Friday, December 29, 2017

HOW THE RICH GET RICHER (hint: it's not hard work)

This is what The Mother of All Bailouts and favorable legislation can do when markets fail or are rigged ...

The Guardian has a story that makes it clear since the height of the 2008 bubble-crash - which was caused by Wall Street's financial stupidity - the richest 1% of the world have seen their wealth increase from 42.5% of the world's wealth to more than 50% today.

Our on-going post-2008 bailout, coupled with America's tax cuts for the super rich legislation (which is sitting on Donald Trump's desk), means America's wealthiest class is only going to get richer. 

The hard part to swallow here is that these guys aren't working any harder, or even that much smarter. Buying bailouts and legislative gifts that benefits primarily one group isn't smart. It's corruption. Increased wealth concentration is happening for no other reason than the U.S. Congress thinks transferring money through bailouts, tax cuts for the rich, and other legislative gifts are what makes America great.

This isn't American capitalism. That system is a myth. 

What we have now is Crony Capitalism in America. 

Think about this the next time someone tells you that you just need to work harder to get ahead. 

You can read about the world's richest getting richer by clicking here.

- Mark

Thursday, December 28, 2017


The Atlantic has an interesting article (here) by Richard Haas,"America and the Great Abdication." Haas weaves grand history together with contemporary developments to make a very powerful point about the state of our world today. We are reminded that in the past great empires would decline in one of two ways. Either they would overextend themselves, what has often been referred to as imperial overstretch, or they would simply be passed up by stronger, newer powers.

In the case of the former think of how Rome overextended themselves, and became corrupt at home. In the case of the latter think of France and England, and the rise of the United States after World Wars I and II.

What's happening today, as the world increasingly ignores Donald Trump and the United States, cannot be attributed to imperial overstretch (yet), or the rise of a new power. In real simple terms, the United States is losing its "great power" status because the Trump administration is walking away from America's global responsibilities. Simply put, we are abdicating.

With the United States still making its interests known around the world, this is not calculated isolationism. No, the United States is not leading when it comes to maintaining alliances, building institutions, or making the rules because it can't be bothered.

There's no strategic thinking here. It's simply, "I'm taking my ball and going home."

That's right the United States is simply walking away from what it has participated in, and what it has done responsibly, for the better part of 75 years. While there are several bright global lights, the negatives outnumber the positives. The reality is the global community is starting to unravel and, as Haas puts it, becoming "a world of growing disarray" - and that's not good a thing.

In our global sea of anarchy, the United States can become swamped.

You can read Haas' discussion on the topic by clicking here.

- Mark 

Sunday, December 24, 2017


Below are a couple of Christmas classics, courtesy of Charles Schultz. A reminder of what Christmas is about ...

This is the Peanuts' Christmas Dance (I dance like the guy in Orange) ...

Merry Christmas.

- Mark

Friday, December 22, 2017


Last week, on December 14, we premiered American Migrant Stories at California State University Bakersfield's Dore Theatre.

While the 32-minute Documentary reviews U.S. migration patterns, especially as they pertain to Kern County, the focus is on the work of the Immigration Justice Collaborative's (IJC) 34 attorneys, who went from small town to small town in rural Kern County to advise our region's undocumented populations of their rights and responsibilities.

Among the community members who were profiled in the documentary included Raji Brar, Chief Operations Officer of Countryside Market & Restaurants.

Provost Jenny Zorn attended and welcomed the Kern County and Bakersfield community to CSU Bakersfield.

Local defense attorney, and IJC co-founder, David Torres was one of the speakers before and after the showing of American Migrant Stories.

Producer and director, Miguel Orozco offered a few words and specific insights into the making of American Migrant Stories.

Three of our post-documentary panelists, attorneys David Torres, H.A. "Beto" Sala, and Xochitl Garcia reviewed the film, and answered questions from the audience.

Rounding out panel for the evening were Bakersfield Chief of Police Lyle Martin.and attorney Win Eaton (sitting next to David Torres). 

Bakersfield Chief of Police, Lyle Martin, made several powerful comments that resonated with the crowd, which encouraged several people to comment that he should run for office (and not just Kern County Sheriff).

- Mark


- Mark

Kudos to Leonel for the comic.

Thursday, December 21, 2017


- Mark


Here's the real kick in the groin we get from the GOP's decision to not fund the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), while they shower corporations and the rich with tax gifts ...

CHIP cost the federal government about $13.6 billion in 2016, compared to the $145 billion a year the GOP tax bill will drain from you and me over the next 10 years. The real benefit lies in the following services CHIP funds:

    Routine checkups
    Doctor visits
    Dental and vision care
    Inpatient and outpatient hospital care
    Laboratory and X-ray services
    Emergency services

We lose all of this, and children will die, so GOP donors can get a return on their political investment.

Let that sink in for a moment.

This is the real shame of the Republicans tax cuts for the rich legislation.

Merry Christmas.

- Mark

Tuesday, December 19, 2017


The House of Representatives just passed their massive tax bill, along partisan lines, where there were no hearings or expert witnesses called to testify about the impact of the bill.

