Friday, October 30, 2015

October 31 2015. One dollar, one vote—it’s the American Way? Not quite! One dollar, one vote—and the less well off increasingly not voting (because they are not allowed, are disillusioned, or incarcerated) is the reality. The end result is not close to democracy. Call it what you will—but, it’s a rigged system. It’s a plutocracy. So much for the American Experiment.




The irony and injustice of it all is so obvious—it is in your face—yet the situation is largely being ignored. The reality is comparatively easy to check out—yet most Americans have been conditioned to prefer the myth.

It is a true American tragedy—and it is ongoing.

2015.29.10 BF Hightower

In today's so-called "democratic" election process, Big Money doesn't talk, it roars — usually drowning out the people's voice.

Bizarrely, the Supreme Court decreed in its 2010Citizens United ruling that money is a form of "free speech." Thus, declared the learned justices, people and corporations are henceforth allowed to spend unlimited sums of their money to "speak" in election campaigns. But wait — if political speech is measured by money then by definition speech is not free. It can be bought, thereby giving the most speech to the few with the most money. That's plutocracy, not democracy.

Sure enough, in the first six months of this presidential election cycle, more than half of the record-setting $300 million given to the various candidates came from only 358 mega-rich families and the corporations they control. The top 158 of them totaled $176 million in political spending, meaning that, on average, each one of them bought more than a million dollars' worth of "free" speech.

Nearly all of their money is backing Republican presidential hopefuls who promise: (1) to cut taxes on the rich; (2) cut regulations that protect us from corporate pollution and other abuses of the common good; and (3) to cut Social Security, food stamps and other safety-net programs that we un-rich people need.

The great majority of Americans adamantly oppose all of those cuts — but none of us has a million bucks to buy an equivalent amount of political "free" speech.

It's not just cuts to taxes, regulations and some good public programs that are endangered by the Court's ridiculous ruling, but democracy itself.

That's why a new poll by Bloomberg Politics found that 78 percent of the American people — including 80 percent of Republicans — want to overturn Citizens United. But those 358 families, corporations and Big Money politicos will have none of it. In fact, America's inane, Big Money politics have become so prevalent in this election cycle that — believe it or not — candidates have found a need for yet another campaign consultant.

Already, candidates are walled off from people, reality and any honesty about themselves by a battalion of highly specialized consultants controlling everything from stances to hairstyle.

But now comes a whole new category of staff to add to the menagerie: "donor maintenance manager."

The Supreme Court's malevolent Citizens United decision has produced an insidious platinum class of mega-donors and corporate super PACs, each pumping $500,000, $5 million, $50 million — or even more — into campaigns.

These elites are not silent donors, but boisterous, very special interests who are playing in the new, Court-created political money game for their own gain. Having paid to play, they feel entitled to tell candidates what to say and do, what to support and oppose. A Jeb Bush insider confirms that mega-donors have this attitude: "Donors consider a contribution like, 'Well, wait, I just invested in you. Now I need to have my say; you need to answer to me.'"

Thus, campaigns are assigning donor maintenance managers to be personal concierges to meet every need and whim of these special ones.

This subservience institutionalizes the plutocratic corruption of our democratic elections, allowing a handful of super-rich interests to buy positions of overbearing influence directly inside campaigns.

Donors at the million-dollar-and-up level are expecting much more than a tote bag for their "generous gifts" of "free speech." Of course, candidates piously proclaim, "I'm not for sale." But politicians are just the delivery service. The actual products being bought through the Supreme Court's Money-O-Rama political bazaar are our government's policies, tax breaks and other goodies — as well as the integrity of America's democratic process.

To help fight the injustice of the Supreme Court's Citizen United ruling and get Big Money out of our political system, go to

October 30 2015. Ego-maniacs are U.S. No pun intended—but if it fits? U.S. companies are dying faster. Cause and effect? Worth thinking about.




The evidence is piling up that the current American Business Model (ABM) is corrupt, predatory, cruel, orientated towards the short-term—and disastrous as far as most Americans are concerned.

Far from every corporation conforms to the ABM—there are some exceptionally enlightened U.S. corporations out there—but it is the prevailing ethos.

I tend to put in the word “current” in front of ABM because the American Business Model was not always this way. At one stage, it led the world, and can rightly claim a great deal of the credit for the improvement in global prosperity.

But, no more.

This business cultural change started to happen in the early 70s so has now been dragging down the U.S. economy for more than 40 years. The data illustrate this quite clearly.

Economists like to contend that a mature economy, like the U.S., cannot grow as fast as a developing one, which can leapfrog ahead on the back of developments elsewhere. For instance, countries in Africa don’t have to install a wire-based infrastructure to have telephones. They can skip all that, and leap straight to wireless cell phones (which is just what they have been doing).

Whereas, I accept this point, I don’t accept the argument that the U.S. economy cannot grow much faster than 2 percent. In fact, I have no doubt at all that 5 percent would be entirely achievable (and probably higher under the right circumstances).

Could it be sustained at that rate? It would depend a great deal on the nature of the growth. Physical resource dependent growth is clearly finite because there is a limit to such resources. But where is the limit as far as sustainable innovation is concerned? 

Here, I had better add the caveat that growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a truly lousy way to measure the economic wellbeing of a nation. For instance, GDP fails to distinguish between good growth and bad growth—it merely measures economic activity. It doesn’t identify the causes of growth. A war normally results in an increase in GDP—but at the cost of much human misery and, normally, an increase in debt. But, I’m using it here—somewhat reluctantly—because it is the standard in general use. That, in itself, indicates just how badly the U.S. economy is managed (insofar as it is managed at all)..

But, in order to achieve a 5 percent growth rate, a number of fairly obvious things would have to be done. Let me stress ‘fairly obvious.’ The answers are out there and they are mostly well proven. Arguably it is time for the U.S. to swallow its pride, learn from other nations, and engage in leap-frogging for itself.

Here are just some examples of things it could do. All are fairly obvious, and all have been proven to work elsewhere.


The U.S.’s current rather miserable economic performance  is not a mystery. It is due to a deeply flawed American Business Model focused on helping the ultra-rich and their followers getting every richer—and the rest of the U.S. population paying the price.

