other than perhaps as a hired contractor, but never as a patent/information rentier. Indeed, their own neoclassical economic ideology says there should be full market information, and in a mature sector there’s no information which doesn’t belong in the public domain. This information does “want to be free”. It’s true that those who first promulgated that ideology were mostly thieves and totalitarians who really wanted to empower corporate information monopolies (just as the hacks of the “Efficient Market Hypothesis” could always find exceptions to justify every corporate patent or secret.)
But the idea is true if you turn it upside down. Bottom-up information – that of our individual private lives, as well as bona fide innovations thought up by truly independent creators and entrepreneurs – is of course private property.
But by definition all top-down information, all information generated out of a corporate-government nexus which is completely dependent upon the wealth and power generated by the people themselves, which is rightfully nothing but an ornament or appendage of the people’s sovereignty, all of this information belongs to the public. It came from the bottom up in the first place and is now only being recycled.
The explosion of the oil volcano should put everything in perspective for us. Today the very planet bleeds poison, a catastrophe tracking and magnifying the economic and political hemorrhage of the Bailout, as well as all the other leeches applied by kleptocracy.
One weapon we have, if we fight to deploy it, is to seize control of the information which is our rightful property, which has been rendered another object of theft. Wikileaks is one point of light, and if Iceland follows through that’s another. What we the people can do is shine our own spotlight on this stage where freedom activists like Assange try to present our information to us. We can be vigilant about the intimidation they face and try to force acknowledgment of the missionaries themselves and the dangers they face into the broader public consciousness, even in their corporate media.
Most of all the obligation of a citizen is to be educated and to act upon this information. Whether one judges that the right response is to go to the streets, or to vow to vote None of the Above in all federal elections, or to Move Your Money, or to get involved in relocalization and sustainability initiatives, or to become a writer or some other kind of activist oneself, any or all of these and many others, however you respond, the call of the age does demand a response.
There can no longer be any compromise between freedom and tyranny, between the citizen and the kleptocrat. We’re entering the End Game.

