Tuesday, February 28, 2012

THIS WEEK'S VILLAGE IDIOT: RICK SANTORUM




Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum says John F. Kennedy's iconic 1960 speech on religion made him want to throw up. To help you decide whether you share Santorum's sentiments, be sure to grab your vomit bags and check out Kennedy's speech here ...




Santorum's comments demonstrate - on so many levels - how little respect he has for the intelligence of the American electorate.

It's one of the reasons why Santorum likes to tell the story of his coal miner grandfather, and how his family lived in public housing on V.A. grounds. Tough life for the grandson of a coal miner, wouldn't you say? What he doesn't say is that his father had a Ph.D. in psychology, and that his mother was a nurse. Both worked for the Veterans Administration, which provided the family with a taxpayer subsidized apartment.

If you want to vomit now, you're not alone.

Then again, keep in mind that Santorum is also the same guy who says he defends the dignity of every life, but then supports torture, supports a "qualified" death penalty, opposes euthanasia for the terminally ill, and believes that over 100,000 civilians killed (collateral damage) in a reckless war of choice is justified. Seriously, where's the spiritual and philosophical symmetry between your claim to defend the sanctity of life and then turning a blind eye to torture, human suffering, and death?

It's no wonder that Santorum thinks former prisoner of war John McCain doesn't understand torture and that women who've been raped should welcome their "horrible gift from God." He's an idiot.

Rick Santorum. Man of faith. Man of vomit. That's good enough to make Santorum this week's village idiot.

- Mark

UPDATE (3/1/12): More evidence that Santorum deserves to be this week's village idiot. From the Huffington Post ...
On ABC's Sunday morning show "This Week," Santorum defended his recent attack on President Obama in which he called him a "snob" for wanting all Americans to get a college education. Colleges are little more than liberal "indoctrination mills," he said, explaining why Obama would want your child brainwashed in one. This wasn't just the empty rhetoric of an old culture warrior, he offered.

"I’ve gone through it," Santorum explained. "I went through it at Penn State. You talk to most kids who go to college who are conservatives, and you are singled out, you are ridiculed, you are -- I can tell you personally, I know that, you know, we -- I went through a process where I was docked for my conservative views” ...

Early this week, The New Republic interviewed Bob O'Connor, one of Santorum's old political science professors who taught Santorum in four different classes. O'Connor objected to Santorum's persecution charge. "He really has a rich fantasy life," O'Connor told TNR in an email. "PSU in the 1970s was not exactly Berkeley. I resent this sort of accusation [that] I and my colleagues graded students on the basis of their political attitudes. Ridiculous.”

Santorum's fraternity brothers were fairly shocked by their friend's assertions. Was there any kind of oppression at the frat house? "Not the group that I hung with," Elliehausen says. "I wasn't aware of any oppression of any sort," Vondercrone says. "He seemed like a happy guy."

Santorum's campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Monday, February 20, 2012

ROMNEY'S AMERICA

If you didn't watch Clint Eastwood's "Halftime in America" piece for Chrysler you can watch it below, or here. But be sure to watch it before you scroll down to the comic below ...





Romney's America, if he were to win ...




- Mark

Friday, February 17, 2012

IN THE "I TOLD YOU SO" DEPARTMENT

In the "I Told You So Department" ...


It turns out that when Fannie Mae was in private hands, back in 2003, that they knew about foreclosure fraud but did absolutely nothing about it. Nice. One of the reasons for not doing anything about it was that people along the financial train were getting rich off the process ... going all the way back to the last years of the Clinton administration! Yeah, that's about 15 years ago, and almost 10 years before the 2008 market collapse.

This is what I wrote in the opening pages of chapter 12 in my book, The Myth of the Free Market ...

