Sunday, December 25, 2016

A CHRISTMAS SEASON POST

Below are a couple of Christmas classics, courtesy of Charles Schultz. A reminder of what Christmas is about ...


This is the Peanuts' Christmas Dance (I dance like the guy in Orange) ...


Merry Christmas.

- Mark

THE DAY CHRISTMAS TRIUMPHED OVER WAR

I learned about this Christmas truce story many years ago. I posted it a few years back, and think it's worth posting again. If you want to learn more about the Christmas spirit, this World War I story is worth the read ... and Merry Christmas.



A snippet from the story of the Christmas truce ...
On a crisp, clear morning 100 years ago, thousands of British, Belgian and French soldiers put down their rifles, stepped out of their trenches and spent Christmas mingling with their German enemies along the Western front. 

You can read the remainder of the story here ...

- Mark 


Friday, December 23, 2016

THERE IS SOMETHING SERIOUSLY WRONG IN AMERICA ... AND IT'S NOT JUST TRUMP

Hows' this for a kick to the groin of America's seniors ...


Social Security checks are being garnished and reduced for unpaid student debt. Make no doubt about it, this is another example of wealth extraction over wealth creation. And it's coming at the expense of America's elderly who don't have access to the same laws and protections our nation's financial elites do. Think about it.

Silver-spooned divas, like Donald Trump, can game the system by declaring almost a billion dollars in losses, and then stiff his creditors by filing for bankruptcy at least 4 times.

Companies like Freedom Industries can pollute rivers and water supplies in West Virginia, then decide they don't want to clean up their mess, and declare bankruptcy to avoid responsibility.

Wall Street can run the economy into the ground - threatening to take the entire system down with them in the process - and find themselves the recipients of at least $4.3 trillion in bailout funds.

America's largest financial institutions - many of whom originated or purchased student loan contracts - would have gone broke without the trillion dollar market bailout, according to the International Monetary Fund. 

In contrast to the financial and legal safety nets available to our nation's financial elites, middle-class Americans who have student loans, and suddenly find themselves unemployed or sick from toxic spills - neither of which they had anything to do with - can't escape debt. So, why can't student loan recipients escape debt burdens, like our nation's financial elites? Because we have laws that make it clear, while you can file for bankruptcy, you can't discharge your student loan obligations. Ever.

That's right, Congress has created a legal framework that effectively says, "Go ahead and pollute the environment, blow up the economy, and even run your multi-million dollar casino and hotel businesses into the ground. We'll let you declare bankruptcy and avoid responsibility for the mess you leave behind (several times, if you like) ... but don't you dare walk away from your student loan debt!"

And, now, the federal government is acting like the muscle behind the mob's loan business model, and taking money out of Social Security checks to recover unpaid student loan debt. So much for equality under the law.

Seriously. Where's the justice here?

Again, think about it. America's financial elites can screw up "bigly" and use America's bankruptcy laws to save their fortunes. Our financial mandarins can appeal to the U.S. Congress for tax payer backed trillion dollar bailouts when they screw up. But heaven forbid America's seniors try riding off into the sunset when we can hound them into their graves because they owe a few thousand on their student loans.

So, this is what we have. The U.S. government is forcing many of America's seniors into poverty level conditions by sacking their Social Security checks. This is happening because the same government that caters to the needs of our nation's financial overlords somehow believes only student loan holders should be excluded from constitutionally protected bankruptcy provisions (yeah, it's in the Constitution).

There is something seriously wrong in America. And it's not just that Donald Trump is going to be president.

What's worse, Donald Trump won't do anything to fix this.

- Mark

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

DID RUSSIA JUST WIN THE COLD WAR?

Below is an opinion piece - "The cold war is over and guess who won" - that appeared in today's Bakersfield Californian. It's one of the better reviews of what's happening in our world that I've read. I've included a couple of Sun Tzu quotes, for those who understand the bigger picture presented by the author. Enjoy.  

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The cold war is over and guess who won
Sal Moretti

For hundreds of years Europeans have called it the Great Game. Americans know it as the Cold War. Whatever the name, that war with Russia is over. The bad news? Looks like Russia won.