May 14, 2010

The Battle Lines


The rain taps out a melancholy march.
The skies smooth out to a flattened gray.
The road of day now opens with lament,
Straining out its sad song upon the world,
Demanding an overdue destiny,
Compelling our souls to march along.
The road of the rain is a passive path,
We only need blink and the world is drowned……
The small points of light amid the sea of darkness, the lonely calls to resistance like in Greece, are the only light by which it’s possible to see any hope for humanity. The Greek bailout is a new evolution of the Bailout, as it must become ever more aggressive to propagate itself.
Here we see the exact same battle lines which are so clear in Bailout America replicated on the stage of the great globe itself. The battlefront in the hominid civil war is stark.
We have the kleptocracy – the big banks, all other corporate rackets, all Western governments, and the rootless globalization cabals like the IMF and the EU which never had any authority or legitimacy even in theory, all of these basing their strength upon the financialization of all economy and politics.
This financialization assault, nothing other than the modern form of criminal looting, is upon humanity itself, upon all peoples, all taxpayers, all workers, upon all real, productive economic activity, upon all human politics, all democracy, all true freedom.
The gangsters fight to: 1. loot; 2. prop up the exponential debt tower. Each stage in the Bailout serves only these two goals, while supplementary campaigns like the “war on terror”, the “war on drugs”, and the general assault on civil liberties, are intended to shore up government power as it has to eventually become overtly tyrannical and violent to keep the Bailout going.
Basically, the elites want to loot as much as they can on a personal basis for as long as they can keep the debt system zombified. They know the debt system is doomed to collapse, and probably sooner rather than later, which is the reason for the brazenness of the robbery (“bonuses” and such) which seems so politically stupid . They know they have no political future, so normal political calculations are a moot point. Soon only violence will suffice for them. They know they have no economic future, so it’s time to get while the getting’s good.
Since it’s becoming impossible for the kleptocracy to keep stealing while pretending to maintain any sort of semblance of human society, we’re now reaching the point of the more direct liquidation of the people. All public programs, pensions, health care, all social spending and public property, are targeted for conversion to bank property, and then through laundering and “bonus” looting, to the personal property of the banksters and their minions. That’s the purpose of “austerity” in the Baltics, in Iceland (so far rejected by the people), now in Greece, soon in Portugal, Spain, Ireland. Soon in the UK. And in Bailout America, as we see with the growing chorus in the MSM and among corporate academics and intellectuals, “entitlements”, Social Security and Medicare, are the main target for liquidation and conversion to private bankster property. This is Obama’s great goal, his great “I Have A Nightmare”, his great tribute to his ultimate hero Ronald Reagan.
As we see, the very existence of a “middle class” was nothing but a tactical concession on the part of monopoly finance corporatism. Just like with the Bolsheviks and their NEP (New Economic Policy) and the ephemeral middle class this allowed to arise, so the Western “capitalist” middle class was meant to be temporary and was despised every step of the way. It is now being liquidated, as was always the intended eventual goal.
Our very governments no longer exist, having been hijacked by finance. A “government” which sees its only allowed activities to be borrowing, privatizing public property, and police state repression, which will only ever tax in order to directly steal from the poor to give to the rich (as we see with the growing calls in Bailout America for tax increases on the non-rich only, like a VAT), is no longer a government in any legitimate sense. By definition kleptocracy has no legitimacy or authority, and its “power” is based only upon violence and the threat of violence. Meanwhile rootless globalist cabals like the IMF, the EU, the WTO, NAFTA and planned assaults in the Americas like the SPP and the FTAA, are not states or governments even by any theoretical measure, but rather unelected, purely unaccountable, authoritarian bureaucracies, ruling not through any legitimate political procedure but through bureaucratic decree. They have their closest analogue in a lawless administrative dead zone like the Nazis’ General Government of Poland (where all the crimes of a place like Auschwitz were not technically illegal at all).
(Speaking of illegality, just like how in the US the TARP and the rest of the Bailout were technically illegal according to the PCA law, which requires the resolution of all insolvent banks including so-called TBTFs, so things like EU “facilities” to launder bailouts for Austrian and Swedish banks through EU “loans” to debt slaves like Hungary, Romania, and Latvia are illegal according to the no-bailout rules of the EU treaty.
So that should put in the proper perspective today’s calls in Bailout America for “resolution authority” or No-Bailout promises. These are always lies, and anyone who proposes either is always a liar.)
Democracy itself has been abstracted by sleight of hand. We should grab the con man, turn him upside down and SHAKE HIM until our freedom, and our national wealth, fall back out of his pocket.
We see how we’ve come either to the end of politics and freedom, or back to the beginning. The original beginning where the choice can be to submit to violence and tyranny, to lash out blindly with inchoate destruction in return, or to find anew the real political genius of humanity, our real political heritage, its basis in covenant and principle.
This is the end of the fossil fuel age. The real economy, always bound by the limits of nature, will never again be so profligate as it was during the fossil fuel blip, really an outlier on the chart of history. The normal course of economy and history shall resume.
This is the end of exponential debt and “growth”. The finance economy, in spite of its lies and delusions, was also completely dependent upon endlessly growing supplies of cheap energy. But even if we disregard Peak Oil, debt and growth weren’t sustainable on their own. This was proven in 2008, as the biggest, best bubble attempt the system could inflate blew up on its own, and since then they’ve been able to do nothing, and have literally no ideas, but to try to keep this terminal bubble as inflated as possible as long as possible. But as we see with Greece and from there the EU in general, this reflation attempt is doomed, and everybody knows it.
Normal history and economic production shall resume. But does this mean normal feudal political relations, serfdom and slavery, must again prevail as well? Or can the spirit of the American Revolution, so long despised, rejected, ignored, neglected, traduced, and hijacked, also resume?
As we return to history, we can, if we choose, if we muster the will, carry with us some piece of political progress. As we return to civilization’s normal economic level we can maintain political and economic rights. We don’t need feudal political organization.
But for that Peak Oil by itself, as a force of history, isn’t enough. While freedom activists cannot directly challenge the kleptocracy while it remains intact, we can indirectly subvert it through relocalizing our politics and economies as much as possible, through becoming as self-reliant (as individuals, families, and communities) as possible, and through preparing to seize the coming opportunity of exponential debt collapse. That will be the great moment of decision, where the fragments of elite power will seek to fully refeudalize. That’s when relocalization will have to become militant, if it wants to build new democracies, new vistas of freedom.