Let's make a few things clear ...

  • The Republican tax bill benefits primarily the rich. 
  • Paying for tax cuts for the rich, with money we don't have, will add $1.5 trillion to our national debt. 
  • When the GOP's growth projections don't pan out - and they won't - the $1.5 trillion in new debt that's projected will grow. Add on interest payments, and it grows even more.

With nearly half of all Americans opposed to the Republican's tax bill - and only 25 percent supporting the tax plan - it's clear that our Republican led Congress isn't even trying to pretend they're representing the interests of the American people.

No one is saying "let's add $1.5 trillion to our national debt so we can make the rich even richer."

It's getting easier to understand how the backlash of the Great Depression set the table for Franklin D. Roosevelt to raise taxes on the rich to more than 90 percent. He understood intimately that there's no satiating the pigs at the trough.

 - Mark


With the GOP's tax plan, guess who comes out ahead, and who pays?

- Mark

Monday, December 18, 2017


It's time for final exams. Below are blog posts with information that touch on lectures that I have given in my International Relations Theory class. For my students who are preparing for the final, remember these notes are supposed to help fill in the blanks, or jog your memory, and are in no way supposed to be final outlines for any one question.

Have fun, and good luck.


The Scientific Method
Science, according to Neil deGrasse Tyson ... click here.

The scientific method in the social sciences ... click here.

The scientific method 2.0 ... click here.

Why the scientific method is important ... click here.

Liberal Revolution, Treaties and Modernization Theory
From Liberal Revolution to failed development ... click here.

Soft power (sort of) ... click here.

Global treaties and the forces of cooperation over the millennium ... click here.

Developing Afghanistan and Iraq, it's mindless Modernization Theory, again ... click here.


Blowback in the Middle East ... click here.

Blowback and the decline of the Bretton Woods system ... click here.

History whispering in our ear ... click here.

Is history whispering in our ear? When it comes to Greece, yes ... click here.

- Mark

Thursday, December 14, 2017


Yes, Doug Jones won in Alabama. But we can't slow down, or celebrate too long. The two clips below show what we're up against, and why our real challenges are not going away with a few electoral victories.

The people in the focus group, in the first clip, don't see a race problem in America, except for what Obama started (seriously). Roy Moore's campaign manager, in the second clip, makes it clear evangelical Christians like him don't understand what "separation of church and state" means.

In both of these clips we see there's no sense of history, nor any understanding of the foundations of our Constitution - or America, for that matter. You can't fix what should have been learned in grade school. It's even worse when we consider that many of these people believe they have all the answers in their Bibles.

It's one thing to be clueless, but when you're delusional ... we have a real problem.

America is supposed to be better than this.

- Mark

Wednesday, December 13, 2017


The NY Times published Salma Hayek's op-ed, which discusses her experiences with Harvey Weinstein. With so many similar accounts, it's hard not to look at Weinstein and think that he was a predator who took predation to another level. 

HARVEY WEINSTEIN WAS a passionate cinephile, a risk taker, a patron of talent in film, a loving father and a monster.
For years, he was my monster.
This fall, I was approached by reporters, through different sources, including my dear friend Ashley Judd, to speak about an episode in my life that, although painful, I thought I had made peace with.
I had brainwashed myself into thinking that it was over and that I had survived; I hid from the responsibility to speak out with the excuse that enough people were already involved in shining a light on my monster. I didn’t consider my voice important, nor did I think it would make a difference.
In reality, I was trying to save myself the challenge of explaining several things to my loved ones: Why, when I had casually mentioned that I had been bullied like many others by Harvey, I had excluded a couple of details. And why, for so many years, we have been cordial to a man who hurt me so deeply. I had been proud of my capacity for forgiveness, but the mere fact that I was ashamed to describe the details of what I had forgiven made me wonder if that chapter of my life had really been resolved ...

You can read the rest of the article by clicking here.

- Mark 

WITH ROY MOORE'S LOSS, EXPECT TO SEE VOTER I.D. LAWS COME ROARING BACK ... Yeah, it's those pesky blacks causing trouble, again

The Root has an interesting article written by Michael Harriot: "You're Welcome, White People: Alabama's Black Voters Just Saved America." While the title might seem a bit hyperbolic, it's actually spot on. Heck, even Newsweek picked up on the theme.

In a few words, Harriot's article explains how Alabama's black voters, who make up 26 percent of the electorate in the state, may have made up at least 30 percent of the voting population yesterday (final numbers still pending).

This is roughly how many turned out during the 2008 and 2012 elections, when Barack Obama was on the ballot.

To be sure, Independents moved against Roy Moore as well, but the reality is black voters came to the polls in a non-presidential election year to vote against a religious nut case and an accused pedophile.

While status quo Republicans are busy blaming Trump's political brain, Steve Bannon, for the loss we should not be surprised if the GOP's leadership responds to Alabama's electoral results by going after their favorite election manipulating tool of the past decade: using claims of voter fraud to demand voter I.D. laws, which impact people of color disproportionally.

