Perspective

Thoughts of a Catholic convert

My Photo
Name:
Location: United States

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.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Operation Thunderbolt


- Rescued passengers welcomed at Ben Gurion Airport

My latest checkout from the public library is the non-fiction Operation Thunderbolt: Flight 139 and the Raid on Entebbe Airport, the Most Audacious Hostage Rescue Mission in History by Saul David.

Here's a bit about Operation Thunderbolt (Operation Entebbe) from Wikipedia ...

Operation Entebbe was a successful counter-terrorist hostage-rescue mission carried out by commandos of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) at Entebbe Airport in Uganda on 4 July 1976. A week earlier, on 27 June, an Air France plane with 248 passengers had been hijacked by two members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – External Operations (PFLP-EO) ... and two members of the German Revolutionary Cells. The hijackers had the stated objective to free 40 Palestinian and affiliated militants imprisoned in Israel and 13 prisoners in four other countries in exchange for the hostages ...

Given what a global place contemporary terrorism has in our lives, I thought I would revisit an example of it from the past. A couple of days ago I posted some photos from my family's one visit to Europe, and weirdly, the summer we went there was the same summer this event in the book occurred - we were even at the Athens airport, which plays a small part in the story, and were shocked to see guards with machine guns on the tarmac - yet I don't remember the terrorist event from the news back then at all.

But anyway, here's the beginning of a book review in The New York Times ...

On June 27, 1976, an Air France plane took off from Ben-Gurion International Airport in Lod, Israel, heading for Paris with a stopover in Athens, carrying 228 passengers of Israeli, French and various other nationalities. Security at the Lod airport was famously tight — but in Athens, where security was lax, four hijackers boarded the Airbus carrying large black bags that held guns and hand grenades, took over the plane and forced the pilot to divert to Entebbe Airport, on the shore of Lake Victoria in Uganda. Six days later, a team of Israeli Special Forces personnel attacked the airport in a daring and ingenious raid, named Operation Thunderbolt, and freed the hostages.

That raid is the subject of Saul David’s new book, “Operation Thunderbolt: Flight 139 and the Raid on Entebbe Airport, the Most Audacious Hostage Rescue Mission in History.” This is a ­minute-by-minute narrative of that week by a scrupulous and thorough historian, who has written what will most likely be the definitive work on the subject and produced a tense and riveting account of what has come to be known as the Entebbe raid. By means of extraordinarily deep research, David essentially lets the characters speak for themselves.

And what characters they are. The hijackers were led by two German left-wing terrorists, a man and a woman with connections to the Baader-Meinhof gang, supported by two members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. They were opposed and ultimately defeated by the leading political and military personalities of Israel. Some 40 years later, many of the names associated with the hijacking are still remembered: the Palestinian terrorist Wadie Haddad and the Israelis Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak and Menachem Begin (with a brief appearance by Moshe Dayan). The leader of the raid, killed in combat at the airport, was Yoni Netanyahu, the brother of the current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. In some ways at the center of the narrative is Idi Amin Dada, “Uganda’s eccentric, flamboyant and ruthless dictator who, just two days earlier, had been declared ‘president for life’ by the Ugandan Parliament.”

These characters and a vast assortment of others — hostages, diplomats, aircrew members and soldiers — are all described in great detail and, through the use of diaries, articles, books and private papers, heard as well, as they attempt to deal with the inevitable conflicts arising in a crisis. David is a military historian; his previous books include “The Indian Mutiny,”  “Military Blunders” and “Zulu: The Heroism and Tragedy of the Zulu War of 1879,” and he is especially adept at explaining the ­decision-making process that takes place as a complex military operation is considered, planned and executed ......