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

One year before the Financial Services Modernization Act (1999) was passed into law the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation issued a set of guidelines for member banks managing transactions that involved bundled loans that were sold as collateralized securities. Concerned that deposit-taking institutions had not exercised sufficient risk management when handling these loan contracts the F.D.I.C distributed a “Statements of Policy” at the beginning of 1998 making it clear collateralized security transactions were on their radar screen. While it set out to reacquaint institutions with basic due diligence procedures, it also listed ways private firms could defraud F.D.I.C-backed institutions. More bluntly, the Statements of Policy (SOP) guidelines said private financial institutions weren’t always playing fair with F.D.I.C. backed institutions, especially when it came to complex financial instruments.
Among the embarrassingly basic rules of caution covered included “know your counterparty,” credit analysis, and credit limit reviews. The guidelines were so simple it was difficult to tell whether they were issued for the new finance guy at the local car dealership, or were really geared for seasoned F.D.I.C. affiliated banking institutions. Still, one thing stood out – in the wake of the 2008 market collapse – the 1998 SOP offered a Crow’s Nest view of what went wrong. Pointing to the tactics of subsidiaries belonging to “financially stronger and better-known firms” the SOP warns that larger corporations “may not be legally obligated to stand behind the transactions of related companies,” so the subsidiary may not be credit worthy. The F.D.I.C.’s advice? Don’t trust the other guys “character” or “integrity” until you get “the stronger firms” signature. That this needed to be said should have raised red flags back in 1998. Incredibly, the guidelines get even more basic.
We all know when we purchase a new car we have to deal with the sales staff. We’re then shuffled off into cubicles where we have to deal with the finance and credit team, who also want to sell us stuff. There’s a reason why the dealerships keep these two positions apart. Sales staff, anxious to sell a car, will either lower credit standards or overlook red flags on a customer’s credit report. Not so in the F.D.I.C. institutions. Apparently burned by too many conflict of interest transactions involving sales and finance pulling double duty, the F.D.I.C. found it necessary to remind banking institutions that credit evaluations for CDO transactions, for example, should be done by “individuals who routinely make credit decisions” and not those involved in sales. The F.D.I.C institutions were then provided with the incredibly sage advice that they should be on the look out for buyers who were already “overextended.”
Perhaps the greatest words of caution are saved for institutions inclined to believe CDO instruments could be used as market collateral. F.D.I.C. guidelines make it clear that simply because an institution has a CDO-affiliated instrument doesn’t mean it’s sitting on an asset whose book value is equal to its market value. The 1998 guidelines suggests, for example, that if a $100 million CDO transaction has occurred that “experience has shown” the underlying product or contract “will not serve as protection” if the subsidiary fails, or if the firm does not have control over the security. Put more simply, the tone of the 1998 SOP guidelines tell us market players and the federal government knew that U.S. financial institutions were sitting on a financial powder keg long before the 2008 market melt down began.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

I know, I know ... What I wrote about is a level removed from simple mortgages. The complexity contributes to why America is baffled by the bailout language. But it's all connected. Trust me.

So, yes, people knew that the CDO markets were a mess long before 2008. The market collapse was not an aberration. Very specific activities made it happen.

And, yes, I told you so.

- Mark

Thursday, February 16, 2012

HITLER'S HENCHMEN AND CONTRACEPTION

As usual, Jon Stewart nails it as he takes Fox News, Sean Hannity, and their clown show to task for their usual fear mongering. Fox News et. al are trying to drag the discussion of insurance provided contraceptives down a gutter by claiming that requiring insurance providers to make contraception available is a pseudo war on religion - being run by Hitler's henchmen, no less - which will lead to the destruction of America (again).



You would think that Fox News' viewers would catch on to the network's "we're all going to die" fear-mongering tactics. Unfortunately, many of them just aren't that smart ...

- Mark

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

FROM ANGRY BIRDS TO ANGRY DAD (with special abilities) ...

I'm not sure what to make of this, but as a father with tech obssessed teenagers I can definitely understand the sentiment here.


I'm not sure I'd use the gun (that's an expensive target), but I can see myself having a beer with the guy ...

- Mark

P.S. Hat tip to Brian for the link.

Monday, February 13, 2012

THE POLITICAL LESSON(S) OF THE BELL EXPERIMENT

The finger-pointing, scapegoating, jingoism and ideological aggression we're seeing during this presidential primary season is disheartening for many Americans. With so many problems confronting our nation I'm often asked why do politicians talk at each other instead of to each other? Why don't they take the time to understand and really discuss the challenges that confront us instead of trying to score political points by blaming each other?

The answer is actually quite simple, and can be tied to the swirl of our modern world. Simply put, the complexities of our modern world leave many Americans incapable of understanding or appreciating the things we should.

To help students understand what's happening, in my introduction to American Politics class I like to begin my discussion on American institutions by explaining why things don't get done the way many of us think they should ... i.e. with negotiation, compromise, civility, etc. Specifically I try to explain the roots of the ideological aggression and the bitter partisanship we see today.

