Monday, August 31, 2009

Monday's Poetry: "The Telegraph Operator"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

The heartache and excitement of the Alaskan gold rush of 1898 lives on today in the works of two remarkable writers. Jack London gave us an intimate look at the lives of the "sourdoughs" through his dog books like White Fang and The Call of the Wild. And who can forget his short tale of man's attempt to survive the elements in To Build a Fire?

While London chose to tell his tales of the far north in prose, Robert W. Service chronicled the same period in poetry - massive amounts of poetry describing the characters and calamities of the gold rush in poems that were tough, gritty, sometimes comedic, always insightful, and a joy to read.

I have two large volumes of Service's work, so choosing a representative poem of his was a difficult task. I finally settled on The Telegraph Operator, a tale of a working man destined to spend months by himself in an Alaskan winter. Bundle up - because you're about to get cold!

The Telegraph Operator
by Robert W. Service

I will not wash my face;
I will not brush my hair;
I "pig" around the place -
There's nobody to care.
Nothing but rock and tree;
Nothing but wood and stone,
Oh, God, it's hell to be
Alone, alone, alone!

Snow-peaks and deep-gashed draws
Corral me in a ring.
I feel as if I was
The only living thing
On all this blighted earth;
And so I frowst and shrink,
And crouching by my hearth
I hear the thoughts I think.

I think of all I miss -
The boys I used to know;
The girls I used to kiss;
The coin I used to blow;
The bars I used to haunt;
The racket and the row;
The beers I didn't want
(I wish I had 'em now).

Day after day the same,
Only a little worse;
No one to grouch or blame -
Oh, for a loving curse!
Oh, in the night I fear,
Haunted by nameless things,
Just for a voice to cheer,
Just for a hand that clings!

Faintly as from a star
Voices come o'er the line;
Voices of ghosts afar,
Not in this world of mine;
Lives in whose loom I grope;
Words in whose weft I hear
Eager the thrill of hope,
Awful the chill of fear.

I'm thinking out aloud;
I reckon that is bad;
(The snow is like a shroud) -
Maybe I'm going mad.
Say! wouldn't that be tough?
This awful hush that hugs
And chokes one is enough
To make a man go "bugs."

There's not a thing to do;
I cannot sleep at night;
No wonder I'm so blue;
Oh, for a friendly fight!
The din and rush of strife;
A music-hall aglow;
A crowd, a city, life -
Dear God, I miss it so!

Here, you have moped enough!
Brace up and play the game!
But say, it's awful tough -
Day after day the same
(I've said that twice, I bet).
Well, there's not much to say.
I wish I had a pet,
Or something I could play.

Cheer up! don't get so glum
And sick of everything.
The worst is yet to come;
God help you till the Spring.
God shield you from the Fear;
Teach you to laugh, not moan.
Ha! ha! It sounds so queer -
Alone, alone, alone!


For those who would like a bit of comedy mixed in with savage winter, might I suggest The Cremation of Sam McGee, also by Robert W. Service. And for those who would like to sample the talents of Jack London, sans the dogs, I enthusiastically recommend The Iron Heel (I've read it twice - and will again!), and People of the Abyss. Both may challenge your notions of a just society.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

It's Not What You Know, It's Who...

by Pa Rock
Social Commentator

NBC announced this weekend that they have hired Jenna Bush Hager, one of George W's twin daughters,to do news stories for the Today Show. Apparently the 27-year-old school teacher from Baltimore will do one or two news stories a month, most probably with a focus on education.

And why not? She's young, attractive, and supposedly can string sentences together in a coherent manner - a skill that continuously evaded her father. Of course, Ms. Bush Hager didn't go to journalism school and has nothing that distinguishes her from more than one million other American teachers, many of whom have been working in the field far longer and have a broader understanding of the challenges and issues facing education in this day of shrinking state budgets.

But I say good for Jenna. She reportedly did not go begging for this prestigious gig, but was approached by NBC. Officials with the network were almost too quick to point out that this job was not offered with the prospect of lining up a future interview with her father. The network also said that she will not be doing any political stories - at least for the time being.

Jenna is not the first political child to swing into the limelight on daddy's coattails. Margaret Truman launched a singing career from the White House, and years later used her famous name to get started as a mystery writer. Elliott Roosevelt took a page from Margaret Truman Daniel and wrote a series of mysteries in which his First Lady mother, Eleanor Roosevelt, was the detective. Fun stuff all - except possibly for Margaret's singing!

When Elvis died in 1977, Rolling Stone dispatched a singularly unqualified 19-year-old Caroline Kennedy to Memphis to cover the funeral - and she issued a very professional account of the event. Caroline's cousin, Maria Shriver, took a slower and more professional approach to becoming a journalist. She earned her chops in the broadcast news business by beginning at a local television station in Philadelphia, and then worked her way through the system and eventually became a national correspondent for NBC.

Jenna, do your best and enjoy the privileges that life has heaped upon you. Hiring you was a corporate decision by nameless men and women in business suits who know what is good for America. Don't give a second thought to all of the qualified and talented journalism students who can't find work, or all of the experienced teachers who have a much broader and deeper understanding of education in America than you could possibly comprehend with your rarefied background. It's not your fault that you got a job that should have, by rights, gone to any one of the other thousands of better qualified candidates.

Your new job at NBC speaks well for you - and it says volumes about NBC!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Nights at the Edgewood Drive-In

by Pa Rock
Shameless Reminiscer

There was a time in America when the term drive-in referred to an outdoor setting where people went on warm nights to park in a field, hang a speaker on their car window, and watch movies on a giant screen. Often there was a playground for the kiddos up under the large screen, and a snack shack that served a full menu of popcorn, cold drinks, hot dogs, and other movie fare. Drive-in theatres are mostly a thing of the past now, with the occasional holdout that manages to stay open more as a curiosity than anything else.

The drive-in theatre of my youth was the Edgewood, located on busy Highway 71 just south of Neosho, Missouri. From the highway it appeared to be a fine old southern plantation mansion with a two story white facade framed by magnificent white columns. The owners of the Edgewood liked to brag that it was the most beautiful drive-in in America, and my mother would note, with a sense of pride, that she had traveled to many places and never seen one that was any nicer.

When I was very young my parents owned a truck stop in Goodman, MO, with my mother's sister, Christine, and her husband, Bob Dobbs. My mother and aunt ran the restaurant while my dad and uncle managed the gas station and garage. It was the kids' job - me, my sister, and our two cousins - to stay out of the way. We played hard!

It was the 1950's. Many people had television, but it had yet to reach out and control our lives. The age of wonderful radio programs was just coming to an end. Movies were the most popular form of escapism at that moment in history. Neosho, just ten miles up the road, had the closest movie theatres. The same family owned them both - the indoor Orpheum for winter viewing, and the Edgewood for outdoor viewing during the late spring, summer, and early fall. It was always a very big deal when the drive-in opened for the season.

Drive-in's originally charged by the car, regardless of how many people were crammed into the vehicle. Each car only took up one space and used one speaker, and the more people - the more refreshment sales. Toward the end of the era, many started charging on a per person basis - causing legions of flexible youth to enter the premises in the trunk of a car, and hoping, of course, that once they were past the gate their friends would let them out!

A typical night at the Edgewood consisted of a cartoon and two or three movies, separated by intermissions where everyone ran to the restrooms and snack shack, and the kids headed to the playground. The Edgewood playground was surrounded by very large plywood cutouts of Disney and other cartoon characters. It housed several swings, slides, teeter-totters, and a merry-go-round that the big kids kept running wickedly fast!

A nice thing about drive-ins back in the day was that the management didn't go nuts if you brought in your own food. My mother would have the cooks at the cafe pack us an evening meal to eat in the car while we watched the movies. One night she couldn't decide what type of sandwich she wanted, and told to cook to just surprise her. She was surprised alright when she bit into her sandwich later that night and discovered that it was a potholder slathered in mayonnaise between two slices of bread. From then on whenever anyone mentioned Florine's surprise sandwich, everyone in town knew how it was made!

Drive-ins began to disappear in the 1960's as the concept of daylight savings time came into vogue and caused the sun to stay out longer. (The shows couldn't be seen on the screen until after dark.) I remember going to the Edgewood on August 5th, 1962, with my sister and mother. I know the exact date because when we returned home we learned that Marilyn Monroe had died that day. The very last time that I can remember going to the Edgewood was in sometime in 1969, and I suspect that may have been its final season. I was home from college and a group of friends and I were there to watch Goldie Hawn in Cactus Flower. Actually we were there to visit and drink beer, but Cactus Flower was a nice diversion.

The Edgewood has been closed for decades, and the fine old plantation mansion facade was bulldozed many years ago in the name of progress. Today the site is occupied by a business that sells cattle trailers. But I can't drive down that stretch of highway without fondly remembering the place that was such an important fixture of my youth.

I doubt that drive-ins will ever make a comeback because there are so many other diversions available in modern life. But those of us who wax nostalgic for the good old days still have the option of parking in a field and watching movies on our iPods!

No, no, they can't take that away from me!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Multi-Tasking Behind the Wheel

by Pa Rock
Social Commentator

It's a sign of the times that we hate to waste time. Today with the Internet, cellphones, and gadgets whose purposes and abilities are well beyond my ken, we no longer have to "waste" time while standing in line, roaming the grocery store aisles, or driving. Now we can multi-task - get several things done at once.

