Tuesday, December 30, 2014


Alaska's 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, held in March, had several areas with virtually no snow. Many of the more experienced racers were forced out of the event. Read about it here.

- Mark 

Monday, December 29, 2014


10 jokes only engineers will understand (tickld)

Near death explained (Salon).

New Yorker jigsaw puzzle ... three levels (The New Yorker).

Paul Krugman explains why Republicans were wrong about pretty much everything in 2014 (NY Times).

House GOP Majority Whip confirms speaking role at white-supremacist event (MSNBC).

White Americans who don't finish high school have better job prospects than black Americans who go to college but don't finish (Quartz).

A black college student has the same chance of getting a job as a white high school drop out (Think Progress).

68-year-old woman jailed for three days after trying to switch to an empty seat on a plane (The Free Thought Project).

Stephen Anderson, ex NYPD Cop: We planted evidence, framed innocent people to reach quotas (Huffington Post).

Voter ID laws fix a fake problem by creating a new one (Vox).

New Mexico's largest utility wants to charge solar owners up to $30 per month (Think Progress).

Constitutional guarantees of a republican form of government (local rule) does not extend to local governments ... Dillon's rule in Detroit and beyond (Truth Out).

NSA fesses up to improper surveillance of U.S. citizens (Huffington Post).

Massachusetts SWAT teams claim they're private corporations, immune from open records laws (Washington Post).

Nine terrifying facts about America's biggest police force (Alter Net).

Why is no one talking about NYPD shooter's other target (The Nation)?

Social movements didn't kill NYPD officers: A man with untreated mental illness and a gun did (The Nation).

Hundreds of police, outside slain New York officer's funeral, turn their back on Mayor Bill de Blasio (Huffington Post).

7 things Americans think are more plausible than global warming (Salon).

A catalogue of shame ... This is the stupidest anti-science bullshit of 2014 (Mother Jones).

Texas' new public school textbooks promote climate change denial and downplay segregation (Mother Jones).

Official Texas review: "Creation science" should be incorporate in every biology textbook (Mother Jones).

Insight into Ayn Rand, the nut job: Ayn Rand reviews children's movies (The New Yorker).

21 selfish Ayn Rand holiday cards (Alter Net).

Ayn Rand worshippers should face facts: Blue states are providers, red states are parasites (Alter Net).

The gap between the richest Americans and the rest of us is the widest it's been in 30 years. Here's one reason why (Mother Jones).

That's rich! Why so many wealthy Americans think they're middle class: Hint, they're out of touch (Salon).

The U.S. is the richest country in the world, as well as the most unequal: 8 consequences of American greed (Alter Net).

STUFF FOR THE 99% (i.e. you and me)
Elizabeth Warren's quiet (but huge) win: Why Wall Street Lobbyists really hated "cromnibus fight" (Salon).

California saw striking jobs gains in November: More than 90,000 jobs added in the month (Sacramento Bee).

With GDP growing strongly, Republicans' economic dilemma gets more complicated (Washington Post).

Let's all screw the 1 percent: This simple move Obama could make to strengthen the rest of us (Salon).

Windowless planes could be here in 10 years - and they look amazing (Quartz).

President Obama ends social security for Nazis (Huffington Post).

25 of the most wonderful roads in the world (Earthporm).

Unearthing the truth: Mexican state violence beyond Ayotzinapa (Truth Out).

- Mark 


I don't know about anyone else, but these guys have to be the dumbest criminals I saw this year ...

- Mark 

Friday, December 26, 2014


In his article "Rise of the Machines: Downfall of the Economy" economist Nouriel Roubini tells us that technology may not be making us all better off.

Roubini argues that even if technology is making us more productive and offering us more choices that the market rewards from increased productivity are unnecessarily skewed. The real financial beneficiaries of modern technology are the moneyed elite, and those with a specific set of increasingly difficult to obtain resources, skill sets, and education.

Worse, as technology increases productivity, fewer hands are needed to produce our new electronic toys so wages don't necessarily need to climb - or "magically" increase - as output increases. So, contrary to what free marketeers like to claim, there is no automatic trickle down effect. A rising sea doesn't lift all boats.

