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On the Poor Career Prospects for People with Postgraduate Degrees : 2

August 21, 2019 7 comments

In the previous part of this series, I went into some detail about the careers of those who studied or worked alongside me during my MSc. To make a long story short, the majority are either no longer involved in scientific research or have menial unstable jobs with some vague connection to what they studied or used to do for a living. Some of you might say that this is to be expected since the biomedical sciences produce many times more graduates than the number of available jobs. While that may be true now, it wasn’t always the case. Indeed, until the early 1990s, those who studied or worked in that sector could either find decent to acceptable jobs or simply move into related areas with considerable ease.

Now let us now talk about another sector which, for over 50 years, provided highly stable, well compensated and intellectually engaging employment. I am talking about pharma. From the end of WW2 in 1945 to mid-1990s, pharmaceutical corporations (large and medium) provided some of the best and most interesting jobs and careers in western countries. And it worked both ways, since those who worked in them came up with the most important advances in medicine we have ever seen. There is a very good reason why this period is often referred to as the ‘golden age’ of drug discovery. And then it started going wrong and is now a mere shadow of its former self. Years ago, I linked to a spoof by somebody else about how things went to shit in pharma.

To be fair, this fall was not instantaneous and it was only after 2008 that the whole sector was irreparably damaged. But ya.. things had been on a downward slope since the mid-1990s. In retrospect, the true beginning of end started in late 1980s, when certain large corporations (Pfizer, Merck etc) decided to recruit ivy-league MBAs. The first signs of this rot manifested as gradual consolidation within that sector. While I could write multiple books on why consolidation in the pharma sector was so disastrous, here is the very brief version. Monopolization and oligopolization always results in counterproductive centralization, destruction of real innovation, greatly increased rent-seeking and is bad for everyone other than the upper management of those corporations in addition to their lawyers and bankers.

It should be noted that corporate monopolization has been much more disastrous in the West than Asian countries because corporations in the later are answerable to their governments to an extent unimaginable in the former. But why are we talking about how the pharma sector used to be about 20 years. Well.. because it is relevant to my choice of career. One of the main reasons for me taking the educational path I took was that working in pharma was an excellent career option with long-term stability and a pretty decent work environment. Sure.. nothing is perfect, but for someone with my interest and talents, it was as good a match as realistically possible.

Also, the pharma sector used to be fairly conservative in both hiring and firing people. Until early 2000s, mass layoffs and multiple site closures for the purpose of “corporate reorganization” were unknown in pharma. Many larger corporations even had defined benefit pensions until mid-2000s. Yes.. you heard that right. To make a long story short, those who stayed out of corporate politics and had generally satisfactory job performance could reasonably expect lifetime employment, and this was widely expected by employers and employees right upto early 2000s. You were not expected to work beyond normal work hours unless necessary due to nature of experiments and there was tons of autonomy at the site and group level. And in spite of all this, vast majority of pharma corporations were profitable businesses and remained so over multiple decades.

But how is any of this linked to my story? As it turns out, I ended up working in pharma for a few years and through direct experience and observing the career trajectories of acquaintances had a ringside seat to the beginning of final collapse of employment in pharma sector. Here is a post from 2011 in which they document that almost 300k jobs in that sector were lost between 2001 and 2011. And those layoffs did not stop in 2011, though they have sorta run out of people to fire- especially in past 4 years. The total is now closer to 400-450 k jobs and even if we assume that 60-70% were in sales and administration, it is fair to say that ivy-league MBAs have finally killed the goose which used to lay golden eggs. Far more problematically, it has altered the career course for many who would have otherwise gone into pharma.

In other words, their short-termism not only destroyed decades of institutional knowledge but also their ability to rebuild in future. And it shows! And before I explain you how, it is important to quickly explain the process of drug discovery and approval. It all starts with either the discovery of a new drug target (usually protein) or some effect of a chemical compound in cell-based or animal assays. From there it enters the pre-clinical development phase where chemists make hundreds and thousands of chemical cousins of the initial lead compounds and test them in a number of assays, animal models of some disease and extensive toxicity testing in multiple animal species. Only after it has cleared that phase can it be even considered for human trials. Small phase I trials are usually the first (dozens of people), followed by larger Phase II trials (hundreds) culminating in Phase III (hundreds to thousands and often) over a few years.

