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; natural wonders and supernatural blunders.

"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

 

The modern American right, and much of the alleged center, is obsessed with the notion that low tax rates at the top are essential to growth…

Yet in the 1950s incomes in the top bracket faced a marginal tax rate of 91, that’s right, 91 percent, while taxes on corporate profits were twice as large, relative to national income, as in recent years. The best estimates suggest that circa 1960 the top 0.01 percent of Americans paid an effective federal tax rate of more than 70 percent, twice what they pay today.

Nor were high taxes the only burden wealthy businessmen had to bear. They also faced a labor force with a degree of bargaining power hard to imagine today. In 1955 roughly a third of American workers were union members. In the biggest companies, management and labor bargained as equals, so much so that it was common to talk about corporations serving an array of “stakeholders” as opposed to merely serving stockholders…

[E]conomic justice and economic growth aren’t incompatible. America in the 1950s made the rich pay their fair share; it gave workers the power to bargain for decent wages and benefits; yet contrary to right-wing propaganda then and now, it prospered. And we can do that again.

The Congressional scholars Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein have been making waves with a new book acknowledging a truth that, until now, was unmentionable in polite circles. They say our political dysfunction is largely because of the transformation of the Republican Party into an extremist force that is “dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.” You can’t get cooperation to serve the national interest when one side of the divide sees no distinction between the national interest and its own partisan triumph.

So how did that happen? For the past century, political polarization has closely tracked income inequality, and there’s every reason to believe that the relationship is causal. Specifically, money buys power, and the increasing wealth of a tiny minority has effectively bought the allegiance of one of our two major political parties, in the process destroying any prospect for cooperation.

And the takeover of half our political spectrum by the 0.01 percent is, I’d argue, also responsible for the degradation of our economic discourse, which has made any sensible discussion of what we should be doing impossible.

Our growth is generally dependent upon our ability to obtain new contracts to develop and manage new correctional and detention facilities… . The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction and sentencing practices or through the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by our criminal laws. For instance, any changes with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them.

Corrections Corporation of America, the largest private prison operator in America, statement to stockholders, 2005.

In other words: ending the Drug War and eliminating federal mandatory minimum sentences is bad for business. Adam Gopnik notes that CCA “spends millions lobbying legislators.” presumably, inter alia, to keep harsh sentencing laws on the books. Then he nails it:

Brecht could hardly have imagined such a document: a capitalist enterprise that feeds on the misery of man trying as hard as it can to be sure that nothing is done to decrease that misery.

source

(via letterstomycountry)

BARF. Seriously, the privatization of prisons makes me feel sick to my stomach.

(via mindbabies)

The lives of people who are ruined over this? Money is more important, right?

And shit won’t be done about it because it’s not something the affects people’s day to day lives enough for them to get pissed about it.

(via abaldwin360)

Welcome to the plutarchy.

(via ignatius-m)

Silly me, I always assumed that “reducing demand for correctional facilities” was the goal! God, I’m so naive.

The way to understand [the Right’s reaction to Occupy Wall Street] is to realize that it’s part of a broader syndrome, in which wealthy Americans who benefit hugely from a system rigged in their favor react with hysteria to anyone who points out just how rigged the system is…

Wall Street’s Masters of the Universe realize, deep down, how morally indefensible their position is. They’re not John Galt; they’re not even Steve Jobs. They’re people who got rich by peddling complex financial schemes that, far from delivering clear benefits to the American people, helped push us into a crisis whose aftereffects continue to blight the lives of tens of millions of their fellow citizens.

Yet they have paid no price. Their institutions were bailed out by taxpayers, with few strings attached. They continue to benefit from explicit and implicit federal guarantees — basically, they’re still in a game of heads they win, tails taxpayers lose. And they benefit from tax loopholes that in many cases have people with multimillion-dollar incomes paying lower rates than middle-class families.

This special treatment can’t bear close scrutiny — and therefore, as they see it, there must be no close scrutiny. Anyone who points out the obvious, no matter how calmly and moderately, must be demonized and driven from the stage. In fact, the more reasonable and moderate a critic sounds, the more urgently he or she must be demonized, hence the frantic sliming of Elizabeth Warren.

So who’s really being un-American here? Not the protesters, who are simply trying to get their voices heard. No, the real extremists here are America’s oligarchs, who want to suppress any criticism of the sources of their wealth.

