Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Family News Bulletin

by Pa Rock
Proud Grampa

My daughter, Molly Files, informed me by email and a telephone call today that her second child, due this Thanksgiving, will be a boy! I am so happy for her and Scott, and I know that Baby Files will lead his older brother, Sebastian, on a merry chase! Oh, the fun times they will have! I can't wait to take them to Disney World!

Baby Files will be my third grandson - with no granddaughters, and my sis, Gail, (my only sibling) will have her third granddaughter in July with no grandsons! Who dealt those cards? (Actually, Gail and I are both thrilled with our growing string of descendants!)

I think Molly and Scott are still struggling to come up with a boy's name. Serious suggestions may be submitted in the comments section of this post.

Monday, June 29, 2009

My New Cat

by Pa Rock
Fool

That's right. One of the world's greatest cat haters now apparently has his own cat. Last week I found this skinny orange and yellow Tom sleeping under one of the bushes in my front yard. Since then I have come upon him almost daily - sleeping under the back porch, lounging in any available shade, and even wrapped around the base of my bird feeder. (The birds have quit spending so much time at the feeder, so the cat is saving me some money!) His pawprints adorn my car hood.

My cat's name is Scroungy Bastard, but he also answers to Fleabag!

On nights when I have leftovers, I set them out for Scroungy, and they are gone in the morning. I suspect that he will be around for a very long time.

Take Those Stamps and Stick 'Em!

by Pa Rock
Social Critic

I went to the post office today to send a birthday gift to my grandson. I asked for one of those flat rate boxes that the U.S. Postal Service is shamefully promoting on television. That is the box system where you can ship anything that will fit for “one low rate.” Lying bastards! Oh, it’s one rate all right, whether the box is filled with feathers or lead bars, but that “low” rate is figured on the lead bars premise, not the feathers. The smallest flat rate box was a pricey ten dollars and thirty-five cents!

I walked out – and my gift is now on its way to Oregon via an alternative carrier.

The postal service used to be an important component of America’s social infrastructure, but its significance and necessity have diminished substantially over the past decade or so. Today the primary purpose of the postal system appears to be the distribution and delivery of junk mail like those ubiquitous Wal-Mart fliers, and serving as a variety store to sell ties and tie pins, ball caps, stationery, stamp art, and all types of assorted trinkets and doodads.

The Internet, of course, has brought the old postal dinosaur to its knees. Email, social networking, and making purchases and paying bills on-line have all slashed their way into what was, just a few short years ago, a monopolistic operation. Even advertisers are abandoning the old approach of covering the world in junk mail for the cheaper and more highly targeted approaches offered by placing their spiels on-line.

The dinosaur is thrashing about in its death throes, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the time is right to put it out of its misery. Here is what I am doing to avoid the necessity of using the United States Postal Service:

1. I shop on-line whenever I can. It saves on gas, and I don’t have to fight my way through malls or those awful big box stores. And, if an item can be ordered by mail, it can be ordered and received quicker via the Internet.

2. When shopping on-line, I look for merchants who pay shipping. Amazon sells virtually everything, and they have a free shipping option on orders of $25 or more.

3. I pay my bills on line, and use auto-pay (bank account or credit card) whenever possible. Paying by auto-pay saves my stamp as well as the merchant's stamp - and hopefully that will eventually help to lower costs.

4. If I have to mail a package, I pack it myself and then use an alternative carrier. Fed Ex and UPS have both become very accessible over the past few years.

5. Email, email, email! It’s lightning quick and essentially free!


If the United States Postal Service seriously wants to survive, and I doubt that it now has the option or maybe even the honest desire to do that - but if it does, it needs to get out of the variety store business and quit putting good money into deceptive television ads. The post office’s energy and resources need to be directed into the quick and efficient transportation of correspondence and packages. That’s why Congress created the agency, and if it can’t meet that basic objective, it’s time to bury the beast and move on.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

I'm a Twit!

by Pa Rock
Twitterpated Journalist

After reading Senator McCaskill's tweet on Michael Jackson this morning, I decided to click on the link to the Twitter homepage and see what all of this tweeting fuss is about. I mean, if tweeting can place the repressive government of Iran in peril, it might benefit me to know more about it. I might want to foment my own revolution some day!

It took less than a minute to get registered as a tweeter and to find out which of my email contacts were also registered at Twitter. In the second minute I learned that my daughter had discovered a couple of drunks hosting a yard sale and had scored some really good bargains. News like that really warms a parent's heart!

So, if you happen through the Canarium and hear some bird tweeting off-key, it's probably me. My handle is PaRock.

Michael Jackson and the Rush to Sainthood

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I was zipping around the Internets this morning when I came across a tweet by Missouri's best senator, Claire McCaskill, in which she said that all of the media attention being paid to the death of Michael Jackson made her uncomfortable. As a social worker who has exposed and investigated many crimes against children, I couldn't agree more with the Senator's concern. Yes, he was an exceptional showman, musician, and innovator, but he was also a pedophile. Michael Jackson got his rocks off sleeping with little boys, and that fact should not be glossed over or ignored. It was a big part of who he was.

That is my view as a social worker, someone who has a professional and ethical commitment to do what it takes to protect children. But, as a consummate lefty, I also know that no one is born a pedophile. Michael was a star at an age when most children were playing games and developing the social skills necessary to become well adjusted adults. He missed out on most of what should have been a normal childhood, and spent the next forty years trying to recapture something that he had been denied.

Michael Jackson was a hell of an entertainer - and a sad human being.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Thirty Dollar Boot

by Pa Rock
Economic Stimulator

After a morning of still more unpacking and laundry, I headed off to the gym this afternoon where I did a little over two-and-a-half miles on the treadmill at a brisk clip, some pull-ups with the weights, and then sat in the wonderful, bubbling sauna for a shamefully long time. The iPod is adding years to my life. It currently has 3,220 songs, and is basically the soundtrack of my life. I slap on those headphones, cover the numbers on the treadmill with a towel, and rock-on for a minimum of ten songs - which puts me somewhere over thirty minutes. (If Alice's Restaurant or some anthem from Woodstock happens to shuffle to the top, I could be stepping along for forty-five minutes or more.) Time, as they say, truly does fly when you're having fun!

The gym was followed by a trip to Costco, usually an expensive venture, but this time I got away with just two books - both by Dr. Seuss, my favorite author. I also partook of their "hot dog deal" which completely negated any benefit from the treadmill!

My home is in Litchfield Park, the gym is in Goodyear, and Costco is in Avondale - all relatively close. I tried to get from Avondale to Surprise without using one of the major thruways, but my progress was repeatedly thwarted by closed roads and dead ends. Before I gave up and hit the 101, however, I did discover the little community of Maryvale, a grotto of relatively poor housing nestled within the tile-and-tan expensive sprawl that is modern Arizona.

Surprise, Arizona, might sound like a ghost town, but it is actually one of the more modern and progressive parts of the valley. It is about five miles due north of Luke Air Force Base on Litchfield. The city of Surprise has all of the national chain stores and restaurants, and new homes and apartments are springing up at a fierce and alarming rate.

My objective in going to Surprise was to visit Lowe's where I purchased, among other things, a gigantic wind chime, and a very large, cement, and weather-beaten boot that is painted several shades of brown. The boot is actually a planter, and tomorrow I will stuff it with a cactus. Tonight it is sitting empty by my front porch. (I'm not concerned about any of the neighbors making off with it, because the damned thing weighs a ton and none of their scooter chairs could handle the heist!)

And that was my day in one-hundred-and-ten degree Arizona!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Diarrhea of the Keyboard

by Pa Rock
More Typist than Thinker

You've all seen this guy at a family reunion, or the local coffee shop, or on a park bench. He is an old codger who can't control his drool and loves to tell stories. Some of his stories are better than awful, but just barely. The trouble is that if he ensnares you for too long, he begins to do reruns. He can't help it. As time passes and his brain begins to shrink, his memory is also contracting.

The old coot is me - or I am he - and some days I am Bob down the road. The further I rip along the universe, the shorter my tale gets.

My youngest informed me that the story of Fred Blue that I posted two nights ago sounded awfully familiar. I replied back that I could have written it before but did not think so. He did some digging and told me to check out the Ramble for July 7, 2008. I did - and there it was - my first ode to the wonderful Mr. Blue. Not only had I forgotten writing and posting the original, but a quick read showed me that I had done a much better job with it than with my later effort. So my memory is going, as are my writing skills.

And now I can't even find my bib!

BTW: Fred was the caliber of individual and friend who was worthy of two postings!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Dead Pool Heats Up

by Pa Rock
Pool Master

Pa Rock's Dead Pool has suddenly become very active!

The pool originated in this blog in 2008. It's first year was lackluster with only one entrant, yours truly, correctly picking only one celebrity who would die during that year - Eartha Kitt - and her death didn't transpire until the very last week of the year! This year things weren't looking any better, but suddenly it has become a horse race!

Camille (a friend of my son, Nick) jumped into the lead on Tuesday when Ed McMahon packed it in. She earned 14 points for the death of the 86-year-old McMahon. Early this morning she was bumped to second place by Eva Husted of Kansas City with the death of Farah Fawcett. The 62-year-old former Charlie's Angel gave Eva 38 points. But Eva's lead was to be very short-lived. Michael Jackson's death this afternoon gave 50 points each to the following six individuals: Bobby, Iva, Mary (Sister Phillipia), Molly, Pat, and Ron. I can only hope that something happens to break that six-way tie for first place, or poor old Pa Rock is going to be shelling out some serious prize money!

