Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dirty Fucking Hippies

I like this video, it is aimed at an American audience, it oversimplifies many issues and overstates others for dramatic effect but it is essentially right. I especially enjoyed seeing the "hippy car" at 4m18s resplendant with sponsorship from the worlds largest mobile phone company for the unintended irony.

This stuff does need to be very simply spelled out though, becuase most Americans are fuckwits who will believe almost anything that "authority" tells them. I'm not being discriminatory here. I'm British and most of my countrymen are fuckwits too. It is just not discriminatory to have a go at the social norms of Homo Sapiens. People are blinded to the horror and injustice of our circumstances by the human instinct to survive and prosper that is cynically manipulated by  socioeconomic engineers at the behest of the amoral profit driven behemoths of free market capitalism.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Barclays defiling their Quaker roots

A UK uncut protester in a branch of Barclays Bank
during a day of protest on 19 February 2011.
In early 2011 the American born Group Chief Executive of Barclays bank Bob Diamond chose to make a robust defence of his bank and of the global banking elite in general in his "evidence" to a Treasury Select Committee. He controversially stated that "There was a period of remorse and apology for banks - I think that period needs to be over”. Coming in the wake of huge bailouts to the banking sector, Quantitative Easing and massive interest minimised loans from the US Federal Reserve, his remarks understandably provoked widespread anger amongst the general public given the background of savage cuts inflicted on public services like libraries, universities, adult education and disability benefits across the UK being inflicted by a Conservative party that has received over £40 million pounds in funding from the super rich banking elite since 2005.

At the time of Diamond's remarks Barclays were the third biggest bank nominally based in the United Kingdom with assets of £1.5 trillion, a globally recognised brand thanks in part to their sponsorship of the English Premier League since 2004 and the 15th biggest bank in the world judged by their market share. I am not a banking expert but I do know a little bit about the subject and have an interest in the history of banking and industry in the United Kingdom. I believe that a quick look at the history of Barclays Bank can illustrate how the UK banking industry has lost it's moral bearings and spun out of control. 
 
Barclays bank was a Quaker institution founded in 1690 by David Barclay, a man of Quaker faith who's father Robert had been a highly influential Quaker writer. The bank was run on Quaker business principles and guided by the Quaker testimony of integrity (the other three testimonies being to equality, peace & simplicity).

Over the years the bank grew in strength through the amalgamation of other Quaker banks like the Backhouse Bank of Darlington and Gurney's bank of Norwich. Through the centuries Barclays has subsumed dozens of Quaker and other non-conformist banks, credit unions and building societies.
Backhouse bank in Darlington was one of the many
Quaker & non-conformist banks
subsumed into what is now Barclays Bank
A look at the Backhouse family and their Darlington Bank which was located only a couple of minutes walk away from Darlington Quaker Meeting house gives us a fine example of how Quaker run banks helped to stimulate the industrial revolution through the provision of finance to people outside the economic elite of the era. At the time Quakers were still being persecuted for their beliefs, they were prevented from attending university, standing for Parliament, becoming judiciary or trading in corporation towns. Since Quakers were barred from playing a role in the establishment economy many influential Quaker families established their own businesses and became leading bankers and industrialists of their age.

The Backhouse family of Darlington were providers of credit to local industrialists like the town's famous railway pioneers as well as being industrialists in their own rights and noted biology experts too. The Backhouses played a clearly defined and important role in their local communities which extended far beyond their role as money lenders. A far cry from the frenzied and obscure trading activities of Barclays Capital in things like derivatives, hedge funds, short sales and futures, that are pretty much abstract intangible ideas to the majority of the British population. 

Considering the Quaker disapproval of gambling and their numerous campaigns against poverty it would be galling for the founders of these constituent banks to think the institutions that they had created would be subsumed into a megalithic institution that feeds into the huge casino that is the global investment banking sector through Barclays Capital and that the results of bad bets made by these casino banks can impoverish millions of people while the gamblers within the international banking community continue to make obscene amounts of money for themselves.

