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Published on The Slog on February 27-28, 2015

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RE Note: Slogger JW has been especially prolific of late with quite a bit of good stuff, so I am compiling a few at a time now instead of posting them individually.

GREECE LATEST: HUGE GREEK BANK OUTFLOWS, EURO FALLING AGAINST THE £, BUNDESTAG BACKS GREECE MEMORANDUM

ChambptIf the Varoufakis memorandum ‘deal’ is so respectable, why do none of the players, or their Party bigwigs, or the markets, like it?

There’s a piece in the online magazine Counterpunch at the moment purporting to show how Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has ‘kept Greece in the euro by its fingernails’. Without going over the same tedious ground yet again, nobody can do that, because Greece doesn’t need to cling onto anything: once you’re in the euro, there’s no way out.
The piece continues as follows:‘So, those who think that Varoufakis should have given the Eurogroup an ultimatum (“Reduce our debts or we’ll leave.”) simply don’t understand the nature of the negotiations.  Varoufakis was forced to operate  within very strict parameters. Given those limitations, he nabbed a very respectable deal.’
If I had a Pound for every expert who responded to an injection of reality with “no no, you don’t understand” I’d be a very rich man indeed. QE, derivatives, the gold price, the euro’s value, UK ‘growth’, fractional reserve banking, the Manchester United owning Glazer brothers, ludicrously over-priced bourses, the EC’s finances, and BoJ asset purchases have all been ‘sold’ to me over the years are the best way forward…when they are obvious disaster areas waiting to happen.
In this case, it’s the idea that what Varoufakis signed last week was a ‘very respectable deal’. I’d like to put one simple question to the Game Players: if the deal is so good, why does no side – there are more than two – want it?
The Greek KKE doesn’t want it, 8 senior Syriza MPs don’t want it, and yesterday afternoon Merkel was given a seriously rough ride by her own CDU Upper Circle. I’ve yet to meet a single anti-federalist who likes it…but I’ve been told a dozen times that Varoufakis has “bought time”. He has: but is it peace in our time, or time for things to get worse for the Greeks?
Even the fairly large print of the Memorandum makes YV’s job impossible, and it isn’t helped by the obviously manipulated departure of bank deposits. Four months from now they will be back around the same table, and there is just one thing alone that might make Yanis’s hand stronger: Italy turning to sh*t – which it could do….and ought to do.
But if your main adversary is an Italian crook heading up the ECB, I wouldn’t hold your breath on it. In that four months, there’ll be 24/7 smearing and trolls, manufactured bank panics, and pretty much anything they can think of to take Syriza’s eye off the ball. Last month, a record €12.2 billion left Greek banks: that is more  than any outflows experienced during any of the previous Greek crises and bailouts. Zero Hedge is now confirming the Slogpost of last week when it says ‘the Troika did everything in its power to accelerate the bank run in order to crush any negotiating leverage Varoufakis may have had’.
As for Tsipras himself, his hardest task will be to keep the Coalition together…plus social protests and unrest coming from the KKE and Golden Dawn…both of whom are virulently anti-euro.

I wrote earlier this week that Varoufakis missed his chance to exploit the enormous Bundesbank v ECB v France rift – the thing that will do for the entire EU in time regardless of anything else that might happen. But he failed to call the bluff. That’s all Draghi had: bluff.

Today, with this marvellous deal nobody likes, the euro has fallen further, and now stands at 1.38 to Sterling. If he had walked last Friday, Troika2 would’ve been in l’ordure profonde. There is an old adage that says, “When you borrow £10,000 from a bank, it’s your problem. When you borrow $280billion and can’t pay it back, it’s the bank’s problem”. So far, EU citizens haven’t paid a red cent of any of the funny-money involved in bailing out Greece. Now they will have to…and it could tip at least two of them – Spain and Italy – over the edge. This is the size of the opportunity Varoufakis missed.

On verra. But I remain at a loss to see what Greece has gained here…except the bewildered disrespect of a lot of the neutrals.