I'm guilty of eating while driving, something that is stupid and dangerous. I also usually call my Dad every evening as I am driving home. I have things to do once I get home, so I use that driving time to take care of my obligatory daily check on him. And when I take time to study the drivers around me I see similar behaviors. Some people even use their time behind the wheel to handle personal hygiene such as shaving, hair styling, and applying make-up. It is such a comfort to know that everyone else is behaving just as irresponsibly as I am!

I read a story in the New York Times that said that studies show that "talking on a cellphone while driving is as risky as driving with a .08 blood alcohol level - generally the standard for drunken driving." Most military bases outlawed talking on the phone while driving years ago, though it is still allowed on the air base where I work if the driver is using a "hands-free" set.

The article that I referenced in today's New York Times ("Not Driving Drunk, but Texting? Utah Law Sees Little Difference") focused on the latest communication fad - at least the latest one of which I am aware - texting. It stated that texting while driving is at least twice as dangerous as using the cellphone while driving.

The focus of the Times article was on Reggie Shaw, a 19-year-old in Utah, who drove into the path of two scientists who were heading to work, an accident that resulted in the death of the scientists. Reggie was texting his girlfriend at the time of the fatal crash. He was eventually sentenced to 30 days in jail, 200 hours of community service, and a requirement that he read Les Miserables to learn how to make a meaningful contribution to society.

Utah has recently passed stringent legislation regarding texting behind the wheel. Now if a person is caught texting while driving in Utah, they can be fined up to $750 dollars and receive up to three months in jail. If the behavior results in injury or death, the fine can rise to $10,000 and the prison time can be as much as 15 years. And many other states are also taking up this issue in their state legislatures.

If I hurt or kill myself due to my own stupid behavior, that's one thing. But if I injure or kill someone else, I have then become a menace to society and deserve whatever punishment the government sees fit to mete out. Starting now, my Dad is going to have to wait a few extra minutes each day to here from me. I have an obligation as a member of society to behave in a responsible manner. We all do.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Lynn Jenkins and the Great White Hope

by Pa Rock
Political Commentator

Lynn Jenkins is a freshman Republican Congresswoman from southeast Kansas. She is quickly proving herself to be a political doofus on the order of Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota.

Congresswoman Jenkins apparently told a group of supporters that her party is struggling to find a "great white hope" to lead them back to power. When she was challenged on the racist tone of her statement, she replied that she was not aware that the phrase "great white hope" had a negative connotation. Really.

I wonder what she thought it meant?

Rex Rammell, a Republican candidate for governor of Idaho recently told a group of supporters that he would buy a special tag to "hunt" Obama. Later he said that he couldn't understand what all of the fuss was about. He was, after all, just joking. His remark was probably a real knee-slapper in Idaho!

And Republicans wonder why they can't win the support of minorities. Pandering to old white people and demeaning everyone else sounds like a plan. I hope they stick with it!

Palin - Jenkins 2012!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Edward M. Kennedy (1932-2009): A Remembrance

by Pa Rock
Liberal American

Edward Kennedy, the liberal lion of the Senate, died last night, and the ideal of America is sadly diminished by his passing. Teddy, the youngest of the Kennedy brothers, spent almost half a century in the United States Senate and left his distinctive mark on every progressive piece of legislation to work its way out of that august body. The thing that I personally respected most about this truly great American was that he was always proud to be recognized as a liberal.

I saw Ted Kennedy in person back in the day at the annual Jackson Day celebration in Springfield, Missouri. Young Democrats, of which I was one, were recruited from the campus of Southwest Missouri State to help usher and be general gophers at the dinner that culminated the big political weekend. Young Senator Kennedy (age 37) was the keynote speaker that night, and things were very exciting because people were certain, or at least very hopeful, that he would soon be President. That dinner was held on April 26, 1969. (I googled it!) His Presidential aspirations drove off of a bridge in a place called Chappaquiddick 83 days later.

Tonight, in remembrance of Senator Kennedy and to honor the passion of his political life, my friend, Odessa Benson, and I drove across Phoenix to be in attendance at the first stop of Organizing for America's bus tour for health care reform. It was a good crowd, full of enthusiasm, standing out in the warm Arizona night cheering on speaker after speaker. (There were a few scraggly-assed protesters pimping their sisters across the street, but I didn't see any weaponry.)

One lady whose name I didn't catch gave an impassioned account of how her insurance company had screwed her over and caused her to suffer months of near mortal pain - until she finally secured services of a lawyer who was smarter and meaner than her insurers. Two city councilmen and one Arizona state legislator (who is one of Odessa's college professors) spoke, as did the state's assistant attorney general. I was most impressed, however, by the presence and participation of Dr. Nicholas Vasquez, an emergency room physician at St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix. He told stories about some of the indignities that patients have been subjected to here in Phoenix because their insurance companies fight to not allow necessary treatments and generally go to extremes to screw people over in the name of profits.

The crowd was fun, and there was plenty of time to mingle and meet people. I signed a petition in support of medical marijuana, and learned quite a bit about Phoenix politics from some of the local movers and shakers.

John McCain was holding a town hall meeting two blocks away, and I had a conversation with a woman who had been there and had asked him the first question of the evening. When the old sailor said that he was opposed to government-run health care, she reminded him that the armed forces have government-run health care, as do senior citizens, as do members of Congress - himself included. Apparently he had nothing coherent to rebut that with. McCain, whose father was in the Navy, has, in fact, been taken care of by government-run health care his entire life. So it's good enough for him, but not for the rest of us? Hmmm.

Only in Arizona: Apparently one lady at the McCain event became so agitated in voicing her support of a national health care program that some armed police escorted her out of the hall. The woman was blind! Apparently also, the police were the only ones at the McCain town hall with guns. Our infamous armed assholes must have been in church organizing the militia that will round up the sinners when Jesus returns!

Phoenix was the first stop on the nationwide bus tour that will take in ten more cities before it rolls into Washington, D.C. Tonight's event stirred the faithful into action. I signed up to be a volunteer in this effort - and that's saying something because I am lazy and guard my "free" time zealously.

It would have been wonderful if Senator Kennedy could have lived to see his lifelong dream of a national health care program come to fruition, but in his absence, those who admire the work that he did for all of us need to double down on our efforts to get this legislation enacted. It would be the most fitting memorial that a grateful nation could provide.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Wasilla Googles Winehouse

by Pa Rock
Aggravating Aggregator

Last night at about 1:30 a.m. (Arizona time - which is like no one else's!) somebody in Wasilla, Alaska, visited The Ramble. WTF? I thought. It's been months since I made fun of the former mayor - and now former governor. But, upon further research I found that the mystery visitor had come to The Ramble through this query on the Google: "Amy Winehouse death pool." My blog came up as the sixth most popular hit for that query - largely due to the several mentions that Ms. Winehouse got in the past two annual editions of Pa Rock's Dead Pool.

I started using Site Meter to track people who visit The Ramble on July 23rd of this year, and in just over a month I have logged in 765 visitors who have viewed 1,256 pages of The Ramble. I know that's a very modest number, but it does serve to make the effort feel worthwhile.

To date the blog has had visitors from most of the states and every continent except Antarctica. I get several hits from the Phoenix area daily - not necessarily good news, but I do live in a gated community! Today I had a guest from the Netherlands and a visitor from Cardiff, Wales. (I'm a big fan of Torchwood and have recently read How Green Was My Valley, so I would love to visit Wales, and Cardiff in particular. Would today's guest like to house swap for a couple of months sometime?)

Somebody from Kingwood, TX, checks in every day - is that you, Noreen? Whoever you are, drop me a note!

As an old geography teacher, I'm having a good time tracking the visitors to The Ramble and seeing the types of things that interest them. It doesn't take much to amuse me - but most of you knew that already!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Monday's Poetry: "The Buck in the Snow"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Today's selection is "The Buck in the Snow" by Edna St. Vincent Millay, an exceptional poet of the early twentieth century. This poem was taken from the poet's 1928 collection of the same name. I am drawn to it because of the the realistic subject - life and death in the snow - and the strength of the poet's captivating words. It could easily be a companion piece to Robert Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," a poem that was featured in this space several weeks ago. I've probably been in the desert too long: sand is ubiquitous, and jeez Louise do I miss the snow!

The Buck in the Snow
by Edna St. Vincent Millay

White sky, over the hemlocks bowed with snow,
Saw you not at the beginning of evening the antlered
buck and his doe
Standing in the apple-orchard? I saw them. I saw them
suddenly go,
Tails up, with long leaps lovely and slow,
Over the stone-wall into the wood of hemlocks bowed
with snow.

Now lies he here, his wild blood scalding the snow.

How strange a thing is death, bringing to his knees,
bringing to his antlers
The buck in the snow.
How strange a thing, -- a mile away by now, it may be,
Under the heavy hemlocks that as the moments pass
Shift their loads a little, letting fall a feather of snow --
Life, looking out attentive from the eyes of the doe.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The World is Changing

by Pa Rock
Social Observer

I have a friend - let's call him Bob - who grew up in a solid, middle class family with a tyrannical father who ruled every aspect of the family's interactions with the world. Somehow Bob managed to escape his Dad's orbit at about the time he reached legal adulthood - and he moved far, far away, physically and emotionally.

Today Bob has his own family and he is trying very hard not to be his Dad. But no matter how aware he is of his Dad's autocratic views on life, Bob still has trouble shaking away all of his upbringing. He still has this notion that somebody has to be in charge of the family, and, thanks to Dad, he feels that he should rule the roost. He also has some strong opinions on immigration, legal and illegal, that defy compassion, if not logic.

