Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Why The Peaking Of Rage And Early Deaths Of Middle-Aged Lower-Prospects Whites In The US?

Posted by Peter Quennell

Recently a study was published showing that middle-aged less-successful whites in the US are dying off unusually fast.

Approximately this same group may be behind the “radical” candidatures for president of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. No question but that those supporters have a serious unmet need.

It may also be behind a lot of the rage we encounter on the web.

In the New York Times this “reference group theory” hypothesis by Andrew Cherlin, a sociologist, has just appeared. Excerpts from a longer whole:

Why are whites overdosing or drinking themselves to death at higher rates than African-Americans and Hispanics in similar circumstances? Some observers have suggested that higher rates of chronic opioid prescriptions could be involved, along with whites’ greater pessimism about their finances.

Yet I’d like to propose a different answer: what social scientists call reference group theory. The term “reference group” was pioneered by the social psychologist Herbert H. Hyman in 1942, and the theory was developed by the Columbia sociologist Robert K. Merton in the 1950s. It tells us that to comprehend how people think and behave, it’s important to understand the standards to which they compare themselves.

How is your life going? For most of us, the answer to that question means comparing our lives to the lives our parents were able to lead. As children and adolescents, we closely observed our parents. They were our first reference group.

And here is one solution to the death-rate conundrum: It’s likely that many non-college-educated whites are comparing themselves to a generation that had more opportunities than they have, whereas many blacks and Hispanics are comparing themselves to a generation that had fewer opportunities….

In the fourth quarter of 2015, the median weekly earnings of white men aged 25 to 54 were $950, well above the same figure for black men ($703) and Hispanic men ($701). But for some whites “” perhaps the ones who account for the increasing death rate “” that may be beside the point.

Their main reference group is their parents’ generation, and by that standard they have little to look forward to and a lot to lament.

In a comment on a previous thread our frequent poster Grahame Rhodes described a syndrome among ex-military looking for a cause, and asked if we have any ideas.

Strange thing about the civilian mind set concerning Military personnel who have been involved in the actual horrors of warfare. Most civilians are squeamish about the necessity of eradicating an enemy by killing them. They deny the horrors of warfare by pretending that it does not exist, and yet civilians pay for the training and the arming of military personnel to keep them safe. Of course after soldiers are no longer members of any military organization they are generally ignored and even vilified for having taken part in saving any form of saving democracy.

Recently I was at a reunion quite close to Seattle, and sitting at a table among a group of perhaps thirty or so old soldiers the closes one asked me.
“What do you see?”
I said “I see a lot of old soldiers.”
The answer I got was as follows.
“Ah yes but I see far more than that. See him over there? He’s a weapons tech, or perhaps him, he used to teach unarmed combat, or those two who have served in several hot spots the world over.
There is a wealth of knowledge here from medics to drivers etc: But there is something far more important. Everybody you see, all highly trained in warfare and subversive operations are bored out of their mind. They need something to do.”

I said that was very true and very interesting. The point being that when old soldiers are put out to pasture all that training goes to waste. That is a shame and something should be done about it.

Any suggestions?

My own suggestion for what it’s worth was this.

Great story. I know many or most ex-military have a tough time. Here’s an idea that I think might provide them with a viable way forward.

You’d think from what comes out of Hollywood that all our great problems can only be solved by some perverse lone-wolf superhero maverick essentially working against great resistance and with no team or one that is very small.

In fact that is not at all how most real progress works. The two things that create all good change are (1) group-group-group and (2) “seeing” systems and how to adjust them or build new ones afresh.

Really huge and significant processes can be made to come alive, which would fit well with most purely military missions. The kind of thing totally lacking after Bush’s wonderful war in Iraq,

A massive lack throughout the world of people skilled and organized according to these two principles is the root cause of global growth slowing down. There is shockingly little of it going on though US corporations and some others are doing more than they did.

Ex military are already at least 50% down the road in each of them.

They have learned dozens of systems, including the personal skills part, and they are very used to doing things in groups.

“Civilianizing” those abilities could have them playing key roles in exciting processes in communities and corporations and so on that need to upgrade.

Do you know of any book or training that says anything like this? If not I sense a need. As to what to read first, I’d suggest this book as a “compulsory read”.



For anyone who cant get enough of bad news! Here’s the UK described as being between the devil and the deep blue sea. The devil being the EC of course.


