Sunday, October 29, 2017


I'm in San Diego for a conference, and looked out my window yesterday morning. My first thought was, "How do you turn an impressive $15-25 million yacht into just another boat? Simple, you park it next to this monster ..."

We had to go down for a closer look. Here it is, helicopter and all ...

I don't know about you, but I have to think this would fit in real well in a James Bond movie.

- Mark

Thursday, October 26, 2017


While Fox News has always been a joke, this Lou Dobbs "interview" leans toward the pathetic, and is more than a little weird ...

- Mark

Tuesday, October 24, 2017


As many of you may have heard, Amazon is looking to expand in North America, and sent out a general request for proposals. Well over 200 cities across North America have made their case for being Amazons second home, or its HQ2. My hometown, the city of Bakersfield, has submitted its proposal (it begins on page 7). And why not? Wherever they land, Amazon is expected to invest $5 billion in the region, and promises to create 50,000 jobs with an average salary of $100,000.

This is pretty heady stuff for a city like Bakersfield, where the median household income is about $56,000 and unemployment is regularly 1.5 to 2 percentage points higher than the state average.

Acknowledging that the city doesn't meet Amazon's minimum city population range (1 million residents), the city of Bakersfield's proposal cites abundant and cheap land, a business friendly environment, and our proximity to Interstate 5 and Highway 58.

While these enticements might be a good starting point for building Amazon's confidence in our region, the reality is our city's proposal ignores other aspects of Amazon's RFP guidelines, which they will no doubt notice.

For example, with one of the lowest college graduation rates in the country, Bakersfield will find it hard to meet the "corresponding educational attainment" Amazon's RFP requires. Filling the estimated 50,000 tech oriented jobs Amazon will require "over the multiple years" will be similarly difficult.

But there's more.

Amazon's headquarters in Seattle, Washington.
In the areas of "Cultural Community Fit" and "Community/Quality of Life" outlined in Amazon's RFP, the city of Bakersfield and its surrounding region simply doesn't provide "a compatible cultural and community environment for [Amazon's] long-term success." Specifically, with its current headquarters located in Seattle, Washington, Amazon has its foot in Asia, is on Canada's doorstep, and is looking for a region that supports "a diverse population, excellent institutions of higher education" and an overall "high quality of life" that includes a civic embrace of "educational opportunities." 

This was the backbone behind the creation of the Silicon Valley and Seattle's high tech corridor, which Amazon understands. This means Amazon needs creative people. Creativity requires individuals have the capacity to express themselves both professionally and personally.

Ten years ago, in 2007, a Bakersfield city councilman proposed making the city of Bakersfield an English-only, non-sanctuary city. Think how much Amazon's foreign-born, H-1B visa holding, workforce would thrive in this kind of environment.

The Bakersfield city councilman's "non-sanctuary city" effort failed. But he was later rewarded by being elected county supervisor. He's currently a big supporter of Sheriff Donny Youngblood, who pressed the Kern County Board of Supervisors over this past summer to vote on a measure that would - yeah, you guessed it - make Kern County a non-sanctuary county. Sheriff Youngblood has also refused to sign most U-Visas presented to him. U-Visas allow undocumented immigrants who are victims or witnesses of crime to stay in the country while their case is settled.

Global companies like Amazon notice this kind of stuff.

Then, last year, the city of Bakersfield's elected officials, at all levels, turned their backs on a one-eighth-cent library tax that would help fund our county's often closed, and woefully understaffed, library system.

Turning your back on a healthy library system is not a good thing when you want to pretend your community supports literacy and education, and when your region was once referred to as the "Appalachia of the West."

Again, companies like Amazon notice this kind of stuff.

Then we have our regions attitude towards the LGBT community. As God-fearing Christians, many of our region's political leadership have made it clear they are not really interested in promoting the rights of our LGBT community, no matter how creative they might be. The Bible, you know.

I think it's pretty clear that companies like Amazon notice this kind of stuff too.

I also appreciated how our city's proposal included downtown Bakersfield as one of the potential sites, with a computer rendition of what Amazon's HQ2 would look like with the state's High-Speed Rail (HSR) project running through the area.