But the reason that I mention Bob is to focus on a couple of his more enlightened views, things that his Dad would not be able to discuss, much less incorporate into his belief system. First of all, Bob, who is ramrod straight, is open-minded on the subject of gays in society. He has a good friend from high school who is gay, and he has learned through experience that this man did not choose to be gay, and that he poses no threat to society. He is just a person with a sexual orientation that is different from Bob's. Bob's attitude toward gays is live and let live.

The other area in which Bob has differentiated himself quite well from his Dad is with regard to marijuana. Bob has a job where he is subject to random drug testing, and he is definitely not a pothead. But he has come to realize the silliness and futility of marijuana laws - especially those that send people to prison for possession of small amounts. Prisons are pushing people out the doors because they are currently filled with three to four times the amount of prisoners that they were designed to accommodate. A big part of that overcrowding is due to the fact that there are so many first-time marijuana offenders taking up space that should be going to people who are threats to society. Enlightened countries focus on treatment rather than incarceration for drug users, but enlightenment has never had much impact on our laws or judicial processes.

So that's Bob - a young adult whose views are gradually becoming progressive in spite of the family circumstances of his youth. I mention him because I think he is representative of young America and of youth internationally. Young people today tend to think things through for themselves and not get caught up in the flaming rhetoric of politics and corporate greed. Young people voted heavily for our first African American President, something that many of their parents and grandparents could not fathom. Polls also show that they understand the need for paying taxes and lack the knee-jerk denial that is so quickly employed by their elders - regardless of the reason or need for more taxes.

This week there was an article on the internets reporting that Mexico is decriminalizing small-scale drug possession. The Mexican government tried to do this three years ago, but the Bush administration went berserk and bullied them into forgoing the liberal approach for handling small-time drug users. Under the new Mexican statues, those caught with small amounts of marijuana, cocaine, and even LSD, will be given an opportunity to receive drug treatment the first two times that they are apprehended, and they will be ordered into treatment on the third occurrence.

Bob is changing, youth is changing, and the world is changing. Change is traditionally a slow process, but now, especially with the explosion of news and information on the Internet, we all have the ability to be more current and knowledgeable about what works in this big world, and change has necessarily sped up. I trust and believe that is a good thing and better days are ahead. My Dad's generation did not have all of the answers, and obviously mine did not either. It's time to pass the torch and trust the future of the planet to those who will be residing on it over the next several decades.

Change is coming, change is good, and us old farts need to get out of the way and let it happen!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Monkey Shines

by Pa Rock
Film Reviewer

My first thought when the title Monkey Shines came up on the television screen was that this must be some Marx Brothers movie that had escaped my notice. Nope. Turns out this is a classy little horror picture starring an eerily talented monkey.

George A. Romero, the screenplay writer and director of Monkey Shines, has a long history in the horror and psychological thriller film genre. Some of the cinematic works that bear his unique stamp include The Crazies, Creepshow, Tales from the Darkside, Night of the Living Dead, Day of the Dead, and Dawn of the Dead - and dozens more - you get the idea, this is one seriously dark dude!

Monkey Shines is vintage 1988. It focuses on a young, healthy male law student (Jason Beghe) who crawls out of bed one morning, leaving his beautiful girlfriend (Janine Turner) snoozing while he goes off for his morning run. Unfortunately, he is hit by a car while running and wakes up later in a hospital as a quadriplegic. The girlfriend promptly leaves him for his doctor, and his needy mother takes over his care - some of which is entrusted to a slovenly and evil nurse. The young man seemingly does not have a life worth living.

But things appear to get better when the quadriplegic's best friend (John Pankow), a young and somewhat warped scientist working with monkeys in a college laboratory, gives him a lab monkey named Ella. The friend has farmed Ella out to be trained by a beautiful researcher (Kate McNeil) who just happens to specialize in training monkeys to work with quadriplegics. What the friend fails to tell the trainer or the patient is that he has been injecting Ella with a serum that he has concocted from human brain tissue.

The patient and Ella fall in love, almost literally and physically, and he soon begins to have dreams that indicate that their minds may be melding. When the patient becomes angry with anyone, Ella takes over - often with fatal results.

That's enough plot. Just take my word for it - this little movie is a gem, and deeply disturbing. I'm definitely not a fan of horror flicks, but I was transfixed by this Romero effort. Ella, whose real name is Boo, was the star of the movie in every sense of the word - and she owned every scene that she was in. Monkeys have come a long way since Reagan's Bonzo or Ellie Mae's chimp, and this one is the Glenn Close of her species!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Arizona for Dummies

by Pa Rock
Keeper of the Welcome Mat

Today three bloggers (one national and two from local newspapers) banged out posts that, taken together, offer a fairly accurate, and somewhat frightening, portrait of this overly developed desert that is Arizona. Their comments should be bound and distributed by the local chamber of commerce as an exercise in truth in advertising. Please read on...

Arthur Frommer is a travel writer, consumer advocate, and publisher of the popular Frommer’s Travel Guides. Today on his blog, Arthur Frommer Online, he took the state of Arizona to task over the shameful exhibition of weaponry outside of President Obama’s speech to the VFW last Monday. He said in his blog that he was “shocked beyond measure” by reports of individuals showing up at the event toting guns, including one who was strapped with an automatic assault rifle.

Frommer declared:

"For myself, without yet suggesting that others follow me in an open boycott, I will not personally travel in a state where civilians carry loaded weapons onto the sidewalks and as a means of political protest. I not only believe such practices are a threat to the future of our democracy, but I am firmly convinced that they would also endanger my own personal safety there. And therefore I will cancel any plans to vacation or otherwise visit in Arizona until I learn more. And I will begin thinking about whether tourists should safeguard themselves by avoiding stays in Arizona."

The travel writer went on to suggest that this was a targeted political activity. He asked:

“If Ronald Reagan were delivering a political talk in Phoenix, Arizona, would they have felt it was proper for protesters with guns to mill about outside of the hall from which he would leave?”

Stephen Lemons, writing in our local alternative newspaper, The Phoenix New Times, pointed out that Chris B. Unknown, the man with the automatic assault weapon, had been spotted August 8th at the town hall meeting of Republican Congressman John Shadegg – and he didn’t feel the need to bring his guns to that event.

(Note: Chris B. Unknown is black – and some wags have suggested that his race may have played into the decision to use him in this demonstration so that the right wing radio station personnel who organized the protest would be inoculated against charges of racism.)

Lemons ended his tirade in the New Times with this declaration:

“So, Mr. Frommer, you have every right to be concerned about traveling in Arizona. Out state is psycho, and often racist. We’ve got more guns here than the Chinese army, and daggnabbit, we may be the next Dallas, circa 1963, if you get my drift. Here’s hoping Chris B. isn’t employed by a local book depository. At least no one can accuse him of being racist if he pulls an Oswald.”

Laurie Roberts, writing in her blog in today’s Arizona Republic, the stodgy old newspaper to which the New Times is the alternative, was dismissive of Frommer’s complaint, exercising the tired conservative saw that the truly scary people are the criminals with guns that aren’t on display. That said, she went on to post a list of things in Arizona that she does regard as scary, to wit:

“It's scary to me that we live in a state that has such inept political leaders that we still don't have a state budget nearly two months into the year. And that next year, we will likely re-elect every darn one of them. It's scary to me what our leaders are willing to give up, in the name of no new taxes. That they consider the education of our children a burden and the average Joe -- that poor schlub who isn't pulling down six figures -- as invisible.

“It's scary to me that the we live in a state that thinks so little of the little guy that our legion of unemployed are expected to live on a measly $265 a week -- a shameful pay level that ranks 49th in the nation. That's if the incompetents who run DES can manage to get these people the meager amount that is owed them and that's a HUGE if.

“It's scary to me that the prevailing view around here at the moment seems to be every man for himself and if you are one of the unlucky ones to lose your job, well then I guess you're just supposed to move on. To where or what, I don't know.

“It's scary to me that people blindly support everything that Joe Arpaio (Maricopa County sheriff) does because "he's the only one doing anything about illegal immigration" -- which isn't true but doesn't seem to matter. And thus ol' Joe can do whatever he wants. The man apparently never oversteps the boundaries that must be in place for people with badges and guns and if he does, we justify it because he is ,as we all know, "the only one doing anything about illegal immigration.

“It's scary to me that we have a governor who seems unable to govern and a Legislature that collectively seems uninterested in anything short of getting re-elected. That we have kids coming out of school with no place to go and nothing to do because our economy seems to be built on one thing and one thing only -- building houses.

“It's scary to me that too many of us think of illegal immigrants not as people but as vermin out to suck the lifeblood out of the city. Seems to me we're doing a pretty good job of that ourselves.”

Ah, yes, life in Arizona is definitely an acquired taste! My thanks to Mr. Frommer, Mr. Lemons, and Ms. Roberts for summing it up so nicely. The only significant thing that they failed to mention was the scorpions!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Doctors Without Borders

by Pa Rock
Citizen of the World

I receive an email version of a Zogby Poll every few weeks. These polls focus on different topics - everything from politics, to health care, to shopping habits - and a demographic section is included with each poll. The demographic section is used by the survey to show basically what categories I fall into. It asks my age, educational level, the size of community that I live in, political affiliation and degree of political enthusiasm, and other similar factors. One question that is asked each time in the demographic section of the poll is this: Do you consider yourself primarily a citizen of your community, your state, your nation, or the planet Earth. My answer is always that I regard myself as a citizen of the planet Earth.

