Wednesday, February 28, 2018


So a Pennsylvania church held a blessing ceremony for their guns, including AR-15s. I'm not sure which weapon they believe Jesus would pack so he can go after evil doers, but the Unification church in Pennsylvania seems to believe that Jesus should have an AR-15 in his blessed arsenal. You know, just in case he wants to spray his enemies and irksome neighbors, who don't believe in last suppers, with multiple rounds quickly (give a man a fish, he can eat for a day; give a man an AR-15 and he can feast on anything he wants, right?).

But the Unification church hasn't cornered the market on 'the crazy' when it comes to blessing weapons of war. No, the Unification church has already been out blessed in the gun and weapons department by Russia's Orthodox priests. Specifically, Russia's Orthodox clergy has already blessed AK's (for shooting pesky Ukrainians), automatic weapons on ships, missiles, and even war planes. For the Russians, nothing says spirituality like believing your god wants you to wipe out as many enemies as possible, especially in conflicts in the Ukraine and Syria.

Next thing you know, we're going to start hearing from religious leaders in the U.S. and Russia about how Jesus wants the rich, and the money changers, to preach ethno-nationalism and "wealth gospels" in the churches because God actually despises immigrants and the poor ... oh, wait, never mind.

So, what do you think? What Would Jesus Pack (WWJP)?

- Mark

Monday, February 26, 2018


When Benedict Arnold decided against keeping his troops at readiness, he had one goal in mind: surrendering West Point to the the enemy. And why not? While Benedict Arnold was an ambitious man in an emerging nation, he was also seriously compromised. Feeling sorry for himself, Arnold was resentful that he didn't get the recognition he felt he deserved while serving in the colonial army, which fueled his animus towards the colonial militia.

But what really drove Benedict Arnold was the debt loads he had accrued while living a lavish lifestyle in Pennsylvania. This debt would contribute to his decision to betray his friends and the American militia for money, and a new future in England. Later, Arnold would lead British soldiers as a brigadier general in the British Army against the colonial militia.


Even if the jury is still out on Donald Trump colluding with the Russians during the 2016 presidential election, a debt and bankruptcy drenched Trump, like Benedict Arnold, has demonstrated that he's OK with surrendering America's democratic fort to those who have already compromised our democracy. The list of transgressions is long.

Since becoming president Donald Trump has (1) embraced Vladimir Putin's word over our nation's intelligence agencies, (2) left Russian aggression unchecked, (3) failed to impose agreed upon bipartisan sanctions against Russia, (4) "thanked" Russia for expelling U.S. diplomats, (4) obstructed justice, and attacked the FBI, and (5) used Rep. Devin Nunes to muddle national security waters, which provides legislative cover for the Trump White House. Specifically ...

* RUSSIA OVER OUR NSA: Donald Trump spent the better part of a year making it clear that he believed Vladimir Putin's claim that Russia didn't meddle in our elections over what our national security agencies have said.  
* IGNORING ON-GOING THREAT: Acting as if nothing's happened, Donald Trump has left the Russian elections threat unchecked, even though Russia is poised to attack our elections again.  
* NO SANCTIONS: Donald Trump failed to impose sanctions on Russia, in the process ignoring sanction authorizing legislation passed by both chambers of the U.S. Congress by a 517-5 margin
* OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE: Donald Trump has fired or dismissed the FBI's James Comey and Andrew McCabe, acting Attorney General Sally Yates, and and U.S. Attorney (NY) Preet Harara, all of whom were just doing their jobs (looking into the Trump-Russia connection).
* ATTACK THE FBI: Rather than going after our known enemy, who meddled in our elections, Donald Trump has chosen to attack the messenger, the FBI.  
* NUNES AS TRUMP'S STOOGE: To help defend himself, Donald Trump has turned Rep. Devin Nunes into his political stooge, by getting Nunes to do the "dirty work" for house Republican leaders who are trying to protect him during the Russia investigation.

Like Benedict Arnold 238 years ago, a cash-strapped Donald Trump has effectively decided to "surrender the fort" by ignoring Russia's attack on American democracy, and then undermining and going after the people and institutions in America charged with protecting the nation.

