I used to be a vego

We have 15 or so sheep, for food and to keep the grass down. We’ll be taking 4 to the abattoir soon. They have had a good life with us. Never hungry, left to their own devices for all but a couple of times a year, when they are shorn, crutched, drenched (for parasites). They have one last anxious day and it’s all over quickly and painlessly.

Last weekend, we found a sheep on in the back paddock, dead. We’d had a couple of balmy, warmish days, so we assume she died from fly strike. Sheep don’t leave an “angel” in the dirt from moving their arms about; but they do leave a pattern in the dirt where they have struggled to get up, whilst laying on their side. It can really happen quickly. It’s not a nice way to go. I assume it’s blood poisoning that gets them in the end. We felt guilty, for missing it. Many sheep die from fly strike every year.

It’s no different for all the wild animals out there, whose fate is often a slow, lingering death. I don’t know that many animals in the wild die a pleasant death. Crows will peck the eyes of not yet dead kangaroos and sheep. Foxes will gnaw at the nether regions of sheep (and other animals I imagine) if they’re cast (down and can’t get up). As mentioned, flies will lay their maggots, which grow quickly, turning from white to red, as they suck at the blood of the animal they have adopted, albeit temporarily, as host.

We all die. Some of us (humans) in our beds whilst asleep, some more horribly. Some drop with a coronary or stroke. Some have months to prepare as an incurable disease slowly chokes the life from their ever weakened bodies. No matter…. we’re all for the high jump eventually.

Much as I respect my animals at the end of their time, and yes, it is sad to say goodbye; I think they have it easier than many.

Psoriasis gone after 25 years

After 25 years of psoriasis, 18 of them taking methotrexate, I now have no psoriasis evident. It’s now 2/4/19 (second of April 2019) and I had my first, self administered, injection of Cosentyx on December 18th 2018.

On day 2 (December 19th) the itching had gone. Really! After years of feeling as though I was covered in mosquito bites, scratching until there’s bleeding, weeping plaques, clothing worn through where I couldn’t stop rubbing for some relief, gone.

There’s not much more I can say. I am so lucky to have a great dermatologist and to live at a time and in a country where this treatment is available to me. Cosentyx costs about $20,000 AU a year, but because Australia has subsidised pharmaceuticals, I pay $39 for a month’s supply. I feel so sorry for those who don’t share my good fortune and continue to suffer with this bastard of a disease. I hope the stuff continues to work forever, and that everyone who needs it, gets it. I guess it’s all about politics.

What is modern monetary theory?

Explainer: what is modern monetary theory?

Steven Hail, University of Adelaide

There is a school of thought among economists who aren’t worried about the so called “budget black hole”, where tough choices have been called for to reduce government spending. Proponents of modern monetary theory, like Bernie Sanders’ chief economic adviser Professor Stephanie Kelton, claim the Australian government need not balance its budget and are instead calling for the government to balance the economy, which they argue is a different thing entirely.

Modern monetary theory is an approach to economic management developed since the 1990s by Professor Bill Mitchell, alongside American academics like Professor Randall Wray, Stephanie Kelton, and investment bankers and fund managers like Warren Mosler. It builds on the ideas of a previous generation of economists, such as Hyman Minsky, Wynne Godley and Abba Lerner, whose interpretation of the work of the famous economist J.M.Keynes was very different from that which became dominant by the 1980s.

By the 1980s, most people saw Keynes as an advocate of budget deficits only during periods of high unemployment. Lerner, as early as 1943, in a paper entitled Functional Finance and the Federal Debt, had argued that Keynesian economics involved running whatever government deficit was necessary to maintain full employment, and that deficits should be seen as the norm. Keynes, in a letter to fellow economist James Meade written in April 1943, said of Lerner, “His argument is impeccable. But heaven help anyone who tries to put it across”.

While the theory has attracted its own interpretations and criticism it’s also gaining traction in a global economic environment that continues to defy the efforts of policymakers to restore sustained economic growth.

There are three core statements at the heart of modern monetary theory. The first two are:

1) Monetary sovereign governments face no purely financial budget constraints.

2) All economies, and all governments, face real and ecological limits relating to what can be produced and consumed.

