Wilfred Owen

Dulce Et Decorum Est…

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Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on May 28, 2018

“If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.”

 ― Wilfred Owen


As we observe yet another Memorial Day, it is at this time of year that thoughts turn to those who have served, those lost, those gone. At a time when the NFL make rules to enforce compulsory public worship of militarism (let's not call it patriotism, shall we?), the better to stifle the protest of domestic oppression, it is well to remember a time when grace and magnanimity softened hearts. Today marks the 150th anniversary of Memorial Day's official nationwide observance. The annual commemoration was born in the former Confederate States in 1866 and adopted by the United States in 1868.

Although not widely known today, the early evolution of the Memorial Day holiday grew from a Southern expression of magnanimity. An article by Richard Gardiner, The Forgotten History of Memorial Day,  traces the holiday's beginnings. 

During 1866, the first year of this annual observance in the South, a feature of the holiday emerged that made awareness, admiration and eventually imitation of it spread quickly to the North. During the inaugural Memorial Day observances which were conceived in Columbus, Georgia, many Southern participants – especially women – decorated graves of Confederate soldiers as well as, unexpectedly, those of their former enemies who fought for the Union. 

Shortly after those first Memorial Day observances all across the South, newspaper coverage in the North was highly favorable to the ex-Confederates. 

“The action of the ladies on this occasion, in burying whatever animosities or ill-feeling may have been engendered in the late war towards those who fought against them, is worthy of all praise and commendation,” wrote one paper

On May 9, 1866, the Cleveland Daily Leader lauded the Southern women during their first Memorial Day. 

“The act was as beautiful as it was unselfish, and will be appreciated in the North.”

Newspapers spread word of the magnanimous deeds of the southern women on "Decoration Day,", and it was memorialized in a popular poem, "The Blue and the Grey," often learned and recited by schoolchildren. With the ritual repeated on both sides of thre Mason-Dixon line, the holiday became a part of binding the wounds of a fratricidal war. It was a visible manifestation of Lincoln’s hope for reconciliation between North and South.

Somehow, the revulsion to war was lost as late nineteenth America grew in commercial and economic power. By the time a marine named Smedley Butler appeared in the US military, American was already flexing its muscles for entry as a player on the world stage.

Those not familiar with the career of Butler have missed a fascinating chapter of US history.

Smedley Darlington Butler was at the time of his death, the most decorated Marine in U.S. history. He was a welter of contradictions: a Major General in the U.S. Marine Corps, an outspoken critic of U.S. military adventurism; a high school dropout who became a major general, a Quaker and devout family man who was among the toughest of Marines; an aristocrat who championed the common man; a leader who thought of himself as striving to help the oppressed of the countries he occupied as commander of an imperial fighting force. During a 34-year career he participated in actions in the Philippines, China, Central America, the Caribbean, and France in World War I. He twice won the Congressional Medal of Honor, as well as numerous other U.S. and foreign medals. Our age has not seen the like of this larger-than-life soldier, but ours is not an age that produces heroes as readily as louts.

After he retired, Butler became a well-known and outspoken critic of the US military-industrial complex. His most well known work is his 1935 book "War is a Racket", in which he described war as a money making enterprise.

In "War is a Racket" he described and criticized the foreign actions and wars of the United States including his own, as so much gangsterism, not sparing American corporations and the politicians who enable them.

Butler's words have resonated through our day, when the interstices used by the interlocking nexus of international banks, construction companies, corrupt politicians and "foreign policy professionals" have combine to inflict a new, less straightforward version of colonialism on smaller, weaker countries or those (e.g. Greece) inclined to go their own way. Many of his memorable phrases are still quoted today, as they remain eternally true.

"War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small 'inside' group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes."

Near the end, Butler has some modest proposals for making war unprofitable, thus less likely.

It can be smashed effectively only by taking the profit out of war. The only way to smash this racket is to conscript capital and industry and labour before the nation's manhood can be conscripted.

One can imagine bow unpopular this prescription was to the war profiteers. 

In an interesting codicil to an outstanding career, Butler was recruited to be a member of what came to be knows as the Business Plot. He later told a congressional committee that a group of wealthy industrialists were planning a military coup to overthrow Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Butler would be selected to lead a veterans march to become dictator, along the lines of other Fascist regimes emerging in Europe. The conspirators had picked the wrong man. All involved denied the existence of a plot and the media ridiculed the allegations. But a final report by a special House of Representatives Committee confirmed some of Butler's testimony. The incident was forgetten. 

