In a world dominated by magical thinking, superstition and misinformation, give yourself the benefit of doubt. This is one skeptic's view of the Universe.

"Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure."

-George Carlin

“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed”.

-Albert Einstein

“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”

-Carl Sagan

The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species. It may be a long farewell, but it has begun and, like all farewells, should not be protracted.

-Christopher Hitchens

 

Many people object to “wasting money in space” yet have no idea how much is actually spent on space exploration. The CSA’s budget, for instance, is less than the amount Canadians spend on Halloween candy every year, and most of it goes toward things like developing telecommunications satellites and radar systems to provide data for weather and air quality forecasts, environmental monitoring and climate change studies. Similarly, NASA’s budget is not spent in space but right here on Earth, where it’s invested in American businesses and universities, and where it also pays dividends, creating new jobs, new technologies and even whole new industries.

Chris Hadfield, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth (via thedragoninmygarage)

Daily Kos: You want to know how Fox News misleads its viewers? Here's how.

dailykos:

Last week, John Stossel gave a master class in how Fox News keeps its viewers misled and misinformed on economic issues, concluding with the bombshell “fact” that “think about the Depression. That was before there was any welfare state at all. How many people starved? No one.”

Full story by Laura Clawson.

Wait, though! Before Stossel even got to those cuts, he unleashed a version of the federal budget as family budget that we’ve all seen our conservative family and friends smugly post on Facebook. And oh, wow, the U.S. has debt and no family in the history of ever had any debt without it being because they were irresponsible deadbeats. There is absolutely no such thing as investing in your family’s future through a mortgage or educational loan or small business loan, is there? Not according to John Stossel, there isn’t.

Andrew Sullivan - I’m tired of being told we cannot blame Bush for our current predicament. We can and should blame him for most of it - and remind people that Romney’s policies: more tax cuts, more defense spending are identical.

abaldwin360:

Bruce Bartlett tallies it. The damage this single president did to the core of the country’s fiscal health - and our ability to weather a storm like 2007 - 2009 - is hard to find parallels with. Money quote:

Putting all the numbers in the C.B.O. report together, we see that continuation of tax and budget policies and economic conditions in place at the end of the Clinton administration would have led to a cumulative budget surplus of $5.6 trillion through 2011 – enough to pay off the $5.6 trillion national debt at the end of 2000.

Tax cuts and slower-than-expected growth reduced revenues by $6.1 trillion and spending was $5.6 trillion higher, a turnaround of $11.7 trillion. Of this total, the C.B.O. attributes 72 percent to legislated tax cuts and spending increases, 27 percent to economic and technical factors. Of the latter, 56 percent occurred from 2009 to 2011.

When you check reality, rather than the alternate universe constantly created by Fox News and an amnesiac press, you find that Bush had a chance to pay off all our national debt before we hit the financial crisis - giving the US enormous flexibility in intervening to ameliorate the recession. Instead, we had to find money for a stimulus in a cupboard stripped bare - its contents largely given away, by an act of choice. I’m tired of being told we cannot blame Bush for our current predicament. We can and should blame him for most of it - and remind people that Romney’s policies: more tax cuts, more defense spending are identical. With one difference: Bush pledged never “to balance the budget on the backs of the poor.”

Mitt Romney has no qualms about doing that very thing. And he will, if he is given the chance.

source

Obama spending binge never happened: Government outlays rising at slowest pace since 1950s.
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — Of all the falsehoods told about President Barack Obama, the biggest whopper is the one about his reckless spending spree.

As would-be president Mitt Romney tells it: “I will lead us out of this debt and spending inferno.”

Almost everyone believes that Obama has presided over a massive increase in federal spending, an “inferno” of spending that threatens our jobs, our businesses and our children’s future. Even Democrats seem to think it’s true.

(Read the article for all the details.)

Obama spending binge never happened: Government outlays rising at slowest pace since 1950s.

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — Of all the falsehoods told about President Barack Obama, the biggest whopper is the one about his reckless spending spree.

As would-be president Mitt Romney tells it: “I will lead us out of this debt and spending inferno.”

Almost everyone believes that Obama has presided over a massive increase in federal spending, an “inferno” of spending that threatens our jobs, our businesses and our children’s future. Even Democrats seem to think it’s true.

(Read the article for all the details.)

