Thursday, October 8, 2015


For those of you wondering why I haven't posted anything on Rep. Kevin McCarthy's decision not to seek the Speakership, know that I've been busy with class, office hours, and assorted media requests this afternoon. However, also know that I will be on our local Bakersfield KGET 17 News program this evening.

I'll be discussing Rep. McCarthy's decision with Republican strategist Cathy Abernathy at 5 pm.

For the record, the initial announcements of Rep. McCarthy not wanting to put his family through the process over the next few weeks - or that he wants to be a uniter within the Republican Party - doesn't fit the Kevin McCarthy trajectory, or the larger political story line.

In a few words, Rep. McCarthy was stabbed in the back by his colleagues on the far right. The worst part of it, for Rep. McCarthy, is that he helped many of these same colleagues get to Congress. It's almost Shakespearean. Why they did it is very simple. Some of you already know what I'm talking about. Why Rep. McCarty acquiesced is pretty simple too. Tune in to 17 News tonight for details.

I'll try and post on the topic tomorrow as well.

- Mark 


- Mark 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015


President Obama recently challenged the media to take a look at casualties in America tied to gun and terror related activities. Numerous media groups took him up on the offer. Below we have a YouTube clip that compares the number of casualties in America tied to both guns and terrorism ...

If you want to see these numbers in different graph forms, like the one below, click here.

To better understand what this means in real terms, in real lives, you might be surprised by this.

If you have a friend, colleague, or family member telling you that arming school teachers is the only solution to school shootings - because only a good person with a gun can stop a bad person with a gun - show them this ...

- Mark 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015


Vatican says 'private' meeting in D.C. was with gay ex-student, not Kim Davis (LA Times).

In rare criminal case, coal baron faces trial for worker deaths (Al Jazeera).

5 signs that the Republican Party is on the verge of collapse (Forward Progress).

Thousands protest in Moldova over $1 billion bank fraud (RT).

Since Sandy Hook, there has been nearly one school shooting a week (LA Times).

In America, more preschoolers were shot dead in 2013 than police officers ... A new way to tackle gun deaths (Nicholas Kristof / NY Times).

President Obama asked reporters to do the numbers on terrorism vs. gun violence. And they did (Boing Boing).

Right-to-carry gun laws linked to increase in violent crime, Stanford research shows (Stanford News).

Why the U.S. is No. 1 in mass shootings ... let's take a look at the chronic and widespread gap between Americans' expectations and achievements, adulation of fame, depth of gun ownership, and poorly managed mental illness (LA Times).

Mother shares textbook describing African slaves as "workers" (NBC News).

Alabama to stop issuing driver's licenses in counties with 75% black registered voters (Raw Story).

British con man who faked a 2-year coma to avoid court jailed jailed over 'extreme' attempt to avoid court (RT).

107 million spiders found in 4-acre nest at Baltimore wastewater plant (Inhabitat).

Cocaine addict's heart 'beats' for 25 minutes after removal (RT).

Self-driving cars could save 300,000 lives per decade in America (The Atlantic).

Can you see the future? Probably better than professional forecasters (WSJ).

A fiduciary critic, representing whose interests (Barry Ritholtz)?

Bernanke: More execs should have gone to jail for role in 2008 meltdown (USA Today).

Wonk for hire (Slate).

Forecast: El Nino likely to stay through spring (Growing Produce).

This El Nino photo should scare the s**t out of the west coast (Thrill List).

'Merely to observe, not to shoot people': Snipers spotted at Manchester anti-austerity march (RT).

Every NFL team's worst starting quarterback of all time (Rant Sports).

Travesty: Republicans go on vacation without renewing healthcare for 9/11 responders (Occupy Democrats).

Federal judge says Super PAC donations can be deemed "bribes" (Care2).

- Mark

Monday, October 5, 2015


Guest Post: Ray Gonzales, Ph.D.  

Dr. Gonzales is retired from the California State University system, served in the United States Marine Corps (1957-59), was elected to the California State Assembly from Kern County in 1972, served in the first Jerry Brown administration, was a diplomat in the U.S. Foreign Service from 1980 to 1990, Director of Recruitment for the Peace Corps from 1993 to 1997, and is an adjunct professor in the Department of Political Science at CSU, Bakersfield. 


