Draghi

The Battle of Yesterday vs Tomorrow

Off the keyboard of John Ward

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Published on The Slog on April 19, 2015

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ANALYSIS: Why the standoff between Greece and the EU is really the first major battle in the war between Yesterday and Tomorrow

2day2morrow19415As the days drag on towards some kind of dénouement to what is rapidly becoming the silliest, longest and most empty threat of a death sentence in political history, I continue to be amazed that the Western media are reporting the Greece-eurogroupe ‘deadlock’ as if it was a purely technical matter.

There are only two elements of the ‘crisis’ that concern me: the emotional dimension of an at times infuriating but fundamentally sound culture I’ve loved for over forty years being pelted by a salvo of Brussels sprouts, controlling sauerkrats, and past-sell-by date Frankfurters; and the former politics student’s fascination with the factions and rivalries on both sides.

If you’re a Python nut like me, then you will remember the Life of Brian sequence where Graham Chapman innocently asks the anal splinter-group leader Michael Palin if “we” are the People’s Group for the Liberation of Palestine, and Palin snaps back, “Are you f**king mad? We f**kin’ spit on the PGLOP. We, my friend, are the People’s Army for Palestine Liberation. There’s a world of difference”.

Sadly, a great deal of contemporary in-fighting between Middle East opponents of the US, Israel and NATO have proved in the 36 years since that movie how madness will eventually – somewhere – become reality. But it is also one of the strongest arguments against large States like Europe, China, the US and Russia that the citizens reach a point where a substantial minority no longer feel any affection for the much-vaunted body. For them, it’s more of a cadaver: a giant corpse they simple cannot remember as the flower of their youth.

More and more, this anthropological reality both colours and muddies European affairs.

The current impasse/standoff/crisis/negotiation is not – let’s get this straight for starters – a conflict between the EU and Greece. It is not even a war between national liberty and superstate dictatorship.

Rather, it’s the first battle in what could be a long war between yesterday and tomorrow. And be aware: the battle is no way as simple as ‘EU yesterday vs Greek tomorrow’: this is a battle in which there are more false flags, civil wars around the edges and power struggles going on than in the emerging Nazi Party of 1931.

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Let’s deal quickly with my first concern: although depicted as the punishment of corrupt Greek politicians, backhanding officials and tax-evading taverna owners, none of that is even closely related to the facts. Far from punishing Nia Demokratia, PASOK and their serially unpleasant leaders, the Troika has insisted from Day One that it will only deal with these gargoyles. This is the same principle as hanging the war criminals at Nuremburg….up to but not including rocket scientists the victors wanted on their sides.

Germany largely benefited from corrupt officials (especially during the various insane arms deals with Greece) rather than suffering in any way; and precious few of those Fat Crats have been brought to justice….although Syriza is now on the case.

And finally, small businesses evade tax in Greece because the tax system is corrupt, not through greed in many cases: they know that every pol and bureacrat wants a kafelaki (small envelope). And people evade the Troika taxes today because they see them for what they are: a disgraceful attempt to pick the pocket of the vagrant in the gutter. I live in France now, and I’ve visited Greece between forty and fifty times in the last half-century; everything I see related to le noir francais is exactly the same as in Greece – except for one thing: it’s a far bigger problem in France.

I’m told by some that the desire to evade tax became an act of patriotic resistance during the Ottoman hegemony over Greece, but that was a long, long time ago: more accurate, I think, is the phrase used to me over and over again: “It’s a national sport”….and the trophy is nothing more than sticking it to the depraved elites that have been sitting on real Greeks for decades.

The punishment meted out by the Troika fits not the crime, but the greed, geopolitical ambitions and cynical control freakery of its three prongs – Wall Street, the US/EU, and Berlin/ECB interest groups. This is far from empty conspiracist assertion: the investment banking firms and Hedge Funds got clean away with a fat profit during the initial bailouts, Schäuble stands accused of conspiring with Venizelos to exaggerate the size of debt hole in 2010, a German-controlled and run concept of Fiskalunion has emerged directly from this totally unnecessary mess, the federalisation of the EU has been accelerated, and above all the euro was saved to die another day.

Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal are on Calvary at the moment, but they’re dying to cleanse a worthless currency of its flaws, not to save anyone’s soul. And no amount of crucifixions from here to Warsaw via Budapest are going to remove the euro’s flaws.

Greece is saddled with an obscene debt and carpet-bombed economic structure because Schäuble wanted to convince the markets of eurozone viability, Trichet’s borrowing controls were hopelessly lax, Goldman wanted to sell credit, Sarkozy was terrified of the effect on his banks, and Berlin wanted – plus ca change – to run Europe using the best alternative to military force: the munnneeee.

There is little difference in general substance between QE and Zirp killing economies across the globe, and ClubMed austerity killing most of the ezone economy: except of course, the one in Germany. Gott in Himmel: perish the thought that such a thing might occur.

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Nobody in the neoliberal owned and controlled press is ever going to accept that version of events, no matter how empirically databased it is. But no other explanation can explain the consistent actions of those in charge of the fiscal policies involved….policies that cannot possibly be related to sound economic actions – or even sound minds.

The mistake many observers and commentators make is to get the motive for the Greek tragedy wrong: get it right, and everything makes complete sense. Read the MSM account, and none of it does.

However, as I pointed out at the start of this mini-essay, there’s no simple tug-of-war going on. The best analogy I can summon up for the moment is to see the EU/ECB/Berlin attack on Greece as akin to Abe Lincoln deciding to attack Samuria-Shogun-Meiji fractured Japan just after the first Battle of Bull Run.

