Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Banned Books Week: Day Four
The Top Ten List

by Pa Rock
Cultural Commentator

I pulled the following list off of the Internet today. There was no information given as to who made the selections or how, but I thought is was a good cross-section of books that have stoked a lot of controversy. I'm going to set a goal or reading (or re-reading) each of these classics before the next Banned Books Week rolls around. If your book club is looking for ideas, you can't go wrong with anything on this list!

Top Ten Banned Books of the Twentieth Century:

10. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

9. Lady Chatterly's Lover by D.H. Lawrence

8. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

6. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

5. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

4. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller

3. The Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs

2. Ulysses by James Joyce

Drum roll...and the number one banned book for the twentieth century is...

1. 1984 by George Orwell

"Books cannot be killed by fire. People die, but books never die. No man and no force can put thought in a concentration camp forever. No man and no force can take from the world the books that embody man's eternal fight against tyranny. In this war, we know, books are weapons."

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

'Splain Yourself, Sarah!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Actor Matt Damon is in a major snit over Sarah Palin's creationist views. Apparently McBush's silly girl holds with some fundamentalist thinking that the Earth is only six thousand and some-odd-years-old (created on a Tuesday, if memory serves), and that humans and dinosaurs co-existed around four thousand years ago - and the fossil record be damned! One version of that report has the Governor of Alaska saying that she knows it's true because she has seen photographs of human footprints intermingled with those of dinosaurs.

I haven't seen any photographs like that, but I must confess to having never encountered a Christian fundamentalist home-schooler's science textbook either. The photos are probably between the chapters detailing how a man can live in the belly of a whale, and the best techniques for walking on water.

The Bush administration has had a great time rewriting science, but something tells me that they are going to be small potatoes compared to the outrages that would be foisted on the scientific community by a McBush-Palin administration.

Hey Sarah, who did Cain and Abel marry? Me and Matt Damon want to know!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Banned Books Week: Day Three
Incendiary Prose

by Pa Rock
Cultural Commentator

Sometimes books are just so blatantly God-awful that banning them isn't enough to ensure that their free-thought might not seep out and be absorbed by some unsuspecting open minds. When that happens some moron with a book of matches is usually close by.

Civilization has a long history of burning troublesome things: witches, crosses, and yes, even books. The Nazi's were consummate book-burners, dutifully torching any bound volume of ideas that didn't fit their ideology. The books that the Nazis burned were dangerous, damned dangerous, like Jack London's The Call of the Wild. Their rigid minds could not accept a tale of sled dogs and the struggle of man against the elements. It's a good thing that the twenty-first century Nazi's and fundamentalist Christians haven't bothered to read any of London's other books. The first few pages of The Iron Heel alone would send thousands of these intellectual midgets racing to flick their Bic's.

Kurt Vonnegut, the genius who looked and wrote like Twain, ran afoul of book-burners. His very provocative Slaughterhouse-Five was publicly burned in Drake, North Dakota, in 1973. Vonnegut, like London, wrote many novels that challenged our core beliefs and values. And Vonnegut's characters have evolved into classics, from Billy Pilgrim to Kilgore Trout, they have become part-and-parcel of the American literary experience.

Several years ago the Board of Trustees of the East St. Louis Library ordered all three of the library's copies of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath pulled from the shelves and burned. They described it as "vulgar, immoral, and bestial." In some places comments like that would sell books!

The Reverend (sic) George Bender of the Harvest Assembly of God Church near Pittsburgh, PA, held a large public bonfire on a cold evening in 2001 that was fueled by Bruce Springsteen CDs, Disney videos, and Harry Potter books. The showboating minister made sure that the press was there before he put the torch to his pile of filth.

Ray Bradbury, one of the best wordsmiths of the last fifty years, wrote a book about book-burners entitled Fahrenheit 451, the temperature at which a book will burn. When teachers at the Venado Middle School in Irvine, California, ordered Fahrenheit 451 for their classrooms, they were shocked to find that the books were censored by the school district enroute to the teachers, and many words, mostly "damns" and "hells," were blocked out. How's that for irony?

It's Banned Books Week! Why not celebrate by reading some Bradbury (if not Fahrenheit 451, consider The Martian Chronicles - both are great reads). Or curl up with a Harry Potter novel (with Bruce Springsteen playing in the background, of course!). Anything by John Steinbeck makes for a good weekend of lazing on the couch and reading. My personal Steinbeck favorites are The Winter of Our Discontent and East of Eden. And then there's Kurt Vonnegut. If you are brave enough to look at the world from an off-center perspective, read some Vonnegut - and start with Slaughterhouse-Five. Just keep it out of the reach of morons with matches!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

They're Back!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Arizona's state bird, the blue-haired snowbird, has started its annual migration into the Valley of Hell. They flock here from all over the United States and Canada seeking a place to park their RV's and flabby rears in the winter sunshine.

I was in a convenience store earlier this week when I realized the invasion had begun. Normally, that little store might have a maximum of six customers during a "rush" period, but that day there were three long lines of seniors (most of whom were decades older than me!) pushing their carts, each and everyone heaped to overflowing with alcohol, toward the checkout counter. I mean to tell you they were emptying the booze counters and coolers of that little store! It was as if they didn't have liquor where they came from, and while they were wintering in the desert, they were determined to drink it dry!

When I finally made it to the checkout counter, I felt and acted on the need to apologize to the clerk for not buying any booze. "That's all right," she told me. "I'll check you out anyway." We then commiserated over the fact that neither of us had been invited to any of the snowbird parties.

But, it's going to be a long, hot winter, so we may make it onto some of the guest lists yet!

Banned Books Week: Day Two
War: What Is It Good For?

by Pa Rock
Cultural Commentator

I can vividly recall the most difficult book that I ever read. Joseph Heller's Catch-22 was so bewildering with its many quirky characters and numerous time shifts that I abandoned the effort to complete it twice, each time after finishing a couple of hundred pages. The third attempt was just as mind-muddling, but I resolved to stick with it and master the complex book just so that I could understand what all of the hype was about. And it was in the final hundred pages or so where all of the plots, sub-plots, snippets, and varying time perspectives came together to reveal a meaningful tale about the senselessness of war.

Joseph Heller was a bombardier with the Army Air Corps on an island just off the coast of Italy during World War II. After the War he spent the next six years writing his masterwork, Catch-22, a war story that revolved around Captain Yossarian, a bombardier for the Army Air Corps on an island just off the coast of Italy during World War II.

Heller's book was a tragic, yet humorous, examination of the horrors and shenanigans of war. His Captain Yossarian wanted nothing more than to go home. Each time he came close to completing the required number of bombing missions needed to get sent home, his colonel, who desperately wanted to be a general, would increase the requisite number of missions. (A bait-and-switch gimmick much like the one used by George Bush in the Oil War to keep troops from leaving the service after their time was up through a back-door draft called "stop-loss.")

Milo Minderbinder was the mess officer for Heller's fictional outfit. Milo saw war as a profit making venture. (Think Dick Cheney and Halliburton.) He bought and sold goods on the black market and formed a syndicate of war companies in which he and all of his friends held shares. Milo sold opportunities, and once arranged for the Germans to bomb his own unit - for a fee, of course.

And there were dozens of other strange individuals populating Yossarian's island. Woven together they told a tale of the uselessness, tragedy, and universality of war, albeit in somewhat of an absurd manner. Joseph Heller did not view war in a particularly patriotic light, and that attitude has resulted in Catch-22 often landing on lists of banned books.

Another war book that should be equally objectionable is Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried, a story of the U.S. military in Vietnam. Like Catch-22, The Things They Carried was also semi-autobiographical in nature, with the central character being an Army company clerk named Tim O'Brien. It is the story of O'Brien's year in Vietnam and the people and situations he encountered. This book is much more readable than Catch-22, and every bit as good - if not better. Both books define war in less than heroic terms. I have not seen The Things They Carried on any banned book lists yet, but it is so good that I'm sure that honor will be forthcoming!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Banned Books Week: Day One
The Works of Mark Twain

by Pa Rock
Cultural Commentator

American literary scoundrel, Mark Twain, has been dead for nearly a century, yet his works stir as much controversy today as they did during his lifetime.

Of the enormous body of work left by Twain, he considered his masterwork to be The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which also happens to be his most widely banned tome. The tale of Huck's voyage down the Mississippi River with the escaped slave, Jim, was thought to be crass and vulgar at the time of its publication, and there were certainly people around at that time who were offended by a friendship between a black man and a white boy. Today it is still being banned, but now for its accurate depiction of the language of the times (such as the commonplace use of the "n" word), and the portrayal of Jim as uneducated and somewhat dependent on the white boy's intellect to help him make it to freedom - again, an accurate portrayal of the times. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer has also hit the banned books lists many times for essentially the same reasons.

But there is so much more of Twain's work that could easily be banned by the morons who try to control our access to ideas - if only they took the time to read them and the intellect to understand what the rascal was saying. A wonderful (and often overlooked) novel by Mark Twain is Pudd'nhead Wilson, the tale of a light skinned slave baby boy who was born on the same day as the Master's baby boy. The babies looked very similar (and probably shared quite a bit of the same family tree), so the slave baby's mother decided to switch them shortly after their birth. When the duplicity is discovered after they become adults, the result is a suddenly "white" man of privilege who is illiterate and lacks the skills that he needs to operate in "civilized" circles, and a well-educated and socially skilled man of color who must now function as a slave.

