Thursday, May 31, 2018


Rosina Lozano published an article in the Los Angeles Times explaining why "Spanish has never been a foreign language in the United States." The piece is full of history lessons and, more importantly, provides the context for understanding how the United States was not founded as an English-only nation-state.


When we dig deeper, we learn that because of colonial policies, and the mercantilist policies of the British, coining currency and the possession of precious bullion was strictly controlled. British currency was hard to come buy. So one of the most common currencies accepted in colonial and post-revolutionary America was the Spanish Real. 

And why not? The Spaniards had literally hit the mother lode in Mexico and South America, and there was plenty of bullion loaded coins to go around.

Because the Spanish Real could be cut up into eight pieces, or eight bits, each piece was accepted in commercial transactions because of the bullion content that the Spanish currency contained. As a result American colonialists began using "bits" to refer to the Pieces of Eight that came from the Spanish Real. 

Today, "two bits" - which once referred to 25% of a real - is now a folksy (or colloquially) accepted reference to 25 cents in America.  

The Spanish Real. The one on the left is genuine. The one on the right is a replica. 

How important was the Spanish Real and the pieces of eight (and two bits) reference? It's worth noting that the New York Stock Exchange listed stock prices in "eighths of a dollar" units until 1997. 

How uniquely American. 

But wait, there's more.

The mustang is often characterized as uniquely American too (especially the car). But mustang has its etymological roots in the Spanish and Mexican settlement of the Americas, and especially in the American southwest. Specifically, el mestengo refers to a horse (or cattle) that was either "wild" or  had "no master." In effect, a mustang was a free range horse in the Americas (i.e. in both North and South America).

As well, the uniquely American "cowboy" didn't come out of nowhere. It's roots are tied to the Spanish language. The workers who worked the haciendas and went after los mestengos were called vaqueros, or cowboys.

Ever go to a rodeo? There's no English language derivative for this one. But in Spanish rodear means to surround or encircle (or "roundup" in South America) 

Finally, remember the border agent who stopped the two women who were speaking Spanish in Montana?  Think about it. Montaña means "mountain" in Spanish. So, yeah, Montana is an English garbled derivative of Montaña.

This is what happens when you get federal agents with a two bit education (yeah, two bits can also refer to something that is cheapened or depreciated, but that's another story for another day).

There's more to this story. But let's remember one thing. Spanish, and our history with Spain and Mexico, is what makes America uniquely American.

- Mark


Image may contain: text

- Mark

Hat tip to David for the meme.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018


Last week I wrote a post saying I wasn't a fireman (though I might be). The post was satirical, and really about a local judicial race here in Kern County, where one of the candidates had their license to practice law suspended (revoked?) for failing to pay their bar fees. Whether the suspension was for 1 day or 20 days isn't the issue. Being suspended from practicing law, like having your drivers license suspended, means you're not eligible to claim you're a legal practicing attorney, or a legal driver, during that time.

I'm bringing this up because when I was young and driving around Santa Cruz county, there were several times when I was on the verge of having my drivers license suspended because I didn't have the money to pay my fines, which meant I had to go to court. It wasn't all fun and games, and the Superior Court judges didn't mess around with excuses. Allow me to explain ...

It was the late 1970s. I was in high school and had a 1965 Mustang that looked very much like the one posted below. I can't remember if it was cherry red, but it was red, and fast. Real fast. It had a classic 289 engine, and a three-speed stick, which helps to explain why I can honestly say I never lost a race in my '65 Mustang (yeah, I know, I know ...). 

As you can imagine, I was (for some strange reason) pulled over more times than I thought I should have been and, yes, received my share of tickets. I also ended up paying my share of penalties and fines for late payments and the like. 

In my mind I'm pretty sure I paid for half the stop signs in Santa Cruz county. 

A stop sign in Santa Cruz county. I'm pretty sure I paid for it ... :-)

Here's the point. I'm not a race car driver and never should have been driving like I did on the streets of Santa Cruz, or like I did in the mountain roads of Santa Cruz county. Whether a high school kid should be driving around in a car like this is another issue (but rest assured, my son didn't have anything remotely resembling my '65 Mustang). More importantly, I paid a price for my antics, and never received the benefit of the doubt when I went to court to pay my tickets and late fees. The claim "it never came in the mail" argument fell about as flat as "the dog ate my homework" defense. 

