Wednesday, March 7, 2018


Since my blog has been very much neglected, the few who still read probably don't know that I stopped attending church about two years ago. The physical struggle was just too much. Since I'd been a church-goer all my life, what surprised me was that I didn't miss church at all except for the hymns. I very much enjoyed congregational singing.

I pray at home and meet God in my house and in my heart, and that seems enough for now. I try (and often fail) to live out the heart of the Gospel, which is love, as Jesus preached in the Two Great Commandments:
Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:36-40)
and the Golden Rule:
‘In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.' (Matthew 7:12)
Jesus was only ever a Jew. He was born a Jew, and he died a Jew. His teachings are rooted in the Hebrew Bible, and he never intended to found a religion. One of my touchstone verses in the Hebrew Bible is Micah 6:8:
He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
Love, kindness, and humility are what Christianity is about, or it is nothing to me.

Monday, February 5, 2018


A list of movies I watched recently and recommend, along with brief descriptions, is below.

"Funny Face" - rated 4 stars

Though "Funny Face", directed by Stanley Donen, was very good, I thought it would be better. What struck me as I watched again after a long time is that once again, the male lead, Fred Astaire, was nearly 30 years older than the female, Audrey Hepburn. Astaire is still amazing, but it appears Hollywood assumes female dancers of similar age can no longer dance.

"The Artist" - rated 5 stars

I watched the movie last night and loved it. The film, directed by Michel Hazanavicius, won a number of Academy Awards and other well-deserved film awards in 2012. The French romantic, feel-good, silent movie in black and white, like the olden times, even before my olden time, is a delight. In the French style, with subtle and ironic touches of humor, the film includes musical accompaniment and what I just learned are called intertitles (filmed, printed text edited into silent movies) when necessary. Since the expressions and movements of the actors reveal quite a bit, not many intertitles were necessary. Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo star in the film, with our own John Goodman in a strong supporting role.

"Loving" - rated 5 stars

The movie, directed by Jeff Nichols, tells the tender, moving story of the long, painful period in the lives of Mildred and Richard Loving, played by Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga, an interracial couple who married in Washington DC, but could not, by law, be married in their home State of Virginia. After living in DC for a while, the Lovings moved back to Virginia but lived in constant fear of arrest. Mildred decided to write a letter to Attorney General RFK about their plight, and he referred them to the ACLU. When the two were arrested, the ACLU defended them and took their case to the Supreme Court. The rest is history in Loving V. Virginia, the ruling that overturned miscegenation laws in the entire country.

"Room" - rated 5 stars

"Room", directed by Lenny Abrahamson, is the story of a young woman who was abducted and held in a shed for 7 years during which time she is sexually abused and gives birth to a boy she calls Jack. After 5 years, she begins to plot their escape. The film was difficult to watch, so much so that I had to stop and take a break, but I recommend it highly. "Moonlight" was the same, but I have the film in my queue to watch again. I'll do the same with "Room". Brie Larson stars as the mother, and she is excellent in the role, but the truly amazing performance is the boy's, with Jacob Tremblay as Jack.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018


Senators Perdue and Cotton
As you may or may not know, Sen Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA) at first stated they "do not recall" Trump using the term "shithole countries" during the bipartisan immigration meeting in the White House. After recovering their memories, the two senators disputed the leaked information by stating that Trump said "shithouse countries" rather than "shithole countries".

After the first leak about Trump's comments, Sen Richard Durbin (D-IL), who was not the original leaker, stated that Trump did indeed use the term "shithole countries", and Sen Lindsey Graham (R-SC) confirmed Durbin's account.
Sen Richard Durbin

Why Cotton and Perdue continue to choose to split the hair between "shithole" and "shithouse" to deny what Trump said is a mystery to me. Do the senators believe the term "shithouse countries" is acceptable? Their denials are ludicrous. Anyone with a functional brain knows the two are lying.

The shell of the State Department that remains under Rex Tillerson and the Trump maladministration is left to deal with the wreckage of the blowback as US ambassadors and diplomats around the world are summoned to explain Trump's comments.