To make another long story short, the system was designed such that drugs which entered Phase III trials were unlikely to fail, and this was the case for most of modern history. Sure.. you did encounter situations where testing in larger populations (P III) revealed some rare but nasty side effects or the drug was not as efficacious as previously expected. But outright failures of efficacy in Phase III trials was really rare. Then something changed and nowadays the majority of drugs which enter Phase III trials fail, and they usually do so for lack of efficacy. Curiously, this often occurs when Phase I and Phase II data was either very good or pretty promising. So.. what is going on? While many industry insiders have tried to explain this deeply troubling trend by invoking all sorts of clever sounding bullshit, there is a simpler and more rational explanation.

A large percentage, likely overwhelming majority, of drug development in past two decades has been based in two types of fraud. The first involves manipulating metrics to make something look far better than it is in real life. Examples of such frauds involve cherry-picking patients, burying negative data, changing criteria for success, playing around with data and statistics and other stuff which is not technically illegal. The second type involves falsification of data, deliberately deleting data, kicking non-responders out of trials to improve responses rates etc. But what does any of this have to do with the downward career trajectory of people working in that sector?

Well.. since we have already exceeded 1200 words in this post, I will leave that discussion for the next part of this series. In it, I hope to go into some more detail about how neoliberalization and financialization of pharma destroyed its older and much more successful business model and institutional structure- all to make a handful of people on wall street and upper management far richer than they otherwise would have been. You will also see how stuff such as pushing opioids, antidepressants, antipsychotics etc to doctors and constantly jacking up prices of old and new drugs replaced developing newer ones as the main source of corporate growth. And ya.. I will also go into what happened to all those middle-aged and older people who lost their jobs and, in many cases their entire, careers after decades of relative stability.

What do you think? Comments?

On the Poor Career Prospects for People with Postgraduate Degrees : 1

August 17, 2019 33 comments

A few years ago, I wrote a post about how the defined and stable career trajectory is now dead in west and west-aping countries such as Japan and South Korea. Some months after that, I wrote about how the hiring practices of corporations in west have shortened the length of semi-stable career for most people to about 15 years. Then, about a year ago, I wrote a series on the long term social, economic and cultural effects of career insecurity. While they don’t make cheerful reading, it is interesting to note that these and my other older posts (pre-2016) on this general area (link 1, link 2, link 3) anticipated the rise of pseudo-populists such as Trump, the alt-right and popularity of socialism among “Millennials”. Also, have a look at my post on why rich and well-off (even in USA) are barely having any kids.

But let us get back to the topic of this post, and talk about something which I have often hinted to in previous posts on this topic. Ever wonder about the real career prospects for those with proper postgraduate education in the sciences and other related areas such as engineering. And yes.. this is relevant to issues other than the immediate future of western countries. What I am now going to describe, based on personal observations, is going to vindicate many of your darkest suspicions but also make you feel depressed. But before we talk about my observations, you should know a couple of facts about me. Longtime readers are probably aware that I came here and started my MSc when I was 20 years old in the later half of 1990s. After finishing it, I worked a couple of jobs in my field and then started my PhD in a proper STEM subject in mid-2000s and finished at the beginning of this decade. The point is, I have seen a lot more change than many others have seen.

To be more precise, I had a ringside seat to the demise of career security for smart people with postgraduate education in western countries. And don’t worry about me, I am still doing OK and will (knock on wood) continue to do so. But back to the topic at hand- What do my personal observations about the career trajectories of others who graduated a few years before myself, or alongside me, say about the overall situation. The very short answer is that it is already very bad and getting worse- if that is possible. While there are many ways to describe what I have witnessed, a chronological account of the careers of people who graduated a few years before me provides the best (if somewhat disturbing) insight into how things have gone to to shit.