What I'm suggesting here is that Republicans - who have become very good at making voting more difficult with voter I.D. laws - will see Alabama as another reason for demanding new voter I.D. laws (after bringing up questions of voter fraud, of course).

Why will they do this? Because when it's really close, all things being equal, voter I.D. laws tend to help Republican candidates.

So, my guess is that echoes of voter fraud will creep back into the GOP's political playbook, with a larger policy push for voter I.D. laws. But let's not delude ourselves. The goal is to disenfranchise more Democrats, which will turn away people like those pesky black voters in Alabama, who did nothing more than exercise their constitutional right to vote.

- Mark

In the FYI category, while the debate is still open as to how much voter ID laws impact voting overall, it's clear that the intent of voter ID laws is to keep black Americans from getting to the polls

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


This coming Thursday evening, at 7 pm on December 14, 2017, California State University Bakersfield's Center for Social Justice and Kern County's Immigration Justice Collaborative will present AMERICAN MIGRANT STORIES at the Dore Theatre, located on the CSUB campus.

The documentary takes a look at the long history of migration in America, with Kern County as the backdrop. The impetus for the documentary was the work of a group of local attorneys who put together a string of roaming legal clinics, where they provided legal information to Kern County's undocumented populations, free of charge.

For those of you unfamiliar with the area, know that Kern County is about 2 hours north east of Los Angeles, and is separated by a mountain range - the Tehachapi Mountains - which is often impassable during the winter. The distance between liberal Los Angeles and Kern County is reinforced by the political differences, where Republicans dominate the politics of Kern County and Bakersfield, the county's largest city.

If you plan on attending, please park in parking lots A, B, or C, which are located west of the amphitheatre, off of Stockdale Highway.

If you reach the bus turnaround, you have gone to far. Remember, doors open at 6:30 pm.

- Mark

Monday, December 11, 2017


- Mark

SO, WHAT WILL $1.5 TRILLION BUY? (or why the GOP tax bill is a really bad idea)

Apart from agreeing that the 2017 Republican tax bill benefits primarily the rich, one of the few points of agreement is at least $1.5 trillion will be added to our national debt over a ten year period.

So, what can $1.5 trillion buy, you ask? Good question.

Instead of subsidizing tax cuts for the rich ...

With $1.5 trillion you could pay off the entire debt of every credit card holder in America, and still have at least $500 hundred billion to spend.

With $1.5 trillion you could pay off the student loan debt of every student who borrowed to go to college in America.

Source: Federal Reserve of St. Louis

With $1.5 trillion you could make every public college and university tuition-free for four years, and still have $1.42 trillion left over (to, presumably, pay off every student student loan now on the books).

With $1.5 trillion we could build, according to the very libertarian Cato Institute, a national high-speed rail system, and still have enough to guarantee every American child access to high-quality day care or prekindergarten, for 10 years!

With $1.5 trillion you could purchase the Apple corporation, and still have about $600 billion left over to buy each NFL, MLB, and the NBA franchise (and then name yourself commissioner of American sports).

There's more, but you get the point. We could do far more, and provide greater value for our national dollar, than we would by subsidizing tax cuts for billionaires and multimillionaires who don't actually need the money.

New York Magazine has a few other things we could purchase with $1.5 trillion, which you can access by clicking here.

Finally, if you're having a difficult time imagining what $1.5 trillion looks like, check out the picture below.

The semi-truck below the flag holds $2 billion on its 20 pallets.
Imagine packets of $100 bills stacked on a pallet. You would need 100 of these pallets, stacked 100 high, to get $1 trillion. This is about 465 feet high, which makes it considerably taller than the Statue of Liberty (305 ft). Put another set of $100 pallets that reached 232 ft high next to the trillion dollar pallet and you have about $1.5 trillion.

This is how much money Congress wants to add to our national debt to subsidize tax cuts for the rich.

- Mark

Tuesday, December 5, 2017


I posted the Neil deGrasse Tyson clip below over three months ago. I did it mostly to help my International Relations students understand how the scientific method is supposed to work, and why it's so important to understanding our world.

Given the constant lying and deception from the White House, and the steady erosion of fact based decision-making in Washington, I'm re-posting it as a reminder of what's happening to our "informed democracy." Simply put, our democratic experiment is under attack today, which makes Neil deGrasse Tyson's words below especially important, and presicent.

Long story short? With Donald Trump in the White House, we're in trouble.

- Mark


Much of what's going on in Saudi Arabia is not well understood, or simply ignored in the west. Below is a quick 3-minute primer ...

- Mark

Monday, December 4, 2017


Our Republican-led Congress is busying itself adding to our national debt by giving away legislative gifts and hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks to their financial backers.

Meanwhile, they're ignoring what's happening around the world, and giving away the geostrategic store in the process ...

- Mark

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Saturday, December 2, 2017


Congratulations America. Our democracy has officially been auctioned off to the highest bidder. The U.S. Senate voted to add at least $1.5 trillion to our national debt and, in the process, will transfer the vast majority of that money to U.S. corporations and our nation's wealthiest class.

If it wasn't clear after the 2008 bailout of Wall Street, it should be clear now that we are governed by an aristocracy of wealth.