            In 2012, shortly after the Benghazi consular attack by Al Qaeda militants who took the lives of four Americans, I wrote an article noting that the call by GOP House leaders for a select committee investigation of the incident was motivated to “tarnish the image of Hilary Clinton as she appears to be the Democratic Party’s front runner for the presidential elections in 2016.”  On September 29 of this year, the potential new Speaker of the GOP-House, Kevin McCarthy, confirmed my suspicions.  In an unbelievable comment on a Fox News program, McCarthy boasted, “Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?  But we put together a Benghazi special committee….What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable.  But no one would’ve known any of that had happened had we not fought and made that happen.”

            Democrats, of course, were thrilled at McCarthy’s damaging comments.  Former Vermont Governor and presidential candidate, Howard Dean, noted, “The Republicans lied through their teeth when they said this wasn’t about politics.”  Even some Republican House members were incredulous.   Oversight Committee Chairman, Jason Chaffets, who announced a last minute bid for the Speakership, urged McCarthy to apologies for his remarks.  There were other GOP House members who were upset by McCarthy’s political ineptitude.

            In that same article on the Benghazi attack, while not attempting to defend Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, I pointed out that, “while the killing of Ambassador Stevens…was tragic and lamentable, Ambassador Steven, himself, was, in many ways, responsible for his own tragic death.  His action were not only dangerously risky, but one might say, even reckless.”  Typically, no ambassador in a hostile country would consider traveling outside of the embassy with less than a dozen security personnel in fully armored vehicles.  There were no Marines at the Benghazi consulate as they are posted only at  embassies.  Stevens had only two security guards when he arrived at the consulate.  The Ambassador had not been ordered by Secretary Clinton, nor anyone in the State Department to travel to Benghazi during those dangerous times.

            Nevertheless, Republican House majority sought to maximize the political fall-out as Kevin McCarty has recently admitted.  He has in the last few days attempted to walk back his comments of the 29th.  “It was never my intention to ever imply that this committee was political.  Because we all know that it is not.”  I am not sure who McCarthy means when he say, “we.”  Certainly Democratic House members and even some GOP representatives have their doubts.  That is why McCarthy’s quest for the Speakership is not automatic.

            This is not the first time McCarthy has misspoken and exposed the GOP’s political agenda.  It is a well-documented fact that on Inauguration night of 2009, when President Obama took a giant step forward in American presidential history, Republican leaders were meeting at the Caucus restaurant in Washington to discuss how they could thwart Obama’s efforts and sabotage his presidency.  As Kevin McCarthy, the GOP Minority Whip at the time, stated, “If you act like you’re the minority, you’re going to stay in the minority…We’ve gotta challenge them on every single bill and challenge them on every single campaign.”  Certainly, the GOP followed McCarthy’s recommendations.  They opposed every effort Obama made to pass needed legislation, opposed every appointment, and became the Party of “NO” for most of Obama’s initiatives.  It was their philosophy of non-cooperation for Obama’s entire term, regardless of how it affected the nation. 

            Now, as the GOP has taken control of both Houses of the Congress, their goal is the presidency.  They started planning early, as the evidence now shows how they plotted the destruction of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, by “challenging them on every single campaign,” as McCarthy advised them.  The new pretender to the Speakership has tipped the GOP’s hand.  McCarthy has a habit of misspeaking, and even butchering the English language on occasion.  On October 2, when he tried to clarify his misstatement on the Benghazi Select Committee, he uttered an incoherent statement: “…I should have come out right afterwards. Never my intention.  It wasn’t, in my mind, was saying out there.  I was saying some truth came out from this committee. You can always improve.”  

             If McCarthy is to be the new Speaker and spokesperson for the GOP House, he should get himself a good speech writer and never vary from the written text.  Otherwise, the Party will have to spend a lot of time cleaning up the messes he makes.  Like he says, he, himself, may be “untrustable.” 


- Mark

Sunday, October 4, 2015


While the United States is #1 when it comes to gun related murders it isn't at the top when it comes to gun related rampage murders by country. You might want to quibble with the sample and population size of the other countries, but I'll let you come to your own conclusions on the topic.

Click here for more information on the issue.

- Mark

Saturday, October 3, 2015


The fallout from Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's (R-Bakersfield) Benghazi admission continues. Revealing that the GOP set up a "special Benghazi committee" to go after Hillary Clinton politically makes it clear that the goal of holding so many hearings wasn't to better understand what happened in Libya as much as it was to drag Clinton's poll numbers down.

