Friday, September 29, 2017


People are finally catching on. It was the Department of Defense - and not Colin Kaepernick - who started politicizing the national anthem before football games. Simply put, the military needs bodies for war, and decided that a good way to advertise and recruit was to associate the U.S. military with patriotic anthem displays and the National Football League. So the United States military began paying the NFL for anthem rights, and for signing off on patriotic displays around game time.

Testosterone, big hits, and nationalism all wrapped into one simple message: the military is for tough guys and real patriots. Be all you can be. Be one of us. Sign up after the game.

The real interesting point in this evolving story line is that most Americans have no clue why the military has to go schlepping across the country, forking out millions in advertising campaigns in order to attract enough bodies to send into our next military conflict.

It's a real simple story. And it's built around free market ideology run amok, and a good deal of academic deception on the part of Milton Friedman.

Much of what's posted below is borrowed from an earlier post, where I discussed the roots of perpetual war. 

It was the late 1960s. Economist Milton Friedman was contracted to study the feasibility of an all-volunteer military. The draft was under attack. Liberals hated it because the wealthy and their college bound kids always found ways around having to serve. That it provided the war mongers with fresh bodies every year made the draft even less appealing to liberals. 

Conservatives didn't like it because it forced their kids to look for deferments. Worse, it had become a rallying point for the hated anti-Vietnam war protesters. 

In this environment, policy makers decided to ask free market guru, and economist extraordinaire, Milton Friedman to look into privatizing the military. The idea was to wrap military service around personal preference since, you know, we should all be "free to choose" our life path. As part of his charge, Friedman was also asked to look at the anticipated budget costs for implementing an all volunteer military. He was told to determine how much money Congress would have to appropriate in order to entice our young men into the military (instead of drafting them). 

Simple enough, right? 

Not so fast. There was a problem, according to Milton Friedman. 

Friedman didn't want to use annual budget costs because he understood that PR and recruiting campaigns were much more expensive than simply drafting people. He also understood that the military would have to provide more incentives, more benefits, and more pay over time to induce people to enlist in an all-volunteer military. 

Then there was the issue of nationalism being perceived as something that's for sale.

If Friedman was going to look only at budget costs, an all volunteer "market-based" military was going to be expensive. 

So Milton Friedman came up with another plan. 

Rather than simply use anticipated budget costs - which he knew PR and pay incentives would increase significantly - Friedman insisted on using economic costs in his analysis. 

At the risk of oversimplification, using economic costs - instead of just real budget costs - allowed Friedman to calculate how much each drafted soldier lost in wages because they were not employed as, say, a doctor or a lawyer in the private sector.

Including how much a future medical doctor or lawyer might lose over their lifetime, because they were drafted and killed in battle, proved invaluable to Friedman. It allowed him to argue that the U.S. economy would be less efficient and much weaker in the future if we continued with the draft

At the same time, Friedman also argued that our nation would be much better off if people who actually needed the money - especially the poor - entered the military voluntarily. They would feel better about themselves, as it were. Best of all, since they were poor to begin with, chances are they weren't going to make much money in the market to begin with.

It didn't matter to Milton Friedman that race, ethnicity, and poverty play a big role in pushing kids to "volunteer" for the military. In Friedman's world, people with few choices in life don't have room to be picky. 

Focusing on economic costs also helped Friedman's larger cause - creating a market-based society built around people making rational economic decisions because of anticipated monetary gain. If "Tyrone" and "Jose" were the ones signing up to defend the empire it was because they were rational economic actors. Homo Economicus would sustain Pax Americana

Best of all, as Friedman would argue in front of the Gates Commission (which was studying the issue at the time), the U.S. would no longer have to worry about “the output of the civilian economy” declining. Why? Because markets would be stronger and more efficient because more doctors, engineers, and lawyers were able to avoid the draft, and could get to the business of making money. 

The draft was eliminated in 1973. America has had an all volunteer military since then.

There's more, but you get the point. The move to an all volunteer military was the first step in a "rational" market-based approach to war. The rise of private mercenary armies and outsourcing - or the privatization of war - is the logical extension of our all volunteer military. 