It's easy to talk the talk, but I also try to back up my words with deeds. Throughout the years I have given money to CARE, a habit that began when I was in elementary school and one of my teachers would ask each student to bring in a dollar. She would then send the thirty dollars or so to CARE, and a couple of weeks later we would get a nice letter telling us where our money had gone. I got into the habit of occasionally sending a dollar on my own, and always looked forward to learning what country that my money was helping. I was just a child - but I felt like I was doing the work of an adult.

Today my favorite international charity is Doctors Without Borders, an organization that brings free medical care to the most remote corners of the world. This non-profit that does the work of saints won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999. I made my first contribution in the winter of 2004 when I heard that Doctors Without Borders had boots on the ground helping the survivors of the great Tsunami almost before the waters had receded. Early the following year I set up a monthly payment from my checking account and have contributed on that basis ever since.

I feel that it's important that we all recognize and respect our global inter-connectedness. Things like famines, plagues, global warming, environmental disasters, and suffering know no borders - and neither must humanitarian aid. We are all members of the same race - the human race - and those of us who are blessed with privilege and resources need to be ready to share - and borders be damned!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

On what planet do you spend most of your time?

by Pa Rock
Political Observer

Congressman Barney Frank of Masssachusetts shut down one of Lyndon LaRouche's pawns at a town hall in Dartmouth, MA, last night - and he did it in classic Barney Frank style. When an angry young woman started waving a picture of the President of the United States made up to look like Hitler and shouting comparisons of health care proposals to the policies of Nazi Germany, Frank responded with, "On what planet did you spend most of your time?" He then went on to say that trying to reason with her would be like "arguing with a dining room table."

Good job, Congressman! How ironic that the first American politician with the cajones to stand up to this rabble would be a gay man! Thank you for continuing to support America's powerless against the corporate hogs!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Max Baucus is an Excellent Employee - of the Health Care Industry!

by Pa Rock
Political Observer

Stocks took a big tumble yesterday, with each of the major indexes losing over 2 percent of their value. (I don't consider myself a member of the investor class, but I like to check the numbers every day and track my small 401-K. The value of my 401-K dropped 60 percent during Bush's last year in office - and this year it has regained a big chunk of that. Thank you, President Obama!)

But yesterday stocks tumbled - they have a bad day every so often. There were, however, a few stocks that did quite well while the others tossed about. Health care companies and insurance companies had a very good day. Why? Because word went out that public option health care was dead and those industries would be free to keep robbing Americans of their financial security.

Democrats sent out signals over the weekend that they were going to jettison the controversial plan that would allow those without insurance to be able purchase it at an affordable price. Can't have the poor getting a break - not in this life!

That was then, but now they are regrouping and changing their tune. The AFL-CIO, good people all, are saying they won't support candidates who won't support a public option. Howard Dean, a highly decent and caring individual - and a medical doctor - said that any Congressman who votes against the public option will have a primary challenger.

Taking union money away from jellyfish and making them spend their precious remaining resources on primary races are both good ideas, but one more thing needs to happen. Max Baucus needs to lose his chairmanship of the Senate Finance Committee. Senator Baucus has been playing at reaching a "bipartisan" deal with Republicans for weeks, and keeping the details of his negotiations secret from members of his own party. That might be an effective approach to reaching a workable compromise, if that was what the Montana senator was really after.

Unfortunately for America in general, and uninsured Americans in particular, reaching a good compromise is not the senator's objective. Baucus is carefully killing the public option at the behest of his employers: the American health care and insurance industries. According to Roll Call magazine, Senator Baucus has received the following donations over the past four years:

$86,200 from pharmaceutical company Schering-Plough Corp, $65,250 from Amgen Biotech, $62,350 from Blue Cross - Blue Shield (now you know why your rates are so outrageous!), $59,150 from New York Life, $51, 750 from American International Group (Insurance and Financial Services), $51,250 from Aetna Health Insurance, and $47,850 from DaVita Health Care.
Baucus was also at the troughs of big banking and alcohol and tobacco interests.

Molly Ivins said it best, "You've got to dance with them what brung you." Sadly, the public did not bring Max Baucus to the dance - the health care industry did. Baucus is taking care of his own health and welfare, but his personal interests do not overlap with those of most Americans.

Max Baucus needs to lose the Finance Committee gavel, and if that makes him mad and he takes his bribes and goes home - well, that's just gravy!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Arizona Assholes with Guns

by Pa Rock
Cultural Observer

At least twelve morons with inadequate penis issues showed up in downtown Phoenix today to protest the appearance of President Obama at the VFW convention. Each of the twelve was exercising his Constitutional "right" to bear arms. Each was also basking in memories of his glory days as a school yard bully. One particularly oafish individual was packing a holstered pistol and carrying a semi-automatic assault rifle. When a newsman asked him why, his response was, "Because I can."

And yes, in Arizona, he can. Our legislators have been going at it for months trying to pass a budget, and the state is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy - but when legislators can come up with any way to arm more people, they never hesitate. It is now legal to carry a concealed weapon into a bar in Arizona! How's that for stupid?

Last week there was a Children's March in downtown Phoenix to call attention to all of the families that our local sheriff has broken up through his gleeful enforcement of immigration laws - often catching legal residents who happen to be brown in his roundups. The kids marched from one of the local jails to the high rise building where the sheriff has his offices. It was a peaceful exercise of their First Amendment Rights, and not a threat to anyone. The only hitch in the whole program was a group of armed thugs showed up to harass the children - undoubtedly many of the same butt wipes that were strutting their stuff today outside of the VFW convention.

Remember what happened after John Kennedy was gunned down? America was shocked and ashamed - and Lyndon Johnson, an old political arm-twister, was able to play on the popular President's death and his own political abilities do something that Kennedy could have never accomplished. It was called The Great Society and contained such goodies as Medicare, Medicaid, and Head Start - not to mention the Civil Rights of 1964. I wonder what President Biden, also an old political arm-twister, could accomplish under similar circumstances?

Hey, boneheads, be careful what you wish for!

Poetry Monday: ""The Blinding of Isaac Woodard"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Woody Guthrie was clearly one of the premier songwriters and balladeers of the twentieth century. He created much of the soundtrack to the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl era, painting pictures of those times more detailed and poignant that any artist could have accomplished with oils and a canvas. Guthrie's Oklahoma Hills went on to become the official state folk song of Oklahoma, and his Roll on Columbia achieved the same honor in the state of Washington.

In 1940, before the United States had entered the Second World War, Woody Guthrie became tired of hearing God Bless America on the radio, a tune that he considered "complacent," - or maybe he was just tired of hearing the way Kate Smith belted it out! He was inspired to come up with his own musical ode to America, and the result, This Land is Your Land, became his most famous creation - if you don't count Arlo!

And although This Land is Your Land is not today's poetry centerpiece, I wanted to include it anyway - because this is my blog and I can!

This Land is Your Land
by Woody Guthrie

This land is your land This land is my land
From California to the New York island;
From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and Me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway:
I saw below me that golden valley:
This land was made for you and me.

I've roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;
And all around me a voice was sounding:
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting:
This land was made for you and me.

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said "No Trespassing."
But on the other side it didn't say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.

And yes, it is more visual and more stirring than God Bless America, and much easier to whistle! But This Land is not Pa Rock's poem de jour. That honor falls to Woody Guthrie's The Blinding of Isaac Woodard, a gem that I came across in a collection of World War II poetry. I will provide no other introduction to this piece, because the poem tells its own story too well for me to offer any extraneous remarks that would serve only to muck it up.

The Blinding of Isaac Woodard
by Woody Guthrie

My name is Isaac Woodard, my tale I'll tell you;
I'm sure it'll sound so terrible you might not think it true;
I joined up with the Army, they sent me overseas;
Through the battles of New Guinea and in the Philippines.

On the 13th day of February of 1946
They sent me to Atlanta and I got my discharge pin;
I caught the bus for Winsboro, going to meet my wife,
Then we were coming to New York City to visit my parents both.

About an hour out of Atlanta, the sun was going down,
We stopped the bus at a drugstore in a little country town;
I walked up to the driver and I looked him in the eye,
"I'd like to go to the washroom, if you think we've got time."

The driver started cursing and then he hollered, "No!"
So, then I cussed right back at him, and really got him told.
He said, "If you will hurry, I guess I'll take the time!"
It was in a few short minutes we was rolling down the line.

We rolled for thirty minutes, I watched the shacks and trees,
I thought of my wife in Winsboro waiting there for me.
In Aiken, South Carolina, the driver he jumped out;
He came back with a policeman to take me off the bus.

"Listen, Mr. Policeman," I started to explain,
"I did not cause no trouble, and I did not raise no cain."
He hit me with his billy, he cursed me up and down,
"Shut up, you black bastard;" and he walked me down in town.

As we walked along the sidewalk, my right arm he did twist;
I knew he wanted me to fight back, but I never did resist;
"Have you your Army discharge?" I told him, yes, I had;
He pasted me with his loaded stick down across my head.

I grabbed his stick and we had a little run, and had a little wrastle;
When another cop run up with a gun and jumped into the battle;
"If you don't drop that sap, black boy, it's me that's dropping you."
So I figured to drop the loaded sap was the best thing I could do.

They beat me about the head and face and left a bloody trail
All down along the sidewalk to the iron door of the jail;
He knocked me down upon the ground and he poked me in the eyes;
When I woke up the next morning I found my eyes were blind.

They drug me to the courtroom, and I could not see the judge;
He fined me fifty dollars for raising all the fuss;
The doctor finally got there but it took him two whole days;
He handed me some drops and salve and told me to treat myself.

