Monday, October 24, 2016

Sidebar Links Disappear

Have neglected this blog since the summer - caught up teaching drama to Czech kids at summer camp.

When I returned to it a month ago, I discovered with a shock that the left sidebar - with so many key links to related blogs, websites, has completely disappeared. Don't know why this is so nor how to get them back. Did a bit of research on google, but to date no helpful insights.

A big loss ???

Friday, July 1, 2016

Off to Summer Camp

Leaving tomorrow for eight weeks of summer camp with Czech kids, first in the forests of Krivoklat, then the beautiful rolling hills of Moravia.

I do have a week off, when I hope to head for the Tatras mountains in Slovakia, and a few days of retreat at the lovely Marian shrine of Litmanova, on the border with Poland.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Orlando Update

Omar Mateen as seen in a documentary film.  Photo credit: James Varty / The Big Fix / YouTube

I will preface this brief update to my previous posting on the Orlando shooting with these wise words from Russ Baker of Who What Why. Org. 

Somewhere between the rush to judgment that is the neatly packaged mainstream version of events in Orlando, and the wilder memes making their way around the Internet resides the truth.
While it usually takes the team at WWW.Org at least a year to begin to achieve clarity, I'm still shocked at how rapidly this story of Omar Mateen is unravelling.

Today, the website TruthDig posted this remarkable short statement from John Kiriakou, the former CIA officer who broke the story of the CIA use of torture/waterboarding - and served 23 months in prison for his indiscretion. Truth Dig is a corporate funded, centrist 'alternative' news site and usually very cautious about anything that smacks of 'conspiracy'. That it has seen fit to publish this statement is remarkable in itself.

What Does G4S Know About the Orlando Nightclub Massacre?  by John Kiriakou

Much has been made in recent weeks of Omar Mateen’s background. The perpetrator of the Orlando, Fla., massacre was alternately a “radical Islamist,” a deeply closeted gay man, a wife abuser, a mental case, everybody’s best friend in high school and a loser. The list goes on. But what the mainstream media—and the government, for that matter—have not talked about is the fact that Mateen was employed at the time of his crime by G4S, a London-based company that is one of the largest mercenary firms in the world, with intelligence contractors deployed in war zones and hot spots around the globe.

This could be a coincidence. Or it could be something more sinister. Was Mateen some sort of Manchurian candidate, for example?

For now, nobody is talking. The public, however, has a right to know what is going on in the shady world of intelligence contracting.

G4S, as a government contractor involved in military operations, ought to have done an exhaustive background investigation on Mateen. There’s no evidence that it did, even after Mateen was questioned by the FBI after a friend reported that he had begun listening to speeches by radical clerics. Why? Did corporate leaders have something to hide? At a minimum, they should have known that they had an employee with a security problem. Unless that didn’t matter.
The public has a right to know, too, exactly what Mateen had access to while at G4S and what his job was, beyond “security guard” as we’ve been told by the company spokesman. The spokesman added, though, that the company was cooperating with authorities. But did Mateen have access to operational intelligence? Did he know something that the rest of us aren’t supposed to know?

There are issues beyond just those about Mateen as an individual, questions that the mainstream media is not asking and that G4S has not proactively answered. First, what does G4S really do? Its website lists generic services including fraud investigations, security products and software, and running juvenile prisons. It says in a half-dozen different ways that it provides security officers to pretty much anybody who needs them. But it doesn’t say much more than that. What kind of security officers? Where are they deployed? Who are they contracted to? There aren’t any answers.

Second, in 2010, G4S purchased Wackenhut, the international investigative and security firm founded by a former FBI agent in the 1950s and known for its ties to the U.S. intelligence community. Wackenhut also provides security guards in world hot spots and is no stranger to controversy. The firm was accused in the 1980s of providing arms and explosives to the Contra rebels in Nicaragua and was accused later of involvement in the murder of a Native American tribal chief in California.