One strange and disturbing thing I came across in the book was the name of Hilarion Capucci. He was a Melkite Greek Catholic priest from Syria and archbishop of Caesarea who was arrested in Israel for smuggling weapons from Lebanon to the PLO in 1974 ... he was in custody when the events of Operation Thunderbolt took place and was one of the prisoners the terrorists wanted to be released in exchange for the hostages. That didn't happen, of course, but after serving two years of a twelve years sentence, he was released at the request of Pope Paul VI. He remained active in pro-PLO stuff over the following years. (Hilarion Capucci, Archbishop Jailed for Aiding Palestinian Militants, Dies at 94)

I'm not yet finished with the book, but it's very interesting so far and well worth a read.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Rebooting Terminator



Remember that dust-up about who was the best feminist icon: Wonder Woman or Sarah Connor of Terminator? (Is ‘Wonder Woman’ Feminist? James Cameron’s Comments Draw a Rebuke). I saw in the news that Cameron is bringing out a new Terminator movie and Linda Hamilton will again play the character of Sarah ...yay! :) I say this because I think her character was much more of a feminist icon than the character of Wonder Woman (see my past post on why I think this).

Linda Hamilton Set to Return to 'Terminator' Franchise (Exclusive)

[...] With Hamilton’s return, Cameron hopes to once again make a statement on gender roles in action movies.

"There are 50-year-old, 60-year-old guys out there killing bad guys,” he said, referring to aging male actors still anchoring movies, “but there isn’t an example of that for women.”

Tim Miller, the filmmaker who made his breakout feature debut with Deadpool, is directing the sequel, which is returning to its roots by having the involvement of Cameron for the first time since 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day ....


This is a way to reboot the Terminator franchise, bringing on new and younger characters while also anchoring the story with the original characters - you know, like J.J. Abrams having the original character of Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) appear in his rebooted Star Trek films. I don't know if I'll like the newer version, but it will be nice to see the original Sarah Connor and the Terminator (Arnold) again :)

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Throwback Thursday: Vatican City

Long, long ago in this galaxy :) my mother and sister and I went on our one trip to Europe. It was one of those whirlwind kind of tours in which you visited a new country every few days. One of the places we stopped was Rome/Vatican City.

Here we see my mother and sister, with the dome of St. Peter's Basilica in the background ...



And here is me in the Vatican Museums with a bust of Julius Caesar ...



I wasn't a Catholic then and didn't have any interest in the Vatican as a religious site, but I was an art major in college, so it was great to see all the stuff in the Vatican's museums. Having said that, I still think the Vatican should sell all the artwork and give the money to the poor, but that's another blog post ;)

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Attacks on Fr. James Martin SJ

There's been much in the Catholic news lately about attacks from conservatives on Fr. James Martin SJ because of his recent book, Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity (see: Fr. James Martin uninvited from talk at CUA seminary ... Bishop McElroy: Attacks on Father James Martin expose a cancer within the U.S. Catholic Church ... The Real Scandal)

This whole thing isn't about changing doctrine, it's not even about changing tone since the catechism states that LGBT people must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. And yet the conservatives of our church have flipped their wigs over the idea of doing just that.

It should be mentioned that these people who are attacking Fr. Martin are really the lunatic fringe of the Western church - many polls have shown that a majority of lay Catholics in the US and Europe are much more liberal about LGBT issues than the hierarchy - most are in favor of marriage equality (Poll: Supermajority Of Catholics Now Support Same-Sex Marriage).

And while it's awful that these nuts are attacking Fr. Martin, I think we should pay attention to the bigger picture. The Catholic church is homophobic. No matter how nice it sounds that the Pope asked who am I to judge, the fact is that he and the church *do* judge. Here's what else the catechism teaches about LGBT people ...

Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered." They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

And the Pope in his recent exhortation, Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), made it clear that he believes that gay people have no right to get married like the rest of us ... There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family (If the pope loves gay people, he has a strange way of showing it).

So, yes, it's a bad thing that conservatives are attacking Fr. Martin for his view, but let's keep in mind how very limited his view is. The church's hierarchy and its tiny but vocal band of conservative followers no longer represent the views of most lay Catholics. It's past time for the Catholic church to re-examine its stance on LGBT people and their relationships, as other Christian churches have (3 Other Christian Denominations That Allow Gay Marriage).

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Republican lawmakers have no souls



Republican lawmakers are trying to push through another iteration of their health bill, one that will be worse than any of the previous versions. Who exactly will benefit from a health care bill that will do away with covering pre-existing conditions, that will allow insurance companies to raise rates anytime and for any reason, that will do away with all subsidies, that will not just end Medicaid expansion but will also gut regular Medicaid? Oh, right, Republican lawmakers, who will get a head pat from Daddy Trump for finally passing some form, any form, of legislation. People will die, but of course they will mostly be lower income people, so Republican lawmakers don't care (Graham-Cassidy Was Supposed to Do One Nice Thing For Poor People. But Someone Took It Out of the Bill).