The two ‘sides’ in 2015 square up as follows:

EC vs Eurogroupe vs Frankfurt vs IMF vs ECB vs Berlin vs Paris vs UK

vs

Syriza vs KKE vs PASOK vs Nia Demokrita vs Golden Dawn vs To Potami vs ephiles vs ephobes

Without getting into too much detail, Jean-Claude Junker’s power base is the EC. Inside that, he has an anti-austerity rebuilding fund of allegedly €350bn, whose purpose he has kept deliberately vague. He befriended Alexis Tsipras, and could shaft the eurogroupe royally if he decided to invest it in Greece on a bigger scale than at present. This is because the eurogroupe’s attempt to wrest power from Juncker gets up his nasal orifice – and threatens the Cyprus-style tax evasion racket he runs in Luxembourg.

But the Frankfurt Bundesbank hardliners think the eurogroupe and its ally the ECB will have a disastrous effect on money supply and inflation via QE…plus (they assert) it was a mistake to let the US-controlled IMF and its mathematically dyslexic boss Christine Lagarde loose anywhere in Europe. In Berlin, however, Schäuble wants to have total control over the reins of euro-fiscal policy, and so would do anything to vapourise ECB boss Mario Draghi…while Chancellor Merkel (whom Schäuble dislikes, but who has the electoral appeal he lacks) has similar doubts to me about what Draghi’s really up to: is he working for the euro, or is he working for its replacement, the Dolleuro?

Paris, meanwhile, is infinitely more guilty of fiscal vandalism than Greece (as are Germany and Holland) but is no longer avoiding the consequences of its soi-largesse with quite the ease it was. The French Establishment has been rattled by some of the fiscal disciplinary methods imposed on France after the March eurogroupe summit: but Berlin must beware of pushing too many French voters towards the undiluted anti-EU nationalism of Marine Le Pen’s Front Nationale.

And last but not least, dear old Blighty stuck out there in the island limbo of “Ukip if you want to, but we’re wide awake, and we want out”.

You may think the Sceptred Isle doesn’t count, but I would suggest you’re wrong. At the moment, the Eunatics face threats on four ClubMed fronts, interference from the US, and an allegedly weak Putinesque Russia which suggests that it isn’t either weak or stupid. The last thing the EU elites need is to roil the markets with a secession request from Britain in 2018….even if it is only England by then.

This does, I think, go a long way to explaining why Draghi has of late switched tack, and begun persuading his ‘colleagues’ that the time is not yet quite right for the Greeks to default. Much smart money had been targeting April 26th as the moment of truth for Athens. But yesterday the ECB boss told a Washington audience that he “won’t even contemplate” the possibility of a Greek default on its debt repayments during April, because such an event would throw the eurozone into “uncharted waters.” This from the man who six weeks ago claimed that Greek default would be no more than a gnat-bite on the bum for eurobanks…because this time, the system “is prepared”. Yeh, right: that must be why he arm-twisted the ELA into coughing up the liquidity to help Greece pay off the last IMF kilo of flesh, sorry, installment.

Far more money is now being placed on a Greek default on or after May 9th. And spookily, that just happens to be two days after the UK General Election finishes. I think it would be safe to say that – were a Greek default to throw everything into European bond-spiking confusion before April 26th – there would be a massive Ukip surge, as well as potential pressure on the UK’s George Osborne in terms of borrowing rates. The continued UK national debt explosion is, after all, the Chancellor’s Achilles heel.

So there you have it. Or rather, you don’t: because twixt you, me, the gatepost and the other girls, trying to discern 8 x 8 possibilities producing 64 possible outcomes (when any new left-field factor could make that 4096 scenarios) is the original mug’s game.

Much better, I’d opine, to stick to the basics. And I’ve remained consistent about these since this rapidly dwindling time-window began last February 24th.

Those who would rather have a meteorite collide with Earth than give up on the euro project have far, far more to lose than a nation of 11.5m people who would (in my view) be much better off deserting the euro. But there remains that Greek inferiority complex pride thing of not wanting to be the catalyst of destroying a single market that acts as an economic and political bulwark against American multinational domination of the Globe.

I think that viewpoint to be muddled, but then I’m not Greek, or foraging in the Athens garbage cans. My gut feeling is that Varoufakis underestimated the Cosa Nostra nastiness of those with whom he must deal, and Troika2 underestimated the fatigue of the Hellenic population at large with being made a scapegoat.

Either way, a lot of very sour derivative bets placed on euro success cannot be allowed to trigger an omni-directional bazooka aimed at Wall Street. Sorry to repeat myself, but I still think the high face-cards are in the Greek hand.

Exposing the Euro Clowns

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Published on The Slog on April 10, 2015

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EXPOSED: The reason why none of us can be sure what’s going on in the EU v Greece yawn

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When there is only cacophony, nobody can follow the tune

I’ve posted many times before about why a neolib minority constantly dissembles to confuse: there is so little ‘truth’ behind their ridiculous socio-economic and fiscal theories, they have no choice but to do what they do.

The same thing applies to the European Union, the ideas behind which – non-sovereign federalisation and yet a single currency ambition – make no anthropological, banking, libertarian or Bond market sense at all.

But there is another reason why second-guessing what comes next in the EU has been an impossible task in recent years: the people allegedly running it (another Slog hobby-horse this) are split along several crucial dimensions. So apart from the banking lies and the let’s-rewrite-history school of mogul-lapdog tabloid journalism, we have this factor added to the witch’s brew: if they don’t know what’s going to happen next, how the hell are we supposed to speculate with any accuracy?

We are now, little by little, beginning to see the odd glimpse of holey stocking beneath the holy, long skirts of sanctimony pumped out by the various power points in Berlin, Frankfurt, Paris and Brussels. Even better, we can catch these glimpses…..and view them alongside what the BSDs – preparing for what they think is to come – put out their agenda in the media they own and/or influence.

