Mar 262021

Filothei Skitzi Strapping girl 2021



Yesterday was Greece’s version of Independence Day, in their case the day the War of Independence from the Ottoman empire started in 1821. Unfortunately, it was so brutally cold -for Greece, that is, at 0ºC- that festivities were “dampened”. Moreover, due to Covid restrictions, people were barred from attending the traditional military parade (due to 1821, and having Turkey as a neighbor, many Greeks still love having an army) in the streets of Athens.

The only ones “allowed” to watch the parade were now the likes of Prince Charles and his horse wife, plus some ambassadors etc. While after almost 5 months of severe lockdown, and spring on the horizon, people really needed some relief in the form of a party. And a national party works best for that. Oh well, spring will come soon, and then soon after that, 39.9ºC. That’s where the weather service always seems to stop counting. It’s like the Y2K bug. A running gag.

I was re-reading the last things I wrote about the Monastiraki kitchen, November and December 2020, just to get back in the spirit, and to find things that I have already talked about, so as not to repeat myself. Cooking food is not the most exciting activity in the world by itself, to write about, or to film, as I always notice when I happenstance upon some TV cooking show.


What’s interesting about the social kitchen we run here is all the stories around it, not the cooking itself. I -and you, my readers- have been supporting this initiative for almost 6 years already, imagine that!. Many things have happened, many things have changed along the way, and wouldn’t you know, in the hardest time of all, the lockdowns that take everyone’s breath and life away, being involved in “the kitchen” -as we call it- feels better than ever.

It’s not just that the homeless need us more than ever before, though that is undoubtedly true, it’s also that the volunteers who work in the kitchen get even more of a sense of pride and self-worth from doing something that really changes human lives. Don’t underestimate the loss of pride, of having a goal in life, there are so many facets to this, of not being able to do your job for 5 months. And then to be able to contribute to helping the neediest people in your society, it gains a whole new meaning.

After a year of lockdowns, off and on, societies that have lived through them will irreparably change, even if the people that live in them, will not recognize that now. Most people still think of a return to “normal”. There will be no such thing. Once governments stop propping up businesses and workers financially, which they will have to, there will be a flood of unemployment and business closures. We will need a new “paradigm”, but that will take time.

Greece depends on tourism and hospitality to a much larger extent than most economies. And tourism won’t come back to former heights, this year or next. The virus is not gone, and vaccinating everyone will not solve the issue. Not that politicians and “experts” won’t pretend it will. Greece will win back some part of its tourism industry, but that risks bringing more virus into the country. And tourists, like the British, will be told not to come, by their own governments. Some “repair”, but far short of full.

So once the bars and restaurants open here, they are going to start firing people. The government is well aware of this, and talks about 100s of 1000s of job losses. This will happen everywhere, but in an economy so dependent on hospitality, much more. Summer will feel sort of okay, but after that, we will have many more clients in the Monastiraki kitchen. It’s as clear as day.




Filothei and I went to purchase €1,000 more in supermarket checks, from your donations, on Tuesday. She managed to spread the first €1,000 worth out over 3 months. Me, I like that she is aware of value, respect etc., but I also say sometimes that it’s alright to spend some money. For her, it‘s about every penny, every comma. But that has disadvantages as well: she spends so much time trying to get the best deal on everything that at some point I am sure that her time could be spent in a better way. And that people will understand that.

Example: the kitchen needs plates. We had a donation, 2 years ago, from a company that makes them, of 21,000 plates (they were misprints). We want, in industry terms, “bio-boxes”. As in, not plastic, but paper/cardboard. Those plates are now gone, and we need more. But these things are expensive, and Filothei thinks all donations should go to buying food. I agree, but at the same time, a social kitchen must do what it should do. I personally think some company should donate them to us, and they can put their logo on it, and feel good about supporting us, but in lockdown, no companies make any money. And we still need the plates.

We will buy maybe 6,000 of them soon, and pay maybe €600 for that, and yes, it’s not food, but it’s necessary. In these times, you can look at these companies’ websites, and their products, but most “bio-boxes” are for sandwiches, not hot meals. Yeah, entirely new issues for me too 😉 And all the companies are closed too, so it’s very hard to go check them out. That’s when you realize how crazy these times really are.


Other things we did this winter: we bought an umbrella. I told you the place where the cooking takes place is a little stone yard, with no roof. I also said we would pay the €200 for the umbrella with €100 from donations and I would pay the rest. And then it took 40 days, 30 phone calls, and people from the kitchen going there themselves, to finally get it. Welcome to the lockdown economy .



But isn’t it beautiful? It covers almost the entire yard. Yeah, again, it’s money not spent on food, but it’s needed nonetheless. It has been on several occasions already, and it will be there for years to come. Money well spent.