There's more I could discuss about Donald Trump's efforts to "surrender the fort" to Russia, like Trump standing by as the Republican Party launches attack after attack on the FBI and the Department of Justice. Then we have Donald Trump actually thanking Russia for expelling U.S. diplomats from the country, in response to U.S. sanctions (Trump pathetically commented that we needed to cut the State Department's payroll anyways).

Here's the point: Donald Trump apparently has no problem if America's democracy and its institutions are under attack, or even destroyed, as long as the end result helps protect him.

Below are just a few links, and a meme, that helps explain the damage Donald Trump is doing to our nation and its institutions.

Inside a 3-year Russian campaign to influence voters (NY Times). 
How unwitting Americans encountered Russian operatives online (NY Times). 
The perfect weapon: How Russian cyberpower invaded the U.S. (NY Times). 
American Democracy is an easy target (Foreign Policy). 
Republicans launch attack after attack on the FBI (Washington Post). 
The enemy is at our gates. What is the president doing about it (Chicago Sun Times)? 
America is under attack and the president doesn't care (The Atlantic). 
The cowardice among Republicans is staggering (Washington Post). 
Thomas L. Friedman: Our democracy is in serious danger with Trump in Charge (Sacramento Bee).

- Mark


Via Newsbroke, we get a quick and satirical overview of Donald Trump's plutocracy, in real time ...

- Mark


Get 'em while they last ...

- Mark

Thursday, February 22, 2018


So Donald Trump thinks arming teachers will stop mass shootings in our nations schools. I don't even know where to begin with that one, so I'm going ask, Have you ever wondered where the "let's arm the teachers" nonsense began? It didn't just pop out of nowhere. And it definitely didn't begin with the Florida shooting.

No, the roots of the "let's arm the teachers" stupidity can be traced, in part, to a mentality that began to develop after the release of John R. Lott's book, More Guns, Less Crime. This is where those on the right began to seriously think that we all need to have a gun if we want to be safe in our gun filled world.

If you were to read Lott's book you would think that turning our nation into a modern Wild West, where packing heat was the norm in many towns, will solve all of our social ills. The only problem is that after Lott's book became wildly popular - in part because right wing politicians were touting Lott's research - it remained popular even after it was discovered that Lott's book was based more on wishful thinking than the truth.

Lott's poorly sourced book was exposed early on, but UC Irvine's professor of history John Wiener wrote a particularly damning op-ed of Lott's book for the LA Times in 2006. In a few words, Wiener pointed out that Lott had pretty much made up key "facts" and, generally, lied about his larger argument. Looking at Lott's book, Wiener wrote:
COULD IT BE that more guns cause less crime? Could it be that criminals who suspect their potential victims are armed would be deterred from committing crimes? That's what John R. Lott Jr. argued in his 1998 book, "More Guns, Less Crime." … If you Google "John Lott" and "research fraud," you get nearly 150 results, starting off with a 2003 article published in Science magazine by Donald Kennedy, the editor in chief, which criticizes Lott's "cooked data" …

The charges that some of Lott's research was "faked" or "cooked" refer to the first statistic cited in "More Guns, Less Crime," in which Lott says "98% of the time that people use guns defensively, they merely have to brandish a weapon to break off an attack." In Op-Ed articles in the Chicago Tribune and elsewhere, he said the source of the 98% figure was "polls by the Los Angeles Times" and other organizations. When critics noted that no such polls existed, Lott changed his story, and the second edition of "More Guns, Less Crime" gave a new source for the 98% figure: "a national survey I conducted." But when critics asked to see the data, Lott told the Washington Post and others that he had lost it all in a computer crash ...
Lott lost all of his data in a computer crash? How convenient. 

But wait, the LA Times op-ed got better. According to Professor Wiener, Lott couldn’t even provide evidence of the "false" surveys that he claimed to have conducted after his "data" was called into question. He couldn't produce phone records, tally sheets, or pay stubs for the employees who supposedly made the calls for the surveys.

