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Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Reformation Day: 2016

- Reformation Wall

Today is Reformation Day , which celebrates the Protestant Reformation. I like a lot of what the Reformation aimed to accomplish ...

The Protestant Reformation, often referred to simply as the Reformation (from Latin reformatio, lit. "restoration, renewal") was a schism from the Roman Catholic Church initiated by Martin Luther and continued by John Calvin, Huldrych Zwingli, and other early Protestant Reformers in 16th century Europe.


Luther began by criticizing the selling of indulgences, insisting that the Pope had no authority over purgatory and that the Catholic doctrine of the merits of the saints had no foundation in the gospel. The Protestant position, however, would come to incorporate doctrinal changes such as sola scriptura and sola fide. The core motivation behind these changes was theological, though many other factors played a part, including the rise of nationalism, the Western Schism that eroded faith in the Papacy, the perceived corruption of the Roman Curia, the impact of humanism, and the new learning of the Renaissance that questioned much traditional thought.

Over the years, I've had some posts that touch on this subject. Here are a few of them ...

- Ignatius Loyola and Martin Luther

- Keith Ward: the Reformation

- Indulgences and the Mass of Saint Gregory

- Vatican II and indulgences

- Luther

Saturday, October 29, 2016


- An editorial from NCR about why Cardinal Dolan's new sex abuse scheme sounds fishy: Editorial: The church has earned our healthy skepticism

- Speaking of clergy sex abuse: Vatican finance chief George Pell questioned by Australian police in Rome over historic sex assault claims

- A Visit to Japan's Bunny Cafes

- Some tweets from History In Pictures ...

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Door into Summer

My latest book (audio file) from the public library is The Door into Summer, a science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein. Tou can read a eview of it at Tor: Incredibly readable: Robert Heinlein’s The Door Into Summer. I remember reading this when I was a teen and thought I would try it again. I've read many of his other books, including Stranger in a Strange Land and Starship Troopers, but this one has a cat :) Here's how it begins ...

One winter shortly before the Six Weeks War my tomcat, Petronius the Arbiter, and I lived in an old farmhouse in Connecticut. I doubt if it is there any longer, as it was near the edge of the blast area of the Manhattan near miss, and those old frame buildings burn like tissue paper. Even if it is still standing it would not be a desirable rental because of the fall-out, but we liked it then, Pete and I. The lack of plumbing made the rent low and what had been the dining room had a good north light for my drafting board.

The drawback was that the place had eleven doors to the outside.

Twelve, if you counted Pete's door. I always tried to arrange a door of his own for Pete-in this case a board fitted into a window in an unused bedroom and in which I had cut a cat strainer just wide enough for Pete's whiskers. I have spent too much of my life opening doors for cats. I once calculated that, since the dawn of civilization, nine hundred and seventy-eight man-centuries have been used up that way. I could show you figures.

Pete usually used his own door except when he could bully me into opening a people door for him, which he preferred. But he would not use his door when there was snow on the ground.

While still a kitten, all fluff and buzzes, Pete had worked out a simple philosophy. I was in charge of quarters, rations, and weather; he was in charge of everything else. But he held me especially responsible for weather. Connecticut winters are good only for Christmas cards; regularly that winter Pete would check his own door, refuse to go out it because of that unpleasant white stuff beyond it (he was no fool), then badger me to open a people door.

He had a fixed conviction that at least one of them must lead into summer weather. Each time this meant that I had to go around with him to each of eleven doors, held it open while he satisfied himself that it was winter out that way, too, then go on to the next door, while his criticisms of my mismanagement grew more bitter with each disappointment.

Then he would stay indoors until hydraulic pressure utterly forced him outside. When he returned the ice in his pads would sound like little clogs on the wooden floor and he would glare at me and refuse to purr until he had chewed it all out... whereupon he would forgive me until the next time.

But he never gave up his search for the Door into Summer.

On 3 December, 1970, 1 was looking for it too .....

Even more on Clapton: The Autobiography

OK, I finally finished the book (audio file) and learned a couple more things about Eric.

One is that he has founded a drug and alcohol rehab clinic in Antigua, the Crossroads Centre. He talks about that in an interview he did with 60 Minutes ...

The other thing is kind of disappointing - he married again to someone 31 years his junior. I'm not saying there's anything intrinsically wrong with an age disparity but it made an impression on me after having recently seen in the news that Mel Gibson was marrying someone 34 years his junior and that Hugh Hefner is married to someone 60 years younger. I don't know if this kind of thing happens a lot in the general population but it does seem to happen a lot with wealthy male celebrities - in other words, men who have more options. It makes me wonder about what men think of women.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

In the news ...

