Sunday, February 28, 2010

Arizona Slug Fests

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Arizona has two great races shaping up in the state's Republican primary. Both will be slug fests, not only because they will feature plenty of down-and-dirty political brawling and name-calling, but also because the main contenders in each race are slugs!

The lesser of the two battles is to determine who will be the Republican candidate for state attorney general. State superintendent of schools, Tom Horne, a Harvard-educated Canadian who migrated to the Valley of Hell many years ago, will be challenging Maricopa County Attorney, Andrew Thomas. Andy also got his law degree at Harvard, which certainly does not speak well for America's oldest university. He is proud of being President of the Harvard Young Republicans at the same time that Barack Obama was at Cambridge editing the venerable Harvard Law Review.

Tom Horne does not understand or practice progressive education, and has a visceral fear of cultural diversity. He cannot seem to fathom why everyone does not share his overly middle-aged, white, male values. Horne is an unflinching knee-jerk conservative. Public education in Arizona can only improve with Horne's departure from its helm.

Andy Thomas has spent his years as the attorney for Maricopa County being Charlie McCarthy to Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Edgar Bergen. Every time the sheriff is displeased with someone, Thomas files suit. The duo have so many frivolous lawsuits currently in the hopper that much of the real crime in Maricopa County is routinely ignored. A judge from outside of the county has been brought in to try and sort out the ever-expanding legal mess.

Joe eats beans, Andy farts.

Horne versus Thomas will be a real slug fest in every sense of the word!

The other Republican primary bloodbath will be the U.S. Senate campaign between incumbent John McCain and former Congressman and right-wing radio personality, J.D. Hayworth. Hayworth is so far to the right that he makes McCain seem like a pleasant moderate. McCain has tacked hard right in recent weeks trying to re-ingratiate himself with the gun-toting bigots of Arizona, but it may be too little, too late. And then there was that pesky endorsement of the gay marriage movement in California by McCain's wife and daughter. That rich wife was a real asset when Big John was getting his start in politics, but she may have out-stayed her usefulness!

The Republican senate primary in Arizona could be so bloody as to ruin both McCain and Hayworth, offering at best a pyrrhic victory. Rodney Glassman, a member of the Tuscon City Council and Air Force JAG Reserve Officer, is certainly hoping that will be the case. He is already raising money to challenge whichever slug wins the GOP primary.

Hey Rodney, my check is in the mail!

I gave some thought to changing my voter registration to Republican so that I could help the rednecks sort out their slugs - but I actually don't care who wins either primary race. I'll cast my vote for change - in November!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Donnie and Marie: Cancelled Due to Family Death

by Pa Rock

Sad news in Vegas: Marie Osmond's 18-year-old son, Michael Blosil, committed suicide Friday night by jumping to his death from his apartment building in Los Angeles. The young man apparently suffered from depression. She has my deepest condolences. As a parent, I can imagine no crueler fate than outliving one of my children.

I drove Reed out to the airport late last night to pick up his Mom and Tiffany. Their plane landed safely, and on time, but it had to sit at the far end of the runway for an hour or so waiting to be towed to the gate. The plane had lost all of its hydraulic fluid! Gail said that the flight attendants said something cheery to each passenger as they finally deplaned, but most were so pissed they wouldn't respond!

I had a couple of exciting things happen while we were waiting for the passengers to finally get inside of the terminal. First, we sat down at slot machines which are everywhere at McCarran Airport. I had several twenties and a one dollar bill. I decided to invest the one dollar bill just for grins - into the quarter slot. About two minutes later I had turned it into thirty dollars and fifty cents! Needless to say, I cashed it in and smiled all the way back to the motel! Reed has a theory that the slots at the airport pay better than the others in Vegas so that tourists win on their way out of town and are thus encouraged to return. It does seem to be the best place in town to challenge the one-armed bandits.

The second incident of note at the airport occurred when Reed and I stepped into a bar to get a couple of diet cokes. (Two small glasses of diet coke on ice cost a pricey $7.11!) When I placed the order, the bar tender told me that he would need to see I.D.'s on both of us! Seriously! I gave him my military ID which doesn't have a date of birth, and he handed it back and asked for my driver's license. I guess all of that time at the gym must really be paying off! Either that, or they have an upper age limit on who can drink diet coke!

Tiffany and I spent the day on the Strip walking and gawking. Vegas is a very interesting place, and it seems to be coming out of the recession. (Thank you, President Obama!) The crowds on the street this year were approximately twice the size that they were when I was here last February. I observed lots of people (mostly young) walking along the Strip with tall drinks in plastic containers - some three feet in length! Two guys walked by me on the street carrying a total of five twelve-packs of beer between them - there was a party waiting to happen someplace! And then there were the two overweight fellows who were wearing matching blue tee shirts - the shirts each featured a dachshund along with the saying, "Have You Seen My Weiner?"

