Dispatches from the Other Side of Despair by The Other Katherine Harris

The Other Katherine Harris

by The Other Katherine Harris

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Dandelion Salad

The Other Katherine Harris’s blog
Nov. 2, 2007

“Where does one go from a world of insanity?
Somewhere on the other side of despair.”
~ T.S. Eliot, from his play The Family Reunion

Alongside the surfeit of Getting It Wrong that prevails in our world of insanity, a couple of countries have gotten two crucial things right. There’s much we could learn from Argentina and from Iceland about how to deal with our economic and energy crises, respectively. But trust our media not to report these good news stories well, since they fly in the face of what passes here for wisdom.

Dispatch 1: Argentina. Only the LA Times seems to have acknowledged the sheer sense behind Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s presidential win last week. Her party and that of her husband, the previous president, grew the nation’s economy by more than 50 percent in the past five and half years — making it the Western Hemisphere’s fastest-growing — while liberating more than 11 million people (28 percent of the population) from the abject poverty that befell them under the evil sway of the IMF/World Bank’s gang of looters. Yeah, by defaulting on $100 billion in crippling debt at the end of 2001, they lost foreign investment and the ability to borrow directly in international bond markets, but those proved no great losses. The recovery didn’t require strong exports, either; they contributed only about 13 percent to the result. All it took was, as Mark Weisbrot put it, getting “basic macroeconomic policies right” — which meant reining in an overvalued currency that favored artificially cheap imports, while keeping interest rates low enough to promote growth, never mind inflation. Thus the Kirchners and their colleagues achieved average annual growth that, at 8.2 percent, was more than twice the average for Latin American nations. Further, wages have soared by more than 40 percent (adjusted for inflation).

Sounds like heaven from where most Americans sit, having steadily lost buying power and benefits for 30 years, doesn’t it? And yet we keep being told that our only possible future lies in pandering to giant transnationals and even paying them to ship our jobs offshore. In the Argentinan version of the word, mierda del toro.

Dispatch 2:  Iceland.  Back in the 1970s, when our effed-up government inflicted Pinochet on Chile and everything in South America started going swiftly to hell for all but a tyrannical elite, Iceland was one of the world’s poorest nations.  Now it’s one of the most affluent, ranked fifth in GDP per capita, based on three decades of utterly sane energy policy. We were making headway in that arena, ourselves, until Reagan pulled the plug on developing solar, wind and other energy alternatives that vied with what his buddies were selling. Come recently to our shores bearing the gospel of geothermal energy, Iceland’s President Olafur Grimmson said we’re also sitting on goldmines of the stuff. According to Byron White, writing for The Daily Reckoning a few days ago, Grimmson told both a Harvard audience and members of our (unreasonably uninformed) Senate that the U.S. sits atop “the second-largest geothermal resources in the world” — more than highly volcanic Iceland has and yet Grimmson’s folk are “heat-mining” so effectively that foreign companies have queued up to obtain such cheap electricity. “Fully 100% of Iceland’s electricity now comes from renewable sources, geothermal and hydroelectric,” wrote White, “and almost all buildings … are heated with geothermal energy … (A)bout 72% of … energy usage is tied to geothermal sources, which eliminates essentially all carbon emissions and dramatically reduces reliance on imported fossil fuels.” Citing a second source, Walter Snyder, director of the Intermountain West Hydrothermal Consortium, White added that “known but untapped sites in Western states could be developed within a reasonable time to produce … the equivalent (of) about 15 nuclear power plants or 30 coal-fired plants.” And Snyder imparted that information to the same Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources a year ago!

So why do you reckon we’re being railroaded into subsidizing lunatic alternatives like filthy coal, immensely dangerous nuclear power and biofuels that experts warn will starve the world’s poorest people and are already contributing to sharply rising hunger in America?

Here in the world of insanity, Andrea Hopkins wrote for Reuters on October 30: “The Hormel Hunger Survey released on Monday … found 64 percent of Americans believe US hunger has worsened in the last year, with 13 percent saying they or someone in their family had gone to bed hungry in the past month. Sixty percent said they have had to cut back on the quality or quantity of food they buy because of higher prices, while 29 percent said they expected to ask for food from a food bank or other charitable organization in the future.”


Biofuel: Another Flawed Policy (video)

4 thoughts on “Dispatches from the Other Side of Despair by The Other Katherine Harris

  1. Regarding the Kirchner government in Argentina, I have to dispute the remark (and statistics) about the relative importance of exports in the economic recovery. It´s true that the economic team of the Kirchners (now estranged) successfully imposed fiscal austerity to balance the budget, but they were able to do so because of the windfall profits of the soybean exports. The government of Argentina now charges 35% in “retentions” on the export of soybeans and other grains. There are price controls on all manner of daily staples such as milk, bread and meat
    (the export of which is strictly limited to keep domestic prices low.) There are very few economies in the world which are so fiercely controlled by the central government and it is the producers of Argentina who are the heroes.

  2. I was only quoting what was stated in the article, Paul. How they ranked relative to Africa wasn’t noted. The point is really that we need to get on the geothermal train, isn’t it?

  3. Iceland wasn’t “one of the world’s poorest nations” in the 1970s like say, Ethiopia or Sudan. This is obviously ridiculous! It was one of the poorer nations of europe, much like Ireland, another nation which has since risen to become one of the world’s richest per capita countries. Just thought I’d point that out.

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