Tuesday, February 28, 2017


President Donald Trump's going to talk to the nation tonight in his first State of the Union address. Below is a list of issues that are impacting - or have the potential to impact - the state of our nation.

Unless President Trump tries to tie the issues in this meme to terrorism, or how he's being mistreated by the press, I'm pretty sure he's not going to bring these topics up. 

So, no, don't expect an entirely realistic State of Union address.

For those of you in the Bakersfield and Kern County region, I'll be on KGET 17 News tonight at 5 pm to discuss what we can expect tonight with Cathy Abernathy. And being that it's President Trump's first State of the Union, I expect to have some fun with our discussion on KGET tonight. 

I'll post links to our discussion once they are made available by KGET.

- Mark 

UPDATE: You can access the link to our discussion by clicking here.


- Mark

Monday, February 27, 2017


This is not what America's supposed to be about. Going after America's undocumented population, and others who don't look or worship the right way (whatever that means), is just another case of President Trump not knowing what he's doing, or what he's talking about ...

There's more (much more), but if you're not convinced about the benefits immigrants of all stripes bring to this country, you might want to look at what Federal Reserve chairs have been saying about immigration. It's the difference between budget costs and economic benefits (discussed here), and has everything to do with subsidizing our lifestyles, and the American way of life.

- Mark


Win Eaton is one of the top immigration attorneys on the west coast, with offices in Salem, Oregon, and here in Fresno and Bakersfield, the breadbasket of California's San Joaquin Valley. He is also currently participating in our Immigration Justice Collaborative series, which disseminates legal information to our undocumented populations throughout Kern County.

The following immigration updates are from the law offices of Win Eaton & Associates ...

1.    A leaked DRAFT of an intelligence report finds that citizens from seven countries that are included in President Donald Trump’s immigration ban do not pose a likely terrorism threat. The report was “incomplete,” the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said on Friday.
2.    Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, launched a Judiciary Committee investigation Thursday into Sally Yates, accusing the then-acting U.S. attorney general of sabotaging President Donald Trump's immigration ban by ordering government lawyers to not defend it.
3.    One county in California’s Silicon Valley has asked a CA Federal District Court to issue a nationwide injunction that would block President Donald Trump’s executive order to withhold federal funds from sanctuary cities. The county said it could deprive them of $1.7 billion in funding.
4.    Court filings challenging the detention of noncitizens have steadily increased in recent months. There have apparently been 24 percent more cases filed in January 2017 compared to December 2016 and nearly 58 percent more when compared to the previous year. The study was conducted by a data organization based at Syracuse University.
5.    The Trump administration on Friday asked the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal to completely “pause” the government’s appeal over the U.S. president’s immigration ban against travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries. The government said there is “no need at this time” for additional briefing.
6.    Construction of the planned wall along the U.S. border with Mexico will start soon, with the project “way ahead" of schedule, President Donald Trump said Friday, the day after House Homeland Security Committee Chair Mike McCaul suggested that the scope of the project should be scaled back.
7.    Flanked by some of the nation’s top manufacturing executives, President Donald Trump signed an executive order Friday directing federal agencies to create task forces to identify burdensome regulations ready for the chopping block, promising the end of “an impossible situation” for U.S. companies and new economic growth.
8.      A fake attorney in Los Angeles has been sentenced to more than five years in prison after acknowledging that he posed as an immigration attorney and provided legal consultations and services without any bar association accreditation. The announcement came from the California Attorney General’s Office. 

One thing is clear. None of this is making America great again.

Not even close.

- Mark


You can place what follows below in the "It's the 21st century and I can't believe we're still dealing with this crap" category ... 

Whether history rhymes, as Mark Twain told us, or repeats itself as "tragedy" and "farce" (as Karl Marx suggested) one thing is clear: under the Trump administration the United States is taking a giant civil liberties step back in time, and embracing some of history's worst mistakes. 


From Virginia to Washington Republican state legislators have introduced legislation that would penalize mass protests. These bills have been introduced in 18 states, and would increase punishment for protest activities like blocking freeways, wearing masks, and even lead to asset seizure for those who participate in a demonstration. 

