Privatization: ACROPOLIS FOR SALE!

Off the microphone of RE

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Aired on the Doomstead Diner on June 24, 2014


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Snippet:…Even though there is a lot of Hot Breaking Lunacy in the world of Collapse on the Geopolitical level going down now, I wanna take a break from looking at Iraq-no-Phobia Hashtag Diplomacy on Twitshit by Michelle Obama-sama and the latest Jawboning from the Minions of Vlad the Impaler threatening De-Dollarization to a more fundamental topic, the Privatization of Public Assets meme that is underway in more than a few locations now.

Not sure if the Greeks have sold the Parthenon or the Acropolis to Private Investors yet, but just about everything else the Greeks “own” through their Goobermint is on the Auction Block these days. Over in Frogland, I don’t think they sold the Louvre quite yet to some Chinese Art Aficionado Pigmen, but you can buy the Arc de Triomphe or the Eiffel Tower for the Low, Low Price of $10B on Craig’s List now…

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Also, don’t miss the recent Collapse Cafe with Gail Tverberg of Our Finite World and Ugo Bardi of Resource Limits.


Barbarians at the Gate

Off the keyboard of John Ward

Published on The Slog beginning April 2013

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Note from RE: The first 2 installments of this new Series by John in this article.  We’ll feature the rest in Chunks as John whacks them out off his Keyboard.

ATHENS: The elegant capital of a civilised culture, brought to its knees by barbarians

In the Red


This picture was taken, unstaged, at 3.43 pm on Friday 19th April 2013 in Athens, a eurozone capital.

It shows a young Greek male, his arm outstretched to beg…but with a face hidden by the shame of being reduced to such a state. As I passed this hapless figure today – and I have encountered a great many similar sights since arriving here – what struck me was the tragic rigidity of rigor mortis in this quasi-crucifixion: a boy barely mature condemned to living like the Undead. He is a victim of eurocrat hubris and the selfish lies of feral neocon gargoyles – walking obscenities who recognise nothing beyond the business bottom line and the Sovereign banking balance sheet.

At one level, this is just a young kid who deserved better. At another, he represents both a horribly wasted resource for social capitalism….and more fuel for the furnace of extreme and destructive politics.

Throughout this weekend, The Slog will be entirely devoted to showing and explaining a side of Clubmed the Western European business and mainstream press titles seem largely unwilling to examine: the disgraceful tableau of business decimation and social destruction being wreaked by scorched-earth austerity.

CRISIS ATHENS begins tomorrow and will run through to Sunday evening


CRISIS ATHENS: How austerity is destroying those who would compete with multinational power


These pictures are of a main Athenian thoroughfare, Stadiou. Think ‘Tottenham Court Road’, and then imagine every kiosk, stall, shop and indoor precinct closed down, every small shop empty and impossible to rent, and the once-bustling pavements half empty.


The Greek media that care run endless stories about starving children, lack of medication, old people dying because they cannot afford heating, and huge cuts in welfare relief.

These are all worthy topics for anyone still unclear about the catastrophic social effects of repayment-focused austerity in ClubMed. But if nobody buys in shops, eats in restaurants, sits in cafes or furnishes homes, businesses die in very short order.


In three short years, the banks of the world, the bureaucrats of the EU, and the Central Bank of Mario Draghi have wiped out Stadiou. Like the American South after the Civil War, it is a culture gone with the wind. All that remain are kids shooting up in the darkness of formerly thriving alleyways, and bill posters advertising things nobody has the money to buy.

Behind much of Athens’ attraction as a tourist centre lies another layer of self-sustaining business: the wholesale trade. This above any other is small family business, where honesty, trust and quality are the basis of commerce. It too has been decimated, as both domestic and tourist consumption of goods plummeted after 2010.


Everywhere are grills, graffiti, parked scooters, litter, and locks. Nowhere is any business being done. An entire sector of the City’s economy has been surgically removed. But nobody bothered to stitch up the open wound afterwards.

What you can see in Athens is the death of independent small business competition, the desecration of families that depended on it, and the reassuring certainty for the fat cats that in future, where once there was community liberty and self-reliance, there will before too long be imported global goods produced by multinational companies, cheap property ready to be torn down by developers, and the State enjoying control over a demoralised population totally dependent on it.


Some of the commercially naive bureaucrats and anthropologically ignorant political  ‘leaders’ behind this policy represent yet more examples of what is wrong with European establishments throughout the continent. But for others – the Stateists, the neocon social engineers, the bourses, and the banks – all of this lost human energy is seen as the logical (and desirable) consequence of driving the Great Global God of Growth.

???????????????????In the vicious circle that is hard-sold debt >> government overspending and embezzlement >> high-tax austerity >> economic collapse >> social misery >> drastic political change, the Far Right is getting 1 vote in 8, and the Radical Left looks like having the largest number of Deputies after the next election. Both have reached these positions from having been tiny (<4%) Parties three years ago.

But now at last, the focus is beginning to move away from corrupt old Parties and polemic ideologues towards a sort of patriotic pragmatism that no longer wants the euro. I spoke to several business people during my stay in Athens; most of them were not politically radical, but they recognised the need for a radical change to the economic model.

“The austerity programme is counter-productive because it destroys economic consumption in order to pay off State debt,” said a middle manager in a larger foreign-owned Greek furniture business, “this is like asking Berlin to pay off French municipal debt. It is resented, but more importantly it is sacrificing recovery to the lenders’ needs. The lenders may get their pound of flesh, but afterwards the patient is paraplegic.”

“The euro is the problem, no doubt,” said the co-owner of a medium-sized hitech business, “but if Greece were to go it alone and quit the euro, our business would be destroyed by a loss of credit confidence internationally. People like us want the euro to fail completely, so everyone will have to start again”.

