In a world dominated by magical thinking, superstition and religion, 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

 

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.

US Is an Oligarchy Not a Democracy, says Scientific Study | Common Dreams

If we had a truly independent and adversarial press in my country, this would be a big news story, but they still haven’t found that plane, so … whaddayagonnado right?

(via wilwheaton)

I’m constantly annoyed that people are distracted by false conspiracies such as 9/11, when all around we provide evidence of real conspiracies, for war or mass financial fraud.

Julian Assange, WikiLeaks Founder

(Source: facebook.com)

Cash-only For Visitors To The Vatican

Earlier this week, Italian authorities banned electronic payments – including credit and debit cards – as well as most ATM withdrawals in the tiny city-state.

In recent years the Vatican has come under scrutiny for tax evasion and money laundering , prompting the inquiry that resulted in this ban. The privately-held Vatican bank, Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), located inside Vatican City, has been at the centre of several financial scandals in recent years, and has been under investigation since 2010 for allegedly omitting data in wire transfers from an Italian account.

I’m not a person who feels very friendly toward organized religion. I think people have been brainwashed through the centuries. The churches, particularly the Catholic Church, are patriarchal organizations that have been invested with power for the sake of the people in power, who happen to be men. It breeds corruption. I found going to church every Sunday and on holy days an exercise in extreme boredom… .

I’ve never felt that anyone who stands up and says ‘Look, I have the answers’ has the answers…

How can people still be superstitious, still believe in nonsense and astrology and grotesque demonic religions of every kind, every fundamentalist religion crowding us on all sides?

 Joyce Carol Oates (1938-), interview, Playboy Magazine, November 1993 (Cited in Who’s Who in Hell by Warren Allen Smith)

underthemountainbunker:

…
DARRELL ISSA (WHO BANNED A WOMAN FROM SPEAKING AT HIS ALL-MALE CONTRACEPTION PANEL) calls Obama Admin the ‘most corrupt government’ in history.  Speaking to Bloomberg on Tuesday, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) said: “But again, we’re very busy in Washington with a corrupt government, with a government that I said a year ago, because of the money, because of the TARP and stimulus funds, was going to be the most corrupt government in history, and it is proving to be that.” In spite of Issa’s allegations, he only cited two specific scandals. According to journalist Haynes Johnson, the “most corrupt” label actually belongs to the administration of President Ronald Reagan. Plagued by dozens of scandals like selling weapons to Iran, rigging federal grants, the savings and loan crisis and other assorted political skullduggery, it all ended with 138 officials having been investigated, indicted or convicted — the most of any U.S. presidency, ever. – The Raw Story

Oh look, republicans accusing people of stuff that they, themselves, are guilty of. Weird.

underthemountainbunker:

DARRELL ISSA (WHO BANNED A WOMAN FROM SPEAKING AT HIS ALL-MALE CONTRACEPTION PANEL) calls Obama Admin the ‘most corrupt government’ in history.  Speaking to Bloomberg on Tuesday, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) said: “But again, we’re very busy in Washington with a corrupt government, with a government that I said a year ago, because of the money, because of the TARP and stimulus funds, was going to be the most corrupt government in history, and it is proving to be that.” In spite of Issa’s allegations, he only cited two specific scandals. According to journalist Haynes Johnson, the “most corrupt” label actually belongs to the administration of President Ronald Reagan. Plagued by dozens of scandals like selling weapons to Iran, rigging federal grants, the savings and loan crisis and other assorted political skullduggery, it all ended with 138 officials having been investigated, indicted or convicted — the most of any U.S. presidency, ever. – The Raw Story

Oh look, republicans accusing people of stuff that they, themselves, are guilty of. Weird.

After Its Subsidiary Bribed Mexican Officials, Wal-Mart Lobbies To Weaken Anti-Bribery Laws

A blockbuster New York Times story published this weekend details how the Mexican subsidiary of retail giant Wal-Mart paid $24 million in bribes to Mexican officials — and subsequently top Wal-Mart officials allegedly decided to cover up these offenses.

The details of Wal-Mart’s complicity in bribery are shocking, but there is one important element that the Times did not report.

While Wal-Mart’s largest subsidiary spent millions of dollars systematically bribing Mexican officials, the company back home has been working, through big business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, to weaken the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which renders it illegal for corporations to bribe officials in foreign countries.

The only ethic in big business is to increase profit margins.