OPINION: Cutting Military Funding Of NASCAR Teams Is Right Move | SBNation

sarahlee310:

If you haven’t heard by now, there’s a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that includes an amendment that would ban military sponsorships of NASCAR race teams.

Not surprisingly, all of NASCAR seems completely outraged by this. From drivers to media to fans, there’s a level of disgust that Congress would dare cut the amount of tax dollars being spent on sponsorships for Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s National Guard car and Ryan Newman’s U.S. Army car, among others.

But is Congress really doing the wrong thing?

USA Today quoted a National Guard spokesman last week who revealed some shocking numbers: In the 2012 fiscal year, nearly 25,000 individuals contacted the Guard because of Earnhardt Jr.’s sponsorship.

But of those people, only 20 people were actually qualified candidates. And get this: NONE actually joined the National Guard.

So at a cost of $26 million to taxpayers, the National Guard added a total of zero recruits directly due to its sponsorship of the No. 88 car.

Check the story for the hateful tweets sent to Rep. Betty McCollum, a Minnesota Democrat who has tried to ban the sponsorship.  I thought Republicans were all about spending cuts.

Catholic Bishops Send Letter Criticizing House GOP's Cuts To Food Assistance, Other Safety Net Programs | ThinkProgress

tinfoilandtea:

The proposed cuts to programs in the budget reconciliation fail this basic moral test. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states it is the proper role of government to “make accessible to each what is needed to lead a truly human life: food, clothing, health, work, education and culture, suitable information, the right to establish a family, and so on” (no. 1908). Poor and vulnerable people do not have powerful lobbyists to advocate their interests, but they have the most compelling needs.

As you pursue responsible deficit reduction, the Catholic bishops join other faith leaders and people of good will urging you to protect the lives and dignity of poor and vulnerable families by putting a circle of protection around these essential programs and to refrain from cutting programs that serve them.


Wake me up when the GOP actually cares.

Yet, in a move of defiance, Rep. Paul Ryan (a practicing catholic) denies the concerns of his church and opts to stick with the rich and stick it to the poor.

ryking:

Yesterday House Republicans reneged on the deal they made with the White House and Congressional Democrats last summer and, in order to prevent agreed-upon defense spending cuts, instituted draconian spending cuts that will disproportionately affect the poor, people of color, women, children, and the elderly. The White House is now on record as saying that it will allow a government shut-down rather than sign any of these appropriations bills into law.

Good. It’s time to stop pretending that the TeaOP wants to negotiate. Like JFK said: You can’t negotiate with people who say ’what’s mine is mine and what’s your is negotiable’. Namely the pentagon and corporate subsidies vs food and health programs for the poor. And you definitely can’t negotiate with those who have no intentions of abiding by the agreed upon terms.

ryking:

Yesterday House Republicans reneged on the deal they made with the White House and Congressional Democrats last summer and, in order to prevent agreed-upon defense spending cuts, instituted draconian spending cuts that will disproportionately affect the poor, people of color, women, children, and the elderly. The White House is now on record as saying that it will allow a government shut-down rather than sign any of these appropriations bills into law.

Good. It’s time to stop pretending that the TeaOP wants to negotiate. Like JFK said: You can’t negotiate with people who say ’what’s mine is mine and what’s your is negotiable’. Namely the pentagon and corporate subsidies vs food and health programs for the poor. And you definitely can’t negotiate with those who have no intentions of abiding by the agreed upon terms.

Religious Leaders Slam Paul Ryan For Using Catholic Faith To Justify Cutting Programs That Help The Poor

abaldwin360:

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) told Christian Broadcast Network earlier this week that the House GOP’s budget, which he wrote, was driven by his Catholic faith. “A person’s faith is central to how they conduct themselves in public and in private,” Ryan said, and Catholic principles are what led him to cut programs for the poor so as to keep people from becoming “dependent on government.”

As ThinkProgress noted Tuesday, Ryan’s budget seems toignore Catholic social teaching that calls for protecting the poor and improving access to food, jobs, health care, housing, and the social safety net. And now religious leaders are making the same case. The founder of the PICO National Network, the largest national coalition of religious congregations, slammed Ryan’s claim of adherence to Catholic teaching as “the height of hypocrisy” in a release circulated Wednesday:

It’s the height of hypocrisy for Rep. Ryan to claim that his approach to the budget is shaped by Catholic teaching and values,” said Fr. John Baumann, S.J., founder of PICO National Network. […] “A central moral measure of any budget proposal is how it affects “the least of these” (Matthew 25). The needs of those who are hungry and homeless, without work or in poverty should come first.”

