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Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Friday, November 17, 2017

More on the elephants

From the PBS NewsHour tonight ...

Senate tax bill


Senate tax bill would cut taxes of wealthy and increase taxes on families earning less than $75,000 by 2027

The tax bill Senate Republicans are championing would give large tax cuts to the rich while raising taxes on American families earning $10,000 to $75,000 over the next decade, according to a report released Thursday by the Joint Committee on Taxation, Congress’s official nonpartisan analysts ...

Yes, Senate Republicans have determined that those people who only make $10,000 a year deserve to pay *more* taxes. I would ask readers to call their senators and ask them to vote 'no' but I doubt any Republicans visit here and I'm sure all the Democratic senators will vote against this, because, you know, they're not effing heartless bastards. How can Christians vote for stuff like this?

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Trump admin hurts animals



Read more: Trophies from elephant hunts in Zimbabwe were banned in the U.S. Trump just reversed that

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

How to buy a wife

Treasury Head, Wife Mocked for Photo of Them Holding Money




Tuesday, November 14, 2017

It's Not Easy Bein' Green

Boy, Kermit was right! .....

Monday, November 13, 2017

Tax cuts & Supply Side Jesus

As voting on the Republican tax plan nears, that tax plan that will give big cuts to the richest and to corporations, a plan that will cause cuts to Medicaid, a plan supported by so many conservative Christians, I was reminded of "The Gospel of Supply Side Jesus" ...





Saturday, November 11, 2017

The basket of deplorables



UPDATE: 11/13 ... A fifth accuser ... Woman Says Roy Moore Sexually Assaulted Her When She Was 16 ...

[I]n December 1977, when she was 16, Nelson told reporters, Moore offered her a ride home after a late shift[as a waitress]. But instead of driving her home, Nelson alleges that Moore parked his car in a dark spot behind the restaurant, locked her in and began groping her breasts. She said he attempted to force her head toward his crotch, causing bruising around her neck.

"I was terrified. He was also trying to pull my shirt off. I thought he was going to rape me. I was twisting, I was struggling, and I was begging him to stop," she said. "At some point, he gave up. He then looked at me and he told me, he said, 'You’re just a child,' and he said, 'I am the district attorney of Etowah County, and if you tell anyone about this, no one will ever believe you.'" ...


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A basket of deplorables is a phrase used by Hillary Clinton in a campaign speech to describe a group of Trump supporters ...



She got jumped on for doing that, but I agree with her. Some Republicans are deplorables, and you can see them raising their voices right now in defense of Republican candidate Roy Moore, who has been very credibly accused of sexual behavior with a minor. It's not that they don't believe the accusations are true, it's that they don't care if the accusations are true, just as they didn't care that Trump is a self-confessed sexual predator.

Republican Voters Won’t Care One Bit Whether Roy Moore Molested an Underage Girl

[...] Members of the Republican Party in Alabama are performing bizarre contortions of logic to justify Moore’s alleged molestation. A Toronto Star correspondent reports that David Hall, the chair of the Marion County GOP, said he didn’t “see the relevance” of the allegations because “it was 40 years ago.” “He was 32. She was supposedly 14,” Hall said. “She’s not saying that anything happened other than they kissed.” (She is.) Alabama state auditor Jim Zeigler said that “even if” the story is true, it’s “much ado about very little.” He compared Moore to two Biblical figures, Zachariah and Joseph. “Zachariah was extremely old to marry Elizabeth and they became the parents of John the Baptist,” Zeigler said. “Also take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus.” Zeigler also noted that Moore ended up marrying a woman 14 years younger than him—implying, perhaps, that his intentions were noble when he touched and kissed high-school-aged girls. “There’s just nothing immoral or illegal here,” Zeigler said. “Maybe just a little bit unusual.”

Some Republican senators, among them John McCain and Rob Portman, have called for Moore to step aside as a candidate in Alabama’s upcoming special election. And there is a kind of precedent here, as Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley resigned earlier this year in the wake of a sex scandal, though his departure was spurred more by the misdemeanors he committed while covering up his affair than by the affair itself.