With Republicans trying to criminalize the freedom to assemble and protest across the nation, the Independent ran the following headline:
Republicans vote to give police powers to arrest people planning peaceful protests: 'Wouldn't you rather stop a riot before it starts?' asks senator.

If you think you've heard this argument before it's because you have. In the past it's been used to snuff out uncomfortable truths, and protect the status quo, under the guise of public security. In reality it's all about not having to deal with the spirit of the Constitution, your political opponents, or reality. 



Over 50 years ago (March 16, 1966) Robert F. Kennedy addressed the issue right here in Kern County, California. This happened after county sheriff Leroy Galyen began arresting peaceful strikers in the small farming town of Delano. 


The 1966 Kennedy-Galyen exchange is a classic moment in civil rights history, and a lesson for Republican legislators today ...



Stay tuned. In Trump's America this is not going away. 

- Mark

Friday, February 24, 2017


Ex-spy Plame's big worries: 'reckless' president, nuclear weapons (San Francisco Chronicle).

Paul Krugman dissects the staggering ignorance of the Trump White House: Is the Trump White House evil or just stupid (Salon)?

4 dead Russian Diplomats in 3 months (The Duran).

Samsung warns customer not to discuss personal information in front of smart TVs (The Week).

Texas hunters accidentally shot each other and tried to blame Mexican immigrants (News.Mic).

Neo-Nazis blame "the Jews" for Michael Flynn's resignation (Salon).

First-Ever Tracker of Hate Crimes Against Asian-Americans (NPR).

Alleged Shooter to Indian-American Victims: 'Get Out of My Country' (Daily Beast).

Donald Trump's supporters think the media is covering up terror attacks in Sweden (Independent).

White House excludes several outlets from press gaggle (NBC News).

In December, Spicer said barring media access is what a 'dictatorship' does. Today, he barred media access (Washington Post).

Fact check: Trump blasts 'fake news' and repeats inaccurate claims at CPAC (NY Times).

Republican lawmakers introduce bills to curb protesting in at least 18 states (Washington Post).

Lawyers: ICE detainee with brain tumor removed from hospital (The Hill).

House bill would scale back number of free school meals (PBS).

Woman with dying husband confronts Tom Cotton: "What kind of insurance do you have?" (Vox).

Remember when Trump said he would have a 'plan to defeat ISIS within 30 days'? Time's up, no plan (Crooks and Liars).

A chronology of Trump's claims, and how often [so far there's 132 false or misleading claims]  (Washington Post).

Secret CIA assessment says Russia was trying to help Trump win the White House (Washington Post).

Deeper and darker: Trump's unknown financial connections to Russia may hold the key to the widening scandal (Salon).

Trump dumped Abrams over his criticisms during the campaign, sources say (Politico).

The definitive analysis of 'The Handshake' between Donald Trump and Justin Trudeau (Vice).

The delusion that Trump is "Good for Business" (Slate).

On Economic Arrogance (NY Times).

Ohio Republican says it's time to impeach President Trump (9News).

Republicans distance themselves from Trump's agenda at rowdy town halls (Washington Post).

The chair of the Federal Reserve  just fact-shamed Donald Trump (Vanity Fair).

Oracle executive publicly resigns after CEO joins Trump's transition team (The Guardian).

Chris Wallace smacks down Reince Priebus (The Daily Beast).

Supreme Court rejects use of 'racial stereotypes' in death penalty case (LA Times).

Why can 12-year-olds still get married in the United States (Washington Post)?

Fracking caused 6,648 spills in four states alone, Duke study finds (EcoWatch).

Activists plan actions across the country to protest approval of Dakota access pipeline (The Intercept).

Donald Trump threatened to 'defund' California. But the state gives at least as much as it gets (LA Times).

West coast states form a wall against Trump's reactionary agenda (LA Times).

Trump turns his fire on the FBI (The Hill).

Extremism from both sides: What does the research tell us about Islamist extremism and far-right extremism (Salon)?

