Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Friday, October 20, 2017

What happened in Niger?

Today I watched the White House press briefing in which General Kelly spoke of Trump's phone call to the wife of a soldier killed in Niger. Kelly's talk was disturbing on a whole number of levels, from his sad mention of his son's death to his attack on Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson of Florida (After Video Refutes Kelly’s Charges, Congresswoman Raises Issue of Race) to his opinions on people who do and do not serve in the military.

The reason this even was a thing is because four US servicemen were killed in an ambush in Niger under what seem to be mysterious circumstances and Trump has remained mum about the event for the last two weeks ....

US launches investigation into deadly Niger ambush and confusion that followed

The Defense Department is conducting an initial review of the mission in Niger and the ambush by 50 ISIS-affiliated fighters that left four US soldiers dead and two wounded. Multiple US officials have described to CNN a scene of confusion on the ground during the unexpected firefight. The investigation will be an effort "to get all the facts correct," an administration official familiar with the review told CNN. The review will aim to determine precisely what happened -- something that is still not clear nearly two weeks after the incident occurred, according to the official ....

Rachel Maddow has an opinion on why Trump has remained silent ...

And more from Lawrence O'Donnell on Kelly's talk ...

My grandfather was career military and my father fought in Korea, but it creeps me out the way the Trump administration seems to be turning military service into some kind of religiously worshipful act .... if they call it "sacred" one more time, I think I'll snap.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


Reading about The Movement of #MeToo ...

[...] On Sunday afternoon, the actress Alyssa Milano used her Twitter account to encourage women who’d been sexually harassed or assaulted to tweet the words #MeToo. In the last 24 hours, a spokesperson from Twitter confirmed, the hashtag had been tweeted nearly half a million times.

#MeToo wasn’t just mushrooming on Twitter—when I checked Facebook Monday morning, my feed was filled with friends and acquaintances acknowledging publicly that they, too, had experienced harassment or assault. Some shared their stories, some simply posted the hashtag to add their voices to the fray. And it wasn’t just women: Men also spoke up about their experiences with assault. Actors including Anna Paquin, Debra Messing, Rosario Dawson, Gabrielle Union, and Evan Rachel Wood joined in. The writer Alexis Benveniste used it to remind people that the messages they were seeing were only the tip of the iceberg. For every woman stating her own experiences out loud, there were likely just as many choosing not to do so ...

I'm among the many who has experienced this kind of harassment in the past. At one of my first jobs, working at a movie theater, the manager would regularly pinch the women employees on the behind. At a later volunteer job at a clinic, one of the docs groped my chest when we were alone in an elevator. A guy on a date forced himself on me. And there's no counting the cat calls and sexual jokes and propositions that most women, including me, endure from the time we're teens.

Many of the articles and news clips I've seen on this subject ask whether this recent attention will make any difference in the situation. I don't think it will. It would be great if tougher laws against harassment in the workplace came out of this, but that doesn't address the cause of the problem.

What seems to be the case is that some institutions in power over vulnerable people take advantage of those people (Hollywood and the casting couch, the Catholic church and child sex abuse). The same is true of individuals - sometimes women are the ones who take advantage, but in the vast majority of cases it is men who see women, children, and sometimes other men as sexual prey items instead of fellow people. I don't know what can fix this tendency, and I don't think most people care enough about the situation to try to fix it ... I mean, come on, we just elected a self-confessed sexual predator as president.

Friday, October 13, 2017

A movie and a book

The latest book I've been reading from the public library is House of Spies: a Novel by former journalist Daniel Silva. It's the 17th book in the spy series about art restorer and Israeli agent Gabriel Allon. I've read all the books in the series and enjoyed them all. This one is very good so far. Here's an interview with Silva about the book on the Today show ...

My latest movie rental was The Mummy ...

a 2017 American action-adventure film directed by Alex Kurtzman .... It is a reboot of The Mummy franchise and the first installment in the Universal's Dark Universe. The film stars Tom Cruise, Annabelle Wallis, Sofia Boutella, Jake Johnson, Courtney B. Vance, and Russell Crowe.

As you will recall, the earlier Mummy films starred Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz, and told of a treasure-hunting soldier who collaborates with a librarian to unearth Egyptian relics, one of which is a sarcophagus containing a still living and supernaturally dangerous mummy. This new film modernizes the story but basically follows the same path.