Paul Krugman, “Panic of the Plutocrats.” (via ryking)

Paul Krugman crystalizes the point perfectly.

underthemountainbunker:

…
For #OccupyWallStreet, an immodest proposal: forgive the debt of the 99%
So my immodest proposal is simply this: Individuals and  households in the bottom 99 percent who owe debt to any large financial  institution that received federal government support during and after  the 2008 crisis should see their debt forgiven. That would  certainly stimulate the economy, as most people would suddenly find  themselves with a great deal more money to spend on iPads (and food, and  clothing, and housing, and healthcare). The debt can be forgiven by  decree or if the government really wants to it can step in to pay it  itself; I don’t much care either way. (Though it’d be nice to see it  just wiped off the books, to enrage the banks.)
Let’s wipe the debt of the 99 percent off the books, tell the financial sector to eat it, and get on with our lives.
— Alex Pareene | A proposed demand for Occupy Wall Street
Would that be fair? Sure it would.

REMEMBER AFTER 9-11 WHEN BUSH TOLD US TO GO SHOPPING, to “enjoy life, the way we want it to be enjoyed“. Who do you suppose that benefited, exactly? He and his rich friends knew exactly what they were doing:
Median wages grew too little over the past  30 years to drive the kind of spending necessary to sustain the  consumer economy. Instead, increasingly exotic forms of credit filled  the gap, as the wealthy offered the middle class alluring credit card  deals and variable-interest subprime loans. This allowed rich investors  to keep making money and everyone else to feel like they were keeping  up—until the whole system imploded. -– Study: Income Inequality Kills Economic Growth

NOW THIS:

Using 2007 figures, sociologist  William Domhoff points out that the top one percent have five percent of  the nation’s personal debt while the bottom 90 percent have 73 percent  of total debt. — The Top 5 Facts You Should Know About The Wealthiest One Percent Of Americans


I’m inclined to agree with this idea. I know anyone with a conservative bone in their body probably does a spit-take to that, but I hear me out.. The banks got their bailout from US. They should be out of business all together by the rules of the free market! I feel like we paid them the money we owed them, at least the equivalent of the difference between what our houses are worth and what we owe them. They could start by lowering the balance on all upsidedown mortgages to the current value of the house. And then, the student debt would be next, this is where I think the government should pay. Forgiving most or all student debt would be a huge economic stimulus. 

If the banks had to go in front of The Shark Tank or Dragons Den (If you watch BBC) or another group of venture capitalists and say “look, we are about to loose everything, we need a loan to save our business and you are our only hope”, those VCs would own their fucking asses, outright. The terms of that bailout would resemble indentured servitude. The VCs would get a cut of everything the bank brought in, forever. Instead, they walk away with balanced books and looking to collect from us, the very people who balanced the books for them, all of the same debt that they were relieved of already, plus penalties.

underthemountainbunker:

For #OccupyWallStreet, an immodest proposal: forgive the debt of the 99%

So my immodest proposal is simply this: Individuals and households in the bottom 99 percent who owe debt to any large financial institution that received federal government support during and after the 2008 crisis should see their debt forgiven. That would certainly stimulate the economy, as most people would suddenly find themselves with a great deal more money to spend on iPads (and food, and clothing, and housing, and healthcare). The debt can be forgiven by decree or if the government really wants to it can step in to pay it itself; I don’t much care either way. (Though it’d be nice to see it just wiped off the books, to enrage the banks.)

Let’s wipe the debt of the 99 percent off the books, tell the financial sector to eat it, and get on with our lives.

Alex Pareene | A proposed demand for Occupy Wall Street

Would that be fair? Sure it would.

REMEMBER AFTER 9-11 WHEN BUSH TOLD US TO GO SHOPPING, to “enjoy life, the way we want it to be enjoyed“. Who do you suppose that benefited, exactly? He and his rich friends knew exactly what they were doing:

Median wages grew too little over the past 30 years to drive the kind of spending necessary to sustain the consumer economy. Instead, increasingly exotic forms of credit filled the gap, as the wealthy offered the middle class alluring credit card deals and variable-interest subprime loans. This allowed rich investors to keep making money and everyone else to feel like they were keeping up—until the whole system imploded. -Study: Income Inequality Kills Economic Growth

NOW THIS:

Using 2007 figures, sociologist William Domhoff points out that the top one percent have five percent of the nation’s personal debt while the bottom 90 percent have 73 percent of total debt. The Top 5 Facts You Should Know About The Wealthiest One Percent Of Americans

I’m inclined to agree with this idea. I know anyone with a conservative bone in their body probably does a spit-take to that, but I hear me out.. The banks got their bailout from US. They should be out of business all together by the rules of the free market! I feel like we paid them the money we owed them, at least the equivalent of the difference between what our houses are worth and what we owe them. They could start by lowering the balance on all upsidedown mortgages to the current value of the house. And then, the student debt would be next, this is where I think the government should pay. Forgiving most or all student debt would be a huge economic stimulus.