To make his point Roubini - one of the few economists who called the 2008 market collapse - walks us through a bit of history, and discusses how the technological revolution has changed our lives.

While Roubini doesn't give specific dates, the technological revolution he's talking about was cold war inspired and began in 1947. It was at this time that transistors began replacing vacuum tubes in our electronic gadgets. After making the jump to transistors came an explosion of technological innovations built around the offspring of the transistor, the integrated circuit - or the microchip.

Our electronic gadgets haven't been the same since.

Where the First and Second Industrial Revolutions involved the efficient transformation of heavy metals and other materials for mass consumption, the real key was how they created a 9-5 culture built around industrialization and the rise of Hydrocarbon Man. Heavy machinery and a petroleum based economy dominated our world from the 18th through the 20th centuries.

The Third Industrial Revolution is changing all of this. Apart from transforming the electronics industry, we have seen how computers, instant communication, robotics, and 3D printing make our lives more flexible, easier, and productive.

We now have 24 hour news channels, 24 hour stores, and round the clock manufacturing that's created a culture distinct from the First and Second Industrial Revolutions.

To be sure, with the Third Industrial Revolution we may have lost some of the 9-5 culture and stability that was built around the blue-collar assembly lines. But we need to remember that the charms of the horse and buggy era had to give way to the conveniences and leisure of the automobile. Today, like it or not, we are exposed to a world transformed by mass information, industrial automation, and convenience services (e-shopping, ATM / home banking, e-books, etc.) that we couldn't dream about when it all began in 1947.

All of this has been made possible by advances in computer technology.

My kids would probably freak out if they saw people running up to care for our car(s) like this. 

With the exception of Oregon and New Jersey, we pump our own gas with little if any human interaction.
Put another way, the world we live in today may be missing some of the charms from yesterday, but we also have more conveniences and are offered more of everything. Along with this we are learning that a whole new set of skills are necessary to succeed than was the case when the Third Industrial Revolution began almost 70 years ago.

What makes these developments so profound, observed business guru Peter F. Drucker as far back as 1986, is that they aren't temporary changes. They are structural, irreversible, changes that are altering the rules of the economic game. While Drucker (and others) saw a world that we could all benefit from, Nouriel Roubini sees potential trouble around the corner.

Before we discuss where Drucker and Roubini differ (and converge), some background on the Third Industrial Revolution is in order.

While many like to believe otherwise, the era of the microchip and the Third Industrial Revolution isn't just about entrepreneurialism and investment capital magically gravitating to the right place at the right time. The technological leaps that were made in the 1950s and 1960s were a direct result of the cold war, the space race, and government investments. Without these intertwined developments the groundwork for the Third Industrial Revolution would have been delayed, or never happened.

More specifically, after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik into space in 1957 it was suddenly clear that in spite of developing the atomic bomb first the U.S. was not the technological leader of the world.

A scale model of Sputnik.
This was a shock to America's free market psyche. The U.S. would have to act fast if it was going to catch up to the Soviets. Only it wasn't going to be America's much touted capitalists leading the charge.

President Eisenhower understood the ramifications of Sputnik immediately and established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). For their part the U.S. military focused on building intercontinental missiles. Suddenly, the U.S. needed equipment that could leave the earth's atmosphere and come back without bursting or melting during re-entry.

The standard vacuum tube transistors used by the private sector in the 1950s - which were little more than "glorified lightbulbs" - suddenly became obsolete in a cold war context. What was needed were advanced and high quality energy transmitters. While the price of these new transmitters were too expensive for the private sector, the cold war and defense needs of the U.S. created an entirely new "market."

Newly founded Fairchild Semiconductor would reap the benefits of the Sputnik induced space race.

Under the leadership of Robert Noyce, Fairchild Semiconductor became the first company to demonstrate that it had the ability to mass produce silicon transistors that met the quality levels demanded by the U.S. Air Force (who had orders through IBM). Founded in Mountain View, California - now the heart of the Silicon Valley - Fairchild Semiconductor produced 100 silicon transistors in 1958.

Each semiconductor unit cost $150 each (about $1,500 today). While this was about 30 times more expensive than transistors then in use, the U.S. government didn't flinch. The U.S. was engaged in a global ideological battle, where the world had to see that whatever the Soviets did the U.S. could do better.