Mark Twain's dead-on commentary on America's social conventions and absurdities earned him a loyal following in the Soviet Union. (Those ardent socialists were also enamored of Jack London, another sharp-eyed social critic.)

Twain was piercingly critical of religion. While in college I purchased a copy of Letters from the Earth, a heady collection of his views on religion that was not released until about fifty years after his death. The old lady who took my money literally picked the book up by two fingers (like it was covered with vomit or some equally foul substance) and placed it in a bag. "This is the book where he says he doesn't believe in God," she said with obvious disgust. I'm sure that the hateful Christian fundamentalists have added it to their lists of filth by now.

My favorite piece of Mark Twain's work is The War Prayer. It is a short tale of a minister who exhorts his parishioners with a long prayer to support the troops. The minister spoke from the pulpit praying that

"an ever-merciful and benignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers, and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work, bless them, shield them in the day of battle and the hour of peril, bear them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them to crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory..."

As the minister finishes his patriotic prayer, and old man (a stranger) steps up to the pulpit and motions for the minister to step aside. He explains to the congregation that he has been sent by God to explain to them the import of what they had just prayed for. His rewording of the minister's prayer follows:

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it -- for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

Mark Twain was unable to get The War Prayer published during his lifetime. It is a wonder that timeless and powerful piece ever made it into print at all.

Let us pray for our troops and their families, the children of Iraq and Afghanistan and their families, world peace, and the positive power of unfettered words and ideas. Amen.

A Good Man Passes

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Paul Newman died yesterday at his home in Connecticut. He was an actor, a damn fine actor, and he was so much more. Paul Newman and his beautiful wife, Joanne Woodward, became the epitome of the good that people with money or celebrity could accomplish in life.

Newman was nominated for ten academy awards during his long and illustrious career, and won one Oscar - for The Color of Money. My first memory of him on the big screen was 1963's Hud in which he played the title role, an alienated young man struggling across Larry McMurtry's hard and dusty Texas. Six years later he paired with Robert Redford in the classic Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the film that was to lend its legend to Redford's Sundance Film Festival and Newman's Hole in the Wall Camp for seriously ill kids.

Paul Newman was a giver of the first order, and he used his considerable influence to nudge others into philanthropy. He started a line of food products based on his own recipes in the early 1980s and vowed to give any profits to charity. The project was phenomenally successful, allowing the actor to donate over a quarter of a billion dollars to charities during the remainder of his lifetime. In addition to the Hole in the Wall Camp (which evolved into several camps around the United States and the world), Newman also started and funded The Scott Newman Center, an organization that works to prevent substance abuse, out of respect for his son who died of a drug overdose.

People like Paul Newman seldom pass this way, but when they do we all need to take notice and be inspired by the good that they produce during their journey. Newman spent a lifetime paying it forward, and we are all better for his talents and good works. The man is gone, but his passions survive and march ever onward.

The Pulpit Initiative

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Pastor Gus Booth is a man on a mission who has very little regard for the foundation of American democracy. Pastor Gus, in his zeal to make sure his parishioners have the same narrow-minded view of the current Presidential candidates as he does, has intentionally and with malice aforethought stepped across a line, a line that was established by the Constitution of the United States over two centuries ago to keep church and state separate .

The architects of our Constitution, the compact that holds our nation together, clearly understood the dangers of the state trying to control or establish religion, and they were also aware of the dangers that religious excesses could have on a democratic society.

Churches have received enormous benefit from this separation over the years through having their incomes exempted from taxes. And as long as they kept their focus on religion and stayed away from politics or the business of the state, they got to keep their oh-so-sweet tax exempt status.

The problem for some churches and their pastors is that they feel an obligation to "educate" their members on the "godliness" (or lack thereof) of certain candidates. Christian fundamentalist institutions in particular seem to have an insatiable need to warn their membership of liberals or other candidates who might actually believe in and practice the Golden Rule. They have been stepping closer and closer to the Constitutional line through such subtle acts as having "voting guides" left on windshields during church services, or sprinkling sermons with code words that left those listening with little doubt as to where their pastor stood on issues or candidates.

But all of those subtleties weren't enough to scratch Pastor Gus's itch. Last May he told the congregants at his Warroad Community Church in Warroad, MN, that Christians could not support Hillary Clinton or Barrack Obama. Then he sent a press release about his sermon to the IRS to make sure that they were aware that he was pissing on the Constitution. Being a good Christian, the minister obviously hoped for an IRS reaction that would propel him into martyrdom - where the big bucks awaited!

The IRS didn't react quickly enough for the ambitious minister, so he has upped the ante. Tomorrow Pastor Gus and thirty-two other ministers from across the nation will all gleefully jump across the line separating church and state by endorsing or opposing certain candidates from the pulpit. This pile of religious compost is being referred to as "The Pulpit Initiative." These shepherds for the Lord are determined to prove that the members of their flock truly are sheep.

So, at least we now have one clear option for where that pesky $700 billion economic bailout that our country so desperately needs can come from: TAX THE CHURCH!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Who's Calling?

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I remember years ago when the telephone companies first began talking about Caller I.D. At last, I thought, the phone companies have come up with something I can really use. My euphoria was short-lived, however, because the system that was implemented was not universal. People could pay or dial special codes to keep the person being called from knowing the phone numbers of those doing the calling.

People with unlisted numbers wanted to be able to call whomever they pleased without having to disclose their secret telephone numbers. They knew yours, but you weren't permitted to know theirs - not very democratic!

But it's the bastard telemarketers that really get me going! Yes, I have put my personal phone on the no-call list, but I still get calls from imbeciles collecting for the Sheriff's or Fireman's Associations, political groups, and assorted charities. This week I have had two calls at my workplace from people trying to sell me condos. Fortunately for them, I was with clients and was unable to describe in too much detail just how much their call meant to me - or to offer advice as to where they could put their condos!

We need universal caller i.d. When some cretin calls my house or my workplace trying to make a quick buck, I want to have access to their telephone number so that I can call back at my convenience - and hopefully at their inconvenience!

Anything less just isn't fair. (And everyone knows how much I value fairness!)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

More on Pygmies

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I had a comment from "Anonymous" on my blog last night about the shortcomings of G.W. Bush and Sarah Palin. Anonymous is my favorite correspondent, and I want to take some space tonight to reply by to what he (or she) had to say. The comment was:

I do not think it is fair to blame all that is going on in government on George Bush. The stage for what is going on was set way before he came into the presidency.

Anonymous, I agree with your statement entirely. The government is an accumulation of sins and mistakes that goes back over two hundred and thirty years. There have also been some marvelous things to come out of our national government: the emancipation of the slaves and social security are two examples.

One of the biggest problems that I have with our current President is that he has been in snooze mode for most of the past eight years and left governing to his half-wit sycophants. But, on those few occasions when he has actually been the decider, he decided wrong - take for example the Oil War in Iraq and his two choices to sit on the Supreme Court.

In the eight years that George Bush has been in office, the foxes have been given complete and unfettered access to the hen house. Anything that could be deregulated has been (hence our current economic mess for which he does deserve much credit), and our national resources have been drilled, and mined, and cut down like there was no tomorrow. The thieves clamored to get it all carted off before this administration left town. The party, they realized, would one day come to an end.

Well, the party is ending. George Bush is not responsible for everything that has happened in government during the time he was in office. Lots of people had a hand in the carnage. But he did fritter away an amazing gift (or theft, depending on your point of view): the Presidency of the United States of America. How sad for him, and how sad for us. He came in with a robust economy, and promptly sent out rebates as a way of starving social programs. Then he used a national tragedy to start a war with a country that had no involvement with that tragedy. And now four thousand American troops are dead - and many other thousands have suffered wounds, homelessness, and broken families, thousands of Iraqi children are dead or maimed, and our national prestige is in the toilet - all so that George Bush could resolve some teen angst issues that he had with his dad. What a sad waste.

I did not say George Bush was responsible for all of the ills of government. That would have been an irresponsible statement. I said that he had been a national embarrassment - and that statement is easily defensible.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Of Pots and Kettles and Pygmies

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

What really scares me about Sarah Palin being one heartbeat away from the Presidency is that I consider her to be George Bush's equal in the realm of foreign policy. When he was first elected President, Mister Bush had been to three foreign countries and was not overly focused on world events. He didn't have to know where Spain was (incidentally, he still doesn't!) because Cheney and Rummy would be there to handle all of that international stuff anyway.

Today in another stunning Bush foreign policy failure, North Korea announced that it is resuming its nuclear program. There's no reason why we should be surprised by their insolent attitude toward the United States. Why, in a fit of diplomatic buffoonery, our Dear Leader once referred to their Dear Leader as a pygmy! Talk about the pot calling the kettle black! Mister Bush, himself, is mighty short of stature, whether the focus is on ability, wisdom, conscience, or height!

Ms. Palin, with her saber-rattling and ferocious Christian righteousness, looks and sounds an awfully lot like our last national embarrassment. Surely eight years of a bad joke is enough for anyone!

We are better than that.

The Fine Art of Passive-Aggressive Jurisprudence

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Last July I wrote about a high school teacher in the Tucson area who was brought to trial on a charge of littering in the desert. It was a case that the government was not eager to present because the teacher, Daniel Millis, was not littering - and everyone knew it. He was actually doing something so heinous as to seemingly upset the balance of power in the free world - and he had to be stopped!