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Black Man Whose Lawyer called Racist "Expert" to the Stand (Slate).

Rep. Chaffetz says town hall protesters 'intimidate and bully people' (NPR).

- Mark


Back in October the Washington Post's Aaron Blake wrote about the "19 things Donald Trump knows better than anyone else, according to Donald Trump." As a  followup, we now have an expanded list of the "24 things NOBODY does better than Trump" ...

To this I would add - as Japanese translators point out - no major U.S. politician is better at butchering the English language than Donald Trump (except, as Dana Milbank points out, perhaps Kevin McCarthy).

Sigh ...

- Mark

Kudos to Cathee for the link.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


Check out this cool interactive map at Visual Capitalist that shows us global trade flows. If you click on individual nation-states the map will show you trade flows by state. Below are trade flows from and into the United States ... 

Immediately below are global trade flows, with a view from the North Pole (the U.S. is to the left, Europe to the bottom right, Asia to the top right).

If you click on this link - "Four Maps Showing China's Rising Dominance in Trade" - you will learn that while the United States is the top trading partner for 56 countries, China is most important trading partner for 124 countries, dominating in Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa, and Australia.


- Mark


Via Visual Capitalist, we get the tallest buildings by state ...


Click here for ginormous version of this picture.

For a list of the world's five tallest skyscrapers, with a view from the top, click here.


- Mark

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


In my International Political Economy class (PS 4640) we have a mid-term this Thursday (2-23-17). Below are links to issues I have discussed on my blog, which tie directly into lectures and, not coincidentally, are important for answering the questions that will be asked. The focus of the mid-term exam is on the historical transformation of the state from Feudalism through our Mercantilist period and, now, towards the modern Liberal state. What's below are links to ancillary "cliffs" notes for my class.  

Of course, for those who are just interested in knowing about the transformation of the state, and markets, you can begin by reading the links below.


The Moral Justification of Capitalism is on the Ropes ... Here's Why. This is a review of the transformation from feudalism and mercantilism towards the modern liberal state. These are the roots of the liberal perspective. 

From War to Mercantilism & Market Capitalism: The historical role the Renaissance, Reformation, and the Enlightenment had in paving the intellectual path for Market Capitalism to arrive. It's here we begin to learn how war made the state, and the state made war.

Waves of Imperialism ... War and Markets: Why Great Wealth is not a product of individual initiative alone. Here we learn about the three waves of imperialism, which were driven by successive but distinct eras of mercantilism after 1648, 1815, and 1919.

Waves of Imperialism, II ... It's not free markets. The state creates the conditions under which wealth is created (with an all too brief discussion-mention of John M. Keynes and Friedrich List).

The Dark Side of Our Free Market Myths ... There's a very simple reason why the state has had to step in and work to make sure "the laws of justice" actually exist. Rules and regulations are the product of a long history of stifling feudal customs, traditions, entrenched privileges, slavery, sexism, racism (the Black Codes), and outright fraud (among others) undermining the moral justification of capitalism.

- Mark 


For your conservative friends who voted for Donald Trump, the post below is from former Labor Secretary Robert Reich's FB page (it's credited to one of his followers):

1. He called Hillary Clinton a crook.
You bought it.
Then he paid $25 million to settle a fraud lawsuit.

2. He said he'd release his tax returns, eventually.
You bought it.
He hasn't, and says he never will.

3. He said he'd divest himself from his financial empire, to avoid any conflicts of interest.
You bought it.
He is still heavily involved in his businesses, manipulates the stock market on a daily basis, and has more conflicts of interest than can even be counted.

4. He said Clinton was in the pockets of Goldman Sachs, and would do whatever they said.
You bought it.
He then proceeded to put half a dozen Goldman Sachs executives in positions of power in his administration.

5. He said he'd surround himself with all the best and smartest people.
You bought it.
He nominated theocratic loon Mike Pence for Vice President. A white supremacist named Steve Bannon is his most trusted confidant. Dr. Ben Carson, the world's greatest idiot savant brain surgeon, is in charge of HUD. Russian quisling Rex Tillerson is Secretary of State.