Because politicians and the wealthy no longer have to worry about (1) their relatives being drafted, (2) demonstrations on college campuses, or (3) a backlash at the polls, they and the war mongers in America have become unbridled when it comes to conflict and war. And why not? It's not like it's their kids that have to go and fight.

But here's another point many don't stop to think about.

While our military budgets have soared, over the past decade, less than 1 percent of the American population has been on active military duty. This compares with almost 9 percent during WWII. 

As we become less connected to the military we become less informed about the actual human costs of war. Over time we have become less informed and even cavalier about war because the people who fight them aren't part of our lives.

The result of all of this? War in perpetuity is fast becoming our reality because, in many ways, it doesn't really affect us. We've been at war in Afghanistan since 2001 (counting the "War on Terror") and had a military presence/war in Iraq since 2003. 

Worse, with the U.S. military forced to canvass the nation for recruits, the Department of Defense is now engaging in pay to play patriotism. Paying for anthem rights and "patriotic" displays make this clear. 

As the Department of Defense searches for more and more creative ways to inject themselves into the lives of our youth, the NFL became just one more brand to adopt. The national anthem was their tool of choice. 

Let me close with this. Colin Kaepernick didn't politicize the national anthem. The U.S. military did. And they did it because Milton Friedman helped put a price on both service, and patriotism. 

- Mark 

For those of you interested in reading more, check out Bernard Rostker's, I Want You! The Evolution of the All-Volunteer Force (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2006). 

Thursday, September 28, 2017


For those who might need a reminder about the Tommie Smith and John Carlos story at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics click here or here.

- Mark

Hat tip to my friend Felix de la Torre for the informed FB post that became the meme above.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017


The good people at Visual Capitalist have an interesting visual on what could trigger the next market crash, part of which I have cut and pasted below.

The snowflake-avalanche picture helps us conceptualize what happens when markets crash. In real simple terms, we know that the "Main Street" villagers at the bottom of the mountain lose, big time.

Still, the visual of dollar after dollar piling up, just as snowflakes do on a mountain, does very little to explain why the next market collapse will happen. More specifically, the metaphor doesn't tell us how unrestricted and unregulated markets actually set us up for the market avalanche, which creates the subsequent problem of having to save our wiped out "Main Street" villagers.

While I like the avalanche visual here, it would have been nice to include a discussion about how proactive tactics, called avalanche control, actually reduces the risk and devastation of avalanches.

Prevention and mitigation actions like installing snow bridges, avalanche blasting, the use of recoilless rifles, full-air explosives, permanent interventions (more structural), etc. are all used to reduce the number and dangers associated with an avalanche.

The snow flake-avalanche metaphor for our markets would be more complete if the visual included a discussion of market controls (regulations), which could easily be compared to how snow packed regions embrace avalanche control. Without it people may be inclined to think about market avalanches as an unavoidable part of nature, when they clearly are not. We know from the past that the  frequency of market avalanches can be eliminated, while their impact can be reduced when they do occur.

Just saying.

- Mark

Saturday, September 23, 2017


At 6 pm this Tuesday evening (September 26), California State University Bakersfield will host a free legal clinic for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) students and workers. If you know a DACA student-worker let them know that this will be an information session they don't want to miss.

Participating defense and immigration attorneys will include H.A. Sala, Vanessa Sanchez, Win Eaton, and Edyta-Christina G. Grant. Assemblyman Rudy Salas will also be there to share information, and discuss what's happening in Sacramento that's tied into DACA.

The event is free, and is co-sponsored by H.A. Sala Attorney at Law, Sanchez Immigration Law, Immigration in America: Law Offices of Edyta-Christina G. Grant, Eaton & Associates, the Law Offices of David A. Torres & Associates, and California State University Bakersfield's Office of the President, Associated Students Inc., the Department of Political Science, the Center for Social Justice, the Department of Modern Languages, and Ethnic Studies.

For those of you who want additional information about DACA, I have a link to Win Eaton's KGET 17 News' interview where he discusses what DACA students need to be doing over the next six months, which you can access by clicking here.

