Sunday, May 31, 2015


This is not what the Founding Fathers had in mind.

An Atlanta TV station captured Georgia lawmakers and ALEC (America Legislative Exchange Council) lobbyists meeting to craft and approve industry supported legislation that will be introduced in Georgia's state legislature ...

In the report ALEC is referred to by former members as little more than a private "corporate bill mill" run by angry "white men controlled by industry not legislators."

ALEC's role in organizing and bankrolling the push for private prisons, voter ID, and anti-immigration laws are detailed herehere and here.

- Mark


As my regular readers have noticed, it's been a few days since I've posted anything. It's graduation time and I've been extra busy with regular campus-university duties, while hosting family and friends for my daughter's graduation at Centennial High School this past Thursday.

Centennial High School graduating class 2015.
I'm finally catching up on work, and will get back to semi-normal posting schedule (though we have Cal State's graduation next week).

- Mark 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


It was the 1970s. Inflation, which started at 6.2% in 1970, reached over 13% by the end of 1979. Unemployment hovered around 6%, while borrowing money to pay for a home or a car could easily cost you 20% in interest. Recession, high oil prices, low productivity, and inflation were the new norm in America. The result was a new term in the field of economics, and a fresh challenge in American politics: Stagflation. 

With both confidence and investment lagging in America, the economy was on the ropes. While it was clear that too many dollars floating in the global economy had wiped out the gold standard, new competition from Europe and Asia combined with OPEC price hikes in the 1970s in a way that altered and destabilized global markets. 

With economists and policy analysts arguing over the causes there was little political consensus about what to do. The political void created by these developments would be filled by presidential candidate Ronald Reagan in 1980. 

Claiming that excessive regulations and high taxes were the problem, candidate Reagan's message touched a political nerve in America - in spite of the fact that his political prescriptions did nothing to address the economic problems challenging America. In the end, Reagan was able to sell America on a deregulation and tax cut program that would do little more than transfer wealth to America's richest class, while exacerbating the economic problems facing the nation, and the world.

In fact, regulations and taxes were only a small piece of the economic puzzle that challenged policy makers in 1980. The economic instability and new challenges America faced were ultimately rooted in the successes - and subsequent collapse - of the post-war world order that the United States had created, then poorly managed and, finally, helped to undermine with reckless budget deficits. 

How we arrived at this point is what makes this story.

After World War II, the uncertainty caused by the destruction of war was heightened by the reality that we were now in a nuclear age. Post-war leaders knew they also wanted to avoid the economic conditions that led to the rise of tyrants like Adolf Hitler (economic collapse) and the Soviet Union's Joseph Stalin (underdevelopment). 

With nuclear weapons and the cold war staring us in the face, it was clear that the post-war world needed to learn how to cooperate, on many levels. 

With memories of walking away from the global community after World War I - when the United States Senate rejected the League of Nations - America was convinced it would have to lead the world in constructing a world order that would be both politically inclusive and economically disciplined.

By supporting the United Nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank - economic institutions created at Bretton Woods in 1944 - the United States demonstrated that it was committed to building a new world order. With the hope that the world economy would stabilize and grow, America put the full force of its authority behind these political, military, and economic institutions. 

In the process, because the goal was cooperation rather than domination, the United States demonstrated that it had embraced a more sophisticated understanding of power. 

The Marshall Plan - which committed about 4% of the U.S. GDP to Europe - showed the world that the U.S. was serious about its commitment to the global institutions it helped build. The costs of the Marshall Plan, however, would pale in comparison to the benefits the U.S. enjoyed from having the dollar enshrined as the world's "anchor currency," which nations sought and coveted. Over the years the privileged position of the dollar would allow the U.S. to effectively print and send dollars around the world, which other nations dutifully held. 

But this privileged position would come with a price. 

The United States would have to pay the bulk of the costs associated with defending the west. While the western world enjoyed the benefits of global stability (as virtual free riders), and recovered economically, the U.S. experienced bloated budgets. So while the post-war world order was at times tense it was a stable one. This set the stage for new market competitors to arrive on the global commercial stage. 

As well, a flood of U.S. dollars would spread across the globe, as market players found it convenient and profitable to trade in dollars.

This, as we shall see, is something the United States and their allies may have anticipated - see especially economist Robert Triffin - but never prepared for. This is an issue that continues to plague our world today.