Death Trivia: All three of this week's dead celebrities bit the dust in California, and Ed McMahon and Michael Jackson expired at the same hospital - UCLA Research. How weird is that?

Stay tuned for updates - the race is on!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Fred Blue

by Pa Rock
Old Friend

Fred Blue was a crusty, crabby, cantankerous, and lovable old cuss. To generations of children who made their way through the Noel Elementary School in Noel, Missouri, he was known simply as Mr. Blue. And though he could often be heard fussing and even cussing as he pushed his broom or mop up and down the school’s hallways, everyone in that old stone building knew that Fred loved them and the school itself.

Fred was the school’s custodian and one of its bus drivers. He held those positions for more than two decades. He told me once that he had been at home working in his yard when the wife of one of the school board members drove by and stopped her truck in the road to talk – a very Ozark thing! She told him that they needed a custodian down at the school. He applied, quickly got the job, and the rest, as they say, is history.

I was the principal of the Noel School for six years and was technically Fred’s boss. I say “technically” because Fred didn’t take to well to being bossed. Dealing with the irascible Mr. Blue was usually best accomplished through finesse or negotiation – and even then the project would invariably be done the way that he wanted to do it. I remember calling him into my office one day and saying that I needed my own bulletin board. It was the Thanksgiving season and the elementary teachers had covered every bulletin board in the building with pilgrims and turkeys. I told him that I was sick of all the damned turkeys, and needed a place where I could post school announcements. The next day he had a nice, new board hanging outside of my office with my name on it. But in true Fred style, he had covered the entire thing in turkeys!

The line between Fred Blue’s private life and his work at school quickly became blurred. After his wife passed away, it was commonplace to see Fred’s old pickup at the school before daylight, after dark, and on weekends. He was the first one there on winter mornings to get the furnace fired up, check the radiators, and shovel the snow off of the walks if need be. He was there on ballgame nights to watch the kids play basketball or to kibitz with teachers and parents at the concession stand. After the games he would stay late and get the gym cleaned for the next day’s physical education classes.

Fred’s life literally extended from his home to the school and nowhere else. I took him to Neosho one evening to pick out some ceiling fans that our PTA had agreed to purchase for the classrooms. Fred was like the proverbial kid in the candy store as he stumbled through the Wal-Mart looking at what the store had to offer. He told me that it had been over ten years since he had been to Neosho – a trip of twenty miles!

Fred was a guy who got things done, and the bureaucracy be damned! One winter he decided that he could do a better job of keeping snow off of the walks if he had a blade for the school’s lawnmower – so he went to town and bought one out of his own pocket. It took me two monthly school board meetings to get him reimbursed, even though he didn’t care whether he got his money back or not.

Political correctness wasn’t his strong suit either. One female teacher got on his nerves by asking him to move her large, wooden teacher’s desk on multiple occasions when she took the notion to rearrange her classroom. Fred decided that his back was suffering due to her menstrual cycle, and when the teacher showed up at work one Monday morning she found that a sturdy set of wheels had been attached to the legs of her mammoth desk!

Fred wasn’t having a good day unless he got the school cooks cranked up over something and then left me to handle the mess. He had lots of opinions on what to cook and how to cook. I can still hear him going off about the bland green beans - and why didn’t they at least throw in some bacon or something for flavoring!

He and the school secretary, Billie Allman, were dear friends and had been for years, yet it was common for them to fuss at one another like an old married couple. Fortunately, they shared enough mutual respect to keep the situation amicable – and often funny. I remember well the age jokes that circulated around the office as each became eligible to join AARP. There were also times, however, when I felt like I was their incompetent son charged with keeping the family together.

Fred saw each of his two daughters, Becky and Debbie, graduate from college and go on to become teachers in our local school district – though at different schools. He was proud of his girls, but probably didn’t tell them that often enough. Cussing and stomping were his primary means of communication, both infinitely easier than expressing pride and affection. But the pride was there – they knew it and so did I.

But Fred Blue was far more than cussing and stomping. He was a concerned human being and a very good friend. I was aware of several times when he came to the office and paid the arrears on some kid’s lunch or milk bill. If the parents were good people who were suffering hard times, Fred, who wasn’t rich but also wasn’t wanting for anything, would step in and pick up the slack. One day when I was upset about something, he pushed me into my office and asked me very quietly if I needed some money. I can’t remember now what my malfunction was, but it wasn’t money. But God love Fred for being ready to bail me out!

Fred moved in with his neighbor, a widow named Leatha, while I was still with the Noel School. She was a good woman who followed him to school and took a job as his assistant custodian. Leatha probably wasn’t any better at keeping him in check than the rest of us, but we all felt good knowing that Fred had someone in his life who loved him and was around to help take care of him.

I left the Noel School in the fall of 1989. It was just a few months later that Fred was diagnosed with a terminal illness and given six months to live. One of the first things that he did on receiving that news was to marry Leatha so that she would be eligible to draw on his social security. I made several trips to their home in Noel to visit with him during that time, and regardless of how he felt, he always seemed happy that I was there, and enjoyed telling and listening to old tales about life at the Noel School. He wasn’t happy about the end of his life drawing near, but he and I both knew that he had lived it on his terms without any major regrets.

Leatha phoned me late one evening and told me that Fred had passed away in the ambulance enroute to the hospital. His funeral was well attended and very emotional. Many of the school staff and other old friends of Fred’s stood on the funeral home lawn after the service telling Fred stories. We all knew that an important person in our lives had gone on.

That funeral was nearly twenty years ago, and there is seldom a week that goes by when my thoughts aren’t drawn to Fred Blue for some reason or another. He was a very good friend.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Deadly Lunatic Fringe

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

There is an awful story out of Arizona that has made its way into the national news. A forty-one-year-old barfly named Shawna Forde and two male accomplices dressed up as federal agents a couple of weeks ago and forced their way into the home of an immigrant family whom they suspected were involved in illegal drug trafficking. They weren't out to to make a citizen's arrest and clean up the drug trade, rather, they were looking for the male resident's purported stash of drug money to help Ms. Forde fund her vigilante group, the Minutemen American Defense. When the male resident (father) questioned why one of the "federal agent's" gun had tape on the handle, he was shot and killed. Before the smoke cleared, the man's nine-year-old daughter was also dead, her mother seriously wounded, and one of Forde's gang wounded.

Shawna Forde, a recent transplant to Arizona from the state of Washington, had been a member of the better known (and larger) Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, but that organization had booted her because of her bizarre behavior. She then formed her own group, and appears to have been funding it through robberies. Forde liked to proclaim that groups like hers were necessary because the government wasn't doing its job of protecting our border with Mexico.

A nine-year-old girl and her father were killed so that Shawna Forde and her drinking buddies could go out and help the government enforce the law.

Granted, every state in the union has some lunatics, many of whom have a strong racist of nativist bent, but poor, parched Arizona seems to get far more than its share. That phenomenon is due in part to the long border that Arizona shares with Mexico, and most certainly is also a product of the state's obsession with firearms.

A bill quickly making its way through the Arizona legislature would do away with the need for permits to carry a concealed weapon. That would also kill the need for special firearms training that had been required before a person could get a permit. One state senator referred to the "God-given right" to carry weapons without having to get any type of special permission from the government. Not only will this bill result in more unstable people being armed, it will also impact the state's spiraling budget crisis because training fees and permit fees for carrying concealed weapons will be lost. The bill is a loser on every level - and it is certain to pass with ease.

There is a second bill in the legislature that also seems destined for passage. The one will prevent property owners, tenants, employers, and businesses from prohibiting the storage or transport of lawfully possessed firearms in locked and privately-owned vehicles parked in a parking lot, parking garage, or other designated parking area. The concept of private property be damned - the "God-given: right to be armed trumps everything! (Actually, this bill may help to conserve energy. Now when a disgruntled employee wants to get even with the boss or his co-workers, he won't have to drive all the way home to get his guns!)

In fact, the primary purpose of the current Arizona legislature is to craft bills eliminating all manner of restrictions and controls on gun ownership. Arizona is well on its way to becoming a haven for every Shawna Forde in America.

There was a poll at CNN.com this morning on the question: Should people on US terrorist watch list be allowed to buy guns? Unbelievably, 11% of respondents (36,004) stated that they should!

Is America nuts, or is it just me?

Monday, June 22, 2009

What's the Point?

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

It's hard for me to keep a straight face as I navigate the aisles of modern grocery stores. I had some free time on my hands yesterday and headed up the road to get some canned chili and other bachelor foodstuffs. This time, because I was in no rush, I decided to explore each of the thirty or so aisles. One of the things that amazed me most was the small amount space actually used to shelve groceries. The place was a veritable warehouse of furniture, plants and planters, cleaning supplies, paper products, health and beauty aids, light bulbs, magazines, books, toys, clothing, liquor, and tobacco. Groceries seemed to almost be a merchandising afterthought.

But it is the shopping habits of others - those not focusing on canned chili - that really amuse me. The lady who was in front of me checking out last night had a few standard food staples, but her order also included a two packages of vanilla Oreos.

What is the point of vanilla Oreos? Do you dunk them in chocolate milk? Or perhaps wash them down with caffeine-free diet soda - another pointless product!

Inquiring minds want to know!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Tom Horne Blows

by Pa Rock
Educator

Tom Horne should be smart. The Canadian-born Arizona politician received his under graduate education at Harvard where, according to his Internet bio, he graduated magna cum laude. He then proceeded on to Harvard Law School where he snagged his juris doctorate "with honors." So, at the very least, Mr. Horne should be one smart lawyer.

