Monday, February 29, 2016


Courtesy of Robert Reich here are 6 responses for those who still doubt the presidential odds of Senator Bernie Sanders ...

- Mark 

Saturday, February 27, 2016

WEEKEND READING (Feb. 27, 2016)

John Steinbeck was born on this day (Feb. 27) in 1902.

Notable quotes from John Steinbeck (John Steinbeck Quotes).

Latinos have passed whites as the largest ethnic group in California (LA Times).

When it comes to politics you're not as rational as you think (University of California)

In state with medical marijuana, painkiller deaths drop by 25 percent (Newsweek).

Donald Trump's political triumph makes it official - we're a nation of idiots (Salon).

It's official: 'Idiocracy' writer says his satire about a dumber America has become reality (Raw Story).

Age of Ignorance (The New York Review).

Southern Poverty Law Center: GOP is a megaphone for right-wing hate (Daily Beast).

The year of 'enormous rage': Number of hate groups rose by 14 percent in 2015 (Washington Post).

KKK chapters more than doubled in 2015 - and the GOP candidates shoulder part of the blame, report finds (Salon).

White Americans are the biggest terror threat in the United States (Mint Press News).

Hate Map ... There are currently 892 Hate Groups in America (Southern Poverty Law Center).

This map shows where America's hate groups live and operate (Business Insider).

Being the ex-president's daughter pays off: Hugo Chavez' ambassador daughter is Venezuela's richest woman (Daily Mail).

Jeb Bush is out of the presidential race; will return to life of privilege and minimum effort (The Intellectualist).

This new 3D printer makes live-sized ear, muscle, and bone tissue from living cells (Science Alert).

Cuba's had a lung cancer vaccine for years, and now it's coming to the U.S. (Huffington Post).

This tiny glass disc can store 360TB of data for 13.8 billion years (Science Alert).

What we learned from the Donald Trump-Marco Rubio screamfest (The New Yorker).

"He was so scared, like a frightened puppy": The 10 most bizarre moments from Trump's Fort Worth rally (Salon).

29 WTF moments from the 10th GOP debate (Rolling Stone).

Bernie Sanders doesn't need momentum - he needs to win these states (FiveThirtyEight).

Bernie Sanders has led Hillary Clinton in this major national poll nearly all month (Salon).

Gun deaths by state political leanings (Crowdpac).

He uses his gun to threaten and torture me. He's my boyfriend (Cosmopolitan).

Looking Back ... Scalia wasn't all that (The New Yorker).

Welfare drug tests: Conservatives are lining their pockets with poor people pee (Freakout Nation).

Because it needs to be said again ... A comprehensive investigation of voter impersonation finds 31 credible incidents out of one billion ballots cast (Washington Post).

Why you should care about Apple's fight with the FBI (Gizmodo).

Apple's fight against the FBI is not just about encryption: Here's why you should care (Tech Times).

Thomas Piketty on the rise of Bernie Sanders: The U.S. enters a new political era (The Guardian).

Thomas Friedman's America: The NY Times columnist is puzzled by populist anger (Salon).

Smartphone ownership and internet usage continues to climb in emerging economies (Pew Research Center).

'Hotspotting' pinpoints low-income areas that need health care the most (Al Jazeera).

Oregon militant accuses feds of committing 'works of the devil' in $666 billion lawsuit (Raw Story).

- Mark


On this day in 1902 John Steinbeck, author of The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, East of Eden, and Cannery Row (among many others), was born in Salinas, California. He would have been 114 today.

- Mark

Friday, February 26, 2016


Donald Trump is polling ahead of Marco Rubio in Florida. He just got endorsed by Chris Christie. This is not good for the Republican Party, or America. Via Vox ...

Still, while we can agree (or disagree) that Trump's rise isn't funny anymore, it's stuff like this that guarantee the presidential race will be entertaining on so many levels as long as Trump remains in the race...

- Mark


The obstructionism the GOP has engaged in for the better part of 7 years can't be attributed to a simple difference of opinion. In fact, we know that making sure America failed under President Obama was part of a larger strategy that was decided on the night of President Obama's first inauguration.

This is troubling because hoping and working to insure that an American president fails, one would think, is both un-American and a slap in the face to democracy.

Of course, there's also the racial element. But most of you already get that.

And, yes, all of this is driving the GOP's decision to stonewall President Obama's nominee to replace Justice Scalia on the Supreme Court.

Sigh ...

