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Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Cardinal Pell finally charged with sex abuse

In the news: Australian Cardinal and Aide to Pope Is Charged With Sexual Assault

Australia’s senior Roman Catholic prelate, and one of Pope Francis’ top advisers, has been charged with sexual assault, the police in the Australian state of Victoria said on Thursday.

The prelate, Cardinal George Pell, became the highest-ranking Vatican official in recent years to face criminal charges involving accusations of sexual offenses. The case will test the credibility of Francis’ initiatives to foster greater accountability after abuse scandals that have shaken the church around the world.

“Cardinal Pell has been charged on summons, and he is required to appear at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court” on July 18, Shane Patton, the deputy police commissioner, said at a news conference.

The charges were served on the cardinal’s legal representatives in Melbourne. Commissioner Patton said there were multiple complainants but refused to provide further details about them, including their ages ....


Man, this has been a long time coming! There was a furor when Pope Francis, knowing of the terrible reputation Pell had on sex abuse, hired him to be on of his gang of eight. The Pope's own sex abuse commission in 2015 advised that Francis fire Pell, but the pope ignored them. Now that Pell is officially under investigation and charged with returning to Australia, will the Pope finally send him packing, or instead will he refuse to fire him and instead keep him safe from prosecution in the Vatican as he did with Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski?

More on Pell from my past posts ...

February 26, 2014: Cardinal Pell

March 18, 2014: Cardinal Pell and the Ellis sex abuse case

March 26, 2014: Pell, sex abuse, church money

April 3, 2014: Eureka Street and David Marr on George Pell

May 21, 2015: The continuing badness of Cardinal Pell

May 31, 2015: 60 Minutes: Cardinal Pell and sex abuse

March 7, 2016: Editorial on Cardinal Pell

Here's a really interesting video interview from a few years ago with journalist David Marr on Cardinal Pell and sex abuse. It is really worth a watch .....


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Destroying the White House Press Briefings



I had never watched a White House Press Briefing before Trump won = they seemed kind of boring. But once Trump was in office the briefings became important to me ... they were an instance of public scrutiny of the Trump administration's policies. All the questions I myself wanted to ask about what Trump and his henchmen were up to were being asked by the press, and not just asked publicly and on tv, but asked and answered in real time. The press briefings are about accountability.

But ever since that early press briefing in which Sean Spicer avowed that the attendance at Trump's inauguration was the biggest that had ever occurred (lie) ...



... the Trump administration has been struggling to control and shape the briefings, and the reporters who attend, as if the briefings were a propaganda tool for the Trump administration. The latest effort in this direction has been the decision to end real time televised briefings and instead to only allow audio and even that only recorded for later use. In the 6/26 briefing, CNN's Jim Acosta tried to bring the subject up ...



Spicer's answer was non-responsive, lame, and, I believe, untrue.

Does this all matter? Yes! ...



I think the main reason Trump is destroying the WH press briefings is because he knows that most people watch televised news and that most people are owned by "seeing is believing" ... if we can no longer watch a video clip of Trump and his representatives being caught in their many lies, then in a way, those lies didn't really happen.

Here's an example of what I mean: Trump averred that he fired James Comey on the recommendation of Rosenstein and Sessions. All of his minions repeated this untruth, from Sean Spicer and Sarah Huckabee Sanders to Pence. And then came the televised Holt interview in which Trump said he had already decided to fire Comey because of the Russia investigation, before Rosenstein and Session provided a pretext for that ...



And then here in a following press briefing, White House Correspondent for ABC News, Jonathan Karl, makes the effort to hold the White House accountable on this. The antagonism, factual gymnastics, and blame-shifting by Huckabee Sanders are breathtaking ....



We need reporters like Karl to ask these kind of questions in real time and on tv, even if the Trump administration turns into pretzels trying to avoid giving a straight answer, because we need to get the truth out there in public, visually, viscerally, if we want to be a democracy.

Monday, June 26, 2017

More Moodies

I don't know about you guys, but when things get depressing I often turn to music to try to change my mood. Today I came upon a couple of Moody Blues songs, the versions of which I hadn't seen before. This first one is Tuesday Afternoon sung by Justin Hayward at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970 ...



And this is Justin singing Nights in White Satin, same concert ...


The Supreme Court: travel ban

A depressing day in the news: Supreme Court allows limited version of Trump’s travel ban to take effect and will consider case in fall ...