This morning offers a classic example of this. The Americo-Austropathicus threat Rupert Murdoch puts out this version of the immediate future in his Times newspaper this morning:

‘….Eurozone countries are secretly drawing up plans to expel Greece from the European Union’s single currency as they prepare for the country to be declared bankrupt next month.

A memo drawn up by the finance ministry in Finland, which is closely allied to Germany, has revealed preparations for a Greek exit from the euro.

The document warns of “very difficult political decisions” this spring amid predictions that Greece will be bankrupt next month unless the eurozone agrees the next tranche of aid for it within the next three weeks.

Greece has been given until next Friday to come up with…..’

Here the message ends, the rest of it hidden behind Roop’s paywall – which continues not to get many people paying to climb over the wall. This is slightly different to the Telegraph, where the Barclay Twins peddle their corporate bias completely free, but both readers and journos are climbing a Berlin Wall in a desperate bid to get out.

But the tone is clear: Greece is a disaster area, they’re all scrounging mongrels, so like dogs they shall be kicked out of the house. Except of course this can’t happen legally without treaty change….so here we see more Turdcock readying the ground for something illegal that will be accepted by the Sleeple because they, er, read it in a quality newspaper recently or something and what should we download from Netflix tonight?

Here, Murdoch is doing the will of ECB boss Mario Draghi….because he agrees with what Mario and the Goldin Sacks lads see as the future.

But this is just one power centre. Wolf Street pointed out yesterday in another smart piece that the Jean-Claude Drunker view of the world is quite different, because he leads the EC – an unelected bedlam of corruption which is seeing its power rapidly eroded by the ECB and Berlin, plus the odd Weidbombe thrown in by Frankfurt.

This time, the road being followed conjures up an entirely different future…one in which the FuhrerJuncker’s Luxembourg will be left alone to pull every tax-evading bank stunt in the book, but those in the commercial sector will be asked to return to some vague version of recognised value.

We’ve been here before, but the subhead is ‘Clubmed banks no longer able to disguise loan made in 2002 to Tartan Paint Co Venezuela sa as an asset’. This is going to cause all kinds of mayhem in Greece, Italy, Portugal and especially Spain – where the practice has been used to suggest the banks are still solvent, when of course we all know they’re broke.

More importantly, although the ECB pays lip-service to reforming ezone banking accountancy, the EC policy will put it on a collision course with Mario Draghi.

But we don’t want to leave it like that, good God no – get a grip dear reader: this is the EU, where disaster must be meticulously planned to ensure that it moves from probable outcome to racing certainty.

And so we move on to Wolfgang Schauble the Secret Wheelchair Weapon…and Jens Weidmann, the Bundesbank’s Big Banana. While they share the ECB-Eurogroupe-Troika’s general approach – “Let’s blame Greece and show the markets we’re safe” – the Dutch Donkey Dijessilbloem is hated by the ECB because he’s a threat to their power….and despised by Weidmann as a fiscal lightweight. Dieselboom also has a tendency to blab, a trait which doesn’t endear him to Wolfie.

Where the two Germans chiefly differ from the rest of the pack is that they believe in fiscal and currency discipline – and of course, the ulltimate right of Berlin to run the Fiskalunion. Also their heads are stuck in 1923.

Two days ago, Weidmann went public again to say he did not think Greece should issue any more Treasury Bills – to help stave off the bankruptcy forced upon Greece by a Berlin-exaggerated problem and a Wall Street/Troika inspired infinite slavery repayment ‘programme’ – and he did not think QE was necessary. In short, real monetarism rules, OK.

I’m sorry to labour this point, but these are thus the three ‘strategies’ being proposed by ‘A United Europe’:

1. Greece should be kicked out (ECB)

2. Banks should be telling the truth about their balance sheet fraud (EC)

3. We should stop QE now and get Greece back in the programme at all costs (Germany)

Now, what we are not going to get is a debate followed by a decision, because this is The Fourth Reich, and we don’t do discussion…we do divide and rule. Also we have a crypto-Queen in Berlin who never makes any decisions until one eventuality or another is crystal clear. (The real sign to watch for is Frau Doktor Merkel moving her Chancellery fridge down into the bunker. Or Moscow. Or Frankfurt. Or Washington. Those wanting to have it all must “get on their bikes”).

What we will get is all three being followed at the same time. And this must involve a continuing QE blast alongside Greek forced exit from the eurozone (breaking the Lisbon Treaty on at least five counts) but still in the EU plus a contagion outwards towards Italy and Spain accelerated by the EC’s search for Beyond Basel III to come into force plus the German financial and fiscal power centres trying to effect the exact opposite on all fronts.

There are thus in turn three potential (ie, realistic) outcomes:

1. Chaos

2. Draghi & the Eurogroup cut off the EC’s balls, leaving Juncker as a very loose but fully-loaded cannon, and with a very high voice.

3. Merkel sides with the 1923 Tendency, and leaves the eurozone.

Many other related events will of course follow – and the above trio of troubles aren’t mutually exclusive. But my view remains the same as it was by the end of 2010: the euro is dead, and the EU is eating itself. Only Mario Draghi launching a putsch to get himself declared Supreme Emperor of Europe could stop the process.

That isn’t going to happen. Draghi’s view of chaos is “bring it on”….because down that road lies US domination of all european transactions. For in this, the epoch of Western decline, that is what the Looney Tunes on Wall Street, inside the State Department/CIA axis and in Texas want.

The bottom line: anything could happen, and nothing will change on the road to global corporatocracy.

Yet.

