Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Wolves in Sheep's Clothing Crying "Wolf!"...


So it finally happened.

Yesterday, during a new session of Parliament, 30 some odd protesters attempted to get into the balcony reserved for members of the public in Alþingi. The guards barred access, but two pushed through and shouted at the Parliamentarians to get out.

At which point seemingly every police officer in Reykjavik spend to the scene to remove the protesters from the stairway where they had been stopped by the guards.

And a scuffle broke out.

State television as well as the newspapers report that two policemen were injured (bites and bruises) and one guard (bumped into a radiator). There are no reports, except from the protesters themselves, of injuries to protesters.

The cops didn’t gas anyone.

Of course they didn’t. The reek of corruption in that place makes pepper-spray a deodorant.

Now we’ll have to listen to the ruling class bitching and moaning about “violence”.

Why the quotes you ask?

Well, let’s just say that the Icelandic ruling class has a very peculiar definition of “violence”.

Like when a police car was driven through a crowd of environmental protesters, and one of said protesters was charged with ‘attacking police property” after slamming his hands on the hood of the vehicle. Never mind that the car posed a threat to life and limb, we can’t have “violent” protesters “hurting” police cars.

Or during the trucker’s protests last year. When several large trucks boxed in the Prime Minister’s (gas-guzzling luxury) car (illegally parked in a handicapped spot) while Geir attended a meeting about Iceland’s image. He got all high and mighty about it, telling the press in his best George Bush that the Icelandic State would not negotiate with people who use such “violent” tactics. This was pre Gas! Gas! BTW.

Then there were the Falun Gong protests of yesteryear, when the Icelandic police rounded up hundreds of dangerous protesters (apparently doing Tai Chi is “violence”) and either forcibly deported them or denied them entry to the country so as to ensure that a visit by a genocidal foreign president would not embarrass the country.

Back in 2001, there was the case of the admittedly rather wacky head of a rather wacky far-left party who was threatened with life imprisonment for making “terrorist threats” when he pointed out that thanks to a tiny cabal of Icelandic plutocrats signing the entire nation onto the Coalition of the Willing in direct opposition to the will of 80%-90% of the population, Iceland could expect to be a target for terrorist groups.

During the early stages of Rvk’s game of musical chairs with the mayoral seat, a large group of legitimately angry people filled the viewing platform at city hall and angrily and loudly denounced the markedly undemocratic events taking place. The papers immediately filled with politicos denouncing this “violent” attempt at overthrowing democracy.

Not to mention the environmental activists who slopped green skýr on some aluminum execs being charged with assault and terrorism or some such nonsense.

In the recent round of protests, the throwing of eggs and skýr and rotten fruit at the Parliament house have been called “violence” by members of the ruling class and their deluded supporters.

The only “violence” that might justify removing the quotes involved smashing in the doors to the police station.

But as far as I’m concerned, that’s not violence either. Property damage is sabotage at best, vandalism at worst, but as inanimate objects feel no pain and have no rights, one cannot inflict violence on them. Moreover, the property is question was public property, which was being used against a member of the public for political purposes, and therefore, to my mind, fare game.

On the other hand, apparently spraying a crowd with a chemical weapon designed and formulated to cause intense pain is not violence. It’s “keeping the peace”.

This is sadly true of any government anywhere, and one of the reasons I’m an Anarchist. All governments claim a monopoly on the use of force, thereby justifying violence against “their” citizens by claiming that they are “preserving public order” or “keeping the peace” or “weeding out undesirables” or “solving the Jewish problem”.

Meanwhile any civilian who defends themselves against the state, even if said defense poses no threat to the State (like when simply owning a gasmask during the ’98 Seattle WTO protests was criminalized to prevent people from preventing the police from gassing them) will be persecuted and prosecuted.

So when a group of protesters walk through an open door and attempt to enter an area reserved for the public, that’s “violence”, but when a group of armed men with dogs kick in doors (to which they could have got keys if they wished) handcuff people in a state of undress, ransack dwellings, confiscate money and ID, regardless of probable cause, that’s “keeping the peace”.

When a police officer gets bitten, or a guard shoved while preventing members of the public from accessing a publicly owned building, that’s violence. When people are thrown to the ground, pinned down, trussed up like Christmas turkeys and manhandled out of the building for standing up for their rights, that’s not “violence”. That’s “keeping the peace”.

Just like they did in Tiananmen Square.

The problem is that many of the very people protesting have been deluded into thinking that the very government they’re protesting really does have a monopoly on force, and so to prevent them from using it, hold ultra-peaceful protests the likes of which astound people from other lands, where the public is less fully domesticated than here. Protests that involve a lot of talking and sign-waving, but nothing much that will actually force a group of people who have stated flat out that they will not listen to the protesters to resign.

After all, its just skrilæti.

Icelanders tend to be very proud of being “peaceful”, after all, the only people here who want an army are a deluded fascist bootlicker with a uniform fetish and his supporters, who magically get re-elected year after year. But this love of “peace” is in fact a fear of confrontation, one that shows itself throughout Icelandic society. Icelanders, for example, tend to be very passive aggressive, preferring to voice their frustrations to a third party rather than taking it up with the party frustrating them.

Unless their drunk.

This leads to a very handy dynamic for those in power. All they have to do is wait until things get “a little out of hand”, and the public, afraid of “violence”, will stop supporting protesters and try to distance themselves from them. This happened after the Gas! Gas! incident, when a bunch of drunken teens and some legitimately angry truckers clashed with riot cops. Now, the cops got a black eye, coming across as a bunch of trigger happy incompetents, but the public, fearful of “violence” quickly went from supporting the truckers to whingeing about them.

The same could happen now.

And the hypocrisy of it galls. If I call for a hundred people to show up with shields and armor, no clubs, no sprays, no stones, guns, Molotov cocktails, or any other offensive weapon, just shields and armor to protect us against clubs and sprays and rubber bullets, I’d in all likelihood be accused of inciting people to violence. Meanwhile the cops petition for Tazer torture guns, attack dogs, bigger paddy-wagons and probably (very quietly) for water cannons for their neither confirmed nor denied “defense force” in order to “ensure the peace”.

Who the fuck is kidding who here?

I’m not afraid of violent protesters. The protesters I’ve met and talked to, marched with and chanted with, even the most radical among them are not violent people. They have no plans to burn down buildings or assassinate anyone. No one is bringing Molotovs. I feel considerably safer in the presence of my fellow protesters than I do walking down Laugarvegur on a rowdy night.

I do fear violent policemen. I fear men who are convinced that they not only have the right, but the duty to inflict violence on others, imprison them, and harass them. I fear that those who hold a hammer long enough will begin to see nails all around them. I fear the “superiors” such men answer too, and their willing help in the media, who could convince this nation that those fighting for political, economic, and social justice are somehow public enemy number one.

I don’t fear “violence”. I fear “keeping the peace”.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Europris Bastards


So I have to amend my previous post.

Thanks to my idiotic decision to shop at the Walmart of Northern Europe, Europris, I find that my wish list requires the following additions.

Not that anyone has to buy this shit for me, just that if they want to, they can.

I won't complain.

I want a bike. More to the point, I want a bike that isn't held together by cheap plastic painted to look like metal. Like my Europris bike, Sid the Vicious Cycle. I've replaced one set of brakes (cheap plastic shattered), a seat (metal cracked) and recently had a petal break off (due to a "metal" rod snapping off to reveal its plastic interior). Add all that to the number of times the brakes have needed adjusting and the fenders fallen off and yeah, I need a new bike.