This is why this article from the Bakersfield Californian's Bob Price on the race for Kern County Superior Court is so pertinent. Mr. Price is asking questions about our local race that raise serious issues for anyone who wants to sit and pass judgement on others. 

At issue is whether candidate Brandon Martin is eligible to run or even hold the position of Superior Court judge since he was not "a member of the State Bar for 10 years ... immediately preceding the election."  In Brandon Martin's words, he was only "ineligible" to practice law (and not suspended?) for 21 days for failing to pay his bar dues. 

Brandon Martin doesn't believe there's any merit to this issue because the postal service "sent notices to the wrong address." And, besides, he eventually paid his bar dues. Put another way, claiming you didn't receive notices because the postal service didn't get your change of address means subsequent failures to pay and suspensions don't really count (I'm guessing). 

If Brandon Martin's reasoning holds water, all I can say is where was this kind of judicial insight when I was explaining my late payments for my "street" infractions? Seriously, if this is Brandon Martin's approach to the rules, he's going to be a hit in traffic court. 

Driving with a suspended license? No bigee, as long as your notice was lost in the mail. 

Failure to pay? No problem since, you know, the dog ate the notice. 

Warrants? Ha, ha ... that damn post office.

If you live in Kern County, and want to know more about the drama for Superior Court judge you should read Bob Price's piece, which you can do by clicking here.  

- Mark

Tuesday, May 29, 2018


No automatic alt text available.

- Mark


This is why we can't have nice things ...

While you can read the details by clicking here, below are the 10 "fake facts" Trump's supporters eat up like hotcakes

1. Trump is a a devoted Christian.

2. The economy is improving under Trump.

3. 'Millions voted illegally' (without a single shred of proof).

4. Immigration is off the rails and illegal immigrants are all violent criminals.

5. Trump should have the power to overturn judicial rulings.

6. Trumpcare is great while Obamacare is awful.

7. Barack Obama was not born in the United States.

8. There's a war on gun owners.

9. All the investigations into Trump's ties to Russia are bogus.

10. Trump is honest and trustworthy.

If you believe just half (or even just one) of these fake facts you are part of the problem. It's why, as one former student reminded me, Bill Maher said America is now at "peak stupid."

Sigh ...

- Mark

Friday, May 25, 2018


This week Jose Bello, a student attending Bakersfield College, was on his way to work when he was picked up and detained by ICE. According to ICE, they were after his brother, who had been deported and had been in trouble with the law before. Since Jose was with his brother ICE decided to pick him up as well because he is also undocumented.

Our local NBC Bakersfield affiliate, KGET 17 News, has the story here:

While the story made the local news because Jose Bello is both doing well at Bakersfield College, and has a job, ICE claimed Jose Bello was a gang member. ICE also asserted that Bello had a criminal conviction for violent offenses.

An interesting side note is that, instead of rallying around one of the community college's students - like the college administration did - one of Bakersfield College's faculty members decided to post the following on his FB page.

There's one problem with Matthew Garrett's post. As KGET 17 News reports, according to Kern County Superior Court's website records, "there is no criminal history for a 'Jose Bello' born in 1997, Jose's birth year ...". Also, while Bello's brother does appear to have a criminal record in Kern County, it's not for gang affiliations.

So I have a few "Pro Tips" of my own for Matthew Garrett.

PRO TIP #1: If you're going to jump to conclusions and immediately embrace slander against one of your students, try and make sure that the student isn't Latino, and one of the more than 65% of Latinos who make up your student body. Latinos will quickly figure out that you jump to conclusions, and want to believe the worst stereotypes about them.

PRO TIP #2: If you're going to throw one of your undocumented students under the bus because ICE throws out unsubstantiated claims about your student, try and make sure your head isn't shaved so that you look like you carry Tiki torches as a hobby, and hang out with shady nationalist types in your spare time.

PRO TIP #3: Even if you want to believe the worst stereotypes about your students, try and make sure your administration hasn't already made the commitment to stand by the student.

PRO TIP #4: If you're going to go after your undocumented students by believing what ICE tells you - in what is an obviously clumsy defensive PR move by ICE - try and make sure your advanced degree isn't from the same state (Arizona) that regularly profiles Mexicans. It kind of makes you look like you were pretty comfortable with the Mexican bashing status quo there.

I think I'll leave it at that, for now.