The techniques Butler describes are updated decades later by John Perkins, who wrote Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, published in 2004. In it Perkins describes his role as to convince leaders of underdeveloped countries to accept substantial development loans for large construction and engineering projects that would primarily benefit the richest families and local elites, rather than the poor. And the projects would be contracted to U.S. construction companies. Such loans would give the U.S. additional leverage for access to estract the host country's natural resources at favorable rates. Indeed, the business of America is business.

Just another reason Why People Hate Us. A nation immune to history has no recollection of its own history of intervention and interference. Saddam Hussein and Khaddafi were undoubtedly bad actors, and many believe that regime change was rightly forced upon those countries. But via the CIA, America has been busily replacing democracies with dictatorships in countries all over the world for more than 30 years. The justification was often to counter Soviet influence, but in many cases there was little or no evidence.

So why would the rest of the wrld hate us? Simply because Americans act like we are the center of the universe, we have to win everything all the time, we eat everything, Nukes, your country's natural resources are our birthright, and so is your energy– only 5 percent of the world’s population, we consume 26 percent of the world’s energy. We meddle all over the world, the scream to high heaven when other countries meddle back, we export trash materialistic culture, and we act unilaterally whenever and wherever we want, because American Exceptionalism. 

Now as Twitler advances a foreign policy of brinksmanship, there is talk in some quarters of reinstating the draft, since the time may come when the prospect of being the first to rush into the breach to die for the Trump corporate brand may be insufficiently motivating for enlistments.

Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

 


banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, screeds and spittle-flecked invective here and elsewhere, and was active in the Occupy movement. He lives in Southeastern Virginia with his wife Contrary and  will have failed if not prominently featured on an enemies list compiled by the current administration.

This Week In Doom January 19, 2014– A Week For the Ages…

That-Was-The-Week-That-W-That-Was-The-Week-473964 Off the keyboard of Surly1

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Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on January 19, 2014

Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.

 

A Week for the Ages . . .

Freda freedumville

 

The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.”  –– Charles Bukowski

“In my head, I hear “pomp and circumstance” being played on Vuvuzelas as the parade of derp that is America the Embarrassing makes its way along the large intestine that is our political system.                           I can almost smell it from here.” –Peter Kaufman, on William Rivers Pitt’s Facebook page

In the desert I saw a creature, naked, bestial,

Who, squatting upon the ground,

Held his heart in his hands,

And ate of it.

I said, “Is it good, friend?”

“It is bitter—bitter,” he answered;

“But I like it “Because it is bitter,

“And because it is my heart.”

 

– Stephen Crane, “In the Desert”

 

Having thought I would take the week off from another blog post due to travel in the heart of secession, Tea-Partydom, I find the events of this week scream for a resuscitation of that overwrought franchise, “This Week in Doom.”

If ever a week’s events heralded Full Doom sooner rather than later, this was it: a week seen best in the rearview mirror, heralding the arrival of more, worse, and sooner. It was a week in which a retired cop shot a theatre patron and the man’s wife over texting the man’s sitter, and a four year old shot another four year old; in which a neocon shill commemorated the 100th anniversary of  WW I by wiping his ass on Wilfred Owen’s elegiac poem; in which we learn more about the TPP; in which the Senate failed to extend unemployment bennies for the poors and out-of-works, The US Appeals Court shreds net neutrality, and the President gives a speech on civil liberties suggesting you kiss them goodbye. A week which invites strong men to drink. In fact, a writer I admire, William Rivers Pitt, has suggested laying in a case of Jameson and buying it a brother— which is not a bad start.  (I suggest you read his linked article, in which he does it better and more stylishly.) Charlie Pierce is no doubt ordering up double Prestones for the boys in the bar, asking what the pundits in the back will have. You are, as always, free to choose your own poison. It’s Manhattans here… although a fattie is not a bad idea…

 

A retired police officer with a taste for confrontation shot and killed a 43 year old father. Chad Oulson and wounded his wife at a Florida theatre.  The shooting happened early Monday afternoon. Police retiree Curtis Reeves sat behind Oulson, and his wife,  according to authorities.

Oulson was using his cell phone during the previews before the film and Reeves told him to put it away, according to police and witnesses. The two men began to argue and Reeves walked out of the auditorium.

Police said Reeves was going to complain to a theater employee. When Reeves returned, witnesses and authorities said that Oulson asked him if he had gone to tell on him for texting.

Police said Tuesday that Oulson was texting his young daughter’s babysitter. An argument then ensued, in which Oulson threw a bag of popcorn at Reeves, police said. And in response the former police officer took out a .380 semi-automatic handgun and shot Oulson, again according to police.

A report in the Tampa Bay Times portrays a shooter with two sides.