Governments have become so dominated by lawyers and bankers and economists - fine professions in their own “box” but a considerable nuisance in getting real growth alive.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 02/23/16 at 10:39 PM | #

Interesting article Pete and the “civilianising” of ex military personnel caught my eye.

I have employed many ex military men and found them to be extraordinarily well disciplined and able to take instruction and learn from it at the first time of asking. There were issues surrounding interpersonal relationships in particular; these guys didn’t suffer fools gladly and could cut through BS like a hot knife through butter. This often didn’t go down well amongst those who spoke BS a lot!

I’ve worked in financial services, outsourcing and environmental consultancy and have employed men and women from all parts of the UK’s armed services in all of these sectors. With only one notable exception, I found the ex military personnel excellent to deal with. They also often progressed up the ranks, as it were, more quickly than their civilian counterparts.

Indeed when I left outsourcing in 2008 to move into environmental consultancy, my old job was taken and redefined less than a year later by an ex military man (and my equal in the company when I left) who then renegotiated his package so that he earned substantially more than I had in that now redefined role. A superb piece of bluff that has since seen him buy a sizeable estate in Wales and own a stable of racehorses. I wouldn’t like to play poker with him, that’s for sure!

Re the EC question, I fear the UK will bottle it and vote to remain in. The choice of the servile I think but “project fear” as the pro EU campaign is being dubbed in the media will, I suspect, mean that most people will settle for the status quo. In my view the EU is little more than the furtherance and accommodation of German power and influence across Europe but without the need for tanks and guns to be deployed by them. No matter how many wars they lose, they always rise to be the strongest nation around again. I admire their tenacity I must say!

Posted by davidmulhern on 02/24/16 at 12:33 PM | #

I come from a Royal Navy family; my father was a submariner for 22 years.
When I was a 27 years-old English Hospital Registrar (Resident in US parlance) I supervised a 45 years-old former Royal Navy submarine commander, who was now my “Houseman”.
The RN did not want anyone older than 40 in submarines, so they had “Bowler-Hatted” him, with a “Golden Handshake”.
He was married, with young children, could then pay his way through medical school, and that’s what he had done.
Now he was supervised by me, 18 years his juniour(!)

He had more common sense than any houseman I ever met, including me. First, he understood and honoured “chain-of-command”; he and I had the most civilised, professional, productive, (and fun) time.
There’s a lesson there.

Posted by Cardiol MD on 02/24/16 at 04:59 PM | #

There is a very vast difference between the civilian mind set and its military counterpart.  A good example of this is the disclaimer at the start of some TV shows. To wit “The following program may show images that are disturbing to some people.”

Just who these “some people” are has always been a mystery. If this disclaimer is indicative of how some people can be shocked at the most trivial of images, then that is a very sad commentary upon the civilian populations view of the world.

If the real images of what happens to people in war like situations were shown it help curb violence but probably not since people would think it was entertainment. ie Welcome to Hollywood.

Just as an addendum to what I observed at the military reunion. The old soldiers were all eager to partake in some nefarious operation even if it was against the sixth commandment. I was asked if there was anybody I had in mind? One name popped into my head without even thinking about it.

Posted by Grahame Rhodes on 02/25/16 at 01:13 AM | #

@GrahameRhodes, I feel your pain. When my son got out of Iraq he looked into jobs with contractors as a guard for the convoys in Baghdad. Big pay, no taxes. Halliburton and the old Blackwater now Xi? hired ex-military for tough or sticky jobs. Also he thought of going out to Persian Gulf? Or is it straits of Hormuz, I forget. The modern pirates off Africa’s east coast are kidnapping people for ransom and holding tankers for ransom, so to speak.

Another avenue of adventure and danger: With film crews following extreme adventurers all over the globe, he thought of that, too. Reality TV has soared. Keep searching online, the brave and well-trained disciplined men are needed and are in short supply. Also, enquire about anti-terrorism jobs, even as consultant. Seek and you will find.

The above story about death rates of U.S. white males hit home yesterday.

I saw flashing police lights outside my bedroom window. A white guy had done an armed robbery on a store, police chase ensued, they threw spike strips, he kept running, he shot at police, they returned fire, then he ended up in front of my neighbor’s driveway. He fatally shot himself, then his vehicle crashed into a woman and child who had minor injuries. A man desperate for money. His name of the suicide has not been released. Police had my street cordoned off all day with flashing blue lights and sheriff’s SUV.