- Mark

Addendum: In the FYI category, ICE does have a history of wrongly accusing detainees of having "gang" identities.


- Mark

Thursday, May 24, 2018


Have you ever wondered what the aphorism "Don't count your chickens before they're hatched" means? Don't worry, you're in luck. Bigly. Our two most recent Republican presidents help us understand what it looks like in the real world when you try and "count your chickens before they hatch."

Remember this ...

That was 15 years ago, in 2003. It was George W. Bush trying to take credit for ending major hostilities in Iraq, while suggesting that victory in Iraq (and the Middle East) was right around the corner.

In case you missed it, Iraq is not a democracy, and we're still stuck in the Middle East. And Iraq is one of the major reasons we have ISIS and the rest of the mess we have in the region.

Rather than a bunch of victory chickens crowing success, President Bush's basket of 'victory' eggs ended up on his face, as it were.

Now we have this ...

The Trump administration's commemorative U.S.- North Korea "Peace Talks" coin.

Yeah, the picture above shows the commemorative coin the White House decided to put out in advance of the U.S.-North Korean "Peace Talks" Donald Trump crowed about. You remember the talks. Donald Trump's Fox News-adled supporters were telling the world the planned talks made Trump an immediate candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Hence the commemorative coins. They were going to sell like hotcakes once Trump stared Kim Jong Un down, and got his Nobel award.

Unfortunately, Team Trump undermined the proposed talks by suggesting Kim Jong Un cave into unrealistic demands (unilaterally dump his nukes). They also wanted the North Koreans to pretty much put Trump on a diplomatic pedestal before the talks began, so Trump could be feted around as if he were some kind of conquering tribal king.

As you can imagine, with VP Pence saying Mr. Kim would share the same end as Muammar Qadaffi if he didn't go along with their demands - which led to Pence being called a 'political dummy' by a high ranking North Korean official - the summit environment between Trump and Kim Jong Un suddenly became tense. Once Trump realized his negotiating tactics were making things worse, and that he was going to get nothing from the meeting, he canceled the talks.

Who could see that coming? (Well, pretty much the entire world saw that coming.)

And you wonder why the prestige and respect the U.S. once had around the globe is in the toilet.

But at least we have a commemorative coin to capture the moment, right? And let's not forget that Nobel Peace prize Trump's supporters were already throwing around like some kind of PR trophy.

A worthless coin and an imaginary trophy. So much winning. ** cough, cough **

At the end of the day, nothing says counting your chickens before they're hatched than a Republican president trying to capture the glory of war and diplomacy before victory and peace break out.

So, yeah, it's true. MAGA ... Morons Are Governing America.

With the Trump administration, the stupidity never ends.

Worse, it's exhausting. So damn exhausting.

Oh, "but her emails" ...

- Mark


Slate has an interesting article on participation trophies and American culture ...


Here's my question, especially since conservatives get so bent out of shape over participation trophies ...

How about participation trophies that come in the form of corporate bankruptcies, financial bailouts and draft deferments that keep on paying out? Nothing says 'pat on the back' just for showing up, AND making a mess of things, than the institutionalized excuses we have that compel others to pay for your colossal incompetence and genuine cowardice.

Trophies come in many forms, you know.

Just saying ...

- Mark

Kudos to David for steering me to this article.


So the U.S.-North Korean Super Summit isn't going to happen. Now we're left with Donald Trump licking his diplomatic wounds after learning that his strategic and diplomatic ineptitude has been exposed, again.

Even though Trump and his team can't see it, Trump was always being played the global fool by Kim Jong Un (and Russia's Valdimir Putin, and China's Xi Jinping and ...).

Kim Jong Un has always wanted to be recognized as a strategic equal on the world stage, and Trump's sudden acceptance of Mr. Kim's invitation to meet gave the North Korean dictator that, and more. By suddenly agreeing to meet with Kim Jong Un - with no thoughtful analysis or policy precautions reviewed - Trump gave Kim Jong Un and his regime both diplomatic recognition and time off from being harangued by Trump and others, which provided North Korea a geostrategic reprieve.

The fact that Trump couldn't understand why Kim Jong Un wouldn't be cowed by U.S. demands to denuclearize - like that was going to all of a sudden happen because Trump's such a "tough negotiator" - illustrates what a shallow and naive buffoon we have running our foreign policy and diplomatic show.

