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Doomer billionaires

by Jerome a Paris Tue Jul 20th, 2010 at 10:06:37 PM EST

This is a few days old, but it deserves a bit more publicity, as it is (i) in the WSJ, and (ii) by well known billionaire mogul John Malone:

WSJ: What are you doing to protect against the weak American economy?
Mr. Malone: Well, my wife, who is very concerned about these things, moved all her personal cash to Australia and Canada. She wants to have a place to go if things blow up here. Canada has a lot more fiscal and bank responsibility than most places in the world and lots of natural resources.

We have a retreat that's right on the Quebec border. We own 18 miles on the border, so we can cross. Anytime we want to we can get away. It would probably be illegal but we could go. Actually our snowmobile trail goes right on the border.

[Obama's administration] is all academics and lawyers. I'm afraid that our real problems are systemic and long‑term. And lawyers are primarily trained in fighting over the pie, not making the pie bigger.
A billionaire worried about resource depletion, and about wealth capture being preferred over wealth creation? How droll.

When will the link between the New Doom:

"With trillions of dollars spent to prevent an all-out economic collapse we have only managed to buy under two years of time and the economy is once again starting to roll over."

The hedge fund manager said he doesn't even trust gold. "It's worthless if the social fabric tears," he said. "We're going to have to do something different, before we get down to where it's really bad."

and the rich are winning

One group of people is doing just fine. The rich.

- will be made?


Display:
Don't you see, Jerome?

"These" billionaires lack faith in the power of the "Market" is .... disturbing.

If however even these few who lack faith are dispossessed thereby further concentrating faith capital in fewer hands the system will be restored.

Don't you see? It's so simple........ or do you lack faith?

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Tue Jul 20th, 2010 at 10:40:33 PM EST
You are again treading the edges of the ultimate questions- the real end point of so many discussions we've had here.

Deeper questions:
-How did a relationship so obvious become so invisible?

In the class of patent nonsense like "Growth=Prosperity".

And, having answered that one,

-What might work to alter the dynamic?

My answer at present, and the reason I've redirected my puny but persistent personal efforts  in this regard, is that I don't see any robust mechanism operating to cause, or even permit the growth of a generalized belief in opposition to, or outside of the elite's package of talking points.
(see a few models of collective behavior, beginning with Wach)

Matt Taibbi and many others have spoken about this historically powerful mindset recently, noting it's influence but almost universally failing to dig deep enough to begin to describe it's genesis. Or to offer any suggestion as to how it might be pried out of the anchor's chair in the impoverished public discourse that plays endlessly in major media today.

Or to offer historical insights into the many times this same narrative has played itself out in the past,

or the very real differences in the new tools available to the elite to make sure the peasants remain in thrall.

Don't tell me about the power of the net to keep the discussion vibrant- it's a fragile structure that's utterly helpless in the face of any real effort to manipulate or guide it.
In the same way that banking regulations will always be the target of talented gamers, technology, which is generally far less agile in it's own defense, will be fairly easily surmounted.
Example  

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Wed Jul 21st, 2010 at 01:14:59 AM EST
...patent nonsense like "Growth=Prosperity".

You mean there is a patent for growth=prosperity? I want me some of that action, though enforcement might be a bit light for the coming era.

I don't know Wach, but I know that I agree and disagree with you simultaneously. I think that the reason this drama keeps playing itself out is that the correct source of the problem hasn't been identified...or if it has been identified, it is identified in the stream of a hundred or thousand other identifications pretending to be of equal significance.

Perhaps it is, for example, because you can make an equation that starts with growth, and includes a bunch of other elements and interactions and a ton of other stuff...and ends with 'equals growth'.

And when you take out the common denominators like, oh, everyday problems and finance and people and and and, you end up with...in one set of circumstances, "Growth=Prosperity"...and everyone runs to that alter for a while.

But you do need growth...at least, you can't have its opposite for long, and entropy doesn't allow you to stand still.

I don't pretend to have nailed the correct and pithy point, but it certainly has something to do with an extension of what you have said and what 'they' never say: I will rely upon the structure that protects me, valuable enough to use, but not to pay for...or, at least, I will pay for it with the lives of others (since that is what I do for everything else anyway.)

I've posted it before, and apologized then for reposting it, but the control techniques that we keep coming up against reminds me of this small part from George Jackson's poem Soledad Brother :

"Arbeit Macht Frei"
reads the sign over the concentration camp gates,
It means, "Work Sets You Free"
and proves that the great truths,
in the hands of the great liars,
is even more grotesque than great lies.
The only counter measure is to be
as scrupulous as the enemy is unscrupulous,
to repossess truth.
We work for the world,
to save our own souls.
As the Nazis said,
"Arbeit Macht Frei"

Wish I could find a copy online of "The Royal Macadamians' version of this poem set to music, but it ain't to be.