I guess that's what happens when a Court seat belonging to Merrick Garland is stolen and given instead to a Republican sock-puppet (Neal Katyal: Senate's Obstruction of Merrick Garland 'Was Unforgivable'). God, please don't let Justice Kennedy retire !!!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Logan



This week's movie rental was Logan ...

a 2017 American superhero film featuring the Marvel Comics character Wolverine .... It is the tenth installment in the X-Men film series, as well as the third Wolverine solo film following X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) and The Wolverine (2013) .... The film takes inspiration from "Old Man Logan" by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven, which follows an aged Wolverine undertaking a final adventure in a dystopian future .... Hugh Jackman stars as Logan in his final portrayal of the character after having played the role for 17 years, with Patrick Stewart co-starring as Charles Xavier.

Basic plot: The year is 2029 and in this dystopian future, mutants are almost extinct. Logan/Wplverine has mostly lost his regenerative powers and is slowly being poisoned by his Adamantium-enhanced skeleton. He is working as a driver in Texas to save money so that he and Professor Charles Xavier, his friend and mentor, can escape to some safer place. Charles, the strongest telepath on the planet, is suffering from some brain trauma which affects his memory and which causes seizures that harm all those near him. Meanwhile, a sociopathic scientist has been using mutant DNA to create and raise new mutants to be used as weapons. A young female mutant created with Logan's genetic material escapes the lab and finds Logan and Charles, asking them to take her to a sanctuary in Canada. Charles talks Logan into this, but it puts them in terrible danger, as the girl is being hunted by the scientist's relentless henchmen.

I've been looking forward to seeing this film for some time. I've been a Marvel and X-Men fan since I was a comic-reading kid and I like the movies even better. I also like Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart and wanted to see them in this, their last appearance in the X-Men series ... the first movie was released in 2000, so they have been inhabiting their characters for 17 years.

The film is darker than many of the others in the series, and is rated R for violence and language, but though it has been touted by some as an unrestricted gore-fest, I think that it's the portrayal of the present state of the relationship built over the years between Charles and Logan that makes the movie as good as it is. So let's take a look back ...

It's hard to say when Logan and Charles first met. Was it when Logan was rescued from Magneto's bad mutants and brought unconscious to the school run by Charles (X-Men)? ....



Or was it when the young Charles and the young Eric (Magneto) were gathering together mutants to start teaching them at Charles' school to become the X-Men, and they approached Logan in a bar? ;) (X-Men: First Class) ....



Or was it when Logan time-traveled back into the past, to when Charles was a young man who had lost his way, in order to change a timeline that had become disastrous in the present (X-Men: Days of Future Past)? ...



At any rate, it was both touching and grim that n this future where Logan and Charles are among the last of their kind, the two of them are still together as their lives become ever more fragile ...



Once their dangerous road trip begins, it's not long before Charles is killed. Logan finds as nice a place as he can along their route to Canada in which to bury his friend ...



The movie got very good reviews. Here's a bit of the one from the Wall Street Journal ...

‘Logan’ Review: Violence and Drama That Cut Deep

The slashing starts early in “Logan”—no surprise, since it’s an R-rated action thriller about Wolverine, also known as Logan, the X-Men character with the tortured psyche and retractable claws. (He is played brilliantly by Hugh Jackman, who first played him 17 years ago.) The great surprise, which reveals itself gradually, lies in the depth and resonance of the drama. Yes, there is violence in abundance, sequences of spectacular mayhem that will thrill hardcore fans and scare off others. Yet this comic book epic, directed in masterly fashion by James Mangold, achieves a narrative grandeur ....

More reviews: Wired: Logan Review: This Is How Wolverine Was Supposed to End ... The Verge: Logan review: not just the bloodiest X-Men movie, but also the saddest ... Forbes: Review: 'Logan' Could Be First Superhero Movie To Get Best Picture Nomination

And here's the trailer ...


Trump's lies: the list

From The New York Times: a definitive list of all of Trump's Lies ... Many Americans have become accustomed to President Trump’s lies. But as regular as they have become, the country should not allow itself to become numb to them. So we have catalogued nearly every outright lie he has told publicly since taking the oath of office.