That's not to mention that Trump, who brags often about his love and support of the military, made reckless comments that endanger members of the US military who serve in the "shithole countries".

The latest tweet from Michael Isikoff of Yahoo News:
For what its worth, here's new spin from source very close to WH: When Trump said "shit house" countries (not "shit hole") at immigration meeting, he was actually thinking about real estate.
You can't make this shit up. I detect a ring of truth in the latest spin, at least the real estate part, because making money from real estate is never far from Trump's mind.

UPDATE: It gets worse according to the Washington Post. Read it all for an insider view of how Chief of Staff John Kelly operates. He's not the man who will save America from Trump.
But some White House officials, including conservative adviser Stephen Miller, feared that Graham and Durbin would try to trick Trump into signing a bill that was damaging to him and would hurt him with his political base. As word trickled out Thursday morning on Capitol Hill that Durbin and Graham were heading over to the White House, legislative affairs director Marc Short began to make calls to lawmakers and shared many of Miller’s concerns.

Soon, Goodlatte, one of the more conservative House members on immigration, was headed to the White House. Trump also called House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and asked him to come, McCarthy said. Sens. David Perdue (R-Ga.) and Cotton were also invited to rush over.

Monday, January 15, 2018


Icon of MLK by Tobias Haller

From Martin Luther King's speech at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, four days before he was assassinated nearly a half century ago. Reposted from eight years ago.

Through our scientific and technological genius, we have made of this world a neighborhood and yet we have not had the ethical commitment to make of it a brotherhood. But somehow, and in some way, we have got to do this. We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured.

The hour has come for everybody, for all institutions of the public sector and the private sector to work to get rid of racism. And now if we are to do it we must honestly admit certain things and get rid of certain myths that have constantly been disseminated all over our nation.

One is the myth of time. It is the notion that only time can solve the problem of racial injustice. And there are those who often sincerely say to the Negro and his allies in the white community, "Why don’t you slow up? Stop pushing things so fast. Only time can solve the problem. And if you will just be nice and patient and continue to pray, in a hundred or two hundred years the problem will work itself out."

There is an answer to that myth. It is that time is neutral. It can be used wither constructively or destructively. And I am sorry to say this morning that I am absolutely convinced that the forces of ill will in our nation, the extreme rightists of our nation—the people on the wrong side—have used time much more effectively than the forces of goodwill. And it may well be that we will have to repent in this generation. Not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say, "Wait on time."


There is another thing closely related to racism that I would like to mention as another challenge. We are challenged to rid our nation and the world of poverty. Like a monstrous octopus, poverty spreads its nagging, prehensile tentacles into hamlets and villages all over our world. Two-thirds of the people of the world go to bed hungry tonight. They are ill-housed; they are ill-nourished; they are shabbily clad. I’ve seen it in Latin America; I’ve seen it in Africa; I’ve seen this poverty in Asia. 

Not only do we see poverty abroad, I would remind you that in our own nation there are about forty million people who are poverty-stricken. I have seen them here and there. I have seen them in the ghettos of the North; I have seen them in the rural areas of the South; I have seen them in Appalachia. I have just been in the process of touring many areas of our country and I must confess that in some situations I have literally found myself crying.

And this can happen to America, the richest nation in the world—and nothing’s wrong with that—this is America’s opportunity to help bridge the gulf between the haves and the have-nots. The question is whether America will do it. There is nothing new about poverty. What is new is that we now have the techniques and the resources to get rid of poverty. The real question is whether we have the will.

In a few weeks some of us are coming to Washington to see if the will is still alive or if it is alive in this nation. We are coming to Washington in a Poor People’s Campaign. Yes, we are going to bring the tired, the poor, the huddled masses. We are going to bring those who have known long years of hurt and neglect. We are going to bring those who have come to feel that life is a long and desolate corridor with no exit signs. We are going to bring children and adults and old people, people who have never seen a doctor or a dentist in their lives.

