Thursday, January 30, 2014


Looking for an example of what the GOP says when the cameras are on and what they actually do when they think no one's looking? Here's one ...

- Mark 


With President Obama announcing that he's going to issue an Executive Order to raise the minimum wage of all employees working for federal contractors the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt are instructive  ... 

Chris Rock helps us understand the real issue behind the minimum wage debate ...

Finally, for the record ...

- Mark


So the Republicans are shocked ... shocked ... to learn that President Obama is going to use an Executive Order to raise the minimum wage of employees who work for federal contractors to $10.10 per hour. After President Obama's State of the Union speech the Republicans even started whining that the president was a "socialist dictator" who was imposing "tyranny" in America for daring to use such a tactic.

Pretty harsh words. That is until we take a look at the the average number of Executive Orders issued by each president since FDR.

Drawing on information from The American Presidency Project - located at my alma mater UC Santa Barbara - we see that President Obama doesn't come close to issuing the number of Executive Orders that President George W. Bush and his predecessor have done ...

But wait, it gets better.

When it comes to signing statements issued - which are general comments, or specific declarations that the president intends to ignore or support provisions of a bill - the data is clear: President Obama (25) can't hold a candle to the number of times President George W. Bush (161) said he wasn't interested in enforcing specific parts of legislation.

Here's another point to remember.

The hand of President Obama has been forced on this and other issues. The GOP pledged on the night of President Obama's first inauguration - as Robert Draper pointed out in his book "Do Not Ask What Good We Do ..." - that they would sabotage President Obama's agenda by refusing to work with him. The GOP became the Party of No.

Record filibusters, record stalled judicial nominees, and no GOP-led accomplishments in the House are all evidence that the GOP has kept their promise to sabotage the president (and our nation).

At the end of the day, if the Republicans weren't concerned about an Imperial Presidency or an American dictatorship when President Bush was in office - who actually started a war on a pack of lies - they have no cause to criticize President Obama.

It's really that simple.

- Mark

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


Paul Krugman's latest op-ed discusses the growing paranoia of the plutocrats in America. Drawing from a letter to the editor sent to the Wall Street Journal by billionaire market player Tom Perkins - a financial plutocrat writ large - Krugman discusses how Perkins' paranoia compelled him to whine to the WSJ about public criticisms of the top one percent.

Specifically, Perkins is upset that America's peasants and the Occupy movement don't understand all that the top one percent does for them, and society in general. Ergo we should stop complaining about the rich (and eat cake, as it were).

Strangely, Perkins then suggested that the criticisms of the top one percent in America are similar to the Nazis treatment of the Jews in the 1930s. Commenting on the "rising tide of hatred of the successful one percent" Perkins went so far as to suggest that we're on the path to another 1938-style Kristallnacht event.

Paranoia, indeed.

We want to keep in mind that Perkins is really criticizing those who believe that the richest one percent should pay more in taxes. Perkins believes the successes of the rich are their contribution to society, so they're already doing enough. What he ignores is since 2008 the U.S. taxpayer has made the "successes" of Wall Street - and their profit levels - possible with about $17 trillion in taxpayer-backed bailout pay outs and guarantees.

So, yeah, the criticisms and demands made by the public are valid ones.

Throw in the fact that middle America has struggled with stagnating wages, higher unemployment, and greater economic insecurity since 2008 and it becomes clear that Perkins isn't just paranoid. He's also clueless as to what's driving the demands for higher taxes on the top one percent.

What Perkins' comments show is that he and those in the top one percent who think like him have no sense of responsibility to the taxpayers who bailed them out and helped them get richer.

This shouldn't be surprising. We've seen this before. These are the people that FDR warned us all about when he said, "We must especially beware of that small group of selfish men who would clip the wings of the American Eagle in order to feather their own nests."

Arrogance and greed, after all, are human constants.

