Recent Articles

Bill Moyers: Government is the “protection racket for the 1 percent.”

| April 22, 2014 | Reply

Truly, we should stop celebrating the Fourth of July until we see meaningful reform.

Bill Moyers and Michael Winship write:

Inequality is what has turned Washington into a protection racket for the one percent. It buys all those goodies from government: Tax breaks. Tax havens (which allow corporations and the rich to park their money in a no-tax zone). Loopholes. Favors like carried interest. And so on. As Paul Krugman writes in his New York Review of Books essay on Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century, “We now know both that the United States has a much more unequal distribution of income than other advanced countries and that much of this difference in outcomes can be attributed directly to government action.”

Recently, researchers at Connecticut’s Trinity College ploughed through the data and concluded that the US Senate is responsive to the policy preferences of the rich, ignoring the poor. And now there’s that big study coming out in the fall from scholars at Princeton and Northwestern universities, based on data collected between 1981 and 2002. Their conclusion: “America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened… The preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” Instead, policy tends “to tilt towards the wishes of corporations and business and professional associations.”

Oh, and if you’re wondering why your elected representative won’t pay attention to you and your ideas . . .

“Last month, Matea Gold of The Washington Post reported on a pair of political science graduate students who released a study confirming that money does equal access in Washington. Joshua Kalla and David Broockman drafted two form letters asking 191 members of Congress for a meeting to discuss a certain piece of legislation. One email said “active political donors” would be present; the second email said only that a group of “local constituents” would be at the meeting.

One guess as to which emails got the most response. Yes, more than five times as many legislators or their chiefs of staff offered to set up meetings with active donors than with local constituents. Why is it not corruption when the selling of access to our public officials upends the very core of representative government? When money talks and you have none, how can you believe in democracy?”

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Birther movement regarding Jesus

| April 21, 2014 | 2 Replies

This Tumblr website has launched a Birther movement regarding Jesus. It’s actually a challenge.

Please provide ONE single person, along with their authentic writing, that can prove the simple living-human, historical existence of the claimed, christian New Testament jesus the christ of Nazareth, that meets both (A & B) of our 2 simple requirements listed below:

A.) A contemporary 1st century person that lived between the years of 1-36 CE, who was a first-hand eye-witness, who actually saw, met, spoke to, and knew jesus personally.

B.) Provide this person’s original and authentic: secular, non-christian, non-religious, unbiased, non-bible, non-gospel, and non-scripture writing, that is directly about jesus (with references/citations to prove that this person actually wrote the work in question), officially dated by science, between the years of 1-53 CE. Additional religious or christian writings that can’t be used: papyri, uncials, minuscules, lectionaries, didache, apocrypha, gnostic, catechism, and pseudepigrapha.

In case some folks are tempted to reach for some of the classic “proofs,” the site offers this scorecard:

Jesus Chart

 

The site also offers links to many other sites that challenge the existence (not merely the divinity) of Jesus, including:

Bible Scholar: Robert M Price – Extrabiblical evidence for Jesus ► 8:44

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3zuMeNPgDQ

Debunking the Fraudulent christian Apologist List of Extra-biblical but non-contemporary, claimed “sources” used as jesus “evidence.” (Jewish, “Pagan,” Non-christian, “Secular”)

http://tmblr.co/ZkpfQtmt2ygH

The jesus Birther Movement (jBM) Research Database Directory

http://tmblr.co/ZkpfQtaKiFCa

Research Articles, Evidence and Videos that Prove a Historical jesus, NEVER Existed

http://tmblr.co/ZkpfQtmSTwHN

66 Famous Historians and Writers From The 1st and 2nd Century, Who Never Mentioned Fictional jesus – The Screaming Silence of Real History

http://tmblr.co/ZkpfQtnCiu1a

 

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Lee Camp: Our political system has cancer

| April 19, 2014 | Reply

A new study demonstrates that the United states is not a democracy, but an oligarchy. Lee Camp comments on this study:

Common Dreams has also commented on the study, entitled “Testing Theories of American Politics.”

A study, to appear in the Fall 2014 issue of the academic journal Perspectives on Politics, finds that the U.S. is no democracy, but instead an oligarchy, meaning profoundly corrupt, so that the answer to the study’s opening question, “Who governs? Who really rules?” in this country, is:

“Despite the seemingly strong empirical support in previous studies for theories of majoritarian democracy, our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts. Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association, and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But, …” and then they go on to say, it’s not true, and that, “America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened” by the findings in this, the first-ever comprehensive scientific study of the subject, which shows that there is instead “the nearly total failure of ‘median voter’ and other Majoritarian Electoral Democracy theories [of America]. When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”

To put it short: The United States is no democracy, but actually an oligarchy.

You can find the study here. The following is the bottom line:

The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized
groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government
policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent
influence. Our results provide substantial support for theories of Economic Elite Domination
and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or
Majoritarian Pluralism.

