Religion Does Not Improve Your Mental Health

The fact that this research keeps being revisited on the media is just about to drive me crazy. What research? The finding that going to church correlates with less depression. This finding is so overblown in importance that I almost hesitate to talk about it here simply because I don’t want to spread misinformation about the subject. But really, someone should say something to debunk the bullshit.

To be specific; just getting out of your home or workplace and talking to different people has been shown to reduce depression. Just spending less time alone has been shown to produce similar results. There is no mystery here. Religion does not magically make you a happier, more stable person. Talking to new people does. Now, can we please stop having this insane argument?

Vindman vs. Sondland

I put a lot more stock in the testimony of career military officers like Colonel Vindman than I do in some rich real estate developer who bought his way into a diplomatic position.

U.S. Representative Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY18)
Impeachment: A Daily Podcast – ‘It’s as Bad as You Think,’ Says Congressman Inside Impeachment Hearings – October 30, 2019

…or one that bought his way into the presidency.

Who is Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman? Well, here’s a few things to know. He works at the White House as a Ukraine expert on the National Security Council. He heard the call on July 25 between President Trump and President Zelenskiy of Ukraine. He’s active-duty Army. And today he has testified in the impeachment inquiry underway on Capitol Hill.

NPR, Who is Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman?

The twins, Alexander and Yevgeny Vindman, both ended up working for the White House under President Trump. Both Vindmans served in the U.S. Army, and both rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel. Each now works for the National Security Council.

Theirs is, in the abstract, the quintessential American story. Migrants who arrived from the former Soviet Union at age 3 who’ve since dedicated their lives to serving their new country. The Vindmans’ experience is a manifestation of the poem at the base of the statue: They are part of the impoverished, huddled masses seeking the chance to breathe free. They did so, deeply.

The Washington Post, The fundamentally un-American attacks on Alexander Vindman

Four Questions for Your MD

Christer Mjåset|TEDxOslo 4 questions you should always ask your doctor

What we know from research is that one out of five of you, 20 percent, will change your opinion on what to do. And by doing that, you will not only have made your life a whole lot easier, and probably even better, but the whole health care sector will have benefited from your decision.

Presidential Tax Returns Revisited.

Back in 2016 I lamented that we didn’t have Trump’s taxes.

…and I predicted at that time that we would never see his tax returns if we waited for him to release them. I was right. I was right on many counts. This is not proof that I can read minds or predict the future. It is, however, a vindication of my assertion three years ago that I knew who Donald Trump was. That he was dirty and that he was never going to reveal that dirt willingly.

This week we learned that his businesses keep at least two sets of books. One set of books that they show to the government, and one set of books that they show to the banks. There is probably a third set of books out there somewhere that contains real numbers, but that set of books they don’t show to anybody. This isn’t rocket science, this is how you do business as a con artist.

TRUMP, INC. – Never-Before-Seen Trump Tax Documents Show Major Inconsistencies – Oct. 16, 2019

A dozen real estate professionals told ProPublica they saw no clear explanation for multiple inconsistencies in the documents. The discrepancies are “versions of fraud,” said Nancy Wallace, a professor of finance and real estate at the Haas School of Business at the University of California-Berkeley. “This kind of stuff is not OK.”

New York City’s property tax forms state that the person signing them “affirms the truth of the statements made” and that “false filings are subject to all applicable civil and criminal penalties.”

The punishments for lying to tax officials, or to lenders, can be significant, ranging from fines to criminal fraud charges. Two former Trump associates, Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort, are serving prison time for offenses that include falsifying tax and bank records, some of them related to real estate.

TRUMP, INC.

His tax returns will soon be a matter of public record, as they should be, given that his arguments for keeping them private are being laughed out of courtrooms across the country.

NYT – Trump Taxes: President Ordered to Turn Over Returns to Manhattan D.A.

Not to mention the lawful request made by the House of Representatives that has been illegally stymied by the White House.

NYT – House Files Lawsuit Seeking Disclosure of Trump Tax Returns

These issues will both be represented in points in the articles of impeachment that will be recommended against Donald J. Trump. Who else he takes down with him has yet to be determined.

Slaves?

Main deficiency of active people. Active men are usually lacking in higher activity-I mean individual activity. They are active as officials, businessmen, scholars, that is, as generic beings, but not as quite particular, single and unique men. In this respect they are lazy.

It is the misfortune of active men that their activity is almost always a bit irrational. For example, one must not inquire of the money-gathering banker what the purpose for his restless activity is: it is irrational. Active people roll like a stone, conforming to the stupidity of mechanics.

