The Self-Destructive Trajectory of Overly Successful Empires

A recent comment by my friend and colleague Davefairtex on the Roman Empire’s self-destructive civil wars that precipitated the Western Empire’s decline and fall made me rethink what I’ve learned about the Roman Empire in the past few years of reading.

Dave’s comment (my paraphrase) described the amazement of neighboring nations that Rome would squander its strength on needless, inconclusive, self-inflicted civil conflicts over which political faction would gain control of the Imperial central state.

It was a sea change in Roman history. Before the age of endless political in-fighting, it was incomprehensible that Roman armies would be mustered to fight other Roman armies over Imperial politics. The waste of Roman strength, purpose, unity and resources was monumental. Not even Rome could sustain the enormous drain of civil wars and maintain widespread prosperity and enough military power to suppress military incursions by neighbors.

I now see a very obvious trajectory that I think applies to all empires that have been too successful, that is, empires which have defeated all rivals or have reached such dominance they have no real competitors.

Once there are no truly dangerous rivals to threaten the Imperial hegemony and prosperity, the ambitions of insiders turn from glory gained on the battlefield by defeating fearsome rivals to gaining an equivalently undisputed power over the imperial political system.

The empire’s very success in eliminating threats and rivals dissolves the primary source of political unity: with no credible external threat, insiders are free to devote their energies and resources to destroying political rivals.

It’s difficult not to see signs of this same trajectory in the U.S. since the fall of the Soviet Empire in 1990.

With the primary source of national unity gone, politics became more divisive. After 9/11, new wars of choice were pursued, but the claims of a mortal threat to the nation never really caught on. As a result, the unity that followed 9/11 quickly dissipated.

I have long held that America’s Deep State–the permanent, un-elected government and its many proxies and public-private partnerships–is riven by warring elites. There is no purpose in making the conflict public, so the battles are waged in private, behind closed doors.

Competing nations must be just as amazed as Rome’s neighbors at America’s seemingly unquenchable drive to self-destruct via the in-fighting of entrenched elites and the battle for supremacy between various parasitic elites who hold the power and privilege to squander the nation’s resources on needless self-destructive wars of choice and on domestic in-fighting.

I suspect this trajectory of great success leading to self-destructive waste of resources is scale-invariant, meaning it works the same on individuals, families, communities, enterprises, cities, states, nations and empires.

It reminds me of former Intel CEO Andy Grove’s famous summary of this dynamic:“Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.”

An empire weakened by self-inflicted internal conflicts may appear mighty, but it becomes increasingly vulnerable to an external shock. The Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire) may well have collapsed from the devastating effects of the extreme weather circa 535 AD and the great plague of Justinian in 541 AD had it been weakened by internal in-fighting. But despite the staggering losses caused by these external catastrophes, the Byzantine Empire survived.

Rome, on the other hand, burned while self-absorbed factions jockeyed for power.


Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic ($6.95 ebook, $12 print, $13.08 audiobook): Read the first section for free in PDF format.

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A Stock Market Crash Scenario

We have all been trained by a decade of central bank saves to expect any stock market swoon will soon be reversed by central bank sweet talk and/or rate cuts. As a result of such ever-present central bank willingness to intervene in the stock market, participants have been trained to believe a stock market crash is no longer possible: should the market drop 10%, or heaven forbid, 20% (i.e. into Bear Territory), the Federal Reserve and the other global central banks will save the day with direct purchases (The Plunge Protection Team), happy talk of future easing or, some unconventional quantitative easing measure or a rate cut–whatever it takes, in Mario Draghi’s famous words.

But irony of ironies, such complacent confidence in the efficacy of central bank interventions is actually setting up a crash scenario. Crashes and melt-ups are both manifestations of herd sentiment. Though this is often simplified into greed or fear, this might better be described as confidence in near-term prospects or the lack thereof.

Confidence in the absolute efficacy of Fed intervention breeds complacency, which is the essential backdrop of stock market crashes.

Markets are said to “climb a wall of worry,” that is, move higher as the market discounts potential threats to the ongoing rally. This skittishness, when coupled with ample volume (i.e. plenty of buyers), is the backdrop for sustained rallies.

Crashes don’t arise from a skittish herd, they arise from a complacent herd.Crashes aren’t characterized by skittish participants with low confidence in forecasts and short sellers piling into big bets on declines. Crashes are characterized by the exhaustion of short sellers who have tired of losing money betting against the melt-up, low volume and a herd milling about in complacent confidence the Fed can reverse any market decline.