There's only one problem with this HSR-linked site. Almost every elected Bakersfield city and Kern County official have made it clear they are opposed to bringing the HSR project to Bakersfield. Oh, and our local congressman, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, is an ardent opponent of the HSR project too.

And, yes, companies like Amazon notice this kind of stuff.

In sum, what Amazon will notice as they go through their proposals is that the characteristics critical for the creativity and entrepreneurialism they require - an embrace of diversity and tolerance - are not always supported or welcome in Bakersfield. Cheap land and a "friendly" business environment can only go so far.

Too bad. Amazon is exactly the type of company that could help turn Bakersfield and Kern County into the region our city's proposal is trying to present, or portray, to Amazon.

And, yes, Amazon will notice this too.

- Mark

Monday, October 23, 2017


Last week, on October 19th, California State University Bakersfield's Center for Social Justice (CSJ) and the Immigration Justice Collaborative (IJC) co-sponsored the screening of "American Migrant Stories" at the university's Walter W. Stiern Library.

The Center for Social Justice - which I co-direct - secured funding from The California Endowment to follow the IJC around Kern County as they put on virtual "legal clinics" for Kern County's undocumented population.

The IJC has been putting on legal clinics throughout Kern County since November, 2016.

KGET 17 News reported on CSU, Bakersfield's Oct. 19 screening, which you can access by clicking here.

The documentary is produced by the Orozco Brothers, and will be presented again in Bakersfield (TBA) within the next two months.

Additional screenings, outside of Kern County, are being arranged.

- Mark

MOST VALUABLE BRAND NAMES, BY COUNTRY (and, no, Coca-Cola's not one of them)

Via Visual Capitalist we get a look at the most valuable brands in the world, by country ...

For more information on most valuable brands, by country, click here.

- Mark

Thursday, October 19, 2017


Former President George W. Bush, who stayed away from the limelight, and from criticizing his successor, just went after Donald Trump and what he's doing to America's civic virtues. Via the Washington Post, here's a sampling of what President Bush had to say today (Oct. 19) at a George W. Bush Institute held in New York:

  • “Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.”
  • “We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism.”
  • “We’ve seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty. . . . Argument turns too easily into animosity.”
  • “It means that bigotry and white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed, and it means the very identity of our nation depends on passing along civic ideals.”
  • “Bullying and prejudice in our public life … provides permission for cruelty and bigotry.”
  • “The only way to pass along civic values is to live up to them.”
As someone who was a regular critic of President George W. Bush while he was in office, you can count me as impressed with our former president. The Washington Post has a 3 minute clip of former President Bush's speech here.

You can read the entire WP article by clicking here.

- Mark 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017


The Washington Post discusses Donald Trump's late response to the death of 4 U.S. soldiers in Niger, and his subsequent bungling of the "narrative" during his phone calls to a soldiers' family. 


Trump's now accusing the dead soldiers family and a sitting member of Congress of lying about his comments to Sgt. La David T. Johnson's widow ("He knew what he was signing up for, but I guess it hurts anyways").


Oh, and Trump also took the time to take a swipe at President Obama, and previous presidents, for how they handled the return of fallen soldiers. Classy.

And the cascade of embarrassments continue.

- Mark

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


Donald Trump doesn't understand what multilateral treaties mean, nor does he understand why the Iranian nuclear deal is actually working. And, yeah, it's embarrassing to watch as an American.

Below is a quick 3-minute overview of what the Iranian nuclear deal was designed to do. This clip came out when the multilateral treaty was signed (2015), but before it was implemented (2016).

The British government thought so much of Donald Trump's comments this week, and his rejection of the treaty, that their Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) took the time out to explain why the Iranian nuclear deal has worked in this post.

"Now This" picked up on FCO's media piece, and incorporated it into the clip below. In very simple terms, it explains why Trump is wrong, again.

And spare me the "Iran is playing geo-strategic games with Saudi Arabia in the Middle East" slapstick. The Iran treaty is about a nuclear weapons program, not a diplomacy or a "peace" treaty.

If you need the difference explained, stop reading my stuff and go work for Trump. Seriously.

