Tuesday, January 31, 2017


From America's past ...
Dr. Seuss cartoon (1941) criticizing America's decision to refuse Jews seeking safe haven.

... to it's ugly present.

But, yeah, go ahead and explain how Donald Trump's immigration policy is making America great again.

If you say "Make America Great Again" enough times you might even believe it.

Heck, for those of you in America who claim to be Christians, turning our back on problems we helped create in the Middle East will probably get your ticket into heaven punched too. It's clearly what Jesus would have done ...

 Just saying ...

- Mark


Former Acting Attorney General Susan Yates, fired for doing her job by President Trump.

For the Trump supporters out there who don't get it, know that this is satire from The New Yorker. You can access the article by clicking here.

- Mark

Monday, January 30, 2017


I've pointed out numerous times how ridiculous our fear of terrorism is over the past few years. You've heard it before ... you stand a greater chance of winning the lottery than getting caught up in a terror related act in the U.S. Same thing with getting killed by lightening. In fact, you stand a far greater chance of getting shot by a toddler with a gun (at least in the United States) than you do of dying at the hands of a terrorist.

Then we have a political leadership that tells us the only thing we have to fear is, well, everyone who doesn't look or worship like us.

So, what should we do now that white terror suspect, Alexandre Bissonnette, from Quebec City has helped remind us that home grown and white extremists have killed more Americans in the U.S. than jihadists?

If we're using Donald Trump's logic, and simply singling out people because of their ethnic or religious similarities, the answer is real simple. We need to profile the white nationalists and right-wing political extremists. Then we hassle them at our airports and other points of entry, right?

So, why don't we do this? There must be a reason why we don't ... can someone help us out here, and explain why we don't profile and harass these people?

While we're thinking about this, here's a real fun fact: Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration expert at the libertarian Cato Institute has found that "[n]ationals of the seven countries singled out by President Trump have killed zero people in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil between 1975 and 2015."


So, has anyone figured why we don't profile guys like Alexandre Bissonnette, the Quebec City terror suspect, and those pictured below?

I know there must be a reason we don't profile these guys; if I could just put my finger on it.

I'm telling you, it's a real puzzler ...
- Mark

Kudos to David for the byline in the meme.

Saturday, January 28, 2017


This was one of the article headlines in Thursday's Washington Post ...

The State Department’s entire senior administrative team just resigned

As far as I can remember, the last time something like this happened was during the McCarthy Era ...

Only then people working in the State Department were chased (some resigned) out of the South East Asia section because they were accused of having communist sympathies. The evidence? They "allowed" China to become communist (1949) on their watch. 

These accusations and suspicions encouraged Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-Wisconsin) and his band of political hooligans to try and find "who lost China?" (ultimately, it was Chiang Kai-Shek who lost China). This led to the political with hunts we now associate with the McCarthy Era.

While the mass departures at the State Department in the 1950s is more complex than what I'm presenting here, know that the political vacuum it created had a significant impact on U.S. foreign policy years later. Specifically, when it came time to understand what was happening in Vietnam (then, French Indochina) we pretty much had short timers with no political pull, party hacks, and people who were pretty much afraid of their own shadow. The political hacks and cowed professionals didn't understand (or care to explain) that Ho Chi Min, who led a nationalist struggle against the Japanese during WWII, was an admirer of Thomas Jefferson and an ardent nationalist. 

The moral of the story to the headline above is a simple one: It's a big deal when the State Department loses professionals and experts who know the people, the cultures, and history of global hot spots. The impact of so many State Department experts - with a lifetime of world experiences - abandoning Donald Trump's sinking foreign policy ship will be felt well into the next generation.

With China now promoting free trade and globalization (as opposed to Trump's myopic economic nationalism), and with Russia pushing more disinformation in Europe (since it worked so well in the U.S.), in many ways we are witnessing the slow motion collapse of the American empire.

But, sure, let's all wear Chinese-made hats that say "Make America Great Again." Bumper sticker slogans that can be uttered mindlessly - and repeatedly - will show the world we mean business.  *cough, cough*

Welcome to political freak show America. 

Just know one thing: You're not going to enjoy the closing act.

- Mark 

Thursday, January 26, 2017


So President Trump wants to cut government funded research in areas like physics and advanced scientific computing to 2008 levels. He also wants to eliminate the Office of Electricity and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, while scuttling the Office of Fossil Energy - which happens to study the impact of technologies that reduce carbon emissions.  

If President Trump is successful in eliminating or reducing these programs, apart from from undermining the spirit of the Constitution (Art. I, Sec. 8; promote the progress of science and the arts), one thing is clear: Donald Trump is going to do long-term and even irreparable harm to our economy, and its competitiveness, by undermining government funded programs that have helped spur scientific investigation, basic research, and the grunt work that leads to market innovation ... 