- Mark

Addendum: Free parking at California State University Bakersfield will be available in Parking Lots "M" and "K1."

Friday, September 22, 2017


I'm going to say it, again. Watching Donald Trump is like watching a toddler walking around with a loaded gun. And you can't take the gun away.

Moving it up a level, watching Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un trade personal insults is like watching, well, it's kind of like watching this ...

The real problem is that these two might actually drag the rest of us into their personality disorder tantrums, which is real scary ... and scarier.

- Mark

Thursday, September 21, 2017


With Oktoberfest and Halloween around the corner, below is a History Channel short story explaining how beer and witches are tied together ...

In the FYI category, you would probably be justified claiming that this clip helps us understand how the term "witches brew" came about.

- Mark

Wednesday, September 20, 2017


The United States Senate voted overwhelmingly to increase military spending by $80 billion, even though Donald Trump asked for a $54 billion dollar increase. Not only does our total spending for the year (almost $700 billion) match what we were spending at the height of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, but it exceeds the spending of our next 10 rivals, put together.

Share of global military spending, for the top 15 countries (and the rest).

Here's another fun fact. The $80 billion increase, if spent on higher education, would be enough to make public colleges and universities tuition free.

One more fun fact. The spending doesn't make us any safer and might even, according to Ronald Reagan's under Secretary of Defense, Lawrence J. Korb, make us less safe

- Mark

Monday, September 18, 2017


Al Gore's An Inconvenient Sequel ...

... because we do have an impact on our environment, on many levels, even if you don't want to see it or acknowledge it.

- Mark 


Neil deGrasse Tyson explains why science is important in politics, and why it's even more important for understanding American history ...

- Mark

Thursday, September 14, 2017

TRUMP'S "GO, DOG. GO!" ECONOMICS ... a.k.a. Trickle Down Economics, Again.

For those of you who can't remember the children's classic, or who are unfamiliar with the reference, this should help ...

- Mark 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Tuesday, September 12, 2017


Over the years I've received numerous letters, emails, and phone messages at the university. While many are congratulatory, many others tell me how wrong I am about the things I've written or said in the media. While the correspondence is usually only 1-3 lines, the language is often colorful, and makes me chuckle. I almost always never respond, for reasons I'm sure most of you understand.

The letter below, however, needs to be shared because it illustrates what we're increasingly up against in Trump's America.

7 September 2917

Prof Martinez,

Read your debate with Rep McCarthy regarding Latino illegal aliens. Why you justify the act of lawbreakers is a puzzle.  Does the Mexican government permit illegal aliens to enter and remain in Mexico? On the contrary. I understand that they are quite harsh with them.

So what's this really all about. RACISM that's what!  You want more of your fellow Mexicans in America so that they have more political clout; never mind that they drag down America and turn it into a crime infested Mexico. Oh yes Prof Martinez. Your Mexicans have the same degenerate demographic profile as Blacks in America; namely low education goals, resulting in high levels of poverty and crime and that is why, once rich California now majority Latino, is rapidly sinking into the primitive Latino swamp!

I am an aerospace engineer. Where are your Latino aerospace engineers?? Instead you pursue totally worthless programs such as, political science, psychology, Mexican-American studies etc. Just what do they contribute to the wealth and quality of life in America? You take these "basket weaving" time and money wasting courses because they are not mentally challenging. If your Mexicans were contributors to American productivity they might be more welcomed but not at their current behavior. They are of no redeeming value to anyone but instead are an economic and financial drain on America! And don't use the excuse about the need for Mexican farm workers. American famers can mechanize as farmers have done in Europe. Even grapes are harvested by machines. It is extremely rare to find stoop labor in European fields.

My solution to keeping illegals out of America along the border is to establish a Free Fire Zone, as we did in Vietnam, all along the Mexican side of the border and border crashing will cease the instant that an illegal is killed or wounded!

Dr. **** *******

How does one even begin to contend with such unvarnished hatred for those who are different, and yet a part of the Union?

