Wednesday, February 10, 2016

MID-WEEK READING (February 10, 2016)

African-American History Month / Children reading in the 1950s

Spy Chief: Homegrown terror is greatest threat (The Hill).

Why a global recession is more likely than anyone realizes (Shah Gilani / Money Morning).

Hillary Clinton: "Name one time I changed due to Wall Street." Elizabeth Warren: OK, allow me (U.S. Uncut).

Marco Rubio's spinelessness (Slate).


TRUMP, A DANGEROUS MAN
Saudi prince epically burns Donald Trump: Remember those two times I bailed you out financially (Addicting Info)?

America's Agitator: Donald Trump is the world's most dangerous man (Spiegel Online).


RACE IN AMERICA
Cop sues family of teenager he killed and you'll never believe how he justifies it (U.S. Uncut).

How Fox News responded to Beyonce's Super Bowl show versus white rioters smashing police cars (U.S. Uncut).

Instead of helping Flint, Michigan Republicans just passed a bill that makes anal sex illegal (U.S. Uncut).


URINE A LOT OF TROUBLE IF YOU RELIEVE YOURSELF HERE
If these walls could pee: San Francisco installs urine-repelling walls (RT).

Pee back time! Paris authorities urged to support 'oui' campaign for urine-repelling walls (RT).


VOTER FRAUD, INITIATED BY THE GOP
Without paper ballots, fear of vote rigging clouds 2016 primaries (Truth Out).

Voter suppression is more effective than you know - Thom Hartmann (Ring of Fire).

Republican arrested during voter fraud backfire - David Pakman Show (Ring of Fire).


GOOD NEWS
Iceland sentences 29th banker to prison, U.S. bankers still collecting bonuses (Mint Press News).

In Oakland, building boys into men (NY Times).

Russell Wilson writes letter to Manning, "If this is it, there's one moment I won't forget" (Fox 59).


THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON REPUBLICAN IDEAS
Absolute absurdity: GOP candidates want to protect billionaires from "class warfare" (Ring of Fire).

Right-wing think tanks are factories of cruel ideas (Truth Out).

Fox News makes you stupid - How to create a society of idiotic voters (Ring of Fire).


MISCELLANEOUS
British Treasury officials wined & dined by arms giants & 'rogue banks' (RT).

A grim scenario: If America ends up with a Republican president and a GOP-controlled Congress (Nation of Change).

U.S. GDP by year compared to debt and major events (U.S. Economy).

Aeromexico bans Sikh actor from plane because of his turban (RT).

- Mark 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

THE NEW HAMPSHIRE PRIMARIES / KGET 17 NEWS

Cathy Abernathy and I discuss today's New Hampshire primary with news anchors Jim Scott and Tami Mlcoch on KGET 17 News. After Cathy mischaracterizes Bernie Sanders' platform, I explain what Democratic Socialism means for you and me at 3:45 into the exchange ...


- Mark

TIME TO TAX THE CHURCHES AND PASTORS?


- Mark

Hat tip to Tom for the meme.

YES, GOLDMAN SACHS DEPENDED ON THE BAILOUTS ... HOW THEIR LOBBYING PAID OFF, BIG TIME

Politics and markets in modern America. How they really work ...


While the meme above conveys the message, the actual amount that Goldman Sachs legally spent lobbying Congress from 2001 through 2015 was actually $39.43 million. What they spent hiring former officials and members of Congress to do their bidding is much larger.

Still, the point is made. Goldman Sachs is buying legislative favors.

All of this allowed Goldman Sachs to repay the $10 billion it borrowed from the federal government after the 2008 market collapse. But there's more to the Goldman Sachs bailout story - and it goes beyond the $10 billion loan - which helps to explain Goldman's extraordinary rate of return.

GOLDMAN'S RATE OF RETURN EXPLAINED
 * After initially getting paid $12.9 billion for its part in making bad bets, Goldman Sachs ultimately was the recipient of $14 billion in toxic deal payouts from AIG that would never have been paid were it not for the AIG bailout. In fact, Goldman Sachs would have had to declare bankruptcy if AIG had not paid Goldman for their toxic contracts.