- Mark


- Mark


One of my faculty colleagues asked about showing Eminem's free style criticism of President Trump in class. Students had been asking about it. The hesitation from my colleague is less about the medium and style of Eminem's presentation, and more about the language. My response, and reasoning, follows below.

I suspect this is for your ****** class, right? If so, absolutely. 
 For those who might feel offended by the accusations and language from Eminem, you might remind everyone of Trump's baseless Birther Moments, his "son of a bitches" comment (with reference to the NFL's kneelers), his Billy Bush-Access Hollywood comments, and how he's exposed the presidency to this level of discourse. No president should be able to engage an audience at the level that Trump has, and expect to walk away unscathed because they expect the trappings of the office to protect them from push back and ridicule. 
 Perhaps more importantly, Eminem is addressing substantive policy and social issues. In her day, Harriet Beecher Stowe did pretty much the same thing. Trump made the decision to bring these issues - in the manner that he did - to forefront of America's political scene. The messenger and the medium shouldn't matter, given our current environment. 
 Have fun with it.

For the two people left in the world who haven't seen Eminem's piece, I'm posting it below, or click here. Fair warning: language content might offend a few people.

- Mark

Monday, October 16, 2017


Tulipmania. It's often invoked by economists and historians as a warning against avarice and manias run amok. The setting is the Netherlands in the front half of the 17th century.

As economist John Kenneth Galbraith writes in A Short History of Financial Euphoria, what started as the acquisition of prestige and status, for those who possessed the then novel tulip bulbs, in 1636, turned into wild speculation over successive price increases. Specifically, competition over tulips turned into mania, with single bulbs trading for new carriages and homes, or fetching as much as $25-50,000 each.

Demand reached such heights that the Amsterdam Stock Exchange developed a futures market for the bulb.

The market, as well as the dreams of many speculators, would collapse under the weight of its own nonsense, and spectacular avarice. As sellers demanded that their tulip contracts be enforced, they were disappointed when their petitions fell on the deaf ears of the courts. Because the speculation in Tulips market had little to do with the production of actual goods and services, the courts viewed Tulipmania as little more than a gambling operation. 

As is the case throughout these histories, panic, default, and bankruptcy followed. “No one knows for what reason” the speculation and mania ended, Galbraith wrote, but there’s little doubt common sense finally prevailed in a market spun out of control by deluded buyers and sellers.

I liked the story so much, I included it in my book, The Myth of the Free Market

While the stories that emerged after Tulipmania are often filled with tales of economic destruction and chaos, historian Anne Goldgar has another take on the series of events. As the Smithsonian points out, in Goldgar's Tulipmania: Money, Honor, and Knowledge in the Dutch Golden Age, we're told that "there weren't that many people involved and the economic repercussions were pretty minor." 

Goldgar goes on to point out that she "couldn't find anybody that went bankrupt" and that "a wholesale destruction of the economy" didn't happen.

If this is true, then why do we speak of Tulipmania as some kind of Aesop's fable warning us about the dangers of avarice and manias merged together? According to the Smithsonian, for this "we have tetchy Christian moralists to blame ...". The idea "that God punishes people who are overreaching" resonated with early Dutch Calvinists who were worried about societal decay after Tulipmania. 

Interesting, to say the least.

For more on the story of Tulipmania (that never happened?), click here.

- Mark 


While this message has been done several different ways, this clip does a pretty good job of explaining the concept of privilege.

- Mark

Sunday, October 15, 2017


This coming Thursday evening (October 19), beginning at 6 pm, we will premiere the documentary "American Migrant Stories" at California State University, Bakersfield's Walter W. Stiern Library.

We started working on this documentary almost immediately after Donald Trump was declared the winner of the 2016 presidential election. Understanding that things were going to take a turn for the worse for America's migrant communities, about 26 attorneys from Bakersfield came together to put on a series of "legal clinics" designed specifically for Kern County's undocumented population.

The goal was to go to local communities across Kern County and advise the undocumented populations of their legal rights and responsibilities. The group of attorneys doing this work, without compensation of any type, is called the Immigration Justice Collaborative.