While biomedical sciences have notorious for overproduction of graduates, until the mid-1990s most of them could get some half-decent jobs or at least transition into careers where their skills were useful. Somewhere between mid-1990s and 2000, that became much harder or no longer possible. To make a long story short, only those who went into to medical or dental school now have anything approaching “normal” careers. And even for them, things are pretty dismal. For starters, most are single, divorced or unhappily married with a single child. Out of the ten or so guys I know who took that route, only one has more than 2 children- and half have none. Almost every woman who went to medical school (around my age or younger) has either zero kids or just managed to squeeze one out in their late-30s. And they all look older than they should.

But at least they have some semblance of a career trajectory, because most of the rest (aka the majority) who did not get into medical school have none. Sure.. there are a few who have done OK in either academia or industry (usually the later) but most of them just seem to disappear. Confused? Let me explain. Over the years I have followed the careers of many PhD students who were smart, liked by their supervisors and generally expected to do OK in later life. But things did not work that way and many of them after promising starts and careers lasting for a decade or so, just disappear. To be clear, I am not suggesting they are dead or have commited suicide (though the later cannot be ruled out). It is just that their career in science seem to end and they stop updating their LinkedIn profiles. In almost every case, detailed internet searches failed to reveal much more than their current addresses and some more recent photos.

While I am sure that most are still alive, it is clear that they do not have well-paid or marginally prestigious jobs. Maybe they are bagging groceries at the supermarket, driving for Uber, delivering Pizza, tutoring kids or in one of those mediocre administrative positions which have proliferated in past 15 years. My point is that most of them are now doing jobs that require nothing more than an undergraduate degree. Isn’t that a terrible and cruel waste of human potential and hope? But wait.. it gets worse. Let me talk about the fate of a few people I used to know well in the late 1990s and early 2000s. And it gets depressing real fast..

When I was just finishing my MSc, there was a new postdoc from UK in the adjacent lab who had come here with his then-GF (also a postdoc). The guy was bright and competent, because within a couple of years he got a decent academic position back in UK. So far so good. Based on mutual acquaintances and PubMed, it seemed he was doing well for a decade or so. Sure.. his GF dumped him after a few years, but he seemed set for an OK career. Somewhere in 2012, his research output just stopped. My guess is that his job loss might have something to with post-2008 austerity politics in UK. Anyway.. he reemerged a few years later as proprietor of a small businesses selling dietary supplements. So a guy with a PhD, over 30 papers in decent journals and an academic career lasting almost a decade ended up hawking supplements like one of those scummy Instagram and FakeBook influencers.

Another person who did his MSc in an adjacent lab ended up running cell-phone kiosks in malls and is now selling insurance. Yet another PhD student who was considered to be very smart ended up moving to his home-city for a postdoc. He then regressed to working as a lab tech and eventually as a freelancer, the last I heard. At least, he lives in a place where his parents own a house. Another ambitious PhD student, after a couple of stints at prestigious labs as a postdoc, seems to have ended as a part-time freelancer at some research institute in another large city. The women seemed to have done a bit better, and more than a few ended up as scientific writers or mediocre administrative positions in corporations with varying degrees of stability. But in almost every case, there had no defined career with the degree of stability expended by their parents generation. Also, many of them either have no kids or one token child squeezed out in their late-30s.

To be clear, all of this occurred to people who studied, or worked, at prestigious research groups in one of the top two universities in that state. But wait.. it get worse. In the next part, I will tell you what happened to the careers of people who worked in the pharma sector between 2001 and 2008-2009. It is really bad.. to put it mildly. In future posts, I will also go in some detail about the dismal career prospects of people with postgraduate degree from well-regarded universities in subject such as Chemistry and Physics. Also degrees in engineering (various disciplines) from well regarded universities are no longer the ticket to a stable career. I hope to show you how all of this ties with rise of neoliberalism, de-industrialization and increased financialization of economy in western countries- and the death of hope.