Never underestimate their intelligence, always underestimate their knowledge.

Frank Delaney ~ Ireland

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Wed Jul 21st, 2010 at 07:37:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
siegestate:
But you do need growth...at least, you can't have its opposite for long, and entropy doesn't allow you to stand still.

You need growth, but growth denominated using what value standard?

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Wed Jul 21st, 2010 at 08:29:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well reminded.

We obviously need a Wealth Quotient:

  • Slums/Billionaires
  • Returning Veterans who can't work/Billionaires
  • Number of complaints in the main stream media about litigious consumer lawyers, bureaucrats and the size of government/Number of complaints in the mainstream media about corporate lobbyists
  • Number of nickel cigars/Number of population


Never underestimate their intelligence, always underestimate their knowledge.

Frank Delaney ~ Ireland

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Wed Jul 21st, 2010 at 10:06:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Patent meaning --somewhat archaically-- open, apparent, self-evident, and indisputable.

Another perspective on the received wisdom of "Growth, growth, growth", in constrast to the "Three R's" of resource conservation --Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle-- for which I do not believe any serious, professional economist or wealthy financial analyst has advanced a mathematical expression of, shall we say, prosperity.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Wed Jul 21st, 2010 at 11:12:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes; the serious ones know that the answer is to:
  • Create Emergencies for which your speciality is the answer (at terrific expense)
  • Fob off externalities to the future, especially to those whose commons you are using
  • Control the media so that you can promote the value your efforts highly and your neighbors efforts with disdain
  • Promote politicians who will belittle those who fight you
  • Repeat


Never underestimate their intelligence, always underestimate their knowledge.

Frank Delaney ~ Ireland

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Wed Jul 21st, 2010 at 12:03:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
",, open, apparent, self-evident, and indisputable."

like patent shoes, really.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Jul 21st, 2010 at 01:54:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A Tidings of Magpies

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Wed Jul 21st, 2010 at 02:52:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm all for advanced photon radiation. Isn't that what we are promised in 2012?

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Jul 21st, 2010 at 03:32:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I dunno. In the movie the center of the earth explodes.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Wed Jul 21st, 2010 at 03:43:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, what I've heard, and it's distant hearsay, is that the Earth will pass at the end of 2012 through a galactic beam of certain kinds of particles that can cause RNA mutation so that cell clocks tick at a different speed. And when cell clocks (the frequency of divisions) change speed, then mutations happen. We get to take one step up the evolutionary ladder. But a citation is very badly needed ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Jul 21st, 2010 at 03:52:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, then. OK. That sounds more fun.
Will I need patent leather or vinyl garments in order to participate in The Evolution?

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Wed Jul 21st, 2010 at 04:17:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Cat:
Will I need patent leather or vinyl garments in order to participate in The Evolution?

Whatever turns you on....

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Wed Jul 21st, 2010 at 05:40:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What is it you want to ask me, actually?

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Wed Jul 21st, 2010 at 06:03:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The imagery of Billionaires, skulking in the long winter nights, making their way through the great northern woods, snowmobiles stashed in in secret hiding places near the patrolled border, and finally making a quick dash for safety amongst the stable Canadians is hysterical.
They're as doomed as anyone, and just as gullible.
by Andhakari on Wed Jul 21st, 2010 at 02:12:20 AM EST
Andhakari:
They're as doomed as anyone, and just as gullible.

= If they're so rich how come they're not smart?

One would think they would recognize that they have the most to lose from a total meltdown of society. But I guess one would be wrong.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Wed Jul 21st, 2010 at 10:47:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If they're so rich how come they're not smart?

Impossible: according to Greg Mankiw, if they are rich, they have to be smart.

"Ce qui vient au monde pour ne rien troubler ne mérite ni égards ni patience." René Char

by Melanchthon on Wed Jul 21st, 2010 at 11:23:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You can be rich too!

Think of nothing else except how to make money for the next 20 or 30 years. Do not allow another thought to enter your mind--or any emotion whatsoever!

by Upstate NY on Wed Jul 21st, 2010 at 11:24:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Except fear of losing it all.
by Andhakari on Fri Jul 23rd, 2010 at 12:29:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I've been reading an account of the Madoff fiasco, which was all about Madoff's supremely successful attempts to schmooze the super-rich. A couple of points therefrom:

Firstly, the super-rich live extremely isolated and incestuous lives. They move in relatively small social circles. Most of them have no direct experience of the lives of normal people.

Secondly, their culture is immensely competitive with an extremely finely graded primate hierarchy.

Thirdly, it's all about the numbers and the display. If you can boast at the country club that you're getting 20% on a return, that gives you points over the person who only gets 10%.