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Michael Moore on why you should vote for Hillary

Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore has a new movie out, Michael Moore in TrumpLand. Here's a short news video interview with him about the movie and the upcoming election and about why we should be excited to vote for Hillary. I know I am :) ...

More on Cardinal Dolan's sex abuse scheme

A while ago I had a post about the irony of having Cardinal Dolan in charge of "helping" sex abuse victims, given that he had swindled them out of $57 million dollars in the past, and that the new plan he was floating was simply a way for the church to do an end run around the justice system and evade going to court. Today I saw an article in the National Catholic Reporter that says much the same. Here's the beginning of it ...

NY cardinal's new compensation program for victims will keep sex abuse hidden

Cardinal Timothy Dolan is trying something new. After years of successfully opposing legislation that would give New York abuse victims more time to sue, he has launched a victims' compensation program -- a first for the New York archdiocese.

This is the Year of Mercy, and the cardinal said he was inspired by the "grace and challenge" of this fact.

"I just finally thought: 'Darn it, let's do it,' " he told The New York Times.

The surprise move is winning the cardinal praise. The often critical New York Daily News commended him, citing his "remarkable moral courage."

As a researcher of the Catholic abuse crisis, I see his plan differently. While the fund certainly will help some victims, its biggest beneficiary will be Dolan and his management team. This is a legal strategy in pastoral garb, a tactic by the powerful archbishop to control victims and protect the church's assets and its secrets .... Victims must sign a legal agreement to abide by "all requirements pertaining to privacy and confidentiality," and they must release the archdiocese from future liability -- i.e., never sue it ....

More of Clapton: The Autobiography

I'm still reading Clapton: The Autobiography and have now reached the 90s in the timeline. A lot had happened between the 60s and the 90s, including Eric's addiction to heroine, marriage to Pattie Boyd and then divorce, his recovery from alcoholism through prayer, and the death of his four year old son.

Here's the song he co-wrote about his son, Tears in heaven ...

Still much left to read, so I may have another post on this.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Clapton: The Autobiography

- Eric Clapton, 1974

The latest book I'm reading from the public library is Clapton: The Autobiography . You can read a couple of reviews here: The New York Times: Slowhand ... The Guardian: The gospel according to God

I'm not that far into it - I've reached the late 60s so far - but Eric had met and jammed with many well known musicians by that time, including Jimi Hendrix and B.B. King. Here he is playing with King in 1999 ...

By this time, the 60s, he had also been in many well known bands ... the Yardbirds, John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, Cream, and Blind Faith. Here's Eric and Steve Winwood in 2007 doing one of Blind Faith's most famous songs, Can't Find My Way Home ...

I think many people have read the book for the bit about Eric taking up with George Harrison's wife, Pattie. I've not yet got to that part but I'll keep posting interesting bits about the book as I go along, so stay tuned ;)

Thursday, October 20, 2016


- For Trump, the Election Is Rigged If a “Nasty Woman” Can Win

- 'Nasty': A Feminist History

- Trump insult late in debate inspires hilarious ‘Nasty Woman’ fragrance ad

Monday, October 17, 2016

John Oliver on the 3rd party candidates

I realize there are some people who don't want to vote either for Trump or for Clinton and instead are considering voting for a third party candidate. What I didn't realize until I listened to John Oliver vet the choices, is how really fringe and questionable both Gary Johnson and Jill Stein are as candidates ....

Sunday, October 16, 2016

It's Planned Parenthood's 100th birthday

Towards the end of college I spent a summer as a volunteer at Planned Parenthood. Despite what many pro-life people seem to believe, it's not a giant abortion conveyor belt. I first spent my time there in an office building at a desk answering phoned0in questions about contraception. Later on I worked as an aide in the vasectomy clinic (yep, men use PP too). I met many nice people at Planned Parenthood and ended up being house mated with my PP supervisor. It's a good place that does good.

TIME: How Planned Parenthood Changed Everything

SNL: Town Hall debate

The theme from Jaws ;) ...

Saturday, October 15, 2016

I Shot the Sheriff

Eric Clapton does Bob Marley's I Shot the Sheriff ...

Friday, October 14, 2016


- Another appointee to Vatican abuse commission leaves group, member reveals

- The Myth of Abortion Regret

- Two articles on Giuliani's comparison of sexual assaulter Trump to Augustine of Hippo ... On Not Ignoring Augustine ... Saint Donald of Trump Tower?

- ‘Poetry for the ear’: Bob Dylan wins Nobel Prize in literature. A couple of his songs that I especially like the words to are Love is Just a Four-Letter Word and My Back Pages ...