I have a feeling that some of you might say something the lines of these people being lucky since they are still employed in jobs which pay more than median wage. Funny thing.. that is not the way things work in countries which harbor any hope for a better future. What I have described is how things typically unfold in countries that are in a steep and likely irreversible decline.

What do you think? Comments?

Some More Thoughts about Recent Arrest of Julian Assange in London

April 15, 2019 9 comments

In the previous post on this topic, I wrote about how exposure of information by Wikileaks (and others inspired by it) has permanently damaged the only remaining ruling mandate for elites in western countries. In case you are wondering, that was Assange’s goal from the very beginning- and he has succeeded. If you don’t believe my take on what he has achieved, let me remind you about how things were in 2008. At that time, most people still thought Bush43’s presidency was an anomaly and everything would return back to how it was in the 1990s. They also believed that Obama would become the next FDR and reign in financialism. Did I mention the hilarious part where almost everyone believed that internet monopolies such as Google, FakeBook, Amazon etc were the greatest thing since sliced bread and could do no wrong. Simpler times indeed..

Then many seemingly unexpected things started to occur in quick succession. First, there was the global financial crisis which began in late 2008, which lead to multi-trillion dollar bailouts for ‘too-big-to-fail’ financial institutions and corporations. Of course, everybody else (aka the 99 %) got screwed and Obama turned out be the black version of Reagan rather than FDR. It slowly became obvious that the 1990s were never going to come back. And then it got worse as entire sectors of the economy got hollowed out- at an even faster pace than before. More problematically, almost all of the new jobs created since then have been precarious and poorly paid. My point is that, it is hard to understand the full impact of Wikileaks unless you first appreciate the socio-economic-political climate into which it was born.

I first wrote about Wikileaks a long time ago (link 1 and link 2) and my initial assessments about it proved to be correct. Not surprisingly, the MSM attitude towards Wikileaks and Assange has not changed since 2010. At that time, I also made another comment about Assange which turned out to be far more prescient than I initially realized. Since 2010, the many archives of documents released by Wikileaks and Snowden have had a profound impact on how people in the west perceive their own governments and civic institutions. Today nobody pretends that the NSA doesn’t exist or that USA-based internet monopolies such as Google, FakeBook, Amazon etc are anything other than commercial arms of the (rapidly failing) american empire. In 2008, you would have been considered delusional for publicly stating that almost all journalism in USA is elite stenography, even after their almost unanimous support for the failed occupation of Iraq in 2003.

We also cannot ignore what happened in the rest of the world during that period and the impact of Wikileaks on public discourse in those countries. Let me remind you that Wikileaks is by far the single biggest reason USA was not able to keep a significant military presence in Iraq after 2009. Its revelations also did an incredible amount of permanent damage to public image of western countries in other parts of the world. After they were made public, very few people in countries such as China, Russia etc could keep pretending that the american system of governance and institutions was any less repressive and problematic than their own. These leaks have also sped up the process of making the internet and communications (in general) more decentralized and much less USA- or west-centric. In short, Wikileaks achieved a decent percentage of its original objectives- so far. And ya.. it did contribute to the defeat of HRC in 2016.

As you also know, the declining vassal states of Sweden and UK cooked up a stupid and highly counterproductive scheme to arrest Assange and extradite him to USA since 2010. In my opinion, this stupid scheme was stupid and short-sighted. Then again, elites throughout human history have never shown themselves to be good at long-term and strategic thinking. And this type of malfunction is intrinsic to large hierarchical and impersonal social systems- as I have also written about in previous posts such as this one. Here is another one which explains how these systemic shortcomings play out in other large systems. To put it another way, the whole idea of trapping Assange within that embassy for 7 years was an incredibly stupid idea. But why, specifically, was it so dumb? Well.. because it made him into a larger-than-life (almost religious) figure while simultaneously shredding the public credibility of western countries.