At the End of the Day

We’ve just had a sunset here that can’t measure up to West Indian or Greek ends-of-day for awesome brilliance followed by soft red, but will always beat them hands-down for the range of colours involved.

In this sort of late-winter Aquitainian sunset, there are light greys, charcoals, limes, four shades of blue, infinite yellows – and spectacular solid rays that reach up to the heavens. Religiously influenced 19th century paintings of the English sunset made great play with the rays thing, but they all look insipid alongside what I just saw here.

The thing that’s particularly enthralling about the skies in the Lot is that they’re never boring. This enhances the sense, at sunset, of the illusion of Time being played out second by second: it’s a bit like watching a Turner painting observed through the Polaroids of David Hockney. You can’t take your eye off it for even a second, because all is change. As the Buddhist mantra has it, all things are in transition.

*********************************

If only the same could be said for Wolfgang Schäuble. You always know where you are with Wolfie: the bloke comes with a cast-iron guarantee that he will always support his inflexible approach with an insane argument. He was on top form in the Bundestag today, asserting to his CDU naysayers that “This is not about lending more money to Greece, it is about continuing with the programme”.

Just to insert the odd undisputed fact here, since 2010 his geliebte programme imposed upon Greece has produced the greatest depression of any Western economy in recorded history. Yet Dr Strangelove insists that Greek recovery will without question emerge from Aphrodite by the waterhole standing firmly at the side of Phoenix among the ashes – neither of whom have any money to consume the goods that the Greek economy cannot produce, because it has no finance.

You really do have to be profoundly mad to stick to that kind of programme.

But in Germany, political rebellion takes place in a way no other country can reproduce. In Germany, the leading CDU rednecks give Merkel a hard time for being a liberal pinko, and then traipse into the Bundestag to vote overwhelmingly for the extension of the Programme. In a German revolution, everyone forms an orderly queue to express dissatisfaction at the soft treatment being meted out to the Üntermenschen who do not grasp their Weltanschauung. Then they obey whatever bonkers bollocks Mutti Merkel comes out with.

It is all terrifyingly similar to Goebbels yelling that “All Jews are Communists, and all Communists are Jews”.

*********************************

Now that South Korea’s Constitutional Court has decriminalized adultery, Bloomberg reports that the country’s leading condom manufacturer Unidus shares rose by 11.75% today.

If you’re in any doubt about the importance of this ruling, I should point out that in 2008, actress Ok So Ri acknowledged publicly she had an affair with a singer. So her compassionate actor husband called for the maximum penalty of two years in prison. She got a suspended eight-month term. I’m not the world’s most right-on person, but the idea of this kind of chastity-belt claptrap still existing in the 21st century is not good news. Take a look at Indonesia’s laws against women: they beggar belief.

I do believe in long-term relationship sexual loyalty, but manufacturing crime out of human passion is about as bad as it gets.

That said, I have problems with the share price rise…as I so often do with f**kwitted stock market logic. If you’re marrried and you have an affair involving unprotected sex, presumably your husband knows you’re unprotected. So why would condoms be necessary – especially in the passion of the moment?

I do dislike reducing love to the mechanics of it all. But the problem with bourses the world over is that they’re dominated by daft testerone-fuelled blokes whose left brains are atrophied as a result of none-use.

And on that happy note, I bid you all bon weekend.

Our politicians make a hash of it because they’re bought, not because they’re braindead

mcteeth From Athens to Washington via Berlin, Paris and London, we are getting the wrong policies for us, because they’re not designed to be for us in the first place

Herewith a very small proportion of some major political cockups of recent vintage:

The EU ‘annexed’ former Soviet satellites in central and eastern Europe without giving a thought to what the effect might be in terms of cheaper goods and lower-cost workers.

The EU and US conspired to meddle in Ukrainian politics, and as a result were given a bloody nose by Putin.