Finally, G4S is a client of British disaster and crisis management firm Crisis Cast. Crisis Cast bills itself as a company made up of “award-winning role play actors and filmmakers specially trained in disaster and crisis management.” Want to plan for a catastrophe like, say, a mass shooting at a gay nightclub? Crisis Cast can walk you through it. Need help figuring out how to protect your company after one of its employees goes on a murderous rampage? Call Crisis Cast. Its actors can set up the mock attack and provide lessons learned when it’s all done. Facing accusations that one of your subsidiaries was involved in the murder of a U.S. citizen? Crisis Cast can work it out.
What does it all mean? Even those who eschew conspiracy theories have to admit that there are a lot of loose ends in this story that deserve to be tied up. G4S owes all of us an explanation. Not only must G4S come clean, but also the FBI has to come clean with the American people about what it learns in this investigation and where G4S’ tentacles reach.
We all have a right to know. But the FBI has never been fond of transparency. And neither has the “most transparent president in history.”
Don’t hold your breath for those answers.

Finally, I'm posting two more links - with a word of caution. These forums explore all aspects of the shootings, including some of the more bizarre theories - all the way to suggestions it was a staged event - with no injured - or with a mixture of real victims and crisis actors. Given the connection between G4S and Crisis Cast, this is not as outlandish a suggestion as it might first seem. What is offensive are some of the slurs being cast against some of the most impressive eyewitnesses. 

James Corbett as an extensive open forum with many links, many of which are questionable, but not all. It goes without saying

The Orlando Shooting: An Open Source Investigation.

21st Century Wire has posted three extended critical examinations of the Orlando Shooting, which are excellent in many ways and deserve careful scrutiny. Unfortunately, in my opinion, they are marred by the fact the website has recommended some truly offensive video reports - suggesting that many of the eyewitnesses are 'faking' because they are too calm. The tone of these videos - and the maturity level = ugh! I was actually very impressed by the serenity and composure of these young gay men giving their testimony without over dramatizing or playing to the camera. Some very childish conspiracists thought otherwise. Unfortunately this kind of shameful wild speculation gives a bad name to any serious investigators seeking the truth.


Finally, I'm ending with an insightful comment from Who What Why.

William Lohman commenting on: Was Tamerlan Tsarnaev a double agent Recruited by the FBI?

 FBI has always been a dubious entity since J. Edgar Hoover and his 48 years of using the agency as his personal network of intimidation, abuse of power and political extortion.
Today, the agency is being used for the same purpose but aimed at a different target. During the Nixon and up to the baby Bush era, the FBI was used to infiltrate and disrupt environmental and justice advocacy groups. Baby Bush turned the goose step mentality of the FBI toward his brand of terrorists: muslims, environmentalists, peace activists, ect; "Either you're with us or you're with the terrorists!".
In recent years, every "So Called" terrorist arrest made in the US has a bread trail back to FBI or CIA involvement before hand, including familial association with these covert agencies, where “the government provides the plot, the means, and the opportunity.”. This coercing of susceptible minds is an illegal act: Accessory before the fact; FBI testimony in the prosecution where their involvement is hidden is PERJURY and , in fact, Accessory after the fact.
This "Tool of Oppression" threatens all, but has ruined the lives of, just to name a few: Tsarnaev, Mateen, Maher Arar- a CIA officer, one level above branch chief, was determined to make the arrest, the VIA Rail bombers (that never occurred), the Toronto 18, etc.
Charges have been brought against nearly 90 Americans believed to be linked to the group.
A former undercover agent with the F.B.I. who researches national security law at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, said the agency was “manufacturing terrorism cases.”
"The increase in the number of these secret operations, which put operatives in the middle of purported plots, has come with little public or congressional scrutiny, and the stings rely on F.B.I. guidelines that predate the rise of the Islamic State."
"F.B.I. Steps Up Use of Stings in ISIS Cases" by Eric Lichtblau, June 7, 2016.
These agencies, as well as police departments, no longer work for the best interest of US citizens. In fact they don't work for you at all. You pay taxes to support their activities, but they work at the aegis of the bureaucracy: municipal, state and federal governments.
Who is going to be the next target of a government that shills for the corporate and economic elite ? Divide and concquer !!!
It's time to wake up and act out !!!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Orlando: The Unanswered Questions.

