Wednesday, November 29, 2017

WHAT YOU INHALE WHEN YOU SMOKE

Simple, and to the point.


- Mark

ODDS ARE, RUSSIA OWNS TRUMP ... is this what "winning" is supposed to look like?


The New Times has an interesting op-ed that reviews some of the many pieces of evidence that ties Donald Trump to Russia. The title of the op-ed, "Odds Are, Russia Owns Trump," says it all. Enjoy ...

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Three months ago, The Washington Post reported that even as Donald Trump ran for president, he pursued plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. The next day, The New York Times published excerpts from emails between Felix Sater, a felon with ties to Russian organized crime, and Michael Cohen, one of Donald Trump’s lawyers and Sater’s childhood friend, about the project. Sater was apparently an intermediary between Trump and Russia, and in a Nov. 3, 2015, email to Cohen, he made the strange argument that a successful deal would lead to Trump’s becoming president. Boasting that he was close enough to Vladimir Putin to let Ivanka Trump sit in the Russian president’s desk chair, Sater wrote, “I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected.”
These stories were, at the time, bombshells. At a minimum, they showed that Trump was lying when he said, repeatedly, that he had “nothing to do with Russia.” Further, Sater’s logic — that Putin’s buy-in on a real estate deal would result in Trump’s election — was bizarre, suggesting that some part of the proposed collaboration was left unsaid.
But three months feels like three decades in Trump years, and I mostly forgot about these reports until I read Luke Harding’s new book, “Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win.” One uncanny aspect of the investigations into Trump’s Russia connections is that instead of too little evidence there’s too much. It’s impossible to keep it straight without the kind of chaotic wall charts that Carrie Mathison of “Homeland” assembled during her manic episodes. Incidents that would be major scandals in a normal administration — like the mere fact of Trump’s connection to Sater — become minor subplots in this one.
That’s why “Collusion” is so essential, and why I wish everyone who is skeptical that Russia has leverage over Trump would read it. This country — at least the parts not wholly under the sway of right-wing propaganda — needs to come to terms with substantial evidence that the president is in thrall to a foreign power.
Harding, the former Moscow bureau chief of The Guardian, has been reporting on shady characters like Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman who was indicted last month, long before Trump announced his candidacy. He was able to interview Christopher Steele, the former British spy who wrote the dossier attempting to detail Trump’s relationship with the Kremlin, and who describes the conspiracy between the American president and the Russians as “massive — absolutely massive.”
“Collusion” doesn’t purport to solve all the mysteries of this alleged conspiracy. There’s no longer any serious question that there was cooperation between Trump’s campaign and Russia, but the extent of the cooperation, and the precise nature of it, remains opaque ... 
You can read the rest of the article by clicking here.

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None of this should come as a surprise to anyone. It surely isn't a surprise to me. I've been writing about Trump's Russian connections for the past year and a half now (which you can access hereherehere, and here).

What this all means is that we shouldn't be surprised if Donald Trump's barking about "fake news" increases. When the actual Trump-Russia story emerges, Trump's going to need a confused and deluded base (even more than they are now) that's ready to defend him over the claims of treason that are sure to be made in the "fake news" mainstream media, right?

Are you tired of all the winning yet?

- Mark

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

"I HAVE A MESSAGE FOR YOU ..."


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To save her own life she had to leave her father to die. She received a message from her Father twenty years later. Courtesy of the NY Times ...


- Mark

FLAT-EARTH HUMOR ... THE STUPID, IT BURNS

Astrophysicist, and all around smart guy, Neil deGrasse Tyson trolled the flat-Earthers by tweeting a picture of a lunar eclipse that no one, including the flat-Earthers, have ever seen.
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You know what's so interesting about people who believe the world is flat (apart from having a laugh at their expense)? It's thinking about how something like the artist's rendition below probably makes sense to many of them, I'm guessing.


If we're using their logic, we can only assume that the picture below (courtesy of my nephew Thomas) will make sense to many flat-Earthers as well.