I also need some snow boots, preferable quite high above the ankle, black, and with a zipper. Unlike my Europris snow boots, which have laces, the hooks for which started to snap after two days wear. I'd like my Xmas boots to have a nice warm insulating interior, unlike my Europris boots that wore away after a week, forcing me to buy insoles so I wasn't walking on rubber ridges.

Thirdly, I'd like a snow suit, or kuldagalli, which is the single most proletarian piece of attire one can sport in Iceland now that krúttkynslóð appropriated the lópapeysur. Unlike the red and black one I bought from Europris, I'd like a snow suit equipped with a zipper that doesn't shred itself into uselessness after a month's use.

Finally, I'd like Europris to shove its collective head up its collective ass and burn in the fiery pits of Hades. With holly crammed up their nostrils and Xmas lights wired around their collective genitals.

Merry friggin Xmas.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

And now for something completely different...


So I'm sitting at the Embles, stealing the internets out of her computers. I'll be going to the protest later, and probably post another rabble-rousing rant afterwards.

But for now, a word or two about Yule, or Xmas, or the Great and Terrible Yearly Tree Sacrifice.

Having recently come to the conclusion that what little money I currently have needs to be used up ASAP on durables (aka flooring and a fridge and a stove) and ever-more expensive food and drink, I'm a bit loathe to indulge in the yearly consumer feeding frenzy of gift buying and receiving. For starters, I just plain don't got no room at my place. So a pile of prezzies presents a problem.

I've also decided that I'm gonna try to give time this year, when possible, as opposed to goods.

So that said, here is the Great and Powerful Wish List '08 Style Yo.

1. DVDs- I want (but do not need) classics this year, namely movies I watch with my pa like "Paint Your Wagon" and "The Quiet Man". "Stardust" would be appreciated as well, as would "Frida" (rawrrrrr), "Accepted", "100 Girls" (not a porno!), and "Pump Up the Volume" (nostalgia much?).

2. Albums- Namely the first Hjalmar album, anything by Eivor, and anything new by Great Big Sea, Flogging Molly, and Against All Authority.

3. Time- by which I mean help with the apartment remodel. It doesn't have to be long, or ever arduous, I just want someone to lend me a hand or two. I'll provide beer.

4. Home brewing equipment- Pretty freaking self explanatory.

5. Whiskey- ditto.

6. Thermal underwear- ditto on the ditto

7. Electric hair trimmer- so I don't have to keep bugging the Embles for haircuts.

8. World Peace/World Wide Anti-Capitalist Uprising

9. Salmaesque punk-rock hotty that falls madly in love with me.

10. None of the above. Except #3. Take care of yourselves. Use your dwindling assets to shore up you and yours against the coming dark. Call me if you need a hand.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

When in the course of human events…




It’s been a strange couple of months over here on the Lava Lump. Exhilarating, infuriating, frightening, inspiring, but most of all, tantalizing.

I’ve long complained about the tendency of my adopted countrymen to bend over and take blatant injustices without comment or public complaint. Oh sure, they’d complain in private, or in longwinded obtuse articles to the newspapers, but the rarely if ever simply took to the streets in force to demand justice.

Now they have.

Sadly, as proud as it makes me, as much as it fills me with a sense of solidarity and wild, apocalyptic joy, it all-to-often seems too little too late.

Judging by the reactions of the various ministers (including the ruling duo, the Prime Minister and Minister of State) at Monday’s open meeting, the ruling elite of Iceland not only don’t much care what we think of them, they don’t give a flying fuck what we think.

Sitting on their massive pension funds (that they half-jokingly “reformed” last week”), secure in their sense of superiority, they have the unmitigated gall to claim that they and they alone can solve this mess they are largely responsible for causing. They claim that the newly activated public that flooded Haskolibio and fills the square in front of Parliament every Saturday “doesn’t represent the will of the people”. What’s worse, they claim that they “cannot” step down as they and they alone are capable of carrying out the financial aid package from the IMF.

Hiding behind the skirts of a corrupt capitalist vulture is not fucking leadership people.

Hell, if the IMF is going to pull out if the current government steps down, that makes it all the more desirable.

Meanwhile, its becoming increasingly clear that the banks, and by “the banks” I mean the clique of bankers and financiers that control them, were doing some incredibly shady deals, deals that in just about any other country would have them up on charges facing serious jail time. They loaned themselves and their cronies money to buy shares in their own banks, with no collateral save the shares purchased in order to artificially inflate the worth of said banks.

And the government helped them out, by neither investigating, nor, as far as I can tell, even bothering to pass any regulations against such dubious dealings.

The end result is that the capitalist class and the ruling class joined hands to sell the Icelandic public in to debt slavery at the hands of a non-representational, undemocratic cabal of banking and corporate interests called the IMF.

Enough already!

People are loosing their homes and livelihoods while the government scrambles to shore up the crumbling corrupt banks. While the general public is stuck with price insured loans that continue to grow no matter how much you try to pay off,* the banks get bailed out, even though they themselves are in massive debt.

Does this seem just to you? The banks borrowed in excess of their means, and then, under the cover of secrecy and fraud, loaned that money out to the public at loan-shark interest.

This cannot stand.

The simple fact is that until the banks themselves are solvent, until they’ve paid off their debts, including those debts incurred in artificially inflating their stock prices, they have no fucking right to expect us to pay. They took the risk in borrowing from Peter to loan to Paul, and those who took out a loan in good faith, thinking that they were borrowing against real assets instead of fictional finances, are under no ethical obligation to pay anything back, let alone price-fixed high interest loans that lead to company-town indentured slavery.

Meanwhile, the IMF deal is already showing its true face, as across the board budget cuts begin to shut down healthcare centers around the country, and as the already swamped and under-funded social services try to point out that they need more funding to deal with this crisis instead of less.

Of course, if the IMF stays true to form, less is what they’re going to get. The last decade has seen a prolonged and active effort on behalf of the neo-liberal government to purposely under fund and mismanage the Ministry of Health, of Education, and all the programs that make (made?) up Iceland’s welfare system in order to give them the usual excuses of “efficiency” and “free market capitalism” for selling off these public assets into the hands of their cronies.

Just like they sold off the fishing rights.

Just like they sold off the Postal Service.

Just like they sold off Siminn.

Just like they sold of the banks.

I think it’s high time we refuse to be sold into debt slavery to protect those responsible for most of the debt. I think it’s high time to refuse to be punished for fraud perpetrated by others.

Those currently being held hostage by their debts to the old banks should refuse payment until a just and equitable solution can be found. In the meantime, they should band together to prevent, by force if necessary, the coming wave of evections and repossessions. People are more important than property.

Every fishing crew of every ship should refuse to pay the kvota kings the tithe they were granted by a corrupt Parliament. The fish in the sea are a communal property, and no-one has the right, or can be granted the right, to demand payment from those doing the work for the right to work.

Those who work the land should band together, defy regulations, and sell their produce directly to the people, without going through the government-mandated middlemen who profit from their appointed positions regardless of the harm they do their own people with inflated prices for consumers and deflated prices for producers, or the price-gouging corporate supermarkets run by a cabal of career con artists.

Anyone needing shelter should simply move into any of the multitude of empty buildings scattered around the country in the wake of the building bubble’s bust. There is no fucking excuse whatsoever for homelessness in a nation as small as Iceland.

And finally, if Parliament will not bow to the will of those they were meant to serve, if they will not step down, then We the People of Iceland, native and foreign born, men, women, children and youths, elders, mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters, irrespective of faith, creed, or political leanings should rise up and establish new, more just, more equitable, more practical institutions to replace those we shall overthrow.