As Lott's "research" claims came under greater scrutiny he ended up doing what anyone who is faced with the truth does. He sued.

Specifically, John Lott went after Steven Levitt, because he made the claim in his book, Freakonomics, that John Lott's conclusions couldn't be replicated (because much of it had been made up). After having the cased dismissed, Lott decided he would sue again. Nothing says "frivolous" like a lawsuit based on faulty data.

Image result for frivolous lawsuit

Fortunately the judge saw through Lott's drama filled legal temper tantrum. Lott's second case was thrown out of court too.

In part, because Republican politicians continued to embrace the logic of More Guns, Less Crime, Lott's argument took on a life of its own. This is one of the reasons we're now being treated to the "let's arm the teachers" stupidity we're seeing today. Lott's argument, like old wives tales and Greek mythology, have taken on a life of their own.

And people wonder why the Republican attack on science and the scientific method matter.

Sigh ...

- Mark

Tuesday, February 20, 2018


OK, I'm just going to say it ... It's not gun control, it's stupid asshole control we're talking about. And the goal is to make it more difficult for the idiots of our world to gain access to a gun whenever they get their feelings hurt.

Think about it. Today, every time some petulant and delusional snowflake gets their world turned upside down, or some loser malcontent finds out why they have no friends, they still have almost immediate and unlimited access to military style rifles. Other countries recognize what's wrong with this picture, and don't have near the problem that the United States has with gun related deaths.

Indeed, controlling the drunks and other losers of their world is what the Tombstone clip below was all about, but no one's calling Wyatt Earp and his brothers a bunch of pansies ...

And for those of you who think you're smarter than a Supreme Court Justice or President Reagan on the issue, by all means explain why they're wrong.



Then there's this. For those who are saying people will find a way kill, because they're going to find a weapon, fine. But don't tell me some knife or axe wielding lunatic is going to cause as much damage (59 killed, more than 500 injured) as the Las Vegas shooter did with a knife or an axe. And they're definitely not going to cause as much damage throwing knives or axes from the 32nd floor of any building.


Finally, let's take a moment to remember how a team of gun toting law enforcement guys kept Ronald Reagan from getting shot, because they were so well trained and armed ...

The goal is to put up a few more barriers so the stupid assholes of our world don't have such easy access to rapid fire or military style assault rifles. That's it.

Why is this so hard to figure out?

- Mark

In the FYI category ... Yes, this post is a response to the "Guns Don't Kill People, People Kill People" crowd, who seem to keep us from having nice things, like common sense gun laws. And, yes, the language is appropriate (and sanctioned by their hero, Donald Trump) because the NRA crowd doesn't seem to understand civility, or common sense arguments, unless there's a little cynicism and/or a condescending tone involved.

Monday, February 19, 2018


Via Vox ... The Dutch version of This Week With John Oliver takes a look at America's NRA-induced gun fetish.

- Mark

Saturday, February 17, 2018


I was looking for information about Russia's Peter the Great (1672-1725), and came across the following story. It appears that the roots of "the penalty shot" - which we often associate with sports - actually began with Peter the Great. If you know anything about the Russian czar, he was a ball of energy and a stickler for details, which is why he presided over a dynamic Russia that made many advancements during his time as Russia's monarch.

Apart for having an eye for public policy, Peter the Great was also a legendary drinker. He founded the "All-Joking, All-Drunken Synod of Fools and Jesters" while he was czar. The group took great pride in getting together for feasts and bouts of drinking, which regularly involved a good deal of mocking Russia's Orthodox church, and general out of control drunken revelry. As was the case with his dinners, Russia's monarch was especially critical of those who were tardy to his feasts, and regularly imposed a "penalty shot" for those who arrived late.

But this was no ordinary 1.5 oz. shot of vodka that you might find served in any local bar, or even the 2 oz. shot glass you might have in your home. No, according to Victorino Matus (author of Vodka: How a Colorless, Odorless Spirit Conquered America), late arrivals to the czar's club events were expected to drink from a 1.5-litre sized goblet, which the hard drinking monarch named the "Big Eagle" (some accounts put the goblet at 1.25-litres; but you get the point).