At the end of the day, trying to make sense of what the flat-Earthers are thinking gives me a headache. Seriously, the stupid, it burns ...



- Mark

Monday, November 27, 2017

OUR NATIONAL EMBARRASSMENT CONTINUES

What a national embarrassment. While he was supposed to be honoring the World War II contributions of Native Americans, for their work as code talkers, Donald Trump referred to U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren as "Pocahontas."


It's like he never left second grade.

- Mark

If you want to know more about the work of the code talkers, which was captured (somewhat) in the 2002 film Windtalkers, click here.

Windtalkers movie.jpg

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Friday, November 24, 2017

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

HAPPY THANKSGIVING ... PLUS SOME FUNNY COMICS



Some Thanksgiving funnies ...


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- Mark


REPUBLICAN TAX PLAN IS LEGAL THEFT



Creating a tax bill without discussing the merits of it in the light of day, without full hearings or expert testimony, only serves to undermine our democratic spirit, while allowing a small group of people to acquire wealth they did not earn. This is not wealth creation, it's wealth extraction ... from  you and me.

The fact that our Republican-led Congress is leading the way on this massive transfer of wealth, and providing legal cover for this theft, illustrates how far their moral code has collapsed. 



- Mark

Monday, November 20, 2017

THE REPUBLICAN TAX PLAN IS SOVIET-STYLE TRICKLE DOWN ECONOMICS

The post below is reworked from a post I did six years ago. I've updated it so that it coincides with current political developments.
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Last week our Republican-led House of Representatives took another step towards transferring hundreds of billions of dollars to America's richest class, and denying millions of Americans health care. On Thursday the U.S. Congress passed their version of a tax bill that shifts wealth and resources from the poor and middle-classes to the rich. 

Promising that money and resources will eventually trickle down to those at the bottom if the rich have more money to play with is an old scam. It goes back even farther than when Ronald Reagan proposed the idea in 1980. Indeed, many might be surprised to learn the Soviet Union helped invent the scam when their socialist experiment first revealed itself to be a failure in the 1920s. 

Simply put, Soviet revolutionaries needed the big hand of the Russian state to make their "stateless" communist utopia come to life. Similarly, Republican free marketeers today are using "big government" and favorable legislation to transfer massive amounts of wealth to the already rich. It's the only way their "government bad-free/markets good" dystopia can work.

Somehow, arguing "our free markets can only succeed if we use the state to transfer massive amounts of wealth to those who already have a lot of money" isn't a ringing endorsement for free markets, or entrepreneurialism. Seriously, how does having billions of dollars dumped in your lap through favorable legislation make you an entrepreneur?

A peak into the Soviet Union's failed experience with their version of trickle down economics can help us understand how intellectually and ideologically bankrupt the Republican's "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act" billion dollar wealth transfer really is. 


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THE SETTING
While explaining the logic behind market economics, in my book I discuss how Russia's peasant economies worked after the 1917 October Revolution. The biggest challenge Russia's revolutionaries had was getting peasant farmers to produce.  


While agriculture production increased with the introduction of the New Economic Policy in 1921 - which included incentives for some peasants - the program was eventually abandoned by Josef Stalin. It was replaced with forced labor and collectivization. Not surprisingly, agriculture production slipped. 

To better understand why revolutionary peasants weren't producing surpluses - which were necessary to help fund industrialization - teams of Russian anthropologists were sent to study peasants societies. This was a tremendous undertaking as it meant spending months, and even years, at a time in distant rural communities. 

PEASANT STUDIES & "UNCLE JOE"
Headed by researchers like Aleksander Chayanov, numerous institutes sent teams to study peasant societies throughout Russia. A key finding was peasants would work until they had enough to feed their families, and not much beyond this point, even with favorable market prices. 

Specifically, they learned that subsistence peasant households - those who survive week to week - didn't particularly care about wage or price incentives. Instead, they focused primarily on things they could use immediately rather than what they could exchange for money in a market. 

Producing more than what they needed was viewed as “drudgery.” 