Because so many countries sought and welcomed dollars the U.S. learned that it could print and send out dollars without the fear of having them sent back to America, where inflation would then become an issue. Colloquially, the United States found that it could write checks that others would not cash. 

With the United States taking the lead in the cold war, in Korea, Vietnam, and in every region around the world America learned that paying for the defense of the west was not so difficult. Demand for devalued dollars was maintained because the world was willing to hold dollars. 

This condition was facilitated by several developments that the United States did not necessarily anticipate, and may have even encouraged because of how it promoted the dollar abroad.

Beginning in the 1950s the British understood how popular the dollar was around the world. In an effort to benefit from the demand for dollars the British actively began soliciting and then lending dollars on their own terms in 1957. And just like that, a Euro-currency market built around dollars was born. While this would help undermine its long-term stability (because the British effectively began speculating on the dollar), in the short-term the British were promoting and increasing demand for the dollar. 

The rise of the Euro-currency market would parallel the surging demand for dollars that was created by U.S. firms that went abroad in search of new markets to conquer. With increased trade by U.S. multinationals came increased demand for financial services. Following lead of the British in 1957, by the early 1960s U.S. banks jumped in to fill the dollar needs of multinational firms around the world. 

By the 1960s the U.S. was putting military bases up around the world and paying for the defense of the west. The Euro-currency market was in full swing. Multinational corporations were also paving the way for the increased use of dollars around the world.

One could be pardoned for thinking that increased demand for U.S. dollars meant all was well for the United States. The reality was quite different.

Global markets had become so saturated with dollars that the U.S. promise to pay $35 for every ounce of gold became an unrealistic promise. By the 1960s the French began demanding more dollars for gold, and wanted others to follow their lead. This was the backdrop to a meeting between the French and the Americans in the late 1960s.

It was 1967 and Secretary of State Dean Rusk was engaged in yet another round of frustrating talks with the French over defense issues related to NATO and the creation of multilateral forces. The United States was trying to convince the French that its security needs would be covered by the U.S. “nuclear umbrella” in Europe. 

French President Charles de Gaulle was not convinced by the promise. He believed the U.S. wanted to dissuade France from building her own nuclear arsenal because it would undermine America's position as the leader of the free world. The prestige associated with her privileged position, according to de Gaulle, enabled the Americans to avoid being held to account in other areas. And de Gaulle’s evidence was strong. 

Charles de Gaulle pointed to the war in Vietnam, which he believed was irresponsibly financed by deficit spending. Coupled with balance of payment deficits and the costs of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs, de Gaulle complained that the U.S. was recklessly printing and issuing more money than it could back with gold. Noted historian, Walter La Faber, explained it this way:
War costs shot upward from $8 billion in 1966 to $21 billion in 1967. Dollars flew out of the United States to pay for both the war and growing American private investments abroad (which rose from $49 billion in 1960 to $101 billion in 1968). The nations export trade could not pull those dollars back.
Charles de Gaulle was particularly miffed that the U.S. was the only country that could unilaterally print money and issue credit without having to experience the inflationary effects at home. No other country had the privilege of writing checks that others would hold. According to de Gaulle this was an “exorbitant privilege” that no other nation enjoyed, and he set out to make things right by demanding gold when France’s dollar reserves grew. 

If other nations had been receptive to France's complaints the financial position of the U.S. would have suffered a serious setback. As Benjamin J. Cohen pointed out in In Whose Interest? International Banking and American Foreign Policy (1986), by the mid-1960s “almost two-thirds of America’s cumulative deficit was transferred in the form of gold.” This was up from just 10 percent in 1958. 
Fortunately for the United States, there was no real effort to collectively demand gold as the French did after 1965. The Americans, to de Gaulle’s chagrin, could not be disciplined. 

This was the backdrop to Charles de Gaulle’s tense meeting with American Secretary of State Dean Rusk over NATO in 1967. Events came to a head for de Gaulle when he announced that France was pulling its troops out of the military arm of NATO. He went so far as to declare that France’s nuclear forces might even be deployed against the west.

Making matters worse was the bitter and acrimonious tone surrounding France’s break from NATO. When de Gaulle informed U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk that the French were pulling out of NATO he bluntly told Rusk that he “wanted every American soldier out of France.” 