But something happened along the way that dimmed the fierce intellect of that young Harvard graduate. My guess is that it occurred when he moved to Arizona. (I fear there is a strong argument for something sinister being in the water!)

As a young transplant to Arizona, Mr. Horne, who is not an educator, managed to get himself elected to the Paradise Valley School Board, the third largest school district in the state. He maintained his seat on that board over two decades, serving as its President many of those years. It was apparently during those years that he honed his conservative view of what is and is not acceptable education.

Horne likes to brag that he "single-handedly" killed the Women's Studies program at Paradise Valley. Clearly the last remnants of his Harvard education had faded into the mists by the time he fought that battle.

In 1996 Tom Horne decided it was time to share his unique educational insights with the entire state of Arizona. He got himself elected to the state legislature (as a Republican, of course) where he served two terms. During the four years that he was in the legislature he chaired the Academic Accountability Committee and was vice chair of the Education Committee. He obviously positioned himself to have maximum impact on the schools and children of Arizona.

Tom Horne moved up the educational power ladder in 2002 when he was elected to a four-year term as the state's superintendent of schools. He was re-elected in 2006 and currently continues to serve in that position. He has drawn on his political experience in the field of education to publish several articles highlighting his beliefs in how things should be.

There is currently a battle being waged in the Arizona over the future of ethnic education. At the center of this political storm is an ethnic studies program that is being offered in the Tucson Unified School District called La Raza. And although the program is designed to assist Hispanic students in understanding and appreciating their cultural heritage, it is open to non-Hispanic students as well.

State Superintendent Horne has worked himself into a snit over La Raza because of his long-held belief that everything should be geared toward the norm (white and male norm), and that anything different detracts from accepted values (such as his). In particular he is upset because a group of students in Tucson, whom he suspects are enrolled in La Raza, got up and walked out on his deputy as she was expounding on the proposition that Republicans are not anti-Latino. He is also twisted because one of his political allies, an Hispanic English teacher at Chollo, feels that he was unfairly castigated as an "Uncle Tom" for supporting his school's Anglo administration.

Sadly, neither of Mr. Horne's expressed reasons for being against the La Raza program have squat to do with education. He wants to cleanse the curriculum of anything that he sees as detracting from American values - his American values.

There is, of course, another side to this story. The La Raza program isn't fostering divisiveness, rather, it is instilling some ethnic pride in a population where pride has been sorely lacking. And what has been the educational impact of teaching students to understand and appreciate their cultural heritage? The students who enroll in La Raza are scoring higher on the state AIMS tests than those who do not.

That bears repeating. Students enrolled in La Raza are doing better on their state-mandated achievement tests than those who are not in the program!

Enter the assorted fruits and vegetables taking up space in the Arizona Legislature. Normally these geniuses spend their few working hours drafting legislation that would encourage more people to carry guns - or cutting social programs, but now they have turned their attention to ethnic studies. At the urging of Tom Horne, the legislature is now hellbent on ending the La Raza program - and the positive impact that it apparently has on student academic performance be damned!

Tom Horne is in-sync with the older white citizens of Arizona, but he is woefully out-of-sync with the future. He continues to blow his political smoke across the knowledge-starved sands of Arizona in a vainglorious attempt to preserve education as it was when he was in high school - the 1950's. He wants Arizona's children to have the opportunity to become just as smart as he is - and therein lies the rub!

How sad for the future of Arizona, and how sad for the students of Tucson.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Humanitarian Aid is Never a Crime

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Several months ago I told the story of a Daniel Millis, a science teacher who risked his life and his freedom to leave full water jugs in the desert to keep illegal immigrants from dying of thirst as they made their way into the United States by traversing the Sonora Desert. For his trouble he was arrested, charged with littering, and hauled before a federal judge where he was found guilty and given an inconsequential fine.

Millis was a member of a group called No More Deaths, and he was distributing the water jugs in the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge. By committing his "crime" on a national refuge, the case became the property of the Feds. If he had left them on property belonging to the state of Arizona, the young science teacher would have probably been hung by the drunken vigilantes who gun-up and patrol the border looking for anyone who is brown and happens to be on foot.

Last December another humanitarian working with No More Deaths was arrested in the Buenos Aires Refuge for the same "crime." The evil-doer this time was 27-year-old Walter E. Staton, a resident of Tucson. Staton recently appeared before a Federal jury and was found guilty of littering.

The area where Millis and Staton distributed their containers of life-saving water has seen over twenty deaths of immigrants who were overpowered by the sun and heat as they tried to make their way to a better life. The slogan of No More Deaths is "Humanitarian Aid is Never a Crime." Good words, those.

The twisted logic used by prosecutors to come up with a littering charge is that once the jugs have been emptied, they are discarded and thus become litter. As a counterbalance to that argument, No More Deaths is quick to point out that their volunteers actually pick up large quantities of litter as they go about their important work, and they produce a net positive impact on the local environment. Members of the organization and other humanitarians have suggested a compromise of placing permanent watering stations within the Buenos Aires Refuge, but that hasn't met with the approval of the Feds or the good Christian citizens of Arizona.

What would Jesus do?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Bachmann in Overdrive

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

To be sure, there is no shortage of nuts in the United States Congress. But one Congressional nut in particular is so much goofier than her colleagues that she deserves special recognition.

Michelle Bachmann, a Republican from Minnesota, is serving her second term in Congress. With any luck at all it will be her last.

Congressman Bachmann, a Christian fundamentalist who rose to political heights by terrorizing local school boards and promoting the teaching of creationism in private and public schools, is either dumber than a stump, too dense to be embarrassed by her strange pronouncements, or she has no shame - or, more likely, a combination of all three.

She made a splash in the national news last year when she told Chris Matthews on Hardball that certain politicians, including Presidential candidate Obama, did not appear to be good Americans. That Palinesque remark helped her opponent to raise a pile of money at the last moment, and almost cost her the election.

A few weeks ago Ms. Bachmann displayed her ignorance of history when she compared the current economic mess to the Great Depression of the 1930's. She talked about how the "roaring 20's" were great years presided over by Republicans (Coolidge and Hoover), and the economy went into the crapper in the 1930's due to Franklin Roosevelt and his support for the Hoot-Smalley (sic) Tariff.

It was actually the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, named after the two Republicans who drafted it, and it came into effect under the Hoover administration. Herbert Hoover was President of the United States when the economy tanked. It was the Democrat, Franklin Roosevelt, who was able to roll up his sleeves and get to work fixing things. He proposed a strong economic program that included a national jobs effort (WPA), retirement insurance for older Americans (Social Security), and insurance for money kept in public banks (FDIC).

Nice try, Michelle.

Then a few days ago she started rattling nonsense about swine flu, saying that the last time there was an outbreak was in the 1970's when Jimmy Carter, also a Democrat, was President. She thought, for some strange reason, that the virus was related to the U.S. Presidency and the particular party that happened to be in power. That's silly enough on its face, but to make it worse, she was wrong about who was President during the last swine flu outbreak. It was Gerald Ford, a Republican!

Michelle, I suggest that you call your good friend and fundraiser, George Bush, and ask him how to use the Google.

Now, Congressman Bachmann, has gone on the record saying that the upcoming census is too invasive, and that her family will only provide the number of people in the family - nothing more. She said that by law that's all that has to be provided.

Wrong. The fine for not answering all census questions is $5,000.

Michelle, if you are going to break the law anyway and answer only the questions of which you approve, why not double down and not even fill out your census form at all? In fact, if enough of your constituents would do the same - your seat could be eliminated and reassigned to someplace like California or Vermont where where the voters would be much more likely to select someone with at least a hint of a brain.

But if your seat is not eliminated and you file for a third term, you can count on me to send in a campaign contribution - to your opponent! To do less would be clearly unpatriotic.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Memories of Germany Inspired by Lili Marlene

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

A couple of weeks ago National Public Radio did a short segment on Lili Marlene, the most popular song of World War II, and it served to remind me of the few short weeks that I spent in Germany in the fall of 1971. I was there as a part of Operation Reforger III, the third in a series of annual military (NATO) field exercises that went on for many years. We left an airfield in Topeka, Kansas, in military cargo planes, flew to McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey, for refueling (of the planes and the soldiers), and then over the Arctic Circle to Frankfurt, Germany.

Our military vehicles accompanied us on the cargo planes. Thousands of army jeeps and trucks were organized in immense staging areas prior to our convoy and war games across southern Germany. The convoy was actually organized at Grafenwoehr near the Czechoslovakian border - which at that time was a dangerous, communist country. Being that close to the actual Iron Curtain added an element of excitement to the whole venture - as if just being in Europe wasn't exciting enough to a twenty-three-year-old from the Ozarks! The installation at Grafenwoehr is still in operation - I know that because an Air Force civilian friend of mine just transferred there to work in the Army's sexual assault program.

From Grafenwoehr we convoyed through the beautifully cold German countryside, bivouacking near little postcard communities. The days in the jeep were bitterly cold. I had to make observations (of what I don't remember) from a moving jeep, and did most of that task peering out of a sleeping bag. My driver, a kid from Utah named Calvin, was not so fortunate because he had to have his feet and hands free to handle the jeep.