Daniel Millis was (and hopefully still is) a foot soldier for a humanitarian organization called No More Deaths, a group that tries to intercede and save the lives of struggling migrants as they walk across the Sonoran Desert seeking work in the United States. Daniel's crime was carrying water to the thirsty. He had placed twenty-two one gallon jugs of water out in the desert along trails often used by the migrants as they cross into this country. Ironically, he was also picking up litter as he left the water jugs.

But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could not let his Christian acts go unpunished, so they fished around for a crime to fit the good deed and came up with littering! Daniel declined to pay a fine for littering, and was subsequently hauled before a Federal Judge in July. The Judge heard the case, and then being cognizant of the serious split in public opinion over the matter, took it under advisement.

But now the verdict is in. Yesterday, in one of the most passive-aggressive judicial decisions in modern memory, the Federal Judge who heard the Millis case made a desperate attempt to have his cake and eat it too. He ruled that Daniel Millis was guilty - and then that same Judge promptly suspended any sentence! He did the crime, but he won't do the time - so sayeth the Judge!

Christian charity may be illegal, but at least no one is going to get crucified for trying to save lives!

Godspeed, Mr. Millis. Godspeed!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Happy Birthday, Tim!

by Pa Rock
Proud Father

My youngest, Tim, turns twenty-nine today, and he knows how very proud I am of him. But I would like to say so publicly, in this forum, and take the opportunity to brag on his achievements.

Tim dropped out of high school while living in the wilds of Montana. I was several states away and unable to interfere in his life to the extent that I would have liked. But despite his disillusion with Montana's cowboy culture and schools, he assured me that he had not given up on education. He eventually completed his GED and went on to receive a bachelor's degree and a master's degree at the University of Kansas.

Tim was in several plays while growing up and could have easily become an actor. His stage presence was amazing! He was in two college productions and some of our local little theatre doings while still in elementary school. He was able to slip into a character as easily as most of us slip into comfortable clothing.

Instead of acting, though, he pursued his interest in theatre through writing. Tim became active in playwriting while working on his Master's in Fine Arts at the University of Kansas. I was proud beyond belief to be able to go to Lawrence during three separate Octobers to see a Tim Macy play.

The last play that Tim had produced at the University of Kansas was a real life drama about a local teen who left his home one night years before to attend a pre-graduation party - and was never heard from again. Tim's account of the tragedy stirred emotions and articles about the disappearance in a host of local newspapers as well as The Kansas City Star. The young man, Randy Wayne Leach, remains missing twenty years later. His parents were very appreciative of Tim's work in reviving interest in their son's case, and I was very proud of the strong bond that he formed with them while doing research for the play.

On another occasion Millie Crossland (until recently the Clerk of Kansas City, MO, and a very special friend) and I went to Washington, DC, to see one of Tim's plays presented in a competition at the Kennedy Center. I overheard Millie tell Tim at the play about Randy Leach that she has seen more of his plays than those of any other playwright. And that's saying something because Millie gets around!

Tim has had several short stories published in literature journals. Two have his short stories have been made into short films. He is clearly a writer with a lot of promise.

Tim has substituted in the public schools, taught at the college level, and currently does outreach work with disadvantaged youth for the University of Kansas. He works very hard and writes every day!

Being Tim's dad hasn't always been easy, but it has usually been fun!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Deepak Chopra Reveals Sarah Palin

Physician, author, and New Age philosopher Deepak Chopra wrote an amazing piece recently on why some Americans are so enthralled with Sarah Palin. She is, he argues, the other side of Barack Obama, a vehicle for a certain segment of the population to express their prejudices in a more-or-less positive manner. At least that's the way I interpret his remarks. Judge for yourselves with the following segment taken from Obama and the Palin Effect:

"She is the reverse of Barack Obama, in essence his shadow, deriding his idealism and turning negativity into a cause for pride. In psychological terms the shadow is that part of the psyche that hides out of sight, countering our aspirations, virtue, and vision with qualities we are ashamed to face: anger, fear, revenge, violence, selfishness, and suspicion of “the other.” For millions of Americans, Obama triggers those feelings, but they don’t want to express them. He is calling for us to reach for our higher selves, and frankly, that stirs up hidden reactions of an unsavory kind."

That's powerful truth, Dr. Chopra!

Another Greyhound Stabbing in Canada!

by Pa Rock

Canadian police are investigating yet another stabbing on a Greyhound bus. This weekend a 28-year-old man stabbed a young man (non fatally) while traveling through the Canadian wilderness between Toronto and Winnipeg. The assailant then demanded to be let off the bus, and the driver was undoubtedly happy to oblige. Police picked him up walking along the side of the road. There was no word as to the motive in this crime that is eerily reminiscent of the stabbing and beheading that occurred on a Greyhound bus crossing the Canadian prairie two months ago.

There are, I am given to understand, some world-class passenger trains that cross Canada daily, and, in a pinch, one could always look into hiring a dogsled! Sadly, though, Canada is a very large country, and those without cars or gas money - the poor - are often forced to take buses to navigate those long, cold distances.

May they stay vigilant and wide awake.

Who's Really the Elitist? (Part Deux)

by Pa Rock

Previously in this forum I have made fun of John McBush's assertions that Barack Obama is an elitist, pointing out that the word "elitist" when used by crackers is code for "uppity." I observed that while Barack and Michelle Obama manage to make do with one house, the McBush family requires seven, or eight, or nine...the exact number is apparently not even known by them! I also noted that while Barack was raised by a single mother who had to, on occasion, resort to food stamps and welfare in order to put food on the family table, and he went to college and graduate school with scholarships and loans, McBush, the son and grandson of Admirals, grew up in more rarefied circumstances. And while the Obamas live relatively comfortably today, especially considering their modest backgrounds, their income pales in comparison to the third-of-a-billion dollars that annually slides into the McBush family coffers.

Today another story about the disparity between the two families is making the rounds. Investigators apparently went to the Division of Motor Vehicles to see how many cars each candidate owns. The Obamas own one. The McBushes own thirteen, and that doesn't count the one that Cindy normally drives because it is registered to her beer distributorship.

Thirteen cars! Maybe that's why they own so many homes - they need the extra garage space! (Of course, several of the cars may belong to Meghan - different styles and colors for accessorizing!)

So, let's do the math: the Obama's have one house, one car, a six-figure income, and may get a puppy; the McBushes have seven or more homes, 13 cars plus one on loan from Cindy's business, and a nine-figure income. Once again I ask, "Who's really the elitist?"

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Ghost Town

by Pa Rock
Movie Critic

Ghost Town is a wonderful film, funny and touching, a good story brought to life by an outstanding cast. It is a quirky tale about a dentist who dies for seven minutes during a colonoscopy and, when he comes back to life, is suddenly plagued by a host of New York ghosts who all pursue him to complete business that was left unfinished when they died.

This movie, in some respects, is very reminiscent of 1990's film classic, Ghost. Greg Kinnear is a young professional who dies suddenly leaving behind a beautiful and smart wife, Tea Leoni - very similar to the situation encountered by Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore in Ghost. Unfortunately for Kinnear, he was not the husband that Patrick Swayze was, and his widow is wracked with anger instead of grief. And then Ricky Gervais stumbles in as the person who can see and talk to ghosts, and he is being leaned on by the dearly departed to help them resolve their issues so that they can move on. Are we all thinking Whoopi Goldberg?

What distinguishes this ghost movie from the earlier one is the strong focus on the personal growth of the Ricky Gervais character. We watch as he evolves from a self-absorbed jerk into a funny and lovable individual, one with the ability to truly care for others. His metamorphosis is the nut of the movie.

In spite of the similarities to the earlier classic, Ghost Town is a great film in its own right. It is immensely entertaining, and I will undoubtedly enjoy it several more times on cable, just as I have with that other ghost movie!

The Best of the West

by Pa Rock
Food Critic

I was telling a friend recently about the wonderful burgers at What-a-Burger. They were, I stated boldly, the best in the Valley of Hell. "Not so fast, Kimosabe." He cautioned. "Wait 'til you try In-n-Out Burgers!"

Yesterday, while running numerous errands, I happened upon one of the Phoenix area's eleven In-n-Out Burgers just at lunch time, so taking up my friend's challenge, I pulled through and ordered a "double-double." I can now relate my findings: First, a "double-double" is too damned big to eat while driving, and, second, those folks at In-n-Out make an outstanding burger! My friend knows that of which he speaks - something that I am seldom accused of doing!

So, fellow travelers through life, here are some of Pa Rock's gastronomic recommendations for cheap desert dining:

Best Burgers: 1. In-n-Out Burgers 2. What-a-Burger
Best Chicken: El Pollo Loco (um-um-good!)
Worst Chicken: Kentucky Flied
Best Corn on the Cob: Church's Chicken
Best Pizza and Lasagna: Rosati's Pizza
Best Iced Tea: The Village Inn
Best Inexpensive Sit-Down Meal: The Village Inn
Best Breakfast Value: McDonald's Sausage Egg McMuffin and large drink - $2.00
Worst Breakfast Sandwich: Wendy's Sausage Panini
Best Place to Buy Antacid Tablets: 1. Target 2. Wal-Greens

Who Really Subsidizes Our "World Class" Health Care?

by Pa Rock
Health Care Consumer

Several years ago I listened to a classmate in the Social Work Graduate Program at the University of Missouri make a kick-ass presentation on Health Maintenance Organizations, commonly referred to as HMOs. For those of us fortunate enough to be a member of an HMO, or any insurance plan for that matter, we appreciate the fact that they save us money and insure that we will be able to receive health care, no matter how marginal it may be.