Another thing I bought is more facemasks, I paid for those myself, not from your donations. I don’t like the mandates for them much, with people wearing masks outside in the street, that doesn’t make much sense. But for the kitchen, with people working close together, and later handing out the food to the homeless, it does. Risk assessment. Only, wear the best ones then, why wouldn’t you? Why wear a sock on your face when you can get actual protection? These are FFP3 masks, in US terms that would be N95+, they have extra strips inside to connect them to your face, and their active ingredient is activated carbon, not salt. Why not do it well if you do it anyway?



Oh wait, that’s true, Filothei last week made 60 kilos (!) of lemon marmalade (which probably took 70 kilos of sugar) to hand out, because “the homeless need sugar and salt when it’s cold outside”.



We are up to 2 cookings a week at Monastiraki now, plus another one at Piraeus that depends on our staples to a large extent. And we’re not going to stop, or halt, or pause. Yes, the summer weather will relieve the pressure somewhat on the “immediate front”, but we need to look ahead too. The economic troubles won’t go away, and neither will the virus. And the people to be first hurt by that are always the same, the poorest, and their legions are growing. And that’s why we do what we do. This team is unbeatable. Despite all the police threats of fines and prison and what not, people always show up for “work”, and the food always gets delivered.

And we do it with love. Lots of it.


I’ll leave you with the same last paragraphs I’ve used the past few times when I wrote about the Monastiraki kitchen. You know how this works.



Most of you will know the drill of this by now: any Paypal donations ending in $0.99 or $0.37 go straight to the Monastiraki kitchen, while other donations go to the Automatic Earth -which also badly needs them. (Note: a lot of Automatic Earth donations also went to the kitchen this winter).

I dislike few things more than asking people for money, even though the Automatic Earth now runs primarily on donations, and there’s some sweet justice in that as well, in depending on people’s appreciation of what we do, instead of ad revenues.

But I cannot do this on my own right now. The Monastiraki kitchen will realistically need about €1,500 per month. I don’t have that to spare. So I’m calling on you. Unashamedly, because I know there is no reason to be ashamed of the cause.

I love all you people, and I’m sorry I can’t thank you all individually who have supported -and still do- the Monastiraki kitchen and the Automatic Earth all this time, and I ask you to keep on doing just that. The details for donations on Paypal and Patreon, for both causes, are in the top of the two sidebars of this site. Could not be much easier. If you’d rather send a check, go to our Store and Donations page. Bitcoin: 1HYLLUR2JFs24X1zTS4XbNJidGo2XNHiTT.

Love you. Thank you. This kitchen would not exist without you, these people would not get fed.




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Mar 232020

Rembrandt van Rijn Man in Oriental Costume (The Noble Slav) 1632


It’s been two weeks since I last wrote an original article. That’s a long time. Then again, that article was The Virus is a Time Machine, which was – and still is, pardon the pun, deadly accurate. All my time between then and now has gone into the daily Debt Rattles, which have increasingly become almost exclusively Virus Rattles. A lot of it has been numbers, not because of the numbers themselves, but because they are what reveal the trends, the trajectory, the dynamics to us.

When I first saw in the numbers a few days ago that US cases and deaths were both up some 45% over 24 hours, that frightened me. Because it told me a story. Without the numbers, that story is not there. That is also why I think it’s absolutely no use to look at these numbers and compare them to other ones, like those of regular flu, or traffic deaths, or whatever people come up with.

The coronavirus is new, it’s very young, even in virus time. You can’t compare it to other viruses. I have this image in my mind of Arnold Schwarzenegger peering into Jesus’s manger and saying: “what’s the problem, I can take that guy”. Don Ciccio had a better idea when he chased down 9-year-old Vito Andolini at the start of Godfather II: “when he grows up, he’ll come after me”.


The people responsible for the corona crisis getting so out of hand where you live are your “leaders”, the same ones who are now telling you to stay home 24/7 in order to solve the crisis they caused, not you. I’m not saying that to start a revolt, because now they’re the only people standing between you and anarchy, but please stop praising them. I see so many instances of people saying their leaders looked so reassuring on TV last night etc. I get that, I get why, but they are all abject failures.

If you’re in charge of a country’s government, you have at your disposal a State Department or some equivalent, you have dozens of people following world news in depth, and you have direct access to whatever the WHO says. Put all that together and you have no excuse for sitting on your hands 2+ months only to see the situation having gone way out of hand. And it makes no difference if all your peers have been as negligent as you are, it’s your job.

Last week the Hong Kong Free Press ran an article saying that China could have cut 95% of cases if its measures to contain the outbreak had begun three weeks earlier. The same is true where you live. China screwed up royally, and so did and do your respective “leaders”.



In a way, it’s good to see that more people and more news outlets have now woken up to what’s going on, and then some lately, but it’s also weird to see so many “sources” act as if they own the topic, and invented it, who never knew what it was until like ten days ago, while the Automatic Earth have been on top of it for over 2 months. Which is why, inevitably, they, the overnight experts, get most of it wrong. Just like the governments and politicians who have all of a sudden awakened from their slumber, and are now ordering people to do whatever their “leaders” think of next.