To do so I discuss how our world has become so complex and fast paced that the vast majority of Americans are simply overwhelmed. The end result is that, in spite of living in the information age, large segments of American society have become disconnected and, ironically, uninformed citizens. Unfortunately, this leaves many susceptible to mindless bumper sticker answers to complex problems.


And, yes, it's happening on both the left and the right side of the political spectrum.

To deal with the complexity, increasingly many Americans are engaging in any number of "displacement activities." Displacement activities are viral forms of procrastination in that it involves doing something entirely disconnected to the task at hand. In the animal kingdom birds may peck at the grass instead of fleeing in the presence of a predator. Applied to the human condition it involves doing something to avoid confronting serious issues that everyone knows must be addressed. It becomes a lifestyle for many.

Among the displacement activities we see around us include mindless consumerism, reckless alcohol and drug use, self segregation through cultish or militia groups, the glorification of a mythical past, and the pursuit of superficial and self-indulgent relationships, among many other activities. Apathy, political tribalism, and faux movements are the result.

The worst of our displacement activities may be the return of religious fundamentalism because of how it helps absolve followers of responsibility for virtually anything. You don't have to listen to anyone because God's on your side. All you have to do is follow or elect the person who claims to be "Godly." Why learn anything if it's in God's hands and all you have to do is affirm what you already know? Lessons on tolerance and understanding are jumbled in the process.



All of these displacement activities have created a disconnected society full of disorders and aggressive ideologues. This, unfortunately, undermines our democracy and social cohesion on many levels. Worse, as long as we're engaged in these activities, it helps keep many Americans from understanding or appreciating the activities that help to make our world a better place.

This is why this story about a man playing the violin on a cold January morning is so revealing (kudos to Sheri for bringing it to my attention).




In 2007 a man played six classical Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.
Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule. A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping continued to walk.

A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.
The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried but the kid stopped to look at the violinist.
Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.
In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.
No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the great violin players of the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written,with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars.

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats averaged $100.


Joshua Bell playing incognito was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and priorities. But it also tells us how the pace of our lives can lead us to ignore excellence, truth, and even each other (you can read the Post's article on the experiment here). It tells us that we've conditioned ourselves not to care. The political implications abound.

The Bell experiment tells us that we're so wrapped up in trying to make our way through life that we don't have the time to stop and listen to one of the world's greatest musicians, playing the best music ever written. So how many other things are we missing? How many of us take the time to search for the truth instead of accepting empty slogans and embracing bankrupt ideologies?

There's a reason why many Americans embrace scapegoating, ideological aggression, and mindless single-issue politics. And it's not because the other side is necessarily evil. It's because it's easier to see them that way. It's easier to put ideology above the facts.

More to the point, it's easier to ignore the other side when we've convinced ourselves that they don't matter. The fact that we don't care is the political lesson of the Bell experiment.

- Mark

Saturday, February 11, 2012

MORTGAGE SETTLEMENT = PAYOUT AND THE CHANCE TO DO IT AGAIN



OK, it looks like a settlement on the mortgage mess has been reached. Rather than go into the details, or discuss how "wonderful" the $26 billion penalty is, the good people at nakedcapitalism.com have put together a wonderful list of 12 Reasons to Hate the Mortgage Settlement.

It's pretty much what I've been writing about our real estate and banking mess for years now, but it's nice to see it synopsized.



Because the article at nakedcapitalism may be a bit long, I've synopsized the first seven points here:

1. FORGERY HAS A PRICE: The price of forgery and fabricating documents is now officially $2000 per loan. Not only is this amount a fraction of the cost of the legal expenses when foreclosures are challenged, but no one goes to jail for forgery. Take that, 300 years of real estate law.

2. TAXPAYER PAYS (again): The $26 billion sticker price penalty actually involves only $5 billion of bank money. The rest is your money. Mortgages that have been securitized will be written down, which means CDO investors will get Fannie and Freddie (who are now backed by the American taxpayer) to pick up the tab for their losses. Unfortunately, the size of your pension funds, 401 (k)s, etc. will take a hit too, which means reduced assets and income for your portfolio and retirement account(s). So you actually pay twice. Nice.

3. BANKS GET OFF: $5 billion divided among the big banks means nothing. Freddie and Fannie putbacks to the major banks have been running at that level each quarter.

