Recent Articles

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

Read More

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. 

Read More

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.

Read More

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]

 

Read More

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

Read More

It’s official: The United States is an Oligarchy

| April 17, 2014 | 5 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.””

Read More

Last request

| April 17, 2014 | Reply

Many holidays are celebrated in such a way that their celebration has nothing to do with the theory behind the holiday. Case in point: Easter.Jesus on Cross - last request

I found this unattributed cartoon image on Facebook.

Read More

Matt Taibbi: Bush I and Bush II tougher on corporate crime than Obama

| April 17, 2014 | Reply

TPM reports on Taibbi’s latest book, “The Divide,” which explains that America’s wealth gap has created injustice throughout the country’s judicial system.

AMY GOODMAN: Who was tougher on corporate America, President Obama or President Bush?
MATT TAIBBI: Oh, Bush, hands down. And this is an important point to make, because if you go back to the early 2000s, think about all these high-profile cases: Adelphia, Enron, Tyco, WorldCom, Arthur Andersen. All of these companies were swept up by the Bush Justice Department. And what’s interesting about this is that you can see a progression. If you go back to the savings and loan crisis in the late ’80s, which was an enormous fraud problem, but it paled in comparison to the subprime mortgage crisis, we put about 800 people in jail during—in the aftermath of that crisis. You fast-forward 10 or 15 years to the accounting scandals, like Enron and Adelphia and Tyco, we went after the heads of some of those companies. It wasn’t as vigorous as the S&L prosecutions, but we at least did it. At least George Bush recognized the symbolic importance of showing ordinary Americans that justice is blind, right?

Fast-forward again to the next big crisis, and how many people have we got—have we actually put in jail? Zero. And this was a crisis that was much huger in scope than the S&L crisis or the accounting crisis. I mean, it wiped out 40 percent of the world’s wealth, and nobody went to jail, so that we’re now in a place where we don’t even recognize the importance of keeping up appearances when it comes to making things look equal.

An anti-poor person attitude permeates courtrooms: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/16/matt-taibbi-the-divide_n_5159626.html

“If a poor person without means comes into a court room, the judge doesn’t want to hear anything that the defense attorney has to say for that person,” he explained.

“Whereas when I went to watch these white-collar cases,” Taibbi continued, “there’s almost an admiration that you see when the judges talk to the lawyers of the white-collar defendants.”

Read More

Giving up all hope of saving the environment

| April 17, 2014 | Reply

A fervent long-time environmentalist decides that there is little that we can do to preserve the environment. All is lost:

“Whenever I hear the word ‘hope’ these days, I reach for my whiskey bottle,” he told an interviewer in 2012. “It seems to me to be such a futile thing. What does it mean? What are we hoping for? And why are we reduced to something so desperate? Surely we only hope when we are powerless?”

Instead of trying to “save the earth,” Kingsnorth says, people should start talking about what is actually possible. Kingsnorth has admitted to an ex-activist’s cynicism about politics as well as to a worrying ambivalence about whether he even wants civilization, as it now operates, to prevail. But he insists that he isn’t opposed to political action, mass or otherwise, and that his indignations about environmental decline and industrial capitalism are, if anything, stronger than ever. Still, much of his recent writing has been devoted to fulminating against how environmentalism, in its crisis phase, draws adherents. Movements like Bill McKibben’s 350.org, for instance, might engage people, Kingsnorth told me, but they have no chance of stopping climate change. “I just wish there was a way to be more honest about that,” he went on, “because actually what McKibben’s doing, and what all these movements are doing, is selling people a false premise. They’re saying, ‘If we take these actions, we will be able to achieve this goal.’ And if you can’t, and you know that, then you’re lying to people. And those people . . . they’re going to feel despair.”

Read More