* On September 21 of 2008, just as the market was going to tank (and a week after AIG went bankrupt), Goldman Sachs ceased being an investment bank and became simply a bank. This made Goldman Sachs eligible for FDIC protections and billions in low interest loans from the Federal Reserve (which added up to over $1.2 trillion for our nation's "private" banks), and a host of regulatory favors from Congress.

* In order to secure taxpayer backed bailout money AIG gave up its right to sue the institutions - which included Goldman Sachs - who misled them and knowingly sold "shity deals" to customers. This legal bailout saved Goldman billions in legal fees and other payouts.

* Goldman Sachs has also been the beneficiary of dirt cheap money from the Federal Reserve. This financial gift is misleadingly called Quantitative Easing, when it should more appropriately be called Corporate Welfare 2.0).

* Goldman Sachs is also the beneficiary of billions in bailouts for Greece and other European states, which allowed Europe to pay companies like Goldman Sachs for the bad deals they were led into.

There's more to this story, but you get the point.

- Mark

Sunday, February 7, 2016

TWO BANKS - BofA & JP MORGAN CHASE - CONTROL ASSETS EQUAL TO ONE-QUARTER OF U.S. GDP

In 2011 it was reported that Wells Fargo had assets in the neighborhood of $1.26 trillion. This amount was the equivalent to about 8% of U.S. GDP. In 2016 the amount of assets under the control of Well Fargo climbed to about $1.75 trillion. This means, unlike most Americans - who are still climbing out from under the 2008 market collapse - Wells Fargo saw its managed holdings climb about 30% between 2011 and 2016.

Nice. That is, if you're Wells Fargo.

Here's the real fun part. Other banks control even more assets.

Almost five years ago Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase combined had roughly $4.5 trillion in assets. If it's hard to imagine how much money this is take a look at the picture below. Each column is made up of stacked pallets stuffed with $100 bills. Each column represents $1 trillion (the smaller stack to the right represents $420 billion).

Each column above is made up of a base of 100 pallets, which are stacked 100 high. Every row of pallets 
is worth $10 billion (100 x $10b = $1 trillion). The smaller column has 42 pallet bases, worth $420 billion.

Today, Bank of America ($2.15 trillion) and JP Morgan Chase ($2.35 trillion) are still worth a combined $4.5 trillion - or about $80 billion more than what the smallest column shown above reflects.

What this means is that Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase are managing assets that are equivalent to about 25% of what the U.S. economy produced last year (2015 U.S. GDP: $17.93 trillion).

So, yeah, we learned nothing from 2008. If one or two of these banks go under we're all in trouble. Again.

- Mark

P.S.: If you want a visual of how these pallets are stacked click here.

KEN STABLER'S IN THE HALL OF FAME ... FINALLY

Almost four years ago I created this post to help explain why Ken Stabler should be in the NFL Hall of Fame. Yesterday Stabler was finally voted in. For more on Ken Stabler getting into the Hall of Fame click herehere, and here. This story - "Ken Stabler was the real hero from real Oakland" - from the San Jose Mercury is especially insightful.

Because my original post provided highlights and stats from Ken Stabler's career I'm re-posting it again below.



PERSONAL STATISTICS
Let's start with this. Ken Stabler is considered one of the top 10 clutch quarterbacks in NFL history (#6) and has the stats to match other hall of famers, like Joe Namath and Bobby Layne. Take a look at the Namath-Stabler-Layne comparison ...
________________________________________________________

                          JOE NAMATH           KEN STABLER          BOBBY LAYNE
________________________________________________________

Years Played:          13 (1965-77)            15 (1970-84)            15 (1948-62)

Wins-Losses:         132-64 (.673)           158-103 (.605)          139-83 (.626)

Touchdowns:           173                           194                           196

Interceptions:           220                           222                           243

Completion %:         50.1%                        59.8%                         49%

Yards:                     27,663                       27,983                     26,768

QB Rating:                65.5                          75.3                         63.4

Pro Bowls:                 1                               4                              5
(All League)

Championships:          1                               1                              3

NFL MVPs:                  2 (AFL MVP)                1                            N/A

All Decade Team:      N/A                      Yes (1970s)               Yes (1950s)
________________________________________________________

But wait, there's more.