It's now you've heard my story, there's one thing I can't see,
How could you treat a human like they have treated me;
I thought I fought on the islands to get rid of their kind;
But I can see the fight lots plainer now that I am blind.

Woody Guthrie wrote The Blinding of Isaac Woodard on August 16, 1946 - two decades before America finally got serious about civil rights, yet after so many young black Americans fought and died to preserve our country's freedom. He summed up the injustice and the awful irony of blacks fighting for freedom that their country was unwilling to share - in just forty-four lines. That is the power of good poetry!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Edgar Cayce, the UFO Store, and Powerball Numbers Not to Play This Week

by Pa Rock
Life's Bystander

I had a reader comment last night regarding the emporium for psychics and the UFO Store, so I thought it might be appropriate to expound a bit further on those shopping adventures. The actual name of the psychic emporium, if I remember correctly, was The Crystal Palace. It was a fairly new building with a big porch and some outdoor seating for bored spouses, most of whom were of the husband variety. Inside the air was heavy with incense, and there were numerous new age trinkets for sale including crystals, key chains, lucky charms, angels, and things of that ilk. There were also lots of books on the spirit world and psychic phenomenon.

A sign directed customers upstairs for psychic readings, but I really wasn't up for learning the future. I would rather be surprised!

There were several books on the psychic whiz-bang of the late 1800's and early 1900's, Edgar Cayce. Those drew my interest because I have some personal knowledge of the amazing Mr. Cayce. Before moving to Arizona, I worked at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, for two years and rented an apartment up the road in Hopkinsville, KY, the hometown of Edgar Cayce. Each year the community hosted a special day devoted to Edgar Cayce, an event that I studiously avoided. Activities included a lengthy tour of Hopkinsville and vicinity that focused on the old haunts (pun intended) of Cayce. The tour was followed by an evening performance of a play on the life of Edgar Cayce that was penned by a local scribe.

While I'm not a believer in this paranormal claptrap, my good friend and co-worker at Ft. Campbell, Sandy Price, was. She lived in Clarksville, TN, but drove up to Hopkinsville to enjoy the Cayce fest the second year that I lived there. Sandy talked me into joining her for the play that evening, something that I wanted to do because I desired to get a look inside of the historic (and very run down) theatre that was hosting the event. To my complete surprise, the play was actually quite good, and I came away with a certain appreciation for the skills (or charlatanry) of Edgar Cayce.

As a point of local pride, the Cayce family still has a pharmacy in Hopkinsville.

But there was nothing for me in the Crystal Palace, and I walked across the parking lot to the other attraction on the wrong side of the highway - The UFO Store. The store had some tourist attractions in the parking lot including a UFO Recovery Vehicle - an old pick-up with a sign that identified it as such, a small flying saucer that was big enough for two small humans, and some sort of rocket that might accommodate one petite human.

The inside of the store was filled with little, plush ET's - green in color, UFO tees of various descriptions, books on UFO sightings, and lots of stuff on Roswell, including laminated copies of the front pages of Roswell newspapers at the time of the crash and the great government cover-up. I purchased two postcards based on the famous Shepherd Fairey posters of Obama. Obama's face, of course, had been replaced with that of a Hollywood standard extra-terrestrial, and the slogan at the bottom said "Believe." I also bought a couple of aliens-as-cowboys postcards by local artist Xandy Lifson.

I spent quite a bit of time perusing the wares of the UFO Store, but I could find no local connection to Sedona. What the hell, though, do you need to have a UFO land in your backyard in order to believe - or turn a profit?

With one final nod to the paranormal, I would like to advise anyone who has read this far to stay away from the numbers 28 and 37 for Wednesdays $245 million Powerball drawing. I bought two sets of three tickets each today - at different quick stops. The Powerball numbers on the first were 28, 37, and 16. The Powerball numbers on the second were 28, 37, and 38. So 28 and 37 ain't gonna happen, and 16 and 38 don't look so good either. Trust me.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Tasting the Wines in Sedona

by Pa Rock
Happy Tourist

It is so nice to get out of the Valley of Hell for a day trip, especially when I don't have to drive. Today I went to Sedona in a small bus with several other folks from Luke Air Force Base, ostensibly for wine tasting, but we also managed to do some other touristy stuff along the way.

Our first stop was at the beautiful Chapel of the Holy Cross, a Catholic church that was constructed in a crevice high up in Sedona's red rocks. We had to park the bus at the foot of a steep hill. All of my time at the gym has paid off because I was able to make the climb with relative ease while some of my younger companions were huffing and puffing their way to the top. The Chapel had a breath-taking view, and, of course, the obligatory gift shop.

The second stop was a shopping village called Talapaque. It was primarily over-priced galleries of art and women's clothing and jewelry, nothing to hold my interest, so I dashed across a busy highway to visit an emporium for psychics and a UFO store. Those were much more interesting!

We had lunch in the garden of a very nice restaurant called The Barking Frog. The food was delicious. I had a fancy grilled cheese with portabella mushroom, and everyone in the group sampled the cactus fries which are strips of deep fried prickly pear cactus. It was so nice to be able to sit outside on a pleasant August day and eat lunch. That's not something that a person wants to do down in the Valley!

We managed to hit three separate wineries after lunch as well as a trip to Red Rock State Park. Our guide told us that Red Rock State Park is the second most photographed site in Arizona, exceeded only by the Grand Canyon. (The Obama's were at the Grand Canyon today - bet that was a zoo!)

For those who have not been there - Sedona is a must see when traveling in the American West. Postcard views everywhere, lots of shops and tourist stuff, jeep tours out into the mountains, good food, swimming, hiking, fishing - it has nothing in common with the hellhole that is Phoenix in August!

Friday, August 14, 2009

The State of Hate in Arizona

by Pa Rock
Social Observer

Remember William Kostric, the moron who showed up at President Obama’s town hall meeting in New Hampshire this week packing a pistol? He carried a sign with a thinly veiled death threat that read: “It is time to water the tree of liberty.” Kostric wondered aloud to Chris Matthews on Hardball why more good Americans, like him, weren’t showing up armed at these events?

My first thought regarding this evolutionary throwback was that he would fit right into the cultural landscape of Arizona. Imagine my lack of surprise when I learned later that he had recently relocated to New Hampshire from Scottsdale, Arizona!

To say that Arizona has its fair share of dangerous and demented nut jobs would be gross understatement. The state is rife with hate – and damned proud of it!

This week Dr. Heidi Beirich, a representative of the Southern Poverty Law Center, spoke in Phoenix and gave a public presentation on the increase of hate group activity in Arizona. She listed the three primary reasons for the rise of extremist activity in the state as being the election of a black President, the weak economy, and the nativist uproar over illegal immigration from Mexico. Arizona, due primarily to its long border with Mexico, seems to go especially berserk whenever it appears that anyone with brown skin is being treated fairly or humanely.

Dr. Beirich had particularly pointed remarks concerning Joe Arpaio, the sheriff of Maricopa County, and state senator Russell Pearce, both of whom she sees as pandering toward members of these groups and thus empowering them with a sense of legitimacy.

The Southern Poverty Law Center recognizes nineteen distinct hate groups currently operating in Arizona. Three are classified as Racist Skinhead organizations: the Western Hammerskins (statewide), Vinlanders Social Club (Mesa), and Volksfront (Phoenix). The term "Skinheads" refers to young thugs with shaved heads and plenty of tattoos who get off on drugs and violence. The group had its origins in Great Britain fifty years ago. It later split into two distinct factions - the racists and the anti-racists - and both varieties crossed the Atlantic Ocean where they were able to infest America. And lucky Arizona - we got the "racist" version of these vermin!

Ten of the hate groups are Neo-Nazi: the White Knights of America (statewide), White Revolution (statewide), National Socialist Movement – NSM (Apache Junction), American Thule Society (Black Canyon City), National Socialist Movement (Cochise County), Aryan Nations (Goodyear – an All-American City!), American National Socialist Workers Party (Phoenix), Aryan Nations (Phoenix), and National Socialist Movement – NSM (Phoenix). The Neo-Nazis profess a love of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany, and they are stridently vocal in their hatred of Jews. (Didn't we fight a big war against this type of scum?)

The remaining hate groups with Arizona chapters include: the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints (General Hate – Colorado City), Remnant Outreach Ministries (Christian Identity – Cottonwood), Arizona White Pride (White Nationalist – Maricopa County), Nation of Islam (Black Separatist – Phoenix), American Border Patrol (Anti-Immigrant – Sierra Vista), and the United Northern and Southern Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK – Tempe).

Other reported hate groups in Arizona include the National Organization for European American Rights, World Church of the Creator (Florence and Tucson), Hammerskin Nation (Glendale and Mesa), and the National Alliance (Phoenix).

Arizona is truly blessed to have this many organized ways to hate. What could be sadder than a racist, moronic, gun-toting Neanderthal without a support group? New Hampshire must be a deep pit of putrefying prejudice to lure William Kostric away from this scorpion and rattlesnake-riddled, fascist nirvana!

Let us prey.