The EU created one currency across 18 cultural divides without giving any exit door, and as a result the Greek population is paying for the crimes of the pro-EU oligarchy.

The EU is imposing a mad scorched earth policy on the Greeks in the bizarre hope that the grass will regrow two minutes after the fire goes out.

The EU trampled all over Cyprus, and as a result Putin has completed a bailout deal with them….in return for naval bases there.

The EU created a government structure in which unelected functionaries have all the ‘ideas’ – and the elected MEPs get to rubber stamp them – and hoped that democracy would flourish.

The US blundered into Iraq twice, supported the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, bombed Iraq for a third time, supported the rebels in Syria, and then changed its mind to support Bashar Assad and bomb the rebels…all in pursuit of energy control, without ever trying with any consistency to develop beyond fossil fuels.

The UK Prime Minister David Cameron gave a speech in Ankara heaping praise upon closet Islamist Recep Erdogan and referring to Gaza as “a concentration camp”….while Erdogan was busy supplying the unfortunates living in the small State with arms.

Cameron hired Andy Coulson despite being warned by a dozen well-placed people that he’d committed myriad crimes while at Newscorp.

The UK supported Bush in the Gulf War without any thought for the jihadist consequences…leading directly to 55 deaths in London and a wholesale radicalisation of British Islamics.

Successive UK governments allowed immigrants to pour into Britain over a 40 year period, dismissing all naysayers as racists – but without a thought for where they were all going to live….and now dismisses all opponents of their radical house-building policy as tree-huggers.

The UK government supports fracking – despite the calamitous fall in the oil price and the obvious threat to Britain’s already compromised water supply…and thus also increased lack of land on which to build homes to house the migrants they thoughtlessly let in after 1970.

…………………………..

I could go on like this all day. For a week even – and never stop, except for comfort breaks and sleep. Whichever way you cut it, these politician chaps are not very good, are they? Also, they’re incorrigibly corrupt…as the latest revelations in the UK showed only too well this week. And not very bright. Unpleasant when you meet them. Unresponsive. In fact, incapable of seeing the consequences of anything they do. So we need another bonfire –  after the ones for civil servants, lawyers and accountants die down – on which to chuck the politicians.

The current crop of politicians in the West are indeed pretty dire, and woefully lacking in leadership skills or the ability to unite rather than divide. But they’re the product of a culture – nothing more, nothing less.

The one thing all these idiot policies have in common is self-serving lobbyists.

In consecutive order, the lobbying that dictated the disasters listed above came from the US State Department, multinational business, the CIA alongside Silicone Valley, multinational banking, the German Interior Ministry, Wall Street, the European Central Bank, the US oil industry, NATO, Newscorp, the race relations industry, neoliberal employer organisations, and the construction industry.

Now you could argue that a lot of those lobbies are merely part of the political process, but they are not. Only two sets of people should set political policy: elected legislators, and the electorate. The rest – especially Whitehall – are supposed to shut up and pay attention, but they don’t. The same applies to central bankers, bourse districts, and business generally. The policies currently driven by lobbyists fail over and over again because they are about ego and bottom lines, not the needs or Will of the People.

When Jean Blondel wrote Voters, Parties and Leaders in the late 1950s, he described what he called ‘pressure groups’. Their job was to bring to the government’s attention plights and opportunities, not to bribe them: such a thing was thought completely improper then. Today, US, UK, and EU civil servants openly take up positions in banks, multinationals, and energy companies after leaving the bureaucracy. This is a twofold phenomenon: the reward for past favours done, and the ability to show the poachers how to avoid the gamekeepers.

You may choose to believe, for instance, that John McCain is mad. But he is far from that: he is almost exclusively bankrolled by the oil and munitions industries – especially the US areospace business. So instead of ‘mad’, think Middle East, ISIS oilfield attacks, arming the Ukraine, and bombing jihadists. All the wrong policies, and all for the same reason: more munneee for Mr McCain, more contracts for the arms business, and security of supply for the oilcos.