My thoughts and prayers go out to all the victims and their families - and the whole gay community still in shock over this horrific event - as we mark its two week anniversary.

It was also deeply moving to see so many Gay Pride parades honoring and remembering the victims. A sad day of 'celebration' and mourning for many of us.

I had originally prepared a much longer post - detailing many of the troubling questions that have come to light over the past few weeks regarding the shooting,  and providing links - but decided out of respect for the victims - to postpone it for a time. And I may decide that my other blog, Crime Scene Reviews, is a more appropriate locale for such reflections.

I was gratified to learn that the investigative team at Who Why Why. Org has decided to take on the case of Omar Mateen and to undertake a full scale investigation. These are serious, responsible people (some of whom are my personal friends - full disclosure here) and it will most likely take them up to a year to achieve any clarity. They are not 'conspiracy theorists' rushing to judgement.

What is clear at this very early stage is that the story we have been told and the event behind it are anything but simple. Many troubling questions remain about the nature of the shooting itself,  how many victims may have been shot by police 'friendly fire' when the building was breached, Mateen's precise relationship to the FBI:

Also troubling is the nature of Mateen's relationship - alleged or otherwise - to radical Islamic imam, Marcus Robertson, 'former' covert operative for the CIA and the FBI.

(In my opinion, the denial needs to be taken with great caution. This is a story that requires very careful, in depth. long-term investigation. In the Fox News interview in which Robertson denies any connection with Omar Mateen, he also expresses his belief in the necessity of killing gays.) 

The precise nature of the relationship - if any - between James Howell, the young man who turned himself in to authorities in LA before "attacking"  the Gay Pride Parade = and Omar Mateen and failed Trump assassin, Michael Sandford. You can read the interview with Howell conducted by attorney, Brenda Corplan, here at

(I know nothing about this particular website, but the interview is straightforward enough and very, very chilling. Perhaps the ravings of a disturbed individual, but the allegations must be followed up.)

Questions also arise as to the FBI's manipulation of the narrative about Mateen's supposed gay side.

However, it seems appropriate to end this short reflection with a superb piece by Sam Husseini at Counterpunch magazine that describes the irresponsible journalistic practices used to report on Noor Zahi Salmon, wife of Omar Mateen. Indirectly, Husseini offers an example of what responsible journalism should look like.

Husseini includes this provocative statement in his piece that is deeply troubling:

Some friends of Noor Zahi Salman are apparently speculating that what actually happened was that Omar Mateen was about to be outed as gay — and went nuts. This could have broader implications since “Israel surveils and blackmails gay Palestinians to make them informants.” That clearly is speculative. But far more responsible than speculation that is streaming forth from your TV.

Troubling questions that leave one somber, reflective and sad. It was understandable that in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, thoughtful commentators within the gay community had an obligation to provide meaningful, insightful reflections that would help us in our grief  and enable us to come to terms with some of the shocking homophobic reactions to the events - from religious leaders in particular. However, a mere two weeks after the event and it is becoming clear that we were in some sense manipulated in our understanding of the story. And in fact the narrative seemed to be carefully shaped to focus exclusively on the memes of 'Radical Islamic Terrorism', 'Gun Control', 'Homophobic hate crimes'. When, in fact, the real story may lie elsewhere. 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Pentecost in Prague