His partner agreed. “The biggest problem we have right now is liquidity with which to expand, and credit so we can close deals with customers. Every week we work more and more to make less and less”.

“These fantasies of the Troika,” one CEO of a rapidly-growing political lobbying consultancy began, “they are all bullsh*t. The New Democracy and Pasok go along with it because they are weak and corrupt. But now things are far too serious for this to continue. The threats to Greek business and national sovereignty will get worse as the lenders’ demands get more and more crazy. We have to elect commercial people now who will gain public respect, and say “No” to the EU.”

Resentment towards the State sector and powerful bureaucrats is every bit as visceral as the disdain felt about the Troika.

Said one small entrepreneur, “These Troika people, so well dressed, such nice attache cases. They stay in the Hilton at Greece’s expense. None of them has any idea about business – only debt and repayment schedules. Now they insist that 150,000 civil servants be fired. Hah! That’ll be the day. Now they try to retire them off with fat pensions, but still they demand that the empty desks are filled with young recruits. They will cling onto our skin until we are all dead.”

There is a lot for the body politic to change here. The attitude to the euro, the weak resistance of Troika demands, fear of the bureaucrats, and the development of under-appreciated export businesses such as olive oil and wine. Nobody I met thinks the current crop of MPs is ever going to be capable of it. But there are endless scenarios in play as to how drastic change might come.

Of which, more later today.

CRISIS ATHENS: So much for the visitor to enjoy, so little helped by pernicious Troika spin

Acropolis Now: Athens may be in slavery, but it is not in chaos


One thing I just love about the Brussels-am-Berlin approach to repression is the way that, the instant an ice-pick has been thrust into the heart of a ClubMed economy, in bounds Olli Rehn to tell the cadaver how keen the EU is to help with the funeral expenses.

Pretty much since the start of the Greek debt crisis, the Troika’s agents of mass distraction have been putting out a commentary about Greece which runs as follows:

“The Greeks are dishonest donkeys who sit around in string vests drinking Ouzo all day and dreaming up new ways to cheat the taxman. Now that they have descended into self-inflicted debt, their social systems are chaotic, their false accusations against Germany are nothing more than self-pity, and the Greek economy is revealed to be dysfunctional.”

This approach has been honed over time, a truth clearly visible in the bullying EC’s approach to Cyprus. Allegedly, the Cypriot banking system was based on an unsustainable model of offering high interest-rates to Russian crooks, and thus had to be ‘rescued’ by Brussels.

The truthful alternative to that Spin From Berlin is, ‘Cyprus banks 0bserved EU rules at a far higher rate than Germany, and at a level of total gdp half that of Luxembourg. Far from being unsustainable, the model was going from strength to strength until the Eunatics begged Cyprus to back the Greek bailout. From that moment on, Cyprus was doomed. Not only has it not been rescued by B-am-B, Nicosia’s reward for backing the Troika over Greece has been to have its depositors and taxpayers forced to pay for their own bailout’.

But setting this aside, allow me to explain (with pictures too) that despite all this, Athens is not remotely chaotic…and its sights are more wonderful than ever.


I call these next few pictures ‘Work in Progress’. if only because Athens sites don’t look after themselves…but while preservation and further archaeology continue, good local planning rules ensure that good sight of the tourist sights continues.

Hadrian’s Arch for instance (left) has a timeless sweep to dwarf the contemporary crane. But equally (below) the humble scaffold is vital for the restoration of noble arches. The ‘architectural’ paving and street lights that surround the overall structure, however, complement the original perfectly. 


There truly is something of a grey/beige softness to the natural stone here that is quintessentially Greek. The classic postcard from Greece shows a stark white of a church dome, but the Acropolis in Athens has every couleur doux on offer, from sand to lime

There is virtually nowhere in Athens where you can’t see the Acropolis. Even from the far side of a three-lane highway (below) well to the north east, it still stands out as a monument to ancient Greek civilisation.



The Olympic ideal was revived by the Greeks in 1898, after which the modern Olympiad began. The symmetry of the stadium built at that time is a joy to behold from every angle.


The Temple of Olympian Zeus provides perhaps the best site from which to get a sense of Athens in its setting. There can be few cities on the planet with a more breathtaking location, taking in mountains and sea beneath: any shot taken on the open ground of this site gives away that location superbly.


But away from the monuments, Athens is a place of secret surprises wherever you wander. Parkland, forests, small oases of restoration

???????????????????in rundown districts, indoor markets, tiny traditional bars, and even old ladies selling fifty kinds of garlic are there if you look hard enough.

The smells, meanwhile, are dizzying at this time of year: the heady scent of orange blossom, and – in many of the coniferous woods – that flinty smell of pine-sap that makes you long for a glass of Retsina. (And the next morning, makes you wish you hadn’t)

That’s not to say Athens lacks its fair share of ghastly mistakes in sculpture and architecture. There is, for instance, the running green man sculptural monstrousity to commemorate the last Olympics on the Vassileos Konstantinou: it looks like a veg-humaan grafting failure from the botanical garden of Dr Moreau. And there is in turn a hotel where black-smoked windows must’ve seemed to someone like the perfect backdrop to five gigantic kitsch terra-cotta window-boxes. I didn’t photograph either eyesore, for fear of putting you off.

In truth, with the right – that is to say, fair – publicity, it would be hard to put anyone of discernment who likes cafe society, good food and warm people off Athens. But somehow, those beautiful people who brought you the euro, apple mountains, wine lakes, bailouts, bailins, Wolfgang Schäuble and the Troika seem dead set on doing so. All the more reason, then, to come here anyway.


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