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow has done a good job of highlighting how Rep. McCarthy's Benghazi slip of the tongue was followed by a string of less than articulate gaffes (here and here). This is an issue the Washington Post's Dana Milbank began drawing attention to last year. Unfortunately for Rep. McCarthy, Milbank is doing some followup work on the topic.

While it might be fun for the media to hype Rep. McCarthy's gaffes, we have a far more serious matter to think about. Congressional Republicans are using the halls of government to plan and go after an unannounced candidate for president. This tells us several things about the Republican Party, which many of us have known for years:

* House GOP leaders are now in perpetual campaign mode.  
* Using the halls of government for activities other than governing is viewed as a legitimate use of our institutions by the GOP.  
* Convincing people the GOP can do a better job is not as important as creating a false narrative (which helps explain the modern GOPs culture of obstruction).

All of these, on their own, should be embarrassing to our nation (who needs to govern, right?). I may even take the time to discuss them at a later date. But not now.

What caught my eye is something just as important: When Rep. Kevin McCarthy was being interviewed by Sean Hannity he effectively groveled and capitulated to Hannity's demands.

It was almost Orwellian. Think about it. Sean Hannity is a partisan hack who works for a fake news organization. Yet Rep. McCarthy felt no need to tell Hannity to back off because he's doing the people's work. He went along because he can't afford to alienate one of the grand wizards at Fox.

Watching Hannity berate and interrupt Rep. McCarthy was like watching a disappointed parent trying to discipline a kid who came back with a less than stellar report card. But this shouldn't be a surprise. Representative McCarthy couldn't direct the interview because he's not really in charge of the conservative agenda. Fox News is, and always has been.

Sean Hannity felt so empowered that he actually listed for Kevin the things he needed to do in order to get his support: (1) Defund Planned Parenthood; (2) Defund Executive Amnesty & Immigration; (3) Defund Obamacare; (4) Blow up the Iranian deal (because it will "lead to a modern day holocaust").

So, yeah, a second rate TV host was telling a sitting member of Congress - and the House Majority Leader at that - how to do his job. As if governing for all Americans comes second to his wishes.

Rather than telling Hannity that he's going to work for the American people Rep. McCarthy made it clear he was going to try and appease him and the gods at Fox News.

That Rep. McCarthy couldn't say anything to satisfy Hannity until about 5 minutes into the interview (clip below) isn't really as important as the fact that Sean Hannity views Kevin (and others in the GOP) as errand boys for the station's larger message and agenda. They view Republican talking heads who appear on their network as important only insofar as they help to legitimize Fox as a serious "news" source.

In this light, Rep. McCarthy was little more than a useful prop for the Fox network.

It's been this way for some time. Forcing answers on someone like Rep. McCarthy is actually old hat for Fox. Because they don't actually report the news Fox needs talking heads from Congress to give their program and message a sense of gravitas and urgency.

This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. Indeed, according to former George W. Bush speech writer David Frum, "Republicans originally thought Fox worked for us, and now we are discovering we work for Fox."

In the process Fox has created a parallel political universe that has little to do with the challenges of actually governing. Frum acknowledged as much when he pointed out, "conservatives have built a whole alternative knowledge system, with its own facts, its own history, [and] its own laws of economics."

All of this reminds me of the apocryphal worker in the Soviet Union who famously commented, "They pretend to pay us, we pretend to work."  For their part, the GOP is now mired in a modern political dystopia where their leaders pretend to lead, which Fox dutifully pretends to report.

Sigh ...

- Mark

You can watch the entire "Benghazi Admission" interview here. The Benghazi comments start at 4:21 in the clip. Rep. McCarthy asks Sean Hannity to help him with the GOP agenda at 5:39 ...

Friday, October 2, 2015


For the record, Sweden is ranked #5 when it comes to having one of the most business friendly places in the world, which places it far ahead of the U.S.

You can read about Sweden's 6-hour work week here.

- Mark

Wednesday, September 30, 2015


In the FYI category, funding for the project came from Canada and Norway, while the trials were sponsored by the World Health Organization. Assorted trusts along with Doctors Without Borders also contributed to the Ebola program.

You can read the story in The Guardian here.

- Mark

Addendum: This Ebola vaccine story is especially pertinent when we remember the less than compelling rationale behind Martin Shkreli's "$13.50 to $750 AIDs medication pill" debacle.