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Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Monday, February 27, 2017

Mahershala Ali

I didn't get to see the Oscars (no tv) but kept up on what was happening via Google news. A bit of a mix-up over Best Picture ...



I haven't yet seen Moonlight ...

a 2016 American drama film directed by Barry Jenkins and written by Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney, based on the previously unpublished play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by McCraney. It stars Trevante Rhodes, André Holland, Janelle Monáe, Ashton Sanders, Naomie Harris and Mahershala Ali ... he film tells the story of a black man by following him through three episodes: as a young boy, as a teenager, and as an adult.

But I do know of the actor in the film who won the award for Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali ... he was one of my favorite actors in the tv series The 4400. Here's his acceptance speech for Moonlight ...


Sunday, February 26, 2017

RIP: Bill Paxton

I was sorry to read today that actor Bill Paxton has died ... RIP Bill Paxton: A Man of Many Faces Who Brought Humanity to All He Touched

He has always been a favorite actor of mine from the time he appeared in a bit part in the first Terminator movie. He was more known for films like Apollo 13 and Twister , but I appreciated some of his lesser known films, like Frailty .... Roger Ebert gave it four stars in his review.

And then there was his tv work ... I had to laugh last season when he turned up as a HYDRA mole in Marvel's Agents of Shield, introduced with the song, (Don't Fear) The Reaper ...



But it will probably come as no surprise that his role that I liked the most was in one of my favorite movies of all, Aliens, in which he played a Colonial Marine, Private Hudson ... he won a Saturan award for best supporting actor. Here he is, very confident, as the drop ship carries the marines and civilian consultant Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) down to the planet that's been taken over by alien monsters ...



But thing don't go as planned, and when their extraction ship crashes, he's somewhat despondent ;) ...



And perhaps I need not tell you that he later dies heroically, swarmed by the creepy aliens ...



Here's an interview with him about his role in Aliens ...



He will be missed.


Saturday, February 25, 2017

Out in the yard

Walking around the yard with the cats ...

Here's Lucy standing on a bunch of flower petals blown off the plum trees by the recent storms ...



Here's some of the wet cardboard I use to staunch the leaks from the roof of the garage when it rains - hanging it out to dry ...



Some periwinkles ...



Gretel keeping me company ...



The orange tree still has a few oranges ...


Friday, February 24, 2017

A respite ...

from the continuing Trump train-wreck.



Trump tries to control the press

Today the Trump administration banned news outlets critical of the president - The New York Times, CNN, The Los Angeles Times, the BBC, etc. - from access to a White House press briefing. This is how dictators get started. Here's The Lead ...



More: Trump’s Seven Techniques to Control the Media by Robert Reich

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Snowden



This week's movie rental was Snowden ...

a 2016 American biographical political thriller film directed by Oliver Stone and written by Stone and Kieran Fitzgerald, based on the books The Snowden Files by Luke Harding and Time of the Octopus by Anatoly Kucherena. The cast includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the title character, Edward Snowden, with Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto, Tom Wilkinson, Scott Eastwood, Logan Marshall-Green, Timothy Olyphant, Ben Schnetzer, LaKeith Lee Stanfield, Rhys Ifans and Nicolas Cage also starring.

The film tells the story that we all mostly know by now, but in fascinating detail. It was chilling to see what the various intelligent agencies have been doing in their massive surveillance of, well, us. Interesting to see journalist Glenn Greenwald's part in what happened. And it's all depressing and scary, yes, but the good news is that the truth came out. Snowden has said that he's not a hero, but I think he is indeed a brave and idealistic hero.

Here's an article about the film: 'Snowden' movie presents another side to whistleblower

Here's a trailer ....


Monday, February 20, 2017

For the Beauty of the Earth

Trump signs measure rolling back last-minute Obama coal mining regulation. Tell your legislators: Don't let Trump pollute our environment.


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Old photos

From History In Pictures ....








The free press is not our enemy

Trump tweeted ...



But there's push-back at #NotTheEnemy ...






Thursday, February 16, 2017

Rogue One: the book



My latest book checked out from the public library is Rogue One: A Star Wars Story by Alexander Freed. It's a novelization of the movie, which I haven't seen yet, a New York Times bestseller, and so far it's fairly interesting. I am looking forward to the film, if only to see one of my sister's favorite actors, Mads Mikkelsen.

Here's the blurb for the book ...