Impatient and angry over de Gaulle’s lack of decorum, Rusk replied, “Does that include the dead Americans in the military cemeteries as well?”

The Oise-Aisne American Cemetery and Memorial in France, where 6,012 American rest.
Whatever misgivings Charles de Gaulle had, one thing was clear: The military position of the U.S. and the prosperity generated by the American-led global system meant the U.S. could continue spending beyond its means. As long as the world continued to hold dollars the United States would be able to avoid financial accountability back home. 

This privilege position would not last. Trouble was around the corner. 

Continued deficit spending on the part of the U.S. coupled with the demands of the French would help convince President Nixon to quit exchanging dollars for gold on demand. This would be followed by price controls, a flood of petrodollars, and climbing debt after 1973. 

These and other forces combined to collapse the stability built around the Bretton Woods currency system. 

Worse, it would facilitate facilitate a speculative assault on the dollar that has destabilized world markets ever since. 

Ronald Reagan’s arrival, as we will see, would help accelerate this development.

So what happened after Charles de Gaulle called attention to U.S. spending habits? For our purposes, effectively nothing. The United States continued to spend. And when de Gualle’s criticisms failed, America spent even more. 

The q
uestion for us then is, Why didn’t the U.S. suffer the inflationary consequences from creating more dollars? Very simple: The U.S. and its cold war allies had come to an agreement. As Benjamin J. Cohen explained, in the early 1970s the U.S. agreed to continue paying for the defense of the west. For their part, U.S. allies agreed to continue underwriting American debt and to hold U.S. dollars. 

While this was both an economic and geo-strategic coup for the United States its western allies benefited as well. 

Instead of spending on tanks and guns they could concentrate on producing a parade of better cars and stereos (as it were). The Germans and the Japanese led this economic parade in Europe and Asia. In essence our allies said, “Go ahead, build up your military and spend all that money doing it. Even though you'll be creating more dollars and debt we still won’t won’t send your dollars back (at least not yet).” 

In the process the U.S. kept its perch as the undisputed leader of the free world.

There was only one problem. Nothing was being done about the long term political, economic and military issues that continue to affect the U.S. position today: 
(1) BLOATED BUDGETS: The costs associated with paying for the defense of the west has been matched today with the costs associated with industry bailouts and the costs of failed wars. These are financial burdens that will last generations.

(2) FINANCIAL INSTABILITY: A wave of dollars has undermined the value of the dollar, fluctuating interest rates, and the economic stability we experienced immediately after World War II. Today we see speculation, gambling and bailouts caused by bets made on increasingly complex financial products.

(3) THE GLOBAL CASINO: The cumulative impact of multinationals and other firms who went from hedging their bets in currency markets to outright speculating and gambling on currencies and other financial products has not been helpful.

(4) VIETNAM SYNDROME RUN AMOK: The penchant for the U.S. to pursue reckless wars and military-spying adventures has undermined America's position, and eroded its prestige around the globe.

(5) ENERGY PLANNING: After OPEC jacked up prices - which supercharged financial instability and global debt - little was done to develop a viable energy policy. Because the OPEC nations made a commitment to continue trading their product in dollars - and to purchase U.S. debt - after 1973, the U.S. has been unable to wean itself and the world from the instability in the Middle East.

(6) NEW COMPETITION: While Europe and Asia were able to recover and develop under the protective institutional umbrellas created after WWII, America was left flat-footed. To date, in an effort to deal with new competition the U.S. has chosen to embrace a race to the bottom strategy that takes jobs overseas and undermines the prospects of labor at home, while castigating other nations for cheating. 

(7) THE SYMBOLIC ECONOMY: Finding it easier and more profitable to gamble on currencies and other financial products, market players are increasingly more interested in wealth extraction than with wealth creation. 
In the case of #7 above, economist Joseph Schumpeter would have argued that our biggest market players today are now playing monopoly rather than building them.

In any case, it's clear that was ailing the United States in 1980 was not simply too many taxes or too many regulations. The challenges confronting the nation were a product of too many dollars wrecking the institutional discipline created at the 1944 Bretton Woods conference. As well, new competition from Asia and Europe came about precisely because the post-war world order did what it was supposed to do: nurture market stability and economic development.

The problems that Ronald Reagan saw, and the tax cutting and deregulation policies he sold to America, missed these larger issues. 