Attended Pentecost services today at the beautiful Catholic Church of St. Thomas in Mala Strana (something I rarely do). Surprised to see that the papal nuncio, Bishop Giuseppe Leanza was presiding - over a confirmation ceremony of 4 young teens, two boys and two girls, and one adult male. Bishop Leanza has just recently been elevated to the red hat, Cardinal Leanza now.
Why was this of interest? Well, the holy, much loved and open minded pastor of St. Thomas, Fr. William, was presiding with the Bishop over the ceremony. So??? Father William is accustomed to ending all Sunday masses with this warm announcement: "All Catholics are welcomed here in the family of St. Thomas, regardless of marital status or sexual orientation". And occasionally he will add, "All are welcomed to the banquet table of the Lord, no one is judging you here at St. Thomas".
Wow. For those not familiar with the arcane, murky and very dark world of Roman Catholicism at this point in history, these announcements could not be more contrary to directives from the Holy See. And if any irate conservative Catholics were to complain, to whom would they voice their ire? To the Papal Nuncio - a very warm, unassuming and amiable man whom I met at the coffee klatch in the sanctuary afterwards, together with Father William. Both men seemed on very good terms.
How long has Father William been getting away with this "outrageous" behavior without being silenced (behavior that should seem perfectly normal in a healthy religious community)? For the past eight years I've been in Prague at least. A truly good and admirable priest, Father William recently suffered a stroke and now walks with a cane.
Signs of Grace and the workings of the Spirit on this feast of Pentecost. In dark times, even small rays of light are like water in the desert. (Something of interest for William D. Lindsey).
Of course, there's more here than meets the eye. Bishop (now Cardinal) Leanza was the apostolic nuncio in Ireland at the time of the publication of the damning Cloyne Report, examining the child abuse crisis in within the Catholic Church - which prompted a searing indictment from Prime Minister Enda Kenny, who had spoken harsh words at the Vatican, holding that "the rape and torture of children were found to be understated and managed with the aim of protecting the Church". Shortly thereafter, in 2011, Bishop Leanza was recalled to Rome for 'consultations', and shortly after that he was reassigned to the Czech Republic. 

(Photo header is of Father William giving marriage instructions. Photo below. Father William and Cardinal Leanza.)

Monday, May 9, 2016

RISEN: Film Review

Yet again - I've been neglecting this blog, despite my best intentions. I had hoped to comment on the Easter visit to Catholic Slovakia and the Marian shrine of Litmanova. A deeply moving event for me - going from secular, cynical Czechia (Czech Republic's new nickname) to staunchly, vibrantly Catholic Slovakia (with its dark history of collusion with the Nazi's in the deportation of Slovakia's Jews), but that will have to wait for a later time.

Then Francis the Papa of the Roman Christian Communion released his 'exhortation' on the family, with it's warm accommodating language of primacy of conscience - for everyone except Gay folks.  I followed that closely for a while, mainly at William Lindsey's wonderful blog, Bilgrimage. Where would we be without Bill's brilliant, incisive coverage of these events = and his staggering number of links for us to follow, aided by his own summations. Francis' exhortation was a blessing (in disguise?) in that the exact sentiments of this pope towards LGBT people have finally been laid bare - with no room for ambiguity, no more guessing. The only harsh language in this document - reserved for us. No room for us in this Innkeeper's hostel, and no mercy either. But there is a light shining in the stable amongst the simple creatures of the earth where we can find refuge in the night. It is up to us to gravitate towards that light. For some gay Catholics, light still shines within chosen alcoves within the institutional structure, but for most of us post LGBT Catholics, the light only shines outside the door. I have long left active participation in Catholic affairs, though the mystical connection remains strong and I continue to feel an interior calling to reflect and witness to the faith.

What prompted me to return to this blog today was my viewing of the recently released biblical film Risen - the first time the resurrection story of Jeshua and his post mortem appearances has been treated in a mainstream film, at least to my knowledge.