 

Reeves claimed self-defense, saying he was struck in the face with an unknown object. Deputies dispute that. They arrested him on second-degree murder. How did it get to this? Reeves’ past offers hints, but answers have eluded friends, who both hope and assume that exonerating evidence will soon be revealed. The Tampa Bay Times spoke to a dozen of Reeves’ former and current friends and co-workers, as well as Reeves’ attorney, neighbors and pastor. His family did not respond to several attempts for comment. Friends describe Reeves as a proud, church-going man who spent much of his career in positions of authority, a strong leader who never had a problem telling people what he thinks.

Media speculation has it that Reeves will invoke the “stand your ground” law, because, uh, Florida. And freeeeeeedum.

In other news in responsible gun ownership a four year old shot and killed his four year old cousin in this report from Detroit’s WXYZ.

Detroit police say two people are in custody after a 4-year-old was shot and killed by another 4-year-old on the city’s west side.

Authorities say a male and female are being held on felony possession charges.

Early Friday 7 Action News was told the boy, who we are identifying only as Jamel, was shot by his cousin after she pulled out a long gun from underneath a bed at the home on the 7100 block of Tuxedo. 

As officers recover the weapon that took the life of the boy, parents in this neighborhood on Detroit’s west side are thinking of those affected, and holding their own children a little tighter.

“I’m hurt.” said Queensbury, “I’m hurting real bad for the family.

And then there is this that barely needs any exposition–”Responsible Gun Owner ‘Second Amendments’ Himself in the Face While Changing His Pants…” You simply can’t make this stuff up.

A Tennessee man is alive after accidentally shooting himself in the chin as he was getting undressed Sunday night. Carter County Sheriff’s Deputy David Caldwell told the Johnson City Press that William Rood apparently left a loaded .25 caliber Beretta pistol in his right front pants pocket (we gather he packs to the right) and as he placed the pants on his dresser, the weapon fired one bullet striking Rood in the nose and chin, finally lodging in his neck.

Pants kill.

anthonyfredagungirl

Wilfred Owen

In other news, this week marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of “the war to end all wars,” World War I. That obscenity of letters William Kristol, writing in the Weekly Standard, observed that

1914 saw the beginning of World War I, a calamity perhaps unmatched until then in the history of the West. We will be reminded many times this year in centennial commemorations of the war’s terrible destruction, but also of its devastating political and cultural effects over subsequent decades, and of its continuing deep if often indirect contribution to today’s demoralization of the West. 

What is this demoralization of which he speaks? It seems to be the fact that we are no longer able to wave the flag and get the poors to leap to the opportunity to wage overseas war with the alacrity that earlier, less educated generations leapt so willingly. In the process Kristol cites and perverts the words of Wilfred Owen, one of the best and brightest of a new generation of English poets coming of age during the second decade of the 20th century, and who, along with so many English, French, Germans and Americans, soaked the fields of Flanders with their blood. The poem is, of course, the luminous and transfixing “Dulce et Decorum Est Pro patria Mori,” one of the most effective anti-war statements ever made. I take this somewhat personally, as I had to memorize this poem as a young man and found myself moved to imagine the sacrifices and sufferings of people I had never met and could scarcely conceive of… In perverting Owen’s poem to his own war-shillery, Kristol reveals the completeness with which he has sold his soul to Satan, in this article in which he ratfucks David Frum:

Writing several years ago in this magazine about its seismic cultural consequences, David Frum quoted the concluding lines of “the most famous poem in our language about World War I”:

If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood

Come gargling from the froth corrupted lungs,

Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud

Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—

My friend, you would not tell with such high zest

To children ardent for some desperate glory,

The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est

Pro patria mori.

The Latin, which translates as “It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country,” comes from an ode of Horace’s. As Frum pointed out, Horace’s line is one “that any educated Englishman of the last century would have learned in school.” Those pre-War Englishmen would, on the whole, have understood the line earnestly and quoted it respectfully. Not after the War. Living in the shadow of Wilfred Owen rather than Horace, the earnestness yielded to bitterness, the respect to disgust. As Frum puts it, “Scoffing at those words represented more than a rejection of war. It meant a rejection of the schools, the whole society, that had sent Owen to war.”

Recognizing the power of scoffery and ridicule to endanger those institutions which protect and honor his underserved position as a public intellectual, Kristol thus wrinkles his patrician nose. Fortunately, the aforementioned Charlie Pierce recognizes depravity when he sees it and took note of Kristol’s insanity thus:

Given the author, and given the publication, I would like to propose that this is the most singularly obscene paragraph ever written.