April 30, 2010

Signal Lanterns

Filed under: American Revolution, Freedom — Tags: , , , , , , — Russ @ 12:55 am


A few weeks ago, April 18-19, was the anniversary of Lexington and Concord and Paul Revere’s legendary midnight ride. I didn’t think of it at the time, preoccupied as I was with stuff like the SEC and Goldman. But I intend to pay closer attention to these august dates from our lost revolution in the future.
It’s literally true that Paul Revere’s ride is a legendary matter. Throughout American history there have been many Reveres. There was the original story of the “wounded innocence” of 1775, the province of all who were forced by fate into the crucible of war and revolution. (Though when the participants were getting their story straight they rejected Revere’s own deposition because he wouldn’t swear to the alleged fact that the British fired first at Lexington, and he alluded too much to the patriots’ prior preparations for exactly such a British march, which planning tended to contradict the wounded innocence contention.)
The story of the heroism of the midnight ride and the signal lanterns was the folklore of Boston right from those first heady days. The legend grew though the first half of the 19th century. Then came the Civil War, and with it Longfellow’s immortal tale of the lone hero with his ringing call to a nation to fight for its freedom. It was carefully tailored to resonate with a public being fired up for war, and at the same time to flatter the already prominent American legend of the hardy, self-reliant man of action. The story had spectacular success from its publication in January 1861, and this has been the base of the legend ever since, while further hagiography as well as debunking built upon (or chipped away at) this base. Thus we’ve seen the martial “Colonel Revere” of proud imperial days, and Esther Forbes’ “simple artizan” [sic] of 1942, the common man who rose to the occasion, and even the capitalist-soldier of the Cold War, as well as the relatively playful satirical treatment of Revere and other patriotic-affiliated figures following the pointless horror of the Great War, or the far more angry debunkers of the Vietnam and Watergate era (some of them going so far as to claim the midnight ride never took place, or that Revere was drunk as he rode, or that he was a  snitch). And so on into modern times where between structural depictions of the social forces of history and “political correctness” Revere and his midnight ride have often disappeared completely.
While we can dismiss shallow liberal “correctness” with the level of respect it deserves, we are forced to recognize the power of history itself and its economic and social currents. Today especially we’re buffeted amid a vast turbulence of forces. So far as I can see the readers of this blog agree that the global financialized debt system is doomed and must collapse of its own weight, and also that there’s little even a large mass of the peasantry, let alone a few lonely denizens of the blogosphere, can do to affect the way these forces play out and the tempo of their doing so.
Where does this leave the people and events of our legends? Whether we take the legend of a lone midnight rider (or a handful of riders if you include Dawes and Prescott, who are the only other well-known names) and wounded innocence which spontaneously rose and fought back at Lexington and Concord, or whether we go with the more accurate story of a several dozen messengers acting out a well-laid plan which culminated in the vigorous resolution of the fight, either way it’s still just a relative handful of people.
Did history have greater space for contingency and small-scale agency back then? Was that too a casualty of the industrial age, the oil age, the age of masses, and by today nothing can any longer be contingent, and no one, not even among the powerful, can be an agent?
And then there’s the question of whether today’s events ever still concentrate such pivotal significance into such a small space, in terms of time, geography, and the number of actors engaged. If instead we expand the idea to just look for the metaphorical Lexington event, which could serve to fire the will to fight of millions, or if we go further and seek to envision the discrete moment which could signal the final breaking of the exponential finance and Bailout wave, it’s still hard to imagine. 
What can today be the equivalent of a General Gage marching upon Lexington? The latest and most exciting event has been the SEC’s filing against Goldman, which has indeed excited everyone to the point that we see speculation everywhere on whether this is the breaking point for Goldman, or even the turning of the tide against Wall Street itself. Almost as pregnant with portent is the looming European debt default unwind, which may roll up the EU itself, with incalculable consequences. We still have zombie Dubai, still extending and pretending. And providing eschatological backdrop as well as threatening economic devastation itself, we have the eruption of Iceland. Can any of these really provide the non-linear break? We’ll rightly keep doubting until the moment it happens, and probably for some time afterward, just as the newspapermen who witnessed the first Kitty Hawk flight said “that’s nice” and went home thinking, “that was a neat trick, whatever they were really doing”, and it was days before what had happened really sunk in. 
When I think of the early days of the crisis the date 9/29 still leaps out at me. I remember writing it on the cover of the notebook I started in August. On 9/29/08 I wrote, “Sarajevo”. It was the day the first TARP vote rejected it. Of course we know what happened next, and by now I don’t say that date was particularly important. But at the time it struck me as a critical moment in the crisis. I thought they might actually have to start letting the whole thing unravel right then and there. But of course that didn’t happen, then.
Can there really be such a day? Can there be Marches of the Regulars and midnight rides? And even if there still could be, could there again be a response? Can the Minuteman spirit ever reawaken?
Well, that’s just some musings when I thought about the old days. Paul Revere struck me because his legend has been so resilient and evocative for so long for so many. Like I said, I don’t know if they even teach him in school anymore. But should we ever be able to seize upon events, it would be of great use to have the legends to help render them familiar. Not just Revere (who’s really just an example here, but a good one) but the entire heritage is waiting and wanting to do real work once again. It wonders, How was our Revolution lost?
So I just wrote this as some notes and suggestions for further thought. Maybe it doesn’t make a lot of sense, or maybe it’ll give people something to think about. We seem to have unfathomable time (meaning simply that we have zero idea if the zombie starts toppling tomorrow or five years from now or anytime in between) and not a huge number of options for what to do with it at the moment.
Oh well, another strange gizmo for the toolbox.