Believe for success, despite the troubles of 2016. My grown daughter, son, and I are trying to meditate on 23rd Psalm until Palm Sunday. Main anchor of hope there is “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want or lack.” I wish the suicide guy who pulled his gun at convenience store yesterday would have had just an ounce of faith that his needs would be met. I’m repeating myself but I used to tell my kids to not despise the day of small things, and stand on the verse, “I’ve never seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging for bread.” After a $600 brake repair on my vehicle yesterday, it’s good to know.

The U.S. gun culture, the divorce rate, catastrophic health care costs, a relative decline in white population versus ethnic changes in United States and a loss of rural lifestyles with city life a claustrophobic alternative has demoralized the instinct of whites from pioneer stock. Farming can barely make a living without government subsidies, and media presents a false promise of instant wealth in tech jobs. Patience and a return to humility would cure much despair. A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of things or money that he possesses, Jesus said. Identity is on a much higher level. Money has wings and flies away, don’t trust in princes.

Posted by Hopeful on 02/25/16 at 04:30 PM | #

Hi hopeful Yes It’s because the white populations look back in remembrance of times when there was opportunities which are now gone ie “The good old days.” This is the hate what Trump has zeroed into. This is just the same as Germany in 1930 with the desperation because of the great depression. Hitler vilified the Jewish races and blamed them just as Trump has blamed the Mexican and Muslim races. There is a desperation among the white races, usually 50 plus Southern Baptist etc: It’s just the same and if nobody can see that it’s a further condemnation upon the standard of US education which is a contradiction in terms.

On the other hand the black races look back to a time when they did not have any opportunity at all, and racism was far more out in the open. Of course that has not changed at all in the US, it has just become more subtle (Outright hatred for Obama etc:)The black races see things improving from the times gone by when they had no hope at all so there is optimism. For this reason alone the old view of the USA is rapidly diminishing and to my mind is in the throes of a last gasp. Bing Crosby and Bob Hope are no more John Wayne has gone and those time will never come back.

There is a great sense of desperation in the US because all the old ideals are diminishing, not that they were ever really there. The American identity is no longer prevalent and I fear a great civil war is on the horizon. Not yet, but perhaps within the next twenty years. You can see it every time you switch on the TV or just how entrenched the drug culture is.

However there is still hope in goodness and should we forget why we are here it’s to provide justice for Meredith. In this world with all it’s problems it may not be much, but as a gesture of goodness I find it more worthwhile than letting Amanda Knox and Raphael Sollecito get away with it and that is why I will never stop until justice is served. It may take years but I for one will never stop. For example, Karla Hamolka was convicted and will for ever in the eyes of society be guilty. Knox is slime because she still plays innocent virgin card therefore I will keep on for as long as it takes.

Posted by Grahame Rhodes on 02/25/16 at 07:20 PM | #

Much or most of the escalating frustration in the US and UK and EC stems from things having become way too “top down”. Reverse that, and we are all happily on our way.

The Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders armies have finally had enough from “up there” as their powers and their shares of the big pie shrinks, and the English and Scots have too from the EC.

None are being given the right answers which have finally come together in one body of knowhow in the past 10 to 15 years.

It will take some brute force and correct know-how on those armies’ parts - mature systems are very sticky and highly impervious to change (a main point of the book I linked to in the post) and those who benefit now (davidmulhern’s Germans) need to be isolated or worked around - they like everyone will gain more, down the road, as the pies expand.

Purposeful groups should be set up everywhere, worldwide, at city and community levels, to set about expanding their local pie. They should be networked to one another so they each can learn from one another, with local institutes as their think-tank resource. The EC does none of THIS now, and the UN Federal government also none at all. 

The first need is to build a sense of what they have locally in value & systems terms (none of this is especially hard) and then what they want, via visions and action scenarios 5-7 years (longer than election cycles) down the road. Then the processes of systems change are set loose. These tend to be not only more fun than they sound, they are very attractive to outside money, and there can be a real need to not attract too much.

Grahame’s and Hopeful’s and Cardiol’s ex-military friends and relatives might find it strange sitting through the group-process valuation and goal-setting parts. But they would have a strong edge when it comes to “seeing” and mapping systems and gathering from everywhere what new elements are best.