Not only did President Reagan's trickle down policies make matters worse by putting more deficit dollars into the global economy, but they redistributed wealth in America in ways that threatens to undermine the American experience even today. 

Worse - and contrary to popular opinion - President Reagan's policies didn't actually fix the problems that confronted America in 1980, as we will see in the next section.  

By the time Ronald Reagan left office inflation and interest rates were down to single digits, while unemployment hovered around 5%. Because of these developments, conservatives and ill-informed talk show hosts like to claim that a combination of tax cuts, deregulation, bureaucratic reform, and assorted incentives created the environment for investment that energized the economy. 

Indeed, according to revisionist historians the Reagan administration was able to get America moving by reducing the size of government, cutting government spending, and getting “government off of our backs.” 

This would be an interesting by-line except for one thing. It’s not true. 

First, it’s interesting to note that job creation under Ronald Reagan never matched the levels achieved under Jimmy Carter, while the size of the federal government’s workforce grew from 2.8 million employees to 3.1 million under President Reagan.

Job growth, by president, 1981-2015.

Public sector job growth, federal government.
Note the growth under President Reagan after the recession (1981-89). 
In fact, the number of federally subsidized programs under Ronald Reagan was scaled back only to 1970-1975 levels. This helps explain why the Reagan administration hardly put a dent in the size of government. 

edging this, in 1985 Fortune magazine wrote that the “budget is way out of balance because of a little-known fact: real federal spending, adjusted for inflation, has climbed even faster under President Reagan than it did in the Carter years.” In the end, in spite of what the supply-side supporters promised, the national debt almost tripled from approximately $930 Billion to $2.7 Trillion under Reagan. 

So what created the conditions for the American economy to stabilize in the late 1980s, and take off during the 1990s? Primarily three factors: all of which undermine the idea that Reagan fixed America with a good ol' shot of capitalism.

On the inflation front, we find that OPEC – an oligopoly that depends on cooperation to sustain itself – found its solidarity undermined by late 1981. With the beginning of the Iran-Iraq War, which Saddam Hussein initiated in part because the ayatollahs were fomenting fanatic revolution in Iraq, black markets in the oil industry grew as cheating on the part of the two combatants began (to fund their war efforts). 

In addition, conservation efforts, alternative energy sources, new oil discoveries, among other developments, helped to stabilize oil prices. But these efforts were initiated by President Ford and, to a larger degree, by President Carter. Still, the reality was OPEC unity – one of the primary catalysts behind price hikes – had unraveled, while government-inspired conservation efforts paid off. 

As the price for oil dropped, so did inflationary pressures. 

We also need to recognize a second force on the inflation front. Recall the strategy employed to control inflation was taken up by Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker. In spite of pressure from the Reagan administration, who initially wanted to expand the money supply, most economists agree that by sticking to his guns, and maintaining a stringent monetary policy, Mr. Volcker helped to slay the inflation dragon. Critical here is that Mr. Volcker was appointed by Jimmy Carter, and not Ronald Reagan. 

Finally, the Reagan administration’s deficit spending broke all previous records. 

In fact, his administration spent twice as much as the previous 39 presidential administrations combined, in the process using taxpayer funded debt to deposit hundreds of billions of dollars into the national and global economy each year. This government induced “pump priming” was an artificial stimulus – what economists call a “Keynesian stimulus” – and was hardly a vote of confidence for laissez-faire economics. 

In sum, cracks in OPEC unity, conservation efforts, a tight monetary policy, and a state-led stimulus to our larger economy suggest that the Reagan administration’s policies were, at best, a supporting rather than leading factor in reversing the dismal economic environment of the 1970s. 
Worse, President Reagan's policies did absolutely nothing to fix the very real problems associated with a flood of dollars, new competition, a crumbling global economic framework, and the rise of the symbolic economy. The events of 2008 were neither unforeseen, nor a product of - as Alan Greenspan comically put it - the product of once-in-a-century event. 

What we experienced in 2008 was the product of developments that we have chosen to ignore for the better part of four decades. And, yes, our continued "head-in-the-sand" response to the events of 2008 make it clear that things are only going to get worse before they get better.

- Mark 

UPDATE: For my International Commerce students, below are additional posts on topics we've discussed in class this quarter ...

