Tuesday, February 21, 2017


In my International Political Economy class (PS 4640) we have a mid-term this Thursday (2-23-17). Below are links to issues I have discussed on my blog, which tie directly into lectures and, not coincidentally, are important for answering the questions that will be asked. The focus of the mid-term exam is on the historical transformation of the state from Feudalism through our Mercantilist period and, now, towards the modern Liberal state. What's below are links to ancillary "cliffs" notes for my class.  

Of course, for those who are just interested in knowing about the transformation of the state, and markets, you can begin by reading the links below.


The Moral Justification of Capitalism is on the Ropes ... Here's Why. This is a review of the transformation from feudalism and mercantilism towards the modern liberal state. These are the roots of the liberal perspective. 

From War to Mercantilism & Market Capitalism: The historical role the Renaissance, Reformation, and the Enlightenment had in paving the intellectual path for Market Capitalism to arrive. It's here we begin to learn how war made the state, and the state made war.

Waves of Imperialism ... War and Markets: Why Great Wealth is not a product of individual initiative alone. Here we learn about the three waves of imperialism, which were driven by successive but distinct eras of mercantilism after 1648, 1815, and 1919.

Waves of Imperialism, II ... It's not free markets. The state creates the conditions under which wealth is created (with an all too brief discussion-mention of John M. Keynes and Friedrich List).

The Dark Side of Our Free Market Myths ... There's a very simple reason why the state has had to step in and work to make sure "the laws of justice" actually exist. Rules and regulations are the product of a long history of stifling feudal customs, traditions, entrenched privileges, slavery, sexism, racism (the Black Codes), and outright fraud (among others) undermining the moral justification of capitalism.

- Mark 


For your conservative friends who voted for Donald Trump, the post below is from former Labor Secretary Robert Reich's FB page (it's credited to one of his followers):

1. He called Hillary Clinton a crook.
You bought it.
Then he paid $25 million to settle a fraud lawsuit.

2. He said he'd release his tax returns, eventually.
You bought it.
He hasn't, and says he never will.

3. He said he'd divest himself from his financial empire, to avoid any conflicts of interest.
You bought it.
He is still heavily involved in his businesses, manipulates the stock market on a daily basis, and has more conflicts of interest than can even be counted.

4. He said Clinton was in the pockets of Goldman Sachs, and would do whatever they said.
You bought it.
He then proceeded to put half a dozen Goldman Sachs executives in positions of power in his administration.

5. He said he'd surround himself with all the best and smartest people.
You bought it.
He nominated theocratic loon Mike Pence for Vice President. A white supremacist named Steve Bannon is his most trusted confidant. Dr. Ben Carson, the world's greatest idiot savant brain surgeon, is in charge of HUD. Russian quisling Rex Tillerson is Secretary of State.

6. He said he'd be his own man, beholden to no one.
You bought it.
He then appointed Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, whose only "qualifications" were the massive amounts of cash she donated to his campaign.

7. He said he would "drain the swamp" of Washington insiders.
You bought it.
He then admitted that was just a corny slogan he said to fire up the rubes during the rallies, and that he didn't mean it.

8. He said he knew more about strategy and terrorism than the Generals did.
You bought it.
He promptly gave the green light to a disastrous raid in Yemen- even though all his Generals said it would be a terrible idea. This raid resulted in the deaths of a Navy SEAL, an 8-year old American girl, and numerous civilians. The actual target of the raid escaped, and no useful intel was gained.

9. He said Hillary Clinton couldn't be counted on in times of crisis.
You bought it.
He didn't even bother overseeing that raid in Yemen; and instead spent the time hate-tweeting the New York Times, and sleeping.

10. He called CNN, the Washington Post and the New York Times "fake news" and said they were his enemy.
You bought it.
He now gets all his information from Breitbart, Gateway Pundit, and InfoWars.

11. He called Barack Obama "the vacationer-in-Chief" and accused him of playing more rounds of golf than Tiger Woods. He promised to never be the kind of president who took cushy vacations on the taxpayer's dime, not when there was so much important work to be done.
You bought it.
He took his first vacation after 11 days in office.
On the taxpayer's dime.
And went golfing.

And that's just the first month.

- Mark 

Monday, February 20, 2017


Yes, it can happen in America, again ... 

In simple terms, when you place an entire group of people into a suspect class, it becomes easier to question their claim to the legal protections that are an integral part of the American experience. This makes it easier to take away their constitutional rights and, eventually their human rights.

It's happened in America before ...

PILGRIMAGE from Tadashi Nakamura on Vimeo.

Unfortunately, many Americans choose to ignore this history because they believe the fear they feel today is so great that it justifies taking away the rights of others. 


- Mark

Sunday, February 19, 2017


After the tragedy in Sweden, which was so eloquently spoken about by President Trump, we should all stand with our IKEA-producing friends ...


Sigh ...