Today, after all, we see the full consequences of that rejection in a way Owen and his contemporaries could not. Can’t we acknowledge the meaning, recognize the power, and learn the lessons of 1914 without succumbing to an apparently inexorable gravitational pull toward a posture of ironic passivity or fatalistic regret in the face of civilizational decline? No sensitive person can fail to be moved by Owen’s powerful lament, and no intelligent person can ignore his chastening rebuke. But perhaps a century of increasingly unthinking bitter disgust with our heritage is enough.

So saith the Moloch of the Green Room, from whose hands still drips the blood of Other People’s Children.

Decent folk should spit on him. Daily.

Res ipsa loquitor.

In other news, Wikileaks revealed the  environmental section of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, also known as “NAFTA on steroids and meth and in a very bad mood.” If you have not been following this monster, step up your game, because this surly bitch will be Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You. Brought to you by the same civic-spirited public servants who brought you NAFTA, CAFTA, and the other “free-trade™” agreements that resulted in the export of American manufacturing and millions of jobs, this “fast-track” (read minimal oversight or public discussion) treaty will trump national protections on a variety of fronts.

What observers conclude is that the deal says many nice things about protecting the environment, but contains almost no significant means to enforce the sentiments behind those happy burblings. “This draft chapter falls flat on every single one of our issues,” Sierra Club president Michael Brune says, “oceans, fish, wildlife, and forest protections – and in fact, rolls back on the progress made in past free trade pacts.” The fact remains that the negotiations continue to be shrouded in secrecy, while our elected solons have placed its execution of a “fast track.” The coming vitiation of such scant environmental protections as exist (see West, TX and Charleston, WV) will no doubt thrill the residents of the Kanawha Valley, who drink replacement water from tanks filled with the same toxic effluent. You cannot make this shit up. While officials offer an “all clear,” pregnant women are advised not to drink or use it, and meanwhile, the whole toxic blogs makes its way to the Ohio and then to the Mississippi. The gift that keeps on giving. Be sure to that your Repug lawmakers who are ever-so-helpful” to keep the regulations off the backs of the “job creators.” Meanwhile, the toxin that has poisoned WV is utterly unregulated. Coal, you know.

And speaking of the US Senate, this week that world class deliberative body illustrated how the existing system exists only to serve the unelected, monied interests who have purchased it, which serves to illustrate the stark difference between Rs and Ds: “Republicans™” kick the working class in the balls, while the “Democrats™” merely hold their coats so the Rs can kick more freely.

Unemployment benefits for 1.3 million of the long-term unemployed — and millions more in the future — were imperiled on Tuesday after Senate efforts to reach accord on legislation to revive them collapsed in partisan finger-pointing.

After days of negotiations, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, abruptly called a vote to end debate on two Democratic measures that would extend benefits for out-of-work Americans for at least three months, gambling that he could muster enough support from moderate Republicans to move on to final passage for at least one of the proposals.

But both votes failed, and the possibility of a bipartisan deal collapsed during procedural arguments, with Democrats and Republicans accusing one another of negotiating in bad faith.

I am “shocked . . . shocked” at allegations of gambling in Rick’s Cafe.

Meanwhile, in a year where Time’s Man of the Year staff  lost the slip of paper on which the name of Edward Snowden was written, our Glorious Leader gave a prononciamento on how you should just get the fuck over yourself and your memories of what used to be a Constitution. Here is BHO himself:

It is hard to overstate the transformation America’s intelligence community had to go through after 9/11. Our agencies suddenly needed to do far more than the traditional mission of monitoring hostile powers and gathering information for policymakers. Instead, they were now asked to identify and target plotters in some of the most remote parts of the world, and to anticipate the actions of networks that, by their very nature, cannot be easily penetrated with spies or informants.

And it is a testimony to the hard work and dedication of the men and women of our intelligence community that over the past decade we’ve made enormous strides in fulfilling this mission. Today, new capabilities allow intelligence agencies to track who a terrorist is in contact with, and follow the trail of his travel or his funding. New laws allow information to be collected and shared more quickly and effectively between federal agencies, and state and local law enforcement. Relationships with foreign intelligence services have expanded, and our capacity to repel cyber-attacks have been strengthened. And taken together, these efforts have prevented multiple attacks and saved innocent lives — not just here in the United States, but around the globe.