America is better than this. At least we're supposed to be.

- Mark

Monday, September 11, 2017


John Lennon's Imagine ...

- Mark


Regular readers of this blog know this story already ...

It was September 2001 and I was in Washington DC at an academic conference. I was scheduled to leave on September 9th. I unexpectedly ran into a friend from graduate school, Lorenzo, who I hadn't seen since he became the godparent to my son, Sebastian (who's now away enjoying his freshman year in college; interestingly at the same university where Lorenzo teaches).

We had a lot of catching up to do, so I made arrangements to stay. My new itinerary had me leaving the morning of September 11.

After dinner with Lorenzo, I had a sudden and compelling change of heart. Since the kids were 2 and 3 years old at the time, and a real handful, I thought to myself, "I need to get back and help with the kids."

Sebastian and Monica. The mischievous look before they got into things.

I called the airlines to ask if I could leave earlier. After some back and forth, they were able to make the switch. If I had stayed in DC to visit, the flight I was scheduled to take on September 11 was American Airlines Flight 77. 

As many of you know, this was the plane that slammed into the Pentagon.

I think about this every September 11th, and try to remember it whenever I think I'm having a bad day.

- Mark

Friday, September 8, 2017


With President Trump cutting funds for Obamacare advertising, we need to spread the ACA enrollment dates on our own. Expect this announcement on a regular basis ...

- Mark


With President Trump's announcement that he's going to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in six months if Congress doesn't act, hundreds of thousands of DACA students-workers are now living in the dark. This is understandable, especially since none of us have any idea what Congress will do over the next six months.

Fortunately, there are people working to help our DACA recipients walk through the political and legal landmines that President Trump's actions are now creating. For example, Bakersfield immigration attorney Win Eaton will continue to speak out publicly about the rights of our DACA recipients, as he did in this KGET 17 Sunrise News edition this past week.

When asked why DACA students don't "just go through the steps to become citizens when they became adults," Eaton responded that our so system is so broken that there is no legal process available for DACA recipients to legitimize their status.

Attorney Win Eaton also provided some very important advice for our DACA students: if you are within six months of having your DACA certification expire you need to reapply by October 5, 2017 or else you will lose your status.

Let's be clear here. Win Eaton is not telling non-DACA certified students they should apply for the program. That ship has sailed.

What Win Eaton is advising is that if you're already a DACA student or a DACA worker, and your status is going to lapse before March 5, 2107 (a Monday), you will be kicked out of the program if you don't have your DACA renewal application in place by Thursday, October 5th (there's more, so be sure to click on this link).

One last thing. We have Win Eaton and several other attorneys tentatively scheduled to speak about immigration and DACA at CSU Bakersfield on September 26.

I will provide more information once the details are finalized.

- Mark

UPDATE: For DACA students/workers who need help financing the $495 renewal application for DACA certification, the Mission Asset Fund has enough money to fund 2,000 applicants. You can access the program by clicking here.

Thursday, September 7, 2017


Another gem from Lalo Alcaraz ...

- Mark


This past Tuesday,  after it became clear that Donald Trump was going to rescind DACA (or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), I did a series of media interviews. One of the interviews I did was on The Ralph Bailey Show, which is produced by KERN Radio. During the interview Bakersfield's congressional representative, and House Majority Leader, Kevin McCarthy called in to discuss the president's DACA decision.

This was a surprise because I thought Rep. McCarthy was going to call in after I left the program (for another interview). It didn't matter to me either way because I was there to talk about DACA, and immigration. Having Rep. McCarthy on the program was only going to make it more interesting.
From KERN Radio's website.

Once we got going one thing became very clear: Rep. McCarthy doesn't care to listen to anything that's going to take him off of his narrative.

There was also something else that stood out. Rep. McCarthy really didn't want to discuss the 2013 immigration legislation (Senate Bill 744; admittedly, I forgot the number on air). After I asked Rep. McCarthy why the GOP didn't vote on a bipartisan piece of immigration reform legislation (1:30 into the clip), that was crafted primarily by Senate Republicans, he said there weren't enough votes. Then our discussion drifted into terrorism and national security.