Sadly, the film got pretty bad reviews - I think part of the reason some critics didn't like it is that they didn't realize that many of the script choices were based on the earlier Mummy film. Here's a review from The Guardian: The Mummy review – Tom Cruise returns in poorly bandaged corpse reviver. Anyway, I enjoyed it. Here's a trailer ...

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Harvey Weinstein: the Trump era

Rachel Maddow discusses Harvey Weinstein (and Trump) and interviews journalist Ronan Farrow about his New Yorker article: From Aggressive Overtures to Sexual Assault: Harvey Weinstein’s Accusers Tell Their Stories ...

I first heard of Ronan Farrow when he wrote an essay in The Hollywood Reporter about his sister's allegations against their father, Woody Allen .... My Father, Woody Allen, and the Danger of Questions Unasked (Guest Column)

More: How NBC ‘Killed’ Ronan Farrow’s Weinstein Exposé

Monday, October 09, 2017


In my area of the country ... fire.

From CNN ...

Wildfires in Northern California Kill at Least 10 and Destroy 1,500 Buildings

Though it's very smoky here, the closest the fire has come to where I live is about 90 miles. I've been to Santa Rosa and Napa/Sonoma many times - scary and sad to think of them in flames.

The kitty couch

Used a gift certificate my sis gave me to send for this outdoor couch from Amazon for the cats. It's supposed to be practically indestructible (all plastic) so hopefully it can survive out on the front porch, saying it doesn't get stolen. Fig seems to like it :) ...

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Coming to a Theater Near You

I love movies and often visit the Apple Movie Trailer place to see the future attractions. Here are a few of the movies I'm looking forward to seeing ...

- Earth - One Amazing Day ...

- Bill Nye: Science Guy ...

- Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House ...

- Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton ...

- Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle :) ...

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Drift: Rachel Maddow

My latest book from the library is Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power by Rachel Maddow.

Here's the beginning of the review of the book at NPR ...

In past wars, the U.S. practically dismantled its military after the troops came home. But today, says MSNBC News anchor and writer Rachel Maddow, we find ourselves in a state of almost permanent war.

In her new book Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power, Maddow invokes Thomas Jefferson, pointing out that one of Jefferson's main concerns was the danger of having a large military.

"That was a really animating thing going on for the Founding Fathers. I mean, they were very upset about what was going on with the British Empire and the British king, and there's a reason that the 'quartering soldiers' thing, which seems so random, is foundational in our founding documents," she says.

Her book argues that the U.S. military has grown bloated partially because the nation is insulated from the wars its soldiers fight ....

I'm up to the part in the book about when Ronald Reagan was president and launching the invasion of Grenada in 1983. For some reason I don't remember anything about the politics of the time, so it's really interesting to read all this stuff ... I had no idea that Reagan was such a proto-Trump, with his love of the military (and his lying). If you're interested in contemporary history, you'll probably find the book worth a read.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

This week's movie rental was Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 ...

a 2017 American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics superhero team Guardians of the Galaxy .... It is the sequel to 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy and the fifteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film is written and directed by James Gunn and stars an ensemble cast featuring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris Sullivan, Sean Gunn, Sylvester Stallone, and Kurt Russell. In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the Guardians travel throughout the cosmos as they help Peter Quill learn more about his mysterious parentage.

I devoured The Fantastic Four, Thor, Captain America, and the Avengers comics as a kid, but never read Guardians of the Galaxy, so I'm not as much of a fan of this Marvel film series, but it's still pretty fun to watch. The characters are likeable, especially Rocket Raccoon ...

And there's lot's of music too, with Peter getting a whole new set of tunes, like Cat Stevens' Tea for the Tillerman ...

One of the nicest CGI/music scenes was when the characters arrived on the planet created by Peter's father, while George Harrison plays in the background ...

I'm looking forward to the coming Avenger's movie in which most of the characters of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including the Guardians of the Galaxy, will meet in what might be the final film.

The movie received good reviews. Here's one from Richard Roeper - ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ brings the funny and the feels

And here's a trailer ...

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Polanski: another past victim

Roman Polanski is annoyed that sexual assault cases hurt appreciation of his films

As Roman Polanski has returned to the film festival circuit, debuting his latest film, sexual assault allegations against him continue to mount.

On Tuesday, a fourth woman came forward to say that she was a victim of the acclaimed 84-year-old director. Former German actress Renate Langer filed a report with Swiss police claiming that Polanski raped her in February 1972, when she was just 15 years old, according to the The New York Times.