Let me close by saying that we have difficult days ahead in the struggle for justice and peace, but I will not yield to a politic of despair. I’m going to maintain hope as we come to Washington in this campaign. The cards are stacked against us. This time we will really confront a Goliath. God grant that we will be that David of truth set out against the Goliath of injustice, the Goliath of neglect, the Goliath of refusing to deal with the problems, and go on with the determination to make America the truly great America that it is called to be.

Icon by Tobias Haller.

Text of the speech from Stanford University.

Thursday, January 11, 2018


Glenn Simpson
For the last couple of days, with interruptions to attend to the tasks of ordinary life, I've been reading the 312 pages of Glenn Simpson's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Simpson, a former reporter, most recently for The Wall Street Journal (2009), is one of the founders of Fusion GPS, which has been much in the news lately. I found the testimony gripping and Simpson to be a cooperative and honest witness.

I doubt I'll enjoy reading Michael Woolff's Fire and Fury as much as Simpson's testimony, but we'll see. I ordered the book only after Trump's lawyers sent the "cease and desist" publication order to Wolff and his publisher because I felt I ought to support free speech against prior restraint.

Christopher Steele
No wonder Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), both members of the Judiciary Committee, Grassley as chair, didn't want the transcript released. It destroys their narrative about Simpson's testimony that led them to refer Christopher Steele, the author of the famous dossier (really a collection of memos) alleging ties between President Trump and Russia, for a criminal investigation by the Department of Justice.

Can you believe it? Of course, you can. No good deed goes unpunished in the shameful GOP effort to protect the man-child president who has shown himself unfit for office from the day of his inauguration.

From the Washington Post:
Fusion in 2015 began investigating Trump under a contract with the Washington Free Beacon, a conservative website financially supported by GOP megadonor Paul Singer. That assignment ended once Trump was on track to win the nomination. But in April 2016, Fusion was hired by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee to keep funding the research.
Fusion GPS was first hired by Republicans and then transitioned to work for the Clinton campaign when Trump became the GOP nominee. During the course of his work, Simpson hired Steele, whom he had known and trusted for years since his work as a reporter, as a source of information. Steele is a British citizen and former MI6 intelligence agent, a Russian expert who has provided credible and reliable intelligence to US intelligence agencies and to Simpson for years.

Both men became alarmed at the information they discovered about Trump and the people who worked in his campaign. Steele felt conscience-bound to report his findings about people in the Trump campaign with Russian connections to the FBI. By warning the FBI , Steele, a British citizen, demonstrated more care and concern for the safety and security of America than sitting US senators Grassley or Graham.

Sen Diane Feinstein
Sen Diane Feinstein (D-CA) is my current hero in the Senate for her decision to release the transcripts because of the characterization of Simpson as an uncooperative witness, which is a lie, and because of lies about his testimony.

Here's the link to further information about Christopher Steele in the Washington Post.

To read the entire transcript of Simpson's testimony, click here.

Monday, December 18, 2017



The bleak winter landscape,
Brushed with faint color
Slips slowly into twilight,

Bodes an ending, conveys
A sadness for dying things,
Weighs on the heart.

Friday, October 13, 2017


From Diana Butler Bass on Facebook:
Dear Friends,

It is important that we remember the actions of these days and learn.

This is what it looks like when angry white people use a "democratic" process to wipe the memory and achievement of an honorable and successful black man from history. The drive to do away with him is so powerful that the "base" is willing to sacrifice their own to a life of no access to health care and potentially destroy the entire planet.

This is what it looks like when vengeance is the primary purpose of politics.

Do not forget these days. Because they are, for many, the opportunity to see what they never saw. The evil of the days can serve to awaken. Even after "he" is no longer president. Because until we deal with the depth of race and hierarchies and violence, this will continue.

Today, take a moment and be grateful for those who see clearly, who work with heart and passion for renewed practices of inclusion and true democracy in this, our national home.

I invite you to name some of those people here. Those who embody joy and justice in the midst of all of this.

