Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Goodbye net neutrality

Another gift from the Trump administration ... F.C.C. Repeals Net Neutrality Rules

For those who don't understand how truly awful this decision is, watch this past episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver ...

Wednesday, December 13, 2017


A Jethro Tull song from the distant past. I can still remember all the words, which is kind of frightening ;) ...

Well the dawn was coming
Heard him ringing on my bell
He said, My name's the teacher
That is what I call myself
And I have a lesson
That I must impart to you
It's an old expression
But I must insist it's true

Jump up, look around
Find yourself some fun
No sense in sitting there hating everyone
No man's an island and his castle isn't home
The nest is full of nothing when the bird has flown

So I took a journey
Threw my world into the sea
With me went the teacher
Who found fun instead of me

Hey man, what's the plan, what was that you said?
Sun-tanned, drink in hand, lying there in bed
I try to socialize but I can't seem to find
What I was looking for, got something on my mind

Then the teacher told me
It had been a lot of fun
Thanked me for his ticket
And all that I had done

Hey man, what's the plan, what was that you said?
Sun-tanned, drink in hand, lying there in bed
I try to socialize but I can't seem to find
What I was looking for, got something on my mind

Out in the yard

It's chilly but sunny. It's actually warmer outside than inside if you're in the sun, so I walked around with the cats today :)

Leaves ...

The wild grapes have climbed up a dead tree ...

Fig is getting some sun under the loquat tree ...

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Yes !!!!

Doug Jones won the Alabama election over Roy Moore :) ...

Playing with Fire

My latest book from the public library is Playing with Fire: The 1968 Election and the Transformation of American Politics by MSNBC political analyst Lawrence O'Donnell.

I'm just at the beginning, which has a lot about Bobby Kennedy and his decision to run for president against Johnson and Nixon in 1968. Bobby Kennedy was a charismatic figure who tried to bring people together - he was the antithesis of Trump. Here he is giving a speech on the back of a flatbed truck just after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated (Robert F. Kennedy's speech on the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.) ...

Here O'Donnell is interviewed about the book at the Commonwealth Club ...

Ah ha

Now I understand where those plush toys I never bought the cats came from ;) ...

Monday, December 11, 2017

Alabama voters: the deplorables

Apparently a number of those Hillary deemed "deplorables" live in Alabama ...

Those people deserve Roy Moore.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Some music

Wishful thinking ...

The Alabama race and abortion

There's much in the news about the Alabama senate race between Democrat Doug Jones and Republican Roy Moore. I've seen speculation that if only Jones were not pro-choice, he would have a better chance of winning against accused pedophile Moore. I don't believe that's true. I think the pro-life issue for Republicans is much like the deficit issue ..... they don't really care about it but it gives reputable cover for the real reasons they will not vote for something (reference the tax bill's effect on deficit). And there's a poll that supports my view ...

Abortion Isn’t Main Reason More Republicans Still Won’t Back Doug Jones, New Poll Finds

[...] On Nov. 4-5, Clarity Campaign Labs, a Democratic polling firm, surveyed 707 Alabama voters in a survey commissioned by Planned Parenthood Votes. (Planned Parenthood has no involvement in the Alabama special election and has not endorsed a candidate.) The results were shared with HuffPost.

Clarity Campaign Labs was specifically interested in Republican voters who might be persuaded to back Jones. The survey found that less than 1.5 percent of Moore’s supporters said they had considered switching and backing Jones.

The pollster then tried to figure out why those voters decided to stick with Moore. Was it because of Jones’ support for abortion rights?

But Clarity didn’t want to limit people with a list of possible answers. So they were asked to explain, in their own words, why they continued to reject Jones.

“Abortion wasn’t really in the top couple issues people gave us,” said John Hagner, the Clarity pollster who conducted the survey.

More than one-third of those Republican voters who said they decided not to switch to Jones gave a reason that fell into the category of just generally not liking him. Ten percent said they didn’t like his personal history. (Jones is a former U.S. attorney best known for finally putting Ku Klux Klan members behind bars for blowing up an African-American church back in 1963.) Eight percent cited abortion as the reason.

“Of the people who were undecided, they weren’t citing choice as the major driver,” Hagner said. “Of the people who had considered voting for Jones and decided not to, there was a whole range of issues.”