Finally, they have no concept of what the numbers mean in real terms to real people. Adding 5% to a shareholder pay-out typically means short-term cuts in work force, poor strategy, homelessness, broken marriages, stress, premature death, suicide, and all kinds of other social ills. It also means a poverty of imagination and of real innovation - innovation meaning practical useful stuff, and not the kind of fake innovations you get in marketing and in the money markets.

But all of this is invisible to them. Quite possibly some of them might care if it were made visible - and if someone wanted to create a revolution in the US, deliberately promoting a philanthropic program for the super-rich with wide-ranging progressive values might be one of the most effective things to do.

But some of them don't care at all. They're the ones who are self-entitled, narcissistic, and emotionally low-functioning. They probably can't be reached.

The others might be more amenable.

For now though, it's best to consider the super-rich as the classic low information voters. The engaged ones are likely to be psychotic, and the rest are simply disconnected from the world around them, living in a happy Disney dream world of shopping, competitive philanthropy and socialising, with a bit of not-too-strenuous investing.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Jul 21st, 2010 at 11:47:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I suspect that all most of these worthies are doing is creating comforting illusions of future sanctuaries. They might be sanctuaries now, but there are no guarantees that they will be secure or even survivable in the future. The Virgin Islands could be largely under water  by the end of the century, for instance.

In the aftermath of the Hundred Year War and the Forty Year War in Europe there were bands of roving mercenaries, recently unemployed, extracting their living from hapless locals. The future versions are likely to be land, sea and air mobile. If your sanctuary is remote and lightly populated it is very vulnerable. If your sanctuary is amongst a more robust population, your continued existence is at their forbearance.

The real problem is that destructive actual courses of action have been and will be undertaken on the mistaken belief that they will provide security to small numbers of elites. There are no unknown islands or refuges for elites or dropouts. To a large extent we are all in this together.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Jul 21st, 2010 at 12:23:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I can't help but notice that most of the free companies were mercenaries hired - already! - by the king of England Edward III... and left to ransack France after the Peace of Brétigny...

"Ce qui vient au monde pour ne rien troubler ne mérite ni égards ni patience." René Char
by Melanchthon on Wed Jul 21st, 2010 at 01:35:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Jul 21st, 2010 at 03:22:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And not just France.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Jul 21st, 2010 at 10:29:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Denmark had our own little Bernie Madoff en miniature.

He had a really simple con, which can be basically summed up as a Bavarian fire drill: He'd go into one major banking house after another, dressed in an expensive suit and knowing all the Serious social cues, and walk out with a credit line against a non-existent future cash flow.

Oh, he had genuine-looking paperwork, and professional bookkeeping. The problem was that the customers did not, in fact, exist in the real world. And this was not hard to figure out.

The disguise was based on leasing contracts in a sector that isn't very big (I forget which sector at the moment). The people who first noticed that he wasn't legit were the people who worked in the sector and kept reading stories in the press about how this company got big contracts. See, they knew the sector, they knew the big players, and when they counted up the market shares that they knew about and compared them to the size of the market, there simply wasn't enough left over for our intrepid scammer.

Now, what does this tell you?

It tells me that the major Danish banking houses have no clue whatsoever what goes on in the real economy. None at all.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Jul 21st, 2010 at 08:00:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Best story of the week.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Thu Jul 22nd, 2010 at 07:16:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Jerome a Paris:

A billionaire worried about resource depletion

Then how does he imagine "the pie" can be made "bigger"?

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Jul 21st, 2010 at 03:52:41 AM EST
'Spose he's been reading too many weird websites?



The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Wed Jul 21st, 2010 at 04:42:52 AM EST
...to post this



"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Wed Jul 21st, 2010 at 10:27:29 AM EST
This set of attitudes is fairly common among the hedge fund crowd.

One of my uncles runs a hedge fund. For years he was based in San Francisco, but around 2005-06 he joined almost 100 other hedge funds and moved to the US Virgin Islands, where tax incentives to lure the hedge funds had been passed.

He and my aunt were kind enough to let me stay at their house in the SF Bay Area in 2006 when I was doing dissertation research, and while there we had some in-depth conversations about a range of political and economic issues, including at dinner parties with other hedge fund managers.

Those conversations revealed a world-view that was deeply cynical and even doomer. The view of the 5 or 6 hedge fund managers I talked with over the course of that spring was that the global economy had become one giant casino, overlaying a decaying society and overseen by a corrupt political establishment, with not much of a future for the continental US.

To them, these developments meant it was time for the smart people to manipulate the system for their own gain. Get rich and use that wealth to set themselves up to ride out the coming disaster. They spoke of peak oil before I knew what the concept was.

It was a revelatory experience. These hedge fund managers didn't see themselves as contributing anything to the overall economy or creating any value. They explicitly saw themselves as looters, justifying the looting by casting themselves as the smart people in a society run by idiots, whose primary duty it was to use their smarts to take what they could while the opportunity was there, before the idiots crashed everything.