Today as always, men fall into two groups: slaves and free men. Whoever does not have two-thirds of his day for himself, is a slave, whatever he may be: a statesman, a businessman, an official, or a scholar.

Friedrich Nietzsche – Human, All Too Human
Section Five: Signs of Higher and Lower Culture #283

I’ll just quote a book title as the proper question in response to Nietzsche’s aphorism above. Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner? Like Adam Smith, Nietzsche is oblivious to the comforts that having others around, even others that he derides as lesser than himself, provides. If Friedrich Nietzsche or Adam Smith cooked and cleaned for themselves, they would be slaves, per Nietzsche. Slaves to their own needs. At least, in Adam Smith’s case, he would have ended up with a better idea of what economics was. If he had time to think about economics between the washing and the cooking, the hauling of water, etc. I wonder what that version of Wealth of Nations would have looked like?

Listening to the discussion of Nietzsche contained in Episode 11: Nietzsche’s Immoralism: What Is Ethics, Anyway? it’s easy to see the inspiration for much of Hitler and the Nazi party’s philosophy. How and why Hitler was so empowered by the German people to go out and achieve greatness for them. Never mind that Nietzsche would never have condoned the use of his ideas in this fashion. Ideas are like that. Once realized and expressed they are free to be used by anyone who happens upon them.

I need a certain level of comfort to be great.

Mark Linsenmayer

Abortion, Lead & Crime

My paper does not refute their conclusions. To the contrary, it actually reaffirms them. I include their abortion measure in my analysis, and I find that the abortion effect is pretty much unchanged when one includes the lead effect. That the two effects are operating relatively independently, and that each one is of similar magnitude when you do or don’t account for the other. So what that means is that, from my perspective, both stories are true. And we can hold both of them kind of side by side. It doesn’t make sense to look for a single explanation for a decline in crime. There are lots of explanations.

Jessica Wolpaw Reyes

I’m glad that Freakonomics Radio went back and revisited this subject. I’ve been wanting to hear Levitt’s opinions on how the data has proven out over the last eighteen years. I had not expected that they would invite the lead study author (Jessica Reyes) to appear on the show and add her weight to the argument concerning why crime rates fell, and what to credit for this dramatic fall in crime.

StitcherAbortion and Crime, Revisited (Ep. 384)

Just a quick tangent here. I have to wonder about Stitcher just as I wonder about most podcast apps and their approach to embedded content. I have to construct the embed for myself in order to get the podcast to play, and even then the embed lacks most of the information that could be provided. Contrast this embed with the embed for Today Explained in this article. That embed showed up just by pasting the URL for the episode directly into WordPress. Like the articles of my own that I post below, the content simply appears.

I, as a firstborn child, born before the legal availability of abortion, a child now turned mature adult. I have no doubt as to the causal nature between wantedness and a tendency towards criminal behavior. I know what my teenage years were like. No, I won’t discuss that subject here. Not now, anyway.

I can say that my experiences have lead me to echo Levitt’s sentiment that I quote below, with my own children. I have striven always to make them feel loved, no matter what they did at any given time in their childhood years. I love them. I wanted them, and I want them to know that. No matter what secret feelings I harbor about my mother and what choices she would have made, had she been allowed to make them, I do my best not allow these feelings to color my dealings with my own children or anyone else around me. If anyone should be terrified that they might have been aborted before birth, that person is me. I would have preferred never to have existed than to have been an unwanted burden on anybody. I can also state that with certainty.

…if there’s one thing that comes out of our research, it is the idea that unwantedness is super-powerful. And it’s affected me as a father in the sense that when I first was having kids, I didn’t feel maybe so obligated to make children feel loved. And it’s interesting that that now as I go through a second round of kids, I am not trying to teach my kids very much. I’m just trying to make them feel incredibly loved. And it seems to me that that’s a pretty good premise for young kids.

Steve Levitt

Ends not Means

In the kingdom of ends everything has either value or dignity. Whatever has a value can be replaced by something else which is equivalent; whatever, on the other hand, is above all value, and therefore admits of no equivalent, has a dignity.

Immanuel Kant

I’ve been slowly (very slowly) going through the back episodes of A Partially Examined Life. I see no point in starting anything discussing philosophy anywhere except at the beginning, and since I didn’t find the podcast until now, I’m stuck going back through ten years of episodes. Why do I have to start at a beginning? All conversation, all understanding, has a beginning, a middle, and an end. A conversation about philosophy cannot be understood by dropping into the middle. Also, you can’t understand where someone is coming from on a particular subject without listening to them talk endlessly about that subject.