Declare your independence!

You don’t even have chains to lose.

They’ve been repossessed.

*A good friend of mine purchased a car two years ago by taking over a loan. The car is a good, fuel-efficient, cheap vehicle, and the loan was, at the time, very reasonable. After two years of paying more than the minimum payments, she now owes more for the car than when she took over the debt. The same sort of financing was used on indentured servants sent to British colonies to prevent them from ever paying off their debts and hence enslaving them for life, if not the life of their children as well.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

With apologies to the bard...


...but is the winter of our discontent to be made glorious summer by this son of a bitch???

Sustainability Now!



I’ll be the first to admit that the title of this particular blog lacks emotional punch. It just doesn’t have the same oomph as “No Gods! No Masters!” or “No War but Class War” or “All Power to the People”. Hell, it doesn’t even beat out “Davið Burt” when it comes to eliciting an emotional response.

Which is a damn shame.

What Iceland, hell, what the world needs most right frigging now is sustainability. All those other issues, from human rights to anti-capitalism/anti-globalization to social and economic equality would take a quantum leap if we’d just be practical about shit.

And sustainability is practical. Radically so.

The central tenet of sustainability is adaptation. Not whether something is “natural” or not. The idea of “natural” has gotten all turned around, co-opted by advertising, and used by some of those who protest our impact on the environment to further the already gaping mental chasm between “humans” and “nature”.

We are part of nature. Therefore, everything we create is in essence, natural. The 100% bio-organic gluten-free rice milk drunk by vegans is as natural as the Diet Coke others wash down their Big Macs with. The “naturalness” of things isn’t the issue. Its how well adapted they are.

Most of our current technologies, from manufacturing “raw materials” to the finished products are terribly none-adaptive. Far from following the patterns of the ( non-human) natural world, whereby with very few exceptions everything operates on a nearly-closed loop (if sunlight is taken as an external factor), chemistry is carried out in water, all energy derives from current (as opposed to fossil) sunlight, food is produced and consumed locally, and variety is not only the spice of life, but one of its driving forces, our technologies (and this includes our economies, money is a technology, as well as our political institutions) are centralized and monopolistic, do most of their chemistry in “organic solvents” like benzene, derive most of their power from fossil sources (petro-carbons and radioactive isotopes) and actively strive to separate consumer from producer, not only in miles and kilometers but in mentality as well.

The end result is a non-adaptive way of life. And that which cannot or refuses to adapt will die off.

When I talk about sustainability, I’m not talking about some dippy-hippy patchouli-soaked leaky-roofed commune. I’m talking about a system of survival that would increase the material, cultural, and political welfare of the majority of people on this planet. Hell, if you look at over-consumption and toxic wealth as the bad things they are, even those currently “benefiting” from the current non-adaptive system would benefit, if only in the same way a junkie benefits from going cold turkey.

So what kinds of technologies are sustainable, i.e. adaptive?

Well, as Iceland has already become the canary in the global economic coalmine, let’s use it as an example. Currently almost all of Iceland’s fuel (including the bio-diesel proudly advertised by the bus system) is imported, which is ridiculously non-adaptive. Even leaving out the super-abundant energy resources like geo-thermal, hydro-electric, and the stunning underused wind, Iceland could still easily fuel its admittedly over-sized fleet of internal combustion vehicles locally, first by closing the loop, and then by local production (which would have the added benefit of cleaning the air).

To close Iceland’s fuel loop, we have to take a hint from nature and look at what is currently defined (and reviled) as “waste” as a resource. Reykjavik currently fuels all its garbage trucks on methane produced from household “waste”, but as smart as this idea is, it ignores all the other “waste” that could be converted. On farms, this is a very simple process. Animal waste is placed in airtight containers at around 30-40˚ C, and the natural process of decomposition produces methane, which is then filtered off into storage tanks. Methane can be used to fuel vehicles, heat homes, provide energy for manufacturing, cooking, you name it. As an added benefit, by purposely harnessing methane that is produced by animal waste whether we harness it or not and burning it (producing CO2) we prevent it leaking into the atmosphere where it does roughly ten times the greenhouse damage as CO2. If every chicken, pig, sheep, and dairy farm in Iceland made these simple and inexpensive changes, Iceland could cut its dependency on imported fossil fuels by at least 30%. Probably more. In the process, struggling farms would reap a net benefit in reduced fuel costs, a net profit on the sale of excess methane to consumers, and the entire food-production chain in Iceland would be come much less liable to catastrophic failure due to interruptions in foreign trade.

But why stop at the countryside? Humans, no matter how bitchy some folk get when you mention it to them, are animals. This means we can produce methane from our own waste as well. Currently human waste is processed in sewage plants that use those aforementioned (expensive) organic solvents to sterilize said waste before it is pumped (along with the toxic residuals of the sterilization process) into the coastal waters of Icelandic cities and towns. All this requires expense in the form of energy to run said plants, energy to manufacture said chemicals, energy to ship said chemicals here, and nets no resources in the end.

Now, if said waste were allowed to be broken down in a continuous feed methane digester, making use of biological enzymes and organisms to fully break down the waste (cellulose from paper can be broken down into fructose by amoeba found in termites, for instance) and the methane harvested and used to fuel the plant, the waste, now slurry, could then be pumped into a tank containing yeast, which would further break down the sewage, as well as producing trace methanol and a lot of ethanol, both of which kill off other, more harmful organisms, like disease bacteria.

(This is why yeast makes the stuff in the first place. Yeast evolved the ability to create a waste product (ethanol) that kills off other microorganisms. When you think about it, we get drunk off of yeast-poo.)

The alcohol could then be distilled by heating the slurry (with either geothermal heat or by using some of the methane) producing a methanol/ethanol mix suitable for fueling cars, and further sterilizing the slurry with heat. The end products of such a process would be two fuels (methane and ethanol) and highly nitrogen enriched organic matter perfect for use as fertilizer, say to spread on the large areas of barren sand currently threatening farm land in parts of the country and hence increasing the tillable soil and the possibility of stable, prosperous and self-sustaining food supply?

Other wastes can likewise be converted to fuels. Take all the used cooking oil that goes into feeding Iceland’s French fry habit. Having worked in my fair share of Reykjavik restaurants, I can tell you that most of this oil winds up either dumped down the sinks, or worse yet, down the nearest storm drain under cover of darkness. This is because the owners are usually loath to pay for disposing of waste oil properly.

(The fact that many of these owners were also loathe to pay proper wages is subject for another blog.)

This waste oil, along with the oil that can be produced from fish offal (internal organs, skin, and the heads of fish are the oiliest bits) that is currently either composted (stinky!) or thrown back into the sea from factory trawlers, can easily be converted to bio-diesel by filtration, amalgamation (whereby the various oils are heated together to expel water and become a single composite oil), and catalyst separation with methanol (remember where that can be produced???) and lye (which can be produced by filtering boiling water through ashes, say from a solid waste incinerator or wood-gas truck?) to separate the glycerin (which can be converted into fertilizer, as well as a host of other useful things) from the hydrocarbons in the oil, producing bio-diesel.