4. BANK BAILOUT (again): $20 billion makes bank second liens sounder. This deal is a stealth bailout that strengthens bank balance sheets at the expense of the broader public.

5. ENFORCEMENT IS A JOKE: The first layer of supervision is the banks reporting on themselves. Seriously.

6. SERVICERS WON'T COMPLY WITH THE AGREEMENT: The history of servicer consent decrees is clear. Even though the banks said they wouldn't engage in criminal acts again (like forgery for paperwork they couldn't locate) in exchange for not being prosecuted, the banks and the servicers have failed to comply. Robo signings, among other activities, continue because the industry wants to bury the bodies.

7. CONSENT DECREE RENDERED TOOTHLESS: When Nevada and Arizona caved on the Countrywide settlement suit Bank of America rejoiced. It proved that failing to comply with a consent degree has no consequences 

You should read the entire article, and the follow up pieces too. Long story short? No penalties, another backdoor bailout, and another market collapse in the future. Only the next one will be worse than in 2008 because the banks haven't learned any lessons.

Oh, and they're going to try and do the same thing on a global level with the emerging markets

- Mark

Thursday, February 9, 2012

THE COLD WAR IN PERSPECTIVE

In my American Foreign Policy class we're discussing the roots of the Cold War this week. I'm making this available for my students, but thought some of you might enjoy the history lesson too.

*****************

If we want to understand the beginning of the Cold War we need to understand, as George Kennan argued, the roots of Soviet conduct and how this affected American foreign policy after 1945 ...



This helps us understand what drove American foreign policy immediately after World War II, and led to the Containment policy, which the Marshall Plan helped make a success from 1945 to 1990 ...



- Mark  

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

YES, THE JOBS PICTURE HAS IMPROVED

The jobs picture since President Obama entered the White House ...



Long story short? We're still climbing out of a hole, but things have definitely improved.

- Mark

THE FINANCIAL STD HANGING OVER EUROPE

Let's say you earn $21,000 per year. Would your bank grant you credit and loans that total more than $600,000 to "invest" on long shot bets in Vegas? Sounds ludicrous, right? And it is, until you realize this is how our global financial system is currently structured.

Thanks to some fancy (but rigged) modeling of market instruments, market players have been able to convince some incredibly stupid people (though there are some smart ones in the bunch) that their bets will pay off. What the incredibly stupid people don't understand is that the entire house of cards can only function if lines of credit are kept open. The problem here, as Hyman Minsky warned, is that it's one thing to borrow when you have the assets to back things up, but it's an entirely different thing to borrow when the collateral is full of financial holes.

This is precisely the situation Europe faces today, and why efforts to fix their banking system will fail.


Mirroring what I've been writing and talking about for years, Money Morning's Keith Fitz-Gerald explains why Europe's banks are going under, in spite of the the seemingly never ending trillion dollar rescue efforts from the U.S. central bank, and others. Specifically, Europe's financial system is confronted by three big challenges.


UNCERTAINTY: Thanks to the murky system of cross derivative (i.e. Vegas-like) bets European Union (EU) ministers are reluctant to put money into a banking system that has the financial consistency of Swiss Cheese (why Ben Bernanke is doing it is another issue). And they should be reluctant. Because derivative markets are so murky, the ministers don't know how much is going to be needed, or who's going to need it.


FINANCIAL STDs: Because of the cross pollinization of derivative bets even healthy banks have been exposed to the financial STDs of the financial world. In what will (no doubt) be described as a pre-emptive effort, all banks will be provided with back up funds just in case (i.e. when) their partners drag them under. It's kind of like an STD screening. But in this case you get the penicillin shots too (a process that resembles the U.S. banking "self-esteem" efforts too).


GOOD MONEY GOING AFTER BAD: Money from strong banks will be diverted to weaker banks. This is bad news. Why? Because in order to backstop the bad bets, even bigger (worse?) bets will be placed because they offer the promise of higher returns. This will only serve to keep the derivative lunacy going until the stupidity collapses on itself, again.

So why is this all a problem? Because the banks have lent or provided $600 trillion against market (derivative) instruments that are valued at $21 trillion. Total exposure here is 28.4-times. Go into a bank and ask them to provide you with a loan or credit totaling 28 times what you earn/own.



The bank's rationale for rejecting you is exactly why the financial stupidity in Europe cannot be sustained.

- Mark  

P.S. If you want to know how derivative bets get started click here.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

TELLING IT LIKE IT IS ...