As the shadows of the Empire loom ever larger across the galaxy, so do deeply troubling rumors. The Rebellion has learned of a sinister Imperial plot to bring entire worlds to their knees. Deep in Empire-dominated space, a machine of unimaginable destructive power is nearing completion. A weapon too terrifying to contemplate . . . and a threat that may be too great to overcome.

If the worlds at the Empire’s mercy stand any chance, it lies with an unlikely band of allies: Jyn Erso, a resourceful young woman seeking vengeance; Cassian Andor, a war-weary rebel commander; Bodhi Rook, a defector from the Empire’s military; Chirrut Îmwe, a blind holy man and his crack-shot companion, Baze Malbus; and K-2SO, a deadly Imperial droid turned against its former masters. In their hands rests the new hope that could turn the tide toward a crucial Rebellion victory—if only they can capture the plans to the Empire’s new weapon.

But even as they race toward their dangerous goal, the specter of their ultimate enemy—a monstrous world unto itself—darkens the skies. Waiting to herald the Empire’s brutal reign with a burst of annihilation worthy of its dreaded name: Death Star.


And here's a trailer for the film on which the book is based ...


Trump's press conference



Today I watched the above video clip of part of a press conference with Trump. It was chilling. I'm not sure how to explain it except to say "watch it yourself" but suffice it to say that it's an example of how to spin a web of lies. The creepy things: many people will believe he's telling the truth; many others will know he's being dishonest but will think the lying is just a sign of his power.

For those who actually care about facts ... Donald Trump’s Alternative-Reality Press Conference

And related: How should the media cover a White House that isn't afraid to lie? ....


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Gates Foundation & Trump's global gag rule



Bill and Melinda Gates speak out about Trump's imposition of the Mexico City policy (the global gag rule) which blocks US money from going to any organization overseas that does abortions or even only discusses abortion with patients. This includes organizations that provide contraception to poor women, that help AIDS patients, malaria patients, patients with TB, etc.

Melinda Gates Credits Contraception With Her Personal and Professional Success ...

[O]utside the U.S. and other wealthy nations with advanced medical systems and reproductive health care, access to birth control can be “a matter of life and death,” Gates writes, crediting family-planning services with keeping 124,000 women alive in 2016. Without reliable contraception, women and children are less likely to be healthy and more likely to perish during or after childbirth. In the areas where the Gates Foundation focuses its work, spacing out children by at least three years doubles the chance of a child’s survival to age 1

In a better world, this kind of unambiguous data would engender widespread support for programs that give women the resources they need to determine for themselves when, whether, and how they give birth. In our actual world, Donald Trump reinstated and expanded the global gag rule, which cuts U.S. funding from any organization that provides abortion care, information, or referrals, even though U.S. aid already can’t go toward abortion care itself. This means some of the world’s most comprehensive, far-reaching programs in the reproductive health sphere are now ineligible for U.S. aid money. Previous research has connected the rule to spikes in unplanned pregnancies and, ironically, abortion rates in sub-Saharan Africa. Gates’ essay predicts that Trump’s reinstatement of the gag rule will bump up the number of women who want to prevent pregnancy but don’t have access to contraception, a statistic that currently sits at 225 million women worldwide ....


More on this ... Melinda Gates Thinks Every Woman Should Have Access to Birth Control and Trump's 'global gag rule' could endanger millions of women and children, ​Bill and Melinda Gates​ warn

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

So, who is Stephen Miller?

You can read about him at Wikipedia ...

Stephen Miller (born August 23, 1985) is a senior advisor to President Donald Trump. Prior to his current appointment, he was the communications director for then-Alabama senator Jeff Sessions .... In November 2016, Miller was named national policy director of Trump's transition team. On December 13, 2016, the transition team announced that Miller will serve as Senior Advisor to the President for Policy during the Trump administration ....

But it's much more revealing to watch him speak for the Trump administration ...



How scary is that? Even more scary, Trump thinks this guy is doing a good job.

Thank God for the comic relief of Stephen Colbert - here he speaks of Trump and then Miller ...




Happy Valentine's Day

From Luke Skywalker and Grumpy Cat :) ...




Friday, February 10, 2017

Looking forward to The Mummy :)

When I was a kid I loved watching old monster movies on tv. They all seems silly now but back then I was terrified by them. Some that I especially remember are Attack of the Crab Monsters, Forbidden Planet, The Monster That Challenged the World, Attack of the Mushroom People, and Night of the Demon (which I posted about here). Strangely, I don't remember any old mummy movies from back then, but this one with Tom Cruise looks like it will be good ...