The first statement is the one which is widely misunderstood. A monetary sovereign government is one with its own currency and central bank, a floating exchange rate, and no significant foreign currency debt. Australia has a monetary sovereign government. So does the UK, the US and Japan. The Eurozone countries are not monetary sovereigns, as they do not have their own currencies.

The second of these statements confirms the obvious fact that governments can cause inflation, if they choose, by spending too much themselves, or not taxing enough. When this happens, the total level of spending in the economy exceeds what can be produced by all the labour, skills, physical capital, technology and natural resources which are available. We can also destroy our natural ecosystem if produce too many of the wrong things, or use the wrong processes to produce what we want to consume.

The Australian government is a currency-issuing central government. It cannot run out of Australian dollars. It’s never forced to borrow Australian dollars, although it can and does choose to do so, and its debt securities play a useful role in our financial system.

It doesn’t exactly need to tax us to pay for its spending either. Taxes exist to limit inflation. It’s necessary for us to pay taxes to keep total spending – government and private – at a level which will not be inflationary.

This doesn’t mean government spending and taxation have to equal each other, and in countries like Australia this rarely happens in practice. This leads to the third principle of modern monetary theory:

3) The government’s financial deficit is everybody else’s financial surplus.

For every lender, there must be a borrower. That means that across our financial system, surpluses and deficits always add up to zero.

This is clear in the following chart, which shows the financial balances of the Australian private sector, the rest of the world, and the Australian government sector, since 1994.


ABS/Author Provided, Author provided

For every saver who earns more than they spend, there must somebody or some institution which spends more than it takes in. If we want the private sector as a whole to save rather than go further into debt, the government will probably have to spend more than it taxes (depending on what the rest of the world is doing).

It works the other way around too. The Howard government was only able to run fiscal surpluses because the private sector went heavily into deficit.

Household debt trebled during the Howard years. Since then, we have been in a tie with a couple of other countries for the highest household debt to income ratios in the world.


Bank of International Settlements/Author Provided, Author provided

So, the government cannot run out of dollars; that doesn’t mean the government should “spend like a drunken sailor” or that we don’t have to pay taxes; it does mean balanced budgets are unnecessary. It also means government deficits can play a supportive role, allowing the private sector to build up its saving.

Australian governments have nearly always run deficits anyway. None of the above ought to be shocking. On average, governments of both left and right have run deficits, ever since federation. It just might be that you have been misled by that metaphor of the government as a household.

In a country with nearly 15% underutilisation of labour, over 30% youth underutilisation, fragile private balance sheets, and a growing need for green and other infrastructural investments, it does imply that budget repair is a red herring. This means the government could and should be using its role as the currency issuer to promote full employment, social inclusion, ecological repair, and healthy private sector balance sheets.


ABS, Author provided

Politicians are, according to modern monetary theorists, currently obsessed with something which doesn’t matter (balancing their budget), and are ignoring many things which do matter a great deal for the future of the country.

This is the perspective you get when you start to see Australia and the world through the prism of modern monetary theory. It’s based on nothing more than a comprehension of how modern financial systems actually work, and in that sense, perhaps it should not be controversial at all.

Modern monetary theory proponent, Professor Bill Mitchell, advocates for governments to use the policy space provided for them by monetary sovereignty to introduce a job guarantee and pursue a return to unemployment rates of 2% or less. These rates were achieved in Australian across the 1960s and early 1970s. He proposes a return to full employment through a federally funded and locally managed program of public employment. He does not believe that this need be inflationary – indeed the job guarantee is an essential part of the modern monetary theory framework for stabilising the economy and avoiding inflation.

In Australia, the three major political parties have as yet paid little attention to his ideas. But his fellow modern monetary theorists got close to government in the USA (with Senator Bernie Sanders) and two micro-parties have been set up in the last year with the express intention of promoting modern monetary theory as a frame for understanding economic issues. So you can expect to hear a lot more from both the proponents and the critics of modern monetary theory.

Steven Hail, Lecturer in Economics, University of Adelaide

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Cancer is the best way to die

Not the cheeriest of subjects but….. it does make a lot of sense…….