But until I heard my friend's detailed report, I had no appreciation for just how ruthless these organizations are. HMOs, it seems, develop their clout in exactly the same way as unions - through large memberships.

Here's how an HMO works: Let's say that a certain HMO has one hundred thousand members in a specific geographic area. The HMO will then contact all of the providers, clinics, hospitals, and laboratories, in that area and offer to put them on their approved list. That will give those doctors and facilities access to the one hundred thousand members of the HMO. The catch is (there's always a catch!) in return for access to the vast pool of customers, the HMO will tell providers and facilities how much they can charge for each procedure. And those charges will be considerably less than for non-HMO members. So, the poor, those without insurance or HMO memberships, wind up being charged full price and subsidizing everybody else.

What follows is an actual example taken from a bill that I received yesterday. Last month I had a routine blood and urine sample taken at a local clinic. Sonora Quest Laboratories of Hollister, Missouri (yeah, homies!) said that those two simple analyses were worth $742.41. Of that total, they wrote off $658.53, charged my insurance company (Blue Cross - Blue Shield) $60.90, and billed me the remainder of $23.18. The muscle of the insurance company got the lab to write down all but $84 dollars of the entire cost!

But what if I had no insurance and was responsible for my own bills? The amount that I would have had to come up with would have been $742.41! And if I didn't have that kind of money my name would have been turned over to a collection agency. I would have been harassed at home and at work, and eventually I would have been sued.

What needs to happen, and what insurance companies will fight to the death to prevent, is that all Americans need to be insured or included in an enormous HMO that could compete for fair charges for all. But, if that happens, there will no longer be a poor class to subsidize those who are insured.

And with medical charges, as with sales taxes, we are all very dependent on the poor to pay their bills and keep our rates low.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Free at Last!

by Pa Rock

Years ago I was offended by a sales clerk at the Wal-Mart in Neosho, MO. I had a school photo of a foster child that I needed to get quickly copied in an effort to have him accepted into a particular foster home. The clerk in the photo department told me that they couldn't copy a school photo. She said it with a certain amount of attitude, and I, of course, bristled like a bad haircut.

I asked to see the store manager, and a nineteen-year-old was marched in to deal with me. After five minutes of dancing over whether the photograph was copyrighted or not (It probably was, but he couldn't prove it!), I left the store while announcing clearly that I was finished with Wal-Mart. And with the exception of a very few emergency situations, I have managed to stay out of those small town-destroyers ever since.

To my enduring shame, however, I never severed my ties to Sam's Club. When I needed certain items, especially certain items in bulk, I would "forget" that money spent at Sam's Club goes into the Wal-Mart till.

But that was then. Today I completed the final step in my own Wal-Mart addiction treatment program by surrendering my Sam's Club card.

I went to the local Sam's Club to pay my bill, and, thinking that my card had just expired, turned it in and announced that I was quitting. The lady at the service counter was literally aghast! Why on earth would I want to quit Sam's Club? Why would anyone want to quit Sam's Club?

"I'm going to Costco." I told her honestly. "I'm doing it for you. I read on the Internet that they pay their employees forty percent more than Sam's Club." But you don't understand the whole picture, she sputtered. Costco has very few full-time employees, and seventy-five percent of our employees are full time!

Really? If seventy-five percent of Sam's Club employees are full-time, Michael Moore better get a film crew over to Bentonville, Arkansas, because Sam Walton is clawing his way out of his grave as we speak!

Then I told her that I also understood that Costco was more apt to support Democrats, and everyone knew Wal-Mart was Republican. She fired back that her company has no political philosophy. Think again. The prospect of a Democratic administration and Justice Department at least behaving respectfully toward unions scares the bejeezus out of the Gods in Bentonville. I knew it and so did she!

Then a man came out to handle my situation. He found my name in the computer, gave me a little talk about the importance of not believing what I read on the Internet, (Yeah, like Fox News is more reliable, or honest?), and apologized because Sam's Club had made me mad.

"I'm not mad," I countered calmly. "I just want to close my account. I'm taking my business down the road to Costco." And then he did something that left me speechless. It's turns out my account hadn't expired. It was due to end in October instead of in September as I had thought. He banged around on the computer for a few minutes before handing me thirty-eight dollars and change.

"What's this for?" I stammered. He replied calmly that Sam's Club always makes a refund when people aren't satisfied with their purchase. I was almost shamed - but not quite!

See you at Costco!

It's Not About You!

by Pa Rock

This election is not about you, and it certainly isn't about me. It's not even about our kids. This election is about our grandkids and their kids and grandkids.

I am so tired of hearing people snivel about not wanting to do things to contribute to the general good because it will have no immediate, personal impact on them. And they certainly don't want to spend money now on something whose aim is to build a better tomorrow. They think that those folks living in tomorrow should take care of themselves! (And maybe they could if they didn't have to worry about paying off our debt!) This tendency to vilify any plan that would require payment today for a better tomorrow is just greed, plain and simple. What most people seem to be after is immediate gratification with the bills coming due sometime in the future. It's the notion of play now and pay later, and not the other way around.

So when an election rolls around, it's very natural for politicians to pander to the public greed. They hyperventilate about cutting taxes while bridges collapse in Minnesota, whole cities get washed away by hurricanes, and students are piled in public schools like so much cord wood. They huff and puff about ending government waste and eliminating earmarks, then rush to to public trough to grab goodies for their home district so the folks will remember them at election time. (Earmarks are only wasteful when they go to someone else's district!)

And politicians never, ever tell you the truth.

Here is some of the truths that don't get told:

1. Public services cost. If you want paved roads, bridges, schools, prisons, a standing military, law enforcement, hospitals, emergency services, clean air and water, mail delivery, Internet, telephones, railroads, indoor plumbing, and border fencing, you pay! You pay with taxes. Living in a civilized country that offers services to its citizens is a privilege. Paying the taxes that support those services is an act of patriotism.

2. If you are unhappy about the priorities that the government sets in spending your taxes, you become politically active and work to have your priorities moved to the front of the political agenda. If, for instance, spending a bazillion dollars on a phony Oil War that can't be won strikes you as wasteful, and you would rather see your money go toward something useful such as universal health care, get off of your tired butt and support candidates who think the way you do. If you sit back whining about all politicians are the same and it doesn't make any real difference who gets elected, then you deserve to live in a land where greed and patriotism are interchangeable concepts, and crap like Dear Leader rises to the top of the Federal Government.

3. Politicians play to your basest instincts: greed and fear. They are going to cut your taxes, send you a rebate, or put a major highway near land that you own. And while they themselves might not call their opponent a gay, Muslim, child molester, people connected to their campaign or their causes will see that stories like that get around. Politicians nearly always stand ready to fan the coals of baseless innuendo and lies. It is much easier to tear the other guy down than it is to build your own case through positive appeals - and Americans prefer gutter tactics anyway.

If you want change, make change happen! If you're happy with the way things are, check your meds!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Around this Wretched Desert

by Pa Rock

The summer is quietly slipping into fall in the Valley of Hell. Today the temperature barely reached 100 degrees, and tonight it will cool down to the low eighties or upper seventies. Before we know it all of the snowbirds will be back and people will begin hanging Christmas lights on the cactus.

I have been house-hunting the past few evenings after work. Most decent apartments are around a thousand dollars a month. I have found one that will do. I also did something today that I promised myself I would never do - I looked at a mobile home. It is a three bedroom, two bath in a well kept park. The older home has a sticker price of $14,000 and lot rent is $355 per month. It was a very comfortable setting. I was tempted, sorely tempted. But then reality bit me in the butt and I remembered that I already own two homes in Missouri - did I really need a third located way out west in an area that I hope to one day leave? Of course not.

There are things about apartment living that I like: no upkeep indoors or out, no taxes, cheap insurance, and when something breaks - call the landlord. There are things that I miss, though, about not living in one of my houses - being able to dig and plant in the yard, having a pet, and knocking out the occasional wall. It's all a trade-off. I think my objective right now is to bounce around until I find the place where I would like to retire.

Maybe in the spring I will spend some time in Puerto Rico or St. Lucia.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Macho!

by Pa Rock

I came across a small gem of a novel in the bookstore at the Alamo last month. The book is entitled Macho! and the author is Victor Villasenor. Macho! tells the fictional account of 17-year-old Roberto Garcia of the impoverished Mexican state of Michoacan. The action begins in the late 1960's or early 1970's when Roberto falls in with a group of Nortenos, Mexicans who go to the U.S. each spring and summer for the harvest. He travels north with them and eventually slips into the United States illegally where he makes a fortune by Michoacan standards and learns many life lessons along the way.

Macho! recounts Roberto's adventures and hard work in the United States against the backdrop of Cesar Chavez's United Farm Worker's strikes and boycotts. Roberto is there to make money and raise his family out of poverty, but, by being there, he and his companions are actually hurting the efforts of migrant union members who are trying to impact farm production and force the farm owners to pay them a decent wage. The book provides a strong sense of the balances that are in play in the delicate navigation of life.

It also provides a view of the dangers faced by those so desperate to improve their circumstances that they would walk across a wretched desert or allow themselves to be locked in the back of a hot and airless moving van in order to earn a few dollars and a modicum of self-respect. Macho! is a commentary on the immigration struggle from the time of Cesar Chavez up through the present. It is an old story, a continuing story, and could easily be tomorrow's news.