Anyways, Krugman finishes by arguing that the paranoia among the top one percent is not really guilt over great wealth. It's about them recognizing in their own way that, unlike the Robber Barons of the early 20th century, their market bets and paper empires aren't really creating anything of value. It's a visceral understanding that - especially after the 2008 taxpayer funded bailout - the top one percent have not earned what they have.

Perkins has since retracted his Kristallnacht comment. But he doesn't regret the message he was trying to send because in "the Nazi area it was racial demonization. Now it is class demonization."

Yeah, Perkins just doubled down on the stupidity. Incredible.

As I read the retraction it's clear to me that Perkins isn't just paranoid and clueless. He's also, as his peers and former colleagues put it, an a$$*%!# who needs to STFU.

- Mark 

Monday, January 27, 2014


Bailout architect, and Hank Paulson lackey, running for California governor. World laughs, as it should (Rolling Stone / Matt Taibbi).

Perhaps the dumbest "Wanted" criminal of 2014. Seriously, this guy's a complete moron (Fox / Atlanta).

Watch Bill Maher go after Republicans 'delusion of manliness' in 4 minutes (Occupy Democrats).

Military brass behaving badly: E-mails detail a spate of misconduct dogging armed forces (Washington Post).

The Misuse of American might ... The U.S. no longer knows how to win wars, but it continues to start them (LA Times).

It turns out that the 20 richest Americans are takers, not makers (Buzz Flash).

For narcos and Jamie Dimon, crime does pay (Buzz Flash).

Banks preparing to criticize GAO report that will (no doubt) conclude that the Too Big to Fail banks - who can borrow at the subsidized rates - have a competitive advantage over small institutions (Center for Public Integrity).

Former subprime lender - who helped sink Merryl Lynch, and escaped responsibility for his incompetence - is making risky loans again (Center for Public Integrity).

Private Medicare Advantage insurance lobbyists are doing what they can to keep their bosses government subsidized gravy train going (Center for Public Integrity).

Selective outrage over federal health care costs ... attack Obamacare, but say nothing about waste in Medicare Advantage (Center for Public Integrity).

Working poor now the majority of food recipients - with college graduates among fastest growing group of users (Raw Story).

Costas Lapavitsas discusses his book, Profiting Without Producing: How Finance Exploits Us All ... or more colloquially, he's discussing the financialization of our market system (Truth Out).

Forty-three percent of all American families spend more than they make each year ... so, make no mistake about it, we could become a nation of debt slaves (Nation of Change).

Wikileaks exposes Obama administrations weakening of environmental policies in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which will pass costs of production on to others (Nation of Change).

Edward Snowden tells German TV that the NSA is involved in industrial espionage ... and the information they collect is not related to national security (The Guardian).

This past November was the hottest on earth since 1880 (NBC News).

Why there's no outcry over our pathetic economy and the lack of opportunities (Nation of Change / Robert Reich).

U.S. ranked second to last among developed nations when it comes to child poverty ... we got beat out by Romania (Washington Post).

A Congress of the wealthy, by the wealthy, and for the wealthy (Nation of Change).

- Mark 


Many southern states are up in arms over immigration and undocumented workers, with the Mississippi House passing legislation calling for the police to check the immigration status of those who are arrested. This is an interesting turn of events when you think about it  ...

Just saying ...

- Mark

Hat tip to Duane for the jpg.

Sunday, January 26, 2014


Twenty one years ago I was a graduate student living and teaching at the Universidad Autonoma de Queretaro, in central Mexico. It was 1993 and I was working on my first peer reviewed academic article.

Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush had just signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), in 1992. Then President Bill Clinton was in the middle of trying to convince the U.S. Congress that NAFTA was a net plus for America. I was already giving talks on the topic in central Mexico so NAFTA was an easy choice for my first journal article.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is signed by trade representatives as Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988-94), U.S. President George H.W. Bush (1988-92), and Candadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney (1984-93) look on.

Mexico's president at the time, Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988-94), was concerned because the U.S. Senate had not yet ratified the treaty. The U.S. Senate had not done so because the U.S. House of Representatives had not granted fast-track authority, under which Congress can approve or reject a proposed treaty, but can not amend it.