Let me make this real simple. Stevie Wonder could have seen this foreign policy blunder coming.

There's more, but let me end with yet another Trump embarrassment - Trump's letter to Kim Jong Un. It reads like he wrote it in crayon, then stuck his tongue out for good measure: "You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used"?

Then there's the tone and weeping nostalgia over what the two had going: "I felt a wonderful dialogue was building up between you and me ...".

Seriously? Trump's VP, Mike Pence, suggested that Mr. Kim would meet the same fate as Libya's Muammar Qaddafi if he didn't make a deal with the United States, and they thought Kim Jong Un would suddenly acquiesce? This isn't dialogue, it's mob-like extortion made by wannabe hoods.

This was followed up by National Security adviser John Bolton's suggestion that North Korea needs to disarm unilaterally. Such strategery ...

This is embarrassing. Really embarrassing.

What a nightmare.

- Mark

Tuesday, May 22, 2018


This is incredible, and what I would imagine if Superman surfed ...

- Mark

I'M A FIREMAN ... WAIT, NO I'M NOT (then again, maybe I am)

A very long time ago, when I thought I was going to become a fireman, I enrolled in Cabrillo College's Fire Science program. I also got a summer job at IBM's Santa Theresa facility outside of San Jose with their security team (a job that had me filling and changing out fire extinguishers, and working the guard booth on some weekends).

As part of my fire training I later signed up for what was then called California's "Blue Card" crew.

The Blue Card crew (I'm not sure what it's called today) was a part-time group of fire fighting specialists who train to go into ground and forest fires. These are the guys you see assisting the California Department of Forestry and other professional fire fighting groups during the summer. It's hard and dangerous work, and requires a good deal of stamina. I was 19 years-old at the time. You can get called out to fight over an entire summer, or just a few times, depending on the summer's fire activities.

It was a fun experience. At 19 everything that's dangerous is fun. But I only went out on a forest fire once. We fought the fire for a week, so I have some interesting and fun stories. But I'll be the first to say that my associates degree in Fire Science, and my experience at IBM and with the Blue Card crew doesn't make me a fireman; or even a fire professional.

I'm writing about this because over the weekend the CEO of the Bakersfield Californian, Bob Price, wrote about a local race for judge here in Kern County.


In a nutshell, Bob Price is pointing out that Brandon Martin - son of respected local attorney, George Martin - is using his one hour and 18 minutes as an acting "judge pro tem" to claim in his campaign candidate statement that he, in effect, is a seasoned judge.

The problem with making this claim is that it clearly states in the California Judges Association "ethics in judicial elections" guidelines that while you can make reference to your service - even if it's just for 1 hour and 18 minutes - that you "may not" refer to yourself as a judge. Here, check it out ...

Here's the rub. As Deputy District Attorney Michael Caves pointed out, Brandon Martin served as a judge pro tem - for 1 hour and 18 minutes - on the same day that he filed to run for the superior court of Kern County. More to the point, he listed "Judge Pro Tempore" as his third occupation in his candidate's statement.

So, I guess I am a firefighter ... right?

I mean, at least I spent a week fighting a real fire, which is considerably longer than 1 hour and 18 minutes of being an acting judge.

Then we have some of the campaign literature (below) coming from Brandon Martin's team. He's listed as a both a "Republican" and a Judge Pro Tempore. In California political races for judge are supposed to be non-partisan, meaning you're not supposed to reference party affiliations. As for Martin's "Integrity & Experience" claim, all I'm going to do is restate the guideline that temporary judges "may not refer to themselves as judges" let alone claim to be a "judge pro tempore."

There's more, but my suggestion is that if you live in Kern County and have any questions about the superior court judge's race involving Chad Louie and Brandon Martin you should read the Bakersfield Californian's piece by Bob Price.

If you want something a bit deeper you can read Michael Caves' Linkedin piece, "Morally Bankrupt: Brandon Martin's candidacy is an insult to the Kern County Superior Court." Mr. Caves does the Kern County legal community a real service with this piece, especially since so many don't want to stick their necks out and offend George Martin, a real attorney with real legal experience.

(You should also know that Brandon Martin, who is seeking a term as a trial judge, has absolutely no trial experience.)

There's more, but I'm just going to end by saying I'm voting for Chad Louie for Kern County Superior Court judge, and encourage anyone living in Kern County to do the same.

