Tuesday, December 27, 2016

On My Birthday Being The Day On Which Death Is One Full Year Closer

Everybody is going to be dead one day, just give them time ~ Neil Gaiman (dob 11/10/1960) an English author of short fiction, novels, comic books, graphic novels, audio theatre, and films.

So this past Sunday (Christmas) was the day on which I was born. On Facebook a sister-in-law wished me a "happy birthday". In response I wrote "I now refer to it as the day I am one full closer to death". This is a view I adopted a few years ago. The SIL replied that she thought this is a "dismal outlook".

Yes, anyone who knows me knows that is my general disposition. I am not an optimistic person. On the other hand, declaring that my outlook is dismal; that struck me as judgmental, and that the judgment was not good. That I SHOULDN'T have that outlook. But, while my reason is that I am a pessimist, there are people who have this view regarding death who aren't.

This I know because just that day I had listened to someone express such a thought. "I think it gives me this more palpable sensation with being alive" Julia Sweeney said, explaining why she LIKES to contemplate death.

Julia Sweeney is an atheist. Atheism makes no sense to me, and (as an atheist) Julia Sweeney's view on death makes no sense to me. If she had expressed similar thoughts AS A CATHOLIC, then I'd say that makes some sense to me. And I'd say I agree with some of what she said. Some of what she said in a conversation with Marc Maron on 11/24/2014.

I just fininshed listening to the audiobook version of Julia Sweeney's It it's not one thing, it's your mother and I decided to seek out other audios of hers. She has a few books, but most of her output takes the form of what's called "autobiographical monologues". I'd heard God Said Ha! years ago. There is another titled Letting Go of God and I thought, well, I don't want to PAY to hear someone tell religion is ridiculous and there is no God, but I'll listen. Maybe if I can buy the 2-CD set cheap. Really cheap. I obtained "God said Ha!" cheap by buying it along with some other items on eBay (and therefore the shipping cost per item was lesser, whereas if you buy a CD on Amazon, the shipping itself is 3.99 per item. More than I was willing to pay in total).

So, after looking around, I found it was not available cheaply enough. But I did find it on YouTube. So I listened. And yes, she points out the ridiculousness of Christianity (much of which I was already aware of). But do I want to be an atheist? No, I do not. I couldn't live as an atheist. The ridiculousness in the Bible exists because it was written by men. I do not believe in Biblical inerrancy.

In fact, listening to "Letting go of God", while it did not convince me to become an atheist, it did convince me (even moreso) that my view that the Bible is NOT inerrant is correct. But that isn't a reason for me to leave the Christian faith. Julia Sweeney would have good reason to leave the Catholic faith, one of the more silly versions of Christianity, IMO. Because Catholics believe there exists an infallible representative of God here on earth.

And that leaders of the Catholic church can rewrite laws governing how Catholics live their lives. And frequently these laws don't have anything to do with what is in the Bible. For example, some years ago I heard that they got together and decided that Limbo no longer exists. Previously Catholics were taught that if a baby dies before being baptized that the baby's soul goes to Limbo. Now? I guess it just never existed. Although it is a totally made up concept to begin with.

My point is that Catholic nonsense gave Sweeney good reason to leave the Catholic faith. That would have been a very sensible thing to do, IMO. But that didn't mean she needed to abandon her faith all together. IMO. Although she does discuss this possibility in her "Letting go of God" monologue (switching religions). But ultimately decides there is no God.

Although some of her views on the matter of the afterlife remain Catholic in nature it seems. Or conforming to a religious view of the afterlife, which is why I found her thoughts on the matter a little perplexing. Thoughts expressed to Marc Maron on 11/24/2014 in a discussion for his WTF podcast.

This was following the release of her book, "If It's Not One Thing..." in 2013, and it's Julia Sweeney's life (in general) that they talk about. Death is a topic that comes up right away, and it's the first 4 minutes (roughly) that I decided to transcribe as follows...

Julia: I just bought a cemetary plot for myself in Spokane.

Marc: That's an uplifting way to start the show. Is it a nice plot?

Julia: It is. It's with our family. It's other people in the family. Actually, just this morning I paid the final check on it.

Marc: So, it's all ready to go.

Julia: Now I feel like, I don't have to visit Spokane that much anymore. I'm going to spend a long time there.

Marc: That's my post retirement plan.

Julia: Exactly.

Marc: Oh, my God. Do I need to get one of those? When do you get one of those?