We would camp in the early afternoons and set up large GP medium tents that would each accommodate twenty or so men on cots. As soon as we arrived at the campsite, young German kids would descend on us on their bicycles and take orders for beer. They would then peddle into town and return dragging their wares in wagons behind their bikes. We had the Army C-Rations for meals, but a traveling food coach would normally follow us to camp. I remember the wonderful German mustard that came with our hard roll sandwiches. I have never been able to find the same product again, although I am certain that I will recognize it if I do. Perhaps another trip to Germany is in order!

As another much appreciated treat, the Army would often arrange for small German bands to come to the camp sites and entertain us in the evenings - Oompa bands composed of guys playing tubas and accordions and wearing lederhosen.

Our convoying took us to Munich were my buddies and I spent a night riding the trolleys and visiting several bars, including the famous Hofbrau House. We had at least a weekend off there, and my friends and I caught a train at the Munchen Banhoff (Munich train station) and rode down to the picturesque town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

Some of my memories of those long convoys include seeing the massive Christian crosses on top of impossibly high German Alps, and the cleanliness of the roads and towns. There were no billboards, mobile homes, old cars, or even litter along the roads. Everything was clean and modern. I also remember coming upon one wreck on the Autobahn, Germany's major highway system that is best known for having no speed limit. The car that crashed had been going so fast that wreckage and blood stains on the pavement stretched for the better part of a mile.

One of the things that I remember best about Germany was the wonderful music. The Hofbrau House had its own song, which became easier to sing with the more beer that was consumed. But it was Lili Marlene that I found to be the most memorable and pleasing. Not speaking much German ("Ein bier, Rosa" was the first and longest-lasting phrase that I learned!), I found the instrumental version of Lili Marlene to be quite beautiful and hard to get out of my head. Some of the old timers told me that it was the most famous of German songs.

It was years later before I took the time to learn more about Lili Marlene, and it was, in fact, the NPR piece a few weeks ago that really filled in the gaps in my knowledge about the song's unique history and place in the Second World War.

Lili Marlene was written as a poem by a German soldier in 1915, a tale of a girl that he left behind when he went off to war. It was put to music in the late 1930's, and was popular on Nazi radio stations during WWII. American soldiers heard it being played on German radio, and even though the song was in German, they developed a fondness for the haunting tune. Radio Belgrade played it at the same time every night, and many American soldiers would tune in to listen to the increasingly familiar musical piece. The Nazi government at one time tried to pull the popular song from the airwaves because of the large influence that it was having on the troops, but German soldiers complained in such high numbers that the government reversed its position. After the war the song jumped the Atlantic and became popular in America where it was recorded by several artists.

Here, for the record, are the lyrics to Lili Marlene:

Underneath the lantern,
By the barrack gate
Darling I remember
The way you used to wait
T'was there that you whispered tenderly,
That you loved me,
You'd always be,
My Lili of the Lamplight,
My own Lili Marlene

Time would come for roll call,
Time for us to part,
Darling I'd caress you
And press you to my heart,
And there 'neath that far-off lantern light,
I'd hold you tight ,
We'd kiss good night,
My Lili of the Lamplight,
My own Lili Marlene

Orders came for sailing,
Somewhere over there
All confined to barracks
was more than I could bear
I knew you were waiting in the street
I heard your feet,
But could not meet,
My Lili of the Lamplight,
my own Lili Marlene

Resting in our billets,
Just behind the lines
Even tho' we're parted,
Your lips are close to mine
You wait where that lantern softly gleams,
Your sweet face seems
To haunt my dreams
My Lili of the Lamplight,
My own Lili Marlene.

Today lonely hearts still wait in the lamplight for war to end. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Tale of the Florida Cat Killer

by Pa Rock
True Crime Reporter


Eighteen-year-old Tyler Hayes Weinman was arrested last week for the killing and mutilation of a couple of dozen cats in and around the tonier neighborhoods of Dade County, Florida. Mr. Weinman, who had graduated from Palmetto Bay High School just a few scant weeks before his arrest, has spent the last several days being psychologically dissected and vilified in the press. Today he was released on bail.

This story bothers me on two levels. Basically the story made it into the national headlines because of class. It happened in two nice, white neighborhoods. The owners of the victim cats were horrified, which is understandable. They lit fires under the local police and the press - and they got action! But if those cats had belonged to families in East St. Louis, Illinois, or South Central Los Angeles, people residing more than five miles beyond the crime scenes would have never heard about this sadistic animal abuse - and the crimes would not have merited any police time for investigations. It is a variation of the Nancy Grace Syndrome in which terrible things that happen to white children are matters of the gravest public concern, while equally horrendous things that befall children of color are routinely ignored.

But, regardless of the class aspects, this story is important because it serves to warn us about the long-term dangers posed to society by people who torture animals. It is a sad story about a bunch of dead cats, but, more than that, it is a reminder of how cruelty can evolve from animal victims to humans.

Tyler Weinman was given a psychological evaluation prior to his release from jail. The judge wanted to have as much information as possible on his mental state before releasing this lad back into society.

Why?

The Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Northeastern University recently published research indicating that animal abusers are five times more likely to commit violent crimes and four times more likely to commit property crimes than individuals without a history of animal abuse. Another study profiled 354 serial killers and found that 21% of them were known to have committed animal cruelty - and that percentage is almost certainly on the low side.

Animal abusers find power and fulfillment in torturing a victim that is incapable of defending itself. That same motivation is also at play for child and spouse abusers, rapists, and serial killers.

Jeffrey Dahmer, as a youth, impaled dogs' heads, frogs, and cats on stakes. Albert DeSalvo, the Boston Strangler, trapped dogs and cats in fruit crates and then shot arrows through the boxes. Ted Bundy and David Berkowitz (the Son of Sam) were also animal abusers in their youth. Steven Green, the U.S. Army private who raped a girl in Iraq and murdered her and her family, bragged about setting a puppy of fire and throwing it off of a roof when he was a child. (He also burned the body of his rape victim.)

Many of the school shooters practiced cruelty to animals. Kip Kinkel of Oregon, Luke Woodham of Mississippi, and Columbine shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold of Colorado all had a history of abusing animals.

So, if a child abuses animals, does it necessarily follow that he or she will become a deranged killer of humans? No, it does not. It is however, a nearly perfect indicator that something bad has happened in that child's life - physical or sexual abuse, or serious neglect. It is also a warning sign that this little person could become a big problem to society in the years to come.

If Tyler Hayes Weinman did kill all of those classy Florida cats, that's a legitimate news story - though not one that merits a national obsession. The real story, however, may come about a few years down the road.

The blog posts that I have read are decidedly vindictive, suggesting that he should be locked up for many years. (Unbelievably, Mr. Weinman faces a possible 158 years in prison for the cat murders!) But prison would be counterproductive. While Mr. Weinman was imprisoned and rubbing shoulders with other convicts, his urges toward cruelty and anti-social behaviors would be strengthened - and when he was ultimately released, society would face significantly more dangers than if he had been directed into a comprehensive treatment program at the outset.

Prisons are warehouses that reinforce anti-social behaviors and make bad people worse - but that is a whole other post.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Coming Attractions

by Pa Rock
Entertainment Writer

Though I can't reveal my sources, it is my understanding the some amazing films are scheduled to be released by Hollywood prior to next spring's various film awards. What follows is a sampler of what to expect at your local multiplex:

Gee Wee’s Big Adventure:

Yes, the news has already leaked – former president George Bush has been signed to make a movie for MTV. The worst President in the history of the United States couldn’t score a book deal, and there were few offers for lucrative speaking engagements, but not to worry – he’s going Hollywood!

The ex-Pres will be taking on the goof-ball character created by world-class fisherman and master baiter, Pee Wee Herman, in a spoof of life in the White House. The plot focuses on Gee Wee having a few too many Harvey Wallbangers at the bar at the Watergate one evening, and deciding to revisit the White House. He gains entry through the same steam tunnels that Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver used to exit the place in Dave. Gee Wee stumbles around the halls of the White House and tells the various night porters and cleaners that he is a guest staying in the Lincoln bedroom. The fun starts when he enters the War Room and discovers that the Obama administration has inexplicably forgotten to change the nuclear codes. Well…so much for France!

If you’re looking for some good, old-fashioned entertainment, Jug Ears the Nitwit will capture your heart!

Daughters of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane:

Glenn Close and Meryl Streep give it their best as the aging daughters of the macabre Hudson sisters in this bush league sequel of the cult classic from the 1960’s. Unfortunately, they start off as too old and crotchety, and only get worse as the movie drags on. Rumor has it that Betty White was too busy to rescue this film, and Bea Arthur was too dead. Director Sean Penn might have saved his bacon and his celluloid if he had given those juicy roles to Goldie Hawn and his ex-wife, Madonna.

Die Hard with a Pacemaker:

Bruce Willis is back as the tough-as-nails John McClane, a former police officer who has a penchant for getting involved in daring rescues. This time McClane is out to save his two good buddies, Clint Eastwood and Tommy Chong, from the evil machinations of the staff at the Hasta La Vista Nursing Home. The job won’t be easy, however, because the hospital’s chief administrator, Arnold Schwartzeneggar, isn’t about to let them go without a fight – a good fight! If you are a fan of flying bedpans, runaway wheelchairs, and geriatric food fights, this movie won’t disappoint!

Rumor has it that television personality Ann Coulter is being considered as the lead in a female version of this same film concept. Ms. Coulter, ever the corporate lackey, will reportedly launch a venomous attack on a group of liberal biddies who are protesting the forced consumption of Metamucil at Shady Pines. Tentative title: Die Hard with a Vibrator.