Then the political top center just goes along. Top down programs from Brussels or Washington would run in reverse. Such processes are often or usually pretty intense (as military processes can be), and if you’ve had a taste of one, you may want for the rest of your life to do that again. Like Grahame’s guys.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 02/25/16 at 08:15 PM | #

@Peter Quennell, you have the answers. I wish there were more men with your insight to implement change, to help guide the process for the communities that have no clue.

I like the concept of group-group-group. That’s where strength lies. It would be a victory to find the right goals based on what the locals have of value (football mania? culinary? automotive? hospitality? tech? higher research? green jobs, endless possibilities for service or production, even raw materials).

Unity is strength, if someone with zeal and tenacity and a vision can get people organized and committed. The passion to stay focused is half the battle, and to create ongoing incentives like carrot and stick to keep discontentment to a minimum while success is in its vulnerable early stages.

Group potential seems a better plan than one or two men incorporating a business then selling shares of stock to uninvolved and yawning stockholders.

Posted by Hopeful on 02/25/16 at 10:32 PM | #

I’d imagine that proper change, for the greater good and continued evolution of our species, will only really come when the worldwide Ponzi scheme that is fiat currency eventually implodes. As it absolutely must. Until then, on we stumble with a more and more rapacious form of capitalism which eventually eats its own head.

All those cheques being written by the Federal Reserve, Bank of England, European Central Bank etc etc using quantative easing will eventually fall due and guess what? The money won’t exist to pay back the money that was made out of thin air in the first place!

Buy gold folks, we’ll all be using the good old barter system within a generation. Those of us that are left!!

Posted by davidmulhern on 02/26/16 at 04:31 AM | #

Hi davidmulhern

Ha ha! Well, that’s the bleak alternative! But it doesnt have to be. You along with others could easily stop it.

It’s a time-wasting fallacy that something else really calamitous has to happen before the heavy lifting I summarized begins. All of that above could begin tomorrow. In some places where the UN worked alongside, some or other of the principles HAVE sunk in, and shown to work, and people and communities and institutes are making out fine with them.

Its not yet everything but also it is is not nothing and it is surprisingly uncontroversial. I testified to a Congressional committee in Washington about it and there was only liking, no party had a problem with it. It can come alive in areas the size of cities or American states. It could emerge across say Wales or Scotland.

The gold standard folks dont have a proper handle on value. They should read up on what economists call economic profit and business people call free cash flow and economic value added (EVA). Value has the quality of a balloon: it can expand and shrink considerably and also migrate considerably (as it has been doing toward IT and toward Asia). Economies could grow twice as fast, see sustained full employment, and really lift everybody.

The goosing of the economy by the Central Banks which you rightly lament is being done in desperation, by the non-comprehending lawyers and economists and bankers who clog the wheels of central government, because they dont see the alternative. Its being done because growth (and growth of jobs) is slowing worldwide, China now included, and those guys in central government dont know how to jump the systems to the next level to grow more value.

Again, see Christensen’s Innovator’s Dilemma, one of the 2-3 most important growth books ever written; another was the World Bank’s The East Asia Miracle (or my revived website.)


PS If a single currency (the Euro, a giant mistake on its own) slows growth in most of Europe, just wait and see what happens if we revert to the gold standard. The real answer is the opposite - lots and lots of currencies, so each area can be properly valued. Scotland and Ireland and Greece and southern Italy could roar, for example.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 02/26/16 at 03:15 PM | #

Hi Hopeful

Right on all count! And the unusual and impressive nature of your town and the needy area surrounding it makes it for sure one of my top choices for a pilot.

It used to be “wait, we have all these other options first, like cutting billionaires taxes and eliminating regulation” but that is shown to be hollow and hence the Trump and Sanders armies.

This whole thinking gets good reception across Washington but I know now: one cant start at the top to initiate bottom-up development!

Posted by Peter Quennell on 02/26/16 at 03:34 PM | #

@davidmulhern,@Peter Quennell…gotta say guys, this is energizing stuff. There are solutions. There are solutions. Somebody’s gonna solve economic cold fusion.