Not only did Ken Stabler lead the NFL in passing touchdowns in 1974 and 1976, but he's one of the top ranked quarterbacks in terms of winning percentages.

But it isn't just Ken Stabler's personal stats, and how they stack up against other Hall of Famers who were his contempories. It's who Stabler played and won against.

THE GREAT GAMES & GREAT TEAMS

During one six-year period, Ken Stabler and the Raiders played the Pittsburgh Steelers in three AFC Championship Games, with either the Raiders or the Steelers playing in the title game the other three years. The Steelers won three Super Bowls, the Raiders won one. During this period the Raiders and Steelers played ten times, with each team winning five games.

The Oakland-Pittsburgh rivalry featured 14 Hall of Fame players (seven on each team [8 now with Ray Guy]), a Hall of Fame coach, and two Hall of Fame owners. Stabler was not only in the middle of all of this, but he helped make the magic of the games happen by making everyone who played kick it up a notch. But the Raiders under Stabler didn't just win a few games. During this stretch the Raiders had the best winning percentage in the NFL (.798), with the Miami Dolphins (.750) and the Pittsburgh Steelers (.744) falling right behind the Raiders.



It wasn't just the personal statistics and team winning percentage that tells us Stabler should be in the Hall of Fame. Perhaps Stabler's greatest claim to fame were the number of NFL "greatest games" and "greatest teams" Stabler played and won. 

While Raider fans suffered through the "Immaculate Reception" game (which I watched with great frustration), people forget that it was Stabler who ripped off a 30 yard TD run that set up the last minute heroics of Franco Harris.



Also, under Stabler the Raiders ended the Super Bowl champion Miami Dolphins hopes for a second undefeated season by beating them in Oakland early in 1973, and then ended their 31-game home winning streak in 1975 by beating the Dolphins in Miami. Keep in mind these Dolphin teams not only won two Super Bowls in row, but finished the only undefeated championship season in NFL history.



Then there was what NBC announcer Curt Gowdy called the greatest game he ever watched, the "Sea of Hands" playoff game against Miami (I still can't believe Clarence Davis caught the ball). 

Stabler also played in what was then the third longest game in NFL history, against the Baltimore Colts, in what is now fondly referred to as the "Ghost to the Post" game. Then we had the "Holy Roller" against San Diego, which every Charger fan remembers with great passion.



Finally, there's the issue of why Ken Stabler is not in the NFL Hall of Fame.

THE LIFESTYLE & THE MISFITS
While one of the reasons suggested is that he had mediocre years after he left the Raiders one only has to check the last 3-4 years of Bobby Layne and Joe Namath. Nothing to write home about. I could be wrong, but what seems to be at stake is how some fans and voters look at Ken Stabler's off-field lifestyle when he played. This is precisely why it's instructive to compare Ken Stabler with Joe Namath and Bobby Layne.

Even if Stabler may have studied the playbook by the light of the jukebox from time to time, neither Namath nor Layne were famous for going to bed at curfew before games. Both were famous night crawlers. Perhaps just as important is the fact that Ken Stabler played with a team of misfits that both fed - and fed off of - Stabler's habits. It's hard to see the Raiders winning the way they did with, say, a Roger Staubach at quarterback.



There's more, but when you compare Stabler to others who are in the Hall of Fame, Stabler's personal statistics, his Raider team's winning percentage, the gut check great NFL games he played in, who Stabler played and won against, and the misfits he inspired and played with in Oakland, it's hard to argue that Ken Stabler doesn't deserve to be in the NFL Hall of Fame.

If Joe Namath and Bobby Layne are in Hall of Fame, Stabler should be too.

- Mark

UPDATE: It looks like Andy Barall from the NY Times is getting into the debate. Check this out. I especially like this YouTube video that features Stabler.