- Mark

Thursday, February 25, 2016


Former President Bill Clinton has grown fond of saying there's "not a single, solitary example" that repealing Glass-Steagall "had anything to do with the financial crash" of 2008. Even PolitiFact has rated President Clinton's no-fault claim as a mostly true statement.

PolitiFact argues Clinton's economic claim is technically correct primarily because we can't point to any one factor as the cause for the market meltdown. And, besides, Wall Street was already deregulated and on a reckless path. OK, fair enough. Still, Clinton's political claim is misleading and, quite frankly, a slap in the face to common sense. 

The following story on the Triangle Factory Fire helps to illustrate the flawed logic behind President Clinton's "I had nothing to do with it" claim.


In 1911 New York City's Triangle Factory Fire broke out and took the lives of 146 workers. All of the victims were young, and mostly immigrant women. It was one of the worst fires in American history. People wanted answers.

The 1911 New York Triangle Factory Fire.

During the investigation and trial, it was learned there were many factors that contributed to the numerous deaths after the fire started. Stairwell doors were locked. Rusty fire escapes collapsed. There were cluttered work spaces. Fire department ladders only reached the 6th floor. There wasn't enough water pressure for firefighter to reach the top floors. Occupational hazards like oily floors, wicker baskets full of scraps, and no sprinkler system helped to insure the fire would spread quickly. 

While no one could point to any one condition as the culprit for the catastrophe, together they created a lethal fire trap that needed a simple spark for the March 25th conflagration. This didn't just happen. Many people had to try real hard to ignore or overlook these occupational hazards. 

Owners Max Blanck and Isaac Harris would claim their innocence, arguing they didn't lock the doors. And besides, their building had been certified as fireproof. A criminal trial determined they weren't at fault for locking the doors, which cleared them of culpability. Floor managers and contractors said they had no hand in managing the building, or its policies, so they weren't to blame either.

While the owners escaped criminal prosecution, they were sued in civil court. They were eventually forced into a settlement, and paid $75 for each life lost.

Max Blanck and Isaac Harris, owners of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory, 1910.

In the end, no one was at fault criminally. But common sense tells us that many small and big decisions - which factory workers had no hand in crafting - created the right conditions for the Triangle Factory Fire to become a lethal hell hole.

The fact that everyone gave a wink and a nod to the growing fire trap allows us to return to President Clinton.

The logic behind the Triangle Fire is instructive because it helps us understand how many of former President Clinton's policy decisions played a key role in the lead up to the financial crash of 2008. Among those include his decision to reappoint Alan Greenspan as head of the Federal Reserve, and his decision to ignore and then politically maginalize CFTC commissioner Brooksley Born, who famously warned about a market collapse in 1997.

Brooksley Born, head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, warned that not regulating derivative markets would lead to a market meltdown. She was effectively shouted down by Alan Greenspan, Bob Rubin, and Larry Summers, then replaced by President Clinton.

But the symbolic Grandaddy of President Clinton's policy decisions was the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999.* 

As a reminder, the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act - which was part of the Banking Act - was a Franklin D. Roosevelt initiative that helped regulate the banking industry. Loosely speaking, the idea was to prevent commercial banks from using their customer's money to gamble in the market. Repealing the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999 killed off what remained of the law (the financial sector had been chipping away at it for years). It allowed different financial institutions to once again dip their company ink, as it were, into one another's business. 

It didn't matter whether the financial institutions were (FDIC) insured or not, they could now make big reckless bets with impunity. So, yeah, in spite of what former President Bill Clinton claims, repealing Glass-Steagall both continued and legitimized a larger deregulatory process that brought down the American economy in 2008.

By removing Glass-Steagall from the books Clinton helped slam the door shut on common sense financial regulations that, for well over 50 years, had kept Main Street safe from Wall Street's reckless behavior. 

Much like the owners and managers who turned a blind eye to the hazardous conditions at the Triangle Factory, President Clinton's ideological blinders helped him ignore how reckless deregulation was going to catapult the American economy towards catastrophe. 

Below is a small sample of the deregulation train of events that sandwiched the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999.