State governments have long been accused of backroom dealing, cozy relationships with moneyed lobbyists, and disconnection from ordinary citizens. A new study suggests those accusations barely scratch the surface.

abaldwin360:

The study, issued Monday by a consortium led by the Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan watchdog group, found that most states shy away from public scrutiny, fail to enact or enforce ethics laws, and allow corporations and the wealthy a dominant voice in elections and policy decisions. The study gave virtually every state a mediocre to poor grade on a wide range of government conduct, including ethics enforcement, transparency, auditing and campaign finance reform. No state got an A; five received B’s, and the rest grades of C, D or F.

For all the reform talk by many governors and state lawmakers, very little has really changed in most capitals over the decades. Budgeting is still done behind closed doors, and spending decisions are revealed to the public at the last minute. Ethics panels do not bother to meet, or never enforce the conflict-of-interest laws that are on the books. Lobbyists have free access to elected officials, plying them with gifts or big campaign contributions. Open-records acts are shot through with loopholes.

And yet all the Republican presidential candidates think it would be a good idea to hand some of Washington’s most important programs to state governments, which so often combine corruptibility with incompetence.

read more

Emphasis added. 

How Corporations Corrupt Science At The Public’s Expense

talkingmonkeysinspace:

The Union of Concerned Scientists explains how they do it. To sum up:

Corporations suppress research. (”After pork producers contacted his supervisors, a USDA microbiologist was prevented from publishing research showing that emissions from industrial hog farms contained antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”)

They ghostwrite articles. (”A 2011 analysis found evidence of corporate authorship in research articles on a variety of drugs, including Avandia, Paxil, Tylenol, and Vioxx.”)

They create front organizations. (”The Center for Consumer Freedom is a nonprofit that targets dietary guidelines recommended by the FDA, other government agencies, medical associations, and consumer groups. It was founded with a $600,000 grant from Philip Morris, but has also received funding from Cargill, National Steak and Poultry, Monsanto, and Coca-Cola.”)

They corrupt advisory panels. (”A few weeks before a CDC advisory panel met to discuss federal lead standards, two scientists with ties to the lead industry were added to the panel. The committee voted against tightening standards.”)

POSTED FROM DISINFORMATION

(Source: higherthinkingprimate)

After coming into contact with a religious man I always feel I must wash my hands.

Friedrich Nietzsche (via quotinggenius)

Corruption in Iraq: 'Your son is being tortured. He will die if you don't pay' | The Guardian

theamericanbear:

Rafic is an officer in one of the most feared security units in Iraq, one of the many commando anti-terrorism units which, at the height of the civil war, had a reputation for being a government-backed death squad.

Rafic looks like a nightclub bouncer: he is tall with a shaven head, a roll-neck sweater and slacks. He shouts into his phone, waves his hands theatrically to passing neighbours and when he laughs he exposes big yellow teeth.

Fellow residents in Rafic’s Baghdad neighbourhood treat him with extreme caution. They know he has the power to detain their brothers or cousins for months if not years. But they also need him: he is their negotiator and mediator. They know that when someone is arrested they must go to him to seek help. He will arrange a visit, get a phone smuggled into the prison, reduce the level of torture and arrange for their release. Each service will come at a cost.

When we met him in December he was closing a $5,000 deal with the family of a detainee. He promised them he would send their son blankets and food and assured them the beating and torture would stop. The money was the first of many payments Rafic would receive before the man would be released.

“Corruption has reached the head,” said the officer who introduced us to Rafic and who worked with him. “From top to bottom, everyone is rotten. Rafic loves money. His religion and his sect is money, which is very useful because it means at least there is someone to negotiate with, not like in the days of sectarianism when we paid money and they still killed our sons.”

Read the whole thing →

But one thing overwhelming numbers of Americans do feel is that something is terribly wrong with their country, that its key institutions are controlled by an arrogant elite, that radical change of some kind is long since overdue. They’re right. It’s hard to imagine a political system so systematically corrupt - one where bribery, on every level, has not only been made legal, but soliciting and dispensing bribes has become the full-time occupation of every American politician. The outrage is appropriate.

abaldwin360:

thebluesader:

whiporwill:

GOP Mega-Donor Koch Brothers’ Company Tied To Global Criminal Misdeeds In Bombshell Article