The film was surprisingly revelatory and new, in my opinion,  despite a very rocky beginning. It's technique (CGI and soldiers with jerky overly masculinized body movements and bulging, unrealistic muscles) mirrored that of such cheap macho war epics as 300 Spartans. In other words, a technique geared to the psychological level of 13 year old boys - and other older immature males. I was actually bitterly disappointed with the opening scenes, but managed to stick with the film - and was very glad I did. By the end, I thought, well, why not imitate cheap macho historical war epics if you want to draw in a bigger audience and maintain their interest in what is a very esoteric and subtle story.

What I found so new and surprising = and for which I'm very grateful:

For the first time, a film has succeeded in conveying graphically and viscerally the horror of the whole practice of crucifixion. I was shocked by the fact that Jerusalemites had to accustomed themselves to viewing dying criminals hanging from these instruments of torture every day and in plain view. It was a part of everyday life - particularly when traveling the roads into and out of the city. Death and torture and psychological warfare techniques of the most harrowing kind - visible always. Imagine walking outside your door every morning on the way to school or work and seeing bleeding agonized bodies hanging against the skyline. This was the reality of Roman occupation, the horror of the times into which Jesus was born. Secondly, the open pits - which biblical scholars have told us was the common practice for disposing of the bodies of the crucified. Again, right out in the open, mases of putrefying corpses in full view of the general public. The horror, the horror. This was the chaotic world into which Jeshua was born. As the film makes clear, Jesus was just one of many, and in the days after his own crucifixion, other criminals were suspended from these racks of torture on the skyline of the city - in full view of the population going about their business. An atmosphere of violence, cruelty and blood for all to see.

Secondly (in no particular order), finally an Aramaic looking Jesus ( played with wonderful simplicity and a total lack of pretension by Maori New Zealand actor Cliff Curtis). And a number of the disciples also succeeded in looking reasonably Middle Eastern and Jewish.

A rock solid performance from British actor, Joseph Fiennes ( brother of the more famous Ralph Fiennes) as the Roman Centurion/official Clavius, who's stolid world-weariness and disbelief cracks with the full force of the event he witnessed. When Fiennes doubts, this man of hardened practicality and cynicism,  he carries us all with him. Through his eyes we see the impact of the Resurrection upon a decent man at heart who never thought himself religious. And when he puts down his sword and embraces the ethic of the Christians (no more killing on this day) we put down our swords with him - precisely because even when doing so, Fiennes has not yet 'become' a Christian.  Through the attitude of Pilot (played by another distinguished British actor, Peter Firth), we see the hardened cynic's attitude. "He's alive again? Well then, I'll kill him again."

A note for the young, Tom Felton of Harry Potter fame plays the young Roman soldier Flavius in a strong supporting role.

The genuine confusion of the disciples - not simply immediately after the crucifixion itself, but also after the 'resurrection appearances', themselves - however these are to be understood. They were in a state of stupefaction and joy - and confusion. Astounded by the events and not knowing quite what to make of them and what to do next. Simply following the signs given them each day. The film does a superb job conveying the painstaking process of spiritual discernment the disciples underwent. For the first time, far beyond the sentimental piety of the 1950-60's biblical epics, we really experience the confused state of the early Christians - and the bleak, harrowing backdrop of their conversion experience - in a land under brutal occupation. For the first time in a film, I caught the mystery and the fear and the confusion and the joy of this infinitely small band of men and women called to witness to all nations. Such a tiny, fragile beginning - founded on such an inexplicable event with no clear explanations as to what and how and why. Only an overwhelming sense of spiritual profundity and peace. So weak and obscure and fragile a beginning. The film really conveyed to me the terrible threat these very insignificant people were under, the terrible risks, the fear, set over against their newly found courage and inexplicalbe joy.

The Resurrection Appearances themselves - the film opts for a realistic portrayal, as if Jesus were actually among the disciples eating fish, drinking wine - though most biblical scholars think these are creative fictional metaphors for an essentially ethereal spiritual encounter of great power. The most that can be said with confidence is that the early Christians themselves believed something very strange had happened to the body. And the manifestations of the Risen Lord - whatever the manner of these appearances - it was not the corporal body of their crucified Master. According to the stories, every time he 'appears' they at first do not recognize him. Again, something very strange and mysterious about the body.