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Wed Jul 21st, 2010 at 11:35:32 AM EST
To them, these developments meant it was time for the smart people to manipulate the system for their own gain.

For them this is a comforting take-away. If you want to do something it is always nice if TINA. And so long as they APPEAR to succeed there will be more recruits to that viewpoint amongst their peers.

A few spectacular failures in that endeavor might concentrate the minds of some of these folks. But will they come in time to make much difference?

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Jul 21st, 2010 at 12:36:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
well, how much money do you need, and how far way do you have to hide from

Op-Ed Columnist - We're Not Ready on Nuclear Power - NYTimes.com

Something approaching a worst-case accident at a nuclear plant, especially one in a highly populated area, would make the Deepwater Horizon disaster look like a walk in the park.

"We are way, way behind when it comes to the hard work of preventing accidents and responding to these catastrophes when they happen," said Dr. Irwin Redlener, the director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. "With the deep-water oil drilling, we allowed the technological advances to drive the process at a rate that was unsafe, and we got really badly burned. The potential of a nuclear catastrophe is a major disaster in waiting."

There are already plenty of problems on the nuclear power front, but they don't get a great deal of media attention. David Lochbaum, the director of the Nuclear Safety Project for the Union of Concerned Scientists, told me last week that there have been 47 instances since 1979 in which nuclear reactors in the U.S. have had to be shut down for more than a year for safety reasons.

"We estimated, in 2005 dollars, that the average price tag for these outages was between $1.5 billion and $2 billion," said Mr. Lochbaum.

People of a certain age will remember the frightening accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Pennsylvania in 1979, a partial meltdown that came dangerously close to a worst-case scenario. As Mr. Lochbaum put it, "In roughly two hours, conditions at the plant rendered it from a billion-dollar asset to a multibillion-dollar liability. It cost more to clean up than it cost to build it."

Another frightening accident occurred in 2002 at the Davis-Besse plant at Oak Harbor, Ohio. A hidden leak led to corrosion that caused a near-catastrophe. By the time the problem was discovered, only a thin layer of stainless steel was left to hold back the disaster.

The potential problems with nuclear power abound. No one knows what to do with the dangerous nuclear waste that is building up at the plants. And no one wants to have an extended conversation in polite company about the threat of terrorists who could wreak all manner of mayhem with an attack on a plant.

For many very serious people, our overreliance on foreign oil and the potential dire consequences of global warming make the case for moving more toward nuclear energy a compelling one. But if this is done without a whole lot more serious thought given to matters of safety and rigorous oversight, it's a step we'll undoubtedly come to regret.

??

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Jul 21st, 2010 at 12:53:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The big takeaway point for me was that they simply had stopped caring about the world around them. They'd already decided it was screwed, full of idiots, and generally not worth saving. So their response was to aggressively use every loophole, employ means fair or foul, to extract as much wealth as they could before it all crashes.

It's the mentality of pirates. One might say the hedge funds are 21st century privateers, commissioned by the elite to raid and plunder the rest of society for the sake of that elite.

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Wed Jul 21st, 2010 at 01:46:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have been making the point for over a year that the USA is, effectively, governed by a loose cabal of pirates who, together intimidate and bribe the government into doing what they want.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Jul 21st, 2010 at 03:30:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Cabal is the right word - civil cons-piracy. Although the collusion is unspoken. Few of these cabalists actually negotiate with each other to deprive a third party (us) of legal rights. The negotiation is applied from birth, through school and into business. The right to deprive is osmosed by the bubble that the privileged live in. It's never questioned.

The conspiracy is in privilege.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Jul 21st, 2010 at 03:45:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Kinda like Eli Wallach in the Magnificent 7.  It's interesting that most governments today see these hoodlums as a respectable component of the economic system.
by Andhakari on Fri Jul 23rd, 2010 at 12:39:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ha, i was getting a similar flash yesterday thinking about the bankstas, how they are like gunslingers operating on the edge of the rule of law, and no matter how they romanticise themselves as badass masters of their lawless universe, their days are over.

there should be no frontiers anyway, but for these guys it's the only way they can keep extorting roaming the planet like it's the pre rule-of-law wild west...

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Jul 23rd, 2010 at 05:16:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The "Doomer billionaires" had better also be comprehensivists rather than specialists (as conceptualized by R Buckminster Fuller), or have access to comprehensivists as part of their survival planning, otherwise I doubt they'll fare well over the long term.

NVA, a viable option when the political process fails.
by NorthDakotaDemocrat (NorthDakotaDemocrat at gmail dot com) on Wed Jul 21st, 2010 at 02:55:47 PM EST
Just a humble suggestion: how about rerunning the French Revolution? In this modern age, it could even be filmed for even more profit than Dickens ever received.

Before you speak, do you have a better solution? No! So shut up.

by shergald on Thu Jul 22nd, 2010 at 03:40:07 PM EST


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