If the banks had to go in front of The Shark Tank or Dragons Den (If you watch BBC) or another group of venture capitalists and say “look, we are about to loose everything, we need a loan to save our business and you are our only hope”, those VCs would own their fucking asses, outright. The terms of that bailout would resemble indentured servitude. The VCs would get a cut of everything the bank brought in, forever. Instead, they walk away with balanced books and looking to collect from us, the very people who balanced the books for them, all of the same debt that they were relieved of already, plus penalties.

If you think through the logic of this, you’ll see that so long as power remains privately concentrated, everybody, everybody, has to be committed to one overriding goal: and that’s to make sure that the rich folk are happy—because unless they are, nobody else is going to get anything. So if you’re a homeless person sleeping in the streets of Manhattan, let’s say, your first concern must be that the guys in the mansions are happy—because if they’re happy, they’ll invest, and the economy will work, and things will function, and then maybe something will trickle down to you somewhere along the line. But if they’re not happy, everything’s going to grind to a halt, and you’re not even going to get anything trickling down. So if you’re a homeless person in the streets, your first concern is the happiness of the wealthy guys in the mansions and the fancy restaurants. Basically that’s a metaphor for the whole society.

Noam Chomsky, Understanding Power (via theworldofsleepers)

Sick of the media ignoring us? Let's flood CNN and tell them.

domestic-terrorism:

 Someone recently said that if even a dozen Tea Partiers took to the streets of Manhattan, there would be two reporters to every one protester. The difference? These kids are protesting against the banking cartels, instead of on their behalf.

Followers, take one minute and send CNN a news tip (at the link above) on the Occupy Wall Street protest. Don’t let the tea party get all the attention.

(Source: occupywallstreet)

They only call it class warfare when we decide to fight back. If we [don’t] fight back, we should just begin calling it economic genocide, because that’s precisely what it is.

Karl Frisch on Countdown with Keith Olbermann (via domestic-terrorism)

Labor Day Twitter Bomb

occupywallstreet:

On Labor day tweet @KeithOlbermann @TMorello @MMFlint @CornellWest @DylanRatigan

Tweet @ each of them individually tagged #occupywallst

Ask them for their help and support, basically for their voice. Be interesting, funny, and/or persuasive, stroke egos.

“End American plutocracy. Sept 17th #occupywallst. Lend us your voice Mike. @MMFlint

“This is the last Labor Day we celebrate in bad faith. #occupywallst needs your voice @KeithOlbermann”

If you don’t have a twitter, get one (or two actually) and do this. Between them, they have millions of followers, viewers, active supporters, and fans. Tweets seem stupid I know, but if they mean a few hundred or a few thousand more attendees, they could bring us to critical mass; we can begin the end of corporate rule-by-wealth. Time is becoming crucial. Please do this.

There is a fight going on in Washington over whether we should have a democracy that works for all of us, or a plutocracy that runs things for the benefit of the already-wealthy. Unable to change public opinion, the conservative Republicans are trying to force changes in who our government is for and who gets to have a say in how things are decided. These ideological conservatives say government “takes money out of the economy” by spending on education, infrastructure, health care, etc. for you and me and our small businesses and startups, and they want that money to instead go to the billionaires and large, multinational corporations that fund their campaigns. As you know, they already voted to eliminate Medicare, and voted for cuts in Social Security, education, infrastructure spending, and all the other things We, the People have decided to do for each other, so we know they are serious about this. They say if they can’t have a country that is run their way then we can’t have a country at all.

I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. Corporations have been enthroned, an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money-power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until the wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.

 Abraham Lincoln, more or less predicting the future. (via cognitivedissonance)

namelessgenxer:

Uh-huh. Wake me up when this becomes law.

Bernie’s heart in the right place, but JUST STOP IT with the Firebagger Fearmongering.

zeitgeistmovement:

 

Bernie Sanders: Congratulations Coburn

Listen to this man. He is the only politician I trust. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders  on Wednesday congratulated Sens. Tom Coburn, Mike Crapo and Saxby Chambliss on their very significant victory in negotiating a deficit-reduction plan that achieves their long-term goal of dismantling every major social program relevant to working families. The so-called Gang of Six plan that the Republican senators negotiated calls for massive cuts in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and virtually every program important to working families, the sick, the elderly, the children and the poor. “While I am sure that they did not get everything that they wanted, I think it’s fair to say they won about 80 percent to 90 percent of what they fought for,” Sanders said. “Despite President Obama’s campaign promise not to cut Social Security benefits, the Gang of Six plan, which he apparently embraced, calls for massive cuts in that vitally important program.”  

Hardest working man in congress. The only one who comes off to me as genuinely concerned about people instead of donors and spec interests.

(Source: socialuprooting)