…and these guys can go on and on about philosophy. (I liked Bertrand Russell’s A History of Western Philosophy. Did he do Kant justice? I have no idea. I know Rand didn’t.) I have yet to get bored while listening.

Explaining Impeachment

Everybody and their dog is now talking about impeachment. It’s about fucking time. Where were they three years ago? Donald Trump was impeachable from the day he lied taking his oath, and we knew he was lying when he did it. We simply lacked the political will to do the work required to set the misfire of the 2016 election aside back when it would have made a real difference.

…and the 2016 election was a misfire. The Electoral College should never have been required to vote for Donald Trump in the first place. The political gerrymandering that has made the Electoral College into the dysfunctional thing it is today should disqualify relying on the Electoral College to render a verdict on anything in the first place, never mind an election that hinged on a fraction of a percentage point in three minor US states instead of the overwhelming majority of Americans who voted for sanity instead of insanity. That’s why anyone who runs around screaming about the calamity of the Trump presidency is a #MAGA Nimrod. All of this has happened before and it will happen again.

But hey, Nancy Pelosi is on board with impeachment, so everyone thinks they have to talk about it now. Now that the bus of the US federal government is on fire, plummeting downwards at a predictable rate of V = gt, now they want to apply the brakes. Well that’s fine. I’ll have another bottle of spirits over here in the meantime. If you don’t mind.

Exhibit A

The NPR Politics Podcast – Impeachment Then & Now: Trump Vs. Nixon & Clinton – October 10, 2019

The comparative difference between Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton & Donald Trump is easy to discern. Donald Trump is a fraud, plain and simple. He has sold his Stormtrumpers (#MAGA) a bill of goods that he could never deliver, and had no intention of delivering. This is his standard of practice. Donald Trump was a fraud way, way back. All the way back to the 1970’s & 80’s when he cheated on his taxes stealing the wealth of his father’s company. When he built his first building. When he bought out and then bankrupted his casinos. He is still a fraud, a tax cheat and a money launderer. All of this will come out, eventually.

All the other guys who have faced impeachment had some good thing they hoped to achieve in the public service. The same cannot be said of Trump.

Exhibit B

Politics Podcast: How Impeachment Is Supposed To Work (Editor’s note: They added the video to the page! Nice!)

This episode of the 538 Politics podcast is the best explainer I’ve run across on the subject of impeachment. Kate Shaw even picks up on what the guest on Today Explained missed (Exhibit C) She goes point by point through the process as it will most likely progress. Since we only have three cases of presidential impeachment to measure with, it will be hard to say exactly how this will manifest itself. Stay tuned.

Unfortunately for the people who don’t (or won’t) listen to podcasts, there isn’t a transcript for 538 podcasts, and therefore no quick reference for those who just want to get to the facts of the subject directly. You’ll just have to listen. (Editor’s note: Now you can watch, too. I haven’t seen the video which isn’t available on the podcast feed. Yet)

Exhibit C

Unlike the Vox-produced Today Explained.

Which not only adds itself into WordPress articles as a playable embed, but you can find the transcript right in the embedded interface. Given what this episode is, a light brush over the subject of where the Trump impeachment goes from where we are now, it’s not too bad. If you understand the subject.

What did Laura McGann miss? The entirety of Scenario 9 is no mystery. Impeached officials, once successfully removed from office, can be barred from serving in public office again. Subject to a simple majority vote of the Senate. It’s right there in the rules. Or Wikipedia.

Exhibit D

The Daily from the New York Times is more of a cautionary tale. The Times, in its usual attempts to prove that they aren’t liberal by literally (or audibly) embracing the most insane rantings of whichever pundit they choose to give publicity to, chose to give publicity to the guy who brought us Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, et all. His name is Mike Davis.

NYT The Daily 10/10/2019

…everybody told us that he was sort of an unabashed advocate for Judge Kavanaugh and really sort of the torch-carrier politically through this process. And what he did in terms of not just managing the technicalities of the Senate investigation and the Senate process, but also waging this sort of cultural war for conservatives that was crystallized during the Kavanaugh confirmation process and is now being deployed as a defense against impeachment.

Kate Kelly, The Daily

The fact that he was sort of an unabashed advocate for Judge Kavanaugh should have been the first reason not to give the guy a microphone and several uninterrupted minutes to rant. Just flat out don’t do that. There are far, far too many people who will not understand how to dissect his rantings with a skeptical eye. Mike Davis is a poster child for motivated numeracy if not the face on the poster advertising the shortfalls of relying on the reasoning of people who cannot divorce themselves from the things that they believe.