On flip side, I liked the image of rapacious capitalism that finally eats its own head. Yep, corruption is ever present with anything man creates. Shelf life before implosion may vary. Don’t worry, my son buys up silver coins. He went to a private school where the headmaster has built his own emergency shelter with rations for a month for multiple survivors of nuclear blast and taught students to calculate fallout radius. A bit extreme, but the will to survive.

Long ago my hubby bought some Krugerrands.

The answers are out there. We can give our way out of poverty. Give and you will receive. Give.

The courtesy cab for my ride home from auto center had a physics genius sitting in the back seat who regaled us with incredible Einstein like conversation. He was a breath of fresh air, his God-given brain full of complex understanding. We know the universe has plenty to give everybody. Energy is packed in every cell in one’s finger, even in the keyboard we tap on, in the ice in a glass of Coke. Energy is in every cell, cells full of space but electrons orbit held by forces unseen but real.

E=mc squared, energy is in matter, it can transfer. Even a coiled wire like a Slinky if you try to pull it apart from both ends, you’re adding energy to it so that it would actually weigh more just because you’re applying force to it, if you had precise instruments to measure its new weight. Think about it: energy has weight.

Light is energy, go out and look up at the sun it is mysterious, light maintains constant speed. It’s electrical and magnetic waves that are somehow combined. Light unlike sound needs no medium to propagate.

Energy is everywhere, business is no exception. People can give their way out of poverty, give matter or energy and it multiplies back to you. This is my poor explanation, but all these positive ideas are related. Man is not helpless. Life will find a way.

Thrilling to hear that it is multiple currencies that aid value measure, not one single Euro.

Feel like we’re getting a bachelor’s degree in economics from TJMK, lovin it.

Posted by Hopeful on 02/26/16 at 07:27 PM | #

It is energising stuff @Hopeful.

The most joy I get from my feeble attempts at knowledge expansion are most definitely in the science area. I personally find it mind blowing that weight can be added to an object by exerting force on it. But I understand it.

For proper mind shredding dip your toe into quantum theory. Leave your common sense at the door and abandon all hope of truly understanding it. The guys who come up with the theories and refine them don’t understand it either.

In geological terms, we are but a baby species, barely able to stand yet. Whether we ever actually will walk or whether we join the other 99.99% of species who ever existed on this blue marble who have already come and gone remains to be seen. I’d have money on the latter.

What is certain is that we are nowhere near the comprehension levels required to truly understand the majesty of the universe/multiverse. We are mere children barely able to hold the weight of our heads up. I love it!

Meantime, my biggest regret when I shuffle off this mortal coil will be that I know virtually nothing, even though I know more than many of my peers. Christopher Hitchens once said that an intelligent person realises just how ignorant they really are. Paraphrasing (badly!) Plato’s attribution to Socrates of “I know that I know nothing”.

Great reply on the economics Pete, thoroughly enjoyed it. You’re spot on about the euro. This will be the anchor that eventually drags the good ship European Union down to Davy Jones’s locker. And good riddance to it to.

The sheer wrongheaded folly of insisting on common interest rates for eurozone countries as diverse as Greece and Germany with no option for countries to devalue currency as and when required is astonishing. But still they did it. Never mind the turning a blind eye to the likes of Greece cooking the books to gain entry into the eurozone in the first place.

I holidayed in Greece many times in the 80s and 90s. It was a visually stunning, vibrant place where you could live like a king for very little. Friends who went back after Greece became part of the eurozone hated what it had become. And how ridiculously expensive everything had become.

Truly a Greek tragedy.

Posted by davidmulhern on 02/27/16 at 02:37 AM | #

In answer to the question

‘Why do American white middle aged men have a less life expectancy than other countries.?”

It’s because by en-large this group of individuals are angry, feel disenfranchised and have a negative view of their future. Plus their view of the world. They lament about the good old days in the 1950’s and say such things as freeing the slaves was a bad thing because for them they are still fighting the American civil war.

This leads to depression and the banding together as white supremacists. The KKK is making a comeback. The sooner this generation dies off the better. You will note that for the most part this generation is the supporters of Amanda Knox and company.

Posted by Grahame Rhodes on 02/27/16 at 07:06 PM | #

I forgot to add supporters of Donald Trump. Point of view though.

“What is the difference between Bernie Madoff and Donald Trump.” the answer is that Madoff got caught. But for Trump it’s only a matter of time.