Clarity conducted the poll before women came forward and alleged that Moore had pursued them when they were in their teens and he was in his 30s. Presumably, there are more Republicans giving Jones a second look. But Hagner said he didn’t think abortion would now become a more significant factor in the race ...

Doug Jones stood up for those little girls who were murdered in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing and he's standing up for women's reproductive rights today. The idea that Alabama voters who support Moore do so for moral reasons ... a man who thinks LGBT people shouldn't be allowed to marry, that Muslims should not serve in Congress, that the best time in America was in the era of slavery, and who is now believed to have preyed on teenage girls ... just beggars belief.

Friday, December 08, 2017

X-Men directors accused of harassment, rape

There's been much in the news about those who have sexually harassed or assaulted women/men. One story that hasn't been as much in the public eye but which I noticed because I'm a fan of Marvel films, is that of two different directors of X-Men movies: Bret Ratner and Bryan Singer. The reason I bring this up is the silence from most of the actors of those movies, guys like Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart ... have I just missed it?

Here's more ...

- Brett Ratner Accused of Sexual Harassment or Misconduct by Six Women (Report)

- Brett Ratner and Russell Simmons Accused of Working Together to Carry Out Sexual Misconduct

- New lawsuit alleges 'X-Men' director Bryan Singer raped a 17-year-old boy

- The Deeper Significance of Bryan Singer's Firing

Thursday, December 07, 2017

California is burning

This is happening hundreds of miles from where I live, but it's still horrifying. It used to only happen in the summer but now it's a year long problem. People are losing their homes and sometimes their lives. And it's not just people, it's animals too. Here a tweet from Chris Evans (Captain America) ...

And he posted this video too of a man who pulled over on the highway to save a little wild rabbit from the fire ...

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

The wedding cake case

Democratic Congressman from my state, Adam Schiff, tweets ...

I agree with him. Here's more from the LA Times ...

The 'gay wedding cake' case isn't about religious freedom or free speech

[...] The bakery’s argument is among the most radical to come before the Supreme Court in recent years. When you scratch below the surface, the case poses the following question: Is there a constitutional right to discriminate?

The bakery argues that there is, and that the Constitution should exempt it from state laws requiring that businesses not discriminate when serving their customers. In an Orwellian twist, the Department of Justice — the very body charged with enforcing the country’s anti-discrimination laws — agreed with the bakery in a friend-of-the-court brief.

Specifically, the bakery argues that it should be allowed to refuse service to people if doing so runs contrary to the religious beliefs of its owners. That should give us pause.

In the 1960s, Piggie Park, a small chain of barbecue restaurants in South Carolina, said that its owner’s freedom of religion would be violated if it were held responsible for disregarding the Civil Rights Act when it refused to serve black patrons.

In 1983, Goldsboro Christian Schools of Goldsboro, N.C., argued it had a religious right to refuse black students. In the same case, Bob Jones University of Greenville, S.C., argued it had a right to deny admission to students who engaged in, or advocated for, interracial dating.

As recently as 1990, Roanoke Valley Christian Schools in Virginia argued that it had a right to pay women less because their faith taught that men should be heads of households.

The courts rejected all of those arguments. They understood that religious liberty does not translate into a right to discriminate. If the Supreme Court now accepts the cake shop’s religion argument, the decision would have far-reaching consequences. Religious liberty could become a way out of anti-discrimination law. ...

And of course Trump is supporting the baker in this case :( ... WH: Trump Backs Religious Liberty as SCOTUS Hears Wedding Cake Case

Monday, December 04, 2017

The stray cats, continued

- Snowy and Fig

Today I had a visit from an Animal Control officer ... the neighbor across the street lodged a complaint against me as having a lot of "sick and injured" cats. I've been dreading this ever since that neighbor yelled at me from his yard "keep your stinking cats on your own property". I had thought of all the stings I would say, like how I had contacted all the animal agencies and charities I knew of for help in finding homes for the cats but how none would help .... the SPCA even suggested I just have them all euthanized as being semi-feral would make them impossible to adopt out. When the lady came to the door, though, I was so upset I couldn't remember all my lines.

First, though, I did say that none of the cats was sick, though one does have a permanent limp from an old injury (Mouse). She wanted to know how many were spayed/neutered and I said all but the most recent additions ... the five kittens who appeared this spring. I gave her the name of the veterinarian place I took them and told her that Mouse's leg had been examined by the vet. And I told her I had been in contact with someone from the Animal Control place before, discussing the cat situation and asking for help finding homes for the kittens.

