The Afghanistan Papers

“What did we get for this $1 trillion effort? Was it worth $1 trillion?” Jeffrey Eggers, a retired Navy SEAL and White House staffer for Bush and Obama, told government interviewers. He added, “After the killing of Osama bin Laden, I said that Osama was probably laughing in his watery grave considering how much we have spent on Afghanistan.”

THE WASHINGTON POST – Confidential documents reveal U.S. officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan
On the Media – The “Pentagon Papers” Of Our Time – December 11, 2019

I had hopes, when Bush II went into Afghanistan, that he would keep his eye on the ball of catching and punishing those responsible for the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001. It didn’t even take a year for me to realize that he and his administration were not up to the task. Iraq became the thing he was obsessed with instead of getting the job that he had started done properly.

What I didn’t know was how complicit President Obama was in covering up the failures in Afghanistan. At least he managed to finish the job Bush II started. If only he could have gotten us out of Afghanistan, too. Attempting to occupy Afghanistan was what did in the USSR. It looks to destroy the United States, too.

Bullshit is Still Bullshit

June 2017. Cast your mind back all those eons ago, when the firehouse of daily outrage had been turned on long enough for everyone trying to drink from it had started to drown. This is where I was,

RAnt(hony)-ings

As for the content of that article, I’ll freely admit to just dumping a bunch of comments that I had made on the various subjects that had emerged over the course of six months as I tried in vain to keep track of all the crap that spewed from the White House under the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) I wanted to do a thorough job of cataloging every single outrage that flew past me as I consumed the daily news, but even I had started to drown at that point.

There was too much. Too much lying by Trump. Too much pain caused by Trump. Too much of too many people running down blind alleys trying to address some bullshit that had emerged from Trump’s ass and splashed across the front pages of every website on the internet. There was no way to keep track of it all.

…And that was the point. That was the plan, if the OHM can be said to have a plan. Keep the outrage going for long enough for him to get re-elected on the same outrage from 2016 that got him elected the first time. That is why he has never stopped campaigning. If he stopped, people who supported him might have time to think about what he had made them all do, and that wouldn’t help him in any way.

So I wrote Bullshit is Bullshit and then altered my news consumption in such a way as to eliminate all news that began with the phrase “president Trump said”…and I did this purposefully, since everything he says is designed to disguise and distract. I blocked his Twitter account. I blocked his son’s Twitter account. What they say has no meaning, and so listening to what they say is to engage in self-destructive behavior.

I started actively blocking his voice. Hearing his voice on anything still causes me to stop whatever it is I am watching or listening to, and skipping forward until the hated noise stops. I refused to listen to arguments that included anything he said. At least, I refused to listen as far as is possible in this Orange-tinted sewer that is today’s America.

That is where I’ve been since shortly after the OHM’s election. Biding my time. Waiting for the day that the rest of the country woke the fuck up. The first glint of dawning understanding appeared after the 2018 midterm elections revealed that the electorate was far more aware of what was going on than the news media had led us all to believe. Which was good news.

Then a month ago the new congress finally understood that they would have to impeach the OHM, just like I knew they would have to do when the 2016 election rendered a verdict that Trump would be president. It was just a matter of time. It would have been nice had the Republicans not been so venal as to think that their president was better than anyone else’s president would be, even another one of their own that wasn’t stealing from the American people hand over foot, and taking bribes from foreign governments to boot, they were quite happy to let the theft go on and pretend that the clueless rubes that put the OHM in the White House would be enough of a voice to keep them in power.

So 2018 taught them the lesson that they could be trounced by a dedicated opposition. Liberal was no longer a dirty word. Conservative was becoming a dirty word thanks to Trump (finally) and now the Democratic majority in the house had the numbers to impeach the president. But they fumbled around with reasons to impeach, as if there wasn’t blatant evidence against the president just by his being Donald Trump, the fraud. And then Trump, being Trump, handed them the perfect reasons to impeach him by first being caught asking for bribes on the one hand, and then refusing to cooperate with congress when they tried to investigate his behavior on the other hand.

You see, boys and girls, refusing to respond to a subpoena is itself a crime. Now, you can argue about jurisdiction and privilege, but you have to go to court to do that, and that would have been admitting that the president wasn’t a king in Trump’s eyes. So, he committed the same acts that got every president before him impeached by trying to cover up his crimes and claim he didn’t have to explain his behavior. He is dead-to-rights guilty of the high crimes and misdemeanors that he has been accused of, as well as many others that remain unwritten.

…but still the bullshit continues. Not just from him, but from everyone around him that feels obliged to cover for his indiscretions. I have no idea why they do this. He’d throw every one of them under the bus if it meant his cowardly ass didn’t have to go to jail for his many crimes.