Posted by Grahame Rhodes on 02/27/16 at 11:31 PM | #

Hi davidmulhern

Yes in science what we semi-know now is pretty intriguing. I try to keep up on dark matter and now dark energy, and especially all there is on nuclear fusion power generation - you do know the Germans may have made the crucial breakthrough?

On growth, we actually do know all of the elements. All the techniques are fully understood. But they still “co-exist” in three separate universes, each one of which thinks it is the only one of importance, and so shrugs off the other two. Your first job in jump-starting Scotland is to knock heads together until they stop that…

The three universes are value, systems and processes, all of them mentioned above briefly. First, target some areas of higher value, and then set about the systems change to manufacture it, using specific steps in a process. Conceptually it is pretty simple. Just different. 

The EC never did any of this.

When I managed some UN systems upgrade networks for the European countries, the backstopping vehicle was the UN Economic Commission in Geneva. They are good there. In contrast in Brussels the bureaucrats I met with “completely understood” but complained helplessly that all systems change is designated as for the individual countries.

Can you believe that? Whatever they do in Brussels, it isnt actually very useful.

Like the Eurozone the US has a single currency. But to the extent that it is a success (which was never great and is fading more as mature systems lock up) it does do two things the EC doesnt.

1. It transfers hundreds of billions annually from the areas where value growth is streaking (my area here in NYC and Silicon Valley above all) to the areas where growth is stagnating. This is routine and not controversial. But done in Europe it is “a bailout” and comes with much angry barking from the Berlin government and the EB in Frankfurt.

2. It sort of upgrades at least some of the systems everywhere, obviously in the corporations but also in the quite competitive and watchful 50 state infrastructures. 

The only route to success for the EC I reckon is (1) to go back to the currency snake so each country can “de-peg” its currency when it needs to;  and (2) move over massively to what I am talking about above. Bottom-up value growth done locally in all of the countries.

Step (1) might not have been needed if (2) had been started a few years ago - though the final breakthroughs in technique did happen only in this century.


PS The Scottish Nationalists still wanted to use the Pound Sterling and the Bank of England? And the English government was telling them “no way”?

I find that totally surreal. Each was actually arguing for the best interests of the other.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 02/29/16 at 02:00 AM | #

Hi Grahame

I think you miss the “divine purpose” of Donald Trump. He is the bull in the china shop who is raining down some much-needed destruction. I dont see it happening any other way and with his multi-directional support he is showing how tenuous and manipulated many beliefs had been.

You certainly have it right though on the early-death prospects of those who rage on ostensibly for Knox. Rage is causing career havoc and health havoc for all of them. They could have been built into the kind of common processes we are discussing, but not easily.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 02/29/16 at 02:21 AM | #

Cheers Pete.

I had spotted that those clever Germans had apparently cracked usable fusion (the Japanese will be livid!).

It is inevitable that this will be the energy source in the future for mankind. We’d get there quicker but with a world economy still based on oil, it was always going to be held back by vested interests and, I’d argue, common sense. Old infrastructures are notoriously difficult to tear down and by necessity such step changes need to be phased in over time.

You could say the same about the drug industry. Much more is curable than we actually currently cure because the drug companies control the rate of progress. I don’t really understand the desire to eradicate all disease and make us all live to ridiculously old age anyway. It merely stokes up vast problems which get more vast as the world population explodes. Look at the graph of population since oil was discovered. It’s frightening and we do not and will not have the resources to sustain it.

This isn’t pessimism incidentally, I’m a pretty happy go lucky type who enjoys life. I’m a pragmatist though so don’t see the world through egalitarian, utopian eyes.

I like your three universes growth descriptor. Hadn’t really given it that level of thought but there’s nothing there to disagree with.

I can’t see the EU changing though Pete; I truly see it as a busted flush. It will melt down, it has to. The results will be devastating and I see Putin is already agitating for a Brexit as he knows this will bring things to a head more quickly. I’ve got mixed feelings about him in truth.

He’s been savaged for his actions in Ukraine but people conveniently forget that it was EU expansion eastwards onto Russian borders that is the aggressive act that kicked things off in the region. Much murky EU funding went to Ukraine to woo them and there was more than a hint of western involvement in the putsch that unseated the admittedly corrupt government there.