Nevertheless, it seems unlikely that Moore will drop out, given that he’s committed to the “fake news” angle and his state party comrades still seem to love him. If he stays in the race, the chances that these allegations will harm his candidacy are vanishingly slim. He’s already called the whole thing made-up, and if he does back down and admit that the Post’s reporting is true, his allies have already furnished him with a playbook of excuses. It was a long time ago. It was a different era. It was all legal. It was consensual. It was just a kiss. And the Bible says sexual relationships between teenage girls and adult men are OK, even holy. He could also break out that old chestnut beloved by pastors accused of sexual abuse: Only God can judge me, and he has forgiven me for my sins ....


If he does continue to run, I believe he will win, and it will be that basket of deplorables who will elect him.


Friday, November 10, 2017

Veterans Day



The only veteran I've ever really known personally is my grandfather. He was a colonel in the army, in for 20 years, and served in both WWI and II. He never really talked about it and was not at all military-ish.

Here he is with me and my (baby) sister ...



Here he is with my grandmother ...



And here's a pic of him when he was young. He's on the far left, with his father and brothers ...



He was my main father figure since I never really got to know my father. I learned so much from him, including how to be a Democrat, but also about pickle sandwiches and polka music :) Love you and miss you, grandpa.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Throwback Thursday



This was me (far R) in Oahu, at the airport with my mom, my grandmother, and (taking the photo) my sister. It was just before I got married. Fun trip. We visited Maui and the Big Island too. At the last stop, we were in a hotel that had mongeese living in the bushes :)

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

The stray cat saga continues

Dina is one of the cats who has been here from the beginning. She appeared as a kitten about four years ago with her siblings Thor and Lucy. As more and more cats ended up here, Dina got more uncomfortable and she began hanging out under the bushes of my neighbor's yard across the street. The neighbor didn't mind, but now new neighbors have moved in there, and the man who lives there hates cat. As I mentioned in an earlier post, he has never spoken to me except to once shriek from his yard, "keep your stinking cats on your own property".

Things seem to be getting worse - the other day he was chasing her, loudly stamping his feet, down his driveway. I'm worried he's going to eventually harm her. I've tried to get her to stay here, tried to get her to come inside, but so far it hasn't worked.

Today I called the vet and asked if they could keep her and try to find another home for her. I'm supposed to call back tomorrow to see what they have decided, but it doesn't look hopeful = Dina has lived outside her whole life and when I tried to get her to come inside, she began howling and running back and forth, looking for a way out. The vet people said that if she acted that way there, it would be too disruptive. The trouble with taking her to the SPCA is that she would almost certainly be put to sleep as a problem cat.

I will try to get her to come inside again but I dread how upset she will be and I doubt I will always be able to keep her inside without her slipping out past me and my cane. Must figure something out.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Another mass shooting: where was God?

Another mass killing. I don't know what to think when I see stuff like this in the news, not to mention the news of the plague in Madagascar or the suffering of the Rohingya. I guess a lot of people pray. There are a post at America magazine on this ... There’s no problem with praying after a mass shooting—but what does that prayer look like? ... which seems to say that prayer is a way for us to figure out what we, not God, should do to stop terrible things like this.

My prayers are different. I always want to know why God is letting this stuff happen, because the God of the bib;e is an intervening God. Here's a bit from a post by NT scholar Ben Witherington from a few years ago about The Shack ...

[...] The Bible is all about divine intervention. God is always intruding into our affairs, like a good parent should when his children are as wayward as we are. Is it really the case that God never rescues us against our will? Does God stand idly by, when a normal human parent would leap in and grab the child about to step out onto a highway and be smashed by a sixteen wheeler? .....