6. He said he'd be his own man, beholden to no one.
You bought it.
He then appointed Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, whose only "qualifications" were the massive amounts of cash she donated to his campaign.

7. He said he would "drain the swamp" of Washington insiders.
You bought it.
He then admitted that was just a corny slogan he said to fire up the rubes during the rallies, and that he didn't mean it.

8. He said he knew more about strategy and terrorism than the Generals did.
You bought it.
He promptly gave the green light to a disastrous raid in Yemen- even though all his Generals said it would be a terrible idea. This raid resulted in the deaths of a Navy SEAL, an 8-year old American girl, and numerous civilians. The actual target of the raid escaped, and no useful intel was gained.

9. He said Hillary Clinton couldn't be counted on in times of crisis.
You bought it.
He didn't even bother overseeing that raid in Yemen; and instead spent the time hate-tweeting the New York Times, and sleeping.

10. He called CNN, the Washington Post and the New York Times "fake news" and said they were his enemy.
You bought it.
He now gets all his information from Breitbart, Gateway Pundit, and InfoWars.

11. He called Barack Obama "the vacationer-in-Chief" and accused him of playing more rounds of golf than Tiger Woods. He promised to never be the kind of president who took cushy vacations on the taxpayer's dime, not when there was so much important work to be done.
You bought it.
He took his first vacation after 11 days in office.
On the taxpayer's dime.
And went golfing.

And that's just the first month.

- Mark 

Monday, February 20, 2017


Yes, it can happen in America, again ... 

In simple terms, when you place an entire group of people into a suspect class, it becomes easier to question their claim to the legal protections that are an integral part of the American experience. This makes it easier to take away their constitutional rights and, eventually their human rights.

It's happened in America before ...

PILGRIMAGE from Tadashi Nakamura on Vimeo.

Unfortunately, many Americans choose to ignore this history because they believe the fear they feel today is so great that it justifies taking away the rights of others. 


- Mark

Sunday, February 19, 2017


After the tragedy in Sweden, which was so eloquently spoken about by President Trump, we should all stand with our IKEA-producing friends ...


Sigh ...

- Mark

Kudos to Leonel for the meme.

UPDATE: Just in, via my friend Leonel (who else?) ... "This video of the terrorist attack on Sweden mentioned by President Trump is horrifying! Warning: Not for the squeamish."


Why pre-industrial life was anything but paradise (ATI).

'Data-driven' campaigns are killing the Democratic Party (Politico).

The classroom where fake news fails (NPR).

With billions at stake a federal judge just nullified the GOP's most cynical attack on Obamacare (LA Times).

The mysterious James Comey (Washington Monthly).

James Comey has some Goddamn explaining to do (GQ).

Trump's refusal to condemn Putin as a 'Killer' (The Atlantic).

'Last night in Sweden'? Trump's remark baffles a nation [and Sweden] (NY Times).

Yemen withdraws permission for U.S. antiterror ground missions (NY Times).

REPORT: Paper trail suggests Trump was paid off to do 180 degree pivot on China policy (Reverb Press).

North  Carolina is no longer classified as a democracy (The Hill).

Democracy at the Tipping Point (Spiegel Online).

"We have at most a year to defend American democracy, perhaps less" (SZ International).

Paying attention: Senator Elizabeth Warren on Financial Regulation (attn:).

Donald Trump is targeting an agency that has recovered $11.8 billion for consumers (Fortune).

Trump is being handed  a great economy/ What happens when it goes wrong (Denver Post).

Non-partisan congressional tax report debunks core conservative economic theory-GOP suppresses study (Forbes).

Trump's OMB pick seems poised to ignite a worldwide financial crisis (Washington Post).

Day 26: Clusterfuck (WTFjusthappenedtoday).

Trump campaign aides had repeated contacts with Russian intelligence (NY Times).

Who told Fynn to call Russia? (Politico Magazine).

Mike Flynn might be done - but Trump's nightmare has just begun (The Guardian).

The spy revolt against Trump (Observer).