- Mark

Update (belated too): For those who asked about it, I followed this "I'm a Fireman ..." post with "I'm Not a Fireman ..." post, which you can access by clicking here.

Friday, May 18, 2018


It's Graduation Day, 2018, at California State State University, Bakersfield.

Yours truly, Gitika Commuri, Ivy Cargile, Dirk Horn, and Jeanine Kraybill (taking the selfie).

President Horace Mitchell with Political Science graduating senior Betty Ruiz, 2018.
- Mark

I'll post more pictures, hopefully before Monday.

Thursday, May 17, 2018


Our global embarrassment, Donald Trump, is at it, again. This time he's referring to undocumented immigrants as "animals" ...

There are several reasons that Donald Trump's (now routine) ignorant and callous comments about immigrants are important for us to document. 

First, it validates what we've always known about Trump. He's a small-minded, bigoted and hateful man. Referring to undocumented immigrants as animals, and then mixing the topic in with violent and criminal activity, makes it clear that Trump can't help himself. He views foreigners, but especially Latinos and our undocumented populations, as subhuman. 

Yes, there are slips of the tongue. Then there are coincidences. What we have with Trump goes beyond a simple faux pas or a set of awkward coincidences. What Trump says is part of a regular pattern of condemnation and hate. Trump's bigoted comments are no accident, and are a dark reminder of history's uglier moments and figures. 

Second, Trump's supporters can't deny that the president's language, and tone, has set the environment for ugly incidents like this ...



Incident after incident of disrespectful and violent behavior against people of color and foreigners in America are real, and stacking up like a bad set of Lego blocks. In very simple terms, Trump's race-baiting has struck a chord with the hate-filled racists of America. They now feel empowered and free to go after people who appear suspect in their books.

In the process Donald Trump is dividing America into a nation of "real Americans" (whatever that means) and those of us who are part of Trump's race-based suspect class of subhumans.

Finally, we want to keep track of Trump's race-baiting comments because it allows us to see those who sit back and say nothing when Donald Trump goes off the rails and points fingers at people he clearly views as suspicious, or as enemies of the state.

For example, below is a screenshot  of a YouTube clip moments before the camera shifts to Donald Trump making his "animal" comments. Sitting right in front of Trump, as he made his remarks, is our congressional representative from Bakersfield, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield).   

Keep in mind that Kevin McCarthy is supposed to be our next Speaker of the House. Yet he says nothing when Trump makes reference to our undocumented population as "animals."

And, yes, Kevin is the same member of Congress who - as I point out in this op-ed I wrote for the Bakersfield Californian - found it necessary to interrupt and correct Donald Trump in front of the press when he said that he would accept a "clean" (no side deals) DACA bill. But, for some strange reason, Kevin didn't feel compelled to interrupt and say anything when Trump referred to our undocumented population as "animals."

What a stand up guy that Kevin.

So, yeah, Trump's a bigot who's divisive language is creating a suspicious environment his supporters refuse to challenge and, more to the point, appear to thrive in.

This is not the America I know.

Sigh ...

- Mark

Tuesday, May 15, 2018


President Obama, May 9, 2018:

For those of you who missed it, this is what a real president sounds like ...


There are few issues more important to the security of the United States than the potential spread of nuclear weapons, or the potential for even more destructive war in the Middle East. That’s why the United States negotiated the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in the first place.

The reality is clear. The JCPOA is working – that is a view shared by our European allies, independent experts, and the current U.S. Secretary of Defense. The JCPOA is in America’s interest – it has significantly rolled back Iran’s nuclear program. And the JCPOA is a model for what diplomacy can accomplish – its inspections and verification regime is precisely what the United States should be working to put in place with North Korea. Indeed, at a time when we are all rooting for diplomacy with North Korea to succeed, walking away from the JCPOA risks losing a deal that accomplishes – with Iran – the very outcome that we are pursuing with the North Koreans.

That is why today’s announcement is so misguided. Walking away from the JCPOA turns our back on America’s closest allies, and an agreement that our country’s leading diplomats, scientists, and intelligence professionals negotiated. In a democracy, there will always be changes in policies and priorities from one Administration to the next. But the consistent flouting of agreements that our country is a party to risks eroding America’s credibility, and puts us at odds with the world’s major powers.

Debates in our country should be informed by facts, especially debates that have proven to be divisive. So it’s important to review several facts about the JCPOA.