Though the findings of Chayanov and others were instructive, because they helped explain both the culture behind peasant societies and what was wrong with collectivization in the Russian countryside, they didn’t sit well with Stalin. He wanted to know how he could get peasants to produce; not why they didn't produce. 

Because of his paranoia's and twisted world views, Stalin saw the reports emerging from the countryside as an unwarranted defense of Russia's productive peasant farmers (the kulaks). Because the revolutionary state demanded surpluses, and the peasants weren't producing, Stalin saw traitors in his midst. 


The studies done by Chayanov and other anthropologists were virtually ignored by the Soviet state, and many of the institutes were closed. But this was just the beginning. Repression and purges in the early 1930s were followed with large-scale disappearances of "non-revolutionaries." 

in part because of his findings, Chayanov was among those branded a non-revolutionary. He was arrested, tried, and then shot on the same day in 1937 [photo below is not Chayanov]. 

Russian Peasants in detention during the 1930s.
In Stalin's world, the Russian revolution and the worker's paradise would be a success, even if he had to use the levers of the state to spin lies, send misfits to labor camps, or kill his political enemies - both real and imagined. 

This is where it gets interesting. 

TRICKLE DOWN THEORY, SOVIET STYLE ... AMERICAN STYLE
Chayanov's story is instructive for what it tells us about capitalism and peasant economies. It's also significant because of what it tells us about Russian revolutionaries and die-hard Bolsheviks like Stalin. They were so committed to their theories of socialism that they used the state - which was supposed to wither away according to Karl Marx, mind you - to make sure that agriculture surpluses were created and transferred to the more productive industrial sector. 


Increasing productivity required that the state become increasingly repressive as it forced collectivization on peasants, suppressed living standards in the countryside, and then transferred resources from Russia's rural sector to industry and the city. 

The needs of the political and industrial oligarchs in Moscow meant that the needs of the poor and "backward" peasants could be put off. 

Part of the rationale for this line of thinking was Stalin believed peasants would one day benefit from the availability of manufactured goods, agriculture equipment, and other products that would eventually reach the countryside. As Cambridge economist Ha-Joon Chang pointed out, this was Soviet style trickle down economics.


This real life story is important because Congressional Republicans are in the process of conceptually pursuing similar tactics. 

By taking resources (tax dollars, health care subsidies, removing deductions, etc.) from America's poor and working classes, and then transferring that wealth to America's oligarchs, congressional Republicans are subsidizing and guaranteeing the wealth of America's financial elites. The irony here is that congressional Republicans claim to be die-hard capitalists, and free marketeers, but are actively using the big hand of the state to prop up and enrich America's financial titans. 

An orthodox paradox, if there ever was one.

Think about it. The state bailed out Wall Street after their reckless gambling and financial stupidity collapsed the economy in 2008. 


In fact, since 2008 repressive hand of "the state" has dumped almost $5 trillion into the same corrupt financial sector that collapsed the American economy.

At the same time, by using the state to pursue union-busting trade agreements, winking at weak immigration laws (which helps suppress prices and wages), and then ignoring collapsing middle-class wage and living standards, our Republican-led Congress is acting very much like Stalin's PolitburoBoth use the heavy hand of the state to transfer resources and make sure their market ideas "work." 

Hooray for Ayn Rand, and Karl Marx.

Today, once again, our Republican-led Congress is promising that by deregulating and transferring wealth to the America's oligarchs the benefits will eventually reach those at the bottom. They've been making this promise for the better part of 37 years now, in spite of a very robust history of spectacular market failure (2008), record budget deficits, and a national debt that now stands at $20.5 trillion.  


CONCLUDING THOUGHTS
Like Stalin's planning authorities, our Republican-led Congress - and the willing private sector recipients of bailouts, money dumps, cover ups and favorable legislation (like today's GOP tax legislation) - understand the importance of using the state to transfer wealth from one sector of the economy to another. It's the meat behind Wall Street's raging bull market today. 


With almost $5 trillion disbursed since Wall Street collapsed the economy in 2008 - and an additional $13.8 trillion in tax payer backed dollars committed to our next collapse - you can be sure of this. 