Silence of the Clams:

Disney’s new underwater extravaganza shows the kid in all of us how Mother Nature really works. The clever mixture of schools of shimmering fish doing choreographed swimming in their own excrement, dancing squid and octopi, swirling streams of poisonous pollution, and a little lighthearted cannibalism – all artfully synchronized to the music of Queen – is a sure-fire winner! Look for a special guest appearance by Sponge Bob Square Pants.

Rocky 15:

Everything sags in this sad ending to the Rocky series. Sly Stallone crawls out of the ring for the last time, packs his bags, and hitchhikes to Arizona where he rents a trailer on the hot edge of nowhere and spends his golden years breeding scorpions and punching his pointless views into a daily blog. He may be permanently punchy, but he keeps right on typing!

See you at the movies!

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Roots of Domestic Terrorism

by Pa Rock
Social Crusader

While our country seems to be all about finding and fighting foreign terrorism, particularly if it can be tied to Muslims or Mexicans, as often as not we completely ignore, or try to ignore, a far more brutal and insidious variant of extremism: domestic terrorism.

America is awash in hate groups. They burn clinics, kill doctors, protest at funerals, terrorize immigrants, disparage non-Christian religions, and vilify racial and ethnic minorities, gays, and independent women. These people often believe that their government is corrupt, voting is inconsequential, and the possession of guns is the only sure way of maintaining their freedom.

The past two weeks have witnessed two classic examples of hate crimes, both carried out by “lone wolf” extremists – people who participate in the fiery hate rhetoric but commit acts of violence on their own.

Scott Roeder, an anti-abortion activist, killed Dr. George Tiller in church on Sunday morning two weeks ago. This past week James Von Brunn, described by an ex-wife as being a “racist alcoholic,” killed Stephen Tyrone Johns, a black security guard at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC. Both were senseless acts committed by people whose minds had long ago succumbed to the deleterious effects of prolonged and bitter hatred.

People don’t arrive in this world imbued with hatred, they acquire it through a learning process – the same way that others learn how to become accepting and to love. The haters are patiently and painstakingly trained by social critics and master haters who fan the flames of ignorance and then run for cover whenever one of their creatures explode.

Bill O’Reilly, a socially irresponsible entertainer on Fox News, referred to Dr. Tiller dozens of times on the air as “Tiller the Baby Killer,” yet when Scott Roeder went over the edge and murdered the physician, O’Reilly proclaimed sanctimoniously that he hadn’t pulled the trigger. He didn’t murder Dr. Tiller.

Perhaps not, but he was most certainly an accessory. O’Reilly's hateful sputum was sprayed on the masses for a reason, and Scott Roeder was the stupid and willing pawn who finally acted on it.

The very day that 88-year-old James Von Brunn stormed into the Holocaust Museum and killed a black security guard, Rush Limbaugh had been on the radio saying that all Barack Obama and God had in common was that neither had a birth certificate. In addition to being a loud and proud racist, Mr. Von Brunn was also a “birther,” one of the many who subscribe to the fiction that Barack Obama was born outside of the United States and therefore ineligible to be President. (Factoid: One of the 2008 Presidential candidates actually was born outside of the United States – John McCain was born in Panama.)

Rush Limbaugh didn’t kill Stephen Tyrone Johns, but his malarkey certainly helped to keep a mental deficient like James Von Brunn stirred up.

Last July (2008) a fellow named Jim David Adkisson entered the Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee, and opened fire with a shotgun killing two people and wounding others. He chose his target for the indiscriminate attack because of its association with liberalism, noting that he hated liberals, gays, and democrats. When police searched his home they found the following three books: Liberalism is a Mental Disorder by radio talk show host Michael Savage, Let Freedom Ring: Winning the War of Liberty Over Liberalism by Sean Hannity, and The O’Reilly Factor: The Good, the Bad, and the Completely Ridiculous in American Life by Bill O’Reilly.

Savage (whose real name is “Weiner”), Hannity, and O’Reilly didn’t carry a weapon into a church in Knoxville and open fire, but the bile flowing from their pens helped to motivate Adkisson to commit his horrid crime.

America is armed and dangerous. It is a house on fire with a basement full of powder kegs. Hate speech fans the flames, and when one of the kegs explodes – as it is bound to do – the bigoted bastard who lit the fuse rushes out to face the cameras and deny any responsibility.

Domestic terrorists are our worst enemies, a far greater threat to the survival of this nation than any danger from abroad. It is well past time that the "good" and "Christian" Americans who commit these atrocities are recognized for what they truly are: terrorist scum. It is also well past time that their cheerleaders and enablers accept a fair share of responsibility for the part that they play in these crimes against America.

And it is certainly well past time that all of these criminal bastards get the treatment they so richly deserve.

Waterboarding, anyone?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Who let the dogs out?

by Pa Rock
Trivia Master

I neglected to memorialize some Bahamas' trivia in earlier posts. We encountered many stray dogs in Nassau, and our taxi driver/guide explained that there are some 15,000 in the Nassau community alone. He said that was the impetus behind the song, Who Let the Dogs Out? by the Baha Men - who were, of course, Bahamian.

Our taxi driver inundated us with quite a bit of islands' trivia during the tour. There were two families in the mini-van. Each time somebody guessed a correct answer, they received a coin from the Bahamas. Boone and I each earned a square 15-cent piece, supposedly the only the only 15-cent coin denomination in the world. The fifteen-center was discontinued a couple of years ago. Boone also got a local dime which is round but has a wavy edge. Money from the Bahamas exchanges exactly with United States currency - dollar for dollar. In fact, most of the businesses around the port operate with American dollars. I purchased $10 of Bahama coins from one of the pursers on the ship - pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters - no fifteen-cent pieces - good thing we had won those. The coins will function as souvenirs for all of the people that I neglected to buy for!

(The trivia question that I got right on the tour: The driver pointed to a beautiful large tree and asked who could name it. No one knew. He gave a clue that it began with a B. I took a SWAG - sophisticated, wild-ass guess - and said "Banyan." That's what comes from being a reader!)

Sunday Morning Coming Down

by Pa Rock
Deflating Traveler

Sunday morning finds me at the airport in Orlando waiting on my flight - a mere five hours from now! I have said my good-byes to Nick and Boone, and they are someplace else in the airport waiting on their flight - which is earlier than mine. It will be almost 10 p.m. in Arizona before I set foot in my hovel tonight, and I will be at my office before 7:30 a.m. tomorrow. The real world is rushing in!

I have parked myself in a large food court at the airport. I know that it is Sunday because the Chick-fil-A is closed. No holy roller chicken sandwiches today!

Correction from yesterday: I said that no one actually lives on Castaway Cay. Wrong! Apparently fifty or so Disney employees call that little island home. They maintain the Cay and ensure that it is always clean, in good repair, and tourist-ready.

Nick and Boone had a close encounter of the fish kind yesterday at Castaway Cay. They were riding in a paddle boat when Nick's hat flew off and landed in the water next to their boat. A large fish, 6 feet in length, swam up under the hat and began nudging it with its nose - probably checking for edibility. Nick snatched the hat up and they resumed their boat ride. Back on shore he described the fish to one of the Disney workers who told him that it was probably a barracuda!

Last night we attended Disney Dreams, a very impressive musical that was staged in the ship's theatre. The show was reputed to have won the "Emerald Award" for best cruise ship musical. It featured characters from many of the Disney movies, Peter Pan flying on wires, and even snow falling over the audience!

After the show, Boone and I went to the top deck where we walked a couple of laps and had a good visit. Boone is writing about the trip. I told him that if he would email his account to me I would post it on The Ramble. Don't let me down, Boone!

When we got back to our room, Nick called us out to the veranda to see what he had discovered. We were passing through a large population of some large creatures that were jumping out of the water. It was dark, so we couldn't tell for certain what we were looking at. This morning I asked my good bud, Captain Henry, and he said that it was probably a school of dolphins. He said that we had encountered a school of them in approximately that location as we were heading to Nassau.

Boone said that the best part of our week-long adventure was the cruise. The best part for me was getting to spend time with my son and grandson. I know that I am repeating myself, but Nick is such a wonderful parent to Boone! And Boone is growing up so fast! I feel very fortunate that I was able to spend this time with him and his Dad!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Flying Dutchman and Castaway Cay

by Pa Rock
Buccaneer Wannabe

We attended the Pirates of the Caribbean Party on the upper two decks of the ship last night. Our seats were along the railing of deck ten looking down on a pit of people who were gathered in front of a stage dancing. Although the event was designed to cater to the kids, most of the ship’s passengers were on hand and watching or participating. The dancing was led by several young Disney crew members who were ably assisted by Minnie Mouse, Chip and Dale, Goofy, Stitch, Captain Hook, and others. Mickey Mouse slid in on a wire high above the crowd at the end of the event to get everyone focused on the fireworks display. It was really quite a production!

After the party Nick and Boone went down to the main theatre where they viewed the 3-D version of the new Disney flick, Up. I stayed on the top deck and watched Pirates of the Caribbean on the enormous television monitor that had been used for the basketball game the night before.

We learned yesterday that there are around 700 islands in the Bahamas, but most are sparsely inhabited and have few services. Only 21 are capable of supporting people in the style that Americans demand. Land is very cheap if one goes to the more remote islands, but it costs more to bring in materials and build there. Some of the islands have as few as one family living on them - which sounds like heaven to this old recluse!