Derivatives explained, Part II

Developing Afghanistan and Iraq ... It's mindless Modernization Theory, again

Decoupling of Productivity from Labor ... The Rise of the Machines, Part I

Decoupling of Productivity from Labor ... The Rise of the Machines, Part II

Monday, May 25, 2015


On Memorial Day ... I liked this song before, but the U.S. military has turned into a real masterpiece. This is absolutely the best rendition of "Unchained Melody" I've ever heard:

- Mark


As promised, over the Memorial Day weekend I'm going to re-post the stories of three Americans who exemplify what military service and honor are all about.

Unlike our modern day cowardly politicians, and blow hard media pundits who cheer every war opportunity without sacrificing anything, the Americans I'm profiling had fame and fortune. But they also believed they should contribute more to the cause. Not one of the three individuals profiled this weekend were drafted, or forced to abandon the charmed and comfortable lifestyles that would have been part of their future.

Yesterday I posted on Pat Tillman. Today's post is about Joseph Kennedy.

The Joseph Kennedy, Jr. story is a unique one because of his family connections and wealth. His father, Joseph Kennedy, Sr., made a name for himself on Wall Street, and as Franklin D. Roosevelt's Ambassador to Britain. His accomplishments on Wall Street would compel Franklin D. Roosevelt to appoint him as the first chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). His younger brother, John F. Kennedy, would become the 35th President of the United States.

A graduate of Harvard, Kennedy studied for a year at the London School of Economics before attending Harvard Law School. As a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1940, Kennedy was already fabulously rich as a young man. His father, as the story goes, gifted each of his kids $1 million (about $17 million today) early in life so they could tell the family (more specifically, the Dad) to go to hell if they wanted. 

Joe Kennedy, Jr., Joe Kennedy, Sr. and JFK.
Joe Kennedy, Jr. voluntarily left Harvard before finishing his final year in law school to join the U.S. Navy in 1942. There he completed 25 combat missions, and volunteered for Operation Aphrodite weeks before his tour was up. 

The mission he volunteered for can best be described as as a combination of modern drone warfare and kamikaze strategy. The U.S. military outfitted "tired" planes with explosives that weighed twice the payload weight authorized for a B-17 plane. Pilots were told to abandon their planes only when radio guidance was handed over to controllers. The plane Joe Kennedy, Jr. was flying blew up prematurely. He is officially listed as killed on a mission over England in 1944.

- Mark

Sunday, May 24, 2015


As promised, over the Memorial Day weekend I'm going to re-post the stories of three Americans who exemplify what military service and honor are all about.

Unlike our modern day cowardly politicians, and blow hard media pundits who cheer every war opportunity without sacrificing anything, the Americans I'm profiling had fame and fortune. But they also believed they should contribute more to the cause. Not one of the three individuals profiled this weekend were drafted, or forced to abandon the charmed and comfortable lifestyles that would have been part of their future.

Yesterday I posted on Glenn Miller. Today's post is about Pat Tillman.

Pat Tillman was an NFL player who was in his prime playing for the Phoenix Cardinals in the late 1990s. After the 9/11 attacks Tillman left a lucrative career in football to enlist in the U.S. Army at the age of 25. 

At one point Tillman turned down a multi-year $9 million contract from the St. Louis Rams because of the loyalty he felt towards the Cardinals. Before enlisting in the U.S. Army Tillman also turned down a 3-year $3.6 million contract offer from the Phoenix Cardinals. Put another way, Pat Tillman was a talented football player who had options.

After Tillman joined the Army Rangers he was killed in the mountains of Afghanistan under circumstances - first called an ambush, and later labeled as "friendly fire" - that remains a mystery for many today.

- Mark

Saturday, May 23, 2015


Nevermind: Jeb Bush walks back comment about authorizing Iraq invasion (Russian Times).

Top 10 banks to sell your soul (Zero Hedge).

U.S. rent prices continue to increase faster than home prices, and show no sign of letting up (Market Watch).

Scientists now projecting near 100% chance of strong El Nino, but rainfall isn't always guaranteed (San Francisco CBS).

Wealth gap hits 30-year high among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries (Russian Times).

The richest 1% in the world will have more than the remaining 99% by 2016 (International Business Times).

Welcome to the Oligarch recovery: 82% of multifamily rental construction in the U.S. was in luxury units between 2012 and 2014 (Zero Hedge).

Obama: Fox News portrays poor people as 'leeches' (Politico).