Yours, Diana
Bass speaks truth with eloquence. The first names that come to mind are Desmond Tutu, Malala Yousafzai, Barack Obama, and Michelle Obama. The inclusion of "joy" makes it more difficult to think of others, but the word belongs. Gratitude is quite often difficult for me, but Bass is right to include the word "grateful" in her letter.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017


Don't believe Trump's bullshit praise of men and women who serve in the military. Trump showed his disrespect for members of the military who have put their lives on the line to serve their country back in June when he blocked the the group on Twitter. For the small-minded president to attempt to silence a progressive veterans group to preserve his fragile ego shows once again his complete lack of principles and moral core.

Trump's policy-by-tweet banning transgender people from serving in the military, which surprised even the Pentagon, is one more example of his disdain. What are the tens of thousands of transgender members now faithfully serving to think? What will happen to them?

From Trump's speech on the way forward in Afghanistan.

Trump: The soldier understands what we as a nation too often forget, that a wound inflicted upon a single member of our community is a wound inflicted upon us all.

(Especially when the wound is inflicted by the president)

Trump: When we open our hearts to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice, no place for bigotry and no tolerance for hate.

(Except for transgender people)

Trump: Our actions, and in months to come, all of them will honor the sacrifice of every fallen hero, every family who lost a loved one, and every wounded warrior who shed their blood in defense of our great nation. 

(Except for Capt. Humayan Khan and his family and wounded warriors in VoteVets)

Trump: We will push onward to victory with power in our hearts, courage in our souls, and everlasting pride in each and every one of you. 

(Who do you mean "we", Mr President?)

I could go on and on about Trump's nothing speech, delivered in prime TV time, but I won't. I simply want to make my point about his lack of respect for those who serve or who have served in the military.

As far as I can tell, the purpose of the speech was to distract from the fallout from Trump's words about the "very fine people" in the neo-Nazi, white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Mueller's Russian investigation, and various other "challenges" that the president faces.

Monday, August 21, 2017


Robert E Lee statue removed in New Orleans
In the midst of protests and controversies about taking down Confederate statues and monuments, seemingly enlightened people state that we judge Robert E Lee too harshly, that he was a complex man who is considered by many to be a person of honor and rectitude.  That may well be, but he led an army of rebellion against the United States to preserve an institution that he himself labeled a moral & political evil.

In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil in any Country. It is useless to expatiate on its disadvantages.I think it however a greater evil to the white man than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise Merciful Providence. Their emancipation will sooner result from the mild & melting influence of Christianity, than the storms & tempests of fiery Controversy.

Robert E Lee's letter to his wife.

How unfortunate that Lee didn't follow his better instincts and side with those who opposed slavery.

Further, after the war ended, Lee expressed his opposition to Confederate monuments when he received letters asking his support for erecting a statue of Stonewall Jackson:

As regards the erection of such a monument as is contemplated, my conviction is, that, however grateful it would be to the feelings of the South, the attempt, in the present condition of the country, would have the effect of retarding instead of accelerating its accomplishment, and of continuing if not adding to the difficulties under which the Southern people labor.

Yes, Lee was a complex man, but, according to the general himself, the country would be a far better place without Confederate monuments.

Picture from Wikipedia.

Sunday, August 6, 2017


Since I'm trying to simplify and clear out some of my stuff, I went against my rules when I bought the DVD of the two seasons of Fawlty Towers. I have the video, but what good is it without a video player? What can I say? I missed the gang at FT, which I think is the funniest TV series ever. FT never disappoints and always rewards with belly laughs and "I'd better take a pee break" moments.

Somehow, I thought there were more than two seasons, but I was mistaken. I love Monty Python, but it's more intellectual than FT, and, apparently, farce and pratfall humor strikes my funny bone the hardest.

I may have a bit of Basil in me. My filters control my Basil most of the time, but sometimes he slips out. I can think of several moments when the filters failed me. He is such a snob that he deserves everything he gets, but, in the end, I feel for him anyway.

The DVD includes interviews with the writers, actors, and director of the series. The character of Basil is based on a the owner of a hotel where the cast stayed during the filming of Monty Python.