The day before, the Academy Award-winning director was at a press conference in Zurich, promoting his latest film, a psychological thriller about the relationship between two women and with the strangely apt title “Based on a True Story.”

The Polish-born director took a few moments away from talking up the film to tell reporters that it was “unfortunate” that his new work and his other acclaimed films — “Rosemary’s Baby,” “Chinatown” and “The Pianist” — are now viewed through the filter of the sexual assault scandals that surround him, the Hollywood Reporter said.

In offering a rare comment on this allegations, Polanski also argued the scandal should be behind him .....

I had written a blog post about him last August when a judge in the US decided not to dismiss the case against him here for having drugged and raped and sodomized and forced oral sex on a 13 year old girl against her wishes in 1977.

Poor rapist - so hard to enjoy your wealth and fame and the praise of suck-ups when these peaky victims from your past keep popping up. He has never shown a shred of remorse for any of these assaults.

Monday, October 02, 2017

RIP: Tom Petty

This from PBS NewsHour ...

Sad to hear this. I saw him in concert once with the ex. I especially liked this song of his ...

And here he is later in the Traveling Wilburys (he's the one standing by the window) ....

I'll miss him.

Can't sleep

Tonight, as I was outside sweeping the porch, the new neighbor across the street suddenly yelled at the top of his lungs, "keep your stinking cats on your own property". He's never spoken a word to me before, and this time he still didn't come over and talk, just left that bellow hanging in the air as a couple of the kittens ran across the road from his yard. If I could keep them in the yard, I would do that, but I don't see any practical way to make that happen. Now I feel sick and worried that he may harm the cats.

I know the cat situation is bad here. It has been like a snowball rolling down hill, getting worse every year. This neighborhood has always had a lot of stray cats around. I had my four cats who lived always only inside but even without there being any cat food outside, cats would tend to gravitate to my yard, probably because it's big and unkempt, with lots of places for small animals to hide. I would try to find homes for them when I could. After my four cats became elderly and sick and passed away, I decided not to have any more pets - my health isn't great and there's just no money for anything extra.

But a few years after my cats had died, another stray cat appeared during the winter. I felt sorry for him and left out some food. And I guess I was lonely here by myself, and I thought, "one cat - how bad could it be?" I called him Scruffy..

- Scruffy napping

There were two other cats who had been hanging around and now they joined Scruffy on the porch - Vicky and Olive. When spring rolled around, Scruffy the cat's family appeared - a mama cat and three babies (Thor, Dina, and Lucy). They were all semi-feral but I tried to figure something out. Every place I called or wrote to ... the SPCA, PETA, Happy Tails Pet Sanctuary, Alley Cat Allies, and a number of other organizations ... were no help. None of them would take the kittens to socialize and find homes for them. PETA and the SPCA actually recommended that I just euthanize them because they were un-adoptable and there were already so many homeless pet cats.

- Olive

- Vicky

- Thor, Dina, and Mouse

- Lucy

So I kept them and managed to catch them and get them spayed and neutered. They lived in the big yard and I fixed the garage up with some old cat furniture and pillows and rugs so they would have an indoor place. I wasn't lonely anymore, but I could feel a rising panic. Then spring happened again. A mama cat and a kitten showed up in the yard. I tried again to find some place that would take them, but couldn't. So Misty and her baby, Mouse, moved in too. Meanwhile, Mr. and Mrs. Scruffy disappeared, so there were seven cats now.

- Misty

And then spring happened yet again. Another mother cat and kittens appeared in the yard. The mama cat disappeared but the kittens remained - this time I was able to talk the vet into taking a few of the kittens to adopt out, but there were still two I couldn't catch no matter how hard I tried - Hansel and Gretel. Now there were nine cats and I felt pretty overwhelmed, but I eventually got Misty and Mouse and Hansel and Gretel spayed and neutered and thought to myself that maybe the neighborhood's stray cat cornucopia was finally empty.

- Hansel and Gretel

But then spring came and Marie and her five kittens appeared. This time the vet would not take any of the kittens and I turned to the County Animal Shelter for help. They couldn't promise the kittens would find homes, especially in kitten season when they had so many tamed kittens to give away. That meant they would be euthanized. Didn't matter because I couldn't catch them and the older they got, the less adoptable they became and I didn't want to send them off to die. So now there are fifteen, yes, fifteen, cats here in the yard, six of them not spayed and neutered.