But eventually, top-down will collapse…as all flawed administrative processes do. And after the chaos, things will very slowly get better.

I end where I started. With too many factions wanting different things from the Greece deadlock – external and internal – the reason no clear interpretation of outcome is possible swings on the surreal 3D hinge of there being no united Sovereign, and little or no commonality of aims between the factions.

EuroSoap

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Published on The Slog on March 20, 2015

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TSIPRAS/MERKEL SUMMIT: You thought Greek politics complicated? Wait until you tot up the seismic splits in the EU

Take a close look at the timeline since Thursday night’s mini-summit marathon between Alexis Tsipras and Angela Merkel.

After a 3am Friday finish, German Chancellor Angela Merkel described the meeting as “good and constructive,” but warned that the Greek government will have to meet commitments before it can access EU money. She gave Syriza exactly seven days to offer fully detailed “reform” proposals to Troika2, and then left clutching several haunches of Venison and 683 sausages for her beloved fridge.

A few hours later, however, Jean-Claude Juncker – the President of the European Commission (EC) – announced a completely unconditional 2 billion euro contribution immediately available to Greece to boost growth, tackle youth unemployment and help with the “humanitarian crisis”. Juncker said the cash for this would come from “unused EU development funds”.

When I called the EC press office this afternoon and asked how this circle might be squared, there was much scurrying about and promises of getting back to me…none of which materialised.

Those EU schisms in full

This is what’s really going on here: pissed off by the degree to which Germany and the Troikanauts are increasingly adopting the Führerprinzip in relation to EU affairs, the EC as led by J-CJ is doing everything in its power to be good-cop to Greece in general, and Tsipras in particular. This is a good old-fashioned Nazi Party power struggle, and there is every opportunity for Athens to exploit it.

But equally, we must remember that on another level entirely, Francois Hollande of France got away almost scot-free last week on deficit failures that far outweigh those of Greece….but was forced to bring in Troika-demanded laws about tax evasion…and ECB diktats about bank liquidity. This has not gone down well in his Party.

The Parti Socialiste de France doesn’t like this crap because (like many of us) they foresee the wholesale handing over of millions of votes to Marine Le Pen’s Front Nationale.

So then: we have the EC at war with Berlin and Troika2, plus France at war with Frankfurt. But just when you thought you had it sussed, more fractures appear.

For Wolfgang Schäuble is at war with Merkel over his single-minded obsession to become Supreme Leader of the as yet unformed Fiskalunion…and fighting a second front against Mario Draghi’s ECB, which in turn is fighting on another front entirely with Jens Weidemann and the German Central Bank…who rightly think that Draghula is working not for the euro, but a planned eurodollar spookily approaching parity with, um, the euro. And Merkel too distrusts the ECB boss’s motives….preferring as she does to keep her options open on the subject of which way to jump in the Dollar v Rublenimbi chasm.

Confused? You will be after this latest episode of Eurosoap. But there are far more plot lines and faultlines to develop before your confusion is comprehensively constructed.

There is the coming UK election, and the increasing likelihood of the ‘biggest’ Party needing to do a deal with EU-secessionists. There is the growing secessionist and europhobic tendency in Italy. There is Podemos support in Spain growing with every act of defiance from Greece. There is the Austro-German bank collapse epidemiology threatening everyone from Santander to Deutsche. And there remains the implacable unwillingness of Viktor Orban in Hungary to have anything to do with globalism in general, or the euro in particular.

Face facts: the EU is imploding.

 

Greece “On the Brink”

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Published on The Slog on March 3, 2015

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One news for the rich, and another for the poor

Greece, it seems, is suddenly in a load of trouble. A clear blue azure sky of eternal hope is threatened by large clouds. Syriza isn’t cutting it. It’s all over bar the shouting. Greece is going to be a pariah “on the same level as Zimbabwe” says the Daily Telegraph. “They’ve got ten days left” a senior journalist told me yesterday.

The situation with Greece is the same as it’s been since mid 2012: the only things that have changed in the last month or so are (1) a government the Troika doesn’t like (2) Draghi suddenly quoting “the rules” to keep Athens out of the QE money-pissing display, and threaten to cut off the ELA (3) the very oligarchy Syriza wants to get rid of withdrawing its banked money – egged on by the ECB – and (4) the Germany-ECB-IMF Troika humiliating the new Greek government. Take all those things away, and the fiscal situation is precisely the same as it was under little Antonikis from Kalamata. The differences outlined above can be summed up thus: a systematic undermining of a Sovereign State’s viability by malign influencers who don’t GAF about the welfare of the largely innocent and impoverished Greek citizenry.

Suddenly, the rules are important. Suddenly, an organisation unaudited since its inception says eurozone regulations must be obeyed. Suddenly, a central bank that raped Cyprus an subordinated holders of Greek bonds says the rules are important. Suddenly, the finance minister of a country (that took Greek money for two submarines and only ever supplied one) tells us that “People simply must obey the rules”.