Donald Trump's Russia Scandal is Just Getting Started: The White House says Mike Flynn was going rogue, but there's no good reason to believe that (Foreign Policy).

Donald Trump firing Sally Yates isn't the big story. How he did it is (Washington Post).

SERIOUSLY? (and, yeah, they're idiots)

Pro-Trump propaganda outlets are blaming an Obama shadow government for massive anti-Trump protests (Media Matters).

GOP congressman urges self-rationing of human health care after Obamacare repeal (Huffingpost).

After bullying remarks about environmentalists and immigrants, Rep. Tom McClintock calls for 'civil discussion' (Michael Hiltzik/LA Times).

Shoker! Rediculous choker Trump attaks and dishoners English with ever-dummer spellings (San Jose Mercury News / Dana Milbank).

White House official repeated massive lie that should worry you (attn:).


U.S. Military sources claim Trump approved Yemen strike without enough preparation (New York Magazine).

Trump says terror attacks 'under-reported': is that true? (BBC).

Donald Trump was right, there was a recent attack in Sweden. By Neo-Nazis on a refugee centre (Independent).

Anderson Cooper shuts down the White House's terrorism list in just 45 seconds (Huffington Post).

Trump's entire campaign was a bait-and-switch: Washington's a mess, and it's all the president's fault (Salon).

How White House advisor Stephen Miller went from pestering Hispanic students to designing Trump's immigration policy (Univision).

Here's a list of 39 white terrorists for the smug congressman who challenged CNN to name more than two (Slate).

White Baton Rouge judge calls black woman the N-word at local restaurant (The Root / WBZR2).

Texas high school students make Nazi salute and shout 'Hail Trump' in senior class photos (Raw Story).

In mapping the Holocaust, a horrifying lesson in Nazi "paths to persecution" (PBS).

Breathless in  Bakersfield: is the worst air pollution in the US about to get worse [yes]? (The Guardian).

How the welfare state helped make America what it is today (ati).

Rachel Carson: The American Experience (PBS)

- Mark

Thursday, February 16, 2017


My good friend Leonel Martinez (no relation) posted the following on his FB page ...

We knew President Trump had questionable ties to Russia before he was elected. 
We knew he lied. 
We knew he had shady business dealings. 
We knew he was sued for racial discrimination, disparaged immigrants and demeaned women. 
We knew he had little to no knowledge of foreign policy. 
We knew he had no background in politics, was incredibly self-absorbed and wasn't exactly an intellectual heavyweight.  
Why did millions of Americans ignore those facts when they entered the voting booth? Our country will pay the price now

Incredibly, we knew so much about Donald Trump's Russian ties - a fact I pointed out back in July - Hillary Clinton was able to spell out what we knew during the third presidential debate ...

So, yes, we knew all about Donald Trump's ugly character traits AND his compromised position with Russia. Yet millions of Americans ignored these basic facts, in part because many prefer to live in an alternative universe ... which has given rise to the "alternative facts" universe many conservatives openly accept.

Leonel's final observation - "Why did millions of Americans ignore those facts when they entered the voting booth? Our country will pay the price now" - are spot on, and an appropriate way to close this post.

- Mark

Monday, February 13, 2017


This should be troubling, even for Trump's most ardent supporters. It makes Hillary Clinton's "so called" email scandal look like a bungled Inspector Clouseau investigation. Specifically, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich discusses "The Spy Revolt Against Trump Begins" (my italics/bold) ...