Jon Stewart rips Fox, Scarborough for whining after President Obama criticized them for demonizing the poor (Crooks and Liars).

"The rich suffered more": The worst of Fox News' poor-shaming (Media Matters).

Nike, Obama, and the fiasco of the Trans Pacific Partnership (Robert Reich).

One startling GIF show how much the U.S. spends on imprisoning vs. educating people (Policy Mic).

UK's private health firms get unfair tax advantage to outbid National Health Services (Russian Times).

8 disturbing revelations about policing in Baltimore since the Freddie Gray cops were arrested (Alternet).

The big banks are corrupt - and getting worse (Huffington Post).

Congress tells court that Congress can't be investigated for insider trading (Info Wars).

9 things many Americans just don't grasp compared to the rest of the world (Alternet).

Why are suicide rates crawling up the charts across the planet (Alternet)?

The icy paradox. While the Arctic continues to lose ground, Antarctica is gaining ice at a record pace ... the explanations for Antarctic growth suggest a real messy future (CS Monitor).

China's building islands in resource rich, and geo-strategically contentious Spratly Islands, with the U.S. threatening retaliation at their land grab (Zero Hedge).

Louie Gohmert: Bush would never have invaded Iraq if he knew Obama would come along and bungle it (Raw Story).

Ted Cruz goes full Ted Cruz: "Is there something about the left that is obsessed with sex?" (Salon).

Scott Walker doubles down on his assertion that Ronald Reagan firing U.S. air traffic controllers was the most significant foreign policy decision that has been made in his lifetime (Bloomberg).

Meet the Christian right's new doomsday prophet - and his insane, apocalyptic "blood moon" theory (Salon).

India & China seal record 24 deals estimated at $10 billion (Russian Times).

Boot camp or school? Critics worry that charters for minority kids are too militant (Takepart).

The GOP's war on science gets worse (The New Yorker).

The GOP attack on climate change science takes a big step forward (Michael Hiltzik).

- Mark


Over the next three days I'm going to break up and re-post one of my more popular posts because of it fits the Memorial Day narrative. These are the stories of three Americans who exemplify what military service and national honor are all about.

Unlike our modern day cowardly politicians, and blow hard media pundits who cheer every war opportunity without sacrificing anything, the Americans I'm profiling had fame and fortune. But they also believed they should contribute more to the cause. Not one of the three individuals profiled this weekend were drafted, or forced to abandon the charmed and comfortable lifestyles that would have been part of their future.

Today's post is about Glenn Miller.

Glenn Miller was a band leader in the swing era. His career was beginning to sky rocket with still recognizable hits like "In the Mood" and "Moonlight Serenade." In 1942, while making between $15,000 and $20,000 per week (roughly between $200,000 and $300,000 today), Miller decided to join the war effort. 

At 38 he was too old to be drafted, and was initially told by the Navy that they did not need his services. He convinced the U.S. Army that they could use him to help "modernize" their music, which allowed him to serve by entertaining the allied troops.

Miller and his 50-piece band played across Europe, and perished on December 15, 1944 while crossing the English Channel to play in Paris. Glenn Miller is still listed as Missing In Action.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

For those who didn't click on the Glenn Miller links above ...

- Mark 

Friday, May 22, 2015


This is one those Good News, Bad News stories for the city of Bakersfield - where I live. First, the good news. This weekend the Bakersfield Police Department reported that the crime rate in the city hit a 10-year low in 2015. This is good news.

The bad news is that Bakersfield just made another top 10 list. When it comes to violent crime, murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault Bakersfield is still the 10th most dangerous metropolitan area in the western United States (#32 nationwide).

- Mark 

Thursday, May 21, 2015


Ron Burgundy. Honorary House Republican?

The Republicans are at it again. Before you read on, watch the Monty Python clip below. It will help you understand the GOP congressional mindset that's currently leading the assault on science, and the scientific method. 

As you saw in the clip, simply because you can make the connections, and it makes sense to you, doesn't mean it's true. This is the case no matter how much you want to believe it (or how much lobbyist money you get for ignoring it). So, how bad is it in our halls of Congress, you ask? Good question.

In "The GOP attack on climate change science takes a big step forward" we learn from the Los Angeles Times' Michael Hiltzik that the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology voted to "cut deeply into NASA's budget for Earth science." As Hiltzik points out, this is a "clear swipe at the study of climate change."