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More quotes

More quotes

| April 19, 2014 | Reply

I’ve gathered many quotes for DI. This is another batch of my favorite quotes, gathered from a wide variety of sources:

Libertarian: “(noun) One who believes that oppression is best handled by the Private Sector.” (seen on Facebook)

“Maybe this world is another planet’s hell.”
Aldous Huxley

“Music makes one feel so romantic – at least it always gets on one’s nerves – which is the same thing nowadays.”
Oscar Wilde (1854 – 1900)

“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.”
H. P. Lovecraft (1890 – 1937), “The Call of Cthulhu”, first line

“We’re developing a new citizenry. One that will be very selective about cereals and automobiles, but won’t be able to think.”
― Rod Serling

“If Satan is God’s enemy . . . why does he punish those who disobey God?”
- From Facebook

“My pain may be the reason for somebody’s laugh. But my laugh must never be the reason for somebody’s pain.”
― Charles Chaplin

“The point of public relations slogans like “Support our troops” is that they don’t mean anything… That’s the whole point of good propaganda.You want to create a slogan that nobody’s going to be against, and everybody’s going to be for.Nobody knows what it means, because it doesn’t mean anything.Its crucial value is that it diverts your attention from a question that does mean something: Do you support our policy? That’s the one you’re not allowed to talk about.”
- Noam Chomsky

“All governments suffer a recurring problem: Power attracts pathological personalities. It is not that power corrupts but that it is magnetic to the corruptable. Such people have a tendency to become drunk on violence, a condition to which they are quickly addicted.”
- Frank Herbert, Chapterhouse Dune, Missionaria Protectiva, US science fiction novelist (1920 – 1986)

“Deregulation: Yes that’s a licence for Corporate Monopoly Rule aided and abetted by Sociopaths in key positions: Government, Law, Security both Police and Military, the Media and in Business.”
- Anon comment on Glenn Greenwald’s website

“If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re misinformed.”
- Mark Twain.

“Rudeness is the weak man’s imitation of strength.”
- Eric Hoffer (1902 – 1983)

“Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it.”
- Mark Twain.

“The best people possess a feeling for beauty, the courage to take risks, the discipline to tell the truth, the capacity for sacrifice. Ironically, their virtues make them vulnerable; they are often wounded, sometimes destroyed.”
- Ernest Hemingway

The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.
- Patrick Henry

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Wild Animal Sex

| April 18, 2014 | Reply

I’ve studied sex in the wild, at least somewhat, but I learned more than a few thing during this entertaining talk by Carin Bondar.  Most bizarre is her description of the hectocotylus, a detachable swimming penis of the paper nautilus.

After watching this talk, I followed up by reading more about unusual animal genitals. 

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Some Context for my Concern with Government Corruption

| April 18, 2014 | 7 Replies

I realize that I probably look obsessed due to my many posts about government corruption. Perhaps that is because I saw it first-hand when I worked as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Missouri. That was back in the late ’80s, when William Webster served as Missouri Attorney General. My job required me to prosecute consumer fraud. That’s not quite how it worked, however. If the target was a significant contributor, I would be given lots of excuses that good cases were “not good cases.” I resisted for many months, documenting my cases as best I could and refusing to close good files–this behavior confused me at first, but then it became all too clear. Ultimately, several substantial cases against major contributors convinced Webster to transfer me out of of the Trade Offense Division. Because I refused his transfer, Webster fired me.

Little did I know that my experiences would become a focus for the 1992 Missouri Governor’s debate. The debate featured Mel Carnahan (the Democrat) versus William Webster (the Republican). Prior to this debate Webster had held a 20-point lead. The election occurred two weeks after this debate, and Webster conceded by 7:30 pm on election night. During the debate Carnahan blistered Webster with accusations much of the night. You’ll get a flavor for this well-deserved barrage if you watch the first 5 minutes–I was discussed beginning at the 3-minute mark. One other Assistant Attorney General also took a bold stand. After it became clear to him that the office was corrupt, Tom Glassberg resigned, immediately driving to Jefferson City to file ethics charges against Webster. Tom wrote a letter defending my reputation and his letter was published by the Post-Dispatch. It was letter I will never forget. A few sentences were read at the Governor’s Debate.

Those were intense times for me, of course. You can’t solve problems like this in a day. It requires immense patience and diplomacy, and bucking the system is risky. When you start resisting, you quickly see who has both a conscience and a backbone. When I see the constant stream of money for political favors stories, I’m disheartened but resolute. Corrupt money and power are formidable, but they can’t prevail where good people organize. I’m sure that my time as an AAG was formative, and it continues to drive me forward.

One last thought is a sad one for me, however. During the Webster scandal, the St. Louis Post Dispatch was an aggressive newspaper that did real investigative journalism thanks to excellent reporting by several reporters, including Terry Ganey. The Post-Dispatch no longer does significant investigative journalism, as is the case with most newspapers. Reporters across the country are being laid off by the hundreds, and this has led to a huge news vacuum. These days, we simply don’t know what is going on in most corners of our government. Many stories don’t see the light of day, and the mass media offer no local alternatives (local TV “news” tends to be a joke). Hence my non-stop interest in media reform through organization such as Free Press. Media Reform and Election Reform need to be fixed before we can meaningfully address any other issues. That has so sadly become apparent.

