Wednesday, June 22, 2016

MID-WEEK READING (June 22, 2016)

A young Lee Kuan Yew reading.

Compare these gun death rates: The U.S. is in a different world (NY Times).

Chinese students climb 2,500-foot bamboo ladder to get home from school (NBC News).

This is why Bakersfield can't have nice things (Bakersfield Californian).

Things are thriving in the "modern hooker economy" (Zero Hedge).


MARKET CANARIES IN THE MINE?
Here's why TESLA is a giant Ponzi scheme (Sure Money / Michael Lewitt).

During the next crisis, entire countries will go bust (Zero Hedge).

Foreigners selling U.S. equities at record pace (Ritholtz).


EUROPEAN UNION BLUES
EU breaking up? Brexit's first 100 days promise chaos, fear, damage limitation (Bloomberg).

The European Union is the worst choice apart from the alternative (Truthout).

If you think American stocks are safe from Brexit ... think again (Money Morning / Shah Gilani).


THE CONGO
The paradox of the Congo: How the world's wealthiest country became home to the world's poorest people (Think Progress).

This country is a powder keg and its leader's holding the match (Ozy).


TRUMP
12 fringe conspiracies embraced by a man who might be the next president (Think Progress).

Megyn Kelly blasts Donald Trump for remarks about Hispanic judge (NY Magazine).

Yes, Donald Trump told drought-stricken Californians there's no drought (Think Progress).

Trump's campaign now has less money than many congressional campaigns (Truthout).

How Donald Trump will shape future presidential primaries (Ozy).


A TALE OF TWO WORLDS ... IN BLACK AND WHITE
Ex-Stanford swimmer gets six months in jail and probation for sexual assault (The Guardian).

Former football star Brian Banks, who served five years in prison for rape he didn't commit, disgusted by Brock Turner ruling (NY Daily News).

The Powerful Letter the Stanford Victim Read Aloud to Her Attacker (BuzzFeed News).


IF WE CAN BAILOUT WALL STREET, WHY NOT THESE NEXT 'CRISIS' ISSUES?
Congress approves plan to allow pension cuts (CNN Money).

"This is going to be a national crisis" - One of the largest U.S. pension funds set to cut retiree benefits (Zero Hedge).

The war on workers' compensation (Truthout).


MISCELLANEOUS
Guess the country from the outline (Offbeat).

Koch front groups are defending ExxonMobils anti-science campaign (Greenpeace).

China spends more on infrastructure than the U.S. and Europe combined (Bloomberg).

Is this the prescription for America's drug problem (Ozy).

- Mark

Sunday, June 19, 2016

DONALD TRUMP ADDS NOTHING TO OUR EVOLUTIONARY DNA ... THE SAME GOES FOR HIS SUPPORTERS

I'm not sure where inheriting $200 million or filing for bankruptcy 4 times - both of which Donald Trump has accomplished - is on our skill-luck continuum below. Still, I'm reasonably confident Donald Trump's "inheritance-bankruptcy filing" business skill-set would fall somewhere between the stock market analyst and the gambling junkie skill-luck continuum, at best.
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Then again, inheriting a ton of money and getting away with stiffing your creditors might actually put you to the right of the evolutionary continuum.

Either way, it's clear that Donald Trump adds nothing to America's evolutionary or market gene pool. The same can be said for the political tribe that plans on voting for him.

- Mark

Thursday, June 16, 2016

THE REALITY BEHIND RETIREMENT PLANS, AND THE DIRTY SECRET OF THE GURUS WHO MANAGE THEM ... COURTESY OF JOHN OLIVER

I've discussed the issues associated with trusting your hard earned retirement money with "financial advisors" before. It's not always pretty (or honest). This "Retirement Plans" clip by Last Week Tonight host John Oliver is both spot on and hilarious ...


- Mark

STEPHEN COLBERT CAPTURES DONALD TRUMP'S LUNACY IN ONE SIMPLE DIAGRAM

Stephen Colbert goes after Donald Trump's post-Orlando lunacy with some creative commentary, and a nice diagram ...


On another (not entirely unpredictable) note, Donald Trump's unfavorable ratings are now at an all time high. Check out the numbers in this Washington Post piece.