 An excellent story for the first week of Black History Month.





Below is a letter from Jourdon, a former slave, to a former Master who wants Jourdon to return to work for him. It's one of the best one finger salutes to an old acquaintence you'll ever read. Enjoy ...


**************

Dayton, Ohio,

August 7, 1865

To My Old Master, Colonel P.H. Anderson, Big Spring, Tennessee

Sir: I got your letter, and was glad to find that you had not forgotten Jourdon, and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this, for harboring Rebs they found at your house. I suppose they never heard about your going to Colonel Martin's to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable. Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living. It would do me good to go back to the dear old home again, and see Miss Mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee. Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in the better world, if not in this. I would have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville Hospital, but one of the neighbors told me that Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a chance.

I want to know particularly what the good chance is you propose to give me. I am doing tolerably well here. I get twenty-five dollars a month, with victuals and clothing; have a comfortable home for Mandy,—the folks call her Mrs. Anderson,—and the children—Milly, Jane, and Grundy—go to school and are learning well. The teacher says Grundy has a head for a preacher. They go to Sunday school, and Mandy and me attend church regularly. We are kindly treated. Sometimes we overhear others saying, "Them colored people were slaves" down in Tennessee. The children feel hurt when they hear such remarks; but I tell them it was no disgrace in Tennessee to belong to Colonel Anderson. Many darkeys would have been proud, as I used to be, to call you master. Now if you will write and say what wages you will give me, I will be better able to decide whether it would be to my advantage to move back again.

As to my freedom, which you say I can have, there is nothing to be gained on that score, as I got my free papers in 1864 from the Provost-Marshal-General of the Department of Nashville. Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you were disposed to treat us justly and kindly; and we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages for the time we served you. This will make us forget and forgive old scores, and rely on your justice and friendship in the future. I served you faithfully for thirty-two years, and Mandy twenty years. At twenty-five dollars a month for me, and two dollars a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to eleven thousand six hundred and eighty dollars. Add to this the interest for the time our wages have been kept back, and deduct what you paid for our clothing, and three doctor's visits to me, and pulling a tooth for Mandy, and the balance will show what we are in justice entitled to. Please send the money by Adams's Express, in care of V. Winters, Esq., Dayton, Ohio. If you fail to pay us for faithful labors in the past, we can have little faith in your promises in the future. We trust the good Maker has opened your eyes to the wrongs which you and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you for generations without recompense. Here I draw my wages every Saturday night; but in Tennessee there was never any pay-day for the negroes any more than for the horses and cows. Surely there will be a day of reckoning for those who defraud the laborer of his hire.

In answering this letter, please state if there would be any safety for my Milly and Jane, who are now grown up, and both good-looking girls. You know how it was with poor Matilda and Catherine. I would rather stay here and starve—and die, if it come to that—than have my girls brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters. You will also please state if there has been any schools opened for the colored children in your neighborhood. The great desire of my life now is to give my children an education, and have them form virtuous habits.

Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.

From your old servant,

Jourdon Anderson.
**************

The Huffington Post has a little more history on the letter here.

- Mark

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A LINK BETWEEN LOW I.Q. AND RACISM?




Make of this what you will. Via Huffington Post:

"Are racists dumb? Do conservatives tend to be less intelligent than liberals? A provocative new study from Brock University in Ontario suggests the answer to both questions may be a qualified yes.
The study, published in Psychological Science, showed that people who score low on I.Q. tests in childhood are more likely to develop prejudiced beliefs and socially conservative politics in adulthood."

The study suggests that people of low intelligence gravitate toward socially conservative ideologies, which stress resistance to change. This, in turn, creates the environment for prejudice to flourish. Such ideologies feature "structure and order," which make it easier to comprehend a complicated world.

Read the report from Psychological Science here ...

- Mark

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

WHEN THE "BROMANCE" GOES WRONG …

I just finished reading Terry Phillips' comments about the CEO of our local paper, Richard Beene. Last week Mr. Beene, through one of his sources, accused Phillips of “dishonoring our flag” during a Rotary talk … back in 2008.


It turns out that as part of a talk that Terry Phillips gave to Bakersfield's Downtown Rotary Club in 2008 Phillips “illustrated the use of political protest with respectful silence during the Pledge of Allegiance,” and then discussed the issue with his audience. As Phillips notes in his article, not only was the point “clear to most in the audience” but his “presentation received enthusiastic applause and many congratulatory comments afterward.”