Monday, September 18, 2017

Trump's golf ball retweet

Trump shares GIF of himself striking Hillary Clinton in the back with a golf ball

I agree with Stephen King, who remarked ... Trump’s Hillary Golf Ball Tweet Shows How ‘F***ed-Up’ He Is. Trump = putz.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Bye Bye love

The Cars, France, 1978 :) ...

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Rachel Maddow talks to Hillary

Watching Rachel Maddow talking to Hillary Clinton about her book ...



I've signed up at the library to read Hillary's new book, but I'm on a long list so it will be a while before I can blog about it.

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Vatican & diplomatic immunity

UPDATE: 9/16 ... The New York Times states that the diplomat with the child pornography who the Vatican refused to identify is Monsignor Carlo Alberto Capella, now living inside the Vatican. Amid Pornography Case, Vatican Recalls Priest From Washington Embassy

A Catholic priest and Vatican diplomat stationed in Washington, D.C. was being investigated for child pornography. The State Department formally requested that the Vatican waive his immunity but the Vatican refused and instead whisked him away to the safety of the Holy City, frustrating the investigation.

This is the same thing that happened when Józef Wesołowski, an archbishop and the Vatican's Apostolic Nuncio to the Dominican Republic, was being investigated by police in the Dominican Republic and also in Poland for the sexual abuse of children - Pope Francis had him recalled to the Vatican and then refused to waive his diplomatic immunity and extradite him. Though he was found to have child pornography on his computer, he wasn't incarcerated but was said to have been seen dining at restaurants in Rome. A trial was promised but he was found dead in his rooms before that ever happened.

A Vatican Diplomat Has Been Recalled From the U.S. Following Child-Pornography Charges

The Holy See announced on Friday that a priest who is part of its diplomatic corps has been recalled to Rome following allegations that he violated child-pornography laws. The official had been accredited to serve in Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Department of State notified Catholic Church leaders about the alleged crime through diplomatic channels. The Vatican has opened an investigation and is keeping the name of the accused priest confidential. The AP reported that the U.S. government requested that the official’s diplomatic immunity be lifted. The request was denied.

These allegations have come at a turbulent time for the Vatican on issues of sex abuse. Earlier this summer, Cardinal George Pell was charged with multiple sex crimes by the Australian police, and returned to his home country “to clear his name,” according to a statement from the archdiocese of Sydney. Pell has been in charge of the Vatican’s treasury since 2014, and was specifically brought in to implement reforms .....


More: Vatican diplomat is recalled amid child pornography investigation

The Vatican is earning the reputation of being an immunity haven for child molesters and pornographers.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Priestly celibacy and sex abuse

In the news today, a new report on sexual abuse in the Catholic church finds, among other things, that "the church’s requirement that priests be celibate was a major risk factor for abuse". This is a big deal because the Pope has refused to make celibacy optional in the priesthood despite previous evidence that a celibate clergy makes sex abuse more likely. Why? I think the answer is two-fold: 1) it is financially cheaper to keep priests single rather than pay them a wage on which they could support a family, 2) it is easier to control the lives of priests if you deny them any other intimate loyalties beyond the church.

Here's a bit of The New York Times article on the study ...

Australian Catholic Church Falls Short on Safeguards for Children, Study Finds

A study that examines child sexual abuse worldwide in the Roman Catholic Church has found that the Australian church has done less to safeguard children in its care than its counterparts in similar countries have.

The report, released on Wednesday by the Center for Global Research at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, also found that the church’s requirement that priests be celibate was a major risk factor for abuse. And it said that the possibility of abuse in Catholic residential institutions, like orphanages, should be getting more attention, especially in developing countries.

Experts said the report could put pressure on Pope Francis, and particularly the church in Australia, to do more to prevent abuse. The Australian church was rocked in June when Cardinal George Pell, an Australian who is one of the pope’s top advisers, became the highest-ranking Roman Catholic prelate to be formally charged with sexual offenses.