All this without even bothering to grow any rapeseed or hemp, both of which can be used to produce oil both for food and for bio-diesel (the “waste product” or which is seed mash, an excellent animal feed), both of which can be grown here in Iceland, and both of which fix more C02 from the atmosphere than the fuels they produce put back in. The C02 doesn’t just go into the plant oil, you see. It also goes into the plant itself, which by the way leaves us with straw (in the case of rapeseed, which can be baled and used to build extremely strong and well-insulated structures) and fiber (in the case of hemp, which can, and has been and is being, used in producing rope, cloth, paper, and composite materials). Failing that, its compost, which is a good thing in and of itself.

Speaking of compost, here in Reykjavik, they cut a lot of grass every summer; due to the city’s love-affair with open grassy stretches of traffic dividers and parks (oddly school-grounds tend to be completely paved). Add to that the amount of grass cut in private yards, the tree and shrub trimmings, the leafs, the weeds, and the paper litter, and you get a massive pile of compost and a massive fuel bill for all those lawnmowers and tractors.

The resulting “yard waste”, for reasons that bugger all imagination, is often stored in an open pile in the middle of one of the city’s most popular parks, right next to the playground and public grills, leaking methane and stench all summer long.

When it’s done stinking up the park, the compost is then shipped out of town to composting center. This is a good thing, but the process could be sped up a bit, and all those lawnmowers (don’t even get me started on the idiotic hover mowers Rvk supplies to its summer job program) fueled, by using first using termite amoeba to break down the cellulose in the compost, then distilling fuel alcohol from the resulting mash which could then be made into compost.

Hell, it could be sent through a bio-fuel sewage plant as mentioned above with the same end result.

Which is not to say that Reykjavik really should plant some more trees and allow for community gardens instead of huge wasteful and hard to maintain patches of ill-cared for lawn…

Ok. Ok. I digress, I know.

So does all this have to do with issues ranging from “human rights to anti-capitalism/anti-globalization to social and economic equality”?

Well for starters, technologies of this sort are “democratic” in that they tend to be decentralized and local. Decentralized local production tends to enrich the community around it, instead of siphoning wealth and resources out of a community. This tends to empower the people of said community, and empowered people are the essence of democracy. Likewise, these technologies work best on the small-scale/human scale, as opposed to the corporate scale, which gives people an increased say in how they are run. Likewise, such production is only economically viable when consumed within a limited geographic area, as the savings from local production are nullified by the cost of long-distance shipping. Take that globalization.

While there is the potential for profit from such undertakings, there is considerably less potential for monopolization, due to the fact that these technologies require very little capital to set up, and are not, nor ever should be, proprietary, i.e. patented. So anyone with requisite knowledge and ability can set one up. This prevents the funneling of economic power into the hands of a few (say a group of oil execs who’ve been price-gouging their fellow citizens for years, despite having been found guilty of price-fixing?) and hence makes for a more equitable society, as economic power and political power are two sides of the same corrupt coin and the unequal accumulation of one leads directly to the unequal accumulation of the other. Which generally leads to disrespect for human rights, as those unequally empowered try to keep those interested in empowering themselves from getting their fair share.

Being locally produced, these resources would be less affected by external markets and international events. So fuel produced in Dalvik would likely remain at the same price even if another war flared up in the Middle East. Aside from that obvious positive point, it would also mean that non-representative trans-national institutions, like the World Bank, the IMF, the WTO, and so on, would be much less able to dictate policy to local communities from their ivory towers abroad.

Finally, because these technologies aim to close the loop, instead of to produce as much as possible in the shortest period of time, they act as a brake on out-of-control economic “growth” and help stabilize local and national economies.

Its not just fuel production though. There're hundreds of other factors that make sustainable economics a positive step towards real democracy and real equality. Like not being dependent on corporations that are required by law to constantly grow, even when said growth is harmful, for your food, clothing, and energy. Like being able to make use of your fair share of a natural resource, in a sustainable manner, instead of having said resource, or the rights to it, sold off by a government into the hands of a powerful well-connected few.

Just think about it. Is the over-production of wasteful “goods” on which we currently depend by massive entities controlled by tiny minorities really a sign of progress towards those goals which most of us have in common? Is putting a different minority in charge really going to change things? Is over-producing different “goods” going to? Or do we need a new kind of economics, one that practices production by the masses for the masses rather than mass production, as E.F. Schumacher once wrote? And with that new economics, a new politics, one in which democracy really means rule by the people, directly? Isn't it high time to discard those institutions and structures that have systematically disenfranchised us for solutions that empower us?

I for one think its time we empowered ourselves not just politically, but economically.

Anyone out there a welder? A computer technician capable of putting together a monitoring system? Someone with experience working with volatile gasses and the compressors? A farmer who wants to give it a try?

Get in touch.

Let’s do this thing.

Sustainability Now!

Monday, November 17, 2008

If its too loud, you´ve been in power too long.


Brigada Negra Cacophonica is seeking volunteers to make lots of noise!

As the Powers That Be in this country continue to turn a deaf ear to the will of the people, we've decided to crank the volume up to eleven and friggin' make them hear us.

Joining is easy. You just have to show up with a instrument of musical destruction, make loud rythmic noises with it, and maybe drum up a revolution!

Join now!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Stop Bitchin' and Start a Revolution Already!


Enough of the speeches.

Enough bitching at your fellow protesters for not marching in your line.

Enough of this corrupt, incompetent, self-serving government.

We will not pay the debts of those who impoverished us.

We will not be quiet, sit still.

We will not be obedient.

We will be loud.

We will be raucous.

We will not be moved.

Bring drums.

Bring horns.

Bring pots to bang.

Paint your words on heavy shields, so the blows of those who would force us into silence will not harm us.

Cover your eyes so their venom will not sting
.

Be angry.

Be joyous.

Be ready.

We don't just want a new life, a new society, a new start.

We need one.

And the only people who can make that happen are ourselves.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Just a quick note...



...for all the útrassavíkingur and politicos and columnist who keep telling us that "we" are to blame for the Great Icelandic Financial Meltdown. I have just 5 words for you.

Speak for your own damn self!

Also: FUCK YOU!

We didn't throw the economy down the toilet. You did. a lot of us (myself included) didn't take out any damned loans, we didn't go on a credit bender, and we don't have a goodamned flat screen or a luxury SUV. Some of us do, but mostly because "we" were doing what people who have been robbed of all control over the structure of the world the live in do.

We tried to get by, and tried to be happy with the narrow limits you allowed us.

So go screw yourselves.

We know who's to blame, and WE WILL FIND YOU!

Jú sey jú vant a revólúsjón?



I’m getting weirded out folks.

Seriously.

I’m used to the news pissing me off, and even more used to the op-eds in the Icelandic papers making me foam at the mouth.

For years now my friends and I have been crying out in the proverbial wilderness, shouting “Sustainability!”, “Self-Organization!”, “Economic Equality!”, and occasionally “Rise the Fuck Up Already!”

To absolutely no avail.

Then everything went straight to shit, as most of us knew it would.

Now the op-eds are filling up with intelligent discourse about sustainable economics, about the cronyism and corruption amongst Iceland’s elite. People are calling for a sea-change in how Icelanders make their living, calling for diversification, self-organization, and economic equality. They’re shooting their well aimed barbs at the white knights of aluminum and fish and the E.U.*

They’re even flirting with the idea of rising the fuck up.

Which is encouraging, if a tad disconboobalating.

That’s my own word by the way.

I mean, what the hell am I going to blog about now?

But I thought about it for a bit, and decided that I’d indulge in some magical thinking. Seeing as so very many of the issues and ideas I’ve blogged about in the past have sudden appeared on television and in print, I’m going to throw a few of my wilder ideas out there and see if they make it into the collective consciousness.