1. 1980s, THE “GENIE ACTS”: In the early 1980s the financial industry received what amounted to 3 wishes from the U.S. Congress. Among these wishes was legislation that allowed the Savings & Loan industry to make money off of home mortgage contracts even if they were generating losses. How can this be, you ask? Simple, Congress allowed S&Ls to use delinquent loans as a tax deduction at tax time (which meant the taxpayer picked up the tab).
IMPACT: With mortgages virtually bullet-proof, the stage was set for market players to bundle up individual mortgages (into CDOs). This is where the messy mortgage loans that helped bring down our economy began.
2.1987, THE “LET-THE BANKS-DO-WHAT-THEY-WANT” ACT: In 1987 the Federal Reserve granted commercial banks – which are FDIC insured – the authority to invest in (“underwrite”) new and risky municipal and mortgage-related securities. This was once the exclusive domain of investment banks (which weren't backed by FDIC-taxpayer money). In effect the Fed said, “Sure, go ahead and invest FDIC insured bank money in risky products … it’s not like you’re playing with taxpayer money.” Oops.
IMPACT: The commercial banking sector slowly came to depend on mortgage backed assets (i.e. CDOs and other derivative products) as their primary earning tool, jumping from about 28 percent of bank earnings in 1985 to more than 60 percent in 2005.
3. 2004, HANK PAULSON DOES A NUMBER ON AMERICA: In 2004 Goldman Sach’s then CEO, Hank Paulson, led a powerful group of financial players into the Securities and Exchange Commission’s offices. They were looking for a break. They wanted the SEC to allow them to borrow and “invest” beyond a debt-equity ratio of 12: 1 (most banks won't let you and me borrow beyond a 5:1 ratio). Paulson's request was granted. When Bear Stearns and Merrill Lynch collapsed four years later in 2008 they had debt to equity ratios of 33: 1 and 40: 1. In case you're wondering, in 2008 Hank Paulson - then as Secretary of Treasury in the Bush administration - led the charge to secure taxpayer bailout money, which was used to shield Goldman Sachs and industry friends. 
IMPACT: When the SEC said "yes" to Paulson's request in 2004 they effectively said it was OK to run up ridiculous debt levels to make risky market bets on largely unregulated products. 

So, yeah, while you can argue repealing the Glass-Steagall Act didn't cause the financial crash of 2008 - as former President Clinton does - it was a big part of a long string of policy decisions that contributed to the 2008 market meltdown

So this is what we have. America’s financial sector got a deregulatory shot in the arm in the early 1980s. Financial institutions that once played it safe could now go out and make big profits by making reckless market bets. So they did. 

This pushed the financial sector to ask for even more deregulation and, eventually, the repeal of Glass-Steagall - the symbolic heart of FDR's New Deal regulatory infrastructure. It didn't matter to President Clinton that "market collapse" and "bailout" had been effectively removed from America's economic language for the better part of 50 years, in part because of Glass-Steagall. 
He ignored history because he was already on the deregulation train that had left the station.

There’s more. Lot’s more (which I discuss in my book, The Myth of the Free Market). The point here is repealing Glass-Steagall was part of a larger destructive mind-set. It now stands as a symbol of Washington - and President Clinton - bowing at the feet of Wall Street.  

The financial mess we saw in 2008 was caused by greedy people in a deregulated environment acting like idiots. 

And, yes, President Clinton's long train of policy decisions - which include reappointing Alan Greenspan, marginalizing Brooksley Born, and repealing Glass-Steagall - had a lot to do with the market 2008 meltdown.

- Mark 

* The bill that repealed the Glass-Steagall Act is also referred to as the Financial Services Modernization Act, FSMA, and, alternately, as Gramm-Leach-Bliley.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


For those of you wondering why inequality is growing in America click herehere, and here.

- Mark


I have a board meeting coming up, so shout out time ...

I sit on the board of directors of several organizations, including the Farmworker Institute for Education and Leadership Development (FIELD). Among the quality board members that I serve with on the FIELD Board of Directors is Hollywood insider Rick Najera.

Apart from being an all-around good guy, Rick is an award-winning screenwriter, performer, author, and featured speaker who has had his work performed on film, television, theatre, Broadway and new media.

For those of you interested in knowing more about Rick you might want to buy his book, Almost White: Forced Confessions of a Latino in Hollywood (YouTube link).

- Mark 

Sunday, February 21, 2016


Let's keep a couple of things in mind about the current GOP presidential front-runner, Donald "I'm-a-Winner" Trump.

First, for the Trump supporters who want to believe Donald Trump is a self-made man, know that he and his siblings started with a $200 million family inheritance in 1974. While Donald Trump had to split this 5 ways with his siblings, it might surprise you to know $200 million in 1974 is worth almost $1 billion today.

So, yeah, Trump effectively won the lottery.

Several of you are probably saying, "Yeah, but he's worth more now, so he actually made more after he inherited his wealth." OK, let's take a look at the Trump business strategy.