This chart depicts such a scenario.

1. Bears / short sellers bet that weakening fundamentals will trigger a decline.

2. Markets climb this wall of worry, moving higher, crushing Bears.

3. Every air pocket / dip caused by skittish punters selling is bought as traders are confident in the Fed’s complete control of the market.

4. Bears / short sellers bet big that various technical patterns will play out, most importantly that previous highs will hold, yielding a bearish double or triple top pattern.

5. The market surges to new highs, forcing short sellers to cover, pushing the market higher. Bears / short sellers give up and short volume plummets.

6. As volume fades and confidence is the permanence of the melt-up rises, the next sharp drop “surprises” participants, but they dutifully buy the dip.

7. This rebound reaches a lower high, and the sell-off resumes. Unbeknownst to most participants, the herd’s confidence in the Fed’s omnipotence has eroded. Rather than manifest a wall of worry that the market can climb to new highs, the herd is undergoing a loss of confidence.

8. On the next decline, momentum accelerates the drop, and Fed pronouncements and emergency rate cuts do little more than reverse the downtrend for a few hours. The very fact that the Fed has to resort to emergency measures fatally weakens confidence, and selling begets selling.

Herds get spooked and run. That’s the crash scenario in a nutshell. 

Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic ($6.95 ebook, $12 print, $13.08 audiobook): Read the first section for free in PDF format.

My new mystery The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake is a ridiculously affordable $1.29 (Kindle) or $8.95 (print); read the first chapters for free (PDF)

My book Money and Work Unchained is now $6.95 for the Kindle ebook and $15 for the print edition. Read the first section for free in PDF format. 

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The terrorists among us 2 Private Intel turned on people they pretend to protect

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It’s the Emoluments, Stupid. Impeach for Iran.

The constitutional ban on receiving gifts or benefits while in office from the U.S. government or state governments (domestic “emoluments” – Article II, Section 1) is absolute, not waivable by Congress, and not subject to proving any particular corrupting influence.

President Trump’s lease of the Old Post Office Building in Washington D.C. for his Trump International Hotel violates the General Services Administration lease contract which states: “No … elected official of the Government of the United States … shall be admitted to any share or part of this Lease, or to any benefit that may arise therefrom.” The GSA’s failure to enforce that contract constitutes an emolument. A January 16, 2019, report by the GSA Inspector General confirmed this.

The paragraphs above are derived from the first of 21 articles of impeachment that RootsAction has drafted for Donald Trump. RootsAction launched this campaign on the day Trump was inaugurated, over two years ago. It may be finally gaining traction.

Not only is Trump unconstitutionally owning and profiting from his hotel in the Old Post Office Building, as well as numerous less prominent emoluments from state governments and the federal government, but he is also using his hotel for further corruption.

When representatives of foreign governments book rooms at Trump’s hotel, he violates the foreign emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution, as well as the domestic one. Lobbyists for the Saudi government paid for at least 500 nights at Trump’s hotel in just a three-month period and Trump is now violating the will of Congress to ship deadly weapons to the Saudi government for use in the catastrophic war on Yemen.

When a wealthy Iraqi – with a record of receiving undisclosed sums from the CIA in exchange for “faulty” so-called “intelligence” that helped launch the war on Iraq – recently paid for 26 nights at Trump’s hotel, as Nahro al-Kasnazan did, we may get another war out of it. Kasnazan is lobbying Trump for a war on Iran. This is out in the open, published prominently by the Washington Post.

Recently CBS News President Susan Zirinsky was asked why journalists are failing to hold Trump accountable as Nixon was held accountable during the Watergate era. As awful as U.S. corporate media often are, it’s hard to argue with her response, which was basically this: Without a judiciary or a Congress that’s taking action, journalism of the sort that removed Nixon has no impact anymore.

Of course, if we go back to the Lyndon Johnson era to the time when the Gulf of Tonkin incident never happened, while serious journalists like I.F. Stone were on the job, the corporate media was as useless as it is right now on lies about Iran.