The data are out there in profusion. The number of people reading, understanding, and responding to this evidence, seems to be in short supply.

U.S. Companies Are Dying Faster Than Ever

  • by Yuval Rosenberg
  • Aug. 6, 2015
  • 1 min read
  • original

Like just about everything else in our crazy, mixed up world, the business life cycle has sped up dramatically over the last 30 years.

The Boston Consulting Group recently published an analysis of growth patterns for 35,000 publicly listed U.S. companies since 1950. It found that — whether because of bankruptcy, mergers or other reasons — public companies have a shorter life span than ever. “In fact,” the report says, “businesses are dying at a much younger age than the people who run them.”

The average public company dies, at least as an independent publicly listed entity, after around 30 years — far shorter than it had been in the mid-1980s. “Interestingly, most types of businesses in most industries are now dying younger,” BCG’s Martin Reeves and Lisanne Pueschel wrote last month. “Only a few make it into their fifties and sixties.”

Related: The 10 Fastest-Growing Jobs Right Now​​

Businesses aren’t just dying off sooner — “they are also more likely to perish at any point in time,” the report says. Almost one in 10 public companies fails each year, which is a fourfold increase since 1965.

Companies now face a roughly one in three chance of not surviving five years, up from about one in 20 a half-century ago. And those risks aren’t just in the fast-changing tech sector; they’re present across most industries and affect large companies as well as small ones, though turnover for older companies leveled off in the 2000s. “There are no safe harbors,” the report warns.

Corporate life spans

The BCG team attributes these dramatic changes to a wave of smaller and younger, venture-backed companies that went public from the mid-1980s to the late 1990s. Those companies had a much higher than average risk of failure — but the ones that survived and grew then drove up the death rate for established competitors who didn’t respond quickly enough to their new challengers. The bigger, more established companies also went on acquisition sprees, buying up smaller businesses that could help them in the new environment. That, again, meant more individual companies disappeared.

Related: 10 Best Cities to Start a Business​​​

The report offers some advice for companies and executives looking to build lasting success on their own: watch for warnings and signs of vulnerabilities, make sure your strategic approach suits your industry and business environment, look to reinvent your business continuously to keep up with changes, don’t let a focus on the short term cause you to lose long-term perspective, and know when it’s time to go: “If a company cannot achieve sustained performance, it shouldn’t persist just for the sake of it. A successful exit may be better than languishing and slowly burning up resources.”

You can see the full BCG piece here.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

October 29 2015. Stress—such a short word—can lead to a shorter life. Who knew! Well, everybody sentient should know (though they don’t)—but by how much?





Same difference!


I find it fascinating—and appalling—that U.S. longevity is two years or more less than that of other developed nations.

And this is the richest nation in the world! There is something profoundly wrong here.

You might think that would be a matter of concern—but it is scarcely mentioned. It is just not an issue.

It is a horrific statistic and represent a loss of human potential that is deeply disturbing—on a scale that is hard to grasp..

And yet, it is rarely even discussed.


I have long been fairly sure that stress stemming from the American Way of Life plays no small role in all this—with the deeply flawed American Business Model making a major contribution (almost certainly THE major contribution).

Business has passed most risk along to the individual—and most individuals are not well equipped to handle this. Add in low pay, minimal to no vacations, lack of worker rights, job insecurity, the virtual elimination of the defined pension, the crushing of the unions—and an authoritarian management ethos, and the total impact is, quite deliberately, extremely stressful.

In lay terms, it is mean, nasty, callous, cruel—and oppressive.

This approach has, indeed, crushed the unions, kept employees in line, pushed labor costs down, and increased short-term profitability—but at enormous social cost.

Just a cost of doing business! sums up the dismissive attitude of U.S. management. Such externalities are irrelevant!

Unfortunately, there is ever increasing evidence that such costs may be a great deal higher than is generally appreciated—even if one ignores the fact that treating one’s employees so badly is just plain morally wrong.

  • An ever increasing number of U.S. export businesses are finding that they are being out-competed by other nations, who both pay and treat their workers better. That shouldn’t be possible, according to the current American Business Model—yet there it is. Better treated workers are performing better. What a surprise!
  •  Squeezing pay so ruthlessly, over so many years, has also squeezed demand out of the U.S. home market. Workers are also consumers. If they haven’t the money to buy, at first they borrow, and then then get slowly crushed by debt (which further depresses demand). The end result is a country which, despite numerous economic advantages, seems unable to grow its economy adequately. The current ‘economic recovery’ has been the slowest recovery on record. In fact, there is every sign that another recession will hit before the U.S. economy, as far as most Americans are concerned, has recovered from the last one.
  • There is evidence that increasing numbers of Americans are disillusioned with employment—even though they are still of employment age. Many have gone on disability. Millions have just given up looking for work. Labor force participation is the lowest it has been for decades. The game is no longer worth the candle. People are just fed up. Research shows that only a small minority of people are actually engaged by their work. This is crazy. Work could, and should, be both fun and interesting—yet clearly it is not as far as most people are concerned. What a way to spend your life!
  • Productivity is suffering badly and its rate of growth is only a fraction of what it used to be—despite extraordinary advances in technology and automation.
  • Stress has a direct impact on health—and general U.S. health is now so poor that defense thought leaders have stated bluntly that it has become a matter of national security. Americans die sooner and live sicker. Over 70 percent of young Americans are too unfit to serve in the military. That is such an outrageous situation, it is had to know what to say. Obesity is rife and increasing. Half of adult Americans have a chronic condition. The average senior is on no less than seven legal medications. So many meds are now being consumed that the water supply is becoming dangerously contaminated by them.

The New York Times has recently reported on a new study which puts numbers to the consequences of stress.

The figures make for grim reading.

The U.S., the richest and best endowed country in the world, could—and should—be better than this.

One might argue (perhaps not too convincingly) that the egregious misery, which these figures represent, was worth it—if the U.S. economy, as a whole, was demonstrably superior in various ways.

The irony is that, except for the ultra rich, and their followers (a not insubstantial number) the U.S. is losing ground compared to other nations who practice a fairer, more equitable, form of capitalism.

The issue is not capitalism, as such, but how it is practiced in the U.S.

In short, the current American Business Model is a disaster—and an unnecessary one at that.

This is a sad business.