Well, bad news to some in America, but not all. It seems a whole lot of patriots seem unfazed and quite a few corporations stand ready to profit handsomely. There’s more good news! Not a nuke was fired, not a shot heard, if you don’t count Ukraine, and who does?




Thank you, Russia, for bringing peace to the world, and stability to our country. We were teetering on the edge of catastrophe when you came in, assisted our new leader to victory, and vanquished that foe of real American values. It’s good to know we can be friends with a communist dictator. You are a true world leader.

While we were rendered impotent by internal division, you acted decisively. You took on the quagmire in Syria, that which we were reluctant to do, and stabilized that war ravished country. No worry that everyone who used to live there is either dead, dying or fled to Europe. Not to be confused about your soul, you intentionally struck the rebels’ hospitals with bombs. The dead don’t hate. I’m glad we’re friends. Based on what we saw in Aleppo, I’d hate to be your enemy.

The Syrian engagement was a stroke of brilliance. By propping that government, you left many Syrians no option but to flee, and flee they did to Europe. In fleeing to Europe, you destabilized all of the countries of who’ve been opponent in the geopolitical struggle of the ages.

A few agents of ISIS snuck into Europe during the stampede, helping to inflame the world’s great threat: Terrorism. Not one to be conflicted by your ideals, you support the Shia of Iran against ISIS in Iraq and Syria but support the Sunni Taliban in Afghanistan, against us. That we can be friends with Russia while you support the enemy we fight and die for in Afghanistan is a true testament to your diplomatic prowess.

In your greatest feat, possibly the greatest story of our time, you interjected yourself in that greatest tradition of the free world, the American election, and amazingly enough, you helped get your candidate elected!

That’s not the most amazing aspect of your feat.




In the aftermath, as the truth was revealed of what you had done, America’s institutions and leaders expressed deep concern and mock outrage as they tried to move past this inconvenient truth.

The divided American public was most interesting: The powerless stamped their feet. Those in power blamed the liberal media, the intelligence agencies, and their vanquished foe.

America moves on. There are great business deals to be made with Russia, and we don’t need to let our core values get in the way. Besides, isn’t making a whole lot of money a core value of America?


In the great contradiction of conservative America, befriending Russia, that beacon of the socialist state, is less repulsive than compromising with American liberalism. We’ve been here before. Remember, when we influenced the elections in Latin America and beyond. Is the fruit bitter when we taste it? Apparently not.

We’ve been invaded by cyber warriors and succumbed to the tactics of disinformation and deception. Mission accomplished, Russia. You are master of the arts of war, old and new. This is so much better than old war. I mean, I still have Netflix. A friend calls it whining about the results of an election when some question real news that strongly and evidentially suggests Russia had an intentional impact on the election.

Whining? Funny, during the Iraq War buildup, those who questioned the justification for war were called unpatriotic. Important and unpopular questions seem to beget name-calling. I guess it comes with the territory. But questioning and discernment is a gift of God and our duty as Americans.


We don’t need to wave the white flag of surrender in this war. We’ve got plenty of fight left in us, but we start by uniting as Americans against a common foe, not uniting with a common foe against other Americans.

Sal Moretti is superintendent of the City of Bakersfield’s Solid Waste Division and a board member of Kern County’s Homeless and Veterans’ collaboratives.

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And, yes, Vladimir Putin is going to play Trump like a drum.

- Mark

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

HUMAN FLYING DRONE ... THIS IS AWESOME



Have you ever heard of a Human Flying Drone? I hadn't, until today. This is awesome. Check this out ...



And, yes, I want one.



Hat tip to Alan for bringing this to my attention.

- Mark 

Friday, December 16, 2016

DRAIN THE SWAMP? NAH, NOT TRUMP ... SAME SWAMP, JUST DIFFERENT MONSTERS


With Rex Tillerson (Secretary of State), Steve Mnuching (Treasury), Jeff Sessions (Attorney General), Wilbur Ross (Commerce), Andrew Puzder (Labor), Tom Price (HHS), Ben Carson (Housing), Elaine Chao (DOT), Rick Perry (Energy), Betsy DeVos (Education), and John Kelly (Homeland Security) president-elect Trump's cabinet picks are very male, white, and richer than the poorest third of U.S. households.