By using the state to transfer wealth to achieve market results, and guarantee new levels of "profitability," America’s bailed out and subsidized market players are on no firmer intellectual ground than the Soviet Union's Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin. Pushing for and accepting government favors, while speaking admiringly of the wonders of the market, imposes an Alice in Wonderland character on modern markets in America. 

The 2017 Republican-led tax plan along with the 2008 market bailout are glaring examples of how market players in America depend on the state for both their market "successes," and need big government to cover up for their spectacular market failures. 

The Republican tax plan is Soviet-Style trickle down economics, plain and simple. And, yes, many in our GOP-led Congress would have been very comfortable in Stalin's Politburo. 

- Mark

DISNEY HEIRESS SAYS NO TO GOP TAX PLAN


How morally bankrupt is the Republican tax plan? It's so bad that a Disney heiress to the golden ticket (i.e. family inheritance) is saying the GOP plan stinks.


- Mark

UPDATE (12-20-17): Below is an expanded and much more complete version of what Abigail Disney said in the clip above ...



Friday, November 17, 2017

URANIUM ONE CONSPIRACY STUPIDITY DEBUNKED BY FOX NEWS' SHEPARD SMITH. FOX VIEWERS REACT AS EXPECTED ... LIKE VAMPIRES EXPOSED TO LIGHT

Image result for vampire reaction to sunlight

This past week (Nov. 15) Fox News' Shepard Smith took the time to shed some light on the Uranium One conspiracy stupidity so many conservatives are clinging to ...


Raw Story has the goods on how Fox News' viewers reacted after learning the truth. While they didn't burst into flames, like many vampires do when they're exposed to the light ...


... Fox News' viewer reaction on social media (Twitter) was the functional equivalent of the dramatic howling and collapse vampires experience with sun light. Below is a small sampling of how Fox News' viewers reacted to Shepard Smith's report ...



I don't know about you, but Fox News' viewers reaction to the truth resembles what happens when our mythical vampires are exposed to the light. They may not burst into flames, but they clearly go into meltdown mode.

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Just saying.

- Mark

Thursday, November 16, 2017

REPUBLICAN TAX PLAN "ROBS PETER TO PAY PAUL" ... THEN KICKS PETER WHILE HE'S DOWN

Want to know why there are no expert testimonies on what the Republicans tax bill will actually do? Because the GOP knows that you're going to get a lot of what Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) is doing in the video clip below. In a few words, Senator McCaskill exposes the GOP tax cut bill to be one big lie.


The GOP tax plan not only robs Peter to pay Paul, but it effectively kicks Peter in the groin after he's been robbed.

- Mark

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

NEED HEALTH INSURANCE? YOU HAVE ONE MORE MONTH TO SIGN UP FOR OBAMACARE

Since the Trump administration has cut funding for Obamacare advertising, we need to share stuff like this ...

- Mark


JOHN OLIVER EXPLAINS HOW AMERICA "IS F%#!*D" UNDER THE TRUMP PRESIDENCY

In "The Trump Presidency" John Oliver explains how Donald Trump's media bag of tricks - delegitimize ("fake news" claims), "whataboutism" (look over there ...), and trolling (pissing people off) - is undermining democracy in America.

Fair Warning: If the title didn't tip you off, the language in Oliver's piece is a bit racy at times (if you're a Trump supporter, don't even pretend you care about the language).


- Mark

Monday, November 13, 2017

TRUMP'S "EMBARRASSMENT EXPRESS" CONTINUES

First Donald Trump embarrassed himself by saying he believes Vladimir Putin's claim that Russia didn't meddle in our presidential elections. Our national intelligence community, who say otherwise, called him out on it almost immediately. 

Now Trump's upset that North Korea's Kim Jong Un doesn't want to be his friend.  He's so upset that he Tweeted about it. Not surprisingly, everyone noticed both the level at which Trump thinks, and how immature he really looks when he Tweets. Specifically, there's a chrome extension that converted Trump's Tweet into the crayon that is his actual mind-set ...