Going back to Diamond’s speech, he said that "No bank should be a burden on the taxpayer" and insisted that  Barclays had not taken any direct support from the taxpayer. Maybe they can claim that they had no direct assistance from the British tax payer but according to the Guardian and Private Eye in 2009 Barclays took $232bn in (Term Auction Facility) TAF loans from the US Federal Reserve (The American taxpayer) with minuscule interest rates unavailable to the money markets and definitely unavailable to plebs like us. They also borrowed $212bn from a similar scheme called the Primary Dealers Credit Facility (PDCF) in 2008. All this ultra low interest borrowing from the Federal Reserve (US taxpayer) adds up to at least $680bn since the credit crunch began. The most galling thing is that they obviously used this slush fund of cheap money to lend on to other people at the usual high interest rates and creamed off the profits.

The fact that the Americans pumped hundreds of billions of dollars through Barclays with near 0% interest rates raises a number of questions such as: Could the UK have even afforded the burden of lending nearly half a trillion pounds to Barclays at negligable interest rates? How much of a controlling interest in Barclays activities did all those billions of dollars buy for the Americans? How can Diamond continue in his job when he made such transparently disingenuous remarks to a Parliamentary Select Committee? How would the Quaker founders of Barclays and other constituent banks feel about recent Barclays activities and Diamond's unfamiliarity with the Quaker testimony of integrity, the single standard of truthfulness and the belief that honest dealing with others means more than simply avoiding direct lies?


Diamond giving "evidence" to the Treasury Select Committee,
where he made disingenuous claims that Barclays
had received no government assistance in 2009.
In his speech Diamond boasted that "In 2009, "we lent £35bn more [than the previous year] and in 2010 we lent £35bn more again in the first nine months alone," but it seems that they only managed to do this by borrowing £680bn in easy money from the Fed. 

Even if we forget about the direct assistance loans they took from the Americans, the bank also benefited from the climate in which the UK government was pumping billions of pounds into the banking sector to support toppling institutions like Northern Rock, Bradford and Bingley, HBOS and RBS in order to prevent the destruction of London as the financial capital of the world and billions more injected into the banking sector through its Quantitative Easing program.

It is pretty difficult to judge the scale of the negative effects that Quantitative Easing has had on the global economy, however the futility of creating new money to pump into an economic system was one of the few economic ideas that seeped through to me from the idiosyncratically structured British mass education system. To me it doesn't matter whether you are creating money to directly fund government spending (monetising) or printing money in order to deliberately invest it in buying up the remnants of hundreds of billions of pounds worth of toxic bad bets that the banks can't afford to service (quantitative easing). Printing money in order to stop the banking system from collapsing distorts the whole economy and is the kind of government subsidisation that consecutive UK governments have doggedly avoided giving to once proud industries like coal, steel, shipbuilding, cars and trains, thus allowing swathes of our economy that actually used to produce things to fall into ruin leaving the UK completely dependent on foreign imports of commodities of which until relatively recently we were global leaders in production.

To me it is a disgrace that our elected leaders took the ideological decision to let British mining, manufacturing and engineering fall into ruin rather than pay subsidies to help them through difficult periods, always citing the mantra of their free-marketeer friends and paymasters that "subsidisation is bad because it distorts economic systems". Instead of supporting British industry they concentrated on turning the city of London into the banking capital of the world. As soon as the banking sector ran into difficulties they poured countless billions that British miners and manufacturers could never even have dreamed of into a banking sector dominated by the same free-marketeer parasites that would have bitterly opposed emergency subsidisation of any other part of the UK economy.

To make matters worse, in February 2011 it was revealed that  in 2009 Barclays used a whirlpool of tax-avoidance subsidiaries based in tax-efficient countries. (tax havens) to reduce their tax bill to just £113m on profits of £11.6bn, which is a rate of taxation of less than 1%. If they had paid the 28% tax rate that many businesses in the struggling British manufacturing sector cant avoid, they would have ended up making a contribution of £3.25bn to the UK economy.