The first two ezone countries to break the deficit rules were….Germany and France. France has never been within deficit limits since the euro came amongst us. This month they are to be asked by eurogroup what they’re going to do about it. You can bet it won’t involve German tabloids drawing cartoons about frogs, or Merkel and Schauble raising the ante, or Draghi threatening to cut off liquidity. I don’t think we’ll see Pristine Labouffant swanning in to bail out her own cockups when Minister of Finance under Sarkozy.
Yesterday, a huge Austrian secondary bank went belly up. Both Germany and the ECB are implicated negatively in the collapse. Not a single UK or German newspaper covered it.
Also yesterday, Yanis Varoufakis gave five separate interviews, all of them granted to deny that Greece is rapidly running out of money. In the same situation, Samaras told everyone that a golden age of recovery was just around the corner. Nobody reported the facts: that Greece was bailed out by the ECB twice last year under the table…in circumstances I predicted earlier in the year.
And yet, the latest Greek poll shows Syriza getting a 71% approval rating. The other 29% were far to busy exporting their money to Zurich to comment.
Every mainstream UK press title continues to predict an outcome that simply cannot be achieved legally: Greece being “forced out” of the eurozone. Did anyone ever talk of it being forced out under Nia Demokratia and PASOK? “Greece leaving the euro is inconceivable” said the IMF’s Lagarde only last year.
Good little teachers’ pets who are obedient are not expelled by the kindly headmistress. Bad little boys, by contrast, get news coverage that predicts the same Headmistress will throw them out at any moment. Yes, there is indeed one news for the rich, and another for the poor.

Memo to Varoufakis

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Published on The Slog on February 26, 2015

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Memo to Varoufakis: Game theory is fine, but this isn’t a game.

Yanis Varoufakis was caught in the headlights last Friday: he should stop denying it

https://hat4uk.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/varoufheadlinghts.pngThe anti-‘deal’ leaks from the ECB, Berlin, the IMF and Brussels have been in full flow since Tuesday evening. It’s all terribly predictable: a clever process of suggesting that – purely out the goodness of their hearts – Troika2 is going to cut Greece some slack….even though T2 has – to tot up the list to date – ‘grave doubts’, ‘major reservations’, ‘worries about the lack of detail’, and ‘concerns about achievability’. There is slack rope, and there is enough rope to hang oneself.

The stench of hypocrisy in all this is vomit-inducing: Greece is being set up to fail, and in the meantime the ECB will continue its covert policy of creating bank cash-flow problems…ensuring that Syriza comes across as a Skid Row lush dependent upon never-ending welfare.

From Yanis Varoufakis, the Master of Game Theory, there has been little since the sign-off beyond rationalisation. In an interview with the Irish Times’s Damian Mac Con Uladh today, Mr Varoufakis gives us:

“Good compromises don’t always satisfy everyone, and leave in a sense everyone somewhat dissatisfied. But the mandate from our party, our government and my prime minister was very straightforward. To get a deal done. So, compromise. The question is if we have compromised our basic principle. And the answer is a big, fat no….Our mandate was to struggle against this black and white, this either/or, and to create a third way….It’s a triumph for democracy and marks the end of automated austerity….Anything is better than confining us to an austerity hole where we shrink every day.”

Compare and contrast that entirely reasonable attitude with this BBC interview on February 3rd:

“”Europe in its infinite wisdom decided to deal with this bankruptcy by loading the largest loan in human history on the weakest of shoulders… What we’ve been having ever since is a kind of fiscal waterboarding that has turned this nation into a debt colony….[the Troika is] a committee built on rotten foundations…Greek democracy has chosen to stop going gently into the night. Greek democracy resolved to rage against the dying of the light….We are going to destroy the basis upon which they have built for decade after decade a system, a network that viciously sucks the energy and the economic power from everybody else in society.”

I’m being ironic: I vastly prefer the second (earlier) Varoufakis to the new relaunch. Today’s Irish Times interview shows Damian Mac Con Uladh giving Yanis an unbelievable easy ride on the subject of a fat, hairy mammoth in the room: the now well-documented way in which the Greek Finance Minister was ambushed by the Euromafia at 4.30 pm last Friday.

I recognise perfectly well that I’m breaking from the optimist pack, but then I do understand the sociopathy of that Mafia better than most Greeks. To be blunt, I think Varoufakis underestimated it; and last Friday, the breathtaking, bullying illegality of their input caught him napping.

I do not believe Syriza has bought time, I think it has sold principles. I’m sure Yanis knows all the tricks of Game Theory, but this is not a game. He is dealing with (as are we all sooner or later) a nasty and yet hopelessly splintered EU oligarchy of far greater venom than any existing in Greece. The division on the opposing side is what he missed.

It’s easy to define, and even easier to evidence: the Germans are fed up of the French, and losing faith in the Americans. That’s a very serious split, because the man with the most unaccountable power in the eurozone is Mario Draghi….who works for Wall Street. The French, meanwhile, bitterly resent the idea that a nasty piece of work like Wolfgang Schäuble will be eyeballing them during March…and if and when FiskalUnion ever comes to pass, telling them what they can and can’t spend 24/7. The idea that Paris has the remotest desire to acquiesce in that arrangement is ridiculous. Apart from anything else, it would hand millions of votes to both Marine Le Pen and Nigel Farage.

On top of that we have a general trend in Southern Europe towards euroscepticism: the continuing growth of Podemos in Spain, and europhobic Berlusconi attitudes in Italy. These can only be encouraged by a flat refusal by Greece to deal with the idiots who caused the problem in the first place.

This is the perspective from Syriza that I find flawed: the much bigger picture. Last week, Varoufakis focused on it, and then lost the plot on Friday. He was a refusenik, but now he’s a pragmatist.

The post I wrote earlier this week laying out the story behind this was taken down by the Blue Meanies. I am therefore eternally grateful to the half-dozen Sloggers who still had it open and used page capture to return the piece to its rightful owner. It is reproduced below for anyone who missed it first time around.

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GREECE CRISIS OPINION: TROIKA RISES FROM THE DEAD AS DRAGHI LEADS THE CHARGE, AND VAROUFAKIS EMPLOYS BRAVE FACE

Conflicting rumours surround the Syriza reform programme approval process tonight, but whatever emerges from this farcical trading of angels on a pinhead, I’m increasingly concerned as details of the humiliation process programme ‘deal’ accepted by Yanis Varoufakis last Friday come to light. I don’t actually think the five-point italic hand-tying target codicils matter a damn to be honest, because they’re all unachievable anyway.