Private sector cost models held no weight when it came to national security needs during the cold war. This was the genesis of the Third Industrial Revolution.

Fairchilds next big breakthrough would be the integrated circuit, or the microchip. At $120 per unit the integrated circuit (or microchip) was still too expensive for everyday use by private industry. But, once again, with the cold war in full bloom and the Apollo program on the horizon, the U.S. government was there to provide the market demand necessary for Fairchild to sell its wares, and make money.

One of the numerous types of integrated circuits.
To be sure, Texas Instruments was the first to produce an integrated circuit. But it was Fairchild who used a different design and process to create a product that actually worked according to NASA's specifications. While a lawsuit would be filed by Texas Instruments against Fairchild, the industry continued to progress. Ultimately both TI and Fairchild would share licensing arrangements (52:00), and the needs of the NASA and the U.S. military would be met.

With NASA purchasing 60 percent of the expensive integrated circuits produced in the United States (57:45), Fairchild became a major supplier. In 1964 alone it supplied at least 100,000 circuits to the Apollo mission (58:00), while "the federal government bought virtually every microchip firms could produce."

After 1964 mass production and competition for government "market" share continued to lower costs, which allowed the private sector to embrace the silicon era as they began using microchips in their products. According to one source:
... NASA bought so many [microchips] that manufacturers were able to achieve huge improvements in the production process - so much so, in fact, that the price of the Apollo microchip fell from $1000 per unit to between $20 and $30 per unit in the span of a couple years.
At the same time this was happening Fairchild's original founders began leaving the company. Surrounded by numerous public and private universities, a developed infrastructure, and a vibrant economy, the Fairchild founders stayed in the region and built their own companies. Funded by government contracts, Fairchild was able to become a technological seedpod that spawned hundreds of new firms (often referred to as "Fairchildren") that built what we know today as the Silicon Valley.

Because of the educational and infrastructure investments made by successive California governors beforehand, and because of the successes of home grown genius like Apples' Steve Jobs, the Silicon Valley became a global Mecca for people with both creative minds and money.

People with real talent and lots of cash flocked to the Silicon Valley, hoping to participate in, and to build off of, the "social structure of innovation" (created by high tech firms, research universities, infrastructure, an open culture, numerous venture capital sources, and specialized support services) that is unique to the region.

Today, at any given time the Silicon Valley regularly attracts between 40 to 50 percent of all venture capital invested in the United States.

I can still remember the first time I saw automated gas stations early in the 1980s. There was no need for an island attendant (a job I once held). Since then, every major retail center - and not just gas stations - has automated checkout counters, where one person watches over four or more counters. Big e-tailers like Amazon has robots stocking and picking products in warehouses. This has been going on for some time now. UPS and FedEx are already working with air drones to make deliveries.

In the area of animal husbandry, technology has helped reduce the time necessary to grow one ready for market chicken in Mexico from two and one-half man hours in the 1960s to just fourteen minutes by the end of the 20th century. During the same period, the amount of time necessary to grow a 4 pound chicken was reduced from nine and one-half weeks to just 6 weeks. Similarly, where it once required two people to manage a single hatchery (early 1980s), one individual can now take care of ten automated hatcheries.

The point here is that the Third Industrial Revolution is increasing productivity, but doing so in a way where it's not entirely clear that the demand for labor - or wage level increases - will continue to grow. This is a key issue since increases in productivity and wage hikes have been the backbone behind the promise of markets since the time of the American Revolution.

Put more simply - as I pointed out in my book (32-35) - wealth creation with no "trickle down" for ordinary laborers makes work little more than drudgery and, quite frankly, undermines the point of capitalism. The moral justification of capitalism is betrayed in the process.

The fact that this has been happening for the better part of 30 years raises big questions about the impact and future direction of the Third Industrial Revolution. This is precisely what Nouriel Roubini was concerned about when he discussed the downside to the Third Industrial Revolution.

I'll discuss these issues, and more, in "Rise of the Machines (Part II) ..." by New Year's Eve.