I finished this book with a much clearer picture of the cultural heritage of Mexican immigrants and the motivations that bring them north. Macho! tells a story of one very brave and ambitious young man, but he is representative of a people who desire to have a small portion of what their North American neighbors take for granted. It is a social education cloaked in a very good story.

My respect for this undocumented and vilified segment of our society has has grown as a result of reading Villasenor's fine prose. I recommend Macho! to anyone who wants to know more about the immigration issue and is not afraid to have their beliefs challenged.

Identity Theft

by Pa Rock

A senior NCO at Luke Air Force Base sent out a base-wide email today stating that she had been checking her accounts on-line last night and discovered that someone had accessed her credit card account and made some purchases. She followed up an hour or so later with another email telling how the particular scam that snared her worked. This is what she had to say:

As it turns out, my specific information wasn't stolen per se -- no bad guy looking over my shoulder & copying down my information. The crooks use a computer program that generates random credit card numbers; the numbers are then tested to see if it's an active account. The "test" usually shows up in the form of a $1 charge. Once the crooks establish that the account is active, they swoop in and make as many charges as possible until caught. Basically, the crooks are playing with a very sophisticated slot machine, and when the one-armed-bandit lands on your account, it's game on for them and "craps" for you.

Most credit cards issued by banks have a "credit alert" feature that will allow you to set certain limits on charges. Once the limit is exceeded, you'll be notified of the charge and asked if it's legit.

Be alert, and be afraid...be very afraid!

It's Still the Economy, Stupid!

by Pa Rock

As I have written previously in this forum, I have expended quite a bit of effort in making sure that I have enough of a retirement plan to keep myself from being a burden on my children. To achieve that goal I have made it through life without ever owning a new home, and only once buying a new car (a 1976 Chevrolet Chevette with a sticker price of $2,900). The jobs I have held have never been on the high end of the economic spectrum, but they have always been satisfying to me and of service and benefit to others – and they have always had some form of retirement option.

I am currently drawing one retirement check while working full-time. By the time that I am sixty-six (which gets closer every day) I will be eligible to receive four retirement checks each and every month. In addition to that, I have a 401-K that I have contributed to off and on for years.

Let me tell you about that 401-K:

First of all, it has quite a few options, but they are all based in the stock market. A year ago this month my plan hit a high-water mark of $30,000 (not much, but I do have four back-up retirement checks). Today that fund is down to just over $23,000 and still heading south. This past Monday when the Dow dropped over 500 points, I lost twenty cents less than $666 in value in my 401-K. (Was that a message from God, or what? I’ve got to quit injecting my views on religion into this blog!) Yesterday, the stock market went up a little, but I must have the wrong stocks in my 401-K because it continued to fall. Today was another big loser on Wall Street.

At some point my 401-K may extinguish itself. I hope not. I trust that my government will, sooner or later, begin making wise economic decisions that aren’t based solely on the protection of privilege, and the stock market will recover. But if that doesn’t happen and my 401-K ends up with a zero balance – I still have my four retirement checks – one of which will be Social Security.

Most people in the United States will eventually qualify for a Social Security check of some amount. It was originally meant to give the elderly a way to live on their own without being a burden to their family or being carted off to one of the numerous poor farms that were prevalent before and during the Great Depression. Today, however, the checks are generally too small to guarantee independence to the elderly. They require another source of income, such as a retirement check. And most companies have either raided their retirement funds before declaring bankruptcy, or they have gone with the far cheaper option of contributing a low level of matching funds to a 401-K.

And what happened to the value of those 401-K’s? (See above!)

What does Dear Leader want to do to improve the Social Security system? Why, allow individuals to invest “their” money in the stock market? And what does John McBush want to do to improve Social Security? He supports privatizing it – putting that money under the control of our trained business class? Or perhaps Halliburton!

Our 401-K’s are going down the toilet now because of the greed and corruption of America’s world-class business leaders. Do we really want to give them access to our Social Security funds also?

If you two goobers (Bush and McBush) want to help the elderly to have an independent and secure life, force businesses to redistribute their wealth. Corporate America needs a whole lot less money for the CEO’s and Board Members, and decent wages and benefits (including health and retirement plans) for the people at the bottom of the food chain who are actually doing the work that produces America’s wealth! If the government has money to throw away, such as on subsidies to Bear Stearnes, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and AIG, why not redirect it into subsidies for good companies who are willing to treat their employees like human beings?

And keep your grubby hands off of Social Security!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Rusty Pails #46:
Moving On

by Rocky Macy

We closed down our camp last week and most of us found our way home. I say most of us because Shadetree Mike, who really didn’t want to go home anyway, fell under the influence of our resident witch. Yep, that’s right, Gladys Clench drove by our camp as we were packing it in, with smells of hot apple pie and freshly fried chicken just oozin’ from her Nash Rambler, and Mike followed her home. Talk about using dirty tactics!

I saw the happy couple on Main Street yesterday. They were walking out of the dry goods store, arm-in-arm, where Gladys had just bought Shadetree Mike some new duds. She said that she wanted to spruce him up some for church. I suggested, politely of course, that a jackass in a suit was still a jackass. As Gladys pulled my buddy off down the street, I couldn’t help but notice that he had already put on a few pounds.

Ermine seems to be doing fine with her husband taking up with another woman. Heck said that he saw her driving a carload of his stuff over to Gladys’ house earlier this week. He said that he might not have noticed her, but she was honking and waving at everyone and had an enormous smile on her face. Poor Ermine has really got to work on her grieving skills!

Our never-ending domino game has been moved to the back room at Esther’s Pearls and Swine. She said now that we’re there, she can get rid of her collection of plastic pigs without having to change the name of her establishment! It’s nice to know we’re good for something!

Esther came over to my place last night after supper. We sat out on my front porch, eating watermelon and spitting seeds, and talking about how much our lives have changed over the past few months. When the summer was young, Shadetree Mike was still living at the Pump and Git and being waited on hand-and-foot by Ermine, the Clench chicken coop was still standing, and me and none of my buddies had been to jail. What a difference a few short months could make!

Esther has a theory that we are all just slipping quietly into old age, and the changes we experienced this summer was just life shaking out some of the wrinkles before we slide on into senility. I sat rocking in my chair, watching her scratch Baker behind the ear, and pondered her theory. She was wrong, of course. We all may be getting older, but as for me anyway, I am far from being old! And I would have told her so, too, if I hadn’t fallen asleep right about then!

I woke just before sunup this morning still in the rocker on my front porch. Esther had tucked a quilt around me before she left last night. As the sun came peeking through the pines, I folded the quilt and went inside to put on a pot of coffee. It was going to be a beautiful day, and I needed to be ready for whatever adventures the day might bring.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Protests Over Liliana

by Pa Rock

Last night, in the middle of the night (Arizona time), a fellow named Alexander posted a comment on the blog entry immediately preceding this one. The comment consisted of a link to a You Tube video on the controversy outside of the Simi Valley Church of Christ. The video showed two groups of protesters facing off along the street with a cadre of police separating them.

The anti-immigrant group was led by a little man with a bullhorn who kept exhorting his group to remember that "illegal" aliens have been responsible for the deaths of 25 law enforcement officers. Possibly true, I thought, but he had the bullhorn, so no one could shout him down if his facts were wrong. And then I wondered about other groups whose members may have killed law enforcement officials. Isn't it likely that some guys with badges have been gunned down by NRA members, or even PTA members? Can you really draw a conclusion that a whole group is dangerous based on the actions of an infinitely small percentage of its members? (Well, possibly in the case of the NRA!)

The little man with the bullhorn amused me. I thought of Buck Henry playing the American Nazi leader in the movie, The Blues Brothers, shortly before he came to realize just what a gay organization the American Nazi Party really was (is). (My apologies to gay organizations everywhere for dredging that up.) I did see one person of color in with the morons, but I made the assumption that he was probably a very nervous reporter.

The other protesters, the ones supporting Liliana and human rights, were shouting "Racists go home!" - a hard trick for xenophobes to accomplish since they think the whole damn country is theirs anyway!

Alexander didn't say why he sent the link, but I appreciate his response. Here it is for those who would like to view and evaluate it themselves. Several related videos are linked at the end of this one:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITcBt6BqjNE

Thanks for sharing that, Alexander!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Mr. Bush, Tear Down Your Wall!

by Pa Rock

I have used this forum to sound off on the subject of immigration several times in the past. Last November I applauded students from a Tucson high school for marching en masse from their high school to downtown Tucson in support of a classmate who was being deported, along with his family, to Mexico. It felt good knowing that young people were concentrating on things of more relevance than sports, cars, and clothing labels.

Later that month I wrote about Jesus, a young man from Mexico who was walking across the Sonoran Desert on Thanksgiving Day trying to outflank the Border Patrol. His plans took a sudden detour when he came upon a nine-year-old American boy who had been in a wreck and was roaming across the desert trying to find help for his mother who was trapped in their van. Jesus tried to rescue the mother, but she died of her injuries. That night he built a fire and kept the boy safe. In the morning he found the Border Patrol and turned his ward over to them. Jesus was promptly deported for his trouble.

This past June I wrote about the hard working Hispanics who keep the wretched "Valley of the Sun" (Phoenix and its environs) operational. If it is a dirty, sweaty, out-in-the-sun, thankless task that needs to be tackled, our Hispanic friends, documented and undocumented alike, are the ones who are out there getting it done. They are easy to demonize, but this area couldn't function without them.