For starters, this Saturday will see the third major protest downtown in as many weeks, which is downright shocking by Icelandic standards. Originally a call for Davið Oddson to step down as head of the Central Bank, they’ve now (better late than never) become a call for new elections ASAP, aka kicking the bastards out. All fine and dandy. I’ll be there, I’ll meet you half way.

But consider for a moment a couple of points. Right now the Icelandic State is in deep financial doodoo, and in order to pull themselves out, they’ll need to slash public spending. This will mean less money for students, children, the disabled, fewer social services, increased fees for supposedly “free” healthcare, and more than likely a package of tax hikes and the downsizing of many a public employee.

Public employees mind, not public officials.

So how about we save ourselves a lot of money, and simply dissolve parliament? We’d save on their over-inflated wages, their retirement scam, their “day-money” that would take me two weeks to earn, their gas-guzzling official cars, private jet vaca…I mean meetings abroad, and their teams of sycophantic yes-people hired at public expense to do their jobs for them.

We then declare the Icelandic public to be the legislative power, giving the average Jón and Anna the right to propose laws, gather support for them, and then vote on them in twice yearly democracy days.

Meanwhile, we vote on who gets the ministerial positions, for a four year term. Instead of being political cake for unqualified politicos, they’d become administrative positions for people who can make them work, instead of purposely running them into the ground so that they can be gobbled up by Mammon. So we get healthcare professionals in charge of the Ministry of Health, and maybe, just maybe, a FUCKING ECONOMIST IN CHARGE OF THE CENTRAL BANK!

Likewise, let’s save some more tax money by teaching the State to stop eating itself. Student loans are not, repeat not, income. It’s a fucking loan. You have to pay it back. Why the hell do you have to pay income tax on it? The same can be said for disability payments. The State taxes the public to pay disability payments to those who cannot work and then taxes those same payments??? The same is true of pensions. What the fuck? Not to mention taxing the interest people make off of individual savings accounts.

How ‘bout this? Just declare disability payments, student loans, and pensions to be tax free. Then lower the amount paid out by the amount of taxes levied. Everyone gets the same amount of money and the state saves on the costs of processing all those unnecessary taxes.

Individual savings deposits should be tax free. Period.

Not only will this encourage people to save instead of borrow, but any government that is already charging me taxes on the money I bring in should keep its filthy corrupt piggy fingers out of what I manage save of the money I have left.

After all, like most of us, I can’t just vote myself a raise.

I know, I know. I’ve ranted this before. Doesn’t make it any less of a good idea.

Another thing I’ve been happy to hear is people talking about CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture, whereby farmers sell directly to the public, hence cutting out the middlemen and getting a better price for themselves, while also providing the public with fresher, less processed, higher quality, and often cheaper food.

The problem with this is that when it comes to everything but vegetables, this is illegal in Iceland. You cannot, repeat cannot, legally sell dairy products, meat or fish direct from the producer. Instead you are required by law to sell (at an artificially low price) these products to State mandated middlemen who then sell them on to retailers who then sell it on to the consumers.

At an artificially high price.

Not to mention that because it has to go through the middlemen the food has to be shipped to the processing centers, often times located well away from the farms and communities it was produced in, processed, shipped to the retailers (through a series of warehouses), and finally comes back to the community either unripe and tasteless in the case of vegetables, or with all the fresh yummy goodness removed (in the case of many of the dairy products).

This is also why, up until the current foreign currency crunch, the cheapest fish you could buy in Iceland was frozen Peruvian cod sold under a Danish label.

From a supermarket located across the street from the fishing docks.

My solution for this is simple. BREAK THE DAMN LAW! If you are a producer, and you’re tired of selling your produce cheap, only to see it mixed in with other, possibly lower-quality produce, labeled with no information on where it came from, and then sold at a ridiculously high price to consumers who then blame you for their empty wallets, STOP!

Sell it direct to the public. Screw the law.

Just because something is legal doesn’t make it right

And just because something is illegal doesn’t make it wrong.

Witness the guys who have been out fishing without a kvóta to protest the privatization of a national resource. Fishermen have started it, farmers can join the parade.

Likewise, anyone who is currently paying full price for electricity to run their greenhouses or software companies should immediately subtract 95% from their electric bill, so they pay the same rate as Alcan and Alcoa.

Personally, I’d love it if I could get away with subtracting the percentage of my taxes that goes into the pockets and retirement funds of parliamentarians. Not to mention the percentage that goes to the State Church and a law enforcement and immigration authority run by a person who anywhere with actual free speech (where one can state an opinion without being dragged into court for libel) could be described as a paranoid fascist bootlicker with a uniform fetish.

But hey whatcha gonna do?

While we’re at it, let’s renationalize the kvóta system, and grant each and every community that has a harbor a percentage of the total catch, based on population and infrastructure (meaning that communities with limited economies would get a bigger share, not smaller). Said community can then split their percentage amongst those who wish to fish, charging a small percentage of the gross profit to fund public services. Sound good?

Let’s start up a few companies while we’re at it. And by “companies” I mean Sf., not Ehf. and definitely not Hf. Cooperative companies that recycle paper, aluminum, old tires, plastics, etc and sell their products back into the Icelandic market, helping to balance out our trade deficit. Cooperative companies producing food, clothing, building materials, energy, tools and hardware, electronics, software, electric vehicles (trains trains trains!), and tourist/recreational services.

Cooperative companies, wherein all employees are partial owners, and more importantly wherein all owners are required to be employees. Co-opts in which all decisions regarding capital and profits are handled democratically and hence are intrinsically more egalitarian, and thereby inherently more stable, than companies run from the top down, whereby people with no real talent for massive responsibility reward themselves with massive bonuses and take massive ill-considered risks to justify said unequal pay. Co-opts are also more egalitarian that State-run companies, where the ruling elite reward their loyal toadies by appointing them the head of a national bank or television or other such foolishness…

So that’s it. A bit of constructive civil disobedience, a bit of self-organization, and a bit of reform, whereby we reform the institutions responsible for fucking us over for years now right out of existence, and bingo! Revolúsjón bæbí!

Dónt jú nó its góíng tú bí all ræt?

*'And I looked, and behold, a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him...'

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Upside of Downturns


In order to comply with the new government regulations requiring all discussion of current events in Iceland to be positive, optimistic, and generally complacent, I hereby present you with the the upside of economic downturn.

For starters, men's fashion will improve. No more faggoty-assed pink shirts. No more striped blond hair artfully moused. No more orange-skinned hairless yuppie freaks. They can't afford to look that ridiculous anymore. Men will look like men again. Beards will be back in fashion, 'cause who can afford razors? Long hair or buzz cuts will be the rule, and full-body-waxed spray-tanned Armani-clad cads will no longer be considered hip og kul.

Women will start to look like women again, as opposed to the spray-painted Barbi clones that recently roamed the streets, as the price of cosmetics and snobby beauty parlors becomes prohibitory. One will once again be able to snog without first resorting to an electric paint stripper. Likewise, no more fat chicks. Thin will be in...evitable.

Stupidly non adaptive fashion will fade away. No longer will Icelanders shell out gazillions of krona for the latest pair of shoddy canvas low tops with pink skulls on them. People will start to wear boots instead, because they last, and because its friggin cold when you walk to work, instead of driving there in your giant four-wheel drive penis extension.

The stupid tradition of wearing an overpriced piece of useless silk around one's neck to show social/economic superiority will fade as no-one is able to afford them, and the surplus is re-sewn into much needed undergarments.