Desmond Cahill, the report’s lead author, said its findings pointed to an urgent need to rethink the priesthood in the 21st century. A professor of intercultural studies at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, he said the church should reconsider the celibacy requirement for priests.

“The Catholic Church is in a state of crisis, and pressure has to be put on the Holy See to take the necessary steps to change,” Professor Cahill said .......


And here's a bit of an article I saw today by Marci A. Hamilton at the Justia/Verdict legal analysis blog ...

Who Pays for Sex Abuse?

Drawing on data from the extraordinary archive of Catholic sex abuse at Bishopaccountability.org, the San Diego Tribune recently published the top 10 sexual abuse settlements by the Catholic Church in the United States. The numbers are large in the aggregate: the church paid $1.553 billion total, with $960.94 million paid to 2,458 survivors. On average, each victim received $391,000 after attorneys’ fees.

These numbers are just the tip of the iceberg as many of the victims did not receive full compensatory damages, because the dioceses pooled claims through bankruptcies or other means and avoid individual trials, thereby lowering per-victim recoveries. The cost to the church is actually higher than $1.5 billion, because it has also had to pay for its lawyers (especially for the bishops who take a scorched earth approach against the victims). They also have covered some therapy. Accordingly, Church costs have been estimated at $4 billion. The victims’ expense has not yet been aggregated by social scientists, but it is certainly well beyond $4 billion given that approximately 20-25% of children are sexually abused and the array of negative effects include addiction, alcoholism, depression, PTSD, and eating disorders, among many others ....

[T]he Church and its insurers have paid only a percentage of the actual cost of abuse of its victims nationwide. As a result of the bishops’ lobbying, it has kept the lid on statutes of limitations (SOL) in many states, including states with large Catholic populations like New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. The bishops have routinely refused to pay if the victim was beyond the SOL, or to offer drastically discounted numbers to a victim beyond the SOL. That means that society and families are picking up the slack, and that the burden of sex abuse continues to be borne by the public in this arena and many others ....


Meanwhile, the sex abuse trial of one of Pope Francis' top advisors, Cardinal George Pell, is to on October 6th in Australia ... George Pell faces Melbourne Magistrates' Court on historical sexual offence charges

Monday, September 11, 2017

Little possum

Another little possum makes an appearance :) ...

Most of us believe in dualism

Just read an article at America Magazine ... Who's afraid of transhumanism? (We all should be). What this is all about for some Catholics is how the body and mind/soul go together .... it's all about dualism and has its roots in the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, with guys like JD Crossan and Keith Ward weighing in on it. This probably sounds boring, but really the subject is so essentially cool that it's a theme even in science fiction (think Avatar) because it asks an important question .... who is the real me (my mind, my body, my soul, a combo of these)?

I had a couple of posts about this in the past ... 'm a dualist ... and ... We have no souls :)

Catholics like the guy who wrote the America Magazine article believe that people have no right to make any changes to their bodies to improve them (transhumanism) because God made each of our particular bodies just the way he wanted them to be for us and we don't have the right to make updates (a sort of Aristotelian/Aquinas anti-dualist point of view). I think that's wrong - I'm more of a dualist who thinks the real me is my mind/soul (Platonism) and that I can change my body while still retaining the real me, and I believe most people would agree with me. One of those people is Keith Ward. Here's his past lecture Superhumans? - Interfering with nature ...


Superhumans? Interfering with Nature - Professor Keith Ward from Gresham College on Vimeo.


Friday, September 08, 2017

Bernie and the DNC

In the news: Bernie backers' attacks on Democrats infuriate the party

Prominent Democrats are increasingly riled by attacks from Bernie Sanders' supporters, whose demands for ideological purity are hurting the party ahead of the 2018 midterms and 2020 presidential election, they say.

But it’s not just the outside agitators that Democratic lawmakers, operatives, and activists are annoyed with: They’re tired of what they see as the senator’s hesitance to confront his own backers, either in public or through back channels.

Tensions boiled over recently when a handful of Sanders loyalists bashed freshman Sen. Kamala Harris — a rising star in the party and potential 2020 hopeful — as an establishment tool. Democrats were also rankled that other prominent Sanders allies said support for single-payer health care should be a litmus test for candidates ...