Julia: I don't know because my husband and I kept going back and forth about it. Because he doesn't care at all about that. And wouldn't even discuss it. And the only reason I did is because I had a couple siblings die and other family members - and they're in this area we have visited in Spokane. You know, the cemetery. We were like a Mexican family. We'd go have a picnic at the cemetery with our [dead] relatives.

Marc: You did?

Julia: Oh, yeah.

Marc: But you're a Catholic Family?

Julia: Irish Catholic. We just had to stop by all the time. If we're on the North side, it like... We'll pop in and say hello to Henrietta...

Marc: Your grandparents?

Julia: Yeah. And so, it suddenly occurred to me that's meaningful. Not everyone has that. That's meaningful. And, I had happened to talk to this woman who sells cemetery plots there, and she goes... you know, the spot right next to your two brothers is available. And I was like... I'm in! I am so in. And then, I have two other siblings and I was trying to get them to buy the spots next to me, and they were like... I don't want to be next to Aunt Barbara.

Marc: Oh, really?

Julia: It was like... will my husband and I be together [said Julia's sister]? And then my other sibling [Julia's brother] was like... I don't want to be next to her husband.

Marc: Do you have to buy more than one [plot]?

Julia: You can have up to four... actually, we could all go in one plot. They just upped it from two people to four people. Can be in one plot.

Marc: Have they changed the distances, or is it...?

Julia: No, it's because people are cremated now. it used to be that you couldn't be cremated if you were Catholic.

Marc: Oh...

Julia: But they changed the rules. So now it's just a heyday at the cemetery. Because you can pack a bunch of people in a plot.

Marc: It's cheaper to cremate, I guess.

Julia: Oh, yeah. Especially if you're not in town when you die.

Marc: (laughs) Transportation is easier.

Julia: Right. You can go on the plane... you're carry-on.

Marc: It's funny. It's not morbid. I think Catholics are pretty good at that. The idea of having lunch at a cemetery, I think there's a comfort with death.

Julia: I find that so true. Actually my daughter just said - because my husband's [family], they're Jewish atheist basically... And proud 3rd generation Jewish atheist... and my daughter said to me recently... you know, Dad's side of the family, they don't talk about - they don't even believe in an afterlife. But they don't talk about people dying that much. But your side of the family, they all believe in this afterlife (even though she knows I don't). And yet, you're totally comfortable talking about being dead... this person is doing to be dead, and soon we'll all be dead. And soon we'll all be in the ground.

And I think that's healthy. I like it.

Marc: However you can accept death, I think it's a good way to go. That's the one thing we don't want to confront. Or we want to deny. But I think you get to a certain age. I always knew that I would die. But when you get older you're like... it might be soon.

Julia: OK, here's my new thing... I'm actually trying to think about death a lot. Like, just think about it.

Marc: Why?

Julia: I think it gives me this more palpable sensation with being alive.

Marc: Accept it and realize it.

Julia: Kind of contemplate death. Just to have it. But, anyway, my new thing is that when I see babies anywhere, I think that when that baby is my age, I won't be alive. It gives you a little tingle. It's coming up. Soon I will not be around.

Marc: I don't like that.

Julia: I don't know why that makes me... it's that time of life.

[End excerpt from the 11/24/2014 Marc Maron WTF Podcast]

Personally, I'm inclined to believe that when you die, you're dead. Although when God returns there will be a resurrection of the dead and God will establish his kingdom here on earth. Meaning, I don't believe in heaven being a place in the sky where people go when they die (a place where they sit around on clouds playing harps, etc).

But I do believe there is an afterlife, which Julia Sweeney, as an atheist, does not. And I don't understand why contemplating death would produce a "palpable sensation with being alive". If I believed that this life was all there was, the sensation it would produce in me is hopelessness. Because life is ALL SO POINTLESS. I mean, any one individual person's life is (in the big picture sense) incredibly short. And then you die. And if you're GONE FOREVER, what is the point? Your loved ones will remember you, and you will "live on" in that sense (in their memories), but they too will die one day. And then you will be wiped from existence.

Historically significant (and famous people) will "live" on. In the history books and in pictures and on film. But, for the rest of us, it will be as if we never existed. And that day will come quickly (given the short amount of time any individual person has on earth). The point is that I just couldn't go on if I thought there was NO POINT to this life. Which, IMO, if you die and that is it? Then there is no point. Given how short life is, meaning that the time you will be here will be insignificant compared to the time you (weren't) and won't be here.