If you want a brief and all to incomplete list of the many government backed scientific and market breakthroughs you can start by clicking here. If you want to understand the intertwined and necessary relationship between states and markets click here

What follows below is a small part of an earlier post, and is an example of what President Trump is either ignoring or - and more likely - simply does not understand.

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.

You would think President Trump, or someone on his team, understands this success story. If the Trump administration's policy proposals are any indication, it's clear they don't. Donald Trump has no clue about the relationship between government funded science, innovation, and markets.

So, yeah, when America begins to lose its competitive edge, we won't have to look far to find where it started. 

Sigh ...

- Mark

Wednesday, January 25, 2017


You've heard the term, "water seeks its own level," right? Donald Trump's nominee for Budget Director learned what it means in real time when he was forced to testify that Trump's inaugural crowds were smaller than Obama's ...

In a few words, rather than asking questions about budgeting philosophy, our U.S. Senate was reduced to using simple props in an effort to determine if Trump's nominee for Budget Director is as fact challenged as the man who nominated him.

Think about what this means.

Because Donald Trump has such a difficult time with the truth our U.S. Senate has to waste time determining whether his nominees understand what it is. The only thing missing in our increasingly vaudevillian-like world were the satirical song routines.

This is how low it's going to go during the Trump administration.

Then again, it just might get worse.

After claiming, in yet another lie, that millions of illegals voted during the election, which caused him to lose the popular vote, Donald Trump Tweeted this morning that he will ask for a 'major investigation' into allegations of voter fraud.

Here's just one problem with President Trump's Tweet. He's calling for an investigation into voter fraud even though his own attorneys argued there was no voter fraud when they asked the courts to shut down (Green Party) Jill Stein's recount requests.

So this is what we have ... because the President of the United States needs to lie in order to bolster his ego, and convince others that he's more popular than he really is, he's going to waste millions of dollars and countless resources so he can say "we're investigating the allegations." Then, presumably, President Trump can feel better about himself.

So, yeah, America is now Trump's therapy tent.

It's going to be a long 4 (3? / 2?) years.

Sigh ...

- Mark

UPDATE: And the plot thickens ...

From The Hill, "Tiffany Trump is registered to vote in two states ...", and from CNN, "Trump cabinet nominee Steven Mnuchin is also registered to vote in two states." MSN is also reporting "Steve Bannon registered to vote in two states despite Trump's cries of  'voter fraud.'


This clip from the Netherlands' comedy show Zondag met Lubach uses Donald Trump's own words to welcome and congratulate him, while asking that he put the Netherlands second (since he's putting "America first," of course) ...

- Mark

Tuesday, January 24, 2017


No automatic alt text available.

The spring semester at CSU Bakersfield began this week. I felt compelled to address Donald Trump's Alternative Facts "anything goes, as long as I believe it" universe. I explained in one class that, yes, there are objective truths in education ... by the time a kid enters Kindergarten they should be able to color between the lines ... if a 2nd grader is asked to add 2 + 2 and comes up with "leventeen" there's a problem ... and, no, the sun does not revolve around the earth.

If we understand these agreed upon, peer-reviewed, truths, then we can begin to understand why arguments that begin with "Rush Limbaugh or Breitbart said ..." are not going to be acceptable answers.

So, yes, there are objective truths. Similarly, just as there are good sources and bad sources, there are real universities and fake universities. Remember Trump University?

I tried to make it clear that if you want to cite the time someone from the Alternative Facts world happened to get something right that's fine. We can do this. But this does not mean they represent the truth. It simply means they may have stumbled on anecdotal evidence, which we can discuss (remember, even a broken clock gets it right twice a day).

Simply put, unless you're studying rhetoric, media & propaganda, psychological profiles of cult leaders, or similar themed courses and topics, Team Trump's Alternative Facts worldview have no standing in my class, let alone at this university.

If you believe they do, it's up to you to explain why we even have universities or research centers. Seriously, if your "leventeen" is considered valid because that's what you want to believe what's the point?

It's really that simple.

- Mark


In the chart below, from Visual Capitalist, we see how much bigger the oil market is than all the metal markets combined. This includes the world's gold market.

- Mark

Monday, January 23, 2017


This past Friday morning, January 20th, I had an interesting exchange with Republican Cathy Abernathy about Donald Trump and his inauguration on KGET Channel 17's Sunrise Edition. You can access the discussion by clicking here.

Among the topics was Donald Trump's 32-40 percent approval rating. This was a great topic because, in spite of claiming that his inauguration would set crowd records, there were fewer people at Trump's inauguration than there were at President Obama's 2009 inauguration, by far ...

During our discussion Cathy Abernathy claimed the same polls that say Trump has between a 32-40 percent approval ratings are the same polls that got it wrong during the election. I want to make one thing clear here: The national polls didn't get it wrong. They got it right. Hillary won the popular vote by almost 3 million people.