The thing is.. people universally understand that a person trying to persecute somebody for their personal beliefs is an acknowledgement of your own weakness. For example, if some obviously mentally-ill guy across the street kept shouting that you were the anti-christ, people around you would either ignore it or find it amusing. Nobody would believe the guy making those claims. Now imagine if you responded to those claims by trying to get the guy, making them, killed. People would rightly think that those claims were actually correct and that you were indeed the anti-christ. This dynamic is part of the reason why scandals which would sink conventional politicians, many times over, have no worthwhile effect on Trump’s popularity. He simply does not care enough about them to give a conventional explanation or response.

If the elites in USA, UK and Sweden etc had any ability to think beyond the short-term, they would have handled the Assange situation very differently. Firstly, they would have realized and accepted that somebody like Assange and Wikileaks was as inevitable in the internet age as Martin Luther and Protestantism were in the aftermath of movable-type printing being invented- or the ‘One’ arising in the Matrix. And yes.. I also wrote a post about this issue in that past. Secondly, the most optimal way to handle somebody like Assange was to watchfully ignore him- thereby denying him martyrhood. Sure.. he would keep leaking document archives and causing some problems. But guess what.. he ended doing that stuff anyway.

Persecuting Assange made the USA, UK, Sweden etc look just as repressive and incompetent as the countries and regimes they claim to be superior to. Or as I call it, scoring repeated self-goals. But why does it matter? Well.. because, as I mentioned in the previous post, the ruling mandate of elites in west is derived from abstract ideas such as being perceived as honest, democratic, competent, meritocratic etc. This is in sharp contrast to a nation like China, where the elites derive their legitimacy from providing real, concrete and measurable improvements in physical quality of life for their citizens. This is also why persecuting somebody like Assange is far more damaging to western-style governmental systems than imprisoning a dissident is to China.

Will write more on this as events unfold..

What do you think? Comments?

Some Initial Thoughts about Today’s Arrest of Julian Assange in London

April 11, 2019 14 comments

As some might have heard earlier today, Julian Assange (founder of Wikileaks) was arrested by the local police in London. It is noteworthy that this development was expected for a few weeks, if not months, largely due to the badly-want-to-be-real-white puppet president of Ecuador, LenĂ­n Moreno, wanting to fellate the “real-white” neocon idiots in the Trump administration. And yes.. the racial dynamics I am describing here is real and the principal reason why most latin american countries have been unstable shitholes in spite of having immense natural resources. But enough about the pathetic psyche of almost-real-white latin americans, because they do not matter. I will, however, make one prediction. The future of Latin america will be far more Asian (and otherwise non-Hispanic) than most of you can imagine.

Without going into a ton of history about how and why Wikileaks came into existence, let me provide a link to the seminal 2006 essay in which Assange explained the need for Wikileaks. The very short version is that effective state oppression requires conspirators.. aka the government functionaries and employees.. to be being able to communicate with a high degree of confidence and secrecy. Once those conditions can no longer be met, the ability of a government or large corporation to oppress and abuse people keeps becomes progressively weaker. And things have worked exactly as Assange predicted- much to the consternation of the increasingly elderly and decrepit western elite. Do I need to refresh your memory about how much of the unexpected political developments in past decade have been due to Wikileaks.

And he has influenced others, such as Snowden. To summarize, publication of a huge number of “official secrets” by Wikileaks made it impossible for USA to keep a large force In Iraq after 2009, exposed tons of shady stuff done by american government and its private contractors, helped keep Hillary out of the White House in 2001 and released tons of stuff about problematic behavior of various 3 letter agencies. If you combine the results of Wikileaks and Snowden archives, Assange has done more to permanently damage the image and power of undeserving public and private institutions in the west than anybody else in living memory. Also, there is a reason why Wikileaks has far more effect on western countries than say.. on China or Russia.