Finally, through the words of one of the Roman guards, the film offers quite a 'plausible' account of the Resurrection event itself -at least as witnessed by someone outside the tomb. It is very moving and - quite possibly - near to the 'truth,' though I don't think we are supposed to have anything like certitude in this matter. And finally again, through one camera shot of Roman Centurian Joseph Fiennes holding the burial cloths, we see a reverent acknowledgement of  the Shroud of Turin - pointing so eloquently to the depths of this great mystery that is the Resurrection.

Though I feel the 3 out of 5 star rating the film is receiving is fair - I also feel it should be highly recommended to thoughtful Christians. Look beyond the ' macho shit' of the early scenes and you will be uplifted and inspired. I was deeply moved.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Daniel Berrigan dead at 94

A day for prayers, a day for mourning and remembering, and a day for rejoicing that for a time - so brief - we were graced with the presence of such a gifted prophet. Not without his human flaws, but then aren't we all, yet how few of us have his courage. The great Daniel Berrigan - who helped to awaken and forge the consciences of so many of my generation  -has passed over the River of Life into the Great Beyond.

Tributes are already pouring in from far and wide - from the New York Times to Huffington Post - to conservative/progressive Catholic blog sites to social justice sites.

Here is Common Dreams initial report. 

I need time to absorb the impact of this news, an event as moving for us old Catholics as the death of Thomas Merton, who was also a great friend of Berrigan's - but I'm reminded of one of his books I found most moving - his dialogue with Vietnamese Buddhist Zen Master Thich Nhat Hahn,

The Raft is Not the Shore. 

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Two LGBT activists marytred in Bangladesh

Xulhaz Mannan and Tanay Mojumdar
Photo taken from Jesus in Love Blog

A very sad story just posted at Kittredge Cherry's Jesus in Love Blog:

Two outstanding gay activists, seen above, were hacked to death for"being pioneers of practicing and promoting homosexuality in Bangladesh" on April 25 in Dhaka, Bangladesh. That was just five days ago!

Read the full account at Jesus in Love Blog. I'm familiar with both men, having seen their photos before - but I can't remember where, unless it was also in a previous posting at Jesus in Love. Not sure.

Yet another sad story of LGBT oppression in the name of 'religion,' and another two saints added to the Communion of Saints interceding for us struggling gay folks here on Planet Earth. Saints Xulhaz and Tanay pray for us. 

Friday, April 8, 2016

Quote of the Day re: Pope Francis' 'exhortation' on the family, released today.

Couldn't have said it better. 

Very mixed feelings about the Pope's latest pronouncement this morning. 

It is so very little. There is no real doctrinal change anywhere in Roman Catholic dogma about family life. What has changed is the tone, and it is worth noting that even that tiny little crumb met with fierce opposition from much of the Roman hierarchy. It is very little, but it is something, an incremental shift away from the rigid legalism that dominated Roman Catholic teaching on family life for decades, at least since Paul VI. The current Pope seems less willing to force the complicated mess of individual relationships into an iron template of dogmatic idea.

The Pope's perceived shift on homosexual relations would have more credibility with me if the Roman Catholic Church dropped their opposition to all civil rights legislation for LGBTQs and stopped their resistance to local and international efforts to decriminalize same sexuality. Rome would have more credibility with me if they publicly opposed the violence and persecution directed at gays and lesbians in Africa, Eastern Europe, and the Muslim world. To do so would cost them nothing. They would not have to change any of their doctrines on marriage or family. The Roman Church might even gain a little of the credibility that it lost after decades of crime and scandal, that it might once again look like a moral authority and less like an international pedophile protection ring.

Douglas Blanchard - artist of The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision

Douglas' depiction of the encounter at Emmaus - or an alternative vision of Christian family.