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Michelle Obama on Trump and the P word

Michelle Obama just delivered what might have been a defining moment of the presidential campaign

I just listened to this campaign speech by Michelle Obama that deals with Trump and his talk about assaulting women (it's not just talk - women are now coming forward to accuse him of assault). Here's the transcript of part of the speech in which she discusses what that attitude feels like to us ....

[...] It is cruel. It's frightening. And the truth is, it hurts. It hurts. It's like that sick, sinking feeling you get when you're walking down the street minding your own business and some guy yells out vulgar words about your body. Or when you see that guy at work that stands just a little too close, stares a little too long, and makes you feel uncomfortable in your own skin.

It's that feeling of terror and violation that too many women have felt when someone has grabbed them, or forced himself on them and they've said no but he didn't listen — something that we know happens on college campuses and countless other places every single day. It reminds us of stories we heard from our mothers and grandmothers about how, back in their day, the boss could say and do whatever he pleased to the women in the office, and even though they worked so hard, jumped over every hurdle to prove themselves, it was never enough.

We thought all of that was ancient history, didn't we? And so many have worked for so many years to end this kind of violence and abuse and disrespect, but here we are in 2016 and we're hearing these exact same things every day on the campaign trail. We are drowning in it. And all of us are doing what women have always done: We're trying to keep our heads above water, just trying to get through it, trying to pretend like this doesn't really bother us maybe because we think that admitting how much it hurts makes us as women look weak.

Maybe we're afraid to be that vulnerable. Maybe we've grown accustomed to swallowing these emotions and staying quiet, because we've seen that people often won't take our word over his. Or maybe we don't want to believe that there are still people out there who think so little of us as women. Too many are treating this as just another day's headline, as if our outrage is overblown or unwarranted, as if this is normal, just politics as usual.

But, New Hampshire, be clear: This is not normal. This is not politics as usual. This is disgraceful. It is intolerable. And it doesn't matter what party you belong to — Democrat, Republican, independent — no woman deserves to be treated this way. None of us deserves this kind of abuse ...

Most women I know have experienced some level of sexual harassment ... childhood sex abuse, sexual bullying at school, being groped by male co-workers, rape. There's something very wrong in a society (and a church) where women aren't treated equally as persons with men.

Monday, October 10, 2016


Sunday, October 09, 2016

Pot, kettle, black

Ironic ...

The comments to this tweet point out, as I will too, that the Catholic church and Pope Francis are among those treating women shamefully.

Trump's latest creepiness

Every Woman in America Knows Donald Trump and Billy Bush

Margaret Atwood said, “Men are afraid women will laugh at them; women are afraid men will kill them.”

But it’s a little more complicated than that. More omnipresent than the fear of death-by-men among most American women is the fear that every time we leave men alone together in a room, they talk about us like how Donald Trump and Billy Bush talked about women in footage that leaked Friday. We fear that while men may treat us with manners in public, in private and among themselves they are disparaging us as lessers. We fear that behind every closed door is a room full of men basking in our low-grade humiliation. And the 2016 election has brought all those fears to the surface.

The footage the punditry is now (unfortunately) calling “Pussygate” hit the waning hours of the workweek like a Charley horse because, for women, this scenario is the sum of a lifetime of anxiety. We know these guys, laughing about how easy it is to sexually assault us and dismissing it as harmless horny banter. We’re worried we’re married to them, or dating them, or one of them is our dad or our boss or our brother. We know somebody is doing what Trump and Bush did; we just hope they’re not doing it to us.

We’re worried we are Melania Trump, newly-married and pregnant with the child of a man who brags to a member of the media how amazing it is to be famous, because being famous means he can grab women’s pussies and kiss them without their consent. We’re worried we’re at home vomiting during our first trimester while our husband vomits unwanted affection on a soap opera actress. We're worried we'll one day be put in a position to say the sort of things Melania had to say after the video surfaced: "The words my husband used are unacceptable and offensive to me. This does not represent the man that I know."

We’re worried we are Ivanka Trump, who has stood up for her father at every turn, reassuring audiences that he can’t be all that bad since he raised her into such a poised and confident woman. We’re worried that our fathers are talking about our tits to their friends, or trying to fuck our friends. We’re worried that the men we have stood up for and believed in are secretly garbage.