Cancer is the best way to die and there should be less money spent on its cure, a leading doctor says.

Richard Smith, a former editor of the British Medical Journal, has argued that dying from cancer is preferable to a sudden death, organ failure or dementia because it gives someone the best chance to say goodbye and reflect on life.

In a blog post on the medical journal’s website, Dr Smith says most people would prefer a sudden death, if given the choice, but that that was often the hardest for mourning relatives.

He says people who die suddenly risk leaving relationships unhealed, no funeral directions and an unfulfilled life.

He lists the “long, slow” death of dementia as the worst way to die “as you are slowly erased”, while organ failure leaves “far too much in the hospital and in the hands of doctors”.

He concludes “death from cancer is best”.

“You can say goodbye, reflect on your life, leave last messages, perhaps visit special places for a last time, listen to favourite pieces of music, read loved poems, and prepare, according to your beliefs, to meet your maker or enjoy eternal oblivion,” he says.

“This is, I recognise, a romantic view of dying, but it is achievable with love, morphine, and whisky. But stay away from overambitious oncologists, and let’s stop wasting billions trying to cure cancer, potentially leaving us to die a much more horrible death.”

Dr Smith, who is the chairman of the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research and medical records company Patients Know Best, also worked for six years as a TV doctor with the BBC.

How to change the cutter belt on a Cox Stockman 4000 Hydro

How to change the cutter belt on a Cox Stockman 4000 Hydro.

I searched high and low for advice on changing the cutter belt on a Cox Stockman 4000 Hydro drive rideon mower, to no avail. Having talked to the people at Cox (http://coxmowers.com.au/), and being unable to to find a mechanic to do it for me, I decided to give it a go. It’s a bit of a pain in the arse.

This is what I did.

1/
Lower the cutter deck to its lowest setting. Look under the mower, at the rear of the cutter deck and find the rear hanger. Remove the R clip that retains it and swing out of the way of the belt.

2/
Loosen all 4 engine mounting bolts (13mm). The engine needs to move towards the rear just a little. Remove the drive belt from the engine pulley.

3/
At the back of the mower, you’ll see an inspection plate with 2×10 mm bolts. Remove the bolts and the cover.

4/
Lift the seat and the flap that covers the hydro drive. There are 4×13 mm bolts holding the perforated steel fan cover which Cox call the “PTO Sub Assembly” ( 1 below). Remove all 4. The left and right “belt guides” ( 17 & 18 below) will probably fall away. The 4 bolts screw into these.

5/
You should now be able to remove both belts from the PTO Sub Assembly pulleys and remove the PTO Sub Assembly from the machine.

6/ Remove the belt. You’ll notice a couple of bent metal belt keepers at the deck pulley, that might hinder removal of the belt. I used a spanner to just bend them out of the way enough to get the belt off.

7/ Replace with a new belt and perform all the above tasks in reverse order.

I did this on a hot day, out in the sun. I was used to changing the belt on Husqvarna and John Deere mowers previously, both of which were a 10 minute job. It’s not so straight forward with the Cox, but in its defence, it has done a fair bit of mowing on pretty rough grass over the last 18 months and this is its first belt change. Good luck.

War is a Racket!

War is a Racket!

by Smedley Butler

— Excerpt from a speech delivered in 1933, by Major General Smedley Butler, USMC.

War is just a racket. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of people. Only a small inside group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses.

I believe in adequate defense at the coastline and nothing else. If a nation comes over here to fight, then we’ll fight. The trouble with America is that when the dollar only earns 6 percent over here, then it gets restless and goes overseas to get 100 percent. Then the flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag.

I wouldn’t go to war again as I have done to protect some lousy investment of the bankers. There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket.

There isn’t a trick in the racketeering bag that the military gang is blind to. It has its “finger men” to point out enemies, its “muscle men” to destroy enemies, its “brain men” to plan war preparations, and a “Big Boss” Super-Nationalistic-Capitalism.

It may seem odd for me, a military man to adopt such a comparison. Truthfulness compels me to. I spent thirty- three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country’s most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle- man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.

I suspected I was just part of a racket at the time. Now I am sure of it. Like all the members of the military profession, I never had a thought of my own until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military service.