So, no, Donald Trump is not draining the swamp in Washington, DC. He's just bringing in different monsters. His monsters.
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Seriously, what could go wrong?

- Mark

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

ELECTORAL COLLEGE IS ON FIRM CONSTITUTIONAL GROUND ASKING FOR AN INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

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From Hamilton Electors we get "Hamilton Electors on The Electoral College," with one electoral college elector explaining that "37 patriots can save this country" if they shift their support from Donald Trump ...




For the record, the reference to the Federalist Papers in the clip above is from Federalist #68.

In Federalist #68 we learn that one of the clarifying reasons for having the electoral college is to have independent electors (non-office holders) who are charged with spotting organized "intrigue" and "corruption" in an election, and then acting to prevent a foreign power from "raising a creature of their own" to the presidency:

. . . every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption. These most deadly adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected to make their approaches . . . from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union? 

With U.S. intelligence agencies agreeing that Russia hacked the vote (while disputing their "intent"), one thing is clear: the electoral college electors who are asking for an intelligence briefing from the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, are on firm constitutional ground with their request.



- Mark

Update: I changed the original opening picture from Trump quotes, with his face in the background, to what you see above from the Chattanooga Times Free Press. It's more appropriate for this post. And, yes, it's from what I posted yesterday (it is my blog).

Monday, December 12, 2016

THE MAN-CHILD'S PENDING COMING OUT PARTY IS AMERICA'S NATIONAL EMBARRASSMENT

Stolen from my friend Seven's FB page ... 



Seven's caption captures what many of us already know, or what we're all thinking ...

He isn't even inaugurated yet, and world leaders are already discussing his petulance and foreign policy ignorance like it's a threat to global prosperity and stability. The GOP have stopped reining him in, letting him speak his mind without interference now. The speculation inside the beltway is that they're just going to wait for him to do something impeachable, and then move Pence into the Oval Office and use the XXV Amendment to put Paul Ryan into the VP position. I don't think this is a far fetched idea, and knowing Pence's intolerant and outlandish ideas, it's become an "out of the fire and into the frying pan" situation.

I live in California so we at least have some political cover, but the saner people who voted for Trump as a protest vote must have some real buyer's remorse. What an embarrassment.

Unfortunately, the people who voted for Donald Trump because they are true believers have no clue what any of this means. Call it Caligula's Disease.

Sigh ...

- Mark 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

FAILURE TO ACT ON CIA FINDINGS ... IS IT TREASON?


Whether it was the false nationalist teardrops over Benghazi, or their constant whining that Hillary Clinton's emails contained something that "might" reveal a national security secret, the Republicans are being exposed (once again) for being national security charlatans. This is clear because of how they are largely ignoring evidence that the Russians had a hand manipulating our presidential election.

So, yeah, it's clear they will hype and scare monger incessantly, until their faux standards and concerns are applied to them.
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The fact that Senators Rand Paul (R-KY), John McCain (R-AZ), and Lindsey Graham (R-NC) are part of a small group of Republicans who want to investigate the CIA's finding that Russia tampered with our presidential election tells us one thing: there is still a larger contingent of Republicans who don't want to investigate because they care more about gaining power than they do about protecting the integrity of America's sovereignty.

It's at this point that "aiding and abetting the enemy" creeps into our story. The traitor and treason references begin to write themselves into the script here ...    

It's really that simple.

- Mark

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

"TELL ME MORE, YOU TANTRUM THROWING BRAT" ... TREVOR NOAH SHOWS AMERICA HOW TO DEAL WITH OUR SNIVELING POLITICAL TODDLERS


"Tell me more ... explain that to me" has always been the enemy of the toddler throwing a fit. If the adult is genuine in their desire to listen to what the child has to say, they can get most children to explain what's bothering them. The adult can then help them work out their anger issues by asking the kid how they might fix the problem confronting them.