There’s an argument that Crimea is historically Russian and welcomed being annexed but that’s a discussion for another day! I feel Putin would have looked inordinately weak if he hadn’t acted in the region.

Anyway, it’s all a bit off topic but enjoyable nonetheless to throw a few ideas around and hear what other people think. I’ve certainly not seen much of this type of thing on any of the pro Knox threads!!

Posted by davidmulhern on 02/29/16 at 03:27 AM | #

Hi Peter how about this. Given all the amount of money of the Koch brothers, which makes Trump paltry amount negligible. It would not be outside the realms of possibility that the brothers Koch are using Trump to destroy the current Tea party version of the Republicans in order to rebuild it in their own image.

Posted by Grahame Rhodes on 02/29/16 at 09:53 PM | #

Hi Grahame Rhodes & davidmulhern

When you have a minute google the technological S-curve. You may already be familiar with it. The Innovators Dilemma book is based on it.

At the lower levels (early days of adoption) of the “S” you see furious inventing and very high demand and that is when creation of value is explosive. Think say Apple.

At the higher levels of the “S” there is very little value left in that “technology” (actually it can be anything, like Swatches or Starbucks coffee) and there is a lot of furious cost-cutting and layoffs and scorched earth via patent management and political corruption. Think say Walmart.

That latter is what you see now in many, many millionaires and billionaires: ruthless behavior to hang on to what they think is theirs and squeeze even more value out of it.

That phenomenon now has US politics in a stranglehold, with the exception of the few millionaires and billionaires relaxed that they can create more value the old-fashioned way: by inventing it - a new “S” curve. Think say Bill Gates and Warren Buffet.

Right now if you look top-down at ANY economy with value tools you will see that only 1/4 of that economy is doing any real growing (really) and all the rest is a dead man walking, propped up by those corrupt means. Much is actually shedding value (destroying capital).

Stockmarket bubbles happen when desperate capital (of which there is a huge amount in the world) spies some new “S” curve (new value explosion) and heads there to make some gains - and then overdoes it.

Right now all of San Francisco - the new hub of Silicon Valley - has overdone it, way too much money for way too little real invention, and value is slowly deflating (see the stock curve for Twitter).

The golden goose is once again dying. 

This is why it is so vital for all our futures that the reactionary big money in politics is pushed back against and ASAP made illegal again. Otherwise? The entire global economy will grind slowly to a complete standstill. Note China slowing - and myriad corrupting billionaires there. The whole world will be losers.

Trump sounds pretty racist and a real mixer. But its in the nature of his business (real estate development) that he can keep creating wealth for himself (little value bubbles here and there worldwide) without doing anything too nefarious. Maybe the worst he does is sometimes (not always) use low-wage workers.

In a real sense, he is in some ways progressive (pro the lower levels of the “S” curve, pro the victims of the top of the “S” curve) like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet and some biggies on Wall Street.

So Trump actually has the Koch brothers (one of whom, David, I once talked with, surprised he was a nice guy!) and the Waltons and Adelson losing all traction and highly frustrated.

Some of Trump’s policies insofar as he has talked about them in his campaign and his books do make some sense in “our” terms.

They look to include proper taxation on windfall capital, single payer health care (like Canada and Europe), and stopping the legal and illegal immigration so those on the bottom rungs can actually make a buck. Also he wants to push back on those billionaire strangleholds on politics - a huge component of his attraction.

Though they APPEAR to be at opposite ends of a spectrum Bernie Sanders has some important things in common with Trump.  Out of the turbulence of this year, we might actually see one or other party remade (or a new one created) to go about good growth properly.

Same maybe with the UK and its possible Brexit - right now the UK and EC are like death stars, each slowly destroying the other.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 03/01/16 at 03:07 PM | #

@ Peter Quennell:

“Right now if you look top-down at ANY economy with value tools you will see that only 1/4 of that economy is doing any real growing (really) and all the rest is a dead man walking, propped up by those corrupt means. Much is actually shedding value (destroying capital).”

Brilliant, especially “a dead man walking”, which summarizes so succinctly.

Posted by Cardiol MD on 03/01/16 at 06:24 PM | #

Hi, davidmulhern,


“That’s cute, Germany – China shows the world how fusion is done”

“China has expressed irritation at the slow pace of the international project and is conducting its own research in parallel. Unless the international team pulls its socks up, China might well have usable fusion power before the rest of the world.”