Castaway Cay is one of the 700 Bahamian Islands. Although no one lives on Castaway Cay, it is owned by Disney as serves as a port of call for their cruise ships. Castaway is quite a busy place. It is also home to the Flying Dutchman, the ghost ship from Pirates of the Caribbean, which is anchored just off shore. We were on Castaway all day. Nick and Boone swam and rode a paddle boat, while I sat under a palm tree and did some relaxing reading. The ship’s crew served a huge buffet on the island for lunch, and this afternoon Nick went para-sailing – that from a guy who used to be afraid of heights! Boone and I watched him fly by from the top of our ship.

We will be heading down to the dining room shortly. Tonight we are talking about taking in a live musical on the ship. Tomorrow we head home.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Days One and Two at Sea

by Pa Rock
Sailor Man

Day One: Thursday, June 11th, 2009

We boarded the Disney Wonder around 3 p.m., Florida time, whereupon we had a fine lunch and spent a couple of hours exploring our floating community. Not long after boarding we had to take part in a lifeboat drill where every passenger donned a life vest and went to the lifeboats on the 4th floor to be counted. Boone and his Dad shot hoops with some of our fellow travelers. We were supposed to set sail at 5 p.m., but storms in Dallas kept a plane loaded with Disney passengers on the ground in Texas longer than expected, and our ship waited for those anxious Texas tourists to be rushed aboard.

We were enjoying our evening meal when the Wonder finally left port. Our table included another family of three – from San Antonio. Nick used to live in San Antonio and I have been there for numerous military – social work trainings, so that gave us plenty to visit about with our table partners. After dinner we were all to full to move, but we managed to make it up to the top of the ship where Nick ran on the treadmill and Boone and I did a mile-and-a-half walking around the ship. That was a big digestive aid!

The Wonder is ten stories high, and our stateroom is on seven. It is very nice, complete with a veranda that seats two comfortably with a third standing. The ocean is so serene. I sat out on the veranda after our walk and became so at peace with the world that it was nearly impossible to get up and come back inside.

Tonight Nick and Boone are up on nine watching the Lakers – Magic game on an outdoor, really big television. I sat with them for awhile and read my book. Boone is learning to play basketball, and his Dad was very carefully explaining the finer points of the game, and some of the plays of that game in particular. It was a great father – son bonding activity. I have said this many times, but it bears repeating: Nick is a wonderful dad!

Second Day Out:

It was on this date, June 12, 2009, that Boone Macy set foot in his first foreign country, The Bahamas, and also visited his first Hard Rock CafĂ©. He wasn’t overly eager to stop in the Nassau Hard rock, but once inside it took a concentrated effort to get him to leave. He liked all of the memorabilia on the walls and was familiar with many of the artists.

This morning we took a taxi tour of the island with several stops along the way. The Disney Shore Excursion equivalent was $300 per person, but our locally procured tour guide and his air-conditioned mini-van did over two hours for just $20 each. Our trip included a trip to a local conch restaurant where we were treated to an exhibition of a conch being slaughtered in preparation for soup or a sandwich, a trip past the island’s old fort, and an hour or so at the famous Atlantis resort. The aquarium at the Atlantis is amazing, and it is home to the world’s only manta rays living in captivity. The lobby alone at the Atlantis cost $65 million to construct, and the bridge suite (a unit that spans the hotel’s two towers, rents for an amazing $25,000 per night – but that comes with breakfast! Well-heeled riffraff can rent a room there starting at $300 per night in the summer and $500 per night in the winter.

Our taxi driver also made conversation by quoting home prices in the various parts of the island that we drove through. A three-bedroom, two-bath in a nice part of town would be in the $200,000-$250,000 range. There are no income taxes on the island. A doctor’s visit is $10 and a night at the hospital (the one where Anna Nicole Smith’s baby was born and where her son died) is $35 per night. Apparently a one-day stay at the hospital includes three meals. Our driver said that if we found ourselves in the Bahamas on a budget, to claim sickness and stay at the hospital for $35 a night!

One interesting Bahama’s factoid that I acquired today was that the island achieved independence from Great Britain on 10 July 1973 – two weeks to the day before Nick was born!

The waiter responsible for maintaining our table at lunch today was a young man from Chile by the name of Christian. I now know a total of three individuals from Chile – all are male and all are named Christian! This one said that he is from a small village seven hours from Santiago, which he referred to as “the end of the world.”

This afternoon we took a taxi to Cabbage Beach where Nick and Boone played in the ocean while I sat in the shade at the beach bar. The beach was so h-o-t! It was on the way back to the ship that we stopped by the Hark Rock for soft drinks. Nice day in an island sort of way!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Bus Blogging

by Pa Rock
Consummate Traveler

We are riding a Disney Bus enroute to Port Canaveral and our big cruise. One of the many instructions was to plan on turning our cell phones off during the voyage to avoid international roaming fees. That means The Ramble will probably be shut down until Sunday as well - not that anyone but Tim and Phillipia will probably notice!

Disney World was fun, and Boone was old enough to enjoy it. His dad also seemed to have a very good time. The people who did not seem to be having fun were the very young - ages seven and below - and their bedraggled parents. Most of that group were fussy, angry, and tired (kids and parents!). It would probably work better for little kids to come in the winter when it isn't so sultry and all of the screaming and stampeding older kids were safely back home and in school or institutions.

I did see lots of grandparents on this trip, and most seemed to be having a grand time showing Disney's world to their progeny. I know that taking my grandson to Disney World has been a special adventure for me. I hope that someday he will bring his children and grandchildren here and tell them about his first visit at Disney World with his dad and Pa Rock.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Scratch the Alligator

by Pa Rock
One Tired Hombre

Apparently Nick's alligator story from yesterday was just that - a story - something that he made up to try and pry Boone out of bed that morning. I'm really disappointed. Last night I had pitched half a cheeseburger into the flower bed in front of our room in an effort to entice the critter back. I guess I will just stick to feeding the birds!

We were at Disney's Hollywood Studios again today and found plenty to observe and do that we didn't get to yesterday. The highlight was the Indiana Jones Stunt Show. It included massive sets that were pulled around by tractors and large trucks, and plenty of dramatic and amazing action. One of Harrison Ford's stunt doubles held the stage with with some of the best stunts from the several Indiana Jones movies, and used his whip with careless abandon. A truck flipped over and burned on stage, a Nazi airplane taxied onto the stage and served as the centerpiece of a wild fight, and explosions and fires punctuated the entire production. This was my favorite show of all that I have seen at Disney World.

We took a ride through some of America's most loved movie scenes. That was informative and very relaxing. And this afternoon we happened upon a street performance by three guys driving an old car with a sign on the door that read "Hollywood Public Works." They told jokes and bantered with the crowd as they took a "break" from their street jobs. Their jokes were so lame that they were funny!

Tonight Nick and Boone are swimming and doing laundry. I am going to head down to the cafeteria and join them for supper.

More later...

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Another Day at the House of Mouse

by Pa Rock
Fun Grampa


Three parks today - two new ones and a rerun.

We began the day with breakfast at our hotel. Boone enjoyed a Mickey Mouse waffle. (If I could find one of those waffle irons, my Christmas shopping for Scott and Molly would be over! I'm still looking!) Nick went down to breakfast ahead of us and said that an alligator had crawled out of the river and was sunning on the sidewalk - but it was gone by the time Boone and I went down later. Maybe we'll get lucky in the morning and get out there before the hotel staff chases him back into the river!

Our first stop of the day was Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park. We watched some very talented street performers dressed like Hollywood starlets of the 1940's. We were also treated to a High School Musical 3 parade and outdoor music review at Hollywood Studios.

I found something else that I felt that Sebastian needed. As I paid for my purchase, the old codger working the cash register told me that I had been at Animal Kingdom yesterday. Amazed, I asked him how he knew that. His reply: "Your money is still wet!"

We spent some time in a Hollywood memorabilia shop. One of the signature items was a striped jacket worn by Dick Van Dyke in the movie Mary Poppins. It was sale priced at just $65,000! Unfortunately, it was a tad too small for me!

The second stop was Epcot Center which is well worth the trip to Florida by itself. We began by riding through the highlights of world history inside of the signature Epcot sphere. It is something that all school kids should experience, as well as their teachers and parents. After that we had lunch in the British section, we listened to a Beatles Tribute Band playing in a gazebo, and then walked around the lake and visited many of the national exhibits. I was drawn to the Moroccan exhibit and it seemed to grab Boone's attention as well. We saw the Islamic designs of the tile work, displays of Moroccan clothing, oriental rugs, and other items of Muslim culture. Boone said Morocco was "awesome!"

At Japan we watched three amazing drummers entertaining the crowd on in front of the five-story pagoda. There was also a "Tori Gate" next to the lake that let me share some of Nick's Okinawan heritage with him. We were in Africa heading to Mexico when the draw bridge connecting the two began to raise. Boone seemed to find that process interesting. Well, we all did! One of our final stops at Epcot was a Viking exhibit from Sweden. (I had visited a Viking archaeological sight on an island called Birka while in Sweden several years ago, and was interested to see what was in this exhibit. I wasn't disappointed!)

After exiting the Epcot Center, we boarded a large boat and cruised across the lake to the Magic Kingdom. While there we rode a Jungle River Ride in Adventure Land, and did the Buzz Lightyear Laser Ride in Tomorrow Land. Both were a lot of fun.

I visited with an older lady who was an official Disney photographer. She said that she and her husband moved to Orlando from Michigan after they retired to work at Disney World. She liked being a photographer because it paid better than some of the other park positions that she had held. She said that her husband, who is eighty, drives a bus for Disney! (I started checking out the drivers before boarding!) The photographer told me that there are some nice benefits that come with working at Disney - like free park passes for friends! That may be my next great adventure as a foot soldier in the American labor force.