Stressful Workplaces, Shorter Lives


Typical antidotes for overwork include taking a break, exercising or going on vacation. But what if overwork is unavoidable, as is the case for many low-paid employees who must work two or more jobs just to get by? What if work-related stress is chronic, as is the case for working parents whose employers do not offer regular schedules, sick days or other company benefits? What if the amount or quality of one’s work is no protection against layoffs or abusive bosses?

The answer, detailed in a new study by researchers at Stanford and Harvard, is that work stress can and does shorten lives. The risk goes up as education level goes down, because the lower someone’s level of education, the greater the exposure to work-related stress from unemployment, layoffs, job insecurity, shift work, lack of health insurance, work-family conflict, arbitrary management and low control over scheduling and work duties.

Building on previous research on workplace stressors, the researchers measured the extent to which workplace stress cuts life short. Some findings:

• Among men with 12 or fewer years of education, non-Hispanic blacks lost nearly 2.8 years of life to work-related stress, followed by Hispanic men at 2.3 years and non-Hispanic whites at 1.72 years.

• For men with 17 or more years of education, black men lost about one year, followed by Hispanic men at 0.55 years and white men at 0.42 years.

• Among women with 12 or fewer years of education, Hispanics lost 2.06 years to work-related stress, followed by non-Hispanic blacks at 1.92 years and non-Hispanic whites at 1.4 years.

• For women with 17 or more years of education, loss of life to workplace stress was less than a year for all of three of the racial/ethnic groups in the study.

Demographers have long noted that longevity varies by gender, race, income and education. The new study found that 10 percent to 38 percent of the difference in life expectancy across demographic groups can be explained by differing levels of stress on the job.

Across all groups, the combination of layoffs, unemployment and lack of health insurance was the biggest contributor toward inequality in life spans. The next biggest was low job control, defined as the level of discretion one has over one’s work. This was followed by job insecurity in men and shift work in women.

The unavoidable conclusion is that a healthier population requires healthier workplaces. Job security would be enhanced if government officials focused on full employment in fiscal and monetary policy. Other helpful policies would include a higher minimum wage, fair-scheduling laws, paid time off and job sharing to reduce layoffs in bad economic times. Obamacare is a step in the right direction of insuring more Americans, though it appears that the only way to cover everyone is to sever the link between insurance and work.

It is customary to debate those and other issues in terms of cost versus benefits, individual responsibility versus social obligation. A more important question is how many people will die too soon before policymakers take corrective action.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

October 28 2015 No serious manifestations as yet—but there is a deep well of anger and disgust with the current American Business Model out there. And we may well be heading into another recession without most having recovered from the last one.





Short of attacking Pearl Harbor, it appears U.S. Banks can get away with almost anything.

Big Health Insurance, Big Drug, and Big Oil are not so lucky.

Overall, I’m far from sure the American public is content with the current American Business Model. They have certainly no reason to be.

Factor in inflation, and typical household earnings have scarcely increased since the 70s. By global standards, that is impressively awful—because costs have increased.

As far as most Americans are concerned, the U.S. economy is in decline.

Public opinion is a peculiar thing. Though research into it, for a whole host of reasons (primarily political and commercial) has become extremely sophisticated—and market researchers normally get it broadly right, it still seems to be possible for the public mood to swing suddenly—and for unexpected consequences to occur.

Here, I am talking about mass protests, rioting, and other manifestations of rage which could extend to outright violence—including some kind of sustained organized hostility (better known, if it is spread over time, as a revolution).

Mind you, I am not entirely sure that such a degree of dissension would be possible in such such a highly controlled, surveilled, and policed society as the U.S—but it seems to me that something has to give—sooner or later.

My underlying point here is that there seems to be a great deal of underlying dissatisfaction with the U.S. economic system right now (what I call the American Business Model) and, though on the surface, things seem to be reasonably calm, I have to wonder whether they could not go badly wrong in a hurry.

Yet Big Business, which I suspect would be the primary focus of any outbursts of righteous indignation, seems utterly unconcerned.

  • It is becoming increasingly monopolistic to a degree that is seriously alarming.
  • Share buybacks, despite a fair amount of adverse publicity, continue at record levels.
  • We have statistical full employment (5 percent) yet household earnings are in decline in real terms. That defies economics as it is taught and generally understood.
  • Income and wealth inequality continue to increase.

There have been some small concessions on wages, but nothing has fundamentally changed. The ultra-rich go on getting richer, and steadily  increase their grip on the political system; money in politics gets ever more blatant; the political choices get ever more horrific; and the economic plight of most Americans continues to deteriorate.

It seems to me that at some time there will have to be some sort of reassessment of the American Business Model, because surely it is better to modify it intelligently (as much of the rest of the world has already done with great success) than to continue to engage in what adds up to an economic civil war.

It’s madness—and, individuals apart, the country, as a whole, is paying a terrible price.

I find it interesting that the eponymous Seth Godin has joined the fray. Here is a man with his finger on the pulse—if anyone does. Or do I mean ‘trigger’ rather than ‘pulse?

This is Seth’s piece.’ As always, he argues it well.

What are corporations for?

The purpose of a company is to serve its customers.

Its obligation is to not harm everyone else.

And its opportunity is to enrich the lives of its employees.

Somewhere along the way, people got the idea that maximizing investor return was the point. It shouldn't be. That's not what democracies ought to seek in chartering corporations to participate in our society.

The great corporations of a generation ago, the ones that built key elements of our culture, were run by individuals who had more on their mind than driving the value of their options up.

The problem with short-term stock price maximization is that it's not particularly difficult. If you have market power, if the cost of switching is high or consumer knowledge is low, there are all sorts of ways that a well-motivated management team can hurt its customers, its community and its employees on the way to boosting what the investors say they want.

It's not difficult for Dell to squeeze a little more junkware into a laptop, or Fedex to lower its customer service standards, or Verizon to deliver less bandwidth than they promised. But just because it works doesn't mean that they're doing their jobs, or keeping their promise, or doing work that they can be proud of.

Profits and stock price aren't the point (with customers as a side project). It's the other way around.

October 27 2015. We don’t just need startups—we need startups that grow. Many fail—and most don’t grow. Why is this? Discuss!