UPDATE: Stabler is now ranked #25 by Athlon Sports in "The NFL's 25 Greatest Quarterbacks of All-Time"
___________________________________

Again, for more on Ken Stabler getting into the Hall of Fame click here, herehere, and here.

- Mark 

Saturday, February 6, 2016

WEEKEND READING (Feb. 6, 2016)

Black History Month ... Malcolm X.

Why Finnish babies sleep in cardboard boxes (BBC News).

The presidential candidates ranked by their usefulness in a bar fight (Bitter Empire).

Tesla's Modell III goes 320km per charge and costs $35,000 (The Peak).

Former lawyer for the "D.C. Madam' says names in her records could be 'relevant' to election (Washington Post).


YEAH, THE GOP IS JUST ABOUT SCANDAL MONGERING
Congressman who led Benghazi investigation says he succeeded by hurting Hillary's poll numbers (Think Progress).

Powell, Rice received sensitive info through private emails (MSNBC).

That time Karl Rove deleted 22 million White House e-mails and the media said nothing (Occupy Democrats).


STUFF WE SHOULD ALL KNOW
The secret history of cowboy socialism (The Week).

Obama nails it: Gerrymandering is the biggest source of blame for political gridlock (Ring of Fire).

It's time to say it: Creationists aren't Christians. They're a cult (Forward Progress).


THE BUNDY IDIOTS
Note to media: The heavily armed, law-breaking Oregon militants aren't protesters' (Think Progress).

No bail for Bundys: Authorities call militants who occupied Oregon wildlife refuge 'flight risks' (Raw Story).


BERNIE SANDERS
The Washington Post's wrongheaded attack on Bernie Sanders's health plan (Robert Reich).

How Bernie pays for his proposals (Bernie Sanders).


WTF
Congress outraged that cure developed by VA scientist sells for $1,000 per pill, out of reach to vets (RT).

Nancy Pelosi: Elizabeth Warren doesn't speak for the Democratic Party (Politico).

What a coward ... Goldman Sachs chief threatened by 'dangerous' criticism from Sanders (Common Dreams).


AMERICAN CAPITALISM RUN AMOK
10 things they won't tell you about the Flint water tragedy. But I will (Michael Moore).

Christie signs bill privatizing New Jersey's water supply (The Contributor).

American capitalism has failed us: We're overworked, underemployed, and more powerless than ever before (Salon).

David Cay Johnson: The Trans-Pacific Partnership threatens our liberty (Common Dreams).


MISCELLANEOUS
California's new vaccine law is already a success (LA Times).

Here are 9 reasons Denmark's socialist economy leaves the U.S. in the dust (U.S. Uncut).

Under new Oregon law, all eligible voters are registered unless they opt out (LA Times).

Naomi Klein: Climate change is not just about things getting hotter ... it's about things getting meaner (Common Dreams).

- Mark 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

THE SUPER BOWL BABIES CHOIR

You don't have to like football to enjoy this. The Super Bowl Babies Choir ...


Be sure to click on "CC" for the lyrics.

- Mark

SAUDIS READY TO FIGHT ... SORT OF

The news organization RT (Russia Today) is reporting that Saudi Arabia is now ready to participated in ground operations against against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria. The only qualification is that the effort has to be U.S.-led.


President Obama has made it clear that, under current conditions, there will be no U.S. boots on the ground in Syria.

One would think that this shouldn't be an obstacle for the Saudis if they really wanted to fight ISIS in Syria, or any place else in the region. The Saudi military is, after all, ranked #4 in the world when it comes to military spending.

The problem the Saudis have is that - according to former CIA officer Robert Baer - much of Saudi Arabia's military is trained to defend the corrupt and kleptocratic Saudi regime. Put another way, they're not much of a fighting force, but could be if the Saudis had their priorities straight.

So, it appears, the Saudis are trying to encourage the U.S. to fight in a conflict that they should be fighting on their own (again). I think most would agree that preserving a corrupt regime - or doing their dirty work - is not something the U.S. should be concerned about.

We might want to keep this in mind the next time the war mongers in Congress start belly aching about getting involved in another war in the Middle East.

- Mark