April 20, 2010

What if the Volcano Erupts Forever?


Watching animation of the ash dispersal from the Eyjaffjollajokull volcano is mesmerizing. The chaotic turbulence seems an apt image for the chaos spreading over the world today. The last three times this volcano erupted it triggered a greater eruption by its neighbor Katla. These are synchronized parts of a system. The greater eruption may come within the week.
I wonder if anyone’s trying to generate a similar graphic to depict the turbulence of the bailout; the now zombified, insolvent, yet ever more intense global finance casino, the Tower of Debt Babel becoming more top heavy by the day even as it totters more dynamically.
More and more criminal energy keeps being pumped into the system, accompanied by more and more fear, despair, and rage on the part of the victimized peoples of the planet. Non-linear jumps are inevitable.
This volcano, arising in Iceland of all places, the one place where people are showing any sign at all of being willing to fight back and say No, seems eerily symbolic.
If I were a mystic I’d think it’s no coincidence at all…..
By now we’re so used to the pulse of globalization and its mechanisms like cheap, on-demand air travel that it seems an odd interlude for so many planes to be grounded. (My fellow Naked Capitalism readers are familiar with how Yves Smith has been trapped in England for days now.) It’s especially unfathomable and infuriating that there’s no easy way to cast political blame for a volcano, though some are trying, and of course everyone’s looking for how to turn it into a scam. The system being what it is, the airlines are already whining for a bailout. The response to yet another shot across the bow from the uncanny orb itself is to try to build the Debt Tower higher, add another layer to the pyramid scheme, double down and compound the crime.
The system has literally zero ideas beyond theft by now. The hubris of kleptocracy has become extraordinary. Since the Greek meltdown has transfixed all us  perplexed commentators, we’ve grasped at the imagery and morality tales of Greek mythology. Today the story of Icarus seems apropos. Full of irrational exuberance, Icarus defied his father’s warnings and flew too close to the sun, which melted the wax of his wings and sent him plummeting into the sea.
Today the planes want to fly into the ash. Every flier wants to fly ever higher into what he thinks is the sun of infinite greed and power satiety. As Lloyd Blankfein and others have said, they consider themselves gods. But they are not. They’re louts and thugs who managed to strap on the artificial wings of cheap oil and a phony economy based on a fictive fiat dollar and exponential debt. That sun toward which they fly, into which they want to drag us all, is actually their hell on earth. But it shall be the furnace of their own immolation.
Just as a flight of fancy (though no more fanciful than the flight plan of infinite globalization itself), we can see the volcano as a parable. The flight gods now rescind our wings, which took us too close to the sun.
We face the impending economic and energy descent into the Second Great Depression, this one permanent by our measure of time. If this is to be what most would experience as a new Dark Age, what might be the effect of a physical blast out of Katla? A new, quickly-descending physical, literal Dark Age, including the mass failure of crops and subsequent famine? Yet this would not be a wild card, like the asteroid which mortally wounded the dinosaurs. It would just be an acceleration of everything that’s fated anyway by Peak Oil. The failure of globalization, of industrial agriculture, of consumerism, and the acceleration of every pathology, and of the system’s eventual collapse.
What if the planes were grounded forever? We see how the system’s already pushing back against reality. They’re already saying European transportation ministries overreacted and should lift the restrictions. Everyone was too hysterical about the threat of the ash. That you can fly through it just fine. Let the “free market” do its thing. There go those pointy-headed safety freaks again. All the same arguments which have worked out so well with the finance sector, and at every single other point they were deployed against reason, common sense, and reality.
But just as a thought experiment, what if the planes were grounded forever right now? The reality is that they will eventually be grounded forever, and any grounding today only lessens the finite number of flights left in our future. Man cannot fly forever on renewable energy and biofuels. You can’t have cheap globalized flight without cheap fossil fuels. As the oil depletes and becomes impossible to extract except at prohibitive costs, we’ll face a choice about flight. We can allow “essential” flight to continue. In practice this will mean elites, the rich, and the military get to fly, while the rest of us are permanently grounded. This particular technological stratification will be a stark milestone on the road to our impending enslavement, as we look up in wonder at the alien things in the sky in the same way a South Seas islander once did.