What's appalling is that it seems most Trump supporters know he lies and they are fine with that. They see lying as a kind of strength - Trump is so powerful that he can actually skew reality and get away with it. But really, lying is a sign of weakness, of fear, of malice, and almost always is done for one purpose: to advantage oneself at the expense of others. Trump lies because the truth exposes him as a loser.

Friday, June 23, 2017

So, there is no tape



One day before the Senate expects an answer from Trump on whether he has a tape of his and James Comeu's conversation, he tweets that he didn't make a tape ... Trump: I did not make recordings of Comey

So he never had a tape (and why we should believe he's telling the truth this time?) but he misled everyone into believing he did have a tape, for 41 days. Pundits are turning themselves inside-out trying to find a reasonable explanation for why he obfuscated, but, come on ... he is a liar and a bully ... he lied to try to intimidate Comey and he would probably still be lying about it if his bluff had not been called by the Senate committee.

What is even more disgusting than that we have a pathological liar as president, is that the people who could stop him will not .... Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell will not impeach their golden goose no matter how shamefully he acts because more than any other thing in the world, staying in power is what matters to them.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Coal magnate sues John Oliver

The latest episode of John Oliver's Last Week Tonight was on coal. It was very interesting and one of the topics covered was Trump friend and coal CEO Robert E. Murray. Oliver mentioned on the show that he had been threatened with a law suit if he said anything negative about Murray, and today in the news there's this ... Republican Coal King Sues HBO Over John Oliver’s Show. Here's the episode - it's worth a watch ...



Senate health care bill

The Republican health care bill finally sees the light of day ...



Shifting Dollars From Poor to Rich Is a Key Part of the Senate Health Bill ...

[...] The bill’s largest benefits go to the wealthiest Americans, who have the most comfortable health care arrangements, and its biggest losses fall to poorer Americans who rely on government support. Like a House version of the legislation, the bill would fundamentally change the structure of Medicaid, which provides health insurance to 74 million disabled or poor Americans, including nearly 40 percent of all children ...

Senate Health Care Bill Includes Deep Medicaid Cuts ...

[...] The major change to health care comes in the form of Medicaid. The bill winds down the expanded Medicaid program under Obamacare after 2020 — a longer timeline than the House health care bill that was passed in May. But it also makes deeper cuts to the program in the long run, by 2025, through changing the federal funding allocation formula for states to receive fewer federal dollars for Medicaid recipients. The bill also allows states to implement work requirements for Medicaid recipients ...

One of the groups of Americans who will be crushed by this bill is the disabled ...

People with disabilities will pay for the GOP’s Medicaid cuts

[...] It is Medicaid that provides the in-home aid who helps get an adult with quadriplegia out of bed, dressed and able to go to work in the morning. It is Medicaid that provides the in-home occupational therapist who works with the autistic child so she can live at home with her family — not be pushed into an institution. And, it is Medicaid that sends the home health nurse to check on the senior, who might otherwise have to leave the home where he lived for 30 years and raised a family to live in a single room of a nursing home.

So the Republicans’ proposal to defund and change Medicaid is the greatest threat the disability community has faced since the eugenics movement in the early 20th century.

Under the proposal passed by the House and currently before the Senate, the structure of Medicaid would change from a partnership between the federal government and state governments to a system of “per capita caps.” This means that the amount of money that the federal government provides to states would be capped, or limited, to a certain fixed amount per Medicaid recipient, based on 2016 spending levels.

The goal of these “per capita caps” is to save the federal government money — lots of money. An analysis from the Urban Institute suggests that almost half of the American Health Care Act’s $834 billion in cuts to Medicaid would come from per capita caps, devastating services to seniors, children and people with disabilities ...


I'm not sure what Republicans think when they advocate plans like this. Do they believe they and their loved ones are immune from physical disability, from financial disaster? Do they believe that good people never fall on hard times, so they and those they care about don't have to worry about ever needing help? Even if all that were true, and it's not, from the exalted position of their plenty, do they not ever feel empathy for those less fortunate, or are there lumps of coal inhabiting the place where their hearts should be? Must be coal .... it's Trump's favorite substance.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

RIP: Otto Warmbier



Yesterday I posted that I despaired of Republicans and Democrats finding unity on anything, but one thing on which I think the Trump administration did well was helping to bring Otto Warmbier home. Here's more ... What Happened to Otto Warmbier? .... Otto Warmbier dies days after release from North Korean detention

Monday, June 19, 2017

Can Democrats and Republicans come together?