Far more relevant is what EC behaviour has been found acceptable to the Greek Government.

Did you know, for instance, that both the Gang of Four revisions, the Friday ambush, and the ELA threats/leaks to Greek banks were driven by Draghi?

Did you know that – in a direct sideswipe at rehiring Ministerial cleaners – there is a blanket ban under the agreement on any more public sector hiring?

Did you know that, just to rub in really hard that how they think the Greeks shit on their shoes, eurogroup told Varoufakis Friday that they were “handing over the judgement process to the organisation formally known as the Troika” – Draghi’s exact words. This was a direct hit on Syriza’s refusal to deal with the Troika. “Eurogroup will leave the details to this institution, who will present their view to eurogroup” he added.

Varafoukakis told CNN this evening that it was eurogroup who wanted more time to think, not the Troika. That is very, very economical with the truth – and not how other Syriza officials see it. The Troika has made it clear to eurogroup there are things they don’t like. As Naked Capitalism reported yesterday, ‘The Greek government is required to submit a list of reforms to the Troika by the end of day Monday. If it is not approved, the Eurogroup will meet on Tuesday.’

Guess what? Earlier this evening, Greek Channel NERIT announced that the eurogroup has asked Greece to submit a revised reforms list for its meeting Tuesday morning. The Guardian carries the same story.

I’m sorry, but at the minute Yanis Varoufakis isn’t coming out of this very well. For now, I support him to the hilt: but he is either going to resist the EC/ECB/creditors Troika or he isn’t. I know perfectly well that there are many among Athenian opinion-leaders who disagree with me about this. So perhaps – to illustrate the point – I might be allowed to relate an infamous Churchillian anecdote.

In the mid 1920s, WSC found himself seated next to a lady of liberal leanings at supper. Glad to have this arch anti-Communist to herself, the socialite took him to task about strike breaking, dissembling newspaper articles about the working class, and several other genuinely unpleasant dimensions of Churchill’s curate’s egg of a personality.

As ever when in the presence of what he regarded as uppity suffragettes, Winston was cutting and dismissive, telling the woman she should stick to worrying about her children and suitable marriages for her daughters – while remaining grateful for the fact that Britain had unwisely given her the vote.

“Mr Churchill,” said the shocked supper companion, “If I were married to you, I would put poison in your wine”.

“Madam,” Churchill lisped, “if I were married to you, I would drink it”.

Think of this as the “Drop dead” period of Syriza/EU insult exchanging immediately following the election.

Back in 1927, this not entirely auspicious exchange rapidly deteriorated, such that by the time pudding arrived, the lady concerned had reached the end of whatever short tether she possessed.

“Mr Churchill,” she said loudly, “You are the last person in the world I would ever marry”.

“Madam,” WSC responded, “A small part of marriage involves procreation in the bedroom. In order to show you what my real intentions are, under what circumstance would you consent to sleep with me?” The mortified woman hesitated, and then replied.

“There is no amount of money on Earth that would so persuade me”.

“Not even,” asked Winston, “£10 million?”. She laughed out loud.

“Don’t be ridiculous, that’s more than the Poor Relief budget. No woman is worth that”.

“Very well then,” said the future war leader, “Shall we say £500?”

“That is an insult,” she responded, “what do you take me for – a common prostitute?”

“Madam,” said Winston Churchill, “We have already established your profession. At this stage, we are merely haggling about the price”.

Fast forward to 2015: that’s what has been going on since Friday afternoon between Syriza and the Troika.

I don’t buy the “lose the battle, win the war” argument. While the Troika, Wall Street, US economic colonisation, EU fascism and banking sociopathy are indeed the enemy, this is a peace time exchange, not all-out war – yet. A strategic retreat is one thing: preparedness to cling to the driftwood of credibility is merely appeasement.

I’m now informed – in the last twenty minutes by a well-placed Syriza source – that fully eight Greek Cabinet members are opposed to acceptance of the deal. For myself, I feel cheated and made to look stupid by the hidden facts and cynical spin that followed Friday’s little re-enactment of the 1938 Munich crisis. But my feelings don’t matter a jot: let  The Slog’s Saturday post stand as a testament to rushed judgement. More to the point is the reality that an opportunity to call the Troika bluff has been blown.

If Yanis Varoufakis wants to regain his dignity – and keep Syriza together – he needs to think very carefully about what Prime Minister Tsipras should be asked to accept tomorrow…and then sell to his Party. For what will it benefit a man if he buys time, yet sells his soul?

€€€€€€€€€€€€

Eurosummit Breakdown

Off the keyboard of John Ward

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Published on The Slog on February 17, 2015

Euro_collapse

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Who did what and why?

As one Troika dies, another is born

Practically every Western press title and news bulletin this morning uses the word ‘defiant’ in relation to Greece’s rejection of the New Troika’s terms, and it isn’t a compliment.

The Greek contingent rejected the ‘deal’ because it wasn’t a deal, it was just the same old same old. But up until 90 minutes before closure, it had been something else. Allegedly drafted and then pushed hard by French finance minister Pierre Muscovici, the first draft (a copy of which Varoufakis still has) offered Greece more time, few targets, and then an attempt at economic growth.

It was taken off the table by yet another Troika – in most cases, remotely: Mariano Rajoy, Wolfgang Schäuble, and of course (no drum roll required) Mario Draghi. During the final day, Spanish PM Rajoy (for purely selfish political reasons, it would appear) scrambled around desperately trying to get the hawks to play more of a vulture role. His ginger-group plus the EC/ECB/Berlin/Frankfurt axis canned the original draft, and insisted on a return to all the original demands.