What happened to the electorate was both deliberate deception and manipulation at the last minute. Consider the following ...

* The FBI's last-minute decision to release information on Hillary, while withholding damaging information on Trump, helped Trump's campaign, period. This decision skewed the outcome in states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, big time. 
* Russia's and Julian Assange's Wikileaks disinformation campaign raised doubts about Hillary, which helped Trump. 
* The tracking polls weren't calibrated for those who were too embarrassed to say they were thinking of voting for Trump (yes, there's a way of doing this).

Then we have to remind ourselves (again) that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by almost 3 million votes.

On final thought. I was informed that one KGET 17 News viewer took exception to one of my comments in this clip. In our discussion I pointed out that if Trump's approval rating is hovering around 30-32 percent then he's cratering around the number of people (26 percent) who believe the sun revolves around the earth.

Put more bluntly, I was suggesting the people who voted for Donald Trump aren't really that smart, or don't always think things through.

If you're offended by the sun-earth inference, and you voted for Donald Trump, all I have to say is grow up. Remember you actually supported a man (who was 55 at the time) who said ...

So, no, if you voted for Donald Trump and you knew about this (and his bankruptcies, his philandering, etc.) you don't get to whine about me inferring you have no standards, or no brains.

It's really that simple

- Mark

Sunday, January 22, 2017


If you're like every other normal American citizen you're probably chuckling about Team Trump's complaints over inaugural crowd size comparisons. From their concerns over the lack of numbers, to the suggestion that use of white floor coverings skewed perceptions, Team Trump is adamant about telling America what they saw with their own eyes is wrong.

According to Donald Trump and his spokespeople, his inauguration crowd size was "the largest ever" ...


With David Duke, and other KKK members, celebrating Donald Trump's election, Team Trump might want to embrace this "alternative fact" argument to explain the appearance of small crowds ...

- Mark

Thursday, January 19, 2017


Yesterday the Washington Post reported that President-elect Donald Trump is contemplating having military parades in the streets of America. Yeah, military parades. You know, like the kind that North Korea's leader, and every other tin-pot dictator who's walked the earth, like to have because it makes them feel strong.

Those of you who voted for Donald Trump will no doubt buy into his rationale that we need to be proud of our military. This, he argues, we can only do if we show it off.

So, whatever happened to "walk softly but carry a big stick"?

Somehow saying "carry a big stick because I'm proud of my big stick ... and let's make lots of noise so everyone sees my big stick" says much more than Donald Trump, or his supporters, will ever admit.

The worst part of Donald Trump's "pride in the military" faux rationale is that it's coming from a man who got 5 deferments to avoid getting drafted during the Vietnam war (and, no, attending the New York Military Academy, so Trump could play soldier, doesn't count as military experience, or training).

Simply put, Donald  Trump's suggestion to parade our military in the streets signals a real threat to America's future. It's what weak minded and narcissistic dictators resort to when their legitimacy is questioned, and when their ideas and self-esteem need help.

The trappings of military might, and thoughts of the glories of war, give dictators a sense of strength they can't get from other areas in their lives. Controlling men who possess guns, and state-sanctioned power to kill, is what gives them a sense of value. When political credibility is lacking it's delusions of military grandeur that create a sense of worth and bravery.

But it's all an illusion.

We all know about Donald Trump's campaign threats to investigate and jail Hillary Clinton. This compelled George W. Bush's secretary of Homeland Security to comment that Trump's threat was something "tin-pot dictators" do.

Sadly, it's not just threatening to jail a political foe that's transformed Donald Trump into a wannabe tin-pot dictator. It's his other reckless ideas, like busting up NATO because Russia doesn't like it. It's his secretary of state nominees' claim that we will challenge China in the South China Sea. And it's Trump's belief that nuclear proliferation in Asia might not be a bad idea (look, rearming Japan is akin to giving a recovering alcoholic a drink).

Sigh ...

I don't know about anyone else, but Donald Trump's flippant parade suggestion, combined with his desultory worldview, brings to mind "The Parade of the Tin Soldier" (Парад оловянных солдатиков), which you can access courtesy of Russian Records (seriously) by clicking here.

- Mark

Hat tip to Agulia for the "military parade" article.


The Washington Post has an interesting article in yesterday's paper that highlights the "Six astonishing things Betsy DeVos said - and refused to say - at her confirmation hearing." 

Among the lowlights (my comments are in standard font) ... 

  • DeVos refused to agree with a Democrat that schools are no place for guns, citing one school that needs one to protect against grizzly bears. (She really said this.)
I'm surprised she didn't cite the lions and snakes.

  • DeVos seemed to have no understanding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, known as IDEA, which requires public schools to provide free and appropriate education to all students with disabilities.
This one, quite frankly, was embarrassing.