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Elizabeth Warren discusses the real purpose of TARP

| April 18, 2014 | Reply

At Daily Kos, “HoundDog” reviews Elizabeth Warren’s new book, A fighting Chance. Here’s an excerpt:

[Warren] says when she asked Geithner about helping the homeowners struggling to save their homesh he admitted “[d]espite the way it was sold, TARP was about saving banks, pure and simple.” ..He admitted that really was not the goal, she writes.

[caption id="attachment_26775" align="alignright" width="300"]Elizabeth Warren (Photo by Erich Vieth) Elizabeth Warren (Photo by Erich Vieth)[/caption]

“The banks could manage only so many foreclosures at a time, and Treasury wanted to slow down the pace so banks wouldn’t be overwhelmed,” Warren writes, recounting Geithner’s explanation. “And this was where the new foreclosure program came in: it was just big enough to ‘foam the runway’ for them.”

“There it was,” Warren writes. “The Treasury foreclosure program was intended to foam the runway to protect against a crash landing by the banks. Millions of people were getting tossed out on the street, but the secretary of the Treasury believed the government’s most important job was to provide a soft landing for the tender fannies of the banks. … “Oh Lord.”

She praises President Obama for supporting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, but always says he has to take responsibility for choosing the team he did.

For more on Elizabeth Warren, see this post I wrote regarding her November, 2013 presentation to the National Association of Consumer Advocates.  The above quote by Warren confirms a similar statement by Neil Barofsky, who presented at an NCLC conference the previous year. Inside the White House, the TARP program was only about attending to the needs and wants of Wall Street banks.   I attended both of these, and the huge rooms filled with consumer advocates much appreciated hearing straight talk from these two exceptional people.

[caption id="attachment_26774" align="alignright" width="150"]Neil Barofsky at NCLC Neil Barofsky at NCLC (Photo by Erich Vieth)[/caption]

 

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A simple Easter Challenge for Christians

| April 17, 2014 | Reply

Freedom From Religion Foundation has made a straightforward Challenge for those who consider themselves Christians:

My challenge is simply this: tell me what happened on Easter. I am not asking for proof. My straightforward request is merely that Christians tell me exactly what happened on the day that their most important doctrine was born.

Believers should eagerly take up this challenge, since without the resurrection, there is no Christianity. Paul wrote, “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.” (I Corinthians 15:14-15)

The conditions of the challenge are simple and reasonable. In each of the four Gospels, begin at Easter morning and read to the end of the book: Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, and John 20-21. Also read Acts 1:3-12 and Paul’s tiny version of the story in I Corinthians 15:3-8. These 165 verses can be read in a few moments. Then, without omitting a single detail from these separate accounts, write a simple, chronological narrative of the events between the resurrection and the ascension: what happened first, second, and so on; who said what, when; and where these things happened.

The trick is that the Bible is riddled with contradictions on this alleged story. Many of those contradictions are outlined in the article. Here are a few:

Who were the women?

Matthew: Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (28:1)
Mark: Mary Magdalene, the mother of James, and Salome (16:1)
Luke: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and other women (24:10)
John: Mary Magdalene (20:1)
What was their purpose?

Matthew: to see the tomb (28:1)
Mark: had already seen the tomb (15:47), brought spices (16:1)
Luke: had already seen the tomb (23:55), brought spices (24:1)
John: the body had already been spiced before they arrived (19:39,40)
Was the tomb open when they arrived?

Matthew: No (28:2)
Mark: Yes (16:4)
Luke: Yes (24:2)
John: Yes (20:1)
Who was at the tomb when they arrived?

Matthew: One angel (28:2-7)
Mark: One young man (16:5)
Luke: Two men (24:4)
John: Two angels (20:12)
- See more at: http://ffrf.org/news/blog/item/20393-leave-no-stone-unturned-an-easter-challenge-for-christians#sthash.sy6ke72V.dpuf

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It’s official: The United States is an Oligarchy

| April 17, 2014 | 3 Replies

We have no hope of fixing any problem in this county until we fix THIS problem, described by Zachary Davies Boren of the U.K. Guardian:

The US government does not represent the interests of the majority of the country’s citizens, but is instead ruled by those of the rich and powerful, a new study from Princeton and Northwestern Universities has concluded.

The report, entitled Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens, used extensive policy data collected from between the years of 1981 and 2002 to empirically determine the state of the US political system.

After sifting through nearly 1,800 US policies enacted in that period and comparing them to the expressed preferences of average Americans (50th percentile of income), affluent Americans (90th percentile) and large special interests groups, researchers concluded that the United States is dominated by its economic elite.

The peer-reviewed study, which will be taught at these universities in September, says: “The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organised groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence. . . . “When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organised interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the US political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favour policy change, they generally do not get it.””

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