[W]hen you once allow that God is busy working all things together for good for those who love Him, whether they realize it or not, then it becomes perfectly clear, as also in cases like when God flattened Paul on the road to Damascus that there are times when God doesn’t wait on our permission to do things on our behalf, and in various cases does things that would have been against our wills at the time. And herein lies the mystery—God, by grace both gives humans limited freedom, but is prepared to intervene and make corrections, redirections etc. for God is free as well, and there is something more important than human beings ‘having it their independent way’ and that is rescuing them. A drowning person can’t save themselves, they require a radical rescue—but how they respond to that rescue thereafter, whether in loving gratitude or with a bad attitude—well that’s another matter and involves human volition.

In other words, the answer to the question of why tragedy happens in the world is not just because God won’t violate our wills, or just because our wills are bent and fallen, and we are the orchestrators of our own tragedies. It’s far more complicated than that ..........


It seems to me that a lot of Christians, perhaps those who have had prayers go unanswered, have revised the traditional view of God, made him into a bystander instead of someone who is involved in our lives. They have good excuses, the free will argument leading the list, but I think the biggest reason is that they are willing to sacrifice an interactive God in order to keep their belief in a good God who cares.

I can't say I have it figured out myself. I still pray for help but all the time I'm doing it I feel conflicted. My prayers are really arguments to a God I'm not sure exists about why he *should* intervene, even while I doubt he will ... I mean, come on, a lot of awful stuff happens on God's watch, and will continue to, I expect. What I don't understand is how other Christians keep on sending their "thoughts and prayers" to the victims, believing this will help.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Out in the yard

Sunny today and I was out in the yard with the cats and the plants :)

The Thompson seedless grapes my stepfather planted long ago have gone wild and taken over a dead apricot tree ...



Gretel is keeping me company ...



One of the oak trees ...



There are still some oleander flowers blooming ...



Olive the cat ...


Saturday, November 04, 2017

It's raining and that's ok

It's raining here in drought-world (California). Here's Mouse during a break in the showers ...



Rain has made me anxious every year because the garage where the cats stay in rainy weather has a badly leaky roof and it was quite a chore trying to soak up the leaks with cardboard. But this year my sister and I figured out how to tarp the roof without having to actually climb up there, and so, no leaks. it's such a relief! Here's a kind of fuzzy photo of inside the dry garage ...



Some of the cats don't like to be in the garage when it rains - for some reason they want to stay on the brick planter area so I made a little tent for it out of a piece of tarp ...



I think this calls for a rain song from Eric Clapton :) ...


Thursday, November 02, 2017

More on General Kelly

Lawrence O'Donnell on General Kelly ...


Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Striking Back



I'm still reading about some contemporary historical events (see my posts on Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War and Operation Thunderbolt: Flight 139 and the Raid on Entebbe Airport, the Most Audacious Hostage Rescue Mission in History). The latest book I've checked out from the public library is Striking Back: The 1972 Munich Olympics Massacre and Israel's Deadly Response by Aaron J. Klein.

The non-fiction book is about the 1972 hostage taking and murder of eleven of the Israeli Olympic team by the terrorist group Black September (remember Steven Spielberg's movie, Munich?). It's pretty interesting so far, and especially so because I've been reading Daniel Silva's Gabriel Allon mysteries, which have Gabriel involved in the Israeli mission to kill those who killed the hostages (Operation Wrath of God).

Here's a bit from Wikipedia about Klein and the book ...

Aaron J. Klein (1960-2016) was an Israeli author and journalist. He previously served since as Time magazine's military and intelligence affairs correspondent in the Jerusalem Bureau. The recipient of 2002 Henry Luce Award, Aaron J. Klein, an M.A. in history from Hebrew University, has taught journalism at the college and university level in Israel.

His book Striking Back: The 1972 Munich Olympics Massacre and Israel's Deadly Response (2005) was translated into a dozen languages and published in more than twenty countries. Among the exclusive information Klein presented was the successful Mossad plot to kill leading Palestinian militant Wadie Haddad in 1978 by poisoning him via a manipulated box of Belgian chocolates ...


And here is the beginning of a review of the book in The New York Times ...