Thursday, February 09, 2017

The Republicans make pollution legal again

I think it was Abraham Lincoln who said that if you wanted to test a man's character you should give him power. Now the Republicans have all the power they want, and what was one of the first things they did with it? They made polluting waterways legal again ...

With everything that Republicans want to do — repeal Obamacare, overhaul the tax code — it might seem odd that one of Congress’ very first acts would be to kill an obscure Obama-era regulation that restricts coal companies from dumping mining waste into streams and waterways.

But that is indeed what’s going on. On Thursday, the Senate voted 54-45 to repeal the so-called “stream protection rule” — using a regulation-killing tool known as the Congressional Review Act. The House took a similar vote yesterday, and if President Trump agrees, the stream protection rule will be dead. Coal companies will have a freer hand in dumping mining debris in streams.

Killing this regulation won’t really fulfill Trump’s goal of reversing the coal industry’s decline; that decline has more to do with cheap natural gas than anything else. Instead, Republicans are mostly focusing on this rule because they can ....


Every day it's some new awful thing. I know I keep saying this but I guess I still can't really get over it. I'm beginning to come to a depressing conclusion .... the Republicans in Congress and the people who support them are not misinformed or naive or laboring under complex burdens ... they're just bad people.

More from Scientific American ... Trump Cannot Bring Back Coal

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Silencing Elizabeth Warren



This is a video of Senator Elizabeth Warren's Floor Speech against Attorney General Nominee Jeff Sessions. During her speech, the Republicans silenced her before she had finished reading a letter written by Coretta Scott King, ... Warren cut off during Sessions debate after criticism ...

In a stunning moment on the Senate floor, Sen. Elizabeth Warren clashed with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Tuesday night after McConnell determined the Massachusetts Democrat had violated a Senate rule against impugning another senator.
In an extremely rare rebuke, she was instructed by the presiding officer to take her seat. Tuesday night's rule means Warren will be barred from speaking on the floor until Sessions' debate ends, McConnell's office confirmed. The debate is expected to conclude Wednesday night. ...


More: The letter Elizabeth Warren was trying to read

Every day in the news I read some new awful thing wrought by Trump and his effing Republican toadies :(

Monday, February 06, 2017

Sex abuse by Catholic priests in Australia



In the news today (but except for Crux, the Catholic press is ignoring this) : Australia's Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, established in 2013, today released some info on the scale of the sex abuse of children by Catholic priests/brothers in Australia ...

- 7% of Catholic Priests in Australia Accused of Sexually Abusing Children ...

Seven percent of priests in Australia's Catholic Church were accused of sexually abusing children over the past several decades, a lawyer said Monday as officials investigating institutional abuse across Australia revealed for the first time the extent of the crisis.

The statistics were released during the opening address of a hearing of Australia's Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The royal commission — which is Australia's highest form of inquiry — has been investigating since 2013 how the Catholic Church and other institutions responded to the sexual abuse of children over decades ...


- 4,444 victims: extent of abuse in Catholic church in Australia revealed ...

- 37% of all private sessions royal commission held with survivors related to the Catholic church
- The average age of alleged victims was 10.5 for girls and just over 11.5 for boys
- In one order 40% of religious brothers are believed to have abused children


I've been reading about this for years, about Cardinal Pell, who reigned in Australia until Pope Francis whisked him away to Rome to be one of his top guys. Pell was supposed to give testimony at the commission, but he refused to leave Rome (you know, extradition-proof digs). For those who are interested in the history of Pell and the sex abuse crisis in Australia, here are some of my earlier posts ...

- Editorial on Cardinal Pell, March 07, 2016

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

- The continuing badness of Cardinal Pell, May 21, 2015

- Eureka Street and David Marr on George Pell, April 03, 2014

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

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

- Cardinal Pell, February 26, 2014

- Patrick Parkinson and Geoffrey Robinson, October 07, 2013

The Pope should fire Cardinal Pell and send him back to Australia to face the music. And the Pope should do something that will actually make a difference to the sex abuse crisis, like ending mandatory celibacy. But I predict Pope Francis will do nothing at all and will ignore the news and hope no one brings it up.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Trump administration is hurting animals too



- The Trump Effect: USDA Scrubs Animal Welfare Reports from Its Website

- USDA abruptly purges animal welfare information from its website ...

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday abruptly removed inspection reports and other information from its website about the treatment of animals at thousands of research laboratories, zoos, dog breeding operations and other facilities.