Without going into the details it needs to be repeated - and emphasized - that Donald Trump uses bankruptcy as if it were an acceptable accounting tool that's preached in the best business schools of America. It's not (and if it is, say goodbye to the Republic). Donald Trump has used bankruptcy to stiff his creditors, while escaping personal responsibility.

You can read some of the details surrounding the bankruptcies herehere, and here. You can also read about the Saudi prince who bailed out Trump financially, twice, here.

There's more, but you get the point.

If you still don't get the point, I have the perfect "winning" VP pick for Donald Trump ...

- Mark

Friday, February 19, 2016


- Mark 


From Health & Wellness: "Big Pharma price gouging: Drugs in the U.S. cost 10 times more than in other countries" ...

Apart from America's ridiculous industry friendly patent laws and other state subsidies, the pharmaceutical industry is making big profits because of the Medicare Part D gift that was granted to the industry by Congress during the Bush administration.

You can read about it here, under "Big pharma pockets $711 billion in profits by robbing seniors, taxpayers."

There's more, but you get the point. The biggest pharmaceutical companies are reaping enormous profits because of favorable legislation and legal protections that have little to do with free market principles. And they're robbing the American consumer in the process.

- Mark


Nicolaus Copernicus, the famed astronomer who proved the earth wasn't the center
of the universe, was born in Poland 543 years ago today (February 19, 1473).

In case you missed it (while you were home safe) President Obama took out the ringleaders behind the ISIS Paris attack (Daily News Bin).

7 kinds of government subsidies those angry ranchers get that you don't (Grist).

This chart reveals the inhumanity of U.S. drug prices compared to other countries (U.S. Uncut).

Dirty little secret: Insurers actually are making a mint on Obamacare (LA Times).

The rise of Donald Trump is a terrifying moment in American politics (Vox).

"Intelligent people know that the empire is on the downhill": A veteran CIA agent spills the goods on the Deep State and our foreign policy nightmares (Salon).

Kansas GOP senator, Mary Pilcher-Cook wants to criminalize "harmful" books (Forward Progressive).

The Bundy brigade's delusional last stand: What the failed wing-nut revolt really tells us (Salon).

The simple truth about Creationists: They're too stupid to understand science (Forward Progressive).

Donald Trumps wants to blow up ISIS bank that President Obama already blew up last month (Daily News Bin).

Tim Geithner just showed why so many people are feeling the Bern these days (Vox).

"F*ck you!": Indiana workers react with outrage after being told their jobs are moving to Mexico (Raw Story).

In fact, argue experts, Sanders' Medicare-for-All numbers "do add up" (Common Dreams).

So much for Adam Smith's dream of capitalism catering to consumers ... Virgin America chooses empty seats over $41 Dallas-NYC fares (Bloomberg Business).

Crime doesn't pay ... unless you're a corporation (Ora).

Under Sanders, income and jobs would soar, economist says (CNN Money).

How this shitty jet could provide 23 years of free college for everyone (U.S. Uncut).

Cost of military jet could house every homeless person in U.S. with $600,000 home (Huffington Post).

The U.S. military suffers from affluenza: Showering the Pentagon with money and praise (Truth Out).

Former Central Banker William White on the failure of QE, danger of negative interest rates (Naked Capitalism).

New York Times' bank-boosting, neoliberal-excusing story of the global debt hangover (Naked Capitalism).

How to really make America great again: Get rid of 'the dumbest idea in the world - shareholder value theory (Daily Kos).

JUST INTERESTING (kind of funny too)

French restaurant owner bans bankers after being denied loans (The Telegraph).

Wife crashes her own funeral, horrifying her husband, who had paid to have her killed (Washington Post).

IRS allows post-Citizens Karl Rove group to continue concealing source of donors (Truth Out).

Democracy in peril: Twenty years of media consolidation under the Telecommunications Act (Truth Out).

Epic fail: Tennessee Republicans silent as welfare drug tests come up empty (Occupy Democrats).

How one man laid the groundwork for today's crisis in the Middle East (The Nation).

David Daleiden's sleaze factory: His latest court defeat exposes how slimy the Center for Medical Progress is (Salon).

- Mark

Monday, February 15, 2016


The underlying premise of the free market goes something like this: The magic of the market is good for everyone. Market players know what they're doing. If we leave market players alone, their efforts to make money means they will try and please customers. As a group, then, market players end up doing what's best for society.

History and current events tell us the thinking behind this logic is wrong. Big time.

The reality of our world tells us that the logic behind this story line is misleading and, quite frankly, simplistic. Worse, it's part of a big lie that keeps our world off balance.