A Massacre in Munich, and What Came After

According to a long-secret Israeli government document, the Kopel Report, which was made public this year, members of the Israeli Olympic delegation sent to Munich in 1972 talked among themselves about the obvious lack of security at the athletes' living quarters. They knew that ground-floor dormitory accommodations were dangerous. They worried about their proximity to the Sudanese team's dorms. They were wary of Palestinian workers employed throughout the Olympic Village.

The athletes also noticed a dearth of security personnel. But they convinced themselves that this posed no threat. Surely security officers were on the job, but would be hard to spot if they were working undercover.

One terrible day -- Sept. 5, 1972 -- and 11 dead athletes later, those assumptions were proved wrong ....


I think that next I'll try Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam by journalist Mark Bowden.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

So much happening!

It's hard to pick one thing to write about, so I'm going to cover it all :)

In politics ... wow, indictments against not just Manafort but George Papadopoulos as well. Here's Rachel Maddow on this ...



And did you see that General Kelly, the guy we thought would be the voice of reason in the White House, opined that fighting the Civil War was a mistake? ...

The Civil War Was Not a Mistake

When White House Chief of Staff John Kelly told the Fox News host Laura Ingraham that the Civil War was caused by the “lack of an ability to compromise,” that the war was fought by “men and women of good faith on both sides,” and that Confederate General Robert E. Lee “was an honorable man,” he was invoking a rosy view of the Confederacy echoing that of his boss.

Kelly was also reflecting a popular perception of the war that has persisted for decades, largely on the strength and influence of an organized pro-Confederate propaganda campaign that has been conducted for a century. While the scholarly consensus is that the Civil War was about slavery, popular opinion has not entirely caught up ...


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Happy Reformation Day. One of the reasons Luther did what he did was that he Catholic had been selling indulgences, a practice which promised that sinful people could get time off from purgatory after death in exchange for money. It's a creepy idea: first of all, there's no biblical back-up for the existence of purgatory, and second, there's no reason to believe the church had the power to get people time off in exchange for cash even if purgatory did exist. Even creepier is that the church still grants indulgences, but now instead of paying for them with cash, people must pay for them by doing certain approved things like passing through Jubalee doors. Most of those at Vatican II thought the idea of purgatory and indulgences was just wrong.

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Finally, happy Halloween. I must admit I hate Halloween. For someone as shy as I am, it's really stressful to have strangers constantly coming to the door. But having said that, I do kind of like scary movies, especially those with a religious theme. Here below are ten of them that I've seen in the past that may be worth renting on this scary night ...

- The Rite. Rated PG-13 and released in 2011, it stars Anthony Hopkins, Colin O'Donoghue (Captain Hook!), and Ciarán Hinds. The film is based on Matt Baglio's book, The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist. O'Donoghue portrays a young American seminary student, Michael Kovak, who travels to Rome to study exorcism at the Vatican before deciding whether to become a priest. Once there, he meets the resident expert in exorcism, a Jesuit named Fr. Lucas (Hopkins), who eventually becomes possessed by a demon himself. Kovak must find the faith he doubts he has in order to save Lucas. Roger Ebert gave it three stars ...



- Frailty. Rated R and released in 2001, it stars Bill Paxton, Matthew McConaughey, and Powers Boothe. The story is about a man who believes he's been instructed by an angle to kill a number of demons who are disguised as normal people. He captures these people and brings them home, enlisting the help of his two young sons, and killing his victims with an axe. Roger Ebert gave it four stars ...



- Fallen. Rated R and released in 1998, this film stars Denzel Washington, John Goodman, and Donald Sutherland. Washington portrays a Philadelphia Police Detective, John Hobbes, who's investigating a string of murders with a demonic theme. Clues lead him to a woman who confides that the murders are being committed by people possessed by a fallen angel. As Hobbes closes in on the demon, the people closest to him become possessed by it, and he is eventually forced to incriminate himself for the killings. Roger Ebert gave it two and a half stars ...