- Mark

Kudos to Leonel for the meme.

UPDATE: Just in, via my friend Leonel (who else?) ... "This video of the terrorist attack on Sweden mentioned by President Trump is horrifying! Warning: Not for the squeamish."


Why pre-industrial life was anything but paradise (ATI).

'Data-driven' campaigns are killing the Democratic Party (Politico).

The classroom where fake news fails (NPR).

With billions at stake a federal judge just nullified the GOP's most cynical attack on Obamacare (LA Times).

The mysterious James Comey (Washington Monthly).

James Comey has some Goddamn explaining to do (GQ).

Trump's refusal to condemn Putin as a 'Killer' (The Atlantic).

'Last night in Sweden'? Trump's remark baffles a nation [and Sweden] (NY Times).

Yemen withdraws permission for U.S. antiterror ground missions (NY Times).

REPORT: Paper trail suggests Trump was paid off to do 180 degree pivot on China policy (Reverb Press).

North  Carolina is no longer classified as a democracy (The Hill).

Democracy at the Tipping Point (Spiegel Online).

"We have at most a year to defend American democracy, perhaps less" (SZ International).

Paying attention: Senator Elizabeth Warren on Financial Regulation (attn:).

Donald Trump is targeting an agency that has recovered $11.8 billion for consumers (Fortune).

Trump is being handed  a great economy/ What happens when it goes wrong (Denver Post).

Non-partisan congressional tax report debunks core conservative economic theory-GOP suppresses study (Forbes).

Trump's OMB pick seems poised to ignite a worldwide financial crisis (Washington Post).

Day 26: Clusterfuck (WTFjusthappenedtoday).

Trump campaign aides had repeated contacts with Russian intelligence (NY Times).

Who told Fynn to call Russia? (Politico Magazine).

Mike Flynn might be done - but Trump's nightmare has just begun (The Guardian).

The spy revolt against Trump (Observer).

Donald Trump's Russia Scandal is Just Getting Started: The White House says Mike Flynn was going rogue, but there's no good reason to believe that (Foreign Policy).

Donald Trump firing Sally Yates isn't the big story. How he did it is (Washington Post).

SERIOUSLY? (and, yeah, they're idiots)

Pro-Trump propaganda outlets are blaming an Obama shadow government for massive anti-Trump protests (Media Matters).

GOP congressman urges self-rationing of human health care after Obamacare repeal (Huffingpost).

After bullying remarks about environmentalists and immigrants, Rep. Tom McClintock calls for 'civil discussion' (Michael Hiltzik/LA Times).

Shoker! Rediculous choker Trump attaks and dishoners English with ever-dummer spellings (San Jose Mercury News / Dana Milbank).

White House official repeated massive lie that should worry you (attn:).


U.S. Military sources claim Trump approved Yemen strike without enough preparation (New York Magazine).

Trump says terror attacks 'under-reported': is that true? (BBC).

Donald Trump was right, there was a recent attack in Sweden. By Neo-Nazis on a refugee centre (Independent).

Anderson Cooper shuts down the White House's terrorism list in just 45 seconds (Huffington Post).

Trump's entire campaign was a bait-and-switch: Washington's a mess, and it's all the president's fault (Salon).

How White House advisor Stephen Miller went from pestering Hispanic students to designing Trump's immigration policy (Univision).

Here's a list of 39 white terrorists for the smug congressman who challenged CNN to name more than two (Slate).

White Baton Rouge judge calls black woman the N-word at local restaurant (The Root / WBZR2).

Texas high school students make Nazi salute and shout 'Hail Trump' in senior class photos (Raw Story).

In mapping the Holocaust, a horrifying lesson in Nazi "paths to persecution" (PBS).

Breathless in  Bakersfield: is the worst air pollution in the US about to get worse [yes]? (The Guardian).

How the welfare state helped make America what it is today (ati).

Rachel Carson: The American Experience (PBS)

- Mark

Thursday, February 16, 2017


My good friend Leonel Martinez (no relation) posted the following on his FB page ...

We knew President Trump had questionable ties to Russia before he was elected. 
We knew he lied. 
We knew he had shady business dealings. 
We knew he was sued for racial discrimination, disparaged immigrants and demeaned women. 
We knew he had little to no knowledge of foreign policy. 
We knew he had no background in politics, was incredibly self-absorbed and wasn't exactly an intellectual heavyweight.  
Why did millions of Americans ignore those facts when they entered the voting booth? Our country will pay the price now

Incredibly, we knew so much about Donald Trump's Russian ties - a fact I pointed out back in July - Hillary Clinton was able to spell out what we knew during the third presidential debate ...

So, yes, we knew all about Donald Trump's ugly character traits AND his compromised position with Russia. Yet millions of Americans ignored these basic facts, in part because many prefer to live in an alternative universe ... which has given rise to the "alternative facts" universe many conservatives openly accept.