Disturbing news this morning about how much “truth” about the rest of the world is getting to Trump. 
1. The Observer reports that the U.S. intelligence community is so convinced that Trump and his administration has been compromised by Russia that they are no longer giving the White House all of their most sensitive information, lest it end up in Putin's hands. A senior National Security Agency official explained that the National Security Agency was systematically holding back some of the “good stuff” from the White House, fearing Trump and his staff cannot keep secrets. 
2. The intelligence community is concerned that even the Situation Room – the conference room in the West Wing where the president and his top staffers get intelligence briefings -- has been compromised by Russia. A senior Pentagon intelligence official stated that “since January 20, we’ve assumed that the Kremlin has ears inside the SITROOM. There’s not much the Russians don’t know at this point,” the official added in frustration. 
3. The New York Times reports “chaotic and anxious days inside the National Security Council.” Council staff get up in the morning, read Trump’s tweets, and struggle to make policy to fit them. Most are kept in the dark about what Trump tells foreign leaders in his phone calls. Some staff members have turned to encrypted communications to talk with their colleagues, after hearing that Mr. Trump’s top advisers are considering an “insider threat” program that could result in monitoring their cellphones and emails for leaks. 
4. National security adviser Michael T. Flynn has hunkered down since investigators began looking into what, exactly, he told the Russian ambassador to the United States about the lifting of sanctions imposed in the last days of the Obama administration, and whether he misled Vice President Mike Pence about those conversations. His survival in the job may hang in the balance. 
Bottom line: U.S. foreign policy is now in the hands of a man with a severe personality disorder, who is not getting the information a president needs about the rest of the world. If that doesn’t worry you, nothing will ... 

If you are a Republican, and had problems with Hillary's emails, but have no issue with Trump's Russian problem you need to reconsider what being an American patriot is all about. Your political priorities and sense of national honor are seriously distorted.

It's one thing to say you're OK with Russia meddling in our elections, as long as your guy wins (which I still have a serious problem with), but it's entirely another matter if our president has put our nation's security at risk because he and his team are viewed as potentially compromised moles by the intelligence community.

- Mark

Friday, February 10, 2017

21st CENTURY WOMEN FIGHTING 20th CENTURY BATTLES (and, yes, they're fighting the mindless hypocrisy too)

Since Donald Trump became president it's almost as if we've taken a step back into the 20th century. The ugliest parts of the early 20th century, that is ...

Specifically, the silencing of Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) for reading a letter from Coretta Scott King, which criticizes Senator Jeff Sessions for his antagonistic positions on civil rights, takes us back to a day when women were expected to shut up and let the men do the 'manly' work.

Men tearing up a suffragette banner
in front of the White House, 1917.

Below is a a clip of Senator Warren effectively being asked to shut up and sit down by Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) because there's a rule against U.S. Senators criticizing other U.S. Senators on the Senate floor ...

There's only one problem with Senator McConnell objecting to Senator Elizabeth Warren reading Coretta Scott King's letter on the Senate floor, which compelled the acting president of the Senate to tell Senator Warren to "take her seat": Republicans have violated the same rule many times, without penalty.

The Republican Party's political hypocrisy and outright misogynistic whining about Senator Warren makes it clear something is seriously wrong in Trump's Republican led America.

Still, what happened after Senator Warren was shut down provides a glimmer of hope in an otherwise increasingly ugly political environment.

* In a show of unity, Senate Democrats took to the Senate floor and read King's letter after Senator Warren was told to quit speaking.

* Senator Marco Rubio stood up in the U.S. Senate to say "we are becoming a society incapable of having debates." Later in his commentary he said, "If this body isn't capable of having those debates there will be no place in this country where those debates can occur."

* The Washington Post picked up on the hypocrisy and asked, "Why wasn't Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex) silenced in the summer of 2015 when he all but accused McConnnell [of] lying on the Senate floor?"

Another development from the GOP's attempt to silence Senator Warren is their efforts appear to have backfired. Senator Warren has benefited from a surge of strongly supportive social media attention after Senator McConnell's political tantrum dominated the mainstream medias coverage.

Still, after watching Senator Warren get shut down on the U.S. Senate floor, I'm sure many women (and men) feel that, in many ways, little has changed from our early 20th century beliefs and experiences ...

Suffragette arrested in London, May 1914.

- Mark

For additional photos of suffragettes being arrested by the police click here.

Thursday, February 9, 2017


Did President Trump just outdo himself by triple whining about stuff that isn't true, again? Check out this Tweet of Three Lies ...


For all the Trump supporters who probably need this stuff spelled out, the three lies are ...

It's not a "disgrace" that his cabinet picks aren't in place today (Feb. 9). There's a process, and it takes time. The real disgrace is how the GOP is rolling over and allowing President Trump's unqualified nominees to be confirmed.