The streets will be safer, as fewer and fewer large vehicles whip around corners driven by people too busy talking on their 3G phones, drinking expensive coffee, trying to score more coke while wondering how much money they might make in shady financial deals that day.

Children will spend more time with their parents.

And finally, there will be increased opportunities for social interaction. Whether waiting for the bus, standing in line for soup, waiting for our ration cards, huddled together for warmth in the cold nights at the labor camps, or dancing through the streets to the light of flaming bank offices, we'll all be a little less lonely in the days to come.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Up and Down






So I decided to update the Ipod my sis gave me a couple Xmases ago this morning.

I know. Two years to update a playlist. What kind of looser am I?

But to be honest, I don’t like walking around with earplugs blocking out the world, and so I mostly used the Ipod for transporting data to computers actually connected to the interwebs, and for playing the songs saved on it on my laptop, Selma.

My sis loaded my Ipod with a lot of great stuff. The nearly complete discography of NoFx for starters. Everything Gogol Bordello had put out up to two years ago. A bunch of Bif Naked.

All gone now.

Apparently the act of adding new songs to my Ipod erased all my previous stuff.

Fucking Apple.

I’m sure there’s some reason behind it. Something about “protecting copyrights” and “preventing piracy” or some such shit.

Steve Fucking Jobs can kiss my Luddite ass.

Couple this with a leaky nose and the fact that the only effect the kreppa’s had on me is that I can’t afford to get the stuff I need to continue my remodel until next payday and am hence sitting around with work that wants doing and nothing to do the work with, and you’d expect me to grumpy as all hell, right?

I’m not.

It’s snowing. Big fluffy whiteness drifting down like a Xmas song. In October!

Thanks Ma Nature.

I needed that.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Canary And The Phoenix


In the early days of the Industrial Revolution, as man first began to take advantage of fossil fuels, namely coal, canaries were carried down into the mines as an early-warning system. Because of their small size and fast metabolism, these little birds pass out, or even die from poisonous gas or asphyxiation long before miners feel any effects. Hence, when the canary dies, you get the hell out of the mine shaft.

Iceland is a small nation, and like most small nations, is inherently more susceptible to changes in the world environment, at least when it gets dragged down the mine-shafts of globalization.

Like the coal miner’s canary, what happened here is a forewarning of what could or will happen elsewhere, if people fail to get the hell out of the mines.

This doesn’t help those of us here in Iceland all that much. The damage has been done, and for all the harping on about Russian loans and the IMF, we need to recognize that the heyday of Viking Economics is over. Iceland will not be a international financial superpower.

Let me repeat that: Iceland will not be an international financial superpower.

Get over it.

Our waxy wings got way too close to the sun and we burned.

This may not be a bad thing. As Octavia E. Butler pointed out in her semi-prophetic Parable of the Sower:

In order to rise from its ashes
A Phoenix
First
Must
Burn.

I for one hope that we rise from our ashes.

I hope that the “New Iceland” everyone is talking about will be a triumphant thing, an affirmation of hope and reason and community, a vision of a prosperous, flourishing island, a well-balanced blend of town and country. Productive farms feeding and fueling clean cities, small scale industry supporting electric rails and new aluminum boats, sailing out to fish and trade on the wind, recycling plants turning what was once wasted into a resource, and cities bustling with the work of “knowledge factories” ,the schools and information companies. I hope for horizontal organization, from the bottom up instead of the top down. Real democracy, of the people, by the people, and for the people.

None of this is going to happen though. Not unless we make some hard choices and throw out a great many outdated and self-destructive habits.

The most damning of which is looking to Authority to solve all our problems.

Right now, the very same people who caused this crisis, either by their blind faith in the dogma of the Church of the Invisible Hand*, or by passive acquiescence to said doctrines have the unmitigated gall to don the mantle of salvation and claim that they and they alone can save us from the very reckoning they called down on us. These same people, falsely cloaked in Authority, will stand in the way of nearly every effort to build a new and better Iceland, because a new and better Iceland will have no use for them, for their cronies in big business, for their closed-door party meetings, for passing laws without debate, for musical-chair ministers and some-pigs-are-more-equal-than-others retirement schemes.

No!

Just no, damn it!

NO MORE!

No more of your vested interests. No more claiming brides as speaking fees. No more of your transparent scapegoating, kicking down hostel doors to distract us from your fraud. No more funneling the nation’s wealth into the pockets of your supporters.

You had your chance. Hell, you’ve had more than a chance. You have had chances, plural, each more pressing than the last and each more shameful.

When the canary started to sicken at the rising price of food and fuel, did you look the truth in the eye, recognize that oil is on its way out, and push for a nationwide move away from that poisonous black gold and towards sustainable domestic production?

No you did not.

You threw some crumbs to the crowds, little phrases like “bio-diesel” (imported, despite the fact it could be manufactured here) and “the hydrogen economy” (to date nothing but a pipe dream). You talked about destroying what little is left of Icelandic agriculture in favor of “cheap” imported food, instead of moving to build up agriculture, creating jobs, sustenance, and fuel in the process.

When the Housing Bubble burst, as anyone with eyes could see it would, did you move swiftly and effectively to soften the blow? No. You knelt at the alter of the Invisible Hand and hoped for the best, only taking action long after it could have had any real effect, and then only to insure the banks would pay no consequences for their predatory lending schemes.

Worse yet, when it became clear that the Banking Bubble was going to burst, you did nothing, even as the greedy few dragged the many into debt while lining your own pockets with 30 (thousand) pieces of silver. Then, to pile incompetence on inaction, you moved with misguided zeal to “save” the banks, dragging the nation down to prop up institutions that according to your own oft-stated believe in competitive markets should have been allowed to fail, taking their overpaid captains down with them.

Now you spout drivel about heavy industry, which will put the nation further in debt, whilst reaping a meager harvest of jobs and cash and a whirlwind of environmental damage. You bat your eyes like a courtesan at a tyrant to bail out our banks, and look to an organization that once tried to privatize an entire country’s water supply and sell it to Coca-Cola for advice on how to restructure. You tell people their pensions will be slashed, while using the crisis to excuse the continuation of your own embezzled “retirement” funds, and claim to investigate yourselves when you can’t even pass a law on public disclosure.

By your actions and by your inaction, you have forfeited any claim to leadership.

You who claim Authority over Iceland have failed the people time and again, and it is high time that people shook you off their backs. We don’t care how hard you work now to prop up the tottering house of cards you built.

Let it fall.

Let it burn.

Then get the hell out of our way so we can build something better from the ashes.

All the golden gilt in the world doesn’t make it any less a cage.

We’re tired of being your canary.

*If we could see the Invisible Hand of The Marketplace, it would be giving us the finger.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

8 reasons why I feel fine


  1. Move. First off, cancel your gym membership. You don’t need it. People kept themselves in fighting trim for centuries without Nautilus or Pilates by doing something called “being active”. Walk or bike to and from work, for example. Go for a swim, hell some of the pools have free weights. If that’s not enough, do some push-ups and sit-ups. Work in your garden. Hell, I if I can find one, I’ll be rowing a boat out to fish whenever I can. My decision to only take the bus when forced to by time constraints or weather, to ride or walk whenever possible, has paid of in twenty-dropped kilos, while my forays to Sundhollinn have added muscle I thought I had lost forever. The best thing is, I’m not paying anything for it, and because its part of my daily routine, not an addition to it, I tend to stick to it better than any gym-inspired attempt at achieving svelteness.