Then some of them briefed the press pack with pernicious spin about Greece messing them about, moving goalposts etc and being (this week’s insult of choice) “anti-European and irresponsible”. The truth is that, some time around 10.45 am CET, Varoufakis was lining himself up to sign the draft. Getting back to the realities:

– Greece cannot be allowed concessions, because Podemos would immediately demand the same (Rajoy)

– Greece’s load cannot be reduced, because then they might pay it back (Draghi)

– Greece’s flagrantly spendthrift behaviour must not be rewarded, and more austerity is the only answer (Schäuble).

So then – as many of us always suspected – the deal was scuppered by a hardline, corrupt, anti-libertarian Spaniard, a banker whose career is followed by clouds, and who retains his loyalty to Wall Street, and the residue of a tragically failed assassination attempt upon Germany’s top spook.

The only vaguely satisfying things to emerge from this charade are first, that once again the quintessence of controlling fascism that lies at the EU’s heart has been revealed; and second, the Western MSM really do not have a clue about how to handle the Greek attitude.

Four days ago, I wrote in reply to Merkel’s assertion that “Europe’s success is that it will always find a compromise”:

‘The small issue I have with this bollocks is that the movement by either side so far is tiny – in fact, barely above homoaeopathic…. In just 36 hours we have gone from “Drop Dead” to “Let’s compromise”. But where can it go from here? In my view, nowhere: the two sides are incompatible unless one or the other radically invents itself. Neither of them will do that.”

Sure enough, the Brussels Brigade reverted to type with black arts and making up new rules as they went along. And as they promised, Syriza refused to renege on its election commitments.

Watch those markets crash as the bond yields spike. The euro is dead, the EU dream has become a nightmare, and the fundamental attitude split between Berlin and Paris  is once again there for all to see.

Stay tuned.

Crash 2: Draghi Implicated

Off the keyboard of John Ward

Published on The Slog on June 24, 2013

dragrakept

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CRASH 2: DRAGHI IMPLICATED AS ITALY FACES CYPRUS TEMPLATE

Snake hit by rake: Draghi rumours of malpractice in 1990s and 2012 resurface…looking more solid

A report submitted earlier this year to the Corte dei Conti, Italy’s state auditors, suggests not only that Italy faces a potentially massive derivatives hit, but also that Mario Draghi may be personally implicated in those and other frauds. In particular, several appear to have been central to Italy gaining entry to the eurozone in 1999….based on clearly falsified data.

Allegations being made against Signor Draghi insist that he ‘cooked’ Italy’s debt picture when seeming to reduce Italy’s budget deficit from 7.7 % in 1995 to 2.7% by the crucial entry-qualification year, 1998. It was, by a country kilometre, the steepest debt reduction among any of the (then) eleven eurozone applicants. Draghi went on to join Goldman Sachs in 2002, and by then accusations of book-cooking were already starting to emerge. In 2005, the Bank of Italy was forced to issue a denial, but several eminent commentators found it unconvincing. In 2006, news agency Bloomberg  applied to Draghi’s mentor Jean-Claude ‘Tricky’ Trichet for the release of further information, which Trichet refused to give…again, to the consternation of a number of mainstream financial journalists.

Author Simon Johnson, for example, not only found the answers given by Draghi “unpersuasive”, he also pointed out how unlikely it was that, as a Goldman employee, the Italian had “known nothing” about the fraudulent marketing of debt cover-up assistance to the Greek Government. Pascal Canfin, Member of the Italian Parliament and former chairman of the ECON committee, grilled Draghi on how he could have known about these transactions and allowed them to go through. He was not satisfied with the answers. The New York Times reported, after Draghi’s nomination for the ECB was approved, that Supermario had marketed similar transactions to other European governments. So it’s pretty clear there have been clouds above Il Draghi’s head for some time.

Meanwhile, the present Italian Government faces  billions of euros in derivatives contract losses that it restructured at the height of the eurozone crisis, according to the Corte dei Conti report. Those having had sight of it say the document ‘sheds more light on the financial tactics that enabled the debt-laden country to enter the euro in 1999′ (linking straight back to Draghi’s time at the Italian Bank) while in turn – according to the FT – it ‘details Italy’s debt transactions and exposure in the first half of 2012, including the restructuring of eight derivatives contracts with foreign banks with a total notional value of €31.7bn’. There was a suggestion from one US source last night that Draghi is also implicated in these.

Meanwhile, new information received at The Slog suggests the Knights Template may be at it again.

Another source emailed The Slog yesterday to point out that a US banking major (unidentified as yet) has told all its staff, on Fed Treasury orders, ‘to inform the US government about all deposits emanating from Italy, from any entity, company, individual or institution, with full and complete comprehensive details of any account opening or transfer or balance in excess of $100,000′.

There is only one reason for such an order: to trace any and all bailin escapees. Yesterday, The Slog posted in Smoke Signals that Italy’s second biggest financial institution, Mediobanca, ‘has overtly warned that the country is going to need a further rescue-cum-bailin within six months at the most. “Time is running out fast,” said Mediobanca analyst, Antonio Guglielmi, “The Italian macro situation has not improved over the last quarter, rather the contrary. Some 160 large corporates in Italy are now in special crisis administration.”’

Last Saturday’s Slogpost  on Draghi’s financial power in the EU accused the EC the previous Thursday of ‘having handed absolute power to the unelected [Draghi]….at the expense of the citizen.’ I went on to accuse the ECB boss of being ‘completely unaccountable to any body or institution – elected or otherwise. Under the ECB’s Constitution guaranteed by the European Commission he is totally immune from prosecution. He cannot be removed from his position. He is obviously censoring any and all information that might reveal the true situation in the eurozone. He illegally subordinated an entire class of bondholders over the second Greek bailout. He managed and spearheaded an overt heist to steal the banking expertise and economic wellbeing of Cyprus, and in so doing committed an act of grand larceny against innocent depositors in the Island’s banks.