And in July I recounted the tale of a high school Spanish teacher who had been arrested and charged with littering for placing gallon jugs of water out in the desert along trails often used by "illegals" as they try to enter the United States on foot. Ironically, as this young man set out his life-saving water jugs, he had been picking up litter along the way!

So, yeah, I am one of those anti-borders lefties who believe we have an obligation to help all of our neighbors, not just the ones with papers or those who had the good sense to be born on the correct side of an imaginary or man-made line.

I have also been just the teeniest bit critical of organized religion in The Ramble, noting that some mighty mean people often label themselves as "good Christians," and pointing out that some churches are more focused on amassing wealth and power than they are serving the needs of the poor and the oppressed.

With my anger toward America's know-nothing (and proud of it!) racists coupled with my general disgust toward the uselessness of organized religion, I suddenly found myself broadsided by a story out of California where a church had taken a brave and unpopular stand to help an undocumented worker stay in this country so that she could remain near her young, American citizen children.

Her name is Liliana and for the past year or so has been given sanctuary by the United Church of Christ of Simi Valley, California. The Church is offering sanctuary and hospitality to Liliana and her infant son while her case is being dealt with by the Courts. Without the sanctuary, she would have been deported and separated from her husband and other two children who are able to remain in the United States legally.

Her case is representative of hardships and horrors that U.S. immigration policy forces on families. Liliana can return to the absolute desolation and poverty of the Mexican state of Michoacan and take her children with her where they, too, can live in absolute poverty in one of Mexico's poorest regions, or she can leave her children in Los Estados Unidos where they will have a chance of a decent life. It really isn't a choice. The only choice that Liliana has is to try everything in her power to remain in the United States with her children.

But then there are those "good Christians" protesting outside of the Simi Valley Church of Christ week after week - old, white, and intent on seeing that the law is enforced. What a shame they aren't focused on enforcing the Golden Rule instead of our inhumane immigration policy!

Our spite wall separating the U.S. and Mexico is coming along nicely. It's an ugly wall, as ugly as the wall that Israel is erecting to keep the Palestenians in poverty and subjugation. It's as ugly as the wall that the Russian's built to divide Berlin and cripple a nation. But more than that, it's as ugly as the souls of those who are so insistent on its construction.

When Jesus does return to Earth, my money says that he will do so wearing rags and walking across the Sonaran Desert. Of course he may have already tried that last Thanksgiving and wound up being deported!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Pure Coen!

by Pa Rock

The reviews, at least the ones that I read, weren't that stellar, but I went to see Burn After Reading this afternoon determined to enjoy the show - and enjoy it I did! The Coen Brothers know how to make me laugh!

Of the main players in this spy spoof (Tilda Swinton, George Clooney, Frances McDormand, Brad Pitt, and John Malkovich), there were no stand-out stars. All were endearing losers who managed to ricochet from one misunderstanding to another, all the while acquiring the necessary speed to become truly dangerous. And while none of the actors dominated the movie, all were superb.

The only irritating aspect to Burn After Reading was that it had a Coen Brothers trademark sudden ending, leaving one feeling as though the projectionist had forgotten to thread up the last reel. But, unsatisfying as Coen endings are, they are painfully realistic.

Laugh yourself weak and then take a kick to the gut - yeah, that's the ticket!

One More Reason Not to Shop Wal-Mart

by Pa Rock

BIGResearch, a national polling outfit that operates as "a consumer intelligence company" recently surveyed shoppers in five of America's most popular retail establishments regarding their choice for President in the upcoming election. The results give a socio-economic snapshot of America in the early years of the 21st century. The businesses where the surveys were conducted included Wal-Mart, Kohl's, J.C. Penney, Macy's (yea team!), and Target.

The results of the poll follow. I'm not sure that they contain any surprises, but they do indicate that the undecideds could flex a lot of muscle in the upcoming election. (And, I am pleased to note, Macy's shoppers were the most decisive, and they decided for Obama!)

Wal-Mart Shoppers
McCain 41.4%
Obama 33.3%
Undecided 21.1%

Kohl’s Shoppers
McCain 43.8%
Obama 31.0%
Undecided 21.5%

J.C. Penney Shoppers
McCain 42.8%
Obama 32.4%
Undecided 21.6%

Macy's Shoppers
McCain 34.2%
Obama 47.2%
Undecided 16.0%

Target Shoppers
McCain 32.6%
Obama 41.5%
Undecided 21.8%

www.419eater.com

by Pa Rock

I had one of those NPR "driveway moments" this afternoon - I wanted to get out of the car - needed to get out of the car because I was in the Target parking lot and the Arizona air was well over 100 degrees - but the damned radio just wouldn't release me! NPR was doing a piece on "scam baiters," a group of talented techies who live for turning the tables on Internet scam artists.

This particular group of three young men from various parts of the United States specialize in putting it to the hucksters from Nigeria who show up in your inbox asking for help in getting their money out of Nigeria, or similar nonsense, and promise you a large amount of free money if you will only agree to help them out. After biting on their sweetly baited hook, they then advise that they will need a small amount of money to get the money transfer started. If that doesn't scare you off, they keep coming back for more until you realize that you have been had. Greedy, dimwitted Americans spent millions on this one scam last year.

These con-artists usually go scott-free because Nigeria is difficult for American law to access. The part of the Nigerian legal system that deals with fraud is the 419 Code - hence the name of the scam baiters website.

Today's NPR report talked of one particularly nasty ordeal that the three scam baiters put a conman through - sending him to Chad to organize a church in return for a large sum of money. Chad is a Muslim nation, and the victim was to organize a Christian house of worship. They even had him carrying a sign that was disrespectful to Muslims. By the time the fellow had traveled 900 miles to Chad on his own money, he was in too far to back out - and his handlers began to pepper him with other complications, in much the same way that he had presented complications to his marks back when he was in charge of the action. It was delicious turn-about!

The ordeal is recounted on the 419eater website. It's a tale for the underdog lover in us all!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Sharing

by Pa Rock
Charitable Giver

I tithe. I tithe better than most of the expensively suited and fabulously furred upper class “good” Christians who step over the homeless and avert their eyes from the physically disabled in order to make their Sunday pilgrimage into their massive stone sanctuaries of wealth and privilege. I tithe better than the mindless morons who send money each week to television beggars like Pat Robertson and Oral Roberts. I tithe better than those who think they can purchase forgiveness or special dispensations with enough cash and the right connections. I tithe better than all of those fools because I cut out the middleman.

My theory regarding God is that she does not easily suffer the pickpockets and charlatans who shake down the masses on her behalf. God has a greater appreciation for those who take an active role in the care of the world and its creatures. She is moved by charitable works, and she is repulsed by the aggregation of riches – especially when it is churches and their pastors piling up wealth in her name.

I tithe by feeding the birds and the prairie dogs, stretching a simple meal into a feast for several hungry souls. I tithe by giving a dollar to those in need, without cynically trying to evaluate their “true” motives for begging. I suspect that those with their hands out are in need of something – if not money, at least respect and acknowledgement that they are in our line of vision. I tithe by giving to helping organizations whose work I know and trust, The Salvation Army and Doctors Without Borders being regular recipients of my modest attentions.

Instead of directing ten percent of your income to some richly robed conman, consider investing the same funds with agencies, and causes, and people that you know are dedicated to helping the poor and the downtrodden. Think of ways to use less energy, cause less pollution, and make the world a greener place. Stop for the stranded motorist, donate to a food pantry, and celebrate the good in life by constantly reflecting it toward others.

Vote Peace: Know that war kills and maims children, and that God does not sanction war – ever – because war destroys God’s work.

We can all do our part. We can all do more. We can all tithe and support God’s work without feeding the intolerance and naked bigotry of organized religion or proselytizing governments. It is harder to share than it is to sit on our assets, but sharing is truly God's work, and doing her work makes us stronger and better individuals.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Of Lipstick and Pigs

by Pa Rock

The amoral majority of the Republican Party has worked its way into a major snit over Senator Obama's remark about McBush's policies being like those of Bush - and if you put lipstick on a pig, it's still a pig! Not fair, they blubber, because Sarah Palin already had associated herself with lipstick, and therefore Obama was calling her a pig. Those gentle Christian souls in the Republican Party are appalled by the blatant sexism.

Republicans appalled by sexism? Well, who'd a thunk it? After all, haven't they prided themselves as being the all-inclusive political organization that valiantly fights to ensure equality for all. Why, they had almost three dozen people of color at their last national convention...and three dozen out of three thousand ain't too shabby! President Lincoln would have been so proud!

The awful truth is, of course, Abraham Lincoln was probably the last Republican leader to give a rat's ass about anyone other than himself, his family, his bank account, or big business. The only thing that the Republican Party maintains from the days of Lincoln is the spelling of its name.

The McBush campaign's "horror" at the sexism supposedly espoused by Senator Obama is as funny as it is sad. The phrase, lipstick on a pig, is older than I am, and it is something that politicians like to throw around every so often because it conjures up such a vivid image. Why, John McBush himself has used that same tired old line on numerous occasions. But he can do that because he's not sexist. Right?