But why is that so? While people like MikeCA will regurgitate some stuff about how USA and the ‘West’ are more open, free and democratic societies, but the reality is quite different. The thing is.. institutions in Western societies derive public legitimacy by pretending to be good, fair, objective, honest etc. In contrast, governments and institutions in Russia and China don’t pretend that their mandate is derived from moral superiority or similar bullshit. If tomorrow, Wikileaks published definitive evidence that Putin was worth many billions, had multiple concubines and OKed murders of many journalists- almost nobody in that country would care or be surprised. His ruling mandate, you see, is derived from his ability to reverse many of the abominations and depredations of the Yeltsin era. He is not pretending to the moral center or conscience of his country- unlike his western counterparts. And most people in Russia are fine with that.

Similarly, the Chinese Communist Party does not derive its ruling mandate by claiming to be a vaguely-defined force for moral good. Sure.. they might say that bullshit once in a while- but only brain-damaged people believe that crap. Instead, the CCP derives its mandate from what it has done to improve the quality of lives for average Chinese people. And it had done a whole fucking lot! Just search for photographs of the same area in China from the 1980s and today, and you cannot deny that they have achieved more in the past 30-40 years than the West achieved in over 200. Moreover, they did all of this without importing slaves from other countries or indulging in European-style colonization- making it even more impressive. A few revelations about large-scale corruption or questionable behavior by a few would have no effect on their mandate.

In sharp contrast to that, the ruling mandate of governments in Western countries (especially after WW2) is derived from pretending to be democratically elected institutions who work for bettering lives of their average citizens in addition to being full of morally upright and honest people. As we all know, this is a big pile of crap and has been widely seen as such- even in the past. But very few people used to call out their bullshit for the first 2-3 decades after WW2, as there was an amazing amount of economic growth and improvement in quality of life for the average person in those countries. This however started to change towards end of 1970s, and the standard of life for your average person in West has not improved much since then.

But what does any of this have to do with the impact of Wikileaks on Western countries. Well.. for starters, the published revelations show a system riddled with dishonesty, graft, lies, brutality and everything else which western governments (and corporations) publicly pretend they are not. But why does it matter, when Russians and Chinese do not seem to care about similar behavior by their governments? Well.. because the rapidly aging, incestuous and incompetent Western elite of the 21st century simply do not have any other justification for their continued rule. They put all their eggs in the one basket which is now falling apart. And that is the real reason why the decrepit western elite, especially in anglo countries, are so scared of Assange and Wikileaks.

Will write more about this topic as events unfold..

What do you think? Comments?

Factors Determining Russian Response to Current Provocations by USA

April 13, 2018 4 comments

As most of you must have heard by now, clever idiots belonging to the deep state in USA, UK and maybe France want to “punish” the current Syrian government for allegedly using “chemical weapons” against civilians in some part of Ghouta. In addition to the timing of this alleged “attack” being highly suspicious, it is worthwhile to note that all “evidence” presented so far has come from an extremist Islamist group funded, armed and trained by the USA and UK. In fact there is good reason to believe that this particular “attack” was either stage-manged by UK, including the fact that this extremist group was on the payroll of certain Sunni gulf states with the tacit approval of UK and USA.

Then there is the multi-billion dollar question as to why the Syrian army would use a chemical weapon as ineffective as chlorine gas (and just once) in the conflict for Eastern Ghouta which it effectively won yesterday. Also, why is the allegedly “humanitarian” anglo-american west are so desperately willing to believe a group which openly believes in killing non-Sunni Muslims? And what about the continued support for Saudi Arabia by the “west” in its ongoing genocidal (and unsuccessful) war in Yemen. And let us not forget all the civilian deaths that occurred in Iraq and Afghanistan due to actions of the “humanitarian west”, though they ended up losing both wars.

Clearly, this reeks of extremely high levels of bullshit and solipsism on part of the west. But a more detailed discussion on that topic is best left for a future post. Instead we will focus on how Russia, which is helping the Syrian government and has a legitimate military presence within that country, would respond to any large-scale military attack by the anglo-american countries against Syria and its own troops stationed in that country. More importantly, is it possible to predict how bad things will get if the anglo-american west is stupid enough to do something along those lines.

To understand the factors which will determine Russia’s response to any half-assed military adventurism in Syria by the anglo-american west, it is worthwhile to start with a quick lesson in history.