- Mark

UPDATE: A bit late, but you can now access "Rise of the Machines (Part II): Economic Fallout From the Third Industrial Revolution, Accelerated By Government Policies" by clicking here


- Mark 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


I learned about this a number of years ago. I should have posted on it before. If you want to know about the Christmas spirit, this story is worth the read ... and Merry Christmas.

A snippet from the story...
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. 

Read the rest here ...

- Mark 


NASA's Kepler finds 'Super-Earth' 180 light-years away (CS Monitor).

10 of the most evil medical experiments in history (Alternet).

20 stunning facts about energy jobs in the U.S. (Zero Hedge).

Man finds woman with same name as ex to join him on round-the-world trip (The Guardian).

Washington Post: Our 54-year-old Cuba policy was about to work, we swear! (Salon).

Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fl) attacks Pope for helping broker Cuba deal (Think Progress).

Robert Reich: The disgusting way insider traders rig America and how courts let them (Alter Net).

Multinationals including L'Oreal and Unilever fines millions for price fixing (Euronews).

Savings accounts are at risk as long as JPMorgan CEO gets everything he wants (The Guardian).

The Koch-Wall Street crusade to rob pensions is underway (PoliticsUSA).

401(k)s are a sham (Salon).

Is the 401(k) plan a fraud (CS Monitor)?

Hidden 401(k) fees: The great retirement plan rip-off (Daily Finance).

China's hard line on genetically modified/biotech food is shriveling U.S. hay exports (Wall Street Journal).

Scientists need to rethink their beliefs about GMOs (The Des Moines Register).

Why the FDAs policy on genetically engineered foods is fraudulent and illegal (Steven Druker).

OK, this additive might be a good thing ... scientists make 'feel full' chemical (BBC).

Ferguson prosecutor says witnesses in Darren Wilson case lied under oath (The Guardian).

Revealed: How the FBI coordinated the crackdown on the Occupy movement (The Guardian).

Were NATO dogs used to rape Afghan prisoners at Bagram Air Base (Alter Net)?

20 things that mentally strong people don't do (Elite Daily).

13 things that the mentally strong people avoid (Forbes).

Corporate America's 5 most despicable and cowardly acts of 2014 (Alter Net).

Manufacturers face 'bloodbath' in Russia says Renault Nissan boss (BBC).

Student raises thousands of pounds for homeless man who offered her money (The Guardian).

Three things conservatives wrote this week that everyone should read (Think Progress).

- Mark 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


The Republican governor of Kansas wants to use state pension funds to help cover budget holes that have been created by policies that give tax cuts to the biggest corporations and the richest people in the state.

Similarly, the trustees who watch over New Jersey's $80 billion public employee retirement system are suing Republican Governor Chris Christie for stiffing the retirement system because his tax cuts for the rich policies are not bringing in anywhere near enough revenue to cover state expenses, as promised.

For the record, the state of California's Legislative Analyst's Office has a year-end budget surplus forecast of $5.6 billion for fiscal year 2014-2015. Under the leadership of Jerry Brown, who openly campaigned for higher taxes on the rich, the state of California has a projected surplus of $9.6 billion after 2018.

So, yeah, California, New Jersey, and Kansas give us another nail in the Republicans trickle down coffin of economic misery.

- Mark

UPDATE (12-29-14): David Sirota has an article on this topic at Nation of Change

Friday, December 19, 2014


Guest Post from Ray Gonzales, Ph.D.  

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


As President Obama begins the last two years of his Administration, this is the speech he ought to give to the Nation as his State of the Union Address:

My fellow Americans, as I begin my last two years as your President, there are a few things I have to say which I have refrained from saying over the last six years.  I did not say these things because I had a deep hope that our country would come together after a tough partisan election and work harmoniously to improve the American economy, get us out of unnecessary wars, and improve the lives of our middle class Americans while also protecting our free enterprise system and providing the needed social services for all of our people.

Unfortunately, things did not work out that way.  In many respects I have failed in my efforts, failed primarily because of circumstances beyond my control and a very negative and prevailing attitude of some of our citizens, especially the members of Congress from the other Party.