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Next up, we have two birds with one stone; Trump gets called out for the level at which he thinks, with a reference to Roy Moore's dating habits ... 

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- Mark

UNRAVELING TRUMP'S ELECTION VICTORY ... IT'S BOTH SIMPLE, AND MORE COMPLEX THAN YOU THINK (Part I)


The clip below explains one part of a larger campaign puzzle that got Trump "elected" last year. In a few words, those who switched or voted for Trump in the last days and months before the election were manipulated. Big time.


Those who switched their vote to Trump in the last days and months of the election probably don't understand, or will never acknowledge, how the process explained above played a part in influencing their vote. That's fine. Ignorance doesn't have the capacity to acknowledges its state. So let's try and understand why the clip on "Big Data and Psychographics" is so important.

Simply put, it helps explain how the manipulation happened. While the act is relatively simple - manipulating minds - how it's done is actually pretty sophisticated stuff. It mixes psychology and what marketing guys routinely call predictive analytics. It goes beyond understanding how education and ethnicity impact voting, for example, and moves into targeting and tracking preferences, tastes, and personality traits, which can be manipulated more easily.


Still, even if we know how the manipulation happened, the clip above doesn't explain who was pulling the strings, or why.

This is just one of the reasons why Robert Mueller's investigation is so important. It will help unravel the how and the why of America's stolen presidential election.

Again, Trump's supporter will probably never understand (or acknowledge) the process, but it's important that the rest of us do.

Stay tuned.

- Mark

Friday, November 10, 2017

NEWSWEEK'S SNAKES ON A PLANE COVER

Newsweek's cover story takes Trump's kleptocratic administration to task for ripping us off our republic, and being pretty much the most corrupt regime in U.S. history.


- Mark

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

ONE YEAR AFTER THE 2016 ELECTION ... WE MIGHT SURVIVE TRUMP, BUT WE'RE WITNESSING THE POLLUTION OF THE HUMAN ENVIRONMENT


Writing for Foreign Policy, conservative commentator and international relations expert Max Boot takes a look at Donald Trump's impact on America and writes, "America Will Survive Trump, But It Won't Ever Be the Same."

Arguing that Trump has not turned out to be as bad as we thought he might be, Max Boot points to some flimsy but acceptable evidence.
* Trump has not ordered the torture of terrorist suspects, and Hillary isn't in jail.  
* Trump hasn't pulled troops out of Japan, South Korea, or Germany (even though they haven't increased their "subsidies" to the U.S.).  
* Trump hasn't seriously tried to get Mexico to pay for the wall, and we still have NAFTA. 
* Perhaps most importantly, he hasn't launched a trade war with China, or gotten us into a real war (yet). 

In effect, Max Boot is giving Donald Trump credit (of sorts) for not acting like the unhinged lunatic many thought he would become during last year's campaign. 

That's progress, I guess.

Still, Boot makes it clear why Trump hasn't accomplished anything he said he would on the campaign trail. Trump's policy failures, according to Boot, are a product of Trump being an incompetent and unprincipled megalomaniac, who's surrounded by a bunch of empty suits who might look the part but don't know what the hell they're doing. 

Ouch.



Max Boot fills in the blanks below. 

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Trump supporters can argue that he is more moderate in practice than his rhetoric would suggest. There’s an element of truth in this, but the more compelling explanation for his failure to make good on his promises is threefold.

First, Trump doesn’t really believe in much beyond his own awesomeness. He didn’t run for office to get anything done; he ran to stoke his own ego and pad his own bank account by increasing his visibility. Thus he would say outrageous stuff on the campaign trail, contradict himself 30 seconds later, and immediately segue to some non sequitur. He didn’t mean a lot of what he said — it was just something to rouse the rubes at rallies.