- Mark 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

THANK YOU JONATHAN KOZOL ... LOOKING BACK ON A SUCCESSFUL YEAR AT CSUB

Jonathan Kozol & Dolores Huerta after his May 11 talk at CSUB

The academic year here at CSU Bakersfield has come to an end and I find myself thinking of the events and programs that we sponsored. Of these, Jonathan Kozol's May 11th "21st Century Inequalities in American Education" presentation at the Walter W. Stiern Library stands out.

Drawing on his long history of pointing to the separate but (still) unequal educational conditions in America, Mr. Kozol took a look at California's southern San Joaquin Valley and found that many of the same characteristics that created the education gaps that exist in America's inner cities can also be found in Kern County, California.


Rather than discussing how Black America has been left behind in America's system of "educational apartheid" - a hallmark of his earlier works - Kozol highlighted the educational challenges that first-generation Mexicans and the rural poor find in Kern County, which lies at the most southern tip of the San Joaquin Valley.

It's interesting to note that before his May 11th talk Jonathan Kozol visited the communities of Lamont and Arvin, small rural Kern County towns where over 90 percent of the the population are either Latino, poor, or dependent on agriculture - the dominant industry in the region. The next day Kozol spoke about the educational obstacles for children in the region. Here he explained how the vast majority of region's children are locked out of preschool education opportunities. This reality is compounded as the children get older by challenges like poverty, undrinkable water (in Arvin), and fewer Advanced Placement (AP) classes when they get to high school.

It was during Kozol's discussion of these conditions that we begin to see how the educational divide that starts as a large crack before Kindergarten becomes a chasm by the time the children of these communities are preparing to enter college.

After listening to him speak at CSU Bakersfield it's easy to understand why Jonathan Kozol received the National Book Award for Death at an Early Age, the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award for Rachel and Her Children, and countless other awards for his books, which include Savage Inequalities. Simply put, Jonathan Kozol is one of the few scholars of America's system of education who can explain its intricacies while painting with a broad brush.

We're looking forward to inviting Jonathan Kozol to California State University Bakersfield for a longer stint in the future. And, yes, we're working on how we can do this over the summer.

- Mark

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

WHY WE NEED GUN CONTROL ... AND WHY RONALD REAGAN WOULD AGREE

Here are 4 reasons why we need common sense gun control, with some Ronald Reagan-inspired insights in numbers 2-4 ...

1. WE'RE NO LONGER BACKWOODS FRONTIERSMEN: From Rolling Stone magazine we get one of the best reasons why we need to stop paying attention to the NRA terrorists who claim the 2nd amendment applies to modern weapons in the modern world ...

... the Second Amendment was written by slaveholders before we had electricity, much less the kind of weaponry that would-be murderers can buy today. But sure, if you think it's that precious, we can compromise: If you love the Second Amendment that much, feel free to live in a powdered wig and shit in a chamberpot while trying to survive off what you can kill with an 18th century musket. In exchange, let those of us living in this century pass some laws so we can feel safe going to class, or the movies, or anywhere without worrying that some maladjusted man will try to get his revenge by raining death on random strangers.
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To help buoy the point made here, let's take another look at this graphic example of how our world has changed ...


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2. REAGAN SUPPORTED AN ASSAULT WEAPONS BAN?: Back in 1989 Ronald Reagan effectively called for a ban on assault weapons ...




3. REAGAN SUPPORTED GUN CONTROL TOO?: With the support of the NRA Governor Reagan repealed open carry laws in California when he signed the Mulford Act in 1967. To be sure, the law was aimed at the Black Panthers (you be the judge on that one), but the fact remains Ronald Reagan made it clear that gun control in America can happen. 




4. GOOD GUY WITH A GUN?: Then we have the reality behind the "good guy with a gun" argument ...



Let's also keep this in mind: Since 9/11 white right-wing terrorists have killed twice as many Americans as radical Islamists. Why aren't we talking about this?  

Some afternoon reading; below are three good discussion articles that cover guns in America ...
Washington Post: "What 'arms' looked like when the 2nd Amendment was written."

Rolling Stone: "4 pro-gun arguments we're sick of hearing." 

Snopes: "Harvard Flaw Review: No, a Harvard University Study did not prove that areas with higher rates of gun ownership have lower crime rates." 