When I was elected, I, and the rest of the world, believed that it was a great day for America, not because I am an especially worthy person, or that I brought some special gifts to the office.  It was significant because, after several hundred years of racial divide and animosity that characterized much of our history, a black man was elected President of the United States of America.  This was a tremendous political statement by the American people.  It said to the world that despite much of our troubled past as it relates to race, we Americans have now elected an African American because we believe he was the best choice of candidates from all the Parties in the nation.  The joy expressed and seen around the country was remarkable.  It humbled me and made me very proud to be an American.

Unfortunately, this feeling of joy and pride was not shared by all Americans.  We can understand and accept the sorrow and disappointment experienced by the members of the losing Party.  That always occurs after a hard fought political contest.  But the feelings felt and expressed by many of the losers in the 2008 election were not your normal dissatisfaction with the outcome.  Instead, one attitude that came out after my election to the Presidency was, “What is happening to our country.  We’ll now have a black man as president.”  

Many attempted to hide their resentment and mask it in political terms, but the truth is, they were offended that a black man would now be the Commander and Chief.

Immediately, there were concerns about my name — Obama, and my origin and the story of my black father from Africa.  I was accused of falsifying my birth certificate, of having Muslim connections, of being anti-white and anti-Christian.  There was no end to the charges that were leveled at me publicly and the hatred of me expressed in private.  We have not shared any of the hate mail we receive in the White House that attacks me, not as being a bad president, but for being black.  Some Americans just cannot accept that someone, not exactly like them, is now the leader of the strongest country in the World.  How could this happen?

But my effort to accomplishing much of what the country needs was met with opposition at every turn.  

My plan of developing an infrastructure program to repair the aging bridges, pipelines, docks, tunnels, air and rail systems while creating thousand of jobs was not supported.  My efforts to raise the minimum wage and protect women’s equal rights in the workplace were thwarted as well.  I failed in getting comprehensive immigration policy passed, that the country so badly needs.  I was unable to pass reasonable legislation on gun control, even after the horrendous mass shootings in the country.  Eighty-two of my appointments were blocked by filibuster compared to 86 for all other presidents in the history of the country combined.  There have been many failures in my efforts to move our country forward.  

I am sorry for these failures.  I apologize to the American people for not being more successful in these endeavors.

But while I take some responsibility for not getting many of the important things done, I can say with a straight face and in all honesty that I tried.  My failure and the country’s failure to see the needed changes that we expect are primarily due to a recalcitrant Congress, led in the House of Representatives by the Republican Party.  It is a well-known fact that on Inauguration night of 2009, when we thought our country took a giant step forward, Republican leaders were meeting at the Caucus restaurant in Washington to discuss how they could thwart my efforts and sabotage my presidency. As present Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy stated at the time, "If you act like you're the minority, you're going to stay in the minority…We've gotta challenge them on every single bill and challenge them on every single campaign."

Their stated goal was to oppose every effort that I made, every law I would try to pass, every appointment I would try to make.  They were going to say NO to everything I attempted.  Understand that they made this decision on Inauguration day.  They made this decision before I proposed any legislation, made a single appointment, or even talked about my plans as president.  It was to be their philosophy of non-cooperation for my entire term, regardless of how it affected the nation.

They rejected the hand of friendship I extended and an offer to work cooperatively for the betterment of our country.  I would like to think that their reasons for declaring their policy of NO was based on political party differences.  Some of this may be true, but more true is that many of those Congressional leaders, pushed by their Base, believed that my presidency was illegitimate.  They could not accept that a black man named, Barack Obama, could be president of the USA.  A degree of racial animosity existed in the ranks of the GOP leadership as it did in their grassroots. 

It is clear that the GOP’s efforts to attack voting rights and limit access to the polls, to block all efforts at immigration reform, and to oppose the expansion of healthcare in this country have been aimed at the middle-class, the working poor and racial groups.  While they hide behind their arguments of budget issues, smaller government, and Christian values, the fact is that a certain degree of racial animus motivates many in the Party and many in the leadership of that party.

Many will protest now that I am playing the race card, that I am a cry-baby who has been a failure as president, that I have stooped to a new low.  The truth is that the GOP’s attitude and behavior during my six years as President has been a new low in our American political system.  