I published the article (it's in Spanish) in one of Latin America's top economic journals in 1994. I was proud of it then and, given what has transpired in Mexico, am especially so now.

I'm providing this as background because the arguments that we're seeing today from the promoters of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) are almost identical to the same arguments that we saw from the promoters of NAFTA in 1992 and 1993. In fact, because the TPP allows private companies to sue foreign governments over trade restriction complaints, and rewrites many domestic laws, the TPP has been called NAFTA on steroids.

The TPP is currently being pushed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce because how it strengthens corporate patent laws, encourages U.S. corporations to take jobs overseas, provides the framework to challenge domestic laws designed to reign in Wall Street, and further weakens or allows weak environmental and labor standards to stand.

Oh, and as was the case with NAFTA, the TPP has largely been negotiated behind closed doors.

NAFTAs primary critics - labor and environmental groups - were especially concerned over their inability to participate in the negotiations. They consistently asked: "Sure, trade will be enhanced, and corporations will prosper, but what's in it for us?"

As it turned out, not much.

Originally published November 23, 1993

Fast forward 20 years and we find that over 600,000 U.S. jobs have been lost or displaced as a result of NAFTA - with millions more jobs lost because of favorable legislation for corporate America - while billions in tax income has disappeared as firms took both their jobs and companies abroad. Workers in the United States are now increasingly forced to compete against a workforce whose labor rights are regularly denied or abused, which further depresses wages here in the United States.

All of this is just one part of a larger race to the bottom in the United States.

While many NAFTA proponents argued in the early '90s that NAFTA was a sign that Mexico was on the right developmental path, and would help Mexico develop within a generation, I didn't agree. The article I wrote looked at NAFTA from an entirely different perspective.

Specifically I wrote that without providing the resources to invest in infrastructures, or without providing support for improving the education and training levels of Mexico's workers and its rural peasant class, that NAFTA would not bring development to Mexico. In a few words I suggested that NAFTA would be little more than a corporate Trojan Horse without some form of European-like "transitional aid" to help Mexico compete with the United States.

Without some type of mega-investment in people, infrastructures, and protections for labor I argued that Mexico would not reap the gains that were promised at the time, and that American workers would lose as U.S. jobs went to Mexico. And this is exactly what happened.

In fact, today, apart from increased profits for corporations doing business under NAFTA's umbrella, Mexico's countryside and border regions are beset with violence and drug lordism that have gotten progressively worse over the past 20 years. To be sure, we have seen material advances in several central states in Mexico. But these states have embraced alternative "interior port" infrastructure strategies, which include investing in education and training programs.

Mexico's working class, its rural poor and its most vulnerable, however, have seen few if any benefits from increased trade. Poverty has increased in Mexico. Unemployment is higher today than it was in 1994. And Mexico's total debt, which stood at $138 billion in 1994, is now over $350 billion.

But not everyone in Mexico is doing poorly.

Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is Mexico's (actually, the world's) top drug lord, and was ranked as one of the richest men in the world by Forbes magazine. Taking advantage of low pay and few job opportunities in Mexico, Chapo Guzman can hire and bribe the best talent throughout Mexico. He is also considered a folk hero by many because of the projects he helps fund. His fame and influence in the drug industry is such that he is now considered Public Enemy #1 in Chicago.

Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman named Public Enemy #1 in Chicago.

So, while NAFTA's promoters promised development and prosperity for all, what actually transpired in Mexico since NAFTA was signed has been increased profits for U.S. corporations in Mexico. But the flip side of that coin are increased kidnappings, record narco-trafficking activities, and poverty in perpetuity for the vast majority of Mexicans since 1994.

All of this is important for one simple reason. When today's critics of TPP tell you that free trade treaties don't bring promised results - and point to lost jobs in America and a weakened middle class - there's a track record here that we need to consider.