In the wake of the terrible shooting of Republicans at a Congressional baseball practice (What We Know and Don’t Know About the Shooting of the G.O.P. Men’s Baseball Team) there has been much in the news about the great divide between people in either party .... more and more people no longer just disagree with or distrust those in the other party, they now often think of them as "evil". There have been calls for unity and for an emphasis on the values we have in common with each other, but I have to wonder how realistic those are.

Here's a bit from last year's Pew Forum article Partisanship and Political Animosity in 2016: Highly negative views of the opposing party – and its members ...

[S]izable shares of both Democrats and Republicans say the other party stirs feelings of not just frustration, but fear and anger. More than half of Democrats (55%) say the Republican Party makes them “afraid,” while 49% of Republicans say the same about the Democratic Party. Among those highly engaged in politics – those who say they vote regularly and either volunteer for or donate to campaigns – fully 70% of Democrats and 62% of Republicans say they are afraid of the other party .... Fully 70% of Democrats say that Republicans are more closed-minded than other Americans. .... While more than half of Republicans (52%) view Democrats as more closed-minded than other Americans, nearly as many say Democrats are more immoral (47%), lazier (46%) and more dishonest (45%) ...

When politicians call for unity, I despair because the things that divide many Republicans and Democrats are not superficial or academic.

Imagine that the secret Republican health care bill in the Senate turns out to be as bad as the one in the House, and it passes. Imagine that your asthmatic child isn't covered because of that pre-existing condition, or that your elderly parent has to go to the emergency room but has no insurance because the premiums for older people are too expensive for them to pay.

Think of the coming Republican budget, the one that will cut the Meals on Wheels meal your elderly aunt may need or that cuts the after-school program that cares for your kids while you are at work or that cuts the money your disables sister needs to live on.

Imagine a friend deported, your property polluted by coal waste, your self not being able to use your MediCaid at a Planned Parenthood anymore.

The differences between the political parties are about deeply held values .... do all people deserve health care as a right .... should we rape our environment or care for it ... are money and power and luck really the final determiners of worth ... if we can't agree on this stuff, stuff that impacts ourselves and those we love in intimate and powerful ways, stuff that actually defines who we are, then unity seems like a pipe dream.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

11.22.63

The latest tv series I'm trying out is 11.22.63 ...

an American science fiction thriller miniseries based on the book 11/22/63 by Stephen King, and consisting of eight episodes.The series is executive-produced by J. J. Abrams, King, Bridget Carpenter and Bryan Burk, and produced by James Franco, who also has the main role.

The basic plot ... a man travels back in time to 1960 in order to discover who killed JFK and to save that president's life, all to make the world in the present a better place. I do like it so far, though it's pretty dark and grim. It kind of reminds me of King's novel/movie, The Dead Zone (I posted about that here), in which Christopher Walken's character asks the question of whether one should kill Hitler if they could go back in time.

Here's a review of the show in The Washington Post ... What Hulu’s absorbing ‘11/22/63’ tells us of the harm of dwelling in the past

And here's a trailer ...



Sessions testifies before Senate



I watched Sessions testifying before the Senate today. It was quite discouraging ... Jeff Sessions and the Trail of Unanswered Questions

The Republican senators spent their question times schmoozing with Sessions - I'm surprised they didn't kiss his ring. The questions the Democrats wanted to ask ... questions about his conversations with Trump, questions about his part in Comey's firing, questions about his meetings with Russians .... were all either stonewalled or dragged down incomprehensible and time-eating rabbit holes.

I guess he is protecting Trump and of course himself, but all this obfuscation does is reinforce everyone's belief that there is something very bad being hidden by Trump and his minions. Will Mueller have the power to make these people answer all asked questions?

Here's one of my senators, Kamala Harris, trying to get a straight answer from Sessions (Kamala Harris Got Shut Down After Asking an Incredibly Important Question. Again) ...



And here is the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, Adam Schiff, on Sessions' testimony, from PBS NewsHour ...


Saturday, June 10, 2017

Thoughts on today's news

There's more in the news than Trump (thank God) and here's some of it ...

- Finally someone's doing something official about manspreading ...



- Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff is ahead in recent polls: New Polls Give Jon Ossoff An Edge In Georgia House Runoff. Good news as we Democrats need to win more seats in Congress.