We’re already enshrining our own version of cargo cults, as we keep absurd faith in things like consumerism, what the elites call “capitalism”, the “ownership society”, the monetized version of the “American dream”, even as these have been proven to be Big Lies. So we may even tolerate the dear, slave-extracted oil being used to power luxury jets that hop among fortified elite compounds while we grovel in the mud. So far that’s been our response to things.
Or, we can make the choice, find the resolve, to say the oil, like every other resource, belongs to we the people, and we’re going to take it back to use for the public good. In the unlikely event of such morality and wisdom prevailing, we will indeed ground the planes as a stupid luxury which under corporatism produces almost nothing but generates enormous waste and pathology.
The reality is that the fossil fuel economy will be grounded. Financialization will be grounded. All the volcanoes are rumbling. The only one we’re not sure about is the political volcano. There too, only in Iceland have we felt some slight shaking of the earth.
Meanwhile the whole airline fiasco is being derided as yet another EU failure. Just as they thought they could have their monetary union cake but eat their sovereign fiscal policies too, so it turns out their parochial transportation ministries don’t know how to coordinate responses to things like volcanoes. Following the eruption it took five days for the ministries of the whole gaggle of countries to even get together. After the disparate, nationally based responses to the financial crisis, to the Georgian war, and the feckless pseudo-coping with Greece, this is yet more evidence of the absurdity of “Europe” as an entity and as a concept.
Once again I’m reminded of how the “EU” like every other aspect of globalization and financialization, is in itself a bubble phenomenon. It looks good and functions well only on the upswing, only when things are going well. But the moment things go wrong, having to mark it to market becomes a disaster.
(And with something like a volcano, there’s no craven FASB to cave in and let you cook the books. You fly the plane or you don’t.)
And what about that Greek bailout? After all the tedium and angst of the protracted negotiations toward a bailout, everyone has concluded almost immediately that this bailout won’t work. Greece may still default in 2010, 2011 at the latest. And the wobble in Portugal’s debt tower is becoming more pronouced.
(At Zero Hedge they joked that the Greeks should still sell islands like Santorini. There’s another volcano, which leveled the Minoan civilization at Thera and gave rise to the legend of Atlantis. So where to for today’s Atlantis? It’s the same flagitious pseudo-civilization, the same crime and depravity as in the original legend. Once again we see how symbolic this volcano is.)
One last rumble which some are claiming (or hoping) to detect is that the SEC’s suit against Goldman will open the floodgates of a general offensive against this particular hedge fund, and against the whole compass of the TBTFs. Since Friday several other actions against Goldman have commenced. We’ll see what happens.
My position has long been that on the longer, more ponderous curve, this is the downslope of fossil fuel globalization and the financialized pseudo-economy, and the pseudo-civilization which by now is a diseased vestige. But politically there’s no linear reform curve here. The only linear political curve heads down as well – to neo-feudalism, neo-medievalism, serfdom.
Only a non-linear political break, seizing an opportunity opened up by some stumble along the vaster economic curve, can flip the political trend over to a different strange attractor. The two attractors are fascism or revolution (I take solace in the fact that either way corporate liberals are doomed). By “revolution” I mean the people transforming themselves back into a true constitution the way we once were, when we still lived according to the values of freedom, justice, morality, and community. The great volcano of the age already casts its pall over modern “civilization”, which was really just an oil- and debt-fueled blip. All that must choke and die.
But it’s our choice whether we die with it, or whether we use the surge and winds of our own spiritual volcano to loft us above the ashes of the burning neoliberal world, where we can again soar the currents and breathe the clear, bracing air of our redeemed humanity.
They flew into their false sun of greed, war, destruction, despair. But they and their gaslight sun will now crash to the inexorable earth. Will we fall with them? Or shall we seek the old, and what can again be the new, light? Humanity never had a sunset, only a light blotted by the smog of crime. Our sun can still be rising, if we rise to meet that dawn. It’s a choice of volcanoes.