 

Thus we are asked to accept on faith the speculation that the NSA has actually prevented attacks on US soil, rather than decide for ourselves the facts on the ground, namely that the Surveillance State is designed to observe and suppress any attempt to consolidate the prerogatives and power of the burgeoning Corporate State. Hoovering up your every text message, purchase record and porn search gives the State unlimited power to go back and re-create an ex post facto criminal record for anyone who becomes sufficient source of irritation. Here’s Pierce:

The president’s big speech on the NSA today was an extended exercise in running in place. The one thing it was not was an attempt to strike a “balance” between the current surveillance state and civil liberties “concerns.” (You will note that the Bill of Rights is now apparently a Bill of Concerns.) There is very little question that the former is being asked to give up very little of its power — I decline to feel comforted by the fact that intelligence agencies have to submit requests to a secret court — while the latter are being asked to adjust their expectations to the reality of new and gathering threats.

Throughout this evolution, we benefited from both our Constitution and our traditions of limited government. U.S. intelligence agencies were anchored in a system of checks and balances, with oversight from elected leaders and protections for ordinary citizens.

Balls. COINTELPRO. CISPES. The McCarran Act. The Plumbers. Mossadegh. Arbenz.  The “U.S. intelligence agencies” were anchored in nothing but their own arrogance. The president should be ashamed to base his arguments in such plainly ahistorical balderdash.

Meanwhile, totalitarian states like East Germany offered a cautionary tale of what could happen when vast unchecked surveillance turned citizens into informers and persecuted people for what they said in the privacy of their own homes.

If the bar were any lower, you’d have to dig for it in China. . .

This is the government, in the person of this president, telling you what you have to give up in order to be safe. (As near as I can tell, the NSA is not being asked to stop doing much of anything, and the president’s Bush-standard apocalyptics doesn’t give me a lot of faith in whatever oversight he says he’s put in place.) Perhaps the country is willing to live with the arrangement, but it is a lie to call it a balance.

Thus we are asked to accept the status quo by this president. And if you don’t like it, citizen, go organize a protest using the internet. Heh, heh, heh….

Well, you may be saying, at least we have the internet. Uh… not so fast, did you read about the decision this week by the US Court of Appeals?

U.S. Circuit Judge David Tatel, writing for a three-judge panel, said that while the FCC has the power to regulate Verizon and other broadband companies, it chose the wrong legal framework for its open-Internet regulations.

“Given that the commission has chosen to classify broadband providers in a manner that exempts them from treatment as common carriers, the Communications Act expressly prohibits the commission from nonetheless regulating them as such,” Tatel wrote.

Long story short, what this ruling means, if it stands, is that bandwidth providers will be free to favor some traffic and throttle others, all in the interest of commerce. The FCC has the option of appeal to the US Supreme Court, that bastion of the Federalist Society, or of reclassifying bandwidth provides as common carriers, which it was loath to do last year amidst a firestorm of opprobrium from some of Verizon’s best friends (see R’s and Ds, above). So if Verizon strikes a deal with, say, Amazon’s streaming service to share profits, Amazon traffic can zip to the front of the bandwidth line while Netflix moves to the back of the line. And alternative news sites? Get them while the getting’s good, citizen. You’re on the clock.

Are you not entertained?

***

are-you-not-entertained

Surly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, articles and spittle-flecked invective on this site, and has been active in the Occupy movement. He lives in Southeastern Virginia with Contrary and a shifting menagerie of adult children in various stages of transition.

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In the echo-sphere of political punditry consensus forms rapidly, gels, and then, in short order…cal [...]

Discussions with figures from Noam Chomsky and Peter Senge to Thich Nhat Hanh and the Dalai Lama off [...]

Lefty Greenies have some laudable ideas. Why is it then that they don't bother to really build [...]

Top Commentariats

  • Our Finite World
  • Economic Undertow

Life is ours, we live it our way. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=P0iOz9xf0zY [...]

Same here... We have a wasp hive right above our front door. They fly in and out all day long but ne [...]

if a dog gets so hungry it eats its own tail---that's us in energy depletion terms [...]

yup OF Doomsters will be sadly missed---keep in touch [...]

I guess we live in different worlds. Sometime a simple, delusional world works--- You like Disneylan [...]

On a day that the stock market is pushing back above 24,900 the 2 to 10 is under 26 basis points and [...]

When the debt system deflates, gold will to. I have no confidence that in a true collapse environmen [...]

Anybody have any thoughts on why Steve was right on gold and FOFOA and other goldbugs were wrong? Ev [...]

Tagio; point taken on the prediction business. I'm still going to watch the yield curve for a w [...]

Creedon Pls don’t make inferences beyond what i wrote. I am not buying into the idea that They can k [...]

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

In Australia, successful seasonal predictions of wet and dry conditions are achieved by utilizing th [...]

During the last two decades, the sub-Saharan region has experienced unusual floods that have differe [...]

One of the recent advances in climate science research is the development of global general circulat [...]