This is called good parenting.

It's also how, in the clip below, Trevor Noah parents one of America's political adolescents, Tomi Lahren. She's the new poster girl for frustrated conservatives who like throwing tantrums over the dystopian world they want to see created, now, and a world they don't really understand.

Check out how Noah parents Lahren on her political tantrums - as Vox points out - by asking Lahren to explain how a black person is supposed to make their point if protesting, marching, or taking a knee are considered thuggish or inappropriate by people like her.



What Noah did is show how empty and selfish Tomi Lahren's understanding of the world really is. She had no answer for Noah, who repeatedly asked Lahren to explain how a black man is supposed to make their point if protesting, marching, or taking a knee are all considered inappropriate.

At one point Lahren tried to hide behind the flag by saying she was insulted by people like Colin Kaepernick disrespecting what others fought and died for (newsflash: it includes free speech). But Noah was having none of it.
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He ignored Lahren's attempt to hide behind the final refuge of scoundrels, and asked what's the appropriate form for black Americans to get their point across if protesting, marching, or taking a knee are not accepted by people like her.

Noah asked:

“What is the right way, I’ve always wanted to know ... for a black person to get attention in America?”

So, rather than confront Lahren about her faux indignation over tactics (protest, march, or kneeling), and her fake teardrop patriotism, Noah focused on what Lahren has to concede constitutionally, free speech.

What Noah did was illustrate how Lahren sure likes to enjoy her free speech, but doesn't want others to enjoy it more than she and her fellow jackbooters do. Like the kid who doesn't want others to enjoy their toys more than them, Noah showed how Lahren is going after the toys of another kid. Noah called her out on her political tantrum by effectively saying to Lahren, "It's OK to cry, but tell me why the other kid can't have or enjoy the toy their parents gave them?"

Lahren had no answer.

Unfortunately, this doesn't matter for most of those who follow Tomi Lahren. They just want the toys of others to be taken away.

Stay tuned. It's only going to get worse.

- Mark

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

FOR TRUMP'S CHRISTIAN VOTERS ... YOUR BIBLE LESSON FOR THE DAY [not that they'll understand]

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The reference above brings back memories of my good friend Duane Moore, who liked to call out Christian hypocrisy when he saw it. Neither Duane nor I were model Catholics, but we had read the Bible, which is why when we were doing our radio program from time to time he would quote Mark 10:25: "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God."

To this I would add Matthew 7:21-23:  "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord' will enter the kingdom of heaven ... On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'

If you're a Christian Trump voter and don't see yourself here, you need to reread Matthew 7: 21-23 until you get it. Seriously.

For the Christian commentators who want to respond to this post, while maintaining the Christian spirit, just be sure to keep in mind what the Bible says about "bridling" the tongue and deception in the heart (James 1: 26).

OK, bible study class dismissed ...

- Mark

Monday, December 5, 2016

REPUBLICAN RHETORIC NOT MATCHING REALITY (again) ... WHAT'S WORSE IS US GETTING USED TO IT


Remember how Republicans, including Bakersfield's own Rep. Kevin McCarthy, complained that Obamacare was killing jobs in America? That narrative is not going away. Most recently, Vice President-elect Mike Pence told ABC's George Stephanopoulos that Team Trump was going to repeal Obamacare because it's a "disastrous policy that's been killing jobs."

Unfortunately, for the GOP, their "job killing" rhetoric just doesn't match what's happening in the real world. In fact, the GOP is living in an alternate universe when it comes to their jobs claim. Check for yourselves ...



In real simple terms, with 178,000 jobs created in November, unemployment has fallen to 4.6 percent. President-elect Trump is inheriting an economy near full employment, or what Politico calls the Obama Boom.

My question is a simple one: What kind of world are we heading into when our politicians have no problem lying about things that are easily fact checked, and easily proven to be flat out lies?

But wait, the lying gets worse.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) went on record during his 60 Minutes interview saying he has no issue with President-elect Donald Trump tweeting the lie that "millions of people voted illegally." He and the rest of the GOP are not only prepared for, but they are quite comfortable with, the prospects of a fact free Trump administration.