The fact that this kind of large scale tax avoidance amongst the global capitalist elites has been going on has been public knowledge for a long time and Barclays are by no means unusual in their aversion to paying tax. This public knowledge was because the intricacies of Barclays tax avoidance schemes were being freely circulated elsewhere on the internet as Barclays lawyers were making determined efforts to gag the Gaurdian from revealing some of the complex tax avoidance strategies they had been using in 2008. This latest revelation of the sheer scale of Barclays tax avoidance has come as shock even to seasoned politicians and fair tax campaigners like UK Uncut and the Robin Hood Tax Campaign.

So to recap, in his speech Diamond cited Barclays 2009 lending figures as reason that everyone should stop criticising bankers and let them get on with doing their jobs and made the disingenuous claim that the banks had received no government assistance to achieve these figures when in reality they had taken secretive loans of more that half a trillion dollars for the American Federal reserve, benefited from the British government's use of quantitative easing and the ridiculously low tax burden expected of them by their host nation. He then issued veiled threats by talking about how they needed to be allowed to pay obscene bonuses or their "best staff" would simply leave to claim their vast bonuses in less regulated economies and then pointedly reiterated Barclays' intention to remain based in London.

The fact is that the values of the small local banks with strong community ties, clear community benefits and ethical motivation have been forgotten as Barclays bank has grown into this monolithic and amoral profit driven entity that is structured to avoid billions in tax and pay out almost as much as they avoided in tax as bonuses for their super rich traders and executives, many of whom use the same tax evasion strategies as Barclays in order to avoid paying tax on their earnings while communities all over the UK are stripped of their services to pay off government debts that have been massively exacerbated by the unprecedented billions of public money used to prop up the banking system.

It is clear that Barclays have moved on from providing ethically motivated community banking to become an institution that diverts billions of pounds into the pockets of a tiny economic elite and avoids paying tax, while the communities from which it rose are impoverished by rising price inflation, wage repression and increased job insecurity as their public infrastructure is devastated by vicious cuts orchestrated by a demonstrably bankrolled Tory party.

UPDATE: In 2012 Bob Diamond resigned in disgrace after the LIBOR rigging scandal. He walked away with an £8.75 million payoff.


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More articles from
 ANOTHER ANGRY VOICE 
             
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Barclays and their £multi-million rewards for failure
             
Too big to fail? Too big to jail
                 
What is ... Wage Repression?

The JP Morgan plan for Europe
        
What is ... Quantitative Easing?
                  
What is ... a Credit Default Swap?
                
 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Psychoquackery



From the very beginning, the so called psycho-sciences (psychology, psychoanalysis, psychiatry, psychotherapy) were built on a foundation of deranged nonsense. Sigmund Freud came out with a lot of pseudoscientific gibberish (all little boys are latent motherfuckers and all little girls fantasise about a good fucking from their dad). To use a phrase that is common to the psycho-brigade this looks like a classic case of projection. 

Even today Freud's ideas still have huge influence over the field, his theory that adult problems can be traced to unresolved conflicts from certain phases of childhood and adolescence is still popular, his descendants also heavily influenced the field and the vast majority of people able to name a famous psychoanalyst would probably come up with Sigmund Freud.
One of "Pavlov's children."
In the early 20th century, psyco-sciences progressed from Freud's deranged pseudoscience to barbaric experiments on animals and people. Most people have heard of Pavlov's dogs and the "conditioned reflex" but few are aware that Pavlov carried out the same experiments on children too, including surgically adding taps to their salivary glands and force feeding them.

Others like William Sargent pioneered some horrifying treatments like insulin therapy (regularly inducing comas with huge insulin overdoses), Electroconvulsive therapy (giving huge electric shocks to the patient in order to "burn out" their mental illness) brain surgery like lobotomies and all kinds of experimental drug therapies. It seems that many of the people working in the field in the early 20th century would be described as psychopaths by today’s standards because of their willingness to inflict unproven and traumatic treatments on people, often with little or no scientific justification.