Second, Trump has been utterly incompetent. Even if he wants to achieve more of his agenda, he doesn’t know how to do it. As Daniel Dale of the Toronto Star puts it, he “talks like a strongman” but governs like a “weak man.” Maybe tax reform will get done — maybe — but so far he hasn’t signed a single major piece of legislation. Actually that’s not quite true: Congress did pass a law strengthening sanctions against Russia over the administration’s protests. Aside from a Supreme Court appointment, the only things Trump has succeeded in accomplishing are those he can do by executive order, thus doing on a far larger scale what he once criticized Obama for.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Max Boot is the Jeane J. Kirkpatrick senior fellow for national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. His forthcoming book is “The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam.”

The third reason why Trump has gotten so little done is that he’s surrounded by people who, by and large, don’t share his xenophobic, isolationist, protectionist “America First” outlook. Most of those who did — Michael Flynn, Steve Bannon, Sebastian Gorka — have been forced out because they were incompetent crackpots. Lacking any interest in ideas, Trump has staffed his administration with people based largely on superficial criteria such as appearance. That helps to explain why most of his senior appointees, including Rex Tillerson, James Mattis, John Kelly, H.R. McMaster, and now Jerome Powell as Federal Reserve chairman, look as if they are straight out of central casting. It also explains why former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton didn’t snare a job: Trump was said not to like his mustache. As a result, Trump is surrounded by aides who view him as a screwball to be contained, not a sage to be followed.

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Then we have the sexual harassment charges, which Trump effectively admitted to with his numerous Howard Stern interviews and his Access Hollywood "grab 'em by the p***y" comments. 

We also have the lies. So many lies. During the first 263 days Trump racked up 1,318 of them. An average of about 5 a day. 

Yet, Trump's supporters don't care about any of this. Their support for him is almost cult-like.

At the end of the article, Boot writes that the major difference between Donald Trump and President Nixon is that while "Nixon sought to subvert the rule of law in private," for some reason Trump has been able to do "it out in the open for all to see." Because 62 million Americans put him there, and we now tolerate Trump's actions in the White House, and on the global stage, we're normalizing the behavior of a modern Neanderthal. 

This, in itself, is an accomplishment, of sorts. Specifically, Donald Trump has effectively lowered America's collective moral and ethical bar all by himself (OK, Fox News helped).  

There's more in Max Boot's Foreign Policy article, but you get the point. We may survive Trump's presidency, but we are also witnessing the pollution of our human environment in real time. 

And America won't ever be the same for it after Trump leaves.

- Mark

REPUBLICANS LYING ABOUT THEIR TAX PLAN ... BIG TIME

The Republican Party is lying about their tax plan, big time. The lies are so monumental Forbes magazine is calling the GOP's tax debacle "the biggest wealth grab in modern history." The meme below explains what happens, in real simple terms ...


The key to understanding what is perhaps the greatest transfer of wealth in human history is understanding how corporate tax games, the elimination of the Estate Tax, and other little gifts only the wealthy are eligible for (like abolishing the Alternative Minimum Tax) dumps hundreds of billions of dollars into the laps of America's richest class.

Patriotic millionaire, and all around decent guy, Eric Schoenberg, explains how it happens (while making his Fox Business News host look foolish) here ...


If you want to read the details from Forbes' "biggest wealth grab in modern history" piece click here.

If you want to read how the GOP's massive transfer of wealth adds $2 trillion to our national debt over the next decade click here.

And, again, the GOP is lying about their tax plan, big time.

- Mark

Addendum(s) ...

* If you want to know how the GOP's elimination of the medical tax deduction in their tax plan would be 'catastrophic for seniors, check out this LA Times article.

* Here's how corporations get treated better than people under the proposed GOP plan ...


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

WHAT EXPLAINS MASS SHOOTINGS IN THE UNITED STATES? (Like you don't know ...)

When it comes to mass shootings, the United States stands out, far and away, from the rest of the world. It's not even close. From the NY Times ...


So, what explains mass shootings in America? It's pretty simple. In fact, I'm guessing you already know the answer. It's not rocket science.

Need a hint? OK, Americans make up about 4.4% of the global population but own 42% of the world's guns.

Still don't get it? The NY Times has the answer here.

- Mark