In a statement, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service cited court rulings and privacy laws for the decision, which it said was the result of a “comprehensive review” that took place over the past year. It said the removed documents, which also included records of enforcement actions against violators of the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act, would now be accessible only via Freedom of Information Act Requests. Those can take years to be approved.

“We remain equally committed to being transparent and responsive to our stakeholders’ informational needs, and maintaining the privacy rights of individuals with whom we come in contact,” the statement said.

The records that had been available were frequently used by animal welfare advocates to monitor government regulation of animal treatment at circuses, scientific labs and zoos. Journalists have used the documents to expose violations at universities.

Members of the public could also use the department’s online database to search for information about dog breeders, as could pet stores. Seven states currently require pet stores to source puppies from breeders with clean USDA inspection reports, according to the Humane Society of the United States — a requirement that could now be impossible to meet.

Animal welfare organizations quickly condemned the removal of the information, which they called unexpected and said would allow animal abuse to go unchecked.

“The USDA action cloaks even the worst puppy mills in secrecy and allows abusers of Tennessee walking horses, zoo animals and lab animals to hide even the worst track records in animal welfare,” said John Goodwin, senior director of the Humane Society’s Stop Puppy Mills Campaign, which uses the federal records, as well as state inspection reports, to publish its annual “Horrible Hundred” dog breeding operations that have been cited for welfare violations.

In a statement, Kathy Guillermo, the senior vice president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, called it “a shameful attempt to keep the public from knowing when and which laws and regulations have been violated. Many federally registered and licensed facilities have long histories of violations that have caused terrible suffering.”

It is unclear whether the decision to remove the animal-related records was driven by newly hired Trump administration officials. When asked questions about the change, a USDA-APHIS representative referred back to the department’s statement. The Associated Press reported that a department spokeswoman declined to say whether the removal was temporary or permanent .....


If you care about animals, please sign this petition - Demand that APHIS restore animal use data on its website - from the National Anti-Vivisection Society to the USDA.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Judge blocks Muslim ban nationwide

Who knew the day would come when lawyers and judges are heroes. Well, it has :) ...

Judge in Seattle halts Trump’s immigration order nationwide; White House vows fight ...

In a stunning rebuke, a federal judge in Seattle has ordered a national halt to enforcement of President Trump’s controversial travel ban on citizens from seven predominantly Muslim nations. U.S. District Judge James Robart ruled Friday afternoon in favor of Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who sued this week to invalidate key provisions of Trump’s executive order.

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson ...

"It is not the loudest voice that prevails in a courtroom - it's the Constitution ... I'm certain the president will not like this decision, but it is his job, it is his responsibility, it is his obligation as our president to honor it. And I'll make sure he does."



Yes!

Friday, February 03, 2017

You're A Better Man Than I

When I was a kid I loved these guys, especially the vocalist, Keith Relf :) Here's one of their songs from the dim past that's still relevant today ...



Can you judge a man
By the way he wears his hair?
Can you read his mind
By the clothes that he wears?
Can you see a bad man
By the pattern on his tie?
Then Misty you're a better man than I
Yeah Misty You're a better man than I
Oh Misty You're a better man than I
Yeah Misty You're a better man than I

Could you tell a wise man
By the way he speaks or spells?
Is this more important
Than the stories that he tells?
And call a man a fool
If for wealth he doesn't strive
Then Misty you're a better man than I
Yeah Misty You're a better man than I
Oh Misty You're a better man than I
Yeah Misty You're a better man than I

Could you condemn a man
If your faith he doesn't hold?
Say the color of his skin
Is the color of his soul?
Or could you say if men
For king and country all must die?
Then Misty you're a better man than I
Yeah You're a better man than I
Oh Misty You're a better man than I
Yeah Misty You're a better man than I

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Trump vs the Terminator

Trump spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. Some of what he said was horrifying, like his promise to do away with the church/state separation ... President Trump wants to give groups who discriminate sweeping protections, benefits. I feel that the Religious Right (Evangelicals and Catholics) have sold their souls for power in Trump's administration, and I'm not the only one ... A Faustian Bargain Pays Off for Conservative Christians.

But there were weird bits of Trump's talk as well. One was the way he made fun of Arnold ... Schwarzenegger offers to trade jobs with Trump after President's comments about Celebrity Apprentice ratings ... Arnold Schwarzenegger has challenged US President Donald Trump to trade jobs so "people can sleep comfortably again" after being blamed for poor ratings on the Celebrity Apprentice.

I think it's time to let the Terminator take out the trash :) ...