I am increasingly of the view that, where fostering an economy is concerned, the answers are largely out there. This should scarcely be a surprise because the world is one vast ongoing economic experiment—and, by and large, the outcomes are recorded sufficiently accurately and comprehensively to analyze and learn from.

Yes, there is a great deal of shoddy data collection also—but enough is accurate enough for us to learn a great deal from it. I’m not after perfection here—just better.

Yet, do we learn as much as we could?

No, it is very clear that we don’t. If we did, the Great Recession wouldn’t have happened—or certainly would not have been as devastating.

And, as far are as all too many are concerned, it hasn’t ended—and some of the consequences will be with all of us for decades.

We had plenty of warning, and we knew what to do—but we ignored the warnings, and failed to implement the necessary remedial actions adequately. We still haven’t.

The general thrust was directed towards saving a series of deeply flawed economic systems rather than remedying the defects in the various economies as a whole.

The interests of the ultra-rich, and the financial institutions they control, were put ahead of the wellbeing of anything else—even though the financial institutions had caused the Great Recession in the first place.

To put not too fine a point on it, the criminals were rewarded for their crimes—and massively at that.

Greed and politics trumped economic pragmatism—and always will—unless we think all of this through rather more thoroughly.

So, why aren’t we learning?

Well, the over-arching reason is that powerful vested interests, in the form of the ultra-rich and their followers, are more than happy with the status quo—and have no interest at all in learning anything. Better a corrupt economic system that makes them ever richer, than an improved economic system that works in the best interests of the majority.

That apart, I can but theorize about the answer.

  • There is something wrong with either the analytical capability of the economics profession—or its moral courage. That is a serious charge, but look at the evidence. Virtually no economist forecast the Great Recession—despite a positive mountain of indicative evidence. So, what is going on here? Either most economists are incompetent or gutless. Or both.
  • Economists are being used to do the wrong things. By and large, corporate economists focus on forecasting rather than pragmatically trying to determine what works. Economists are lousy forecasters (as are most forecasters of any discipline) but that isn’t to say they don’t know what to do when things start going wrong.
  • Ideology, based on nothing but prejudices, neutralizes an alarming amount of solid, evidence-based, economic data. This all stems from the anti-science policies of the Republican party where it is now fashionable to select only evidence that fits Right Wing ideology. A fact is only a fact if it fits one’s prejudices. This is so foolish that it is hard to know what to say, or how to react. It is wrong in more ways than I have space to name. Yet such people are consistently elected to Congress—and, not infrequently, attain high office. Given enough money, you can, indeed, get a bunch of jackasses elected (though reasonable people do sometimes slip through).
  • Greed neutralizes a great deal of the rest. Ideology is used as an excuse even when people don’t believe in it.
  • All too many politicians—who are of fundamental import as far as implementing the right economic policies are concerned—are clueless (particularly where economics are concerned).  

Monday, October 26, 2015

October 26 2015. File under: “The reality of life,”—or should the heading be: “Unacceptable?”




SICKNESS AND DEATH ARE MERELY BYPRODUCTS (‘externalities’ as economists would say)


The scale is massive!

The damage our health is widespread, fundamental, and growing as more and more toxic chemicals are added. Their effects, in combination, make the situation worse.

Should we be concerned? Yes, we should be extremely concerned. The SOBs are making us sick—and killing us, They just don’t think of it that way—or prefer not to.

We all know that much of life is about trade-offs, and that there is some degree of risk to virtually any human activity. However, as a general principle, we try and mitigate it as much as possible. We regard that as just plain commonsense.

The issue here is not the innately hazardous nature of life, but the disturbing reality that all too many commercial interests are putting profit before principle, and systemically doing things that they know are causing harm.

But, who are those guys?

Big Ag; Big Food; Big Soda; Big Fast Food; Big Restaurant Chains; Big Pharma—the list is endless. Killing your customers, providing you don’t do it too blatantly, or too quickly is considered culturally acceptable in business circles. It is integral to the underlying ethos of the American Business Model.

The argument here is that such customers are choosing to kill themselves.

The issues here concern scale, balance, and choice. U.S. business tends to rationalize the production of a vast range of harmful products with the the argument that we don’t have to buy them.

That’s a somewhat specious argument for several reasons.

  • We now know that promotional techniques can influence us way more than most of us would like to admit—so ‘Freedom of Choice’ is somewhat of an illusion. Culturally, we haven’t accepted this yet. We need to. It’s a fact. It has profound implications for how we organize society—and for the very nature of democracy itself. Simply put, if we allow virtually unlimited propaganda—as the U.S. does—then we don’t have Freedom of Choice; and, thus, we don’t, and can’t, have democracy.
  • We rarely have full information about a product—so we are easily fooled. Corporate propaganda is virtually one sided—and scale of it is limited only by the available budgets. There is virtually no obligation to tell the truth. The average person has really no way of discerning it.
  • The producer has a duty of care independent of whatever the purchaser may decide. He can’t abdicate responsibility.
  • It is becoming increasingly clear that the scale of the harm that producers are causing is massive—and increasing. We are all affected.

It has long seemed to me that covers this subject better than most.

“Our Daily Poison” — A Stark Look at Our Toxic Food Supply

October 24, 2015 | 73,362 views

By Dr. Mercola

How many chemicals are you exposed to on a daily basis? There's no way to know for sure, but chances are toxic chemicals are in your food and many items you touch hundreds, if not thousands, of times a day.

What is known that your toxic burden is largely related to your purchasing decisions and lifestyle. While environmental pollution is certainly a factor, primary routes of chronic exposure include your diet, and personal care and household products.

Tests have confirmed that those who eat non-organic foods and use chemical-based products tend to have far higher levels of toxins in their system. Your choice of building materials and furniture can also play a role, as many contain toxic chemicals like flame retardants.

Toxins in Food and Plastics Are Fueling Chronic Disease

Health statistics suggest the toxic burden is becoming too great for children and adults alike, and toxins in our food appear to play a primary role.

According to Joseph E. Pizzorno,1 founding president of Bastyr University, toxins in the modern food supply are now "a major contributor to, and in some cases the cause of, virtually all chronic diseases."