How do we know that free markets are not necessary for innovation and market success? Simple. All we need to do is look to history. Communist Russia beat the United States into space with Sputnik in 1957. This was a technological stunner that left U.S. politicians and the American public asking what happened.

Not enough for the free marketeers? Check this out. The most popular gun in the world, the AK 47, was created by a communist tank commander after he was wounded in battle.

Then we have the incredible story behind the rise of the microchip and the birth of the Silicon Valley. As I pointed out in an earlier post, while the private sector did some great stuff, it was the demands of the Cold War and government dollars that made it all work.

Without NASA, the Cold War, and the willingness of the U.S. government to purchase new transistors and, later, microchips, that were 50 times more expensive than the products that preceded them, Fairchild Semiconductor might have failed, while the story of the Silicon Valley might have taken another turn.

The point is innovation, market success, and even the acquisition of wealth require much more than having an idea, hard work, or freedom.

Then we have the side effects of capitalists gone wild, which demonstrate that deregulated markets (or no regulation) may do more harm than good.

Today we live in a world where pharmaceutical companies artificially jack up prices because they can. Included here is the case of a Veterans Administration scientist developing a cure for hepatitis that was sold to the private sector, and is now out of the reach of veterans because it's priced at $1,000 a pill.

For their part, many of Wall Street's biggest firms went nuts after being deregulated and blew up the economy in 2008. After blackmailing the U.S. government and getting the U.S. Congress to deliver the Mother of All Bailouts, America's largest financial firms have lived off of government life support for the past 7 years because of bailouts, cross-party transfers, government subsidized loans, and legal cover.

All of these government escorted programs (and subsidies) have allowed the financial sector to continue creating and selling complex financial products that have more to do with wealth extraction than they do with wealth creation.

What we know now is that free markets offer no guarantee that being the first to build great products (like satellites), or that those with wealth (Paris Hilton) actually did what's necessary to earn it. So, yeah, "free markets" may help but they are no guarantee that innovation and creativity will follow. There are many other factors at work when it comes to what drives the human spirit.

This brings me to the story of Clair Patterson and his fight to demonstrate the dangers posed by the amount of lead in our environment.

Let's start with this. Clair Patterson was a geochemist. He was the first to use lead to understand and determine the age of the earth (4.5 billion years old). In the process of his studies Patterson learned that industrial-based levels of lead on the planet had grown dangerously high for humans and the environment. So, yes, human activities have an impact on our world.

There was just one problem. Lead helped to eliminate the pinging and knocking noise in high performance engines. People with big cars and big engines were in no mood to have their high performing engines sound like diesel engines as they flew down the road. Worse, the petroleum industry didn't like the idea of having to find a replacement for their product - tetraethyl lead- and especially didn't want their products associated with klunky-sounding cars.

So the petroleum industry went after Patterson and his work.

The petroleum industry, who had once supported his research, immediately cut off Patterson's research funding. Then they generally made his life more difficult by funding scientists who would challenge Patterson's findings at every turn. This went on for decades. Patterson's professional networks were impacted too. He was excluded from the National Research Council panel on atmospheric lead contamination, in spite of being the world's leading expert on the topic.

The fact that the petroleum industry would go after Patterson, in hindsight, is simply mind blowing.

Think about it. If people didn't know before recent events in Flint, Michigan they know now that lead is toxic to many organs and tissues, like the heart, bones, intestines, and kidneys.

We also know that lead interferes with the development of the nervous system, which makes it especially toxic for children. Finally, we also know that people who work with lead over extended periods exhibit personality disorders, and even go mad. And just like none of this mattered in Governor Rick Snyder's free market experiment in Flint, Michigan, none of this mattered to market players in the petroleum industry in the 1960s.

The petroleum industry did what many profit-centered industries do as a matter of course: They tried to discredit the science, and the scientist, with the goal of short-circuiting government regulations they knew would follow.

What's presented above is a far cry from what free marketeers claim. Specifically, their argument that allowing market players to do what they want will work to the consumers benefit is not necessarily a truism. Nor does it follow that market players doing their own thing automatically advances the human condition.

Fortunately, the science behind Clair Patterson's work would eventually compel the government to ban lead from gasoline and other industrial products. The impact has been nothing short of phenomenal. Apart from the improved health benefits associated with organ, tissue, and the nervous system we are now learning that banning lead in gasoline has had another broader societal impact.