But wait. The GOP's war on science gets worse.

According to the The New Yorker. The same House committee that approved major funding cuts to the NASA Earth Science budget also voted to cut the budgets for the National Science Foundation’s geosciences program and the Department of Energy programs, which support research into new energy sources (guess which industry benefits from this).

None of this should come as a surprise to the regular readers of this blog. We talked about the coming Republican assault on science and reason long before the House shifted back into the hands of the GOP.

What we're currently experiencing is an age-old argument about scientific truths, as argued by idiots ...

Sigh ...

- Mark 


This cartoon on the Trans Pacific Partnership below has the best commentary on what's wrong with the investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) rule that I've seen.


Artist Kevin Tucker has a nice overview of the Trans-Pacific Partnership to go along with his cartoon - complete with links to Senator Elizabeth Warren's comments on the TPP in the Washington Post - which you can access by clicking here.

- Mark 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


LESSON OF THE DAY: If you're going to pose a threat to your community, do it while working in Wall Street's derivative markets. The actual theft not only gets rewarded financially, but the cover of "the market" lets you convince yourself that you're actually doing something of value.

- Mark 


To be fair, because of Citizen's United, this could be politicians of all stripes playing the money game. Still, the Koch brothers give almost all of their political contributions to extreme libertarian groups that push their financial interests, and to the GOP. This reality, combined with the Koch name, is what makes this David Horsey comic so humorous.

- Mark

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


- Mark


From we learn about a Russian family that lived in Siberia for 40 years, cut off from all human contact. They didn't know about World War II when they were finally located by Soviet sponsored geologists in 1978. Below is an excerpt from the long but fascinating tale of the family found in the Russian boreal forest (taiga) of Siberia.


... The sight that greeted the geologists as they entered the cabin was like something from the middle ages. Jerry-built from whatever materials came to hand, the dwelling was not much more than a burrow—”a low, soot-blackened log kennel that was as cold as a cellar,” with a floor consisting of potato peel and pine-nut shells. Looking around in the dim light, the visitors saw that it consisted of a single room. It was cramped, musty and indescribably filthy, propped up by sagging joists—and, astonishingly, home to a family of five:
The silence was suddenly broken by sobs and lamentations. Only then did we see the silhouettes of two women. One was in hysterics, praying: ‘This is for our sins, our sins.’ The other, keeping behind a post… sank slowly to the floor. The light from the little window fell on her wide, terrified eyes, and we realized we had to get out of there as quickly as possible.
Led by Pismenskaya, the scientists backed hurriedly out of the hut and retreated to a spot a few yards away, where they took out some provisions and began to eat. After about half an hour, the door of the cabin creaked open, and the old man and his two daughters emerged—no longer hysterical and, though still obviously frightened, “frankly curious.” Warily, the three strange figures approached and sat down with their visitors, rejecting everything that they were offered—jam, tea, bread—with a muttered, “We are not allowed that!” When Pismenskaya asked, “Have you ever eaten bread?” the old man answered: “I have. But they have not. They have never seen it.” At least he was intelligible. The daughters spoke a language distorted by a lifetime of isolation. “When the sisters talked to each other, it sounded like a slow, blurred cooing.”
Slowly, over several visits, the full story of the family emerged. The old man’s name was Karp Lykov, and he was an Old Believer–a member of a fundamentalist Russian Orthodox sect, worshiping in a style unchanged since the 17th century. Old Believers had been persecuted since the days of Peter the Great, and Lykov talked about it as though it had happened only yesterday; for him, Peter was a personal enemy and “the anti-Christ in human form”—a point he insisted had been amply proved by Tsar’s campaign to modernize Russia by forcibly “chopping off the beards of Christians.” But these centuries-old hatreds were conflated with more recent grievances; Karp was prone to complain in the same breath about a merchant who had refused to make a gift of 26 poods of potatoes to the Old Believers sometime around 1900.
Things had only got worse for the Lykov family when the atheist Bolsheviks took power. Under the Soviets, isolated Old Believer communities that had fled to Siberia to escape persecution began to retreat ever further from civilization. During the purges of the 1930s, with Christianity itself under assault, a Communist patrol had shot Lykov’s brother on the outskirts of their village while Lykov knelt working beside him. He had responded by scooping up his family and bolting into forest.

For the rest of the story click here.

- Mark