First, the JCPOA was not just an agreement between my Administration and the Iranian government. After years of building an international coalition that could impose crippling sanctions on Iran, we reached the JCPOA together with the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the European Union, Russia, China, and Iran. It is a multilateral arms control deal, unanimously endorsed by a United Nations Security Council Resolution.

Second, the JCPOA has worked in rolling back Iran’s nuclear program. For decades, Iran had steadily advanced its nuclear program, approaching the point where they could rapidly produce enough fissile material to build a bomb. The JCPOA put a lid on that breakout capacity. Since the JCPOA was implemented, Iran has destroyed the core of a reactor that could have produced weapons-grade plutonium; removed two-thirds of its centrifuges (over 13,000) and placed them under international monitoring; and eliminated 97 percent of its stockpile of enriched uranium – the raw materials necessary for a bomb. So by any measure, the JCPOA has imposed strict limitations on Iran's nuclear program and achieved real results.

Third, the JCPOA does not rely on trust – it is rooted in the most far-reaching inspections and verification regime ever negotiated in an arms control deal. Iran’s nuclear facilities are strictly monitored. International monitors also have access to Iran’s entire nuclear supply chain, so that we can catch them if they cheat. Without the JCPOA, this monitoring and inspections regime would go away.

Fourth, Iran is complying with the JCPOA. That was not simply the view of my Administration. The United States intelligence community has continued to find that Iran is meeting its responsibilities under the deal, and has reported as much to Congress. So have our closest allies, and the international agency responsible for verifying Iranian compliance – the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Fifth, the JCPOA does not expire. The prohibition on Iran ever obtaining a nuclear weapon is permanent. Some of the most important and intrusive inspections codified by the JCPOA are permanent. Even as some of the provisions in the JCPOA do become less strict with time, this won’t happen until ten, fifteen, twenty, or twenty-five years into the deal, so there is little reason to put those restrictions at risk today.

Finally, the JCPOA was never intended to solve all of our problems with Iran. We were clear-eyed that Iran engages in destabilizing behavior – including support for terrorism, and threats toward Israel and its neighbors. But that’s precisely why it was so important that we prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Every aspect of Iranian behavior that is troubling is far more dangerous if their nuclear program is unconstrained. Our ability to confront Iran’s destabilizing behavior – and to sustain a unity of purpose with our allies – is strengthened with the JCPOA, and weakened without it.

Because of these facts, I believe that the decision to put the JCPOA at risk without any Iranian violation of the deal is a serious mistake. Without the JCPOA, the United States could eventually be left with a losing choice between a nuclear-armed Iran or another war in the Middle East. We all know the dangers of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon. It could embolden an already dangerous regime; threaten our friends with destruction; pose unacceptable dangers to America’s own security; and trigger an arms race in the world’s most dangerous region. If the constraints on Iran’s nuclear program under the JCPOA are lost, we could be hastening the day when we are faced with the choice between living with that threat, or going to war to prevent it.

In a dangerous world, America must be able to rely in part on strong, principled diplomacy to secure our country. We have been safer in the years since we achieved the JCPOA, thanks in part to the work of our diplomats, many members of Congress, and our allies. Going forward, I hope that Americans continue to speak out in support of the kind of strong, principled, fact-based, and unifying leadership that can best secure our country and uphold our responsibilities around the globe.

- Mark


- Mark

Monday, May 14, 2018


- Mark


It's final exam time. Below is a brief discussion of several talking points from my last lectures this spring. While much of what is presented below is provided without context - keep in mind this post is a list of ancillary "cliffs" notes for my class - my regular readers (and the well informed) will understand the story. For those who need more information you can begin by reading the links below.

In my International Political Economy (PS 4640) over the last two week we discussed how our national and global economies have changed over the past 50 years. Beginning with a flood of dollars in the post-war era - which economist Robert Triffin explained, and France's Charles de Gaulle famously complained about when he discussed America's "exorbitant privilege" - we learned how U.S. policies helped accelerate the disintegration of the world's financial stability and global equilibrium.

Simply put, we dumped too much money in the global economy to maintain price or market stability over time. In the process, the value (or purchasing power) of the dollar declined.