- one of Marie's kittens, Snowy

I'm way beyond overwhelmed at this point. The neighbors hate me. The cost of the cat food is hard to come up with. I don't know what to do, and I just know that there are more cats out there. I hate the organizations and agencies that are supposed to help with this problem but which really don't. I hate the neighbors for always only making things harder instead of helping ... all these stray cats that keep appearing are not being spontaneously generated from nothing. And I hate myself for being so unable to be "normal" and do whatever it is normal people do in these situations.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Going crazy

When I read about stuff like this ... Trump attacks San Juan mayor over hurricane response .... it makes me crazy. As one commentator put it on today's Meet the Press, there's let-them-eat;cake Trump at his luxury golf club berating a woman mayor wading through sewage to save lives because she dared to question his response to the natural disaster in which she now lives. The crazy-making thing isn't just that Trump is blaming the victims, it's that his troglodyte followers and their Republican representatives support him on this and everything else.

Speaking of crazy, maybes some music will help. Here's The Decemberists covering Heart's Crazy on You, which was inspired by social unrest ....

But I still think the original is the vest version ...

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Hugh Hefner

In the news: Hugh Hefner has died. I certainly won't miss him. I always thought him to be a pathetic creep. His claim to fame is that he commercialized sexism, normalizing women as things to be appraised and used by those people (you know, men) with enough money to rent/lease/buy them. He sold himself as a liberal but he was a porn broker, and as studies have shown, it's conservatives who love porn.

People who are young now probably don't give a thought to Hefner, but when my sister and I were teens we thought of him and guys like him as the "lucky Pierre generation" .... middle-aged men who thought anything was possible and everything permitted as long as they had enough money .... think Trump (who was a visitor to the Playboy mansion, and was on one of the covers of the magazine natch).

How Hugh Hefner’s Incredibly Complicated Legacy Got Cast as Female Sexual Liberation

[T]he effects of a few articles and donations will pale in comparison to the two signature pillars of Hefner’s memory: his naked photos and his lifestyle. Hefner kicked off his new magazine at age 27 with an act of exploitation, spending $500 on the rights to an existing naked photograph of Marilyn Monroe and running it without her consent. In the decades that ensued, he earned millions off the bodies of the women in Playboy while spinning it as a win for sexual liberation. Women can and do enjoy sex, and they should be allowed to show it, Hefner argued. Fair point! But the women in Playboy, no matter how much they enjoy posing nude and reaping what minimal payment comes of it, are not doing sexy things on their own terms—they’re following the explicit instructions of the men who make and buy the magazine. When I looked at Playboy’s encyclopedic collection of 734 centerfolds earlier this month, it struck me that the bodies in the magazine functioned as both a reflection of and prescription for male desire that, by the ‘90s, Hefner and his acolytes had made into hairless, glistening, plumped-up forms into which no human could ever transform. This monthly collection of photos of women’s vulvas and breasts, bookended by sometimes-serious journalism, is now considered something far more mainstream than porn, no matter how garish the lights. Hefner didn’t just help make the commodification of female flesh into a multimillion-dollar industry. With his bourgeois gloss and chatter about sexual freedom, he made it the topic of respectable conversation. Perhaps his most stunning rhetorical feat was convincing a certain segment of women—and men, for that matter—that women could channel power from the patriarchy if they performed sexual desirability for men.

There was also the life Hefner led, which became more absurd and piteous with every year. He left his first wife and two children in 1959, the better to make good on the promiscuous lifestyle he sold to his readers. Men since time immemorial have certainly fantasized about leaving their ho-hum desk jobs, banal home lives, and burdensome spawn to become internationally known for their material and carnal acquisitions. Hefner gave them hope that this seductive narrative did not have to be restricted to the realm of fiction. His Playboy Mansion, the site of more than one alleged sexual assault, was the ultimate man cave: a place where, regular dudes imagined, every surface was meant for sex and every woman was meant to be fucked. Take a quick scroll through Twitter today and you’ll find dozens of men asking women for nude photos “in honor of” Hefner’s memory ....

No, Hugh Hefner Did Not Love Women

[...] What Hefner and Playboy never did was present women as human, or consider us anything like men. Hefner made female sex objects more relatable and accessible — the Playboy centerfold was the girl next door, not the famous movie actress —but this wasn't so much an elevation as a downward shift: social permission for men to look at all women through the zipper in their jeans, and not even bother to pretend it was otherwise .... He didn’t fundamentally challenge a view of sex as something women provide to men and that is primarily about male pleasure and experience, with women in a performative role. If anything, he took that existing sexual imbalance and magnified it, creating a brand that is synonymous with sexualized women being gazed at as things a man might want to acquire.