History will show that what I say is true, that this has been the reality of the political friction during the last six years.  I will take my chances with history.  I have more faith in historians, political scientists, and the media to get things right and tell the American people the truth about my Presidency.  I have not failed as much as our political system has failed.

And despite my inability to accomplish many of the items I have listed, the truth is that some things did get done. In many ways I made a difference.  

* Our stock market has reached historic highs at 17,864 for the first time in our history; an increase of 141 percent, while under George Bush it declined by a minus 38 percent. 
* We turned our financial crisis around as we created 10 million new jobs in 54 months, dropping our unemployment rate from 9.5 to 5.9 during my tenure, the lowest level in 14 years.  
* We cut the annual deficit left to us by President Bush by 70 percent.  
* The country has seen a GDP growth rate to 4.6%, while under Bush it declined by -5.4%.   
* We increased government spending by only 1.8 percent while Bush increased it to 8.1 in his last term.  
* Bush took a Clinton budget surplus of $129 billion and left us with a national debt of $11 trillion when he left office.  
* We have provided new healthcare for 33 million new Americans, despite the opposition of the Republican Congress.  
* Consumer confidence has gone from  25% under Bush to 94.6%.  
* We got out of a war that the Bush Administration started on the basis of lies and false intelligence reports.   
* We killed Osama in Laden, and have had no foreign terrorist attack in our country during my Administration.  

I am proud of these accomplishments.

And while the GOP Party leaders have fought me at every turn, I am proud that a majority of Americans elected me to be their President not once, but twice.  This says much about our country even while some Americans refuse to accept the changes that are taking place in our demographics, as we continue to be a nation of immigrants.  We took a big step forward in the election of 2008 and showed the world that a majority of the American people is open to new things that will come with new generations.  There is no turning back, as minorities, women, the middle class, the poor, take their rightful place in the future of our nation.  We have seen that the “trickle-down” has not worked as corporations and the top 10 percent of the country grow increasingly richer while the poor and the middle-class are stuck in a situation with little hope.

The next two years are going to be difficulty for the country, but I do not intend to be cowered by the other Party.  Bring it on, I say.  The American people will not continue to be duped by a minority of individuals who do not have the best interest of the country as their main goal.  Thank you for your kind attention.

Your President,
Barack Obama


- Mark 


So, Jeb Bush wants to run for president. Good for him, but what about us? 

And, for the record, here's Dubya's take on all the Tomfoolery ...

- Mark

Thursday, December 18, 2014


Fox News' Clown Car of Punditry doesn't think people should be allowed to march on our streets because impeding traffic's "a form of violence." Jon Stewart calls them on their ignorance, and their double standard ...

What makes the Fox News Clown Car of Punditry so ridiculous is that the clown team had absolutely no problem promoting and encouraging the Koch brothers-Big Tobacco inspired Tea Party to take to the streets to protest President Obama's policies.

While most of us know that Fox News regularly embarrasses itself on issues like this, we can at least be thankful that Fox wasn't around during other critical moments in our nation's history.

Let's take a look at what the headlines might have looked like if Fox News was around throughout American history.



Let's take this full circle.

Fox News' recent coverage of events in Ferguson, Missouri - especially Sean Hannity's early musings and suggestive commentary about Darren Wilson being savagely beaten - was Clown Car Punditry at its finest (worst?).

For the record, here's what Darren Wilson looked like in the hospital after he was "nearly beaten unconscious" ...

- Mark


This past year the Republicans continuously ridiculed President Obama for his policies towards Russia, while openly admiring the strong arm tactics of "manly-man" Vladimir Putin ...

What the GOP's man-crush fawning over Vladimir Putin completely ignored was the long-term impact of sanctions, and how Putin's false bravado policies were setting his country up for an economic freefall that's affecting his base of support.

The Russian Ruble against the U.S. Dollar, Sept.-Nov., 2014.

The Russian Ruble against the U.S. Dollar, December, 2014.

If we've learned anything during this past year it's that at least we know conservatives are consistent ... consistent at being wrong. Check out the list of big ticket items that the conservatives have gotten wrong over the years in this Vanity Fair article.

And, for the record, President Obama's economy is humming along nicely, and might even be stronger than you think ...

- Mark