Posted by Ergon on 03/02/16 at 03:02 PM | #

Hi Ergon

These claims are getting a bit daffy in the popular press. Real scientists seem AWOL in the comment threads. Have you seen this?


The Chinese scientists themselves sound cautious. The problem is the Tokomak (donut) configuration may not be the one to continuously sustain a power producing reaction which is why the Germans went the Stellerator way. The World Nuclear Assocation website says:

Research is also being carried out on several types of stellarator. Lyman Spitzer devised and began work on the first fusion device – a stellarator – at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory in 1951. Due to the difficulty in confining plasmas, stellarators fell out of favour until computer modelling techniques allowed accurate geometries to be calculated. Because stellarators have no toroidal plasma current, plasma stability is increased compared with tokamaks. Since the burning plasma can be more easily controlled and monitored, stellerators have an intrinsic potential for steady-state, continuous operation. The disadvantage is that, due to their more complex shape, stellarators are much more complex than tokamaks to design and build.

The Chinese are not impatient at the international effort that I can see, actually they are part of it, the next generation Tokomak at Cadarache just south of Paris.

There’s a very good current overview of all the quite many national and international efforts here:


Posted by Peter Quennell on 03/02/16 at 05:26 PM | #

Hi Cardiol

Re “Right now if you look top-down at ANY economy with value tools you will see that only 1/4 of that economy is doing any real growing (really) and all the rest is a dead man walking, propped up by those corrupt means. Much is actually shedding value (destroying capital).” Brilliant, especially “a dead man walking”, which summarizes so succinctly.

You in turn made me smile!

It took a massive amount of number crunching by financial people to prove that 1/4 to 3/4 ratio (it’s done firm by firm) which applies also to industries, cities, whole countries.

You surely knew that at least instinctively. It is an open secret on Wall Street, though the great body of shares traded are for those firms toward the top of the “S” curve, the mature ones for which value is fading. So “coming clean” would not help a lot of brokers and mutual funds.

And there is just so much MONEY now looking for above-normal gains.

We grow globally on average around 2 percent but many or most investors would like to see returns more like 50-100%. The only place on the “S” curve where those returns happen (and given the risk are legitimate) is down the bottom, in the early days.

I’m politically non-partisan, I just have to be (I’ve never voted) and am in favor of this situation receiving 100% popular recognition (taught in high-school for example) and all parties political adjusting to it.  It would affect the direction of government spending very heavily and stop so many revenue-wasting subsides. 

Because this above is pretty well NOT understood anywhere, the US sucks in so much money from other places to the extent that the US is highly over-capitalized and most of the rest of the world is under-capitalized. (A lot of Arab money is in the US and Europe.)

Over-capitalization is a sure way to kill the golden goose. That is a main reason for US growth slowing. On a movie discussion board on the movie The Big Short I posted this explanation of the strange problem US growth faces.

Right now bubbles and crashes are baked into the global financial system.

Theres a growing mismatch between capital available (more & more) and real performance (less & less).

Getting this sorted really should be Global Job #1. Low performance drives terrorism and population growth and pollution and a reluctance to address global warming.

Consider the numbers.

1) Today, global stockmarket capitalization is estimated at around $34 trillion.


But over half of that, around $20 trillion, is accounted for by the stockmarkets of one country alone: the US’s.

2) That is so despite the US GDP ($17 trillion) being less than 20% of the global whole ($108 trillion).

China’s stockmarket size is less than 1/4 of the US’s, but its economy is bigger and growing more than twice as fast.

Japan and West Europe markets are 1/8 the size or less. Over 1/2 the world’s countries have no stockmarket at all.

3) During the stockmarket surges of the late 1990s and pre-2008 there were times when hungry foreign money was entering the US at billions of dollars a day.

At the time of “The Big Short” it was all that new money in part that the financial institutions were trying to invest profitably. The $17 trillion destroyed was in quite large part foreign-owned.

4) The US tries hard, but its real economic performance is just not a sufficient locomotive and it simply cannot pay the cost of all that capital.


Performance really needs to be jump-started everywhere.



Where quite a lot of those inflowing billions are coming from.


Rational given the difficulties of creating real performance there.

But no wonder the economic losers there are ticked off.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 03/03/16 at 04:07 PM | #
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