The problem with that, with relying on coming up with things without having a solid background like the Automatic Earth could have provided them with, is the same problem that caused them, both media and political systems, to be so awfully late in the first place. I first covered that in The Party and the Virus a full 7 weeks ago.

That was back when it appeared to be all about China, but it’s just as applicable in the west. The way we select our politicians, and our media, doesn’t allow for them to risk crying wolf. They will always wait to see what their peers do, who therefore also wait. Safety first for them, but -well, obviously- not for you.

That’s what we’re looking at today. The age-old excuse of “nobody knew, and nobody could have known”, just look at my peers, look at all other PM’s and presidents and governments. There is no behavior more typical for modern day politicians, whether they’re Chinese party officials or western cabinet ministers. But it’s all BS; they could have known, and therefore should have, because it’s their job. But they were fast asleep.

Trump and Boris Johnson may be taking the denial phase to a whole new level, and Bolsonaro too, but they really only fit a pattern. And ironically even they see their popularity rise, because people are scared and seek security and solace and protection, no matter how poorly dressed up.

Saying that Donald and Boris are terrible, no matter how justified, only serves to hide the failures of all other politicians, no matter how inclined you are to believe their messages. The simple fact is they are all terrible, they were all 12 weeks or more late in their (re-)actions.

Not that they should have ordered a billion dollars in respirators at the end of December, but when the first victims died in China, and the WHO was notified, they should have taken inventory of the state of their countries’ health systems, their response systems, the whole set-up. In order to be at the helm IF disaster struck.

They never did, or not till much later. That’s why medical supplies of all applicable shapes and forms are woefully short today in Italy, and will be soon in dozens of other countries. Please stop praising these people. They all failed horribly at their jobs. Their collective failure has already caused thousands of deaths, and that may well become millions.



The WHO is praised too, but it is just as guilty of deadly neglect as all the politicians. The organization and its directors get paid large sums of money to protect the world from events exactly like this. And they did not; they are not only useless, they are harmful.

On December 30 2019, several people, among whom Wuhan doctor Li Wenliang, who died of the disease mere days later, talked on social media like WeChat about the outbreak. On December 31, Li Wenliang was called in for questioning, Wuhan health officials confirmed 27 cases of the new illness -a “pneumonia of unclear cause”-, and China, which now figured denial was no longer an option,”officially” told the WHO about the outbreak.

On January 14, the WHO said Chinese authorities had seen “no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus.” On January 15, the first confirmed US case left Wuhan and arrived in the US with the virus. On January 20, 6 days after the WHO statement, top Chinese doctor Zhong Nanshan announced the virus CAN be passed between people. He would later state that the outbreak would be over by early February.

On January 21 the CDC confirmed the first coronavirus case in the United States. Then came Lunar New Year and 100s of millions of Chinese traveled to their families. By then the WHO should obviously long have sounded a big fat five alarm. They didn’t.

Instead, WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus repeatedly heaped praise on China. He did this on January 28, then again on February 12, (when China still refused to let a WHO team enter the country):

On January 28, Tedros met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing. Following the meeting, Tedros commended China for “setting a new standard for outbreak control” and praised the country’s top leadership for its “openness to sharing information” with the WHO and other countries.

… and many times after. On January 23, the WHO’s emergency committee couldn’t decide whether to declare a “public health emergency of international concern” (PHEIC). Tedros, who held the decisive vote, despite admitting that “this is an emergency in China.”, declined. A week later, he did declare a PHEIC. What’s much worse, along those same lines, the WHO declared a pandemic only on March 11.



Meanwhile, the US is well on its way to become the worst hit country of all. Someday we (if we survive) will look at those spring break kids on Florida’s beaches and wonder how crazy people can get. Two weeks ago when I wrote The Virus is a Time Machine, the US reported 409 cases. As we speak the tally stands at 40,841, and it will rise further before the day is done.

Please be good and safe. Follow the instructions about safe distance and stuff. In Britain, stay 2 meters away from people, in Holland, 1.5 meters. Must be the air density. But just do what they say for now. It’ll get more bizarre later, plenty time to resist and protest.

Follow those “directions” for now, but whatever you do, please never ever praise the very people who dropped the ball so humongously to cause so much suffering, only to take unprecedented control over your lives, and telling you it’s for your own good.

It’s not that they planned this all, there are too many conspiracy notions out there about that too. People have through history hugely underestimated the power of incompetence, and history rhymes so much it hurts.

Get through this thing, it won’t last forever, people will force an end to lockdowns before the summer’s over, simply because people are social animals; can’t keep us apart.

Next up: the same clowns in charge of “fixing” the economy broken by the negligence and the incompetence of, yes, the same clowns. Better start preparing right now. If you think this virus thing is bad, wait till you see what they have on offer next.



Much as I don’t want to, I must ask for your support. Readership is up a lot, but ad revenue only keeps dropping. I’ve said it before, it must be possible to run a joint like the Automatic Earth on people’s kind donations. These are no longer the times when ads pay for all you read, your donations have become an integral part of it. It has become a two-way street; and isn’t that liberating, when you think about it?

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