It should also be noted that Latin America saw the results of NAFTA in real time during the '90s. It's one of the reasons they rejected the Free Trade for the Americas in 1998 (to be sure, the Republicans were also opposed to the FTA treaty, but that's another story for another day).

In all cases, U.S. corporations know what happened after NAFTA. It's one of the reasons they're now pushing so hard for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). It will further depress wages and weaken the hand of labor in America, which will help make corporate America even more money.

I've seen this story before. We've all seen this story before. And it definitely doesn't end "happily ever after" for America's middle class. The TPP is a Trojan Horse designed to weaken labor, and should be opposed.

- Mark

UPDATE: Here's one small victory.

UPDATE (3-3-14): Here's what Congressman Alan Grayson (D-Fl) thinks about the TPP after getting a look at the latest TPP document.

Friday, January 24, 2014


This past week on Facebook I posted on the story of Freedom Industries, and how they fouled the water supply for 300,000 West Virginians. I discussed how Freedom Industries is now hiding behind bankruptcy laws to both avoid responsibility for what they did, and to squeeze their creditors out of what they are owed.

Pretty simple, right? No so fast Sherlock.

I have a Facebook (FB) friend who sees things differently. No surprise here. He believes liberals in general are ignorant, lazy and the root of all that is bad with our country. He also has a severe case of ODS, or Obama Derangement Syndrome. He decided to respond to my Freedom Industries post with this slippery slope argument:

Where is my freedom when I am financially burdened by the lazy liberals who don't want to work? Maybe if they did work, there would be a larger tax base for the lazy gov't to get off its ass and inspect these companies for safety, etc. so these terrible environmental disasters don't happen.


If I've got this right, according to my conservative FB friend, Liberals and the government are to blame for Freedom Industries fouling up the water and stiffing their creditors in West Virginia because, well, he says so. Evidence be damned.

How do you argue against this logic? Actually, you can't. Ever.

Like many other people I know, my FB friend lives in an alternate universe where he can make outlandish connections that only a Direct TV ad script writer could appreciate.

You know the ads. One innocent act spirals illogically out of control towards a succession of remotely plausible but outlandish developments that leave you chuckling, but scratching your head over the absurdity of it all ...

At the end of the day trying to make my FB friend's logic work makes my brain hurt. Perhaps a Direct TV ad script writer could make my FB friend's logic work, but I can't (unless, of course, I start drinking my lunch).

I'm sure most of you have friends and family members who use the same distracting logic - often referred to as slippery slope fallacies, or reductio ad absurdum arguments - that my conservative FB friend uses. The logic, unfortunately, is quite common and embraced by those who need to make unreasonable logical jumps (to distract). It's also embraced by those who don't care for the facts (habitual liars).

In either case - as I discuss when we go over the scientific method in class - it helps people believe what they want to believe. Facts be damned.

Sigh ...

- Mark 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


Bruce Lee reading

Hitler's economic ideas survived WWII ... have they found a new home in the U.S. and Europe? (Zero Hedge).

Massive antarctic glacier has entered irreversible melt, could add up to 1 centimeter to sea level (Think Progress).

Representative Alan Grayson: The GOP "has completely locked up the stupid vote" (Orlando Sentinel).

Alec Baldwin / Adam Sandler in SNL Classic, "Canteen Boy" (Yahoo).

How gold price is manipulated during the "London Fix" (Zero Hedge).

Sprot: "Manipulation of Gold by central banks can't continue in 2014" (Zero Hedge).

German gold manipulation blow back escalates: Deutsche Bank exits gold price fixing (Zero Hedge).

THE NEW GILDED AGE ... With a look at those on the bottom
For the love of money ... thoughts from a former Wall Street "money addict" (NY Times / Sam Polk).

The undeserving rich (Paul Krugman).

Deustche Bank's $1 billion Euro fourth-quarter loss underlines European economy's dependence on banks (Dealb%k).

It's expensive to be poor (The Atlantic).

What happens when the poor receive a regular stipend ... it's not what you think (Moises Velasquez-Manoff / NY Times).