More: Hugh Hefner preached sexual liberation, but he never stopped exploiting women's bodies ... Hugh Hefner, the murder of Dorothy Stratten and the dark side of Playboy

Republican Governor Rauner: pro-choice

A Republican Just Did Something Good for Abortion Rights

Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner announced on Thursday that he will sign legislation to remove a ban on abortion coverage for women enrolled in Medicaid and in state employee health insurance. The bill, HB 40, will also remove a state “trigger” law that would automatically make abortion illegal if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned ...

It's good to know there are actually pro-choice Republican politicians. I hope this gives others the courage to stand up for women's rights as well.

Social media ads: Russia & Trump

Russians taking out social media ads that are crafted to widen the divides between Americans, ads that are pro-Trump and anti-Hillary, ads that are so delicately on the nose that investigators suspect the writers of those ads had the aid of the data analytics of the Trump campaign. Collusion.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Lock them up!

At nearly every Trump rally we have heard him and his followers chanting "lock her up!" in reference to Hillary Clinton using a private email account for some government business. Apparently, there's a double standard ....

At Least 6 White House Advisers Used Private Email Accounts

At least six of President Trump’s closest advisers occasionally used private email addresses to discuss White House matters, current and former officials said on Monday.

The disclosures came a day after news surfaced that Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and adviser, used a private email account to send or receive about 100 work-related emails during the administration’s first seven months. But Mr. Kushner was not alone. Stephen K. Bannon, the former chief White House strategist, and Reince Priebus, the former chief of staff, also occasionally used private email addresses. Other advisers, including Gary D. Cohn and Stephen Miller, sent or received at least a few emails on personal accounts, officials said.

Ivanka Trump, the president’s elder daughter, who is married to Mr. Kushner, used a private account when she acted as an unpaid adviser in the first months of the administration, Newsweek reported Monday. Administration officials acknowledged that she also occasionally did so when she formally became a White House adviser ...

We can't let ourselves become inured to the continuing discovery of Trump's constant lies and deceptions - we have to notice them and call them out or Trump and his ways will slowly become the new normal.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Trump and the NFL

Here's Bob Costas on Trump's criticism of people in sports who kneel during the anthem ...

Trump tries to wrap himself in the flag while fanning the flames of racism.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Remember The Dead Zone?

You guys ever watched The Dead Zone, the film adaptation of Stephen King's book? It's one of my favorites and I posted about it a few years ago here. Given Trump's deadly game of nuclear chicken with North Korea, I'm reminded of this scene from the movie, in which the crazy-as-a-bedbug president decides to start a nuclear war ...

Meanwhile, from The Atlantic: What Would a Hydrogen Bomb Do to the Pacific Ocean?

[...] Hydrogen bombs are far more powerful than atomic bombs, capable of producing many times more explosive energy. If an H-bomb hits the Pacific, it will detonate with a blinding flash and produce the signature mushroom cloud. The immediate effects likely would depend on the height of the detonation above the water. The initial blast could kill most of the life in the strike zone—scores of fish and other marine life—instantly. When the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945, the entire population located within a radius of 1,600 feet (500 meters) perished.

The explosion would send radioactive particles flying through the air and into the water. Wind could carry the dangerous particles over hundreds of miles.

The smoke from the blast site could block out sunlight and hinder life forms at sea that depend on photosynthesis to survive. The exposure to radiation could cause severe health problems for nearby marine life. Radioactivity is known to damage cells in humans, animals, and plants by causing changes in their genes. The changes could lead to crippling mutations in future generations. The eggs and larvae of marine organisms are especially sensitive to radiation, according to experts. Affected animals could pass the exposure up the food chain.

The test could also have damaging and long-lasting effects on humans and other wildlife if the radioactive fallout reaches land. The particles could contaminate air, soil, and water supply. More than 60 years after the United States tested a series of atomic bombs near Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands, the island remains “unlivable,” according to a report from The Guardian in 2014. Residents relocated before the tests returned in the 1970s to find high levels of radiation in foods grown near the nuclear test site and were forced to leave again ....

Please let the Russia investigation lead to impeachment before we're all nuked.