Leonel's final observation - "Why did millions of Americans ignore those facts when they entered the voting booth? Our country will pay the price now" - are spot on, and an appropriate way to close this post.

- Mark

Monday, February 13, 2017


This should be troubling, even for Trump's most ardent supporters. It makes Hillary Clinton's "so called" email scandal look like a bungled Inspector Clouseau investigation. Specifically, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich discusses "The Spy Revolt Against Trump Begins" (my italics/bold) ...

Disturbing news this morning about how much “truth” about the rest of the world is getting to Trump. 
1. The Observer reports that the U.S. intelligence community is so convinced that Trump and his administration has been compromised by Russia that they are no longer giving the White House all of their most sensitive information, lest it end up in Putin's hands. A senior National Security Agency official explained that the National Security Agency was systematically holding back some of the “good stuff” from the White House, fearing Trump and his staff cannot keep secrets. 
2. The intelligence community is concerned that even the Situation Room – the conference room in the West Wing where the president and his top staffers get intelligence briefings -- has been compromised by Russia. A senior Pentagon intelligence official stated that “since January 20, we’ve assumed that the Kremlin has ears inside the SITROOM. There’s not much the Russians don’t know at this point,” the official added in frustration. 
3. The New York Times reports “chaotic and anxious days inside the National Security Council.” Council staff get up in the morning, read Trump’s tweets, and struggle to make policy to fit them. Most are kept in the dark about what Trump tells foreign leaders in his phone calls. Some staff members have turned to encrypted communications to talk with their colleagues, after hearing that Mr. Trump’s top advisers are considering an “insider threat” program that could result in monitoring their cellphones and emails for leaks. 
4. National security adviser Michael T. Flynn has hunkered down since investigators began looking into what, exactly, he told the Russian ambassador to the United States about the lifting of sanctions imposed in the last days of the Obama administration, and whether he misled Vice President Mike Pence about those conversations. His survival in the job may hang in the balance. 
Bottom line: U.S. foreign policy is now in the hands of a man with a severe personality disorder, who is not getting the information a president needs about the rest of the world. If that doesn’t worry you, nothing will ... 

If you are a Republican, and had problems with Hillary's emails, but have no issue with Trump's Russian problem you need to reconsider what being an American patriot is all about. Your political priorities and sense of national honor are seriously distorted.

It's one thing to say you're OK with Russia meddling in our elections, as long as your guy wins (which I still have a serious problem with), but it's entirely another matter if our president has put our nation's security at risk because he and his team are viewed as potentially compromised moles by the intelligence community.

- Mark

Friday, February 10, 2017

21st CENTURY WOMEN FIGHTING 20th CENTURY BATTLES (and, yes, they're fighting the mindless hypocrisy too)

Since Donald Trump became president it's almost as if we've taken a step back into the 20th century. The ugliest parts of the early 20th century, that is ...

Specifically, the silencing of Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) for reading a letter from Coretta Scott King, which criticizes Senator Jeff Sessions for his antagonistic positions on civil rights, takes us back to a day when women were expected to shut up and let the men do the 'manly' work.

Men tearing up a suffragette banner
in front of the White House, 1917.

Below is a a clip of Senator Warren effectively being asked to shut up and sit down by Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) because there's a rule against U.S. Senators criticizing other U.S. Senators on the Senate floor ...

There's only one problem with Senator McConnell objecting to Senator Elizabeth Warren reading Coretta Scott King's letter on the Senate floor, which compelled the acting president of the Senate to tell Senator Warren to "take her seat": Republicans have violated the same rule many times, without penalty.

The Republican Party's political hypocrisy and outright misogynistic whining about Senator Warren makes it clear something is seriously wrong in Trump's Republican led America.

Still, what happened after Senator Warren was shut down provides a glimmer of hope in an otherwise increasingly ugly political environment.

* In a show of unity, Senate Democrats took to the Senate floor and read King's letter after Senator Warren was told to quit speaking.

* Senator Marco Rubio stood up in the U.S. Senate to say "we are becoming a society incapable of having debates." Later in his commentary he said, "If this body isn't capable of having those debates there will be no place in this country where those debates can occur."

* The Washington Post picked up on the hypocrisy and asked, "Why wasn't Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex) silenced in the summer of 2015 when he all but accused McConnnell [of] lying on the Senate floor?"

Another development from the GOP's attempt to silence Senator Warren is their efforts appear to have backfired. Senator Warren has benefited from a surge of strongly supportive social media attention after Senator McConnell's political tantrum dominated the mainstream medias coverage.

Still, after watching Senator Warren get shut down on the U.S. Senate floor, I'm sure many women (and men) feel that, in many ways, little has changed from our early 20th century beliefs and experiences ...

Suffragette arrested in London, May 1914.

- Mark

For additional photos of suffragettes being arrested by the police click here.