What followed was a period of transition, where market players began to adjust to dollars as just another commodity, and to the subsequent rise of derivative products that were originally designed to shield (or hedge) companies and market players from market instability. Things would kick into high gear with the shocks of the 1970s - the Nixon shocks, "legalized" currency futures, and the instability and debt caused by OPEC price hikes - and the subsequent political paralysis that came from trying to deal with stagflation in the U.S. and the effects of a crumbling global economic infrastructure (the decline of Bretton Woods).

Market players who once hedged now began to speculate and even gamble in a growing casino market economy.

Instead of dealing with the issues that brought us stagflation and the collapse of the Bretton Woods system - cold war spending, the rise of Euro-currency markets, new competition, the Nixon shocks, OPEC price hikes, deficit spending, etc. - the United States and the world embraced neoliberal policies in the 1980s. Because the focus was on tax cuts and deregulation, record deficit spending and speculation in a recklessly deregulated market environment became the norm.

We ended up with old market wine in a new market bottle, with a deficit spending twist.

By the late 1980s U.S. deficits were breaking records. The national debt under Ronald Reagan effectively tripled, while deregulation and tax cuts for the rich helped artificially spike markets in America. The debt crisis in Latin America insured that debt and deregulation would be an integral part of the world's future. But this was just the opening act.

Apart from the deficit dollars dumped into the economy by Ronald Reagan, market interventions under new Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan helped insure that market players wouldn't stumble too much when the economy began to hiccup. This helped supercharge the already irresponsible tax cutting and deregulation policies at the time. The Federal Reserve's penchant for dumping cheap money into the economy every time market players got scared would eventually become known as the Greenspan Put.

In a few words, Alan Greenspan made it difficult for anyone to actually lose money in a stock market whose growth was rivaled only by the growing amount of money dumped into the economy at the time (which the graphs below illustrate).

As I pointed out in class, a monkey throwing darts could have had a successful career on Wall Street in this deregulated and cheap money policy environment. Ironically, it's precisely this environment that would supercharge the economy and lead to the blowup we saw in 2008.

Notes on how our markets changed from the money dumps and the rise of the symbolic economy are listed below the graphs.

DJIA growth, 1930-2010 compared to Money Supply growth, 1918-2010

Dow Jones Industrial Average, 1930-2010

Money Supply, 1918-2010


History whispering in our ear ... the short version.

Is history whispering in our ear ... with modern (Greek) twist.

Market analysts are really just riding a wave of cheap money and deregulation ... A monkey with darts shows us how.

The relationship between the money dumps (i.e. Quantitative Easing) and our "surging" stock market.

Decoupling of Productivity from Labor ... The Rise of the Machines, Part I

Decoupling of Productivity from Labor ... The Rise of the Machines, Part II

The moral justification of capitalism is on the ropes ... how the promise of the liberal revolutions are beginning to disappear (this is also a review of both Liberal Revolution and The Dark Side of Our Free Market Myths).

A flood of dollars, new competition, and a crumbling economic framework ... yet we do nothing (still).

Why the American Dream is Disappearing: What's wrong with Detroit ... and America

Developing Afghanistan and Iraq ... It's mindless Modernization Theory, again

Waves of Imperialism ... War and Markets: Why Great Wealth is not a product of individual initiative alone.

Waves of Imperialism, II ... It's not free markets ... the state creates the conditions under which wealth is created (with an all too brief discussion-mention of John M. Keynes and Friedrich List).

- Mark

While we didn't have time to go over these topics, for those of you interested in learning more about our growing symbolic economy, the links below will prove helpful ...

America's evolving symbolic economy.

Derivatives explained, Part II

Converting Euro trash into European gold ... how the gods are smiling on Spanish and European banks, again.

Quantitative Easing Explained + bonus information

Quantitative Easing III (a.k.a. Corporate Welfare) in Europe has begun (again).

Quantitative Easing Explained (again, this time in England).

S&P breaks record, again (yawn) + bonus info

OK, one more on Quantitative Easing.





- Mark

Saturday, May 12, 2018


Donald Trump is a symptom of much a larger problem that we have in America. I posted the piece below four years ago. It helps  explains why getting rid of Trump is just the start of what we need to tackle in America ...

- Mark

Friday, May 11, 2018


This is pretty cool ...

Unfortunately, under the Trump administration, I have to think that ICE would probably show up and arrest the door(s) ... at least the ones opening up to Mexico.

Just saying.

- Mark

Wednesday, May 9, 2018