By the 1950s the idea of treating "deviance" was commonplace. People such as young women who had a child out of wedlock or refused to stop seeing a boyfriend that their parents disapproved of would be institutionalised and given treatments like electroshock therapy and in many cases lobotomies. Many victims of this regime can still be found in mental institutions to this day and have suffered whole lifetimes of bogus psychotherapeutic treatments and institutionalisation just for failing some social conformity expectation in their early years.

Thankfully the "profession" has left some of the worst treatments like insulin induced comas and lobotomies in the past, however the concept of medicalisation of "deviance" and "non-conformity" is still fundamental to the profession. As you can see from the video there is an ever growing cloud of so called psychiatric disorders, the most famous being ADHD for which hundreds of thousands of children are treated with a stimulant called Ritalin (which has pharmacological effects similar to a mix of amphetamines and cocaine). Imagine the public outrage if I were to set up a website aimed at selling amphetamines to children in order to help them stay awake and concentrate on their school work, however the psycho-brigade can get away with it by deflecting criticism with their expertise and qualifications and pointing to the evidence base they have built up to support their methodology of drugging children with powerful stimulants.

The experimental data does show that the kids become less disruptive when they take these powerful stimulants but the methodology of medicalising symptoms like hyperactivity, impulsive behaviour and inattentiveness with extremely powerful drugs at such early ages must lead to medical dependence in the same way that mass institutionalisations of the mid 20th century led to a huge number of completely institutionalised patients.

The creation of medical dependence is clearly beneficial to the big pharmaceutical companies that produce the drugs like Ritalin and to the professional prescribers, who with the right techniques can create lifelong patients out of children with "disorders" like not being able to "sit still and concentrate on boring stuff" which until recent times was considered fairly normal childhood behaviour and treated with corporal punishment in schools. The profession is not only punishing and stigmatising people that display non conformist behaviour they are making a profitable industry out of their medicalised treatments.

The rise of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy has given traditional psychotherapists a lot to worry about. In layman's terms CBT is a methodology that focuses on helping patients to develop the mental skills to overcome their own behavioural problems and has been shown to work in the treatment of anxiety, depression, phobias, insomnia and a range of other "mental disorders". One of the main benefits of CBT is that it can reduce patient reliance on expensive long term drug therapy.

It is no surprise at all that leading establishment psychiatrists such as Andrew Samuels like to use their influence to characterise CBT as "a coup, a power play by a community that has suddenly found itself on the brink of corralling an enormous amount of money". It is frankly disgraceful to see a spokesman for, and proponent of, the traditional and expensive methodology of medicalisation and institutionalisation trying to smear the cheaper and more humanist approach as a bunch of money grabbing usurpers.

I don't see CBT as a magic bullet, but it is much closer to the holistic and humanist approach to mental illness that I favour. To me it is obvious that helping people to work out how to overcome their own problems where possible is a vastly superior approach to trawling their childhood for traumatic experiences and helping them to pin the blame for their situation on things that simply can't be undone, prescribing lifelong regimes of expensive and powerful drugs like stimulants and sedatives and herding patients into institutional care. It is time for the so called experts to get rid of the view of mental health conditions as deviances that can be categorised and medicated and start to see and treat their patients as people.

More info - CCHR

Saturday, February 5, 2011

A message to the people of Britian from your superior & benevolent Tory overlords:

Using libraries is stealing from the publishing industry.
Cycling to work is stealing from privatised transport companies.
Using the NHS is stealing from private health care organisations.
Celebrating Mayday is stealing from the tourist industry.
Using herbal and complimentary medicine is stealing from pharmaceutical companies.
Growing your own food is stealing from supermarkets.
Walking and jogging to stay fit is stealing from private gyms.
Smoking weed to chill out is stealing from the breweries and tobacco companies.
Supporting public ownership of woodland is stealing from property developers.
Watching the BBC is stealing from Rupert Murdoch.


Thank you for your attention.