One final note: The President of the United States and Mrs. Obama - and their little girls - will be in Arizona this Sunday and Monday. So far his town hall meetings on health care have been polite and productive. That ain't gonna happen here. Tread with care, Mr. President. These bastards are seriously scary.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Amazing Grace in the Philippines

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The Valley of Hell is in the middle of its "monsoon" season, which sounds like it should be raining a lot. In point of fact, last year during the monsoon it did not rain at all in the western part of the Valley. Generally it does cloud up some and look like it could rain - maybe once a week or so, but the heat invariably forces the rain clouds off toward San Diego or someplace civilized. Last night, however, an honest-to-God storm blew up around 10 p.m. (2200 hours for my buddies in the Air Force!), with lightening, thunder, sound, and fury. A wind gust hit Luke AFB, my neighbor, measuring 69 m.p.h. Almost as an after thought, my power went off for about one minute - just long enough where I had to rest everything!

And it rained all night and well into the morning!

This afternoon after work I discovered that I had no television reception. After checking outside to make sure that my satellite receiver hadn't taken off to Oz, I called DISH Network and talked to their machine awhile. The machine finally got fed up with my verbal abuse, and transferred me to a human. Her name was Grace and she sounded as though she was all of fourteen-years-old. Grace spent about thirty minutes leading me through the process of reprogramming both of my remote controls. She was calm, thorough, and very good at her job.

While we were waiting on various things to happen on the screen, I chatted with this young lady. She told me that she was manning a phone in the Philippines, and I told her about my good friend, Odessa Benson, who is from the Philippines and recently visited there. When Grace learned that I worked for the Air Force, she wanted to know if I was a pilot - a very logical supposition. I thought carefully about how to respond to that, and finally opted for honesty!

Grace was very patient and eventually walked me through the entire process. It was a very good experience. DISH Network is so much friendlier, easier to work with, and more honest than my previous provider - Cox Cable Sucks! I made such a good decision in changing over to satellite.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Somebody is Going to Die

by Pa Rock
Political Observer

William Kostric showed up packing heat outside of the Obama town hall meeting in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, yesterday. He was carrying a sign that read, "It's time to water the tree of liberty." That sign was a response to a quote by Thomas Jefferson that the know-nothings like to belch - "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." (Of course Jefferson, a slave owner, was obviously not talking about everyone's liberty.)

So Mr. Kostric shows up at an event featuring the President of the United States, and he is carrying a visible weapon - something that is legal in New Hampshire - and he has a sign calling for watering the tree of liberty, something that is accomplished through a blood offering - and he doesn't go to jail. Chris Matthews asks him later on Hardball, "Why did you bring a god-damned gun to the event?" and his response is that the proper question would be why aren't more people coming to these events armed?

Why, indeed?

Representative Steve Cohen (D, TN) had an armed teabagger baboon walk into a town hall meeting that he was hosting two days ago in Memphis. The man was promptly escorted off of the premises.

Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D, AZ) had an angry individual get so flustered at one of her town halls a couple of days ago at a Safeway in Douglas, Arizona, that the genius forgot and left his gun in the room when he exited.

The health care industry has ginned up these events and bussed in loads of "spontaneous" and "ordinary" citizens with printed instructions on how to disrupt the meetings. They don't come to listen, or learn, or ask intelligent questions - they come to make noise, and disrupt, and keep listening and learning from taking place.

Some unions have belatedly and begrudgingly started to send counter-protesters to drown out the lobbyist rabble, so the circus is growing exponentially. Yesterday a caller phoned the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and left the following message:

"I suggest you tell your people to calm down, act like American citizens, and stop trying to repress people's First Amendment rights. That, or you all are going to come up against the Second Amendment."

I guess the difference between disturbing the peace and exercising First Amendment rights depends on which side of the room you are standing on. I guess the difference between armed intimidation and the exercise of Second Amendment rights depends on which end of the gun that you are facing.

Somebody is going to die. Maybe several innocent people will be trapped between the righteously incensed shooter and his target, and lots of blood will be spilled. That's what will happen, and it will happen very, very soon. The shooter has been primed with bullshit stories of grandmothers being euthanized, death panels, and forced abortions and sex-change operations. His gun has been cleaned and oiled, and he has plenty of ammo.

But it isn't the death of individuals that we must fear, it is the death of democracy itself. When the lives of citizens are put at risk for participating in the democratic process, that very process is also put at risk. Government by intimidation is nothing more than a rancid dictatorship. We aren't North Korea - we are the United States of America - a place where everyone has the right to speak (not scream incoherently to keep others from speaking) and to listen. I am certain that Mr. Jefferson would agree that we need to calm down and return to civil discourse - before we damage our country beyond repair.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Guy X

by Pa Rock
Movie Reviewer

It's late at night, I'm truly tired and thinking about going to bed when, just for the heck of it, I surf through the channels one last time. Even with two movie channels and a good cable lineup that includes PBS, BBC, and the History Channel, I am relatively certain that I won't come across anything that will capsize my plans about hitting the hay. But there is this movie starting, one that I have not seen or even heard of before, so I watch a few minutes just for grins - and in those first few minutes I get hooked! God, I hate it when that happens!

The movie is a quirky and edgy cinematic endeavor from 2005 entitled Guy X. It is based on the book, No One Thinks of Greenland, by John Griesemer. The film is a British production that employs some very good American acting talent.

Guy X is hard to classify, a fact that led to several reviewers slamming the effort quite soundly. My initial impression was that I was watching a science fiction film, but it quickly brought in elements of comedy, drama, and even suspense. The Internet Movie Data Base decided to label Guy X as a "black comedy," which is a fairly apt grasp of the complete product.

The action takes place in 1979 at a US Army airbase in Greenland. A large plane touches down on an isolated air strip near the base just as the opening titles fade. The back door of the plane opens and a young soldier is summarily tossed out onto a hard tarmac several feet below - and the door closes. As the soldier struggles to his feet and begins to try to get back to the plane, the back door again opens and his full ruck sack is thrown out to him. Again, the door closes and the plane begins to taxi off down the runway with the soldier chasing it on foot in futile pursuit.

As soon as the plane is airborne and the soldier gives up the chase, he is suddenly and viciously attacked by a swarm of killer mosquitoes which eventually render him unconscious. (That was the point at which I decided that I might be watching a science fiction film.) He comes to in the small base hospital where he quickly realizes that he has someone else's name and identity. He had been enroute to a great tour in Hawaii, but was tossed out in Greenland as somebody else. All of that plus nearly being eaten alive by mosquitoes during their brief, annual mating ritual! It's enough to make a guy not want to re-enlist!

Rudy (Jason Biggs) learns that he is expected to serve as the Public Information Officer (PIO) for the base commander, Colonel Woolwrap (Jeremy Northam), and that his primary duty in that position will be to produce a base newspaper - with a name that the commander has selected (The Harpoon), and with content that meets the commander's approval.

The soldier, who tries running off but quickly discovers that there is no place to run to in Greenland, soon settles down to his new career as a newspaper editor. As he learns to put a paper together, he makes a few friends and becomes infatuated with the commander's beautiful assistant, Irene (Natascha McElhone). One day while stalking Irene across the rugged arctic landscape, Rudy sees her enter a buried airplane hangar. He stealthily follows her in and discovers the real mission of the base.

That's enough plot. Yes, it does have a sense of Catch-22 and Mash, and if I had to make the call on it, I would classify Rudy as more Yossarian than Hawkeye Pierce - but the young editor is a fairly original character, very aptly portrayed by Biggs. McElhone is beautiful, and, to me, is way too coifed to fit well into the Greenland landscape as an Army enlisted person. (Though the movie was actually filmed in Iceland.) Jeremy Northam as Colonel Woolwrap is endearing in a sadistic sort of way. Northam gives the movie its steely edge, yet his character also spits out a lot of dry humor.

None of the reviewers seemed to like Guy X - the professionals or the consumers, but I was transfixed - to the point that I want to read the book and will probably watch the movie again. It is a very clever concept, well executed, and I want to go back for a clearer understanding and to see what I might have missed the first time around. To me, it was that good!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Poetry Monday: "ABCs"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

One day last week I experienced a National Public Radio "driveway moment," where I became so wrapped up in a story that was airing that I could not get out of the car. Fortunately, I was out in traffic heading to work and had no need to get out of the car!

The radio story that caught my attention was a piece on a young South African poet by the name of Lebo Mashile. Ms. Mashile was actually born in the United States to black South African exiles, but she and her parents returned to their native land when she was sixteen. The poet had a forceful story, but it wasn't her story that captivated me - it was her poetry. As I listened to Lebo Mashile reading one of her poems, I was transfixed. Her words were beautiful, and they flowed with great power and passion.

A few of Lebo Mashile's poems can be found on the Internet, but she has apparently not published a collection at this time - at least there is not one available on When she does publish, I plan to be an early purchaser - because she is very, very good.

Trivia: Lebo Mashile had the small part of Odette in the movie "Hotel Rwanda."