  • DeVos refused to agree with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) that all schools that receive public federal funds — traditional public, public charter or private schools that receive voucher money — should be held to the same standards of accountability.
Is this because we can trust that for-profit Christian schools will hire nothing but qualified (certified) teachers who understand academic - and not Christian - standards?  Another embarrassing exchange. 

  • DeVos said she would review gainful employment regulations without committing to enforce them.
More embarrassment. DeVos was asked about sham colleges and fake universities - with a specific reference to Trump University - that suck students in, and leaves them with little but a worthless piece of paper and a pile of debt. 

  • DeVos appeared to have no idea what [Senator Al] Franken was talking about when he referred to the accountability debate about whether to use test scores to measure student proficiency or student growth.
Yup, more embarrassment. If you don't know the difference between passing and advanced knowledge you shouldn't be in the field of education. 

  • DeVos did not answer Sen. Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.) when he asked her what she had learned about the failures of the Detroit traditional public and public charter schools that would inform her decision-making as the secretary of education.
At this point in the questioning most of the U.S. Senators who were taking the hearings seriously were ready to throw up their hands and say, "What the hell is she doing here?".  


One thing is certain. After watching her testimony it's clear DeVos hasn't done her homework. No pun intended. She doesn't understand what makes education work in America, and doesn't seem interested in learning. It gets worse. Betsy DeVos:

* Never attend public schools or a public university.

* Never had to take out a student loan.

* Has no teaching experience.

* Never put her kids in public schools.

* Does not believe in public education.

* Believes public school teachers are overpaid.

* Supports sucking money out of public education coffers and into for-profit, Christian-based education. 

Put more simply, Betsy DeVos does not understand how important public education is or has been to our nation. No clue.

If education is your thing - and it should be if you care about the future of this country - you should be worried if Betsy DeVos is confirmed as Secretary of Education. 

You can read the entire article by clicking here.

- Mark 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017


After having to clean up the economic disaster that was left to him, while dealing with a hostile Republican-led Congress that vowed to work against his every effort, how does President Obama's economic performance fare against other presidents since World War II? In a few words, not bad.

Using 17 economic indicators Bloomberg Views puts President Obama's economic record above both President Bushes and President Nixon, and right behind Presidents Eisenhower and Reagan ...

For the record, the economic indicators used to gauge economic performance include unemployment, the federal deficit, the stock market, inflation, employment growth, productivity growth, gross private investment, personal savings, interest rates, population below the poverty line, exports as a share of GDP, trade balance, federal budget growth rate and share of GDP, and tax revenue share of GDP.

The top score for each indicator is 100, while zero indicates an average score. Given where he started (with the momentum of Bush's negative 140 staring him in the face), it's clear that President Obama actually did quite well. You can read more about the indicators by clicking here

- Mark

Tuesday, January 17, 2017


How many of Donald Trump's Christian supporters do you think will recognize themselves here?



For additional Trump-inspired Bible lessons, that you can share with your Christian friends, click here.

- Mark

Hat tip to Charlie for the last meme.




So almost three quarters (74%) of all Americans want to see Donald Trump's taxes. Warren Buffett explains why Donald Trump, if he has nothing to hide, should have no problem sharing his taxes.

For those of you interested in the Forbes article referenced above, click here.

- Mark

Monday, January 16, 2017


After Congressman John Lewis announced that he would not attend the presidential inauguration, and that President-elect Trump is an illegitimate president, Donald Trump responded on Twitter in his usual petulant way.


The facts, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, illustrate how wrong Trump is about the facts, once again ...


- Mark

Sunday, January 15, 2017


Via Virtual Capitalist we get "U.S. Healthcare is a Global Outlier, and Not in a Good Way." It provides another way of looking at how out of whack our health care system is, even after Obamacare came into force.


For all Republicans who claimed doom and gloom after the Affordable Care Act was passed (yes, the ACA is Obamacare) be sure to see (and try to understand) how per capita healthcare costs in America grew before Obamacare, and how fast they accelerated during the Reagan-Bush I years.

Put more simply, Obamacare has slowed down a cost trend that began long before Obamacare arrived on the scene.

- Mark

Friday, January 13, 2017


From the Swiss German-language daily newspaper, Tanges-Anzeiger, we learn how the Swiss see Donald Trump's relationship with the Russians. It's not pretty ...

For the conservative snowflakes out there who don't like seeing their guy mocked, know one thing: You elected him, and brought this on America.

You have no one to blame but yourselves. Deal with it.

- Mark

Hat tip to Laura for the piece.


It's going to be a long 4 years having to watch and listen to Trump's level of buffoonery come back to slap him in the face. Amusing, yes, but a national embarrassment nonetheless ...


Image may contain: 1 person, meme, suit and text

If you want to share the "nobody knows" GIF above, you can access the link by clicking here.

- Mark