Disney Humor:
Speaking of Africa, what is the capital of Africa?
Answer: A

Why is Tigger always jumping?
So he doesn't step on Pooh.

Disney Ripoffs:
The hotels sell refillable mugs for $14.95 that can be filled free in perpetuity at any of the parks. But, you take the mugs to the parks and they tell you that they don't know what you're talking about.

Many of the poorer tourists (like us) buy meal tickets in advance. They cover each person in the group with one snack, one quick service meal, and one sit-down meal per day. It is a very smart way to handle food expenses. The sit-down meal can be lunch or dinner. Yesterday we had lunch at a nice Chinese restaurant - Nick has shrimp and steak, and I had salmon - total bill was eighty some dollars. It was covered by the meal plan. The ripoff: Today we stopped at the Brown Derby at Hollywood Studios. Their meals were in the same price range as what we had yesterday. The staff there said that a meal would cost us each two meals on the meal plan! Scum! Later we stopped the Canadian restaurant at Epcot. They operated only on reservations made 90 days in advance. That ought to keep out the riffraff! Fortunately, the food at the British restaurant was superb, and served without any gimmicks.

Miracle at the House of Mouse: Remember my new digital camera that reacted badly to being washed yesterday? Last night Nick suggested that I take out the battery and photo card, leave the camera open over night, and see if it would dry out. Well, it did - and it works! Nick is so smart! He definitely takes after his dad!

One of our minor adventures today had Boone feeding popcorn to a mama duck and her three ducklings. He was quite popular!

We are still having a great time. We have one more day of touring the parks, and Thursday we will board the cruise ship and head toward the Bahamas. We are due return to the real world on Sunday - unless we get lucky and pirates hijack our ship!

More to follow...

Monday, June 8, 2009

A Long Day at Two Parks

by Pa Rock
Footsore and Fancy Free

The day started out crappy. My only bag couldn't be found last night, so I missed my evening insulin and some other meds. This morning they tracked it down to the hotel that we would have been at - if I hadn't changed the reservation at the last minute so that we could buy the meal card. I was able to take my morning shot and put on clean clothes, but was still meaner than a bear until around noon when all of the drugs started to kick in.

The afternoon was delightful. I didn't even get disturbed when I realized that my new digital camera got murdered on the water ride. (We were on some sort of spinning raft ride with eight people to a raft - and I was the lucky cuss who got the wettest spot! The camera looks to be a hopeless case.) We had a very nice afternoon meal in an air-conditioned, oriental restaurant at the Animal Kingdom, and I was still soaked from the ride. I have been sneezing all evening and expect to contract full-blown pneumonia. Could there be a classier exit than dying at Disney World?

The other park that we hit today was the Magic Kingdom, which is much like the old Disney Land that I visited in California in 1958 - back when Uncle Walt was still alive. I liked the Magic Kingdom a lot. We rode the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Adventure Land, saw a computer-generated Monsters Inc show in Tomorrow Land, rode through the Snow White story, and walked through the Old West and Cinderella's Castle.

All of the rides and things were great fun, but the absolute highlight of the day was a squirrel eating a chocolate chip cookie that someone had tossed into one of the flower beds. People could get right up next to him and take his picture while he munched away. His name was Bob, and I am betting that he is really wired tonight after eating all of those chocolate chips!

We only had one celebrity sighting today. Pluto was posing with tourists out in front of the Magic Kingdom.

I found a "Goofy" tee-shirt for myself and something special for Sebastian.

We are staying at the Port Orleans French Quarter. Lots of iron grill work, and Spanish moss hanging from all of the trees. The Spanish moss is dangling so neatly that one would suspect that it was hung there by Disney's minimum wage slaves - like foil icicles on Christmas trees.

Most of the people working here are either college age or my age, with not many in between, a clue that people supporting families probably can't afford to be employed by Disney. But, with one sourpuss exception, all have been very courteous and fun to banter with. I am seriously thinking that I might want to come here and be Goofy when I retire from the rat race. I've also given some thought to being Pluto, but I really don't get Pluto.

More to follow...

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Magical Express

by Pa Rock
Weary Traveler

Holy Moley it's muggy in Orlando!

It was a very long night and a very early morning. I flew from Phoenix to Atlanta and then on to Orlando. Now I am on-board the Magical Express heading toward Disney World. Nick and Boone checked in a couple of hours ago and are undoubtedly oriented to the park's offerings by now.

The part of Orlando that I am seeing from the bus windows doesn't look too far removed from the swamp that Uncle Walt probably found here in the 1960's. There are lots of tall pines and new, cheap looking housing that is probably in the six figures.

A loop is playing on the bus televisions featuring Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Daisy showing us how to navigate through the Disney maze. Uncle Walt is also featured. It looks like we will be in for a very busy week! Now Goofy is on - he's my favorite!

More later....

Saturday, June 6, 2009

A Disney Adventure!

by Pa Rock
World Traveler

I'm off on another trip tomorrow, a fun adventure to Disney World in Florida followed by a cruise to the Bahamas on one of Disney's big boats (probably the S.S. Goofy!). My oldest son, Nick, and his only son, Boone, will be waiting for me at the Port Orleans Resort at Disney World.

This will be my third summer of going somewhere with Boone. Two years ago he and Nick and I rode Amtrak from Topeka to Flagstaff and then drove south in a rented car to Phoenix where we met his new cousin, Sebastian. We also took in Sedona and the Grand Canyon on that trip. Last summer he and his Dad flew to Phoenix and we drove to San Diego where Boone was able to see the ocean for the first time. You only get to see the ocean for the first time once, and Pa Rock was thrilled to be there when his oldest grandson had that experience!

Boone is ten-years-old now and should really enjoy his time in the theme park and at sea. (I once told a friend that a Disney Cruise was my definition of hell, but he assured me that the kids are kept very busy and the old fogies are free to enjoy more leisurely pursuits.) I'm sure that we will all have a blast!

And,yes, I'm going to be on the lookout for pirates. It would be like just like that devious (yet charmingly flamboyant) Captain Jack Sparrow to try something on the high seas!

More to follow...

Friday, June 5, 2009

Glory Be to the Second Amendment!

by Pa Rock
Amused Spectator

The news was saturated with gun stories yesterday, really great gun stories!

Pastor Ken Pagano of the New Bethel Church (part of the Assemblies of God Congregation) in Louisville, KY, announced that his church will hold an "Open Carry Church Service" on Saturday afternoon, June 27th, in which church members will be invited to come to church with their holstered weapons. Pastor Pagano said that this event will tie in with Fourth of July celebrations and is intended to help the church grow its flock.

One of the on-line posters promoting this church event uses a red font resembling bloodstains with the words "Open Carry Church Service." Highlights of the event will include a drawing for a free handgun and sermons by gun store owners and operators of firing ranges. Win Underwood, owner of a local indoor firing range, said that New Bethel members regularly have outings at his range.

Pastor Pagano said that he was trying to think outside of the box for ways to increase membership at his church. He added proudly, "Not every branch of Christianity is pacifistic."

No word yet on whether the Prince of Peace will put in an appearance or personally endorse the event!

Mark Sanford, the cracker governor of South Carolina who has spent the last couple of months trying to turn down federal stimulus money that would benefit his state's schools, yesterday signed into law a bill that makes it legal to have guns in vehicles on school property. The new law does not provide for any additional oversight or enforcement. Proponents of the bill said that it would save parents time if they were called to school because they would not have to rush home to ditch their guns. It should also help end contentious arguments at PTA meetings, settle disagreements over grades, and assist football officials to see the errors in their calls!

The third gun story strikes a little closer to home - for me. A young man wanted to take his semi-automatic pistol with him on a U.S. Airways flight from Philadelphia to Phoenix. His roommate worked security for U.S. Airways. The two men conspired to switch bags as the air traveler stepped through security, allowing him to pick up the one that actually held the gun. He got on the plane with it and stored it in the overhead. Fortunately, an alert passenger observed the switch and alerted authorities; The FBI now has both of these geniuses in custody.

Here's what I think: Guns in church are a great idea! When the Holy Spirit enters the House of God and rocks the congregants, they need some way to show their joy. Not everyone can sing in the choir! And guns in school? You betcha! Every teacher needs to have the self-confidence that can only come with packing heat - and playground supervision would be a breeze! Principals might not have to spend so much time swinging the paddle if those juvenile delinquents - and teachers - knew that the principal's authority was backed up by Smith and Wesson! Cooks and bus drivers could stop disrespect in its tracks with a ready snarl and big-assed pistol! The benefits seem endless!

And here's what pisses me off: If we can take our guns to church and to school, what the hell's wrong with taking them on planes? Doesn't the Second Amendment apply in the sky. Do we lose our Constitutional rights when the landing gear goes up? Why do they call it the "wild blue yonder" if we're all strapped into cramped seats seven miles up and totally defenseless?

Free the Philadelphia Two!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Go in Peace, Grasshopper!

by Pa Rock
Obituariest

David Carradine died yesterday in Bangkok, Thailand. He was found hanging by the neck in his hotel room closet. His death was probably a suicide. Carradine was a highly successful actor, with over two hundred acting credits listed on his page at the Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com). And while Mr. Carradine played a wide variety of characters on television and in films, he will forever be Grasshopper to my generation.