Below is one example of her poetry:

by Lebo Mashile

It takes just 26 letters to create a universe
The world is dismantled and then reassembled
Through the lens of a pen and verse
I have lost myself in books
And then found myself in words
Living in a world without imagination
I can think of no fate that is worse

I’ve walked through the lives of individuals
Whose eyes I’ve never known
I’ve been to cities and villages and country sides
Whose skies, to me, have never been shown
It was in this solitary cell
That my greatest strength was honed
I saw that my mind was just a shell
And it’s abyss simply a hole
And the hell of a heaving heavy heart
Is still my friend
Every story has its place
And history never ends

The writer is an architect God child at play
On a canvass of memories
She lies naked between the covers
Her own lover
Her own worst enemy
Navigating between extremes
She is both the judge and the judged
The vile despised and attacked
The unashamedly beloved
The unassuming friend who’ll tell your business
When you’re not in sight
She pulls commotion out of stillness
In the cavern of the night

And South Africa is a fractured mirror
A paradox of schizophrenic selves
Who don’t talk to one another
Who fear each other
Who revere each other
Who loathe
And pretend
And try to blend in
With each other

And this is the time when you can become
The greatest substance of your dreams
Unless you live in a shack
And don’t speak English
And don’t know what this poem means
Tell me how it’s possible for people
Who walk on gold to not know how to read
Tell me how publishers who’ll never taste their tongues
Can comprehend the words that these people need
Because they’ve never been scared of stories
The ones who uttered the very first
The ones who’ll hand them to their children
Calling out the rivers of their self worth
The ones who’ll write a narrative in the ear
But who won’t call the ear a page
The ones who’ll rhyme without pens
And perform without a stage

I don’t have all the answers
I’m just a colonized African
Who breaks down the Queen’s English
Until Sesotho understands it
Still I’m compelled by those
Who may never inhabit my language
I wonder if trials and translations
Could help them to traverse my landscape

South Africa is an old fashioned mutt
Who knows how to sing
And knows even better how to cuss
Who knows how to piece together prayers
When she’s about to run out of luck
Who knows how to laugh real hard
When the tears have run her into a rut
Who knows that race is a farce
Because when the light’s are off
Every body’s fucked
And when the welts and wounds
Demand healing salve
Words are just enough

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Birthers: Racist Claptrap Run Amok

by Pa Rock
Social Observer

Conspiracy theories have a life of their own. They are nurtured and promoted by a group of believers who see any attempt to refute their beliefs, silly as they may be, as intentional disinformation generated to keep the official cover-up in place. There is no amount of truth or facts that can kill a conspiracy theory because the believers aren’t open to any ideas that challenge or refute their unique views.

An old army buddy of mine lives out in the Oregon woods where he has raised milk goats and philosophized for the past several decades. He enjoys a primitive lifestyle without many of the things most of us would regard as necessities, such as electricity and running water, but he does have a phone so we chat every couple of years. Last year we were catching up over the phone when my friend began talking about the destruction of the World Trade Center. The towers weren’t brought down by high-jacked passenger planes, he said calmly – they were blown up. It was an inside job. Our government brought down those buildings in order to have an excuse to go to war in the Middle East. Study the pictures, he implored me, study the pictures!

The World-Trade-Center-as-an-Inside-Job was the conspiracy theory de jour for the past couple of years. It followed closely on the heels of the Hillary-Killed-Vince-Foster conspiracy theory, one which just sort of petered out when the Clinton’s left the White House. But now we have moved on to something new: birtherism – the notion that Barack Obama was born outside of the United States and is therefore ineligible to be President. A variant of that is that only one of his parents was an American citizen and he is therefore, by virtue of the shameful Dred Scott decision of 1859 which was later overturned, not a natural born citizen, and therefore ineligible to be President.

It would be nice if America could just forget about the birthers. But their outrage is very real and very personal, and they have the potential to incite grievous harm. A black liberal is sitting in the Oval Office, and the only way to save the America that they know and love is to deny this usurper his legitimacy and drive him from office. The birthers are pissed off and vocal. They are being enabled by some devious Republican politicians and a handful of rightwing media personalities. Their quest is Quixotic, but even a hopeless crusade carries the potential for tragedy. It only takes one malcontent and one bullet to destroy a democratic mandate and inexorably alter the course of history.

The “head” of the birther movement, or at least the person who stays busiest on the cause and infuses most of the drama, is a lady dentist from southern California by the name of Orly Taitz. Ms. Taitz immigrated to the United States in the 1980’s from Moldavia (then part of the Soviet Union) by way of Israel. She has a law degree that she received from an on-line university – which enables her to stay busy filing legal briefs relating to the birther movement – though people who have witnessed these legal filings say that often she just drops off boxes of rambling papers at various courthouses and then rushes on down the road to incite whatever rabble awaits her.

Ms. Taitz, who is quickly offended when anyone disparages her, for instance by referring to her as a “birther” or, worse yet, a “birfer,” isn’t shy about using her own sharp tongue to lash out at anyone who gets in her way or questions her motives (or sanity). Someone who deigns to point out the fallacies in her specious arguments is automatically an “Obama thug.”

The company that Ms. Taitz keeps is less than stellar, and undoubtedly serves to keep the wackiness reinforced. One of her main lieutenants is Wiley Drake, a fundamentalist radio beggar who gained notoriety a few weeks ago for admitting that he prays for the death of President Obama. Drake ran for vice-president on the American Independent under Alan Keyes.

Philip Berg is another prominent member of the Birther family. Berg was a former Democratic official and office holder in Maryland who spent quite a bit of time suing the Bush Administration over the destruction of the World Trade Center which, according to him, was an inside job. Berg filed suit against the Democratic National Committee in 2008 trying to block its endorsement of Barack Obama. His case was thrown out of court.

A third mentor to Ms. Taitz is Robert Shulz, a tax cheat who used to host a web site telling people how to “legally” avoid paying payroll taxes – until a judge shut him down. Shulz ran two full page ads in the Chicago Tribune last December ordering President-Elect Obama to hand over certain documents relating to his birth and legal ability to serve as President. He held a news conference at which the President-elect was to bow before the Almighty Shulz and present him with the “proof” of his ineligibility. Not surprisingly, Obama didn’t show, but Taitz and Berg did – and the loony cabal was born.

Here is the crux of the birther blather: 1. There is reportedly a recording and transcript of Obama’s grandmother saying that she witnessed his birth in Africa. 2. Forensic “experts” have set up web pages and signed affidavits saying that his Certificate of Live Birth is a forgery. 3. Hawaiian law allows foreign-born children to obtain an Hawaiian Certificate of Live Birth. And, 4. Obama traveled to Pakistan in 1981, although at the time there was a ban or American passport holders going there.

Orly Taitz is little more than a pawn in this drama, albeit a completely willing pawn. The real culprits are the ones making money off of keeping the controversy alive: The World Net Daily, Fox News, and the usual suspects of O’Reilly, Hannity, Limbaugh, Beck, and Lou Dobbs. Surprisingly, Ann Coulter has distanced herself from the birther crowd, and Dobb’s network, CNN, has labeled it a “non-story.” The late William F. Buckley's conservative publication, National Review Online, has also stated that this "movement" is not based on reality.

Ms. Taitz got herself invited onto the Lou Dobbs show expecting a friendly reception for herself and her fantasies. Unfortunately for her, Dobbs chose that night to be absent, and his guest host ripped Orly a new one. Dobbs has since signed onto the birther crusade, causing his audience to decline by 15% and several major sponsors to drop his program from their advertising plan.

Last week Orly Taitz took imbecility to a new height when she produced Obama’s Kenyan birth certificate. The document had enough glaring errors that it was quickly labeled a forgery by even some of her supporters. It turned out to be the birth certificate of an Australian man that had been doctored to resemble an official Kenyan document. If Ms. Taitz had credibility, it certainly evaporated with that stunt. Rumor has it that due to that stunt, the state of California is now looking at the possibility of disbarring the Birther Queen.

So, yes, there is a great deal of deception taking place on the subject of where the President was born. The problem is, at least for the birthers, their leaders are the ones practicing that deception.

Patrick McKinnion of Yes to Democracy thinks it is more than simple deception. He said, “There’s a certain amount of fascination with unbridled insanity, and that’s what you’re seeing with the birthers: a level of hatred that borders, if not absolutely pole-vaults, into insanity.”

The birthers are small minded bigots, primarily Republican (56%) and from the South (69%), who cannot accept that the nation has elected a black President. They are like the very emotional and angry woman who showed at Congressman Castle’s town hall meeting in Delaware. When she finished yelling and screaming about how unfair it was that Obama was getting to serve as President, she broke down and sobbed, “I just want my country back!”

Sorry, honey. It’s not your country – it’s our country. We are a democratic society and our leaders are elected by all of us. You lost this time. Maybe your luck will improve next time, but I certainly hope not. America needs to leave the scourge of racism in its dark and desolate past and move on into a brighter future.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Best Places to Live in the U.S.

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

A couple of weeks ago Money Magazine published its annual list of best places to live in the United States. The magazine keeps a database of over 1,800 communities across the country that meet their qualifications for entry into the competition. Those qualifications limit the size of communities from 8,500 to 50,000, and also includes those with populations of over 90,000. Income of people residing in the communities must average less that 200% of the state median - which means they can be wealthy, but not too wealthy - and they must have satisfactory education and crime scores. Also, each community in consideration must be no more than 95% white.

The absolute best place to live in the United States, according to Money Magazine, is Louisville, Colorado. The remaining nine of the top ten are Chanhassen, MN, Papillion, NE, Middleton, WI, Milton, MA, Warren, NJ, Keller, TX, Peachtree City, GA, Lake St. Louis, MO, and Mukilteo, WA. (I've been to Lake St. Louis, MO, and was not that impressed - but those folks at Money are way smarter than me. I probably took a wrong turn and missed the best part of town!)

A fair distribution of these 100 best places to live would have wound up with each of the fifty states having two. Nothing is fair, however, and many states had several best places to live, and many other states had none. Texas did the best with seven of its cities being selected for the honor. Texas was followed closely by Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Ohio, each with six. Washington, Wisconsin, and Michigan each had five of the best places to live, and Missouri, Minnesota, Utah, and Alabama had four apiece.

At the other end of the spectrum, these states contained none of the 100 best places to live in the United States: Hawaii, Alaska, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina, West Virginia, Louisiana, New York, Delaware, Vermont, and Maine. New York and Vermont really surprised me by not having any, but Arizona did not!