Two years ago, writing for Mother Jones, Kevin Drum reported that new research is increasingly pointing to lead as the real villain behind violent crime, lower IQs, and a surge in ADHD cases throughout America and across international borders.

The real takeaway here is that market players do NOT always do the right thing, even when they are presented with the evidence.

But this should not come as a surprise.

Free markets are no guarantee that you will get there first, that you will have the best product, that the rich will have earned what they have, or that market players are inclined to do the right thing. Slavery was justified in America's "free market" economy, while family wage laws insured that women and children would always earn less than a man during America's industrial revolution.

Think about this the next time someone wants to tell you about the power and moral superiority of free market economies.

- Mark

P.S.: For those of you looking to learn more on this topic, you should take a look at Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues From Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming. The authors show how specific industries financially backed efforts designed to undermine transparency and muddy the waters of established scientific facts. It really doesn't matter that individuals, society, or the environment were going to be harmed in the process. If science got in the way of profits industry was going to go out of its way to discredit the science, and the scientists.

I might even write a short review of The Merchants of Doubt here. Stay tuned. 


I've been under the weather for some time now (which explains why I haven't posted), so I'm a little late to the Scalia-Supreme Court nomination discussion. Still, I want to make sure we understand a few things here.

* At least 14 Supreme Court justices have been confirmed during election years. You can read about it here
* If Republicans block Obama's Supreme Court nomination, it may not be so bad. President Obama might win anyway. You can read about it here
* In the more than 220 year history of the U.S. Senate, of all the judicial nominees that had been nominated and then filibustered (blocked) through 2013, almost half of those blocked (82) were nominated by President Obama. This helps to explain why Harry Reid changed the filibuster rules in the Senate.

The last point here should tell us all we need to know about the Republican Party and how they view their obligations to work within the U.S. Constitution (keep in mind, the filibuster is not part of the Constitution). 

Even when the GOP was not in control of the U.S. Senate they regularly blocked President Obama's judicial nominations because they could. All they had to do was abuse the filibuster process, which requires a 60-vote majority to get nominations out of committee.

There's more, but the key points here are (1) Supreme Court justices have been confirmed in "lame duck" years, (2) blocking President Obama's SC nomination might work in Obama's favor, and (3) the filibuster change the GOP is complaining about today is a direct result of the GOP not honoring the "Advice and Consent" provision in the U.S. Constitution.

- Mark 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

MID-WEEK READING (February 10, 2016)

African-American History Month / Children reading in the 1950s

Spy Chief: Homegrown terror is greatest threat (The Hill).

Why a global recession is more likely than anyone realizes (Shah Gilani / Money Morning).

Hillary Clinton: "Name one time I changed due to Wall Street." Elizabeth Warren: OK, allow me (U.S. Uncut).

Marco Rubio's spinelessness (Slate).

Saudi prince epically burns Donald Trump: Remember those two times I bailed you out financially (Addicting Info)?

America's Agitator: Donald Trump is the world's most dangerous man (Spiegel Online).

Cop sues family of teenager he killed and you'll never believe how he justifies it (U.S. Uncut).

How Fox News responded to Beyonce's Super Bowl show versus white rioters smashing police cars (U.S. Uncut).

Instead of helping Flint, Michigan Republicans just passed a bill that makes anal sex illegal (U.S. Uncut).

If these walls could pee: San Francisco installs urine-repelling walls (RT).

Pee back time! Paris authorities urged to support 'oui' campaign for urine-repelling walls (RT).

Without paper ballots, fear of vote rigging clouds 2016 primaries (Truth Out).

Voter suppression is more effective than you know - Thom Hartmann (Ring of Fire).

Republican arrested during voter fraud backfire - David Pakman Show (Ring of Fire).

Iceland sentences 29th banker to prison, U.S. bankers still collecting bonuses (Mint Press News).

In Oakland, building boys into men (NY Times).

Russell Wilson writes letter to Manning, "If this is it, there's one moment I won't forget" (Fox 59).

Absolute absurdity: GOP candidates want to protect billionaires from "class warfare" (Ring of Fire).

Right-wing think tanks are factories of cruel ideas (Truth Out).

Fox News makes you stupid - How to create a society of idiotic voters (Ring of Fire).

British Treasury officials wined & dined by arms giants & 'rogue banks' (RT).

A grim scenario: If America ends up with a Republican president and a GOP-controlled Congress (Nation of Change).

U.S. GDP by year compared to debt and major events (U.S. Economy).

Aeromexico bans Sikh actor from plane because of his turban (RT).