John McBush who publicly referred to his wife as a "cunt" didn't really mean to denigrate women. Why most women enjoy hearing terms of endearment like that, don't they? And then there's the John McBush who has told the "joke" about why Chelsea Clinton is so ugly - because Janet Reno is her father! That's a real knee-slapper, John. You're a funny guy! You ought to capture ninety percent of the women's vote when they consider Obama's sexism and your astounding sense of humor! (Maybe we should update your very funny joke to fit the current political scene. How about changing Chelsea Clinton to Meghan McCain, and Janet Reno could be updated to someone truly hideous, like, say, Ann Coulter!) Wouldn't that be a hoot, John!

Keep talking crap and nonsense, John! If we can all stay focused on silliness like lipstick and pit bulls and pigs and field dressing a moose, maybe no one will bother you with questions about the economy, the Oil War, health care, immigration, and education - the complicated stuff that American's shouldn't worry their pretty heads over anyway. Your crew of lobbyists will take care of those thorny issues when they open their offices in the White House.

And as for you, Caribou Barbie, don't worry about what mean old Barack said. I'm sure he meant no offense. And even if he did, Pork Chop, you're in the big leagues now - so get over it!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Selling Out Our Veterans

by Pa Rock

I am a fan of the G.I. Bill, and moreover, I am even a product of the G.I. Bill. After serving four years in the United States Army in the early 1970s, I got out and went back to school. For the next forty-eight months the government gave me a check every month to help with my school expenses. That money provided me with the opportunity to earn two additional degrees and also put a lot of food on the table for my family. I didn't look on those monthly payments as a gift from my government, rather I saw them as deferred income. When I entered the service I did so for a complete package of benefits that included things like salary. medical and dental benefits, 30 days vacation a year, and assistance with college expenses. I gave the military four years of my time, and in return I had an expectation of collecting all that they promised me.

Congress cut back drastically on the G.I. Bill after the Vietnam debacle was over, and new enlistees were offered a much more meager package of college benefits. Congress and the President usually forget the veterans quickly once the crisis has passed.

Over the past few years the Bush administration has appeared to be absolutely inhumane in their treatment of veterans returning from the Oil War in the middle east. Many tried to get out after their enlistments were over, only to learn that they were being drafted into continued service through the back door with a program called "stop loss." Stop Loss allowed the military to keep individuals from leaving service because they were still needed for the war effort. That way Dear Leader could prance around bragging that we didn't need a draft (drafts are messy affairs that attract public demonstrations and outrage) while keeping the military ranks full by holding veterans against their will.

And when they got out, veterans were routinely hit with poor medical care in inferior facilities (Walter Reed Army Hospital, Ft. Sill - to name a couple). And then the news media began finding veterans of Dear Leader's wars living under overpasses and out on the streets. If our government had been treating dogs and cats the way it managed the needs of our brave veterans, the public outcry would have closed the capitol!

So some in Congress, seeing that the current administration was too dumb and uncaring to do right by our veterans, decided that Congress would take the lead in changing things. One idea that turned into legislation was to fund an effective G.I. Bill. Oddly enough, the hawks, those who are always ready to send other people's children into war, fought the plan. George Bush (who didn't go to Vietnam even though he let his government train him to be a fighter pilot - and who can't remember where he was in 1972) opposed it. Prick Cheney (who used five or six student deferments to stay out of Vietnam - and then managed to get Lynn pregnant so that he could also use a family deferment) opposed it. Even John McBush (who did go to Vietnam and whose son did fight in the Oil War) opposed the new G.I. Bill. And the Veteran's Administration, the agency that is supposed to look after the needs of our veterans, opposed it. (VA honchos are appointed by the President - see how that works!)

So why did these public servants oppose legislation that would be of enormous benefit to people who had actually put their lives on the line for their country (unlike Bush and Cheney)? Their stated reason was that the new G.I. Bill was too good and would cause people to get out of the service so they could go to college. (If somebody could get that load of crap trucked to the Midwest, I would like to have it spread over the pasture at my little farm in the Ozarks!)

Long story short (sort of): The bill passed and has been enacted into law. So our veterans can all rest easy knowing that they are in for some quality schooling. Well, don't hold your breath waiting for that to happen! Yesterday, in a stupefying case of passive aggressive behavior, the VA announced that it would be privatizing the implementation of the new program. They are hiring private companies to manage the G.I. Bill. (And we all know what a stellar job private companies did in managing the Oil War!)

So troops, when you are safely out of harm's way and out of uniform, and you think that you have bent over for Halliburton and Black Water for the last time - think again! They're back!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Finger Lickin' Chicken

by Pa Rock

I saw an article on the Internet today regarding America's number one artery blocker, Kentucky Fried Chicken. It seems that Colonel Sanders' handwritten secret recipe of eleven secret herbs and spices (the herbs and spices that give the company's chicken its special taste) was being moved from one super secret location to another. That task will involve off-duty police officers, private security guards and an armored car. During the transfer the recipe, now fading on a sixty-eight-year-old piece of yellowed paper, will be slipped into a briefcase and handcuffed to the chief of the private security firm that is responsible for the document's safe passage between secret vaults. It is, it seems, one of the best protected trade secrets in existence.

Those under a certain age, say forty or so, might not even realize that Colonel Sanders was a real person. But myself, on the other hand, being well above that age, can remember him quite well. His name was Harlan Sanders, and like many other people in Kentucky, he called himself "Colonel." He ran a restaurant in eastern Kentucky that specialized in very good fried chicken with a unique flavor. He eventually sold his chicken recipe and his franchise idea for a hefty (at the time) sum of one million dollars.

One of my first memories of the Colonel was when he appeared on an old TV game show called I've Gotta Secret. His secret was that he had brought one million dollars to the studio in a large glass box to show everyone how rich he was - and every one obligingly ogled all of that cash. Years later he became bitter with the thought that he had sold too cheaply.

Another memory of the Colonel was listening to him being interviewed on the radio as I was driving cross-country in the early 1970s. The questioner asked him about his favorite piece of chicken, and without hesitating, he said that the wing was the most flavorful part of the chicken.

The Colonel also did many, if not all, of the KFC television commercials. It was said that over ninety percent of Americans could recognize his face, while roughly half that number could recognize a picture of the President!

Colonel Sanders died in 1980, but his secret recipe lives on. The "original recipe" still has that unique taste, but somehow it is not nearly as good as it was fifty years ago. But then, few things are.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Hey, the Crackers Didn't Get the Memo!

by Pa Rock

Republican politicians have soaked the airwaves this year with suggestions that Barack Obama is an elitist, a not-so-subtle code word for the more racially tinged "uppity." It's worked well for them. They have been able to constantly remind their base and other related pond scum that the boy is, after all, a nigra, without saying it out loud. Oh, yes, they are a clever lot!

But somebody must have forgotten to send the memo to their cracker cousins in Dixie. Last Thursday two prominent Republican politicians, both still basking in the post-coital glow of the GOP convention, went off-message and used the "u" word.

Congressman Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia's 3rd District referred referred to Barack and Michelle Obama as "elitist class individuals who think they're uppity." Later he denied any knowledge that the word had racial connotations. Yeah, right! And on that same day, congressional candidate Rick Goddard, also from Georgia and also a Republican, showed his anger at NBC news correspondent Ron Allen for having the balls to ask Sarah Palin a serious question. The black newsman was defined by Mr. Goddard with one word - "uppity!"

And then there's the "b" word. Last April Republican Congressman of Kentucky, Geoff Davis (same pronunciation as the name of the former President of the Confederacy) said this of Barack Obama: "I'm going to tell you something: That boy's finger does not need to be on the (nuclear) button."

Hey, morons! He's not uppity and he's not a boy - he's an elitist! Get with the program! There's no point in having code words if you're too damned dumb to use them!(And don't forget to wear your Klan robes to the church social Saturday night. It's formal!)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Savage Detectives

by Pa Rock

I've just finished reading The Savage Detectives, a splendid but rather lengthy tome about a group of poets who were on a mission to protect a prostitute from her pimp while scouring the Sonoran Desert in search of a legendary poetess who faded from view fifty years earlier. The book also covers the last three decades of the twentieth century and follows the individual lives of these visceral realist poets as they tramp across Mexico, Central America, Europe, and Africa in search of life. They were a scroungy lot living on the fringe of literary relevance, yet their stories were as deeply touching as they were troubling.

The Savage Detectives looks at the world in a realistic fashion, and, as an honest spectator, it is certain to become a banned book. There are several reasons that make it inevitable that the work will not be welcome on the shelves of high school libraries in the inbred areas of rural America, particularly in the South.

First of all, the book was written by a foreigner. Roberto Bolano, Chilean by birth, accurately captured the sense of outrage and desperation among average Chileans when the United States stepped in and helped Pinochet and his uniformed thugs murder Salvador Allende, the elected President of Chile. (That probably qualifies as a couple of reasons!) The book was about foreigners and presented them as ordinary people, not the stuff of a good Christian education. Also, there was sex...lots and lots of casual sex, mostly heterosexual, yet none of which was performed with the benefit of marriage. And the sex was constantly presented in such a way as to imply that it was a natural act that could be enjoyed for reasons other than procreation!

The icing on the cake, as far of the banning of this book is concerned, is that the lefty New York Times named The Savage Detectives as one of the ten best books of the year. There ain't no way that marker will slip by the religious censors and other small minded people who want to control what we read, write, watch, listen to, and enjoy.