As I gracefully age, stuff like this becomes much more important. I'm looking for something warm - not hot - within an easy walk of the beach. Room for a big dog and a few chickens would be a plus. If you have property like that and want to trade for a double-wide in the desert - get in touch!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Science? Science! Republicans Don't Need No Stinking Science!

by Pa Rock
Amused Observer

The Daily Kos ( published the results of a poll today by Research 2000 that sheds some light on the likelihood of people to understand or incorporate science into their thought processes. The survey was based on the long established scientific belief that all of the earth's continents were once a massive land mass that slowly pulled apart. It is a concept that is familiar to students in elementary schools - at least those in public elementary schools - and there is a plethora of proof available to anyone who allows their mind to be open.

Survey respondents were asked the following: Do you believe that America and Africa were once part of the same continent?

Forty-two percent of all people surveyed replied that yes, they believed the statement. Twenty-six percent did not, and 32% were not sure.

It gets interesting in the sub-groups. Fifty-one percent of Democrats believed the statement, as did 44% of Independents. Republicans, however, checked-in with only 24% - less than one in four, accepting that statement into their belief system. Republicans also had the highest percentage of no responses with nearly one in two unable to accept the reality of science.

Fifty-percent of respondents from the Northeast believed the statement, as did 46% from the Midwest and 43% from the West. The South, however, lagged far behind with only 32% - less than one in three - demonstrating the ability to recognize science when it stared them in the face.

The racial breakdown was also interesting. Blacks were far more likely to believe in science than Whites. Sixty-three percent of Blacks accepted the statement, while only 35% of Whites did. Latinos recognized science at a rate of 55%, and "Others" were slightly higher at fifty-six percent.

Looking at the overall picture, it starts to make sense. Republicans are less likely to be accepting of science, they tend to be White, and they are most thickly concentrated in the South.

People used to believe that the earth was flat, but most have now accepted the fact that it is round, like a ball. They used to think that the earth was the center of the universe and everything, including the sun, revolved around it, but today most know better. One vacuous Alaskan and some others are still hanging on, however, trying to tell us that dinosaurs walked the earth with humans just a few thousand years ago - even though the fossil record clearly refutes that nonsense. Their drivel will eventually dry up and blow away.

The point is that education will win out - it always does. The South was desegregated, albeit kicking and screaming, a generation ago, and the creationist theories of the ignorant white cracker Republicans, regardless of where they reside, will eventually be washed aside by science and common sense. Education can be painfully slow, but sooner or later it will tug us forward - whether we want to go there or not.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

And Now Kit Bond Does Something Smart! (Is the Earth Still spinning on Its Axis?)

by Pa Rock
Social Commentator

Kit Bond, Missouri's senior U.S. Senator, began the day with a surprise statement that he would vote in favor of the confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor to serve as the 111th Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Bond, a Republican, announced earlier this year that he would not seek re-election to the Senate, and was therefore free to vote his conscience. Would that everyone in Congress had the freedom of will to vote their own conscience!

I knew Kit Bond a thousand years ago when I was in college in Springfield, Missouri. At that time he was an assistant in the office of our state attorney general, a young man named John Danforth. Bond and Danforth would both occasionally trek to Springfield to visit with political science students at Southwest Missouri State College. Both were idealistic and focused on making the world a better place. Danforth stayed in that mode (kinda - sorta), but Bond fell off the wagon early. Danforth, of the Ralston Purina fortune, had the social connections and personal wealth to maintain a certain degree of independence from the knuckleheads and racist claptrap that tend to control Republican politics in Missouri and nationally. Bond did not.

Bond is finishing his third term in the Senate (18 years). Since moving to our nation's capital his marriage went on the rocks, he got snugly in bed with Mitch McConnell and the tobacco lobby, and his drinking problem became more or less public knowledge. Now he has a new wife and seems to be getting his life back in order. I hope that he is able to get away from Washington, DC, and find some peace and happiness in his golden years.

Good luck, Senator Bond. I'm glad that you are at last free of the Republican chains of ignorance and bigotry that have kept your spirit bowed all of these years. Your vote in favor of Sonia Sotomayor is something that will benefit America for decades. Now, if you really want to pump up your legacy on the way out the door, please consider supporting a good national health care policy with a strong public option.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

John McCain Says Something Smart! (Stop the Presses!)

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

John McCain, the ex-POW and war hero who married his way into money and a political future, can be inspiring. He was a beacon to political outsiders in 2000 when he tried to block the Bush juggernaut with his "straight talk" express. But Karl Rove, who was driving the Bush juggernaut, rammed right into McCain's bus in a place called South Carolina by convincing the Republican primary voters of that state that the Arizona Senator might be just a tad too open minded on the subject of race to carry the GOP's Klan robes, much less its banner.

So McCain lost that nomination and went slinking back to the Senate with his tail tucked militarily between his hind legs - where he licked his wounds and waited for another try when Bush left office. This time Johnny Boy wasn't going to take any chances with the bigots and morons who run the Republican Party machinery. In a bold, though stupid, move, he made a pilgrimage to Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, where he planted a big wet kiss on Jerry Falwell's flabby ass. From there he quickly spiraled downhill until he was left with almost no integrity - which made him a shoe-in for the Republican nomination. He frosted the cake by selecting completely incompetent and vacuous Sarah Palin as his running mate. It was a match made in Heaven - on a day when God was off fishing someplace else!

The principled John McCain of 2000 could have run a tough race against Obama, but that John McCain would have never gotten the nomination from his angry white party. The new McCain was offensive to enough people to secure the Republican nomination, but found it impossible to get enough ordinary Joe's to hold their noses and vote for him. He couldn't get the nomination being a human being, and he couldn't win the election being a moralistic cretin.

What's a John to do?

McCain is too old to run for President again, (Please, Lord, let it be so!), but he still has to pander to the know-nothings who run the Republican Party because he has a Senate primary opponent in 2010 who is well to the right of most of humanity. That is why he came out earlier this week and said that he would vote against confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. (McCain has spoken passionately in the past about the need to incorporate Hispanics into American culture and government.)

But even with McCain's continuous sucking up to people he knows in his heart are illogical and dangerous kooks, he did manage to say something bright today on Twitter. Here is his most recent tweet - I was quite impressed:

"Town hall meetings are an American tradition - we should allow everyone to express their views without disruption - even if we disagree!"

As reported for the past several nights on several television networks, these "spontaneous" crowds showing up to heckle Congressmen and public officials are not spontaneous at all. They are being recruited, provided with scripts of how to disrupt and rattle the speakers, and are even being bussed from event to event. Kudos to Senator McCain for having the cajones to speak out against these mindless agitators!

Senator, I don't know what you put on your Fruit Loops this morning, but whatever it was - keep pouring it on! America is a better place when the real John McCain actually does some straight talking. Please consider doing it more often.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Where Our Health Care Dollars Go

by Pa Rock
Social Commentator

I heard a tidbit on the radio yesterday saying that Ed Hanway, the CEO of Cigna Health Care, was making over $30 million a year in salary. The person giving the report said Hanway made more in a day than many people made in a year. That caught my attention, so I hit the internets and found a site - - that listed the current salaries of the CEOs of insurance companies. Listed below are the top ten earners with their annual salaries followed by what that translates to as a daily rate. (I did the ciphering to figure the daily rate, so let me know if you find any errors.)

H. Edward Hanway, Cigna Corp. $30,160,000 ($82,360 daily)
Ronald A. Williams, Aetna, Inc. $23,045,834 ($63,139)
David B. Snow, Jr., Medco Health $21,760.000 ($59,616)
Dale B. Wolf, Coventry Health Care, $20,860,000 ($57,150)
Michael B. McAllister, Humana, Inc $20,060,000 ($54,959)
Jay M. Gellert, Health Net $16,650,000 ($45,616)
Stephen J. Hemsley, United-Health Group $13,164,529 ($36,067)
Raymond McCaskey, Health Care Service Corp (BC/BS) $10,300,000 ($28,219)
Angela F. Braley, Wellpoint $9,094,771 ($24,917)
Michael F. Neidorff, Centene Corp $8,750,751 ($23,975)

The salaries listed for Aetna's CEO, Ronald A. Williams, and that of Centene's CEO, Michael F. Neidorff were as of 2007, so they are undoubtedly doing better than that in 2009.

How does some maggot like Ed Hanway manage to spend $82,360 per day? What is his own health care plan like? (I've had Cigna, and sorry Ed, but I'll take government run health care any day over the crap-on-a-cracker that your company offers!) And what about a bonus? Does Big Ed get a bonus to help supplement his paltry eighty grand a day?

The government isn't going to go prying through your checkbook or publish your medical records on the Internet. It isn't - as the Liberty Council reported today - going to mandate sex change operations. And it damned sure isn't going to kill Gramma! Right now we suffer at the hands of health care monopolies. We pay big premiums for poor coverage so that some hog like Ed Hanway can eat the best slop and wallow in the finest mud. Medicare is government run health care and it works. Members of Congress have government run health care, and those greedy bastards are happy with it - but they don't want to share that benefit with with the poor schmucks who pay for Congressional health care.

The health care lobby is spending millions of dollars buying Senators and Congressmen, spreading lies as fast as their lobbyists can talk, and slinging shit at anything that moves. They make huge profits and give lousy service - it's a sweet gig - one they do not want to lose!

It's time for all Americans to have access to affordable health care. And it's time for Ed Hanway to get a real job!