We’re worried we’re Nancy O’Dell, the married Access Hollywood host Donald Trump bragged about attempting to seduce. We all have known at least one person who tried to—if I may coin a term— “Donald Trump” us, men who are older or more powerful taking a sudden interest in who we are. We’re kind to them, to be polite. We try to hold them at arm’s length. And then next thing we know, a tiny-handed orange man is trying to French us in a furniture store. When these things happen, we extract ourselves from the scenario wondering what we did wrong, what led the orange man to believe that it was acceptable to take it that far. We’ve been raised to believe that telling men no is embarrassing. We’ve been raised to please men, and the orange man is displeased. We feel bad. We hope he never talks about it to his friends, and we especially hope he will not go on to recount our humiliation to a colleague of ours. We know now that he does, sometimes .....

Yeah :(

Saturday, October 08, 2016

The English Spy

My latest book checked out from the public library is The English Spy (Gabriel Allon Series Book 15) by Daniel Silva.

The series is about Israeli art restorer and agent, Gabriel Allon, and this installment takes us to Northern Ireland. Here below is a bit from an NPR interview with Silva about the book. You can listen to the whole interview at the link.

Daniel Silva On 'Double-Edged Sword' Of Writing An Israeli Spy Protagonist

Another summer, another best-seller from novelist Daniel Silva. In The English Spy, the most famous woman in the world — a titled and gorgeous ex-member of the British royal family — is sunk on her yacht. To track down her killer, British Intelligence needs a little help — actually, a lot of help — from Gabriel Allon, an unassuming art restorer who is also, to those who have to know, a legendary and indispensable Israeli spy.

The English Spy is Silva's 15th novel in what's become the Gabriel Allon franchise. He tells NPR's Scott Simon about the real tragedies that inspired the book and his relationship with his hit character ...

It was interesting to read about Ireland and the history and present of the Troubles there. One thing that was mentioned was the existence of peace lines, the barrier walls separating Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland. Here's that bit in the novel, where Gabriel and an English friend are driving through neighborhoods ...

From Milltown they drove past the Ballymurphy housing estates to Springfield Road. Along its northern flank rose a barricade separating a Protestant enclave from a neighboring Catholic district. The first of the so-called peace lines appeared in Belfast in 1969 as a temporary solution to the city’s sectarian bloodletting. Now they were a permanent feature of its geography—indeed, their number, length, and scale had actually increased since the signing of the Good Friday accords. On Springfield Road the barricade was a transparent green fence about ten meters in height. But on Cupar Way, a particularly tense part of the Ardoyne, it was a Berlin Wall–like structure topped by razor wire. Residents on both sides had covered it in murals. One likened it to the separation fence between Israel and the West Bank.

“Does this look like peace to you?” asked Keller.

“No,” answered Gabriel. “It looks like home.”

- The peace line along Cupar Way in Belfast, seen from the Protestant side, Wikipedia

Irony alert: Cardinal Dolan

- Cardinal Dolan

In the news, Cardinal Dolan announces new compensation program for abuse survivors ...

New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan said Oct. 6 he hopes a new archdiocesan program to provide compensation to survivors of clergy sexual abuse will "help bring a measure of peace and healing" to those victims .... To cover the cost of compensating victims, the archdiocese said it will take out a long-term loan. It "will not use money given by the people of the archdiocese to support parishes, schools and charitable works," the news release said. None of the funds to be paid to victims will be taken from the annual stewardship appeal, a new capital campaign called Renew and Rebuild or from any money given by a donor "for a specific ministry or apostolate." ...

Strangely, the article fails to mention Cardinal Dolan's past efforts, not to help abuse survivors, but to swindle them: The New York Times wrote an editorial on this - Cardinal Dolan and the Sexual Abuse Scandal ...

Tragic as the sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church has been, it is shocking to discover that Cardinal Timothy Dolan, while archbishop of Milwaukee, moved $57 million off the archdiocesan books into a cemetery trust fund six years ago in order to protect the money from damage suits by victims of abuse by priests.

Cardinal Dolan, now the archbishop of New York, has denied shielding the funds as an “old and discredited” allegation and “malarkey.” But newly released court documents make it clear that he sought and received fast approval from the Vatican to transfer the money just as the Wisconsin Supreme Court was about to open the door to damage suits by victims raped and abused as children by Roman Catholic clergy ...

And - Dolan Sought to Protect Church Assets, Files Show ...

Files released by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee on Monday reveal that in 2007, Cardinal Timothy F. Dolan, then the archbishop there, requested permission from the Vatican to move nearly $57 million into a cemetery trust fund to protect the assets from victims of clergy sexual abuse who were demanding compensation ... files contain a 2007 letter to the Vatican in which he explains that by transferring the assets, “I foresee an improved protection of these funds from any legal claim and liability.” The Vatican approved the request in five weeks, the files show.