I plan to hang onto my copy of The Savage Detectives until it receives its proper recognition and is placed on some of the more prestigious lists of banned books. Then I will carefully wrap it and send it to the Wasilla, Alaska, Public Library.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Doomsday Machine

by Pa Rock

I wish that I knew more about many subjects, physics being one that is near the top of my list. Several years ago I tried reading Brian Greene's book on string theory, The Elegant Universe, but was unable to plow past the first few chapters. I did catch his televised version later on PBS, and found it much like the ocean - entertaining, yet way too wide and deep for me to fully grasp its meaning. Greene and others are trying to come up with a unified theory of physics that will basically formulize everything and every force in our existence.

One of the tools that physicists have been eagerly awaiting in their quest for a unified theory of physics is the completion of the super collider, also known as the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) which has been under construction deep beneath the surface of the earth near Geneva, Switzerland. It is a seventeen mile circular tunnel, filled with huge magnets and a plethora of scientific gadgetry, that crosses the Swiss and French border in four places. As I understand it, particles (protons) will speed around the LHC in opposite directions, build up lots of speed, and then collide. No one knows for sure what will happen when these particles collide, hence the project's other nickname: the Doomsday Machine.

The theory is that the collision of minute particles in very controlled circumstances, will answer questions that physicists have yet to even think of. Skeptics, however, fear that the results might be catastrophic. One fear expressed by some is that tiny black holes will be created that will grow and eventually swallow the earth and life as we know it.

According to what I have been reading, many believe that if these black holes are created they will dissipate almost instantly. Another group of researchers, however, reasoned that even if the little black holes failed to disappear and instead began to grow, it would take between fifty months and fifty years before they would become large enough to swallow Planet Earth. (Fifty years should work. Isn't that the same kick-the-can-on-down-the-road philosophy that conservatives always use with questions of global warming, conservation, pollution, and our nation's debt? Why get all stressed, they argue - let the grandkids handle it!)

One group has been in Federal Court in the U.S. trying to stop the project based on all of the "what ifs" that scientists can't answer. Of course the U.S. Courts haven't acted, but one is left to wonder if an infusion of "activist judges" could have really saved the world anyway.

The LHC is now complete and it will have it's initial test run next Wednesday, September 10th. It should running at full power by late October.

Mark those calendars and pack light. I'll see you on the other side!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Banned Books

by Pa Rock

One of the items buzzing across cyberspace this week was an allegation that Sarah Palin fired the town librarian of Wasilla, AK, because she refused to ban certain books with offensive language from the town's public library. There was a loud outcry from many citizens, and she was forced to withdraw the firing on the following day. (The incident is recounted in Anne Kilkenny's now famous email that has also flown through cyberspace this week. It's a fairly even-handed look at Ms. Palin's political history from someone who knows her well. Just google Kilkenny and Palin.)

Kilkenny and others relate that the firing and rehiring did occur, and that it was due to Palin wanting to put her Pentecostal seal of approval on what the town's citizens could and could not read at the local library. What is unclear, however, is what books were on her list. There are apparently dozens of librarians currently scouring Alaskan archives trying to locate Sarah's hit list.

While looking for that information, I did come across some standard lists of books that have been routinely banned by schools and libraries in the United States. One good list can be found at www.adlerbooks.com/banned.html

I also discovered while in pursuit of Sarah's disappeared list, a notice that the American Library Association's "Banned Books Week" will be September 27-October 4. I think we should all celebrate by reading at least a couple of these dangerous books. Perhaps I will also order one or two from Amazon.com and send them to the Wasilla Library as a gift from Pa Rock.

Who would like to join me in this literary endeavor?

The address for the library is:

Wasilla Public Library
391 N Main St
Wasilla, AK 99654
(907) 376-5913

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Dear John McBush

Dear John McBush,
Over the past two evenings I have written to your running mate and her daughter giving them my sage advice. And as there is still some sage left in the old cranium, I thought that I would sprinkle some your way too.

Please take what I am about to say in the spirit of constructive criticism: I believe, with every fiber of my being, that you would make a horrible President. We both know that residents of Arizona have conducted most of their U.S. Senate business through Senator Kyl for the past several years because you have been too busy cheerleading for the war, running for President, napping, and chasing tail to engage in the mundane business of legislating or assisting constituents with their issues. It is not uncommon to hear Arizonans talk about their two equine Senators - Kyl the workhorse, and McCain the show horse.

But it isn't your laziness or tom-catting that I find off-putting in the current Presidential election. Indeed we have suffered and survived lazy bastards and whore mongers living at the White House before - and undoubtedly will again. And it isn't even your insane support for the unwarranted and impossible-to-win Oil War that has me the most concerned, because we have had other dumb asses in the White House and survived them as well.

The thing that I find absolutely unforgivable about your quest to be President is your age. John, you are seventy-two years old. You are a tired old man. You are so old and so tired that you seldom campaign on weekends. The Presidency is a hard job, a job that needs to be managed by a healthy, alert, and very bright young person. It is not the type of thing that us old farts need to aspire to. Set that vanity aside and act your age!

Do you know that the brains of adult humans shrink as they get older, and that the shrinking really starts to kick into gear around the age of sixty? Remember sixty, John? It was twelve years ago! I'm sixty now, and I know that my energy level and my memory have decreased markedly over the past few years.

John, you would probably make a decent neighbor (though, please God, not mine!), but you are too old and cranky to lead the free world. Pack it in, Partner. It's time to dust off the golf cart, get rid of all those troublesome houses, and move to Sun City. You'll like it there, and if you don't, give it a couple of more years and you won't know where you're at anyway!

Yours for Obama in '08!

Pa Rock
Goodyear, AZ

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Dear Sarah Palin

Dear Sarah Palin,
Tonight you are giving "the speech of your life" in Minnesota, and I am sitting at home in Goodyear, AZ, missing it. Please don't take that as a personal rebuff, because I am currently without television service, and when my radio is on I prefer jazz over politics. And besides, what could possibly be left to learn about you anyway? You and your family have pretty much blanketed the Internet news outlets for two days now - and the Internet is where I turn to stay up-to-the-minute on matters of national and world import.

It was through the Internet that I found out that you know how to field dress a moose. And I know that you like to fish, even if you occasionally forget to buy one of those pesky fishing licenses. I am certain that with talents like those you will be (are?) a wonderful grandmother.

But some of the other stuff that I'm reading about you is not as glowing. In fact, if what I am reading is true, you seem to be rather mean and stupid.

Are you forcing your daughter to marry her "fuckin' redneck" boyfriend? Maybe you should visit a few women's shelters and listen to some of their stories before forcing a political solution on a family situation. Did you really move to take funds away from programs for unwed mothers in Alaska? Why would you do something so cruel to a group of defenseless teen girls who made a mistake - a mistake that can occur in the best of families. And do you truly believe, deep in your heart of hearts, that girls who are impregnated by their fathers, brothers, or savage rapists should be made to bear and give birth to the children of their attackers? If you answered yes to any of those questions, then you are a mean person. If you answered yes to all of those questions, then you are a despicably cruel person. (And I never even got around to discussing your unconscionable views on polar bears!)

That still leaves stupid.

Teaching creationism in public schools as science is stupid beyond measure. Oh, I guess if you want your children to grow up making poor quality meth for a living and crushing beer cans on their foreheads, it probably won't do them any harm. But if you would like for your children to eventually become doctors, scientists, or work in any field where they have to rely on their intellect, then cluttering school curricula with hokum and nonsense will dramatically diminish their potential.

And teaching (preaching) abstinence as the sole source of birth control - how's that working our for you? Stupid, stupid, stupid!

Shame on you and the moose you rode in on!

Pa Rock

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Dear Bristol Palin

Dear Bristol Palin,

One can only imagine how much your life has changed in recent days. Just a few short months ago you were enjoying high school and a certain amount of privacy, even as the daughter of a governor. Now, however, you are suddenly thrust into the national fish bowl with millions of strangers clucking about your upbringing, your situation, and your options. How sad for you.

Young people, even younger than you, have babies every day and often make very good parents. I sincerely hope that is the case with you. I am a counselor by trade, and I would like to offer some advice that could serve you well as you enter parenthood. Please take from it what you will.

1. Church can be a very important component of family life, but extreme religious views can also be an impediment to a healthy and happy family. Use common sense and avoid being intolerant of the views and lifestyles of others based on religious doctrine. Love your children, as your parents love you, but don't complicate their lives with unrealistic dogma. As an example, do more than just talk about the virtues of sexual abstinence. We both know that young people routinely engage in sex, so talk to your kids honestly and openly about sex, and be prepared to assist them in procuring birth control in the event that it becomes necessary.

2. The current Governor of Alaska, let's call her "Mom," is so politically rigid that she opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest. It's a wonderful thing to have well reasoned convictions and to try and live by those convictions. But when we become so hardened and rabid in our views that we can't accommodate good judgment and reason, we have crossed a line and entered the realm of inhumanity. Learn from Mom's mistakes and be flexible. The world isn't them and us - it's just us.

3. Don't let anyone push you into marriage. An unplanned pregnancy is absolutely the worst reason in the world to get married. Levi may be a great guy and he might make a wonderful father, but right now he is awfully immature. He describes himself as being a "fuckin' redneck" and talks about not wanting kids. Give him a few years to mature, and, if he does - and if you still want him - marry him then. Marriage needs to be your decision - make it wisely.

Be strong and be resilient. You will get through this ordeal. May your baby be healthy and may your lives be happy and full of wonder! Stay focused on the needs of your child, and you will be a wonderful parent!

My best to you.

Pa Rock