It looks suspiciously like Italy is heading for a Cyprus, and pretty soon. I can only repeat the bold type warning I gave then:

This is not a queue for the showers, European nations. It is the line heading directly to the extermination of your democratic rights, individual liberties, and personal wealth. There may be 27 of you and only one Draghi; but your divisions just make his job far easier. Step in the way of the Beasts now, or you will have a jackboot stepping on your face forever. 

Stay tuned.

EUROBLOWN: Killing time is an oxymoron

Off the keyboard of John Ward

Published on The Slog on November 15, 2012

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While Greece dangles on a piece of string, Spain is let off the leash.

Olli Rein in Spain normally involves acute pain, but not on this occasion. Last night, the EU’s economy prefect announced that Spain will need no further austerity measures until the end of next year. This despite the fact that the country will miss its deficit targets- in much the same way that the Moon has so far managed to miss the Earth during its daily round-trips over the last 400 billion years.

This is, opined the London FT last night, ‘the clearest sign yet Brussels is backing away from an austerity-focused crisis response’. Rein’s approval is in truth based on nothing more than blind faith in the structural reforms proposed by Spain two months ago…none of which have as yet been enacted or even drafted.

Applying the same criteria to Greece, Athens could justifiably press for a total debt write-off, $600bn in Frankfurt gold, and the head of Herman van Rompuy. But times have changed in the eurozone. The eurozone plan now, in fact, is to kill time completely, by staying in an eternal present. The ideas of Eckhart Tolle have been adopted in toto: the future does not exist, there is only an Eternal Now.

Five days spent down among the unpleasant lowlife of British culture have not taken my eye off the eurozone ball, because the euroball never moves. It is involved in a game of Zen football in which the players are unreal: they dummy, they feint, and they swivel but – having no physical form – they do not affect the stationary nature of the ball. In Zen eurofootball, the ball lands where you want it to, in your head. On the ground, it moveth not.

This is increasingly referred to as Brussels, Berlin and Frankfurt ‘killing time’, and I have no doubt the eunatics love that thought, because it suggests they can, rather like Italian scientists after a little too much Campari, transcend the rules of e=mc2.

But you can’t kill time: Einstein knew that, and old Albrecht was never wrong. In the 3D world, killing time is an oxymoron.

Talking of morons, real-life footballers are often referred to as ‘playing for time’, or ‘wasting time’, when they’re 1-0 up with a minute to go. But the difference here is that, at the referee’s whistle, the game is over. In the eurozone, the idea is that the game should never be over, because the problem can never be solved.

In one sense, ever since late 2009 the eurozone has been wasting time. Forgiveness of debt at that stage, with a small bondholder haircut subsidised by the long-suffering taxpayer, would’ve come out at $450bn all up. Anyone who thinks we’re within three noughts of that today is disturbingly unclear about the direction in which Time travels.

The Greek economy contracted by 7.2% in the third quarter just gone, according to data published by ELSTAT two days ago. This might suggest that time is running out, as at this rate, Greece will have no economy at all beyond guns and petrol-bombs by August 2017. I have it on good authority that in that month, things will start to pick up, but that authority has a history of mental illness and is called Christine Lagarde, so don’t bank on it coming to pass.

Mario Draghi’s shtick with Time is to try and make it appear to stand still by reducing all progress on every issue to 0%. Being an intelligent man who obviously understands relativity theory, his is only a slightly sprained form of sanity. Thus last week he relaxed the collateral conditions for the Bank of Greece, but then on August 2, he’d already reduced the amount of repo-able T-Bills the BoG can get from the ECB by €3.5 billion – or roughly 50%. So now Athens has half the money but twice as well collateralised.

It’s what we bankers call ‘a trade off’. Or ‘killing time’. We’ve had Zirp, now comes Zip – Zero Infinite Progress. It’s an ultimate expression of limitless lack of potential from the same stable that brought you friendly fire and negative forward movement going forward.

Liberal Austrian newspaper Der Kurier wrote yesterday that ‘The help from the donor countries is half-hearted and ultimately will only postpone Greece’s bankruptcy rather than averting it’, a timeless observation that should’ve been put into action a long time ago. But the concept of anything from the eurozone being half-hearted is seen by some as a massive increase on cold-hearted.

Unfortunately, back here in real life again, half a heart doesn’t work. The thing with your heart is that you need all of it, or you die in very short order. Another favourite Einstein observation was that if you halve the distance between the mouse and the hole for infinity, the mouse never gets there. But mainly, the mouse never gets there because the cat isn’t working on this principle of movement, and thus eats him. There is a very good parallel for the EU in this one.

Another thing about time is you can’t fool all the people during all of it. David Cameron has his own personal Collider working flat out to try and disprove the famous Abe Lincoln remark, but it looks doomed to failure. After Olli Rehn’s complete capitulation last night, the eurozone’s mantra about treating Greece and Spain equally is finally consigned to the pit. Only the ever-lowering pendulum is left, dropping inexorably until it slices right through the eurozone’s bollocks.

I wonder what my many Greek friends, sources and readers will make of this. Most Spaniards (probably including Mariano Rajoy) will draw the lesson that standing firm coupled with going on strike is an excellent way to get bullies out of one’s face. It’s the standing and firm parts of the strategy that seem to be lacking in the Greek political class. That and, well, honesty, decency, consistency, calm, courage, and a calorie-controlled diet.

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