I’ve been listening to several podcasts (some of them are mentioned here) that deal with the impeachment of Donald J. Trump. Most of them just deal with the facts, but one in particular seems determined to pretend that there is a balance to be struck between the bullshit spewing from Trump and his yes-men, and the truth. The first time that Brian Lehrer invited one of Trump’s yesmen on the show I had to delete it unlistened to because the bullshit was flying fast and furious every time the guy opened his mouth.

Twitter

Was my response on Twitter. Then Brian Lehrer invites the same guy back again a few weeks later, as if the guest was worth talking to a second time. The bullshitter calls for more witnesses, as if there wasn’t a move to have more witnesses speak before the House committees, and then Trump blocked them from speaking. Which he is being impeached for, now.

Listening to the constitutional scholars speaking about Trump’s crimes later that same week, I found myself agreeing with the guest who was invited by the Republicans. Which was quite shocking. I don’t know what the hurry is. Why do we have to have this all done by the end of the year? Republicans were happy to pretend nothing was worth worrying about for two years while Trump stole the nation blind and Moscow Mitch shoehorned every judicial nominee he stole from Barack Obama through an otherwise catatonic Senate. Republicans were happy to talk about #Benghazi for three years. What’s the rush? I say we keep the impeachment hearings going until November 3rd, 2020. I suggest they hold hearings on election day, even. Draw it out. Reveal the crimes of all of Trump’s yes-men as well as all of his 40 years of financial and real estate crimes.

Paint it all in glorious technicolor detail, for all the world to see. The damage has been done already, anyway. No one will trust the United States again. Not for a generation.

The Good Place

StitcherEzra Klein – The moral philosophy of The Good Place – Dec 10, 2019

After creating and running Parks and Recreation and writing for The Office, Michael Schur decided he wanted to create a sitcom about one of the most fundamental questions of human existence: What does it mean to be a good person? That’s how The Good Place was born.

Soon into the show’s writing, Schur realized he was in way over his head. The question of human morality is one of the most complicated and hotly contested subjects of all time. He needed someone to help him out. So, he recruited Pamela Hieronymi, a professor at UCLA specializing in the subjects of moral responsibility, psychology, and free will, to join the show as a “consulting philosopher” — surely a first in sitcom history.

I wanted to bring Shur and Hieronymi onto the show because The Good Place should not exist. Moral philosophy is traditionally the stuff of obscure academic journals and undergraduate seminars, not popular television. Yet, three-and-a-half seasons on, The Good Place is not only one of the funniest sitcoms on TV, it has popularized academic philosophy in an unprecedented fashion and put forward its own highly sophisticated moral vision.

This is a conversation about how and why The Good Place exists and what it reflects about The Odd Place in which we actually live. Unlike a lot of conversations about moral philosophy, this one is a lot of fun.

Ezra Klein – The moral philosophy of The Good Place – Dec 10, 2019

I mentioned the show here.

RAnt(hony)-ings

…so I thought I could at least mention it again in an article about it. I wish I had more to say on the subject than just watch the show. I’ve gone back and started watching Veronica Mars because of Kristen Bell‘s lead role in the show. That’s how much I like it.

Writers Write

I’m a slow worker and I think a steady worker. You know, so many writers don’t like to write. I think that is their chief complaint. They hate to write. They must, they do it under the compulsion that makes any artist what he is. But they really don’t enjoy sitting down and trying to turn a thought into a reasonable sentence. But I do. I like to write, and sometimes I’m afraid that I like it too much because, when I get into work I don’t want to leave it.

Harper Lee

Her final trial and associated literary work were never finished, as is documented in the book Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep a story described in this episode of Criminal,

StitcherCriminal Episode 127: The Reverend

In the eyes of those who anxiously seek perfection, a work is never truly completed—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned; and this abandonment, of the book to the fire or to the public, whether due to weariness or to a need to deliver it for publication, is a sort of accident, comparable to the letting-go of an idea that has become so tiring or annoying that one has lost all interest in it.

Paul Valéry

Existence

What is the meaning of life? You assign your own meaning, there really isn’t any mystery there. If you aren’t happy with what your life will end up meaning, only you can change that, and you don’t have limitless amounts of time to do that in. Get to it, Man!

The Meaning of Life with Martin Hägglund by Why Is This Happening? with Chris Hayes

Part of what’s so moving when someone commits to you for life is precisely that you know that this person doesn’t have eternity to lead their lives and they’re making you a priority. You can only do that if you understand that you have limited time.

Martin Hägglund – This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom

I have no qualms about my own death and probable ending of existence in any form beyond not wanting my death to happen anytime soon. I do carry a fair portion of caution with me everywhere I go. However, the universe existed before I was born and it will continue to exist after I’m gone. The universe does not need me, and anyone who is bothered by that probably needs to be talking to a therapist.

The only thing that bothers me about passing from existence is dying without knowing why the universe exists at all. It is a question that is not likely ever to be answered. The universe is for all intents and purposes its own reason to exist. It is, just like I am.

Carl Sagan’s Cosmos (1980)

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.