So I can't fathom why thinking of death would be something an atheist would do. I would fear it greatly if I thought that was the end. Or, actually, I'd think let's get to it. Since life is completely meaningless and therefore why live it?

But if Sweeney were still religious? Then her view on death would make more sense to me. Even though, she ISN'T going to be spending a lot of time in the Spokane cemetery, since you cease to exist when you die. Atheists spend time nowhere after death. Not that I think anyone spends time anywhere after death. They may or may not hang around anywhere. I'm not sure, which is why I said I'm INCLINED to believe that when you're dead you're dead. But that God will resurrect the dead when he returns.

Soon we WILL all be dead. And soon we WILL all be in the ground. Or cremated (another inane Catholic rule rewrite. Before cremation was bad and your soul would be in trouble if you were cremated, but now it's acceptable). But I do think that's healthy. As opposed to being a "dismal outlook". It absolutely does NOT, however, give "me this more palpable sensation with being alive". Although I can imagine for someone that it might. Just not an atheist. That an atheist would look at death this way is something I seriously do not understand.

Note that she said that her husband's side of the family does not talk about death. And that they are 3rd generation Jewish atheist. She does, and that is (I think) a holdover from being Catholic. But as an atheist, believing that when you're dead that's it. THAT, I think is a significantly more dismal outlook. And, for me - as a serious pessimist who embraces a dismal outlook - that's a dark place that I can't go.

Video: Episode 553 of Marc Maron's WTF Podcast from 11/24/2014. Note: I start the video at 28:25 because that is when the interview with Julia Sweeney begins (Marc interviews someone else first). The portion I quote above begins at 30:41.

SWTD #364

Friday, December 09, 2016

tRump's Billionaire Cabinet (#trumpdupes #1)

This from Hedge fund manager Whitney Tilson... "I can take glee in that - I think Donald Trump conned them... I worried that he was going to do crazy things that would blow the system up. So the fact that he's appointing people from within the system is a good thing".

This "glee taking" as per the Bloomberg article (by Max Abelson) linked to by Buzzfeed's Sr. Writer Doree Shafrir in her 11/30/2016 tweet.

Wall Street Wins Again As Trump Chooses Bankers and Billionaires: After Donald Trump ridiculed Wall Street on the campaign trail, the President-elect tapped former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. executive Steven Mnuchin to be his Treasury secretary and billionaire investor Wilbur Ross to lead the Commerce Department. (11/30/2016).

BTW, Tilson (who, according to the article voted for HRC) also said "I'm a fan of Dodd-Frank, I think banking should be boring... I worry about Wall Street returning to being a casino".

Uh... OK. Maybe HRC voters can also take glee that Steven Mnuchin is Trump's choice for Treasury Secretary?


Mnuchin is a former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. partner and movie financier with no government experience who spent the past six months working as Donald Trump's chief fundraiser. ... The part of his background that's likely to get the most scrutiny is the six years he spent running OneWest Bank, a Southern CA lender.

In 2009, during the depths of the financial crisis, Mnuchin joined with a group of former Goldman Sachs colleagues and billionaires to buy the remnants of IndyMac, which had collapsed after bingeing on reckless home loans during the frenzy of CA's subprime-mortgage boom. They changed the name to OneWest, turned it around and sold the bank for a big gain last year. Mnuchin may have personally gotten more than $200 million in proceeds from the sale...

The bank carried out more than 36,000 foreclosures during Mnuchin's reign, according to the CA Reinvestment Coalition, a San Francisco-based nonprofit whose deputy director, Kevin Stein, dubbed the bank a "foreclosure machine". The group has accused OneWest of shoddy foreclosure practices and avoiding business in minority neighborhoods... (11/21/2016 Bloomberg article by Zachary Mider).

"Steve Mnuchin is the Forrest Gump of the financial crisis" according to Senator (and president?) Elizabeth Warren. In that he "spent two decades at Goldman Sachs helping the bank peddle the same kind of mortgage products that blew up the economy and sucked down billions in taxpayer bailout money". By which she means Mnuchin got rich despite not knowing what he's doing. Except how to game the system. Something (The fictional character) Forrest Gump didn't do. Forrest Gump might have been dumb, but he wasn't a dishonest thief (see video below).

Apparently for Whitney Tilson it's a case of "meet the new boss, same as the old boss"... and for that reason he is filled with glee. I'm not filled with glee. This was one of the reasons I voted for Bernie Sanders in the primary. He would be appointing people who we could be assured would be taking Wall Street to task.