- Constantine. Rated R and released in 2005, it stars Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, and Tilda Swinton. Based on Hellblazer, a graphic novel/comic book, the film revolves around John Constantine (Reeves), a psychic and exorcist. Constantine helps people who are possessed in hopes that he can buy his way into heaven with good deeds, after having tried in the past to kill himself. While investigating the death of woman who has committed suicide, he discovers an ongoing wager between God and Lucifer for dominion of the Earth, and that this wager is being circumvented by Lucifer's son. The religious stuff is unreliable, but the film does include some interesting occult artifacts like the Spear of Destiny, the lance that was said to have pierced Jesus on the cross. Roger Ebert gave it one and a half stars ....



- The Order. Rated R and released in 2003, the film stars Heath Ledger, Shannyn Sossamon, and Peter Weller. Ledger plays an American Catholic priest, Fr. Alex Bernier, who belongs to a (fictitious) religious order whose superior has mysteriously died. Bernier travels to Rome to investigate the death and discovers within the Vatican a Cardinal who's secretly a sin-eater. Sin-eating, a practice by which one person consumes the sins of another person, is considered by the church to be heretical magic and Bernier faces multiple dangers, including demons, in trying to bring the truth to light ...



- The Seventh Sign. Rated R and released in 1988, the film stars Demi Moore, Michael Biehn, and Jürgen Prochnow of Das Boot fame. The plot involves a pregnant woman (Moore) discovering that Jesus (Prochnow) has returned to break the seven seals, those mentioned in the Book of Revelation, thus causing the the end of the world, the apocalypse. With the help of a young Jewish scholar, she tries to change Jesus' mind, but she's constantly impeded by a mysterious Catholic priest. Roger Ebert gave it just two stars ...



- The Rapture. Released in 1991 and rated R, the movie stars David Duchovny, Mimi Rogers, and Patrick Bauchau. The story tells of a telephone operator, Sharon, who leaves her life as an after-hours swinger to become a born-again Christian, marrying and having a daughter. When things begin to go very wrong in her life, she questions her faith and goes into the desert with her daughter to await the Rapture, the end time when the chosen ascend to heaven. They wait and writ but nothing happens, and in despair, Sharon makes a terrible decision that seals her fate. Roger Ebert gave it four stars ...



- Night of the Demon (Curse of the Demon). Unrated and released in 1957, the film stars Dana Andrews and was produced in the United Kingdom. The plot was adapted from a short story by M.R. James, Casting the Runes, and tells of an American psychologist, Dr. John Holden, who travels to England to attend a convention and meet a friend there. Holden finds his friend has been mysteriously killed and suspects the killing was accomplished with the use of magic, as his friend had been investigating satanic cults. Holden eventually learns of the existence of a parchment with a magic rune upon it that, when surreptitiously given to someone, calls up a demon to kill them. This one has a cat named Grimalkin in it :) ...



- Stigmata. Rated R and released in 1999, it stars Patricia Arquette and Gabriel Byrne. Byrne portrays Fr. Kiernan, a Vatican postulator, a priest who investigates miracles. He meets Arquete’s character when she shows evidence of having the stimata, marks on her body like those of the crucified Jesus. Behind all this they discover a mysterious gospel that the Catholic church has been keeping under wraps, afraid it would destroy the church The sayings in this mystery gospel, such as “Split a piece of wood; I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there” seem to come, in part, from the real-life non-canonical gospel of Thomas. Roger Ebert gave it two stars ...



- The Prophecy. Rated R and released in 1995, it stars Christopher Walken, Viggo Mortensen, and Virginia Madsen. The plot describes a civil war between Heacen's angels, as described in the Book of Revelation. Walkien portrays the archangel Gabriel, who's searching for a particularly bad soul located on Earth, but who comes into conflict with other angels and a police detective who had once trained to be a Catholic priest. Though the movie received poor reviews, it later became a cult classic and spawned a number of sequels. Especially spooky - Viggo as Lucifer ...