If you take a degraded culture – some would even say a depraved culture – and allow it to produce the politicians…who then get offered free wonga by obsessive multinationals, this is the entirely predictable result. The final result might, one day, be final in the most terrifying sense of the word: greedy little men like McCain starting World War III as a result of selling jets to Iran, or 2D undetectable weaponry to the Israelis, or covert nuclear delivery to the Germans, tactical nukes to African mercenaries, or anybody else – never mind who, business is business kid – that has the munnneeeee.

I’ve been giving Syriza something of a bashing this week (which I think they richly deserve) but the great thing in their favour is the desire to make Greece a more open, honest and accountable culture. It is the ultimate c-word, and the only way real radicals can effect change now. We need a different way of rolling back greed through education and example: what we don’t need is the old Big State Left and Neolib Right ideologies replayed yet again: they don’t bear any relevance to social anthropology, and so I switch off once the empty historical syntax gets trotted out.

Syriza’s form of localism appeals to me because its communal and bottom-up. Sadly, I now fear that the situation will go tits-up before they get the chance to put it into practice. One thing people who don’t ‘get’ Greece can’t grasp is that Syriza’s ‘natural’ franchise of voters is probably under 6%, if not less. It is a loose collaboration of convenience designed to stand up to Brussels and get rid of the Greek oligarchy. Once people think its leaders are just as boneless as their predecessors, Greek politics could easily descend into chaos…perhaps even civil war.

But Tsipras and co still have a chance – albeit a slim one – to tell the EU where to get off, and then watch as the opposing edifice collapses in acrimony. If they do, then four things have to go in Greece: neoliberal drivel, privately funded political Parties, dishonest officials, and lobbying. If they can start to make a go of that alongside communal support and better education, they might just achieve something truly worthwhile for citizens everywhere around the World.

Memo to Varoufakis

Off the keyboard of John Ward

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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?

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A new climate protest movement out of the UK has taken Europe by storm and made governments sit down [...]

The success of Apollo 11 flipped the American public from skeptics to fans. The climate movement nee [...]

Today's movement to abolish fossil fuels can learn from two different paths that the British an [...]

Top Commentariats

  • Our Finite World
  • Economic Undertow

Thanks for the links! I don't agree with everything, but the charts are good. In particular, St [...]

By the way, thanks for your comments on the political orthodoxy during the 1970s and 1980s. I wasn [...]

I remember reading about the water problem for lithium extraction in Chile before. This is a fairly [...]

The farmers who worry about our phone batteries https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/news/624/cpsprodpb/130BB/pr [...]

Good point. It need coal both for making the concrete for the dams and for power 24/7/365. [...]

Hi Steve. I recently found what I believe is a little gem, and I'm quite confident you'd a [...]

The Federal Reserve is thinking about capping yields? I don't know how long TPTB can keep this [...]

As some one who has spent years trying to figure out what the limits to growth are. let me say that [...]

Peak oil definitely happened for gods sake. Just because it isn't mad max right now is no indic [...]

@Volvo - KMO says he made some life choices he regrets. Not sure what they were. And I don't th [...]

RE Economics

Going Cashless

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Simplifying the Final Countdown

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Bond Market Collapse and the Banning of Cash

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Do Central Bankers Recognize there is NO GROWTH?

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Singularity of the Dollar

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Kurrency Kollapse: To Print or Not To Print?

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SWISSIE CAPITULATION!

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Of Heat Sinks & Debt Sinks: A Thermodynamic View of Money

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Merry Doomy Christmas

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Peak Customers: The Final Liquidation Sale

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Collapse Fiction

Useful Links

Technical Journals

Barocaloric is a solid-state not-in-kind technology, for cooling and heat pumping, rising as an alte [...]

Terrestrial ecosystems and their vegetation are linked to climate. With the potential of accelerated [...]

The Antarctic Centennial Oscillation (ACO) is a paleoclimate temperature cycle that originates in th [...]