Fraternity in Arizona suspended after throwing MLK Day party with watermelon cups (Jezebel).

Rookie news anchor fired after first day on the job for saying you know what on air (Gawker).

Climate-change expert, hired during the Bush administration, awaits sentencing after falsifying ... well, pretty much everything about his CIA-inspired life (The Guardian).

MEXICO (CS Monitor)
Mexican vigilantes take on Knights Templar as government takes on vigilantes (CS Monitor).

One Mexican town finds more security by throwing out the police (CS Monitor).

How much do you know about Mexico? Take the quiz (CS Monitor).

Elizabeth Warren introduces legislation that would not allow corporations to write off fines as tax deductible business expenses, which could save taxpayers billions (Mother Jones).

From The Guardian ... you can now follow NSA-related developments as controversy over leaks continue to make headlines (The Guardian).

NSA Prism Program claims direct access to servers of firms, which includes Google, Apple and Facebook (The Guardian).

For Christie and MSNBC, a messy divorces plays out in public view (NY Times).

Is Iran the United States' new best friend in the Middle East (CS Monitor).

- Mark 


Guess what? The measles are making a come back in the United States. This is definitely a step backward. The measles - which was first described in 7th century A.D. and considered "more dreaded than smallpox" by the 10th century A.D. - is a disease that we had pretty much eradicated in America by the end of the 20th century.

Then something happened. Vaccine-Autism hysteria took hold in the aughts (i.e. 2000-2009).

The vaccination rate began to decline around the world after Dr. Andrew Wakefield published a now discredited paper in 1998 that falsely linked autism to MMR vaccinations. Research into Dr. Wakefield's findings and his methods not only debunked his work but led to Dr. Wakefield being branded as both irresponsible and dishonest.

But the damage had been done.

Because of hysteria and rumors caused by Dr. Wakefield's paper a large number of parents refused to have their children vaccinated after 1998. This trend continues today with many anti-state and religious groups either believing that the government's out to get them, or that there's no need to vaccinate their children since life is in the hands of a higher being.

Combined with the hysteria and rumors caused by Dr. Wakefield's paper it really should come as no surprise, then, that the measles have been making a come back in the United States over the past ten years.

The people who should be concerned about declining vaccination rates - as the Scientific American points out - are those who are unvaccinated, those with weak immune systems, and infants who are too young to get shots (you need to be between 12 and 15 months to get your first vaccine shot).

Another concern is when states and regions drop below the "herd immunity" vaccination rate, which is reached when 95 percent of the population is vaccinated.

It turns out that the vaccination rates of several states in the United States (Colorado, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Idaho, and North Dakota) have fallen below 90 percent vaccination rates, which is well below the "herd immunity" vaccination rate. This is just one of the reasons we have seen "a big upsurge in the number of cases of measles" across the United States.

(For the record, in the developed world, Ireland's infant vaccination rate dropped to 69 percent in 2001.)

All of this should be a concern for everyone interested in the health and safety of our nation. This is especially the case given that Washington State University researchers found a virus last month linked to the measles and mumps that employs "burglary-ring-like teamwork" to infiltrate human cells.

Worse, the virus can be transmitted from certain animals, and not just humans.

You can check out the Council on Foreign Relations interactive map (or you can follow the links) on the growing number of Measles and Mumps cases here.

- Mark

UPDATE: Check out this Penn and Teller piece on vaccinations here

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


- Mark 


There are so many things wrong with this picture ...

Freedom Industries, the West Virginia company whose chemical leak fouled the water supply for hundreds of thousands of West Virginians, lacks the assets to clean up their environmental mess. So they're filing for bankruptcy protection.

Apparently, if all goes well for Freedom Industries, they will get the taxpayer to pick up the tab for cleaning up their mess too.


But, wait, it gets better.

According to the West Virginia Gazette the founder of Freedom Industries, Carl Kennedy II, pleaded guilty to income tax evasion in 2005 for not paying the government $1 million that he had withheld from employee paychecks. If this were an isolated incident this wouldn't really be important. Except it's not an isolated incident.