In reality, Rep. McCarthy didn't want to discuss the 2013 legislation in any great detail because not only did it have bipartisan support (which I pointed out) but he knows what the larger story reveals.

In a few words, we had an immigration bill in 2013 (SB 744) that had bipartisan support, but Speaker John Boehner decided not to bring it up for a vote in the House of Representatives. Why? In real simple terms, Boehner didn't bring it up NOT because, as Rep. McCarthy said, the legislation didn't have the votes. What Boehner and the GOP leadership (including Kevin) feared was the legislation would put reform minded members on record, or that it might pass. This would be followed by Tea Party extremists going after vulnerable Republicans during the primary elections. This is the real reason Speaker Boehner refused to bring the immigration bill up for a vote.

So, yeah, the GOP leadership sacrificed a comprehensive immigration bill (SB 744) because they believed it would force many congressional Republicans into having to deal with Tea Party opponents, and possibly losing their seats in a primary election.

When Rep. Eric Cantor lost his primary election to a Tea Party opponent in 2014, immigration reform in a Republican led Congress was dead in the water.

So much for country first. Political survival was the name of the game here.

For Rep. McCarthy to say on air the legislation didn't have the support it needed to pass in 2013 is, quite frankly, an "alternative fact" the GOP wants America to believe today.

Here's something I failed to bring up during our discussion (in part because Kevin steered the discussion towards terrorism). Because the GOP failed to vote on the comprehensive immigration legislation in 2013, the DACA program created by President Obama's executive order in 2012 became our de facto immigration policy for our young undocumented population.

Keep in mind that President Obama always said that DACA was a temporary policy, put in place to protect ambitious students and workers. It was always supposed to go away (become irrelevant?) once Congress acted to create and pass comprehensive immigration reform. This never happened. The presence of DACA today, in many ways, is a product of the GOP's failure to act in 2013. 

Because some of what Kevin and I said on air became garbled as we began to speak over one another (he's got stuff to say, and so do I), below - courtesy of KERN Radio 1180, and The Ralph Bailey Show - are some of the things I tried to explain to Rep. McCarthy.


* I KNOW MEXICO: After being prodded by Ralph Bailey (Ralph asked me, "Why are you so afraid of controlling our borders"?), Kevin referenced how scary things are on the border, and asked if I had ever spoke to border patrol agents about what's going on there. I gently reminded Kevin that not only have I spoken to border patrol agents (and DEA agents) about what goes on at the U.S.-Mexico border (as a university professor I/we get to speak to a lot of people), but reminded him that I have lived in Mexico, and even taught (at the university level) there for a year. In the FYI category, I also teach a class at CSU Bakersfield on the Politics of Mexico, have driven and traveled extensively around the border area (without body guards), and regularly give lectures on drug economies in Latin America/Mexico.
* NOTHING TO FEAR BUT FEAR ITSELF: I tried to explain to Kevin that, for all of his worries about terrorist attacks (the "suitcase bomb"), there were more terrorist attacks around the world, and more violence in America, 30 years ago than we have today. I even tried to explain that you stand a greater chance of winning the lottery than you do of getting involved in a terrorist attack, but to no avail. Fear sells. 
* 9/11 HAS MANY USES: Kevin tried to bring 9/11 into the conversation, so I responded by saying, "I'm not going to help you sensationalize 9/11" and told him that "the numbers [odds of being caught up in an attack] aren't there." The fear mongering continued.

* LOST COMMENTS: My final comments were cut off from the segment posted by KERN Radio, but I'm pretty sure I made it clear that Trump's DACA decision was not legally required, and what's happening today is driven by a larger political agenda tied to fear and paranoia.

There were a few more moments in our discussion that were hard to discern, but you can hear it all by listening the audio clip above, or by clicking here.

- Mark

UPDATE: FYI, our discussion was picked up by Think Progress, which you can access by clicking here. I'm going to be blunt here; the Think Progress article makes our exchange appear more exciting than it really was. Good writing can do that :-).