  1. Eat. The nice thing about getting in shape in the aforementioned manner is that you get to eat more. Or at least better. When one is trudging through wind and snow, biking against a stiff gale, and doing ones best porpoise impression several times a week, one finds that one needs good hearty food. With butter. One finds oneself eating filling, nutritious food because one needs to and diet-plans involving self-imposed starvation fly right out the damned window. And good riddance. Good home cooked meals are one of the simpler and more complete pleasures in life. They are also cheap. If you do the prep yourself, you can feed five people a great meal for what it would cost to feed yourself at any place worth calling a restaurant. This brings us to the next benefit…

  1. Share. For far too long the social scene in Rvk has been under the monopolistic control of “the bar scene” whereby everyone had to pay through the nose for flat beer to get the chance to socialize and meet new people. Not many of us can afford that anymore. But we can afford to have dinners together. Be they potlucks, or stone-soups (whereby everyone brings an ingredient and the whole party works out what to do with them), communal cooking and eating is fun, and comforting. There is something deeply human and primal about breaking bread in the company of good friends. We should do it more. Just like we should play music together, have video nights, play ball in the park, etc.

Not to mention theme parties. I love theme parties. Especially when the theme includes partial nudity…

There’s another benefit here. When times get hard, people generally figure out that all this imposed competition isn’t actually brining out the best in us, just the opposite in fact. Use this opportunity to create closer ties to your neighbors and friends. Extend your social network. It not only makes everyone feel a bit less alone, a bit less worried, but provides a network for mutual aid. Got a friend that needs a babysitter? You need a hand painting? Bingo, cashless solution to both your problems…

  1. Love. What with the friendly socializing, good food, and healthy fitness, its only fair to indulge in one of life’s other pleasures, namely fucking. Now, this might just be my singleness talking, but come on! Its fun, its free, its healthy, and it makes you happy. Screw your way through the Depression! Make with the horizontal tango! Form the two backed beast! Why not?

  1. Create. Once upon a time, back before China provided for all our material needs, people used to make useful things for themselves. Some of us still do. This is not just economic, its fun. It fills time otherwise spent worrying about money. Knit, sew, homebrew, carve, weave, paint, compose, potter (?), whatever. Doing something worthwhile with your hands is probably one of the best ways to get out of your own head and achieve some zen.*

  1. Read. For free. From the library. I suppose you could watch a DVD from the library too. Or listen to one of their books on CD/mp3 as you bike to work. Or just take some time to have a free cuppa and read the papers. Libraries rock, but they rock out with their metaphorical cocks out when times is hard. Need to know how to homebrew? Go to the library. Need to know how to repair your bike? Ditto. What to learn how to cook new and interesting food? Ditto ad infinatum.

  1. Rise up. Take to the streets. Seriously, if the events of recent months haven’t activated you inner activist yet, you’re either sitting on a pile of tax-paradise trust funds, or you’re, frankly, a dolt. I don’t care if you disagree with my politics, just get out and make some fucking noise already. Every disaster bears the seeds of opportunity, if we’re willing to go out and gather ‘em up. Plus, when done right, its fun. Its thrilling, its good cheap fun. Politics shouldn’t be a chore. As soon as it feels like one, its time to inject some fun back into it. Play merry havoc in the streets. I mean, if they arrest you, can you say free room and board?

  1. Hope. For better or worse, we will survive this. Its bad, but its not the End of the World, just the End of the World as We Know It. And you bet your ass I feel fine.

* Kreppa Koan:

If a tree falls on an investment banker, does anyone care?

What is the sound of one hand washing the other?

If wealth is created from nothingness, is it worth anything?

Three monkeys sat on a branch as a monster walked by. The first monkey blocked his eyes and said “Globalization is making us rich”. The second monkey plugged his ears and said “Business is booming”. The third monkey covered his mouth so he wouldn’t say anything that might be construed as leftist. They all got eaten.

When the tide ebbs, it is considered a tragedy. But when the tide never ceases to rise, it is considered anything but a flood.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

What I didn't do this weekend

I didn't work on the apartment.
I didn't work on an article for the Grapevine.
I didn't go out dancing and seduce some lovely young thing.
I didn't load all my music into my computer.

On the upside:

I didn't spend much money.
I didn't waste time trying to seduce some lovely young thing.
I didn't spend the entire weekend alone.
I didn't worry (much) about the state of the world.
I didn't give into my urge to get a mohawk again (sooo doesn't suit my new glasses).
I didn't wake up hungover.

All in all, not bad for me.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Ten Radically Simple Truths



  1. Loans are not income! As blatantly obvious as this is, it needs saying in Icelandic society and in the halls of finance. Loudly, and often. Iceland has been a debt driven economy for far too long. Until very recently (weeks ago, months tops) easily 90% of the Icelanders I know were more or less living off their overdrafts. Taking out a loan in this manner has become so common place that many here don’t even consider paying for something with actual earned income. Hell, even the government can’t seem to grasp this concept, considering that they tax student loans as income…
  2. A króna saved is a króna earned. Again, obvious. But oddly subversive nonetheless. We are told that our “duty as consumers” is to prop up the economy with constant spending. Debt is held up as a sign of prosperity, whilst frugality and savings are considered a “poverty mindset”. While 90% of the Icelanders I know have an overdraft, I think less then 5% have a saving account. The only people I know with saving accounts in Iceland are foreigners. Which leads us directly to:
  3. Anything you can make, produce, grow, or create yourself is ALWAYS more economical than buying it. ALWAYS. The actual monetary savings involved in growing a garden may be low, but the increase in food quality, the sense of accomplishment, and the feeling of security that goes with the sure knowledge that you can feed yourself are priceless. It’s always more economical to mend your clothes, to fix broken furniture than buying new, to brew your own beer instead of buying from the store. ALWAYS! The same goes for sewing your own clothes, baking your own bread, or, in the extreme, distilling your own fuel. A good book from the library, a dinner party with friends, a movie night with the neighbors, or playing music with likeminded folk are all cheaper and more fulfilling than say, spending the better part of your weekend wandering around shopping center hemorrhaging money just to stave of boredom. This is equally true of nations. If you can produce it domestically, do so! As “old-school” as it sounds, a healthy economy should strive to balance imports to exports, and a truly thriving economy should try to import less than its gross exports. Any country that imports more than it exports is letting its mouth write checks that its ass can’t cash.
  4. You cannot have infinite economic growth in a finite world! As soon as an economy grows beyond its actual productive abilities (in real goods and commodities) it becomes a sort of virtual reality, which while entertaining, is nonetheless a game, of the sort played in Vegas, a crapshoot where financiers wager the hard work and labor of the commonality for personal gain. Its bullshit. Everything they say, everything about global trade and interest rates and stock exchanges is bullshit. Its only wealth, only business because they’ve managed to convince us that it matters. It doesn’t.
  5. Any man woman or child, society, community or nation only needs five things. They need food, they need shelter, they need clothing (provided they don’t live in the tropics), they need energy, and they need meaningful connections and activities. Anything else is, to use the American vernacular: “gravy”. Now gravy makes any meal a feast, but a gravy heavy diet will kill you quicker than you can say “cardiac arrest”. Iceland has been chugging down gravy for breakfast of late. The current kreppa is the inevitable result of societal arteries clogged with over-consumption.
  6. A rising tide only lifts those rich enough to own boats. Everyone else either has to tread water or drown. Far better get everyone to high ground instead of forcing them to live on the beach.
  7. You can’t eat gold, you can’t drink silver. Take a bag of each out into the lonely desert. See how long you last.
  8. The further the gap between the richest and the poorest in any society, the more unstable that society will be. There will be more crime, more terrorism, more misery, and less unity, community spirit and mutual aid.
  9. Sustenance has always been the foundation of any society. Food culture is the last facet to fall away from immigrants, even language falls before. Any society that gives up its ability to feed itself, that does not build its economy on a foundation of sustainable sustenance, is doomed from the start.
  10. The meek really will inherit the earth. Because the bigger they are, the harder they fall, and lo how the mighty are fallin’. Usually out of the upper stories of Wall St. “Meek” in this case doesn’t mean “weak, obliging, and obedient”, it means “humble, realistic, stoic, and pragmatic”. Nations and communities that strive for a sustainable, low-growth to zero-growth economy aimed at creating a happy healthy society, instead of simply increasing the numerical amount of currency, are going to survive. Hell, they’re going to thrive. Those societies and nations that keep chasing a purely currency-based vision of human well-being, wherein all the “economically irrelevant” values like health, environment, happiness, equality, etc, are ignored, are fucked. Simple as that.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Parable About Fish