Will the #TrumpDupes care? Some of them might. But I think the majority won't. Because they are stupid. By the way, while I did vote for Bernie Sanders in the primary, I did vote for Hillary Clinton in the General. Because she would have been a lot better than Trump. A LOT better. Even on the issue of reining in Wall Street. Not as good as Bernie Sanders, but LEAGUES better than Trump.

I knew Trump was lying about "draining the swamp". Now he's confirming that he lied with these Wall Street Picks. He is FILLING the swamp. As LOLGOP writes (in a satirical Facebook post) "Trump to appoint dingo to watch baby".

Video: Democracy Now's Amy Goodman reports that banksters Wilbur Ross and Steve Mnuchin join Trump's cabinet as Treasury & Commerce Secretaries. Amy interviews David Dayen of The Nation (author of the article Profiteers of the Great Foreclosure Machine Go to Washington) who says "Mnuchin and Ross led companies that committed fraud to foreclose on millions of homeowners" (5:22).

#CrookedDonald #DonTheCon #draintheswamp #TrumpTransition.

SWTD #363

Saturday, December 03, 2016

#CrookedDonald #1

Note: My commentary below contains excerpts from the 11/22/2016 Washington Post article Trump Foundation admits to violating ban on "self-dealing", new filing to IRS shows by David Fahrenthold.

Donald Trump and trophy wife #3 (former nude model Melania Knauss) pose with one of the painters (speed painter Michael Israel) who created paintings of Trump that the Donald or trophy wife used foundation money to purchase ($20k for a 6-foot-tall portrait by Israel and 10k for a 4-foot painting by Havi Schanz).

The #notmypresident-elect also paid 12k in a charity auction for a Tim Tebow-signed football helmet. The issue is that items paid for with money from a charitable foundation MUST be put to charitable use. Trump using foundation money to pay for items for personal use is illegal (it's called "self dealing").

Trump also "settled a dispute with the town of Palm Beach FL over a large flagpole he erected at his Mar-a-Lago Club. The town agreed to waive $120,000 in unpaid fines if Trump's club donated $100,000 to Fisher House, a charity helping wounded veterans and military personnel"... and Trump made the donation with foundation money! More self-dealing.

Additionally "Trump's golf course in New York's Westchester County was sued by a man who had won a $1 million hole-in-one prize during a tournament at the course. The man was later denied the money because Trump's course had allegedly made the hole too short for the prize to be valid... the Trump Foundation donated $158k to the unhappy golfer's charity (afterwhich the lawsuit was settled)".

As per the title of the WP article, "President-elect Donald Trump's charitable foundation has admitted to the Internal Revenue Service that it violated a legal prohibition against self-dealing, which bars nonprofit leaders from using their charity’s money to help themselves, their businesses or their families. The admission was contained in the Donald J. Trump Foundation's IRS tax filings for 2015, which were... uploaded by the Trump Foundation's law firm, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius".

This admission that the Foundation broke the law is NEW. Previously they said they did not break the law, now they said they did. Break the self-dealing law numerous times in multiple years. Note that the lies from the foundation were necessitated by actions of Donald and trophy wife. They are the ones who broke the law.

In essence Trump STOLE money from his foundation contributors. They thought they were giving money for the foundation to put to charitable use, not for Trump to buy shit for himself or settle personal lawsuits.

Which makes me wonder, now that the theft of foundation money has been admitted to, what are the consequences? Jail time for Trump? Unfortunately, no. According to IRS tax code "IRC 6684(2) imposes a penalty upon a person who becomes liable for a tax under IRC 4941 for actions that are willful and flagrant, and not due to reasonable cause. The penalty is equal to the amount of the tax imposed under IRC 4941".

I don't know about you, but that penalty sounds a little light for what amounts to theft. 258K according to the Washington post. Money Trump STOLE "from his charitable foundation to settle lawsuits that involved the [supposed] billionaire's for-profit businesses" (Trump used $258,000 from his charity to settle legal problems).

Crooked piece of shit. Now that he's been "elected" preznit he's quietly paying back some of what he's stolen... using the excuse that he doesn't have the time for legal fights. His excuse when he settled the "Trump University" fraud case. Although he will pay $25 million (21 mil for the defrauded students & 4 mil for the lawyers)... but most students will only be able to recoup half of the money they were scammed out of.


SWTD #362