Dr. David Bellinger, a professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School has expressed similar concerns. According to his estimates, Americans have lost a total of 16.9 million IQ points due to exposure to organophosphate pesticides.2

Most recently, a report3,4 by the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics5 warns that chemical exposures now represent a major threat to human health and reproduction.

An Endocrine Society task force also recently issued a new scientific statement6,7 on endocrine-disrupting chemicals, noting that the health effects of hormone-disrupting chemicals are such that everyone needs to take proactive steps to avoid them.

The statement also calls for improved safety testing to determine which chemicals may cause problems.

Our Daily Poison

Written and directed by Marie-Monique Robin, the featured film "Our Daily Poison" delves into these kinds of issues, covering a spectrum of poisons that most people are exposed to on a regular basis. This includes:

  • Agricultural chemicals
  • Artificial sweeteners like aspartame and other food additives
  • Endocrine-disrupting chemicals like phthalates and bisphenol-A (BPA)

The film also discusses "the cocktail effect" — interactions between chemicals that render the sum total more harmful than the risks associated with any given chemical in isolation.


Sunday, October 25, 2015

October 25 2015. A Great Nation in denial of both its plight and its decline—unwilling to accept that matters are as bad as they are—and are getting worse.




That is outrageous!  Worse yet, recognition of the scale of the problem  remains minimal.

I am drawing attention here today to just three areas—out of a depressingly long list of the most serious U.S. structural problems.

In case you are wondering why more people are not screaming about such issues—particularly economists—it is because so many would be putting their careers at risk if they spoke up.

Money buys power—and power both buys, and enforces, compliance—and silence where it is considered preferable. You defy power at your peril—and power is rarely forgiving. It has a long arm, a long memory, and is vindictive.

A combination of their ownership of the media by the ultra-rich, nominally philanthropic endowments, and the sheer power and influence of money, buys an acquiescent media, an equally acquiescent academia, and largely cooperative influence-makers.

Those best qualified to speak up credibly are either cowed into silence, or fragmented into ineffectiveness—and this in ‘The Land of the Free and The Home of The Brave,’ not to mention a constitution which espouses free speech.

Very little is free in the U.S.—as you soon find out if you haven’t got money. In fact, poverty, just in itself, may get you imprisoned (for vagrancy, or because they just don’t like the color of your eyes). And the price for speaking up is extremely high.

You will be attacked by powerful forces, and you may well lose your job, your healthcare, your credit rating, your car, and your home—and be unable to replace them. You career prospects will vanish. Your circle of friends will diminish at astonishing speed. You may well lose your family.

Moral courage comes expensive in America—and is in short supply.

Vested interests have the power to get their way—and they do. Trade unions have largely been crushed. Politicians have been bought—and cheaply at that. They have become money-dependent in order to get re-elected and are herded like cattle by lobbyists, and milked for the required legislative tools to rig the system on demand.

The ultra-rich own the corporations which own media. The American public is kept in line through the most sophisticated propaganda campaign in world history combined with a diet of distraction, delusion, and drugs (mostly legal).

Political gridlock blocks reform.

The ability of the less well off to register and vote is hindered in countless repressive ways from inconvenient opening hours to the incarceration of a disproportionate number. Gerrymandering is rife.

Though the trappings remain, the U.S. democratic process is now mainly theater. In fact, you can now make a strong case that the American system is now less responsive to the public good than the supposedly totalitarian Chinese system.

On the face of it, that is an outrageous suggestion—but, reflect a little.

Look at the data. Which citizenry is progressing better? Which citizenry has progressed more over the last 30 years. The data are not even close. The Chinese have done infinitely better.

It is notable that the Chinese system is both much faster and more efficient at driving economic progress, and lifting its citizens out of poverty. The Chinese just don’t pretend to be the ‘Land of the Free.’

The Chinese leadership of what remains, nominally, the Chinese Communist Party, nonetheless gives every evidence that it is responsive to the needs of the Chinese people.

In effect, the totalitarian Chinese system is more democratic in practice than the U.S.—at least as far as the economy is concerned.

How ironic is that!

A nominally democratic system which is rigged to favor the ultra-rich, and their followers cannot, remotely, be considered a true democracy.

The U.S. is no longer a true democracy. It is, in practical terms, a plutocracy run for the benefit of the plutocrats.

It’s a sad situation—and a disgrace. Sadder still is the fact that most Americans are complicit—whether because they benefit personally, or because of ignorance, indifference, delusion, or fear.

A nation of rugged individualists? The evidence is otherwise.

The American Tragedy continues. The 2016 elections are giving every indication of evolving into a tragi-comedy.

Just look at the candidates. Is this the best a nation of 320 million can do?

  • THE PENSION SAVIOR—401ks—IT ISN’T WORKING. 401ks were supposed to be the savior of the U.S. pension system—and to compensate for the virtual eradication of the defined pension. As the figures indicate, they haven’t worked. The finance industry has levied excessive charges; most people aren’t that good at investing; and many have had to raid their accounts because they are not being paid enough. For most, Social Security is primarily all there is—though it wasn’t designed to do the total job.
  • REAL GROWTH OF BUSINESS INVESTMENT  DOWN The graphic below shows pretty clearly that it is seriously below the trend line. Investing is all about providing for the future. If you don’t invest adequately, as has been the U.S. situation for some time, your prospects become bleaker. Well, today is yesterday’s future—and the results are self-evident. Infrastructure is trillions of dollars short, all too many U.S. communities look like something out of the Third World, and business employees lack both the training and the equipment to compete competitively internationally.
  • RISING CORPORATE PROFITS AND FALLING INVESTMENT SINCE 2000 (Over 15 years ago). On the face of it—and traditionally—rising corporate profits, since it has meant more cash available, has resulted in increased investment. However, now that so many CEOs are primarily rewarded through shares, they prefer to buyback their shares, under-invest in what the corporation really needs—and get personally rich.

A consequence of U.S. corporate under-investment has been—fairly predictably—falling productivity, and loss of market competitiveness.

There is no mystery to any of this. The real mystery is why no one is doing anything about it. But those who could are either gaining from the status quo in some way—or frightened.

So how and why have profits been rising? They have been rising because of a massive and sustained squeeze on pay linked to cutbacks in R&D, training and all kinds of other good things that a company needs for its long-term health.

Greed and short-termism is gutting the U.S. economy—and the data clearly demonstrate this.