Once there was a small pond, enclosed by a meadow in the mist of a steamy tropical jungle. Though a massive river ran nearby, the pond itself was tiny, save for rare occasions when the river flooded well above its banks and swamped the pond, but most of the water came from frequent rainfall.

The pond was a thriving little place. There were hundreds of species of insects, twenty or so kinds of fish, a few amphibians, uncounted and uncountable microorganisms, aquatic plants, crustaceans, and the like.

As a whole, it was a very stable little system, and for its scale, a thriving one. The microorganisms were eaten by the smaller fish and insects, while the smaller fish and insects were eaten by the bigger fish and invertebrates. But the biggest fish in the pond (tilapia agriculturalus) ate the plants and the algae, keeping the water free of blooms, and providing, by their fry, waste, and eventual decay the foundation for life in the pond. Smaller fish helped in this process, eating the insects that might harm the plants the big fish needed to survive, stirring up the sediment so the plant seeds could grow and the silt wouldn’t solidify, and eating some of the organisms that would otherwise prey on the big fish’s young.

One day there was a big flood, and a new species of fish (piranhas ravenous financialus) came into the pond. This species did not arrive alone; it brought with its own parasites, the Trading Leech, and the Speculative Worm.

The new fish were single minded and hungry, and quickly set about devouring everything in sight, so that they could grow bigger. Meanwhile their parasites attacked the smaller creatures and large alike, weakening them, hijacking their hosts bodies to feed themselves. Soon the new fish had consumed all the small, medium, and large fish in the pond, along with everything else worth eating. The native fish, already weakened by parasites proved easy prey, and the piranhas grew ever larger, sleeker, and stronger.

Soon though, they discovered there were no more fish to eat, except for other piranha. So the larger piranha started devouring the smaller ones, and the ones made weak by parasites, growing sleeker and stronger, until there pond was full of huge, sleek predators, circling each other, waiting for a chance to devour each other in order to grow ever larger.

Meanwhile, the plants that had been kept in check by the tilapia began to fill up the edges of the pond, while blooms of algae began to form over the surface, blocking out light, trapping heat in the water and leeching poisons into the pond. Bacteria that were kept in check by the insects and little fish, now swallowed by the piranhas, began to infect the few fish left, and any fish that weakened was immediately devoured by its brethren, who continued to grow, spawn, and devour their own young.

Finally the pond began to silt up, the water to stagnate, the plants to fill all the available space, as the last few piranhas circled in an ever smaller pond, proud of how large they’d grown and fiercely they devoured each other.

In the end, one fat bloated fish gasped for life in the stagnant, slimy puddle that remained of the once prosperous pond. Its only hope was that someone would come and bail it out, or pump more liquid assets into the pond.



Hey, I never claimed it was a good parable.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Things Fall Apart


Seriously.

I've got to do some shopping. I got one pair of boots with gaping holes in the soles, another that are so busted up inside that walking sounds like shaking maracas, and a pair of cheap wellies that I'm therefore forced to wear more often than makes any kind of fashion sense.

Meanwhile I've got exactly three pairs of comfortable pants, and another three that I can squeeze into, and most of my favorite T-shirts are sporting holes that you can see from satellites. None of my sheets match, my leather jacket needs serious repair, and my last pair of tennis-shoes had to chucked out because the sole peeled off at work.

Add in a "kitchen" that currently consists of exposed wiring, a gaping hole in the wall, and enough dust and rubble (along with the requisite respirator) to make my place frightfully ironic when I was working on it on the 11 of last month.

Plus the back tire of my bike, Sid, fell off on my way to work last week.

Result, I look, smell, and feel like a hobo.

And you all thought this was gonna be a blog about the economic collapse, didn't you?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Bilbao, Birthdays, and Last Meals


So after my 24 hours + of birthday, celebrated with a considerable amount of beer, cider, and other things liquid and intoxicating, we took the morning bus to Bilboa, a city that reminded me in so many ways of Seattle, if Seattle was 1000 years old or so. Both are rainy, grey, surrounded by mountians, formerly industrial and reinvented as centers of cuisine and cutting edge culture. Both have a collection of strange architecture, an old town dominated by punk shops, head shops, hippy shops, and fliers plastered damn near everywhere. Both have thier own independence movements.

I loved it.

and the pintxos!!!! the food people! grrrrraaawwwrrrrrrrrrr......

Sorry, bit of a foodgasm there...

This morning I went out with Iñaki and bought a steak the size of my head, along with good cider and other ingrediants for my last home-cooked meal in Spain. Seriously you should see this thing. bigger than my head...I'll take pictures.

I've loved Spain, for the most part. It took some getting used to though. A few things that stuck with me, in no particular order:

In the US, walking down a dark narrow alley is a good way to get mugged. In Spain, its where you find all the best food.

WTF is up with the Spanish mullets!?!!?! Especially the ones that consist of a couple of waistlong nappy dreads?!?!?! I mean ¿Pór fucking qué?

As soon as you leave the coast, finding someone who speaks English is friggin' golden.

In Iceland, the vast majority of the graffiti is some spoiled teenager tagging to feel like their pathetic lives mean something. In Spain, the graffiti really does mean something, a kind of social code crying out for revolution or evolution or just joyous absurdity. Icelandic yuppy spawn needs to learn!

Any place where you can buy a litre of cold beer at a candy store is alright in my book!

Friday, August 22, 2008

El Gringo Tinto


I'm going to move to Spain. The village of Laguardia in fact. An old walled stone village, commanding a high hill overlooking rolling vineyards and rugged mountains, with a lazy river snaking through the valley below.

I'll work part time through the crisp fall days as an English teacher, spending my afternoons drinking local wine in a cozy tavern, eating my pintxos for lunch with a well-worn book in hand. I'll go for walks through the fields, puffing away on a pipe, walking stick in hand and a shaggy dog running ahead of me. Spend my nights in a small stone house within the village walls, cooking for freinds and the buxom peasant girl who adores me.

She'll have long black hair and dark brown eyes, and a smile like an angel.

I'll become an expert on local mushrooms and wines, spend my summers picking grapes or leading tours around the wineries. I'll hunt wild boar in the mountains, fish in the river, spend my holidays in a little stone cottage miles from anywhere.

I'll let my beard grow long and start wearing white shirts and a black beret, learn a smattering of Basque, make my own cider in the fall.

I'll drink so much wine the locals will shake thier heads and call me "El Gringo Tinto".

Yep. That's the plan...

Thursday, August 21, 2008