“By these measures,” the release says, “the Ryan budget is a severe failure,” noting that it cutsMedicare, Medicaid, Pell Grants, food stamps, and “other programs that help vulnerable working families make it through tough times and live better lives,” while giving massive tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans and corporations. Overall, 62 percent of Ryan’s budget cuts come from programs that benefit the poor. “The mission of the Church is to ‘bring good news to the poor’ and to protect the vulnerable, not to justify the impoverishment of the very young, the very old and the sick in order to enrich the wealthy,” the release says.

read more

Nice to see the church in the news for positive reasons, for once.

ryking:

Obama Attacks Romney, Republican Party In Fiery Budget Speech

In the fieriest speech of his presidency Tuesday, Barack Obama lit into the Republican Party’s vision for the country’s future as outlined in the House GOP budget, and endorsed by his most likely election rival Mitt Romney.

Obama decried key planks of the Republican agenda — particularly calls for large tax cuts for wealthy Americans, and a plan to phase out traditional Medicare…

“They have proposed a budget so far to the right it makes the Contract for America look like the New Deal,” he said. “In fact, that renowned liberal, Newt Gingrich, first called the original version of the budget radical. He said it would contribute to right-wing social engineering. … This is now the party’s governing platform. This is what they are running on…”

Wonkbook: For some conservatives, even Ryan does not go far enough

The conservative skeptics all voice the same problem with the Ryan budget: It does not go far enough, fast enough. The budget doesn’t balance till 2040. The spending levels envisioned in this year’s budget are slightly higher than the spending levels envisioned in last year’s budget. The Medicare reforms have been moderated to preserve fee-for-service Medicare as an option, and Social Security remains untouched. (The Club for Growth, notably, also dings the budget for ducking the sequester. “By waiving the automatic spending cuts required under the Budget Control Act, this budget is asking Americans to trust future Congresses to do the hard work later,” scolds the organization.)

Which is, on the whole, an astounding criticism of Ryan’s budget. Whether you love it or loathe it, you should be able to recognize its extraordinary ambition. As Bob Greenstein, director of the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, wrote, “the new Ryan budget is a remarkable document — one that, for most of the past half-century, would have been outside the bounds of mainstream discussion due to its extreme nature.” There’s simply no doubt that that’s true. In one document, the Affordable Care Act is repealed, Medicare is substantially privatized, Medicaid is turned over to the states, the tax code is flattened into two brackets, and, judging from the projected spending levels, the federal government’s role in infrastructure, worker retraining, education, nutrition support, veteran’s benefits, and much more dwindles to nearly nothing.

Obama Unveils New Strategy For Smaller, Smarter Military

technipol:

[Denver Post] - President Barack Obama insists the United States will maintain what he calls the best-equipped military in history despite deep and looming defense budget cuts.

In a rare appearance in the Pentagon briefing room, Obama has offered the outlines of an overhauled defense strategy. It is designed to contend with hundreds of billions of dollars in budget cuts and refocus the United States’ national security priorities after a decade dominated by the post.-Sept. 11 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Obama says the military will be leaner but promises the world that the U.S. will maintain its “military superiority” with fighting forces ready for any threat.

The president says the strategy review centered on the military the country needs after the “long wars of the last decade are over.”

Maybe we should stop subsidizing our millionaire grandpa and cut back on the number of tanks and bombs stacked in the back yard. Also, dad really needs to stop blowing shit up, only to pay to rebuild it.

Maybe we should stop subsidizing our millionaire grandpa and cut back on the number of tanks and bombs stacked in the back yard. Also, dad really needs to stop blowing shit up, only to pay to rebuild it.

[I]f the Treasury forecast is right [regarding the deficit shrinking under Obama to under $1 trillion], it will point to a marked improvement in the nation’s fiscal conditions. For that matter, a $300 billion one-year reduction in the deficit is likely to be the best in American history, at least in real-dollar terms.

For the record, I don’t consider deficit reduction an especially important goal under the current circumstances, and would be much happier if policymakers were borrowing right now — at remarkably low interest rates — to make vast public investments and boost the economy.

But the political world has accepted as fact the notion that a smaller deficit is a better deficit. And with this in mind, will Tea Partiers and deficit hawks herald the news as a great accomplishment for President Obama?

Somehow, I doubt it.