As to the longer term picture, the data show that the lifespan of the typical U.S. corporation is on the slide—quite dramatically in fact.

There are consequences to greed.



Economic Snapshot | Retirement

401(k)s are a negligible source of income for seniors

By Monique Morrissey | October 15, 2015

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401(k)s have largely displaced traditional defined benefit pensions among private-sector workers, but they are not a major source of retirement income for seniors. New data show that in 2014, distributions from 401(k)s and similar accounts (including Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA), which are mostly rolled over from 401(k)s) came to less than $1,000 per year per person aged 65 and older. On the other hand, seniors received nearly $6,000 annually on average from traditional pensions. Pension benefits and retirement account distributions are both concentrated among upper income seniors, but far more seniors rely on pensions as a significant source of retirement income.

Though 401(k) and IRA distributions will grow in importance in coming years, the amounts saved to date are inadequate and unequally distributed, and it is unlikely that distributions from these accounts will be enough to replace bygone pensions for most retirees, who will continue to rely on Social Security for the bulk of their incomes.






Saturday, October 24, 2015

October 24 2015. The unofficial U.S. motto is: “Bomb the Bastards!” But, what do you do when the Bad Guys go deep? Do you change strategy? Not a bit of it. You just, “Bomb the Bastards!” with something bigger that goes deeper. Is there something sexual about all this—or is it just my writer’s imagination?




The following description is from the commendable Defense Industry Daily. This publication virtually always provides background and context—a practice I wish more of the U.S. media would follow.

Context matters.

Terrorists, for instance, don’t do what they do without good reason. Their actions may be wrong—but most terrorists think they have a valid grievance. Many do. You can debate the validity, but you need to understand it.

You desperately need to understand it. That way lies peace. The alternative is either systematic extermination or military genius—and the latter is in short supply. Typically, it is strangled by its own side. Competence truly hates genius.

I first became intrigued by military matters through reading adventure stories while at boarding school—and it didn’t hurt that I was a war baby. I hated boarding school. Adventure stories were my escape. It was wonderful.

I was born on May 23 1944 in London. D-Day happened two weeks later.

I grew up fast, was in the first wave when we landed in Normandy on June 6 1944, and conquered France personally. I also saved Private Ryan. Patton stole the credit. Spielberg got the story wrong.

Hitler didn’t commit suicide. I shot him.

I sometimes joke that, “Hitler tried to kill me,” because, so I was told, a German missile—a V-1 rocket commonly called a ‘Doodlebug,’ explored nearby when I only a couple of months old, and glass from the blast showered my cot.

Yes, when I was old enough, I did ask whether the windows were taped. Apparently they were—but it was a major blast.

Damn cheek! It’s a hell of thing to be a combat veteran before you can even legally drink. Lot of catching-up to do.

Why was my mother in London, one of Hitler’s favorite targets? She was Irish (Anglo-Irish). She should have been in Ireland. That country—quite sensibly—was neutral during the war. After 700 years of occupation, it had no reason to like the British—but Hitler? Good grief!

Bear in mind, there wasn’t just one Blitz—there were two. The destruction defies the imagination. Both were bloody.

The first, towards the beginning of the war, in 1940, was bombing based. The second, in 1944, involved missiles. London, in particular, was a battle-zone. Tens of thousands were killed. Hundreds of thousands were injured.

Because there were men there—in profusion. All in all, mother had a very good war. She liked men—and they liked her. And since men didn’t disappear, she went on to have a very good peace. Twelve children. Five fathers. Three marriages. Well, that is the official story. It was much more complicated than that.

I have no reason to complain. Without the war, I wouldn’t have existed. Well, given my mother’s proclivities, clearly someone would have existed—but it wouldn’t have been me.

Was it staged for my benefit personally? To be frank with you—I can’t be sure about that.

Be that as it may, I still keep an eye on military developments nearly three-quarters of a century later. I guess you could say I have learned more than a bit over that time. I distrust the word ‘expert.’

I am appalled by the consequences of war, and loathe the waste and the destruction, but somehow the whole damn business is in my blood—which is why I write about it.

I don’t think either war or combat are glorious. I do think they are sometimes necessary. I respect those at the sharp end of the spear. Most are very ordinary people who are forced to try and do extraordinary things. Sometimes, they do just that. Often, they just muddle through.

I find the latter fairly remarkable just in itself.

I am not sure that makes a great deal of sense—but then neither does the human condition in many ways.

Do we work as hard as we could, and should, to avoid war? Not even close. On the contrary, despite the evidence of history—and just plain commonsense—we seem almost to rush into it.

It strikes me that this is particularly the case with the U.S. This is a nation which is culturally violent—and politically inadequate.

We need to think about this stuff a great deal more than we do.

This 30,000 pound weapon is approximately 31.5 inches in diameter and 20.5 feet long, with about the same amount of explosives inside as Wallis’ Tallboy (5,300 pounds).

It isn’t the biggest bomb the USA has ever built – the 44,000 pound T12 external link has that distinction – but it could well become the biggest conventional bomb ever used. Even the famous GBU-43 MOAB external link (Mother Of All Bombs) thermobaric weapon weighs in at only 21,000 pounds.

Unlike the MOAB, however, this project’s goal is a GPS-guided, hard-penetrating weapon that can be carried aboard B-2A Spirit bombers to defeat “a specialized set of hard and deeply buried targets” like bunkers and tunnel facilities. Some graphics show expectations of over 60 feet of concrete destroyed, and a USAF article stated that the bomb was meant to penetrate 200 feet underground before exploding.

That may have been revised upward in the 2012 upgrade, which tried to address perceived shortfalls against known targets. Upgrades reportedly include more precise guidance through undisclosed means, adjustment of the detonator fuze to withstand impact with layers of granite and steel, and the ability to reject guidance-jamming attempts and operate in “contested environments.”

About 8 operational GBU-57s have been publicly ordered to date, and a number of bomb bodies and flight test weapons have been detonated in tests.

The B-2A will be able to carry 2 MOPs: one in each bay, mounted to the existing forward and aft mounting hardware.

Friday, October 23, 2015

October 23 2015. Given how insecure the writing business is, I’m surprised that any of us can sleep—but I confess that I do (and pretty well at that).