Today Freedom owes the IRS almost $2.5 million, which is part of a larger set of liabilities that totals about $6 million. Freedom Industries claims they don't have the money to pay their creditors.

Fortunately, Freedom has a couple of guardian angels. The bankruptcy code and a team of lawyers who understand the code. Check this out.

The owner of Freedom Industries, J. Clifford Forrest, filed to create a finance company that could lend up to $5 million to Freedom Industries. This is where the bankruptcy code's "debtor-in-possession" (DIP) financing laws come into play.

According DIP bankruptcy laws, Forrest's new company, Mountaineer Funding, automatically jumps to the head of the line, ahead of all other creditors, for repayment. All Forrests' new lending company has to do is loan enough money to Freedom Industries.

So, yeah, Forrest's old company - Freedom Industries - has secured bankruptcy protection. And they did it in a way that allows Forrest's brand spankin' new financial company - Mountaineer Funding - to get first dibs on pretty much all of the productive assets and valuable property that Freedom Industries possesses.

Corporate law at its finest.

But none of this should come as a surprise to anyone. Since 1992 Freedom and its associates have made 12 filings to found companies, to dissolve companies, and to merge companies around the same group of people.

Hiding behind bankruptcy and opaque corporate laws that protects a company more than it protects the interests of people is what has allowed Freedom to cheat the state out of taxes and, now, leave West Virginia and its citizens staring down an environmental and financial rat hole.

This appears to be the business strategy of choice for Freedom and it corporate associates.

Throw in the bailouts and favorable legislation for America's financial sector and we begin to see a larger picture of a broken economic system.

Interestingly enough, on the same day that Freedom Industries began spilling their toxic waste into West Virginia's rivers the Republican led House of Representatives passed a bill that guts toxic waste cleanup regulations in the United States.

At the end of the day, bankruptcy and legal sleights of hand appear to be par for the course for Freedom and its associates.

Unfortunately, what's happening with Freedom Industries is just one more example why I have been arguing that there's no functioning free market system in America.

- Mark

Monday, January 20, 2014


- Mark


Last year ESPN Countdown featured Doug Williams and his historic Super Bowl XXII performance in 1988. What made it historic is that Williams was the first African-American Super Bowl-winning quarterback in the NFL.

If you didn't see it, and since it's MLK holiday, it's only appropriate to reintroduce the ESPN announcement and the video promo ...

An added bonus is the narration, which is done by Robert Griffin III.

If you have the time you can watch the seven and one-half minute segment here on vimeo.

- Mark 

Sunday, January 19, 2014


From Freedom Marches to the White House. Just one of the reasons why the MLK holiday matters.

- Mark


Britain's Independence Party leader Nigel Farage is somewhat of a hero in Greece after he took to the floor of the European Parliament and lambasted Greece's Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. Criticizing Greece for essentially doing what Goldman Sachs tells them to do he told Samaras that he did not really represent the "sovereign will" of the Greek people.

After telling Prime Minister Samaras that Greece has been poorly served by Goldman Sachs Farage said: "You come here, Mr. Samaras, and tell us that you represent the 'sovereign will' of the Greek people. Well, I'm sorry, you are not in charge of Greece."

Farage then suggested that that Prime Minister Samaras change the name of his party from "New Democracy" to "No Democracy" because "Greece is now under foreign control."

Because Greece has effectively surrendered its autonomy to the big banks Farage told Samaras that Greece "can't make any decisions" because it's "been bailed out" and effectively "surrendered democracy, the thing your country invented in the first place." Taking a slap at both Greece and the European Union, Farage continued:

We are run now by big business, big banks and to the shame of Mr. Barroso big bureaucrats. 

I like it. Nigel Farage should fly to Washington so he can give the same talk to Congress, the U.S. banking industry, and to the corporate lackeys running the Federal Reserve's bail-out in perpetuity program (see herehere, here, here, here, and here). 