And it's not just this. While a church sponsored compensation program for victims might sound nice, what that actually means is an end run around the justice system ....

Some advocates for sex abuse victims immediately assailed the program as an attempt to squash cases quickly, before New York's legislature acts on a proposal to make it easier for victims to sue over abuse that happened years ago.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, an independent network of survivors of clergy abuse, said in a statement that compensation needs to be determined by independent sources, such as judges and juries.

The group's executive director, David Clohessy, said that Dolan's announcement is also "short circuiting" legislative reform on the statue of limitations.

"We are not pleased with announcement," Clohessy said.

Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of, an advocacy group that collects records on abusive priests, said in an email that New York's "restrictive statute of limitations has enabled Dolan to hide the true scope of the clergy abuse crisis in the NY archdiocese."

"His proposed victims' compensation fund is another tactic designed to fend off disclosure," she said.

New York state lawmakers have long debated extending the statute of limitations on suing child sex abusers, or creating a window of opportunity for past victims to file civil suits against abusers. Such proposals have faced strong opposition from the Catholic Church and other institutions.

The leading proposal in the Legislature would eliminate the statute of limitations for several child sexual abuse crimes going forward and create a one-year window for past victims to file civil suits. Victims now have until they turn 23 to file lawsuits, but supporters say it can take years before victims step forward. In May, an attempt by supporters in the state Senate to force a vote on the measure failed.

- Archdiocese of New York to Compensate Clergy Abuse Survivors: Cardinal Dolan

So should we trust Cardinal Dolan and this plan to help survivors? Even ignoring his $57 million switcheroo, his other past dealings with the sex abuse problem have been checkered at best. Myself, I don't believe that he cares at all about sex abuse survivors.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Catholic Poland and abortion

In the news: After Mass Protests, Poland Won’t Push for Total Abortion Ban.

The conservative Catholic government had planned to change Poland's already restrictive abortion law to now exclude even abortions because of rape, incest, or if the fetus is irreparably damaged, and would put women and doctors in jail. The new law is supported by the Catholic Polish church. From The Tablet ...

The proposed anti-abortion bill has received the backing of the Catholic Church. In a statement read in churches on 3 April, they urged politicians to support the proposed ban and said Poland’s 1993 law, which restricts abortions to cases of rape, incest, severe foetal damage or threats to a woman’s life, could not be sustained and should be replaced by a total ban.

Women walked out of churches and others took to the streets in the thousands to protest, and even some Catholic theologians wrote to Poland's Catholic bishops to ask them to stop pushing for the law ...

Prominent theologians ask Polish bishops to reconsider support for proposed abortion ban

Nearly one hundred prominent Catholic theologians, historians and lay people from Europe and the U.S. have written to Poland’s bishops to express concerns about the prelates’ advocacy in favor of a new law that would make abortion illegal in their country under almost all circumstances.

In an open letter released Tuesday, the signers say they want to “engage in dialogue and reflection” about the possible consequences of the new law.

Poland has had one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe since 1993, allowing for the termination of a pregnancy only in cases of grave fetal defect, rape, and threat to the life of the mother, and only in the first twelve weeks of pregnancy.

A new proposed bill, which has been publicly backed by the Polish bishops’ conference, would make abortion illegal under all circumstances, except for when the death of the fetus would be the unintended result of saving a woman’s life ......

But the Polish church wouldn't change their stance and I don't doubt the bishops are really bummed about the government's change of mind on the proposed bill. And they wonder why women are leaving the Catholic church in droves.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Rainy day

Today was the first rain we in drought world have had since last spring. It was good for the plants but not so good for me since I have not yet had new tarps put on the leaky roof ...

Leaking endued ...

The cats weren't too happy either ...

Maybe a song will help :) ...

Saturday, October 01, 2016


- Why No One Should Vote for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein

- Saudis and Extremism: ‘Both the Arsonists and the Firefighters’

- Has Pope Francis Failed?. The short answer is 'yes'. This op-ed was written by the conservative editor of First Things, and I think the perception is that only conservatives are disappointed in Pope Francis, as they fear his reforming. But that's not true. Liberal Catholics like me are also disappointed in him because he actually has *not* made any real reforms on the issues we care about, like sex abuse, contraception, marriage equality, allowing priests to marry, allowing women to be priests, etc. Some people believe too that the pope wants to make these reforms but that the curia won't let him. Also untrue ... at many times and in many venues, the pope has expressed his antipathy for contraception, gay people marrying, women being priests ... the pope is a dyed in the wool social conservative and that's pretty disappointing.

- About JASTA ...