A just-published bombshell article in the November issue of Bloomberg Markets magazine implicates Koch Industries, the company controlled by Republican mega-donors Charles and David Koch, in dozens of criminal acts around the globe over the past three decades.
According the report, company officials have been caught paying bribes to win contracts, trading with Iran in violation of the U.S. embargo, price-fixing, neglecting safety and ignoring environmental regulations.
The billionaire brothers are major donors to FreedomWorks, the Cato Institute, and dozens of other conservative think-tanks and nonprofits. They have also been tied to several independent expenditure groups supporting Republican candidates across the country — and last year The New Yorker exposed the family’s efforts to oppose President Barack Obama.
In a statement to Bloomberg Markets magazine, a spokesperson for the company acknowledged the past mistakes, but said the company has changed altered its practices and policies to avoid running afoul of the law.
Here are some of the allegations:
Koch Industries allegedly made improper payments to win business in 6 countries over 8 years (through 2008) — a potential violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The company described them as “activities constitute[ing] violations of criminal law.”
Koch Industries sold millions of dollars of oil refining equipment to Iran — even after President George W. Bush described the nation as a member of the ‘Axis of Evil.’ The company maintains these sales were legal at the time, and says it has since cut ties with the rogue nation.
Koch Industries allegedly stole 1.95 million barrels of crude oil pumped from federal lands by falsifying purchasing records, a Senate investigation found. Former workers testified to the “Koch Method,” described as trying “to cheat the producer out of crude oil,” my mis-measuring the oil.
The company allegedly ignored federal regulations for pipeline safety — resulting in the deaths of at least two people in a pipeline explosion in Lively, Texas in 1996.
The 6,800-word article is the result of an investigation involving 14 reporters spanning from Tehran to Detroit.


Kochs are about to get fuched.

Now, the question is, will our government actually do something about it, or sweep it all under the rug.

abaldwin360:

thebluesader:

whiporwill:

GOP Mega-Donor Koch Brothers’ Company Tied To Global Criminal Misdeeds In Bombshell Article

A just-published bombshell article in the November issue of Bloomberg Markets magazine implicates Koch Industries, the company controlled by Republican mega-donors Charles and David Koch, in dozens of criminal acts around the globe over the past three decades.

According the report, company officials have been caught paying bribes to win contracts, trading with Iran in violation of the U.S. embargo, price-fixing, neglecting safety and ignoring environmental regulations.

The billionaire brothers are major donors to FreedomWorks, the Cato Institute, and dozens of other conservative think-tanks and nonprofits. They have also been tied to several independent expenditure groups supporting Republican candidates across the country — and last year The New Yorker exposed the family’s efforts to oppose President Barack Obama.

In a statement to Bloomberg Markets magazine, a spokesperson for the company acknowledged the past mistakes, but said the company has changed altered its practices and policies to avoid running afoul of the law.

Here are some of the allegations:

  • Koch Industries allegedly made improper payments to win business in 6 countries over 8 years (through 2008) — a potential violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The company described them as “activities constitute[ing] violations of criminal law.”
  • Koch Industries sold millions of dollars of oil refining equipment to Iran — even after President George W. Bush described the nation as a member of the ‘Axis of Evil.’ The company maintains these sales were legal at the time, and says it has since cut ties with the rogue nation.
  • Koch Industries allegedly stole 1.95 million barrels of crude oil pumped from federal lands by falsifying purchasing records, a Senate investigation found. Former workers testified to the “Koch Method,” described as trying “to cheat the producer out of crude oil,” my mis-measuring the oil.

The company allegedly ignored federal regulations for pipeline safety — resulting in the deaths of at least two people in a pipeline explosion in Lively, Texas in 1996.

The 6,800-word article is the result of an investigation involving 14 reporters spanning from Tehran to Detroit.

Kochs are about to get fuched.

Now, the question is, will our government actually do something about it, or sweep it all under the rug.

Mitt Romney Says When Unions Donate Money It’s ‘A Form Of Corruption’

cognitivedissonance:

It’s only because they’re not corporations, and corporations are people. When corporations love each other very much, they can bundle their money and make SuperPACs of DOOM!

Of course, when the people band together to fight corporate influence and exploitation, that’s wrong. When their organization chooses to donate to a political cause or candidate, that’s corrupt. Yeah, totally makes sense.

People organizing = unpatriotic, corrupt union
Businesses organizing = US Chamber of Commerce. 

The Pentagon is not just incompetent. It is corrupt. In November 2009 the Pentagon’s Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA), the federal watchdog responsible for auditing oversight of military contractors, raised the question of criminal wrongdoing when it found that the audits that did occur were riddled with serious breaches of auditor independence. One Pentagon auditor admitted he did not perform detailed tests because, “The contractor would not appreciate it.” Why would the Pentagon allow its contractors to get away with fraud? To answer that question we need to understand the incestuous relationship between the Pentagon and its contractors that has been going on for years, and is getting worse. From 2004 to 2008, 80 percent of retiring three and four star officers went to work as consultants or defense industry executives. Thirty-four out of 39 three- and four-star generals and admirals who retired in 2007 are now working in defense industry roles — nearly 90 percent. Generals are recruited for private sector jobs well before they retire. Once employed by the military contractor the general maintains a Pentagon advisory role.