- Mark 

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Friday, June 10, 2016

TRUMP IS BOTH P.T. BARNUM & TOP CLOWN IN GOP CIRCUS ... SENATOR ELIZABETH WARREN EXPLAINS WHY

I don't know if there are enough adjectives to explain the level of buffoonery Donald Trump brings to the presidential stage. If he ever acquires real power, any one who crosses him is not safe ... 

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This talk given by Senator Elizabeth Warren helps explain what's wrong with Donald Trump (and the GOP), and why she would make a great VP pick ...
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- Mark

Hat tip to Leonel and Tove for the links. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

CALIFORNIA PRIMARY NIGHT ON KGET 17 NEWS

It's primary night again. For those of you in the Kern County region, I will be on KGET 17 tonight (5 pm) discussing the primaries with the 17 News Team and Republican Cathy Abernathy. It should be fun, as usual.

I'll try and post a link of our discussion later in the evening.



Also, let's keep in mind that while the pundits and major networks have already called the Democratic nomination for Hillary, the fact of the matter is if Hillary and Bernie split the 694 delegates up for grabs today (again, leaving out the Superdelegates who don't vote until the national convention) Hillary Clinton still does not have enough delegates to sew up the nomination. 

In fact, Hillary can win 2/3 of the total delegate count today (458 delegates) and she will still not have enough from the long primary season to sew up the nomination (she has 1812, and needs 2,382 to win). Specifically, she will be more than a 100 delegates shy of the nomination.

The only way Hillary becomes the "presumptive nominee" after today is if the media simply gifts the Democratic Superdelegates to her, as some of the major networks have done already.


The problem with this gift - apart from the blatant bias - is that many "Hillary Delegates" have made it clear they might not support her if they are not convinced she can win in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida, where she's in a tight race with Donald Trump (Sanders is far ahead of Trump in those 3 states).

What this means is that Hillary Clinton needs a convincing win today in California, plus knock out wins in the remaining states, to lock up the nomination. While this is a possibility, it is by no means a done deal. 

We'll be discussing this, and more, on tonight's program.

- Mark

Monday, June 6, 2016

HOW TO PUT AN END TO WEALTH EXTRACTION AND VULTURE CAPITALISM ... COURTESY OF JOHN OLIVER

In my classes, and in my book, I discuss financialization and wealth extraction. The key is understanding how legal contracts and legal obligations get bought and sold, with little reference to whether productive wealth is created, or if a service is actually provided. Nearly always the focus is on market players (in this case "debt buyers") unnecessarily sucking wealth from others, in the process creating a market culture more akin to vulture capitalism than anything else. 

From the Washington Post, we get this incredible John Oliver story that explains how the wealth extraction process happens, and how simple it is to stop it ...


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John Oliver is known for demystifying complicated issues to get his “Last Week Tonight” audience riled up. He’s explained major problems with credit reports and the bizarrely undemocratic side of primaries and caucuses. In that way, last night’s episode devoted to debt buyers wasn’t all that different. He started out, in his entertainingly enraged way, by explaining how banks sell debt to other business for pennies on the dollar. Those companies have little knowledge of those owing money, but they can be terrifyingly predatory, taking advantage of consumers’ fear of legal action. Some of these debts are erroneous; some are “zombie debts” that have already been paid. And yet, debt collectors will persist, even employing dirty tactics to get cash.
But Oliver did more than educate last night. He explained to his viewers that he undertook the surprisingly easy task of starting a debt buying company, Central Asset Recovery Professional, Inc. — “or CARP, for the bottom-feeding fish,” he explained. No sooner had he set up a CARP web site, but another debt buyer was offering to sell Oliver nearly $15 million worth of medical debt for less than $60,000.
So CARP bought the debt of nearly 9,000 people — just so Oliver could forgive it. According to the host, this is the largest one-time giveaway ever on television, beating out Oprah Winfrey’s famous “you get a car! You get a car!” episode, which cost that show $8 million.
“Are you ready to make television history?” Oliver asked his excited studio audience.
“Tonight, at my signal, with the power vested in me as chairman of the board of CARP, they will commence the debt-forgiving process,” he explained. Then he walked over to a stage with a couple of massive spinning gold dollar signs and a big red button.
“F— you, Oprah!” Oliver shouted, then hit the button.
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You can watch John Oliver's "Debt Buyers" program here ...



- Mark