I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912 (where have I heard that name before?). I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.

During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.

This is a great read. I found the full article at:

http://www.lookingglassnews.org/viewcommentary.php?storyid=29#c2

Propaganda and Islam: What you’re not Being Told

Justin King
Propaganda is the wheel by which the government steers the bus of a nation; typically driving it into war or off the cliff of humanity. It is amazing to see how many people who are otherwise rational human beings will blindly follow the herd on the matter of how subhuman a perceived national enemy is.
The western media wonderfully paints Islam as a death cult bent on world domination. Over and over again the American populace is shown footage of the atrocities committed by fanatics or of Arab men burning American flags. The problem, of course, is that this isn’t remotely representative of the Islamic population of the world. Are there Muslims who employ terrorism? Of course. Are there Christians who employ terrorism? Of course. There are even Buddhists who employ terrorism.
Some general facts about Islam might help break the noose of wartime propaganda that rests around America’s neck. Below are a list of statements this journalist has seen in the last week on social media, followed by the data to put that statement in perspective.
“All [or most] Muslims are terrorists.”
There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. The much-discussed ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) organization, which has been described as the “richest terrorist group in the world” can only field between 7,000 and 15,000 troops in its battle to create a fundamentalist homeland. Even taking the highest estimate of their troop strength means that fewer than 1 out of every 106,000 Muslims from all over the world are actually willing to take up arms and fight for the fundamentalist dream. The Iraqi army, however, can field 250,000 soldiers to fight against that fundamentalist vision. That figure does not include irregular forces allied to the Iraqi army. The premise that all Muslims are terrorists falls flat by a mere study of the numbers. It isn’t a majority of Muslims. It isn’t even 1% of Muslims.
“Muslims want Sharia law.”
While many Muslims believe in Sharia law, what is considered Sharia law is not universal. In Lebanon, which has been considered a hotbed of Islamic terrorism ever since the bombing of the US Embassy in Beirut, 38% of Muslims don’t even believe it is the Word of God. Among those that do believe it to be the direct Word of God, only 29% believe in making it the legal system for the country, and a majority of Lebanese Muslims don’t believe Sharia law should apply to non-Muslims. Even among those that believe whole-heartedly in Sharia law, they don’t necessarily believe in some of the more violent aspects. The crime of adultery is punishable by stoning under some forms of Sharia law. Some quick and simple math shows that in Lebanon, less than 3% of Muslims believe that punishment should be applied to the population at large. Meanwhile in America’s heartland, a political candidate has advocated or silently endorsed the idea of stoning homosexuals. The vast majority of Muslims believe that Sharia law should be used to settle family or property disputes among Muslims.
Some countries have higher rates of belief in using Sharia law, and some have lower. Lebanon was chosen because it falls in the middle as far as averages go.
“They beat their women.”
First, the very phase “their women” suggests that the individual might fall close to the more radical elements of Islam in regards to the belief that women are property. Yes, some Muslim men beat “their women.” In the United States 25% of women will be beaten by “their men” in their lifetime. This is not an Islamic issue, this is an issue rising from the idea that women are property and somehow belong to the men. If this is justification for war, the United States might consider invading Belfast, where 60 cases of domestic violence are reported daily.
“They are stuck in the Stone Age, and they want to stay there.”
This statement marginalizes the thousands of Muslim men and women who sit in prison for attempting to change their government and those that died in the attempt. Political prisoners throughout the Arab world sit rotting away for attempting to bring about change in their nations. They are Muslims. Four Saudi Princesses are currently being starved to death by the King for speaking out in favor of women’s rights. Countless journalists and bloggers sit behind bars for questioning their governments. The US government continually props up these brutal dictatorships with multi-million dollar arms deals and keeps the power in the hands of those that don’t want change.
“Muhammad was a pedophile and his wife was only 6 [or 7].”
Most historians agree that Aisha and Muhammad were married after she reached puberty. They place her age, on average, around 13 years old at the time of marriage, though she may have been betrothed to him much earlier. Americans need to keep in mind that while they might not have heard of Islam prior to September 11th, Muhammad lived in the early 600s A.D. It might surprise them to learn that marriage at such an early age was extremely common not only in the Arab world, but the Western world as well. King John of England married a 12-year-old around 1198. Romeo’s love, Juliet, was only 13. No subset of people is more hated in the West than pedophiles. An attempt to cast the founder of the perceived enemy as a pedophile would certainly benefit the war effort.
“Muslims take child brides and rape children.”
Does it occur in the Muslim world? Sure. It occurs in the United States as well, typically deep in America’s heartland. The Catholic Church is well-known for its abuse of the youth. Again this is a worldwide issue, not an Islamic one. There is not a single Middle Eastern country listed among the top 20 nations with a high prevalence of child brides.
Conclusion:
Most of the information that is spread via social media is simply not accurate. It only serves to plant the idea in the American psyche that somehow the United States must save the Muslims from themselves. The goal of this propaganda is to make Americans believe that Muslims are somehow lesser people. After all, it’s easier to condemn people to die in air strikes if they aren’t really human. Before clicking the share or retweet button on an inflammatory article, try to determine if the information being presented is an accurate portrayal of the Muslim world, or if you are simply furthering the government’s march towards war.
The Islamic world is not without its problems. The struggle for equal rights for women and homosexuals continues to meet roadblock after roadblock on the streets of Amman, Damascus, Riyadh, and Tehran; however, if the United States seeks to use this as justification for intervention, maybe it should invade Mississippi or Arkansas.
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This article is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to the author and TheAntiMedia.org. Image credit: braveandboldthinking.