For the metric challenged out there, if you arrived late at one of Peter the Great's famous bashes, you could look forward to drinking the equivalent of about 30 shots from the shot glass here, or the entire contents of the Grey Goose bottle below.


While it's reported that that 6 foot 9 inch monarch often started off the evening by drinking the first goblet, his drinking buddies were not let off the hook if they expected the czar to be hung over the next morning. Legend has it that Peter the Great would summon those who went home early the evening before, for breakfast and - you guessed it - another round of drinking.

Just something to think about the next time someone's giving you a hard time for arriving late to a social event.

- Mark

Thursday, February 15, 2018


- Mark


In the FYI category, Donald Trump just gave a speech offering the same useless condolences that we've become accustomed to hearing after mass shootings. For added (non) effect, he said absolutely nothing about solving the problem, except for saying he wanted to meet with governors and attorneys general (great plan).

As for Trump's condolences, one Florida student went off on Trump's faux concern over the mass shooting with these words ...

The Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr captures the embarrassing condition that our U.S. Congress, and the Republican Party, maintain as a matter of course.

Finally, with white supremacist murders more than doubling since Donald Trump became president, and with the claims made by white supremacists after the Florida shooting, this needs to be part of the conversation too ...


- Mark

Wednesday, February 14, 2018


I've posted numerous times after mass shootings in America, and am not really interested in hashing over the same arguments after today's events in Florida. Making lists, pointing out the obvious, or thinking that maybe "this time it's different" are exercises in futility. Nothing seems to move our U.S. Congress. Think about it.

People thought after Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in 2011 something would happen with gun control. She was one of them. Nothing. 

After 20 children were shot and killed in a Connecticut school in 2012, there was little more than a shrug. In the eyes of the U.S. Congress, children don't count either.

After the Las Vegas shooting gallery? Crickets. 

Today, after the mass shooting in Florida, we're once again treated to the Idiot Prayer Warriors from Washington, sending their useless thoughts and prayers, all the while gladly receiving blood money from the NRA. 

Their thoughts and prayers are empty gestures, and a slap in the face to our humanity. 

Here's what I'm thinking. 

One of these days some pissed off parent or friend of a mass shooting victim is going to find the time and place, where more than several members of Congress are gathered, and shoot them all (or at least try). 

Will it make a difference? Will Congress act then? I don't know.

But I'm pretty sure someone is going to believe their prayers were answered. 

Sigh ...

- Mark  

Tuesday, February 13, 2018


- Mark

Kudos to Donna for the picture.


Via The Week, we can check out the details, and priorities, of the Trump budget proposal below. 

  • * Spend $716 billion this year on the military
  • * Spend $18 billion over two years to build a border wall
  • * Cut $554 billion from Medicare over 10 years
  • * Cut $250 billion from Medicaid over 10 years
  • * Cut $214 billion from food stamps over 10 years
  • * Cut the EPA's budget by 34 percent
  • * Cut the Department of Housing and Urban Development budget by 14 percent, including eliminating the fund that pays for capital repairs to public housing
  • * Eliminate the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which provides funding to PBS and NPR (there goes Big Bird and Miss Piggy).
  • * Eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities
  • * Eliminate the Legal Services Corporation, which provides legal help to poor Americans
  • * Eliminate the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which ensures that poor Americans don't freeze to death in the winter
  • * Cut funding for Amtrak in half
  • * Eliminate ARPA-E, which does cutting-edge research on energy technology

So, why don't we just call Trump's budget proposal, "The Return to Feudalism" budget? Seriously, since the British (1688), American (1776), and French (1789) revolutions the primary responsibility of the modern state has been to create a path of opportunity and access. Leveling the playing field for those without access, historically, is the logic behind public education, public parks, public libraries, public roads (over tolls), public health, etc.

Trump's budget, however, neuters public institutions, and pretty much trusts the rich to do the right thing, while piling more debt on to the "peasants"? 