DEPT OF: “Of  course, if I tell you, I’ll have to kill you!”



Complicated, huh?

I’m very far from sure education is all it’s cracked up to be. Here, I’m not questioning the innate value of education, as such. However, I do wonder greatly about what I was taught—let alone how—and, even more, about what I wasn’t taught.

For instance, I wasn’t taught about sex at school. Good grief, if practical experience is as important as its cracked up to be, why didn’t we have a school brothel? The French Foreign Legion has one—and it bears more than a passing resemblance to a British boarding school. (though not quite as tough).

The French Foreign Legion is better at teaching French.

I was taught to kill people in a useful variety of ways—with lots of hands-on training—so why wasn’t I taught how to make them as well (in a similarly practical way). What is with these curriculum people!

My children are damn lucky they ever got conceived. Fortunately, I ran across an informative fortune cookie (complete with diagrams) just in time. No wonder there are so many Chinese. They know how to make them!

And I say that as someone who received a very good education (relatively speaking) at one of the UK’s better known public boarding schools (which are expensive and private).

Few things could be more important that what, and how much, you eat—yet school food (like most institutional food including hospital food) is notoriously mediocre. How does that make sense? Why is it considered appropriate to give bad food to the young and the sick?

Frankly, it took decades before I started to take my diet very seriously—but now I do, it has transformed my life. It’s absolutely amazing—and simple. Yet we allow Big Food to poison us day after day.

Where exercise was concerned, the focus was on rugby and cricket—and both were compulsory. Neither were really adequate exercise. Rugby seemed to be nothing but scrums—which is infuriating if you like to run—and cricket (not the worst of games) is based upon most of the players being virtually static most of the time.

I used to volunteer to bat last, lie down in the bat box out of the chill wind (we are talking English summers in Yorkshire here) and read. Very educational. Not much exercise.

What these bozos missed out on was educating us about exercise as such. If I hadn’t just plain liked walking as much as I do, I hate to think! And I am talking about reasonable to serious distances. I used to walk six miles every morning. Serious would be double or triple figures.

In fact, it was walking which brought me my first writing breakthrough—when I encountered a freshly hanged body (and no, I’m not making this up).

Let me tell you there are few things better than a hanging to get your creative juices going. Writer’s block hasn’t a chance under those circumstances. So, if you are an aspiring writer, go walk. Who knows what you might encounter!

We now come to sleep. We treat sleep as crazily as everything else. For instance, teenagers notoriously like to go to bed late yet needs lots of sleep. The obvious solution would be to let them sleep in.

Do we do that? Not a bit of it. We kick them out of bed at the crack of dawn for school and then wonder why they behave weirdly.

Later on, even though we know perfectly well that your judgment goes to hell if you lack sleep, we expect soldiers to function on almost none. In fact, the U.S. Army has made not needing sleep practically a qualification for fast-track promotion and senior command. It is considered macho and tough!

What else would you want from a leader? How about clarity of mind as a consequence of  a well developed mind—and plenty of sleep!

If you want one simple explanation why the U.S. has fared so badly in numerous wars since Korea, look no further than their sleep policies.

I have this private theory is that one can do remarkably well in life if you know only a relatively small number of fundamental truths.

The most important is of course that hot air rises—a fact that has more influence on life that you would think. The fact that things fall—as in gravity—is also good to know, together with the fact that, if you are a human, falling from a height does nothing for your day.

The latter is not the kind of thing best learned from experience.

I have already passed on where to find out all about sex. Apart from understanding the relevance of diet, exercise, and sleep, there is almost nothing else to know.

Glad to be of service.



Thursday, October 22, 2015

October 22 2015. “Writing is a prize unto itself.” Damn right! You know, I never expected writing to be as joyous an activity as I now find it—or to be able to write nearly as well as I now can. Is that good enough? Hell, no! But, it feels good to be a writer!





5 Ways To Feel Happier As A Writer

Posted: 18 Oct 2015 10:20 PM PDT

Let me preface this by saying I’m not a doctor, or a psychiatrist, or a psychologist, or a therapist, but it seems to me that writers tend to be a little lonelier, sadder, and angrier than the members of other professions.  Granted, this is not a scientific fact, just a mere observation. Does writing cause this condition or state of being – or does writing become the expressive outlet for the emotionally raging, intellectually-gifted individual?

I don’t think writing makes people feel lonely, unhappy, mad, or crazy. I think it is a savior for those who feel that way.  It’s a coping mechanism.  If you practice the art of writing well – perhaps it is because you don’t feel so well. You may even get rewarded with money, awards, and fame -- but writing is a prize unto itself.

Still, writers probably want to be happier, even those who wouldn’t admit that their talent and gift is driven, in part, by some type of social deficiency or DNA pattern.  Many writers who have experienced great success have also been known to suffer from addiction, mental disease, and emotional instability.  They may need serious help and professional intervention, but all writers could benefit from letting some sunshine into their souls.

So how can writers make themselves feel better while not jeopardizing the tension levels they need to write great stuff?

According to Time magazine, Americans now spend $9.6 billion annually on self-help products, including among other things, books.  So why are we so unhappy?

Oddly, the October 12th edition article didn’t mention obvious things, including poor education, a lousy childhood, victimization, handicap, sickness, bad relationships, a crappy job, loss of wealth, loss of family/friends or the fact the world is screwed up and filled with violence, greed, politics, and crazies. 

The article spoke to people who seemingly were not affected by any of these things but merely suffered from not getting what they want or expect to get from life.  It said: “But in the US, happiness is often seen as an individual pursuit: chasing the best career, buying stuff, and expecting all of that to lead to happiness.  That sets up Americans for a lifetime of letdowns.”

The article suggested five ways one could feel better, relying on scientific data.  Could these help writers?  It said:

1. Schedule Fun Activities

When you intentionally create the conditions of your day you take control of what happens to you and there’s something to look forward to.

2. Shift Your Perspective

Instead of pursuing excited states of happiness, recognize your time is limited and instead, pursue more relaxing activities that achieve a state of serenity.

3. Stay Present

Just enjoy the moment you’re in, even if it’s in a state of imagining and fantasizing.  No need to worry of the future or to force the present to play out a certain way.  Go with the flow.