- Mark 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016


Cathy Abernathy and I discuss today's New Hampshire primary with news anchors Jim Scott and Tami Mlcoch on KGET 17 News. After Cathy mischaracterizes Bernie Sanders' platform, I explain what Democratic Socialism means for you and me at 3:45 into the exchange ...

- Mark


- Mark

Hat tip to Tom for the meme.


Politics and markets in modern America. How they really work ...

While the meme above conveys the message, the actual amount that Goldman Sachs legally spent lobbying Congress from 2001 through 2015 was actually $39.43 million. What they spent hiring former officials and members of Congress to do their bidding is much larger.

Still, the point is made. Goldman Sachs is buying legislative favors.

All of this allowed Goldman Sachs to repay the $10 billion it borrowed from the federal government after the 2008 market collapse. But there's more to the Goldman Sachs bailout story - and it goes beyond the $10 billion loan - which helps to explain Goldman's extraordinary rate of return.

 * After initially getting paid $12.9 billion for its part in making bad bets, Goldman Sachs ultimately was the recipient of $14 billion in toxic deal payouts from AIG that would never have been paid were it not for the AIG bailout. In fact, Goldman Sachs would have had to declare bankruptcy if AIG had not paid Goldman for their toxic contracts.

* On September 21 of 2008, just as the market was going to tank (and a week after AIG went bankrupt), Goldman Sachs ceased being an investment bank and became simply a bank. This made Goldman Sachs eligible for FDIC protections and billions in low interest loans from the Federal Reserve (which added up to over $1.2 trillion for our nation's "private" banks), and a host of regulatory favors from Congress.

* In order to secure taxpayer backed bailout money AIG gave up its right to sue the institutions - which included Goldman Sachs - who misled them and knowingly sold "shity deals" to customers. This legal bailout saved Goldman billions in legal fees and other payouts.

* Goldman Sachs has also been the beneficiary of dirt cheap money from the Federal Reserve. This financial gift is misleadingly called Quantitative Easing, when it should more appropriately be called Corporate Welfare 2.0).

* Goldman Sachs is also the beneficiary of billions in bailouts for Greece and other European states, which allowed Europe to pay companies like Goldman Sachs for the bad deals they were led into.

There's more to this story, but you get the point.

- Mark

Sunday, February 7, 2016


In 2011 it was reported that Wells Fargo had assets in the neighborhood of $1.26 trillion. This amount was the equivalent to about 8% of U.S. GDP. In 2016 the amount of assets under the control of Well Fargo climbed to about $1.75 trillion. This means, unlike most Americans - who are still climbing out from under the 2008 market collapse - Wells Fargo saw its managed holdings climb about 30% between 2011 and 2016.

Nice. That is, if you're Wells Fargo.

Here's the real fun part. Other banks control even more assets.

Almost five years ago Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase combined had roughly $4.5 trillion in assets. If it's hard to imagine how much money this is take a look at the picture below. Each column is made up of stacked pallets stuffed with $100 bills. Each column represents $1 trillion (the smaller stack to the right represents $420 billion).

Each column above is made up of a base of 100 pallets, which are stacked 100 high. Every row of pallets 
is worth $10 billion (100 x $10b = $1 trillion). The smaller column has 42 pallet bases, worth $420 billion.

Today, Bank of America ($2.15 trillion) and JP Morgan Chase ($2.35 trillion) are still worth a combined $4.5 trillion - or about $80 billion more than what the smallest column shown above reflects.

What this means is that Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase are managing assets that are equivalent to about 25% of what the U.S. economy produced last year (2015 U.S. GDP: $17.93 trillion).

So, yeah, we learned nothing from 2008. If one or two of these banks go under we're all in trouble. Again.

- Mark

P.S.: If you want a visual of how these pallets are stacked click here.


Almost four years ago I created this post to help explain why Ken Stabler should be in the NFL Hall of Fame. Yesterday Stabler was finally voted in. For more on Ken Stabler getting into the Hall of Fame click herehere, and here. This story - "Ken Stabler was the real hero from real Oakland" - from the San Jose Mercury is especially insightful.

Because my original post provided highlights and stats from Ken Stabler's career I'm re-posting it again below.

Let's start with this. Ken Stabler is considered one of the top 10 clutch quarterbacks in NFL history (#6) and has the stats to match other hall of famers, like Joe Namath and Bobby Layne. Take a look at the Namath-Stabler-Layne comparison ...