Here's a nice little nugget in the budget. The Trump administration wants to get rid of food stamps (where consumers at least have a modicum of choice) and replace them with food boxes. If the Reagan administration's debacle with school lunches, when they tried to categorize ketchup as a vegetable, is an example of what's in store, Trump's food boxes are going to be colossal disaster (but, no doubt, a financial bonanza for a Trump crony). 

Sigh ... 

- Mark

Wednesday, February 7, 2018


For the record, apart from the parades that celebrated the end of World Wars I & II, General Douglas MacArthur's return, the veterans in our larger parades (Memorial Day too), flyovers, Fleet Week, and other major accomplishments that involve real heroes of conflict, I'm not sure that we've ever had a full military parade simply to honor and inflate a presidential ego.

Seriously, what Donald Trump’s contemplating (ordered?) now is essentially the celebration of a new national identity that Trump is doing his level best to insure is built around a cult of personality ... his.

Trump’s military parade request is truly pathetic, which "The Parade of the Tin Soldiers" (Russian Orchestra, 1911) seems to capture because the festive, child-like, music reminds one of Trump's adolescent delusions (which, unfortunately, help us understand his increasingly insane and despotic tendencies). 

You can access the song, which I placed in a post a year ago, by clicking here.

- Mark 

Tuesday, February 6, 2018


Another day (2-6-18), another volatile mix for Wall Street, and America. The sudden and large dips in the stock market this past week, however, should not be our primary concern (for the moment). We've always known that Trump's policies would kick the legs out from the Obama economy at some point. It's the other stuff in the economy that nobody's paying attention to at the moment that we should be worrying about.

Specifically, our trade deficit, government borrowing, threats of domestic inflation, and nervous global stock markets are not looking good.

* The U.S. trade deficit in Donald Trump's first year soared to a 9-year high of $566 billion (Market Watch). 
* The U.S. government is set to borrow nearly $1 trillion this year, an 84 percent jump from last year (Chicago Tribune). 
* Missing for a decade, inflation fears in the U.S. are infecting world stock markets (Bloomberg). 
European stocks, Japan's Nikkei (- 4.7%), Hong Kong's Hang Seng (- 5.02%) and most Asian markets finished in the red today (CNN-MoneyMarket Watch). 
* Don't worry, machines are driving Wall Street's wild ride, not humans (CNN-Money). 

Yeah, there's not much winning on the horizon now.

Here's the real fun part. What's happening today is no surprise, and it's not just a blip in the market. Moody's Analytics predicted this would happen if we implemented Donald Trump's policies over a year and a half ago. Specifically, Moody's predicted that lowering the tax rate, deporting undocumented immigrants, and raising tariffs on foreign trade under a Trump administration would lead to:

1. A "less global U.S. economy." 
2. Larger government deficits. 
3. Very high-income household benefiting disproportionately. 
4. A weaker U.S. economy, with fewer jobs and higher unemployment.

As Business Insider pointed out back in 2016, nearly "every proposal Trump has made ... led to a lower estimate of gross domestic product in Moody's model." They even had a nice chart predicting what would happen. Check it out ...

So, yeah, while we were supposed to get a quick economic hit with some of the policies, it pretty much is supposed to go down hill after the sudden economic adrenaline rush. This isn't rocket science. We saw this with the Bush administration too.

Grab some popcorn. We're in for a real show. Unfortunately, we've seen it before.

And, no, there's not going to be very much winning when everything is said and done.

- Mark


Another great cover ...

- Mark


Many Americans are increasingly susceptible to wild conspiracy theories, and virtually any stupidity that Donald Trump and Fox News mutters. That's no accident. Check out how "fantasy and wishful" truths have become the norm in America. One of the reasons starts with understanding how religion (especially from the Christians and Protestants) have worked to turn Americans against science, and rational thinking ...

- Mark

Thursday, February 1, 2018


The REAL "witch hunt" is the attempted discrediting of the FBI and Bob Mueller. It's un-American, and treasonous. Shame on you, Republicans.

- Mark

Kudos to Andy for the post.