It wasn't as bad as I feared. She isn't going to take the cats off to kill them. She said that as long as I got them all spayed and neutered and as long as they were in good health, they would leave things as they are. But she took my name and number and said she would check back. I think there's a new reality .... there are just so many abandoned and feral cats and dogs in neighborhoods now. The County kills thousands every year. If some people take it upon themselves to feed and spay/neuter some of these animals, I think the County is willing to look the other way much of the time.

But with the neighbor across the street having made a complaint, I don't know what the County may decide to do about my cats. And what about the neighbor .... when he realizes that the County probably won't make this problem go away, what might he do to the cats himself?

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Trump destroys Bears Ears National Monument

- Bears Ears National Monument

A day can't pass without Trump destroying something good, especially if that good thing was created by President Obama.

Trump Is Going to Destroy 2 of the Country’s Most Beautiful National Monuments

President Donald Trump is planning to drastically shrink two national monuments in Utah. According to documents obtained by the Washington Post, Bears Ears, which is currently 1.35 million acres could be shrunk by 85 percent, and the 1.9 million acres of Grand Staircase-Escalante will be reduced by 85 percent. Trump will be announcing the proposal when he visits Salt Lake City on Monday.

The move comes after Trump asked Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in April to review any national monument larger than 100,000 acres. Three months later, Zinke submitted a report with recommendations for reducing or eliminating 27 monuments, including Gold Butte in Nevada and Vermillion Cliffs in Arizona.

The push to shrink national monuments comes from the Trump administration’s intent to open up federally-protected land to oil, gas ...

- a timelapse taken in Valley of the Gods, Bears Ears National Monument

Hue 1968

My latest check-out from the public library is Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam by Mark Bowden. You can read a New York Times review of the book here - The Beginning of the End in Vietnam: An Account of the Battle of Hue, by the Author of ‘Black Hawk Down’

I'm just a short way into the book but it's very interesting. I was in high school at the time of the Tet Offensive of 1968, when the Battle of Huế took place. It's strange to have lived through a war and to remember so little of the details, but still the book is bringing back a lot of memories.

At the time covered by the book - the 60s - Lyndon Johnson was president. He had inherited the war from Kennedy, but it was Truman who first got us involved by sending money, weapons, and military advisors to help France hang on to its then colony of Vietnam. The French were defeated in 1954 by the Communist North's Ho Chi Minh, the country was temporarily divided into North and South, and an election were planned in two years to unite the country, with the French taking off. In 1955 the prime minister of the South, Ngô Đình Diệm, rigged the election when it became clear he would lose to Ho Chi Mihn, and the two halves of the country were set against each other.

The US stayed involved, worried about a domino effect in Asia. By 1968, with Johnson president, there were half a million US troops in Vietnam and more bombs were dropped by the US than had been dropped on Europe and Japan in WWII. Yet still, the US couldn't seem to win the war. And meanwhile journalists like Morley Safer were bringing home from Vietnam stories that shocked America ...

Anti-war protests grew. I do recall this - my friends and I were very against the war and the 1968 Democratic national convention showed that we were not alone ...

The convention was held during a year of violence, political turbulence, and civil unrest, particularly riots in more than 100 cities following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4. The convention also followed the assassination of Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Robert F. Kennedy of New York, on June 5. Both Kennedy and Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota had been running for the Democratic Nomination at the time ....

[T]he National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam and the Youth International Party (Yippies) had already begun planning a youth festival in Chicago to coincide with the Democratic National Convention. They were not alone, as other groups such as Students for a Democratic Society would also make their presence known. When asked about anti-war demonstrators, Daley repeated to reporters that "no thousands will come to our city and take over our streets, our city, our convention." 10,000 demonstrators gathered in Chicago for the convention, where they were met by 23,000 police and National Guardsmen.

Sometimes when I despair about this Trump era, I remind myself that I've lived in interesting times before and we all (mostly) still made it through.

I'm just at the beginning of the book, so I may post more about it later.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Tax bill passed

I wanted to post on the Senate passing the tax bill, but I feel such rage about it that I should limit myself to only a few words.

All of the Republicans voted for it save Bob Corker, even Flake and Collins and McCain voted for it. All but one voted for it knowing that it would make the rich (their donors) richer, knowing it would make Trump a billion dollars richer. All but one voted for it knowing it would increase taxes on the most vulnerable among us, knowing that it will take away health insurance from millions and that it will end up causing cuts in services to children, the elderly, the sick, the poor. All but one voted for it even though they all claim to be Christians. I will never again give a Republican lawmaker the benefit of the doubt. They are not people, they are things.