What is it with warmongers and lies about ships? Everyone forgets FDR’s lies about the Greer and the Kearney, and Dick Cheney’s proposal to dress up Navy Seals as Iranians and shoot at them, but many remember the Lusitania, and many Remember the Maine! Of course, back in those days the video quality was superior to the Pentagon’s latest film from the Persian Gulf. Still, the good old reliable “fog” of war has always allowed for plenty of “mishaps.”

But the question is always the wrong one. What if Iran had attacked ships? Then prosecuting Iran in court for that crime would be appropriate. Committing a much, much larger crime after screaming about Iran’s crime for a little while would simply be the commission of an enormous crime.

But crime is a daily occurrence with U.S. presidents who’ve been promised immunity from impeachment.

My personal view of impeachment is this: for every Latin American child who dies in a cage, for every Middle Eastern home that’s bombed, for every year that’s taken off the habitability of the earth’s climate, you can take your bullshit theories of electoral justifications for not impeaching Trump and shove them up your assignment book. And if Iran is destroyed, you will have destroyed it. You will have blood up to your elbows. And I am not going to stand by and let you try to wash it off.

Here are 21 Articles of Impeachment ready to go.

Here’s an outline of an impeachment strategy.

And here is a FAQ that addresses all of the most predictable and most of the stupidest concerns about impeachment.


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Instantly Find Any Email In Outlook … No Matter How Cluttered Your Inbox

Around 600 million people use Outlook email each day.

If you’re like me, you have years of emails in your Outlook account, and it is so cluttered that it takes forever to find emails the old-fashioned way.

Fortunately, there’s an easy way to quickly find emails. You just need to know the right search parameters …

When Was the Email Sent?

The magic formula for specifying a specific date range when the email was sent is:

received:>=10/1/12 AND received:<=10/5/13

This finds all emails received between October 1, 2012 and October 5, 2013

Whose Email?

To search for emails only from or to a specific person, use the following:

from:John White

Or, if you don’t have that contact already saved in Outlook, then you would type in the full email, like this:

If you’re searching in your inbox.

If you’re instead searching your sent folder, you need to use “to” instead of “from”:

to:John White

Who Is CC’s Or BCC’d?

You can also specify who was copied (cc) or blind copied (bcc) in the email.

CC’d is like this:

cc:”bobby moore”


Bcc’s is like this:

bcc:”bobby moore”


Words In Subject Line Or In the Body of the Email

To search for words in the subject line of the email, use this format:


To search for words in the body of the email, just type the words without any special search parameter, like this:


How Large is the Email?

You can specify email size, which is really helpful when you know the email is small (only a couple of paragraphs) or contains large attachments.

You can use the following pre-baked search parameters:

messagesize:tiny [Emails less than 10 kilobytes]
messagesize:small [Emails between 10 and 25 kilobytes]
messagesize:medium [Emails between 25 and 100 kilobytes]
messagesize:large [Emails between 100 and 500 kilobytes]
messagesize:verylarge [Emails between 500 kilobytes and 1 megabyte]
messagesize:enormous [Emails larger than 5 megabytes]

Alternatively, you can specify an email less than a specific custom size:

messagesize:<222 KB

Or greater than a specific custom size:

messagesize:>8 MB

Does It Have Attachments?

You can also directly specify whether or not the email has attachments.


Only brings up emails with attachments, while:


Brings up only emails with no attachments.

You can also narrow the search to emails with attachments containing a specific name.  For example:


Would show only emails that have attachments named presentation.pptx (or an attachment that contains presentation.pptx within its contents.)  This is a great trick for honing in on an email when you know the name of the attachment.

AND, OR, NOT and Quotation Marks

You can use the boolean search terms AND OR and NOT in your search query.

And you can search for exact matches using quotation marks.

For background on these search terms, see Google Tricks: How to Supercharge Your Searches and Become an Instant Power User.

Putting It All Together

I find that the easiest way to use these supercharged search tricks is to have a string of all possible search parameters in one search, modify as needed, and delete the specific search parameters you don’t need for a particular search.

For example – now that you understand the basic search concepts – you could keep the following search string handy, to remind you of all optional search parameters, and copy and paste as needed:

Hello AND Friend OR Mary NOT “Ringo Starr” from:John White cc:”bobby moore” subject:meeting received:>=10/1/12 AND received:<=10/5/13 messagesize:>8 MB hasattachment:yes attachments:presentation.pptx

Note: I found these search tricks on this Microsoft web page, which has additional search tricks for Outlook calendar and contacts.

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