First, it's funny that Bernie's supporters think there should be a litmus test (single-payer health care) for the DNC, because these are the same people who decided that women's reproductive rights should not be a litmus test for Democrats when Bernie supported a pro-life candidate ... Bernie Sanders Defends Campaigning For Anti-Abortion Rights Democrat. Apparently there *can* be litmus tests, but they have to be Bernie's.

Second, I recall very well how creepy and abusive Bernie's supporters were during the primaries before the general election. Here's just one example ...

From Bernie Sanders Supporters, Death Threats Over Delegates

Thrown chairs. Leaked cellphone numbers. Death threats spewed across the Internet. No, this is not the work of Donald J. Trump supporters, some of whom have harassed critics of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. It was angry supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders who were directing their ire at the Nevada Democratic Party — and its chairwoman, Roberta Lange — over a state convention on Saturday that they think was emblematic of a rigged political system ...

I like Bernie and I think he has some good ideas, but he isn't a Democrat and his followers don't have the right to define the DNC. He needs to make that clear to them if he wants to work within our party.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Lasker Prize for Planned Parenthood


- Hillary speaking at Planned Parenthood Action Fund membership event in 2016

Lasker Prizes Go to Planned Parenthood and Developers of HPV Vaccine

One of the nation’s most prestigious prizes in medicine will go to Planned Parenthood and two scientists who played a crucial role in developing the vaccine to combat HPV, a sexually transmitted virus that can cause cervical cancer. A third honor will go to a Swiss molecular biologist, who made a groundbreaking discovery about cell growth .... The citation for the Lasker-Bloomberg Public Service Award credits Planned Parenthood “for providing essential health services and reproductive care to millions of women for more than a century” and for helping “men as well.”

The award takes the Laskers, usually known for honoring groundbreaking scientific advances and humanitarian efforts, into more political territory. Planned Parenthood is facing escalating threats from President Trump and the Republican leadership in Congress to block the organization from receiving Medicaid reimbursements, a move that could severely eat into its operating budget ....


I must have mentioned before that I spent a summer during college as a volunteer at a local Planned Parenthood. It was a good place with good people, and not the creepy place pro-lifers depict ... I spent my time there answering phoned in questions about birth control and later as an aid in the vasectomy clinic. Planned Parenthood is now one of the few places left where women can get full reproductive care that includes abortion.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

New survey: religion and politics

According to a new poll, White Christians are now a minority group in America. They dominate the Republican party (73%) but the Democratic party has just 29% ... The stark racial and religious divide between Democrats and Republicans, in one chart. So I guess the Democratic party is actually more representative of the country as a whole.

America’s Changing Religious Identity ...

[...] White evangelical Protestants and Mormons are the most conservative religious groups in the country. More than six in ten (62%) white evangelical Protestants and a majority (57%) of Mormons identify as politically conservative. Liberals make up only 12% and 15%, respectively, of these religious traditions. White mainline Protestants also lean more conservative than liberal (38% vs. 25%, respectively), while white Catholics are about twice as likely to identify as conservative than liberal (42% vs. 22%, respectively).

There is wide variation in the political ideology of nonwhite Christian groups. Despite their strong Democratic leanings, black Protestants are about as likely to be conservative (30%) as they are to be liberal (29%). Similarly, Hispanic Protestants are about equally as likely to identify as conservative (33%) and liberal (29%). Hispanic Protestants are much more likely to be conservative than they are to be liberal (41% vs. 23%, respectively).

Non-Christian communities are more liberal leaning. Close to half of Jews (45%), Buddhists (48%), and Hindus (45%) identify as liberal; significantly fewer Jews (27%), Buddhists (17%), and Hindus (16%) identify as conservative. Muslims are also more likely to identify as liberal (38%) than they are to identify as conservative (20%). Religiously unaffiliated Americans also lean liberal in their politics. More than four in ten (43%) identify as liberal, while 21% are conservative ....


Maybe this explains why I don't really fit in the Catholic church ... there are liberal Catholic Democrats, but they're thin on the ground and I've only met a few.