You can watch Nigel Farage's two and half minute speech here:

- Mark

Friday, January 17, 2014


How Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.s birthday became a holiday (Philly).

Fourteen unexpected responses to hatred (Huffington Post).

What happens when you magnify sand 250 times (Hurricane Vanessa).

Thirteen words that you probably didn't know were invented by Shakespeare (Huffington Post).

Radioactive fish at 125 times 'safe' level caught near Fukushima (Common Dreams).

Virginia State Senator Richard H. Black on spousal rape: It might not be a crime if she's 'wearing a nightie' (Raw Story).

Incredible. Republican Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) is now blocking the judicial appointment of prosecutor Jennifer May-Parker to the federal bench in spite of the fact that he was the one who recommended her to President Obama (Think Progress).

Senator Marco Rubio claims that marriage is the solution to poverty (Politics USA).

Oklahoma Republican state law maker, Rep. Sally Kern, argues that homosexuality "is not a civil right. It'a human wrong!" (Raw Story).

Birther leader Joseph Farah has no problem with Canadian-born Ted Cruz running for President (Right Wing Watch).

More "End of Times" stupidity than you probably care to read (Right Wing Watch).

America's real welfare queens (Truth Out).

Ten examples of welfare for the rich and corporate America (Buzz Flash).

Five reasons why corporations and the financial industry are "takers" rather than "job creators" (Buzz Flash).

Chris Christie: Corporate America's hero, and Trojan Horse (Chris Hedges).

GOP Senators anti-Obamacare story is denied by doctor who saved his daughter's life (Addicting Info).

Republican-led House vote is designed to manufacture Obamacare security scandal (Daily Kos).

Now we have a leaked audio tape that proves the Republicans are conspiring to manufacture Obama 'scandals' (Politics USA).

How easy it is to spy these days, in one easy graphic ... and what it means for the 4th amendment (Business Insider).

A look at our drone-filled future (Business Insider).

Did the DEA strike a deal with Mexico's most notorious drug cartel? (Business Insider)

Meet the Republican millionaire who wants to raise the minimum wage (Occupy Democrats).

Robert Reich explains what the poor receive in "welfare" (Robert Reich / FB)

California Dreamers: Education for all (Huffington Post).

After being beaten by police protesters came back armed with something other than weapons (Huffington Post).

- Mark


The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, or HSBC, faces a $63 to $111 billion shortfall, according to Forensic Asia, a Hong Kong-based research firm. Because of this shortfall Forensic Asia is recommending that investors "sell" interests in HSBC because of the "questionable assets" they see on HSBC's books.

Given HSBC's track record, this is kind of a big deal.

Back in 2007, right before the market melted down over the toxic crap the banks had created and bet on, HSBC had to bail out its own complex and debt driven SIV "investment" division (SIV, for Structured Investment Vehicle*). And it cost them them a bundle to start cleaning up their SIV mess. A $35 billion bundle to to be exact. 

Like the proverbial canary in the mine, HSBC's problems in 2007 effectively made HSBC a harbinger of things to come in 2008. 

After HSBC's financial canary collapsed it became one of the Too Big To Fail banks that received billions in bailout funds after the 2008 market crash.

Not satisfied with getting caught making stupid market decisions through their SIV division, HSBC kicked it up a notch. They decided to start catering to - and laundering money for - drug dealers and terrorists. They eventually got caught, but only paid a paltry 5 weeks in profits in fines (about $1.9 billion). 

So, yeah, HSBC's history should tell us all that their getting into financial trouble (again) is kind of a big deal.

For the record, one of the analysts who helped discover the HSBC shortfall, Thomas Monaco, is a former senior bank examiner with the Federal Reserve of New York. He's also a past fund manager at Front Point Partners, the U.S. hedge fund that spotted the sub prime bubble. 

- Mark 

* Structured Investment Vehicles, as I pointed out here five years ago, are debt driven investment products bets run out of a branch office / division. Because of the laws on the books, these debt driven bets can be kept off the books of the larger firm, which allows financial institutions to pretend they are financially healthy when they aren't. This, as we learned in 2008, is not a good thing for the rest of us.