4. Lower Your Expectations

That’s right, expect little and maybe you’ll be surprised.  Making huge plans or hoping people will act differently or taking a huge gamble rarely pays off.  Don’t expect much and maybe you’ll get more than you bargained for.

5. Savor Great Moments

Appreciate the positive moments, people, or things, in your life.  Think back on them and replay these good times in your head.  Do once, celebrate many times.

If none of this works, may I suggest that you write more.  Yes, writing for you or me is what keeps us happy, sane, and healthy.  Writing is a means and an end to happiness.  Our words are not only medicine for our readers, but for ourselves.  Writers experience the world in their heads and they play out more scenarios than a thousand lives could ever live.  We see all kinds of possibilities and probabilities safely from our mobile desks and then turn our attention toward re-writing a world that makes sense and feels fulfilling.

The world is a beautiful but troubled place.  Writers use writing to cope with the life they’ve been given, and they use their gift to help others escape from or cope with their lives.  That is the real happiness formula.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

October 21 2015. More from (a website where those who know—or think they do—answers the questions of those who want to know). As always, the questioned learn in the process. It’s a strange thing, but mostly we don’t know what we know—and we certainly don’t know what we don’t know.




To write, you’ve got to write!

Kerri Connolly's avatar image.Kerri Connolly asked Victor O'Reilly:

How do you inspire people to get out and write?

Victor, your answers are fantastic. I am looking to start a blog and have a lot of "jumbled" ideas that aren't very cohesive. In general, I also feel that when I start, I will eventually dry up and not have good ideas. What suggestions would you have for someone like me who wants to get started but feels like I may be my own stumbling block?


Kerri, thanks for the kind words.

Truth to tell, I'm getting quite inspired by the questions I am being asked--as in your case.

This is not trivial stuff. It is intellectually "hard pounding" (if I may quote the Duke of Wellington after the Battle of Waterloo). The man was an excellent writer, by the way (and had a marvelous dry wit).

I should really respond to your question with a question: Why do you want to blog? However, that would be something of a cheat. My guess is that you want to blog because you want to communicate--which is a very basic human instinct--and a good one. We are social animals. Communication underpins all productive human relationships. Failure to communicate lies at the heart of most violence--and all failed relationships.

Communication is what makes what works, work. Nothing else is as important. Communication is life expressed.

Writing, of course, is just one form of communication. Body language is another one. Sex is absolutely communication--sometimes perfect, sometimes not so good. The spoken word is fundamental--and so it goes.

There is an awful lot to this communication business--but it is worth the effort. To communicate effectively is a wonderful thing. It is also extraordinarily difficult. It requires a level of courage that many of us lack. The process is revealing. There is nowhere to hide if you communicate honestly and well. You will be judged--and you may be found wanting. That is pretty scary.

Writing is a very special form of communication because it involves a level of commitment, which--for instance--the spoken word does not. It is difficult, involves time, and can be permanent. The spoken word normally vanishes into the ether. The written word can be there for ever. It is a very serious record. It can hang you (literally in some cultures).

It is worth the risk. It is that important. What is the more is that the rewards of genuinely being able to communicate are beyond riches. It is just a wonderful feeling, and it gets better, and better, and better. When I started writing, I had no idea my journey would take quite so long, be as arduous, and yield such rewards.

I hated blogging initially. I did it because social media is now an integral part of book marketing--and I felt I should. I also felt I was wasting a great deal of time to no purpose.

Just for starters, I had to decide what to write about. That involved planning and even more time. Good grief! This was ridiculous. I should be writing books--and nothing else. Why would anybody care what I blogged about?

In the end, I stopped blogging. I then got a number of phone calls and e-mails from people who said: "Victor, why have you stopped blogging? I like the way you think. You write interesting stuff. You have an original cast of mind."

What interested me particularly about all this was that these were, almost to a person, heavy hitters. Somehow or other, I was getting through to some very serious influence makers. Perhaps, I could--in some small way--make a difference.

I started blogging again by way of a satire. In that blog, the U.S. had become so corrupted by Fast Food and Money, the only living creature with enough integrity to save the day was Eagle, head of all the eagles. He was mentored by Cuckoo (a sort of Merlin who normally appeared as a Cuckoo). The idea of a Cuckoo being smart appealed to me.

I stopped How Eagle & Cuckoo Save America, after a while, because I figured I could turn the concept into a book--and have. But it was, and remains, fun to do.

A close friend of mine, Tim Roderick, then pushed for me to start blogging again. I had foolishly let my website go, and he insisted that I had to have some way to stay in touch with my readers.

I thought about this for a while, and then decided I would turn blogging into an exercise for my brain. I wouldn't plan in advance. I would see, instead, if I could train myself to write spontaneously, from a standing start, about whatever occurred to me at that particular moment.

It was a decidedly counter-intuitive decision--and one of the best ones I have made in my writing career.

It's success is based upon a very simple truth: WRITING IS ABOUT WRITING.

Don't talk about it, worry about, debate it, analyze it, or over-think it. JUST DO IT--and be prepared to live with failure, because you will never write quite as well as you would wish (and, if you do, you will raise the bar).

But, at least as far as I am concerned, failing as a writer beats success in most other fields every time.

Since I started blogging in this ridiculously unplanned way, I have never had any trouble writing. I just go for it.

I also make a point of blogging every day. That is a serious level of commitment. I love it. Writing is true communication--and true communication is joy.

I wish I could adequately describe what I feel.

The key point to realize in the early days is that THE FACT YOU ARE WRITING IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN WHAT YOU ARE WRITING. YoU need to train your mind to 'think as a writer' (a separate issue)--and train it also to interface with your body. Writing doesn't come naturally. It is a learned skill.

Training one's muscle memory plays an important role in the process.

If you run out of ideas ( which you won't) write about running out of ideas.

Keep the faith--and WRITE!

Bt the way, there is nothing wrong with having "jumbled up ideas." You should see my mind! It is a veritable junkyard of the good, the bad, the totally confused--and the amazingly interesting. An important aspect of writing is that the process, in itself, both compels, and enables you, to clarify your mind. Think of it as intellectual tough love. It can be extremely stressful, but, it works.

Kerri, let me know how you get on--and if I can help.

I blog at

Thanks for the question.