All of this suggests that George Orwell's 1984 doublethink and Newspeak language will not only become accepted forms of speech, but - as Alec Baldwin's SNL skits are starting to make clear - telling the truth may even become subversive.
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Stay tuned. This is going to get ugly.

- Mark

TRUMPLAND IN CALIFORNIA ... YEAH, IT'S BAKERSFIELD



I did an interview a few weeks back for Agence France-Presse (AFP), the global news agency based in France. AFP was in Bakersfield trying to explain to their audience how a Blue State like California could have a region that supported Donald Trump. I helped AFP set the profile for Bakersfield and Kern County by pointing out (1:03 into the clip) how you could dump both in the middle of Texas and no one would notice the difference.




Below is the French language version of the interview, which included an all too brief clip of my book in the foreground ...





One last note. While I spent about 25 minutes being interviewed - discussing the political and economic reasons for Trump's election - my comments were reduced to the Texas reference, as you can see in the interview. So, yeah, I had a lot more to say beyond what you see in my brief comments, but AFP had another story they wanted to tell.

Still, it was fun chatting with the AFP crew. I hope they come back.

- Mark

Friday, December 2, 2016

WHAT AILS AMERICA'S HEALTH CARE SYSTEM


While one could quibble over the absolute zero numbers in other countries, and even dispute the 643,000 medical bankruptcies in 2013 by a few thousand (up or down, as Snopes discusses here), one reality remains: Before Obamacare was passed, over 60 percent of all bankruptcies in America had a medical cause.

After Obamacare well over 50 percent of all bankruptcies still have a medical cause. Let's repeat that. Even after Obamacare, health care costs are still the #1 cause of bankruptcy filings in America. What this means is Americans are still adversely affected by an inefficient and wildly expensive health care system.




For the record, the three top causes for bankruptcy in America are divorce, job loss, and the inability to cover health care costs. The real tragedy here is that well over one-half of those who file for bankruptcy because of health related bills have health insurance.

- Mark

Hat tip to Aguila for the meme. 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

TRUMP'S RISE IS NO ACCIDENT ... HERE'S WHAT THE POWER OF FEAR AND IGNORANCE CAN DO



We need to understand that Donald Trump is no accident. The environment that created and nurtured his hateful and paranoid brand of politics has been in the making for decades now, as this clip makes clear ...


- Mark

THIS IS WHAT WE'RE DEALING WITH, II ... JOURNALISTIC NEUTRALITY CRUSHED BY MINDLESS STUPIDITY



CNN host Alisyn Camerota has her journalistic neutrality crushed by the mindless stupidity of one her panelists. Specifically, one of Alisyn Camerota's panelists stunned her with the thoroughly debunked claim that millions of "illegals" voted in California, which you can see here or here ...




I guess one of the questions we (and especially journalists) need to start asking is, How much blind stupidity do we allow to fly unchallenged in the name of journalistic integrity or neutrality?

Seriously, life should not be a perpetual reality show for the intellectual midgets of our society simply because we want to gauge the temperature of a focus group, or the electorate. We shouldn't let things go unchallenged, and allow people to use our modern forums like medieval stages, just so we can get our jollies laughing or wincing at what the village idiot of the day says.

Let's be clear here. I'm not saying we need to keep these kind of comments out of the public square. Ignorance and blind stupidity should be exposed. What I'm saying is more hosts and interviewers need to do what Alisyn did and stand up for what's factual, while debunking what's not, in real time.

Sure, it will require a good deal of more work and preparation. But this is what journalistic integrity (and professionalism) is built on.

The point is, if the media allows ignorant commentary to go unchallenged - or fails to do what CNN's Alisyn Camerota does in the clip above - others who are equally ill-informed will watch and assume "it must be true" because the host ignored the uninformed reference.

It's real simple. We're better than this.

At least we're supposed to be.

- Mark

Addendum: Apologies for using the same opening headline as yesterday, but it does appear we have a running theme in the making. I'll probably be using it again.