As the director of the Center for Social Justice I was able to secure a grant from The California Endowment, and hired a film crew from the Los Angeles area to document the legal clinics. During spring 2017 we determined that we should move beyond simply filming these legal clinics and decided to create a documentary on the broader issue of migration in America, while focusing on events in Kern County.

The film runs about 32 minutes. Light hors d'oeuvres and refreshments will be served at the showing. The event is time certain, and will start immediately at 6 pm.

- Mark

Thursday, October 12, 2017


From The Intercept, we get the following ...

This past Friday morning, at 12:39 a.m., security footage from the Asheville Regional Airport in North Carolina showed a man walking through the front doors wearing black clothing and a black cap, while carrying a bag. “Based on a review of the video, the individual walked near the entrance to the terminal, went out of sight momentarily, and was then seen departing the area without the bag,” according to the criminal complaint.

With TSA agents following procedures, a bomb sniffing dog was brought in and alerted authorities. Explosives used in criminal activities around the world were found in the bag, along with nails and bullets. In a few words, the device was created to do maximum damage, and set to go off at 6 am that morning, when new travelers were scheduled to arrive for their morning flights.

So, why haven't you heard about this, especially given our endless terror-driven news cycle? The Intercepts Shaun King has a few thoughts on the topic.

The story didn’t go viral and Trump didn’t tweet about it because the bomb was not placed by an immigrant, or a Muslim, or a Mexican. It was placed there by a good ol’ white man, Michael Christopher Estes. Unlike the Las Vegas shooter, Stephen Paddock, whose motive is still hard to discern, Estes wanted to be very clear that his ultimate goal was to accelerate a war on American soil.

Think about it. Here you have a criminal terrorist act, designed to do maximum harm to innocent Americans, with the broader goal of instigating a domestic war scenario, and no one hears about it on the evening news. Donald Trump said nothing, which is strange since his terror instincts allowed him to see and speak about Muslims dancing in the streets of New York after 9/11.

What's more worrisome is that this event occurred (Oct. 6) after the Las Vegas shooting spree, when America's sensibilities about terrorism, violence and mass destruction were supposed to be heightened.

So, I guess we're back to "normal" now. The silence surrounding this case seems to make that clear.

Normalcy. In Trump's America. I know I feel safer.

Sigh ...

- Mark 


Global financial aid comes in two forms. The first type of aid is tied development, and generally focuses on developing general programs, health projects, infrastructure, and other categories designed to assist state "development" goals. 

The second form of aid arrives in the shape of loans at market or near market rates, and is provided with the idea of developing resources that will be sold to the country providing aid. This is precisely the type of aid Russia is receiving from China.

According to Foreign Policy, Chinese foreign aid to Russia is almost exclusively for "commercial consideration" and "mostly about getting the thirsty Chinese economy access to Russia's huge reserves of oil."

Recipients of global financial aid from China (in red) ... Russia tops the list.
Between 2000 and 2014, Russia was the recipient of $36.6 billion in loans, grants, and other agreements from China (Pakistan is second with $24.3 billion). Over this same period, China provided some kind of financial assistance to 140 countries and territories. 

Total financial aid from China between 200 and 2014 was $354.3 billion, which places it just behind what the United States provided during the same period, $394.6 billion. Of this amount, North Korea "officially" received $272 million from China.

You can read the details by clicking here.

- Mark 

Monday, October 9, 2017


This cracks me up every time I watch it ...

When you haven't done your homework, and don't really know what you're talking about, you get a look of stupid arrogance on your face when the facts are finally explained to you. Want to know what stupid arrogance looks like? Well, it's this guy, Brad Thomas, getting schooled on the economy and job growth by MSNBC's Ali Velshi and Stephanie Ruhle ...

If you want a short overview of the real story on jobs, check out this CNN piece from January 2017. Below is the Obama jobs creation straight line (starting in March of 2009) Ali Velshi was talking about (0:47 into the clip) ...

For the extended 8 minute MSNBC clip click here.

- Mark


With most Americans consumed with the Trump-led "take a knee" nonsense in the NFL, and other drama-filled stories surrounding immigration, DACA, and the "Rocket Man" in North Korea, other stories that cut to the heart of America's deteriorating democratic experiment need to be kept on the front burner. Let's start with this ...