March 7, 2010

New Icelandic Sagas


It’s a good moment in Iceland, as voters overwhelmingly rejected the bailout assault their rogue government is trying to impose upon them.

Another implication is that an IMF-led loan is now in limbo, demonstrating that the international bailout watchdog is truly powerless when the people of the bailout recipient nation want to have nothing to do with the international rescue circuit.

The corporate NYT seems to be in some denial about this, judging by its headline “Voters in Iceland Appear to Reject Repayment Plan”. Yes, 93% against is quite an appearance.
And of course, this is no proposed “repayment” but rather a demand that Iceland’s people be stripped naked in the Icelandic wind to pay off British and Dutch governments who already bailed out their own speculators at least at par. But the NYT piece seems confused about this, and confused about itself as well. It thinks it’s an op-ed piece, evidently.

How to repay the debt, which represents more than 40 percent of Iceland’s gross domestic product, has consumed this small, isolated nation for the last year and a half, since its banks failed, its stock market crashed and its currency collapsed.

Shouldn’t that be, whether to pay off this debt, and is “the” debt their debt at all? The banksters’ debt is definitely not their debt at all.

But the vote has been overtaken by events, the government said: the deal at issue in the referendum is no longer the deal that is currently on the table in international negotiations.

Each day of delay increases Iceland’s financial burden. The second installment of a much-needed loan from the International Monetary Fund and a coalition of Nordic countries has been put off pending resolution of the dispute.