I'm not a lover of westerns, at least not to the extent that my father is, but there was one television western that was so much better than the rest that I couldn't keep from being a fan. Kung Fu ran from 1972 to 1975, roughly the same years as the United States was succumbing to the peace movement and extricating itself from Vietnam, and the years that democracy was repairing itself by removing Richard Nixon from the White House.

It was a time that America was sorely in need of some peace and tranquility, and that need was met by the television character of Kwai Chang Caine (aka Grasshopper), the son of a Chinese mother and an American father. Caine was forced to flee his homeland of China as a young man after he killed the Emperor's nephew - an evil cur who had murdered Caine's teacher. Caine traveled to the American old west where he walked from town to town righting wrongs with marshal arts and his peaceful philosophy. He was also looking for his mysterious American half-brother during his travels.

David Carradine, an actor, athlete, and dancer, brought Caine to life as a peaceful warrior. The great Bruce Lee wanted to play Caine, but he was passed over for the non-Asian, yet more serene, Carradine - a move that was instrumental in making both of their careers. Carradine's Caine became an unforgettable inhabitant of television history, and Lee went to Hong Kong where made some great marshal arts films. Today both men are legend.

David Carradine was 72-years-old at the time of his death. He had his demons, but his calm and reassuring presence in the starring role of Kung Fu did much to quell the demons that many of the rest of us had thirty years ago. I hope and trust that his demons are gone now and he has rejoined the peaceful and karmic flow of the universe.

Peaceful trails, Grasshopper!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Don't believe in God? You are not alone.

by Pa Rock
Pernicious Provocateur

The National Rifle Association has barely had time to mop up after its week of licentious behavior and public urination and vomiting in downtown Phoenix when the Valley of Hell has to begin preparing for another big-time conclave. This time it's the humanists who are headed into town - well actually humanists, atheists, and agnostics. The American Humanist Association will be having its 68th Annual Conference in Tempe on June 5-8.

The Phoenix area is a hotbed of racism and snarling Christianity - and proud of it! The arrival of all of these godless perverts and intellectuals is guaranteed to drive our hate-mongering, gun-toting, white Christians even more nuts than they already are. (It's probably fortunate that the humanist convention did not overlap with the NRA's hooker fest!)

And just to spit in the eyes of our local pious populace, the humanists will be unveiling a large billboard at a yet-to-be-disclosed busy location. The message: "Don't believe in God? You are not alone."

Stay tuned for updates. This is going to be more fun than a ringside seat at the cage fights!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

August Rush

by Pa Rock
Film Critic

I discovered August Rush quite by accident as I was channel surfing a couple of nights ago. It took me just a few moments to be swept up into the tale of the eleven-year-old orphan who could hear music and knew that it was his parents calling out to him.

The parents were Keri Russell - a concert cellist, and Jonathan Rhys Meyers - a bass guitarist and singer in a rock band. Their music magically combines one warm summer night in New York City and draws them to each other. They meet for the first time that night at a party, after their respective concerts, and wind up spending a night of passion on an outdoor bench. The next day they are separated by the girl's evil father (William Sadler), who wants his daughter to reach musical greatness without the unnecessary distraction of a rocker boyfriend.

The girl becomes pregnant (of course) as a result of her one night stand. She gives birth to a son, but is told by her father that the boy died. Grampa then spirits the baby off to a group home where he grows up hearing music and waiting on his parents to find him.

And the world moves on. The two lovers pine for each other but each assumes that the other has moved on. Neither realize that they have a son waiting to be found.

Evan (Freddie Highmore) flees the group home and goes in search of a social worker (Terrence Howard) who has befriended him. (Gotta love those social workers!) Instead of finding the social worker, he winds up in the clutches of Robin Williams, a Fagan character who places street urchins around the city playing music for tips. The money, of course, goes to Williams. When Evan picks up a guitar and immediately begins making wonderful music, Williams knows that he has a gold mine. It is Williams who changes Evan's name to August Rush, after a brand name that he saw painted on the side of a truck.

That's enough about the story. Suffice it to say that this is a happy movie for the child in all of us, but it has enough sinister elements to keep up a decent level of suspense. The villainy aside, you know in your heart that things will work out for this young musical prodigy and his star-crossed parents. The music is superb, making August Rush a treat for the ears as well as for the heart.

The music was so good that I bought the sound track. The movie was so good that I will make a point of seeing it again. I recommend August Rush enthusiastically!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Worse Than al-Qaeda

by Pa Rock
Outraged Citizen

It's easy to be mad at al-Qaeda. Those crazy bastards go around killing people in the name of Muhammad or Allah. Crazy people with a crazy prophet and a crazy God. Killing in the name of their God - what an outrage!

Fortunately, here in America we are better than that. Religion is ... well, religious. It's about love and peace - not hate.

And if you believe that horseshit, let me sell you a prime piece of the Sonoran Desert.

Yesterday a "good" Christian shot and killed a physician in a church in Kansas in the name and spirit of his God. You know the story by now. Dr. George Tiller, a women's reproductive health provider, was gunned down while he was handing out programs at his Lutheran Church in Wichita. The shooter, Scott Roeder, belonged to the "Freemen," a group of whackos who believe that our government is out to get us. He was once arrested for having bomb-making materials in his car. I don't believe that he has had to opportunity to speak to the press, but be assured that he shot the doctor secure in the knowledge that he was doing the Lord's work.

God Bless Dr. Tiller for even attempting to practice medicine in Kansas. The Sunflower State is, after all, the home of homophobic lunatic Fred Phelps and his equally insane daughter, Shirley Phelps-Roper. Kansas has been in a long struggle as the state board of education attempted to pass "creationism" off as science education. And then there is Bob Dole. Kansas is a very strange place!

A few years ago Dr. Tiller was wounded in each arm by a deranged "Christian" woman. His clinic has been burned, and recently suffered serious and expensive vandalism. At least one statewide elected official is thought to have been feeding confidential information about the doctor to members of the state's hate groups.

Conservative clown Bill O'Reilly has been hammering Dr. Tiller as "Tiller the Baby Killer" on his Fox News (sic) Show for several years, and provocateur Ann Coulter has also singled him out for at least one of her abusive tirades. Christian charity at its finest!

Here is another side of Dr. George Tiller. It was posted at The Daily Kos today by someone who actually knew him (www.dailykos.com):

The George Tiller I Knew

by loree920

Sun May 31, 2009 at 06:45:47 PM PDT

Like many in this community, my heart is heavy today. There have been many great diaries that talk about Dr. Tiller's years of service to women, and the threats he has endured throughout the last years of his life. My story is a bit more personal and I want to share it with all of you to give you more insight into the man.

In 1975 my Mom noticed an indention in her left breast. She called and made an appointment with her OB/GYN, Dr. George Tiller. After his initial examination, he ordered a biopsy. While performing the biopsy he immediately knew that the lump was cancerous. Instead of just closing and scheduling surgery, he “grabbed a handful”, his words not mine. Her cancer Dr. credited this quick thinking by Dr. Tiller with saving her life, and due to this she didn’t even have to undergo chemotherapy.

Several years later my Mother and I were driving by his clinic in Wichita. Mom started complaining of chest pains, so I drove into his parking lot and ran in to get help. Dr. Tiller was by Mom’s side immediately, and stabilized her, before the heart attack could cause severe damage.

In 1980 I was pregnant with my first child. I had no insurance and couldn't afford a doctors appointment until I was approved for a medical card.. Mom told Dr. Tiller and he brought me into his office where he examined me, free of charge. I can credit him with the very first picture taken of my son.

The last story I have to share is about my friends who could not have children. Dr. Tiller’s office worked with several attorneys in the Wichita area to provide adoption services for his patients who wanted this option. My friends have a 10 yr. old boy now, who is loved and adored.

I’m not a great writer, so I apologize that this isn’t nearly as eloquent as some of the diaries on Daily Kos. I just wanted to get this story out to you, so you could hear how this man wasn’t just a tremendous fighter for women's rights. He was a brilliant physician, and a kind and compassionate human being. RIP Dr. Tiller and thank you for all you did for my friends and my family.

So the evil "Tiller the Baby Killer" was really a human being - and now he's a dead human being, executed by a "good" Christian who was just doing the Lord's work.

Is anyone surprised that good God-fearing Christian Americans would kill? Certainly not me. Several members of the conservative noise machine are relentless in their castigation of anything that seems directed at alleviating suffering or poverty. Their Jesus was just babbling when he talked caring for the poorest among us - and the meek inheriting the earth - yeah, right! Their God is a very old white man who doesn't like Mexicans or gays, and isn't overly fond of independent women - and those silly stories in the Bible should not be taken literally - except when they meet the greedy interests of well-heeled "Christians."

Yes, but our terrorists don't blow up buildings and kill indiscriminately. Of course they do - remember Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols taking down the Federal Building in Oklahoma City? Or Eric Robert Rudolph, the sick fuck who set off the bomb at the Atlanta Olympics? Mr. Rudolph also earned fame as a bomber of women's clinics before he became a twisted version of a folk hero as he roamed the mountains of North Carolina hiding from the FBI.

If our government was truly invested in rooting out terrorism, it wouldn't have dropped the ball in Afghanistan and rushed off to Iraq to massage George Bush's daddy issues. And if our government was truly, truly invested in stamping out terrorism, our troops would be heading off to places like Idaho and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and blasting those in-bred, gun-toting militia idiots out of their trees. Let the Middle East take responsibility for their own terrorists - we have plenty of our own to deal with here at home.

And our terrorists are just as awful as theirs - maybe even worse.

"There are few things in this world as evil as a 'good' Christian." -- Pa Rock