From Fail Army ...

These workmen are installing cast-iron posts (bollards) to stop nurses from parking just outside of the Royal Hospital in Belfast, Ireland. They are cleaning up at the end of the day. If you can spot in 5 seconds or less why they're not going home any time soon be sure to share this.

- Mark 

Thursday, January 16, 2014


The first 100 days of a Chris Christie presidency ...

- Mark

ADDENDUM: Here's Bruce Springsteen and Jimmy Fallon singing "Gov. Christie Traffic Jam" ...


Have you ever wondered why, after crashing the American economy, Wall Street walked away with the gold mine while Main Street got the shaft? Well, wonder no more. It's because the U.S. Congress doesn't represent the interests of America. Instead, they represent the interests of America's economic elite, the millionaires.

And why not? According to CNN more than half of the current members of our U.S. Congress are millionaires. So they're really just protecting their own interests. Specifically, of the more than 534 members currently in Congress at least 268 had an average net worth of $1 million or more.

This helps to explain a number of developments, and inaction, in Washington. Specifically, it helps us understand why the U.S. Congress:

* ... can cut $5 billion in funding for food stamps - when 76 percent of SNAP (food stamps) benefits go to children, an elderly person, or a disabled person - but allowed welfare (subsidies) to continue for American agriculture, which many congressional members benefit from. 
* ... stood by and watched as the Federal Reserve - which gets its authority from the U.S. Congress - backstopped and guaranteed more than $14 trillion in bailout funds for Wall Street, but can't seem to find the money to pay back the $2.7 trillion that the federal government borrowed from Social Security. 
* ... can't seem to find $26 billion to fund unemployment benefits, but have no problem funding corporate welfare (yes, beyond the bailout in perpetuity) that starts at $100 billion a year, but is much higher

In real simple terms, democracy no longer works for Main Street in America. But democracy sure seems to be working for America's richest class. And, as it turns out, this isn't such a good thing.

A U.S. Congress full of millionaires, combined with our ridiculously gerrymandered districts, helps to explain why America's political system has become so poisoned. Simply put, out of touch millionaires and political extremists - who are as self-centered as they are venal - have no real interest in negotiating policy.

At the end of the day, America's race to the economic bottom is real. Worse, the moral justification of capitalism in America is becoming a fading promise.

So, yeah, America's in trouble.

- Mark

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


Since 2008 I've written numerous times about favorable legislation, and how the Federal Reserves trillion dollar money dumps into the economy have both skewed and undermined the health of our nation's economy (herehereherehere, and here). The end result of the Federal Reserves seemingly endless supply of money for Wall Street has been unearned results for - and unrealistic expectations within - our nation's largest financial institutions.

It appears that the president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas agrees with me on this.

Via Zero Hedge we learn that Richard E. Fisher, the head of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, believes that market players today have been wearing market "beer goggles" because of the Fed's money dumps. The easy money from the Fed helps to explain why market players are seeing healthy market conditions that can't be backed by the facts on the ground.

To be sure, market players may be confident and punch drunk about market conditions, but the record DJIA highs we are seeing have nothing to do with strong market fundamentals. Instead they have everything to do with the Fed's ridiculously cheap and abundant pools of bailout money provided to Wall Street, which is being used to cover the incredibly stupid market bets made before 2008.

This money, according to Fisher, has created a market-centered beer goggles effect within Wall Street's biggest financial institutions.

Like drunks in the bar at closing time, market players today are liquored up with the Fed's numerous liquidity dumps and making moves and taking chances that they normally would not take. And why not? With the Federal Reserve supplying the market beer goggles (i.e. money dumps) the market is looking a whole lot better than it really is in America.

While the beer goggle analogy might be a bit over the top for some (not me), it does help us understand what's happening in our economy.

Be sure to read what the president of the Dallas Fed has to say about our beer goggles economy here.

- Mark