Britain has warned Iceland that it risks being an international pariah if it does not pay the money back and has threatened to stall the country’s efforts to join the European Union.

The Icesave matter has put increasing pressure on the year-old Icelandic government, a fragile coalition led by Johanna Sigurdardottir of the Social Democratic Party. On the one hand, it needs to show that it acknowledges the public’s deep bitterness; on the other, it needs to negotiate a deal quickly in order to move economic recovery along.

“We need to keep going,” Ms. Sigurdardottir said in a television interview. “We have to get an agreement.”

“It needs to negotiate a deal quickly in order to move economic recovery along.” That’s some reportage. We know that’s what the government says Iceland “needs” to do. (And “quickly” – that’s how you know you’re dealing with disaster capitalist vultures: everything always has to be so fast, always a stampede. Why does it have to be done “quickly”? I thought about it, and I can’t think of the reason. The fact is, as always they want to cut of the thought process, because anybody who thinks much about this realizes that none of these bailouts should be done at all. That they’re all great capital crimes.)
The government hastened to make clear its anti-democratic intent:

But the referendum was more symbolic than substantive, and the Icelandic government hastened to make clear that Iceland would still pay back the money, albeit on different terms from the ones rejected.

“We want to be perfectly clear that a ‘no’ vote does not mean we are refusing to pay,” Finance Minister Steingrimur Sigfusson said. “We will honor our obligations. To maintain anything else is highly dangerous for the economy of this country.”

Evidently you are wrong. You don’t seem to speak for the people, in spite of your lies to the contrary. But then, what can we expect from someone whose entire vocabulary is a compendium of criminal lies about “obligations” and what’s “highly dangerous” to the economy. What’s dangerous to the economy is to allow a criminal cabal to run it. Iceland did that for too long, and now they’re paying the price. They’ve taken some small steps to take back their country, but as these “negotiations” make clear, they still have a long way to go. They’re still saddled with the same criminals.
The banksters themselves earlier fled the country. As well they should have, given how direct some of the rage has been, with even some physical vandalism of their houses. And where are these banksters today? Conferring with their counterparts on how to ram this bailout down the Icelandic people’s throats. How to “take back” the country for themselves. They’re exactly like the monarchist conspirators against France during the early part of the Revolution. They are in fact traitors.
That’s why the French cut off the King’s head – for treason.
And that’s what the people of Iceland need to do. They should indict the gangsters for the whole litany of their crimes, starting with treason. Demand extradition. Meanwhile they should speak directly to the people of Britain and the Netherlands. They should say: “Don’t let them direct your anger against us. As we speak, our gangsters and your gangsters are conspiring against all of us. Direct your anger and your action against them. We’re taking back our country. How about you?”
(But it’s true, if you’re still brainwashed and still a slave to consumerism, then there’s no way off the debt treadmill. In that case, after this tantrum the people of Iceland will indeed have to bow and crawl and grovel in the end. The NYT and the Iceland gang will be proven right.)
But if they’re willing to grow up, to get serious, to take their lives and freedom back into their hands, perhaps the means are at hand. If Iceland rejects its debt immolation and faces consequent economic hardship, then its most pressing need will be food.
From things I’ve read over the years (during the boom), Iceland’s geothermal energy is so abundant they have a vast infrastructure of spas and heated pools. If they have enough energy for such luxury, they must have enough for necessities.
So I’d say shut down Nero’s bathhouses, take all the energy that frees up, and use it to heat greenhouses to grow crops.
I haven’t looked at the numbers, so I don’t know for sure if they could become self-sufficient in food that way, but they could take a huge step toward it, which would be a huge step toward economic self-sufficiency in general.
If they’re serious about their human freedom and their human dignity, that’s what they’d do. What could be more pressing than food security for the people? And who other than an antisocial criminal could oppose it? Any such obstruction rules himself out of the community, rules himself an outlaw.
The same food lesson of course applies far beyond Iceland. This post isn’t really even about Iceland.