Not many know this but, by law, foreign nationals are prohibited from spending money to influence U.S. elections. With Donald Trump's razor thin margin of victories reaching 22,000 in Wisconsin, 10,700 in Michigan, and 47,750 in Pennsylvania, the story below is just one of several reasons why Americans of all political stripes should continue to follow the Russia-Trump investigation.

The Washington Post is reporting that Facebook sold ads to a Russian firm during the 2016 presidential election, specifically targeting U.S. voters. U.S. officials have traced these ads to a Kremlin-affiliated "troll farm," the International Research Agency (IRA). Operatives from the Russian-linked IRA then set up misleading and social media pages specifically designed to identify voters susceptible to propaganda.

The IRA ad purchasing process works much in the same way that advertising companies learn about your spending habits and personal likes, and then target you with ads and information on everything from jackets to shoes. The big difference here is that susceptible U.S. voters in 2016 didn't have a clue where the ads were coming from, or for what purpose.

By using the Facebook tool "Custom Audiences" IRA operators were able to send "susceptible" voters specific messages, with the goal of influencing their political behavior. For maximum effect, these ads touched on politically divisive and emotionally charged issues like gun rights, race and immigration (among others).

On September 28 Twitter told congressional investigators it had also been similarly targeted. Twitter also recently announced that it has shut down 201 accounts tied to the same troll farm.

Watch how the story unfolds here ...

While Facebook did not originally release their Russian ad information, in part because of "privacy concerns," on Oct. 2 they finally released copies of 3,000 ads bought by "Russian accounts."

As the story continues to unwind, you can bet that allegations of collusion between team Trump and the Russians will become even more politically charged. It's also helps explain why Trump is on his "fake news" March of Ridicule. What better way to cast doubt on the real story than to discredit the messenger(s) before they can tell the truth.

Stay tuned.

- Mark

FYI: The Horsey "Facespook" cartoon was added after the original post.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Wednesday, October 4, 2017


- Mark


Vox has a nice review of mass shootings in America, titled "White American men are a bigger domestic terrorist threat than Muslim foreigners." 

The subtitle of the article brings home another point. Since Donald Trump took office, more Americans have been killed by white American men, with no connection to Islam, than by Muslim terrorists or foreigners.



You can click here to access the article.

- Mark

Tuesday, October 3, 2017


I posted this over a year ago. Sadly, it still hasn't gone out of style.

Here are four simple reasons why we need common sense gun control, with some Ronald Reagan-inspired insights in numbers 2-4 ...

From Rolling Stone magazine we get one of the best reasons why we need to stop paying attention to the NRA terrorists who claim the 2nd amendment applies to modern weapons in the modern world ...

... the Second Amendment was written by slaveholders before we had electricity, much less the kind of weaponry that would-be murderers can buy today. But sure, if you think it's that precious, we can compromise: If you love the Second Amendment that much, feel free to live in a powdered wig and shit in a chamberpot while trying to survive off what you can kill with an 18th century musket. In exchange, let those of us living in this century pass some laws so we can feel safe going to class, or the movies, or anywhere without worrying that some maladjusted man will try to get his revenge by raining death on random strangers.

To help buoy the point made here, let's take another look at this graphic example of how our world has changed ...


Back in 1989 Ronald Reagan effectively called for a ban on assault weapons ...

With the support of the NRA, Governor Ronald Reagan repealed open carry laws in California when he signed the Mulford Act in 1967. To be sure, the law was aimed at the Black Panthers (you be the judge on that one), but the fact remains Ronald Reagan made it clear that gun control in America can happen. 

Then we have the reality behind the "good guy with a gun" argument ...

Let's also keep this in mind: Since 9/11 white right-wing terrorists have killed twice as many Americans as radical Islamists. Why aren't we talking about this?  

Some afternoon reading; below are three good discussion articles that cover guns in America ...
Washington Post: "What 'arms' looked like when the 2nd Amendment was written."

Rolling Stone: "4 pro-gun arguments we're sick of hearing." 

Snopes: "Harvard Flaw Review: No, a Harvard University Study did not prove that areas with higher rates of gun ownership have lower crime rates." 

- Mark