1] Most of you must be aware of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. OK, it wasn’t so much a crisis over Soviet missiles in Cuba as it was the USA throwing a fit that USSR was doing to it what it had done to the USSR. More specifically, installing Soviet nuclear-tipped IRBMs in Cuba by Khrushchev was a response to USA installing similar IRBMs in Tukey. After much posturing, a back-channel agreement between USA and USSR was reached that resulted in USSR withdrawing its missiles from Cuba in exchange for USA doing the same for its missiles in Turkey in the next few months- and global nuclear war was averted. At least that is where most historians in the west seem to stop.

So why is this incident relevant to the current events in Syria? Well.. it comes down to public perception of who “won” in the Cuban Missile Crisis and the effect of that perception on internal party politics within USSR. To make a long story short, secrecy surrounding the back-channel deal made between Khrushchev and JFK made the former look like the loser even though he achieved almost everything he wanted. The public loss of face was a major factor behind Khrushchev’s ouster in 1964. All of his successors, up to Yeltsin, took great effort to make sure that they would never be publicly perceived as weak in face of USA. You can be certain that Putin knows his Russian history very well.

2] Part of the reason that the Cuban Missile Crisis ended the way it did was that USSR in the early-1960s possessed significantly fewer long-range nuclear weapons than USA. Remember that this was the era when ICBMS and nuclear submarines carrying SLBMs was brand new technology and most long-range nuclear strokes were supposed to carried out by large bombers like the B-52 and Tu-95. Also spy satellite technology was in its infancy. All those issues were fixed by the late 1960s and since then there has always been a rough parity of nuclear warheads and delivery systems between USA and USSR and now Russia.

But what does that mean for any Russian response to nay large-scale anglo-american military action in Syria? Well.. a lot. For one, Putin in 2018 is not constrained by the limitations experienced by Khrushchev in 1962 while dealing with USA. Also, unlike his predecessors he has real leverage over many NATO members since Russia is a major supplier of gas and oil to those countries. It helps that he has been quite successful at nudging Turkey out of the NATO alliance. The fact is that “sanctions” or no sanctions, many NATO countries need to purchase Russian oil and gas (in addition to some other commodities) to keep functioning.

3] And this brings us to the issue of the almost continuous low-grade economic and PR warfare that the decrepit anglo-american west has been trying to wage against Russia since at least 2012. As I have stated in previous posts, I have a theory that many elites (of all countries but especially the west) lack a theory of mind. In other words, they believe that people all over the world think and act the same way for the same reasons. That is why these sad idiots believe that economic sanctions against Russia or “oligarchs close to Putin” would make him more amenable to USA. The events of the last few years have not supported this belief- to put it mildly.

As I wrote in a previous post, the military capacity of Russia is far stronger than its GDP (as measured in USD) would suggest. In fact, I wrote a short series on why comparing incomes and GDP across countries in USD has no relation to reality. My point is that all the “oligarchs” in Russia derive that current status from closeness to political power. Unlike USA, its is political leaders who control rich people in countries such as Russia and China. Consequently, their policies are far more insulated from corporate profit margins than in USA and other western countries.

It helps that the very obvious and overt campaign to demonize, humiliate and hurt average Russians since 2008 by the anglo-american west has increased support for Putin. Many of them also remember how oligarchs supported by the west looted and raped Russia in the 1991-2000 era, under the guise of “economic reform and liberalization”. Then there is the even bigger issue of world trade and commerce being increasingly centered around Asia rather than the stagnant and decaying societies of North America and western Europe.

To summarize, Russia and Putin are in a much better position to respond in kind to any large-scale anglo-american military adventures in Syria than most people realize. They also figured out, some years ago, that the anglo-american west is not (and was never) interested in an equal relationship with Russia. My guess is that they will make sure that their inevitable response to such stupid adventurism is seen as a response rather than as adventurism. Also, they might respond to the anglo-american west in more than one part of the world.

What do you think? Comments?