What do I mean by that? If everything Trump is accused of doing was something Obama had been accused of doing how would Mike Davis react? If asked that question on the podcast he would prevaricate. He might even understand the hypocrisy of saying that it would be different for Obama and thereby say “it’s no big deal” but that would be a lie.

We know what would have happened because we lived through eight years of outrage directed at what could objectively be determined to be the best president since Dwight D. Eisenhower (the tan suit, anybody?) If Dwight D. Eisenhower’s portrait is on display anywhere in Washington D.C., the place in the same building that would be appropriate for Donald Trump’s portrait is wherever the garbage is stored before being hauled to the landfill. Which is where Donald Trump’s portrait should go after that. The landfill. With the rest of the garbage.

The New York Times illustrates again exactly why I don’t spend money supporting their reporting. If I had money to support investigative journalism these days I’d have to give it to Vanity Fair, Propublica, The Guardian or The Atlantic. It is a sad day for journalism today, folks.

Impeachment is dangerous. And that danger – that very danger right there, the very nature of it — is why it must be done. And it is in the crucible of crisis, facing the greatest of dangers, when true, authentic greatness is forged.

Stonekettle Station

Starting the second week in October, 2019, there are now three podcasts that I’ve found that deal specifically with the subject of impeachment and only that subject. The first one is Impeachment, Explained from the same people who bring you the podcast Today, Explained linked above. This is the first episode. It will come out weekly on Spotify.

The 4 words that will decide impeachment

Then there is the daily podcast from WNYC, called simply Impeachment. I like titles that just say what they are about. This podcast is compiled from content that is aired on the Brian Lehrer show.

Impeachment – ‘A Perfect Slice of Emolument Pie’ – October 21, 2019

…was the episode that followed up the voicemail I left two days previously asking why Trump hasn’t been impeached already based on his emoluments violations. I’m sure I’m not the only one asking that question. The Trump Doral debacle is, as the title suggests, a perfect slice of the subject.

The third podcast is Article II from MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki. Of the three, this one is the one I have the least hope for. I’m not sure why, it just seems that MSNBC manages to shoot themselves in the foot about every other time they try to do something. Since Bagman was such a hit and The Oath is making waves, I’m betting that Article II is doomed to failure. But I’ll give it a few weeks to see what Steve manages to pull out of the hat.

Article II: Inside Impeachment – Star Witness

In testimony on Tuesday, Bill Taylor, the top US diplomat in Ukraine, described what he saw as a high-stakes decision by President Trump to withhold $391 million in aid to Ukraine. Dan De Luce, national security and global affairs reporter for the NBC News investigative unit, recounts Taylor’s opening statement and whether it support the theory of a “quid pro quo.” 

Then Wednesday the Republicans in the House of Representatives proved themselves unfit for office by staging a juvenile stunt during the hearings. Such is life in the US in 2019. I sent #ImeachTrump? #ExpelMcConnell! to the show as a comment.

#MAGA Nimrods

I mean, Jesus Christ, how did nobody consider that one day, some insane demagogue might incite a populist rebellion and threaten to shit on our country? How did no one think to create some kind of safeguard?

OH WAIT. I DID. IN FUCKING 1787.

Remember that Constitution you guys all say you loooove so much? Yeah, I wrote that shit. All of it. Even though for some reason you assholes keep thinking it was Jefferson. And because I’m way smarter than all of you, I wrote in a little something I call the Electoral College.

ARTICLE II SECTION 1, NIMRODS. Maybe if you had paid attention in civics class instead of fantasizing about having seven seconds in heaven with Joey Leibowitz during free period you would know about it. But here, let me break it down for you.

James fucking Madison

An article on the Yale Record with the byline of A. Chase from 2016. Can’t say they don’t have a sense of humor. Humor that is still as relevant four years later. Imagine what it would have been like to have an Electoral College that wasn’t required by law to vote for the guy who threatened to incite a populist rebellion and threaten to shit on our country? The guy who is in the process of doing it? Maybe we should look to that other part of the Constitution that James fucking Madison wrote.

The House of Representatives shall choose their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.

Article I, Section 2, Clause 5

The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two-thirds of the Members present.

Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States; but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.

Article I, Section 3, Clauses 6 and 7

The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

Article 2 Section 4

A handy guide to give to the Orange Hate-Monkey so that he can follow along as the procedure takes place.