- Roman Polanski’s Sex Assault Victim Pleads to End Case, Says ‘He Owes Me Nothing’. I think she is wrong. I can understand why she might want to put all this behind her, but what she doesn't seem to understand is that this isn't just all about her. Society as a whole has an investment in prosecuting and punishing crimes and a responsibility to prosecute and punish rapists (Reminder: Roman Polanski raped a child). A victim being ok with having been victimized can't do away with that.

- The new trailer for the Black Panther movie is out: 'Black Panther': Why the Teaser Trailer Could Be Marvel's Best Timing Yet. We will recall that the Black Panther was introduced in the last Captain America film, Civil War. Brief recap - The Black Panther is T’Challa, the king of the mythical African country of Wakanda, the only place on earth where the remarkable metal that Captain America's shield is made from, vibranium, can be found ... remember unobtanium? :). Here's the trailer ...




Friday, June 09, 2017

More on James Comey's testimony



The Five Lines of Defense Against Comey—and Why They Failed

[...] Friends of the president will reply that the Comey hearing did not produce a smoking gun. That’s true. But the floor is littered with cartridge casings, there’s a smell of gunpowder in the air, bullet holes in the wall, and a warm weapon on the table. Comey showed himself credible, convincing, and consistent. Against him are arrayed the confused excuses of the least credible president in modern American history.

I think there's no doubt that Trump is hiding something terrible .... he has constantly lied, he fired Yates after she made clear Flynn was colluding with the Russians, he privately asked Comey to end the investigation of Flynn and fired him when he didn't, he asked intelligence heads Coats and Rogers to end the FBI investigation, he met with Russians in the oval office and bragged about firing Comey and ending the investigation, his son-on-law is found to have tried to set up a secret communication line with Russia to defeat our own intelligence services .... the list goes on, but I think it's obvious that Trump himself is eyeball deep in something so awful he'll do anything to hide it. Special Counsel Mueller will find it out.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

James Comey's testimony

OK, I watched it all. I come away from it with even more respect for James Comey and the FBI, and also with the feeling that Trump has not only obstructed justice, but has also probably colluded with the Russians to flip the election. Isn't that treason?


Wednesday, June 07, 2017

James Comey's statement


- Trump in the Green Room at the White House, where he and Comey dined together alone

Former FBI Director James Comey releases a prepared statement one day before he testifies in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Here are the details from PBS NewsHour ...

My Governor :)

Monday, June 05, 2017

Vicky/possum

Here's Vicky, ignoring the baby possum while he grabs a few snacks ...



And here's another of the little possum. Possums have human hands = eeek! ...


John Oliver: Trump/Paris Climate Accord

On this, World Environment Day, the latest episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, on Trump pulling out of the Paris Agreement ...



More: 10 Tweets Worth Reading on World Environment Day. My favorite one ....


Sunday, June 04, 2017

The Last Ship



One of the tv shows I especially like is The Last Ship ...

an American action-drama television series, based on the 1988 novel of the same name by William Brinkley .... After a global viral pandemic wipes out over 80% of the world's population, the crew (consisting of 218 people) of a lone unaffected U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, the fictional USS Nathan James (DDG-151), must try to find a cure, stop the virus, and save humanity.

The executive producer of the show is Michael Bay, the director of a couple of my favorite movies - The Rock and The Island - but he's also the director of 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi ... he's a political conservative who makes films with lots of military and lots of explosions, so political liberal and semi-pacifist me feels sort of conflicted about liking his work.

I really like the post-apocalyptic nature of the story ... a virus destroys most of the world's population and the doctor who's working on a cure is aboard one of the last US navy ships, in the Arctic. They do eventually tame the virus but by then the government has collapsed and the social structure that's held society together is unraveling. What stops things from complete disintegration is that ship, its crew, and most of all, its captain (Eric Dane as Captain Tom Chandler) who's the story's moral compass.

I've just watched the last episode of the third season, and it ends with the captain leaving the navy after having turned his back on his own principles by murdering someone in revenge. He doesn't know who he is anymore and we faithful viewers are left wondering how he can ever come back from this. I guess this is mostly why I like the show ... yes, I do like the tech stuff, the action stuff, the sci fi stuff, but even more I like that the characters are very morally distinct ... people are good or they are bad, but very rarely ethically neutral or "complicated". So this last twist in the story, the captain losing his way, is both disturbing and compelling. If you guys haven't seen the show, you might like it.