The point on free speech and protest was lost on Richard Beene if you were to read his Jan. 25 “Bakersfield Observed,” or if you read his very Republican leaning Bakersfield Gossip Blog.

Now, you might wonder why the CEO of the Bakersfield Californian (i.e. Beene) would want to dig up a 2008 talk in 2012. This is where it gets interesting.

It turns out that Phillips has made it clear that he wants to run for congress. Beene - as anyone who reads his gossip column will note - has a pretty serious Man Crush on our local congressional representative, Kevin McCarthy. It’s as serious a Bromance between two pillars in a community as I’ve seen. So it should come as no surprise that Beene would dig up Phillips’ 2008 Rotary talk. He’s got Kevin’s back, so digging up the story provided Rep. McCarthy with the ammo he needed to, as Phillips points out, to repeat “the lie on a local radio program.”

A shot across the bow, of sorts, from the Majority Whip and #3 Man in congress. Nice.

So, just who is Terry Phillips, and why would Kevin take the time to go after him on a local radio program? For a number of years Terry Phillips hosted “Quality of Life” on Valley Public Radio in California’s San Joaquin Valley. Phillips earned his journalistic stripes as a CBS correspondent in Moscow in the 1980s, and knows a few things about covering political tyrants, and journalistic integrity … which brings us back to Richard Beene.

Some time ago, I got into an e-mail exchange with some of Bakersfield’s local politicos. Nothing much. But it made its way to the front pages of the Bakersfield Californian [which is why I always to try to spell check and use good punctuation when I e-mail ;-) ].

For some reason Beene decided to wade into the “mudpit” (his term) that made the front page of his paper. But, truth be told, he didn’t wade into anything. He decided to throw darts from his own little cesspool (i.e. his Gossip Blog). You can check out his comments here. In a few words, Beene labeled the exchange “sophomoric.” Good for him. Judging from some of the stuff that’s on his blog, I’ll defer to his expertise here.

But what really caught my eye was his derogatorily toned reference to me being an “articulate far lefty” who enjoys “wrapping himself in the activist skin of ‘la raza’.” I remember reading this and thinking to myself, “Huh”?

Then I remember thinking, what an idiot.

Ever since I moved here to Bakersfield I’ve written numerous (perhaps 40?) op-ed articles for the Bakersfield Californian, almost all of them dealing with issues tied to international relations, political economy, and elections. No Pancho Villa here. You would think – as CEO of the Californian – Beene would know this.

Moreover, almost all of the courses I’ve taught at CSUB have also been tied to international relations, comparative government, and American Politics. I still haven’t taught Latino Politics or courses tied to Chicano Politics (though I’ve been asked numerous times). Still, for Richard “I-See-What-I-Want” Beene, I’m the second coming of the Cisco Kid in America.


Later, to counter balance the conservative media environment here in Bakersfield, I started my own radio program. It was all in English too. But in Beene’s eyes this only made me “self-important” (or is that "uppity"?).

I provide this history because by bringing up Terry Phillips’ 2008 talk in front of Bakersfield's Downtown Rotary Club Beene reveals that, as CEO of Bakersfield’s only real print newspaper, he really doesn’t care about shooting straight. He has no problem peddling gossip, innuendo, and distortions that make it appear that he’s tapped into Bakersfield when, in fact, he’s helping his friends and protecting the world he knows.

The murky details surrounding the dismissal of the Bakersfield Californian's Leonel Martinez (under the guise of budget cuts) is one of the best examples of Beene not being tapped into what the community needs. Simply put, Leonel Martinez (no relation) has one of the keenest voices on Latino issues in Kern County. His words help explain a culture and lifestyle that many in Bakersfield are still struggling to understand. Still, after being let go, the Californian - or their affiliate publication - hasn't found it necessary to invite Leonel back as a free lance writer, though he (and I) was told this would be the case (oh no, I’m wrapping myself in my activist skin again … damn, I guess Beene knows his ‘mehicanos’).

Long story short? CEO Beene needs to review how he presents issues, and should start putting some distance between himself and Kevin (he's not Judith Miller). Seriously, running interference for a member of congress when you're supposed to be setting a tone of impartiallity is nothing to brag about. It’s one thing to have a Man Crush. But it’s an entirely different thing to let the whole world see it.

- Mark