Psoriasis, Methotrexate and Alcohol

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As a little background, I’ve suffered with Psoriasis (P) and Psoriatic Arthritis (PsA) for twenty five or so years. I have been taking Methotrexate (MTX) for about fifteen years at a dose of 20mg once a week. A couple of years ago, I started to have the occasional alcoholic drink, having barely touched the stuff for at least twenty years. My dermatologist recently told me that of all the drugs doctors tell patients not to drink with, MTX is at the top of the list and he definitely wouldn’t drink “at all” if he was taking it. This is because of the potential for doing serious damage to one’s liver, but there is another reason to not mix Methotrexate and alcohol that I have never seen mentioned before.

Okay. So now the bit where I show I’m only human, or even a bit of an idiot. Of late I found myself enjoying a drink just a bit too much, especially when it comes to whisky. Specifically “Jameson Irish Whiskey”. In fact, during the last few months, I’ve managed to drink myself beyond tipsy and well into the land of wobbly, and more than once. It’s only after the most recent episode that a pattern has emerged that has helped me decide that this kind of fun needs to stop.

You see, I had a bad cold. One that went to my chest. One that required antibiotics. And this cold came back a few weeks later, much to my annoyance. As I write this, I am trying to shake the third bout of this infection. It sure is persistent.

Well guess what I’ve realised. Each time this cold has re-emerged, it has been pretty much the day after a decent session on the booze.

MTX is a DMARD (Disease Modifying Anti Rheumatic Drug) and suppresses the immune system to some degree, and so does alcohol. As well as the damage the two things combined can do to my liver, it appears I’m also fairly immunocompromised. Hopefully this is only a temporary problem with no lasting effects.

My cold is on the improve again, with the help of antibiotics for the chest infection, and this time I had conjunctivitis. Another week and I will be fine. But I won’t be drinking again. Lesson learnt.

Hopefully this post will help someone else to stay the course. Methotrexate and alcohol are a very bad mix.

=====================

Two months later and…. yeah. Okay. I meant I won’t get blind drunk again. A few light beers seems to be fine.

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Eighteen months later and …. OK. So I seem to be fine with a little scotch, brandy, beer, whatever. At a rough estimate, I drink about a bottle of scotch (or equivalent) a fortnight and a dozen glasses of beer. When I had my gall bladder removed recently, I asked the surgeon to do a liver biosy. The biopsy came back clear, other than some steatosis, or fatty liver, which I share with 50% of the population.

I’m still taking MTX and so far so good.

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Two years later and it’s more like a bottle of scotch a week and a dozen beers. At least I like my whisky straight. Soft drinks are just plain bad for you.  C’est la vie.