                          JOE NAMATH           KEN STABLER          BOBBY LAYNE

Years Played:          13 (1965-77)            15 (1970-84)            15 (1948-62)

Wins-Losses:         132-64 (.673)           158-103 (.605)          139-83 (.626)

Touchdowns:           173                           194                           196

Interceptions:           220                           222                           243

Completion %:         50.1%                        59.8%                         49%

Yards:                     27,663                       27,983                     26,768

QB Rating:                65.5                          75.3                         63.4

Pro Bowls:                 1                               4                              5
(All League)

Championships:          1                               1                              3

NFL MVPs:                  2 (AFL MVP)                1                            N/A

All Decade Team:      N/A                      Yes (1970s)               Yes (1950s)

But wait, there's more.

Not only did Ken Stabler lead the NFL in passing touchdowns in 1974 and 1976, but he's one of the top ranked quarterbacks in terms of winning percentages.

But it isn't just Ken Stabler's personal stats, and how they stack up against other Hall of Famers who were his contempories. It's who Stabler played and won against.


During one six-year period, Ken Stabler and the Raiders played the Pittsburgh Steelers in three AFC Championship Games, with either the Raiders or the Steelers playing in the title game the other three years. The Steelers won three Super Bowls, the Raiders won one. During this period the Raiders and Steelers played ten times, with each team winning five games.

The Oakland-Pittsburgh rivalry featured 14 Hall of Fame players (seven on each team [8 now with Ray Guy]), a Hall of Fame coach, and two Hall of Fame owners. Stabler was not only in the middle of all of this, but he helped make the magic of the games happen by making everyone who played kick it up a notch. But the Raiders under Stabler didn't just win a few games. During this stretch the Raiders had the best winning percentage in the NFL (.798), with the Miami Dolphins (.750) and the Pittsburgh Steelers (.744) falling right behind the Raiders.

It wasn't just the personal statistics and team winning percentage that tells us Stabler should be in the Hall of Fame. Perhaps Stabler's greatest claim to fame were the number of NFL "greatest games" and "greatest teams" Stabler played and won. 

While Raider fans suffered through the "Immaculate Reception" game (which I watched with great frustration), people forget that it was Stabler who ripped off a 30 yard TD run that set up the last minute heroics of Franco Harris.

Also, under Stabler the Raiders ended the Super Bowl champion Miami Dolphins hopes for a second undefeated season by beating them in Oakland early in 1973, and then ended their 31-game home winning streak in 1975 by beating the Dolphins in Miami. Keep in mind these Dolphin teams not only won two Super Bowls in row, but finished the only undefeated championship season in NFL history.

Then there was what NBC announcer Curt Gowdy called the greatest game he ever watched, the "Sea of Hands" playoff game against Miami (I still can't believe Clarence Davis caught the ball). 

Stabler also played in what was then the third longest game in NFL history, against the Baltimore Colts, in what is now fondly referred to as the "Ghost to the Post" game. Then we had the "Holy Roller" against San Diego, which every Charger fan remembers with great passion.

Finally, there's the issue of why Ken Stabler is not in the NFL Hall of Fame.

While one of the reasons suggested is that he had mediocre years after he left the Raiders one only has to check the last 3-4 years of Bobby Layne and Joe Namath. Nothing to write home about. I could be wrong, but what seems to be at stake is how some fans and voters look at Ken Stabler's off-field lifestyle when he played. This is precisely why it's instructive to compare Ken Stabler with Joe Namath and Bobby Layne.

Even if Stabler may have studied the playbook by the light of the jukebox from time to time, neither Namath nor Layne were famous for going to bed at curfew before games. Both were famous night crawlers. Perhaps just as important is the fact that Ken Stabler played with a team of misfits that both fed - and fed off of - Stabler's habits. It's hard to see the Raiders winning the way they did with, say, a Roger Staubach at quarterback.

There's more, but when you compare Stabler to others who are in the Hall of Fame, Stabler's personal statistics, his Raider team's winning percentage, the gut check great NFL games he played in, who Stabler played and won against, and the misfits he inspired and played with in Oakland, it's hard to argue that Ken Stabler doesn't deserve to be in the NFL Hall of Fame.

If Joe Namath and Bobby Layne are in Hall of Fame, Stabler should be too.

- Mark

UPDATE: It looks like Andy Barall from the NY Times is getting into the debate. Check this out. I especially like this YouTube video that features Stabler.

UPDATE: Stabler is now ranked #25 by Athlon Sports in "The NFL's 25 Greatest Quarterbacks of All-Time"

Again, for more on Ken Stabler getting into the Hall of Fame click here, herehere, and here.

- Mark