Look, if you're going to lie, at least do it so your critics have to spend some time looking things up. The "longest delay in the history of our country"? Seriously? You don't have to leave the 21st century to see that Trump is a lying SOS.

Only an ADD-addled chimp, who's bought into the first two lies, would believe this. Oh, and Fox viewers too. Fox viewers, no doubt, also believe Democrats are obstructing the process ... I have no evidence on the Fox viewers claim, but Trump's supporters don't seem to care about the truth so I'm OK, right?

Seriously, the real disgrace here is that Trump's GOP supporters don't care about his lies. The lies actually embolden their position. What's worse, they get mad when Trump's lies are pointed out to them, as if we're the bad guys.

Sigh ...

- Mark

Wednesday, February 8, 2017


From Bloomberg Markets we get yet one more example of wealth extraction in America, courtesy of JPMorgan Chase. This time it comes at the expense of people doing their civic duty, and having JPMorgan Chase cashing in on someone elses precious time and sacrifice. Check it out ...
For some people, jury duty is a dreaded American civic obligation. Now, JPMorgan Chase & Co. is adding another unwelcome element: banking fees. 
In a handful of jurisdictions, the biggest U.S. bank by assets handles administration of the juror-compensation system, issuing debit cards instead of the age-old system of paper checks. 
In addition to the juror pay, the cards also come loaded with fees -- for balance inquiries, for inactivity, for using non-Chase ATMs, for charges with insufficient funds and for cash or check issuance. The funds become impossible to withdraw from an ATM once the balance falls below $20, and in at least one jurisdiction -- Washington, D.C. -- there are no Chase branches or ATMs within 90 miles (145 kilometers), ensuring the funds will eventually be frittered away to the bank. 
William Mark Scott, a lawyer who served on a jury in Washington last year, sued JPMorgan, accusing it of unjust enrichment and violation of the Consumer Protection Act. He’s seeking to represent all other jurors who were paid with JPMorgan debit cards. 
"Chase uses its monopolistic control over juror funds to steal captive jurors’ money by assessing unconscionable and deceptive fees," Scott claims. "By making it prohibitively expensive to receive an over-the-counter cash withdrawal from, or to receive a check drawn upon the debit card, Chase ensures a ‘rump’ balance will be left on each debit card -- and forfeited" ...
You would think that when American do their civic duty that companies like JPMorgan Chase should do their civic duty and provide bank cards free of charge. It's not like their the ones funding the cards with their cash, right? 

The focus is on wealth extraction rather than wealth creation by big financial institutions like JPMorgan Chase is endemic, and helps explain why America is in trouble, in so many ways. 

You can read the full JPMorgan Chase rip-off story here.

- Mark

UPDATE: Via CNBC we learn that a U.S. federal judge on Wednesday upheld an Obama-era rule designed to avoid conflicts of interests when brokers give retirement advice, in a possible setback for President Donald Trump's efforts to scale back government regulation ... You can read the rest of the story here.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017


This is what makes living in Bakersfield such a challenge (and fun too). Some people actually believe we should be both proud and celebrating the Donald-Kevin relationship profiled in today's local newspaper ...

This is what happens when celebrity gets confused with the responsibilities of power. Assisting the man who's accelerating America's decline, especially in the eyes of the world, should not be cause for a community chest pounding. There should be no pride in the fact that Kevin is enabling a narcissistic man-child who has no mandate, but acts as if his warped world view is America's.

Seriously, our local newspaper should not be celebrating the fact that our local congressman is doing the bidding of a man who doesn't respect American principles, and who seems bent on creating a dysfunctional tin-pot dictatorship.

- Mark

Kudos to Whitney for the clip.

Monday, February 6, 2017


As of today (Feb. 6) the United States owes $19.88 trillion. Via Visual Capitalist we get some debt numbers we should be keeping our eye on as we move  deeper into the Trump administration's deregulation and debt driven economic plan ...

For a simple explanation of what's been happening check out this video clip ...

- Mark


- Mark