More: Senate Republicans pass a tax bill giving corporations a massive tax cut and cutting health care

Friday, December 01, 2017

And the world is about to turn

Oh my. Flynn pleads guilty to lying to the FBI in a plea deal that will have him give info about Trump/Russia collusion. And despite White House lies to the contrary, it is now known that Kushner knew exactly what Flynn was doing vis a vis the Russians.

James Comey posted this today ...

And I would like to post a song :) ...

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Tax bill: drilling in the arctic

It just gets worse and worse :( ...

What’s one more bad thing in the GOP tax bill? Ask the polar bears

THERE ARE already so many bad things in the Senate GOP tax bill, what’s one more? Well, ask the polar bears. On Tuesday, Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee added to their already malformed tax legislation a provision that would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and natural gas drilling ...

God, please kill the tax bill!

Tiger babies :)

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

We still need feminism

- NBC Receives at Least 2 New Complaints About Matt Lauer

Just thinking of how dismissive many younger people have been of the feminist movement .... this was a meme among supporters of Bernie Sanders. I hope they've been paying attention to the recent ton of allegations against powerful men of sexual harassment/assault.

These allegations are just the most obvious tip of the iceberg. Women are discriminated against in many ways, from not getting equal pay for equal work, to women dying because most medical studies are done on and for men only. This may be a brave new Millennial world but there is still a need for feminism.

More: 5 Reasons We Still Need Feminism

The tax bill

It's galloping closer to a final vote and all the Republicans seem to be falling in line. From all I've read and seen, the bill will hurt poor people the most as well as the very sick, it will help some in middle class but hurt others and even those that are helped will eventually be hurt in the future (TIME: The Senate Tax Bill Would Hurt the Poor Even More Than Originally Thought).

Meanwhile, the rich and corporations will get richer. Trump has told blatant lies about how the tax bill would affect his fortune, so let us ask: How does Trump stand to benefit? ...

Trump and his family could stand to save more than $1 billion under a tax proposal passed by House Republicans on Thursday, according to an analysis commissioned by NBC News ...

How is Trump supporting this bill not a conflict of interest? That most or all of Republican lawmakers will vote for this bill, even knowing it will hurt so many people, those who are the most vulnerable, shows what they truly are. I don't know how they live with themselves.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Trump voters revealed

There's a really interesting article at The Atlantic about the real reasons why people voted for Trump and why they still support him: The Nationalist's Delusion. I learned of the article when Lawrence O'Donnell had the writer on his show ...

The article is very long and detailed but well worth a read. The premise is that it was *not* the middle class's money worries that caused people to support Trump - the article shows that the poorest voters actually voted for Hillary. And the article points out that the one thing that almost all Trump voters have in common, as opposed to Hillary voters, was that they were white. Here's just a bit of the article ...

[...] Clinton defeated Trump handily among Americans making less than $50,000 a year. Among voters making more than that, the two candidates ran roughly even. The electorate, however, skews wealthier than the general population. Voters making less than $50,000, whom Clinton won by a proportion of 53 to 41, accounted for only 36 percent of the votes cast, while those making more than $50,000—whom Trump won by a single point—made up 64 percent. The most economically vulnerable Americans voted for Clinton overwhelmingly; the usual presumption is exactly the opposite.

If you look at white voters alone, a different picture emerges. Trump defeated Clinton among white voters in every income category, winning by a margin of 57 to 34 among whites making less than $30,000; 56 to 37 among those making less than $50,000; 61 to 33 for those making $50,000 to $100,000; 56 to 39 among those making $100,000 to $200,000; 50 to 45 among those making $200,000 to $250,000; and 48 to 43 among those making more than $250,000. In other words, Trump won white voters at every level of class and income. He won workers, he won managers, he won owners, he won robber barons. This is not a working-class coalition; it is a nationalist one ...

It's hard to escape the conclusion that Trump voters supported and continue to support him because they believe he will provide a society in which conservative white Christians are dominant. I think this extends too to the way Trump supporters view women ... it's not a coincidence that they supported a self-confessed assaulter of women for president, that they work to curtail women's reproductive rights, or that they so hated the first woman to run for president.