There were also platoons of "clickers" along the sidewalks - those men and women who hand out business cards for prostitutes. The cards feature photos of naked women along with a phone number. They click them as the tourists walk by, and try to hand them out. Most were wearing tee shirts that promised that a woman could be provided within twenty minutes. On one level the enterprise is somewhat comical, until you stop to realize that the young people who actually perform the service are the daughters (and sons) who were welcomed into the world just a few years ago with love and much happiness - and thoughts of so much promise. How quickly life can turn ugly and tragic!

Branson brings in millions of tourists each year without gambling or whoring. Could Vegas survive if it dropped the "sin" elements of its economy and just focused on the world class entertainment and nice winters? Probably not - the city profits from giving the public what it wants!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Las Vegas Update on Reed Smith

by Pa Rock
Traveling Uncle

I left work at noon today - glad to get away - and headed north to Las Vegas. The drive was serene and uneventful. The trip could be made in five hours easy if not for the traffic congestion that is always present south of Hoover Dam. It took a little over one hour to drive the five miles immediately south of the dam. There is no point in getting in a hurry - that is just the way it is!

One of my stops on the way up was at a McDonald's on Andy Devine Drive in Kingman, Arizona. Remember the old Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok television show where Andy played the faithful sidekick, Jingles P. Jones, to Guy Madison's Wild Bill? Jingles was always trying to catch up with the show's star: "Wild Bill! Wild Bill! Wait for me!"

I am staying at a Holiday Inn Express directly across the street from where my nephew, Reed Smith, lives. Tonight he and Jamie and Jamie's sister, Stacy, joined me for dinner at The Outback Steakhouse which is adjacent to where I am staying. A couple of hours from now he and I will go to the airport and pick up his mother and sister, Tiffany, who will also be staying at the Holiday Inn Express.

The last time that I had seen Reed was in Amarillo a day or so after he regained consciousness. He is, of course, much better now, though he still looks fragile compared to the hulk that was in Noel for his grandfather's funeral in late December. Reed told me that he weighs about 130 pounds, down from 180 pounds before the accident. He tires easily and seems to have a hard time getting comfortable, but, nevertheless, he is drastically improved over how he was doing when I last saw him in Texas. (He also has trouble getting his arm up in the position to shave, and consequently has that scruffy Arkansas look!)

I am going with Gail (my sis, Reed's mom) to see Donnie and Marie Osmond tomorrow night. She really wants to take in their show, and her kids said they drew names to see who would go with their mom and I! Yeah, that's it! They all seemed really happy for me that I was getting to go - and not them! It should be fun.

The last time Gail and I were in Vegas together was a year ago this month. We went to see a production of Jersey Boys during that trip - which was really great. The next time I get to Vegas I want to see Blue Man Group! There is always lots of great stuff to do in Las Vegas!

(My motel room has a refrigerator, microwave, and a dishwasher! Who the hell washes dishes at a motel? I seldom wash dishes even when I'm home!)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Court to Decide Who Gets Head

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Alcor Life Extensions, a Scottsdale, Arizona, firm that specializes in cryonics (the fine art of freezing recently deceased human bodies in the belief that they can possibly be thawed out later and reanimated) was in the news back in 2002 when famed baseballer Ted Williams died. Two of Williams children decided to preserve Williams' severed head with Alcor in the hope that they could be reunited with their dead father sometime in the distant future. A third child went to court to stop the sideshow. By the time it all played out in the tabloids, the legacy of a great American athlete had been subsumed by weirdness.

After Mr. Williams' head was severed and frozen, a disgruntled former employee of Alcor named Larry Johnson said in his book Frozen: My Journey Into the World of Cryonics, Deception and Death that he watched an Alcor official swing a monkey wrench at Williams head. He was trying to remove a tuna can that was stuck to the base of the neck. Johnson reported that the first swing accidentally struck the head, and the second knocked the tuna can loose. (Just for clarification, the head had apparently been intentionally set atop the tuna can so that it would sit upright in the freezer. Is that too much information?)

That was in 2002. Since that time one of Ted Williams' children, one of the strange ones, has also died and had his head frozen at Alcor - so an Addams Family Reunion is definitely in the works!

All of that cryonics history is provided as background, because Alcor Life Extensions of Scottsdale is in the news again.

Mary Robbins, a seventy-one-year-old woman from Colorado Springs, Colorado, kicked the bucket recently. Ms. Robbins, who was supposedly of sound mind, had signed her head away to Alcor in 2006, along with a stipend of $50,000 - apparently to pay the freezer bill.

Enter Darlene Robbins, a daughter of the recently deceased. Darlene stated that her mother had verbally told her prior to death that she wanted the agreement with Alcor cancelled. An attorney for Alcor spit back that the law in Colorado is crystal clear - any anatomical gift must be declared and canceled in writing.

Anatomical gift? It's not like the head is going to be used in a transplant, is it? Could it be that the $50,000 is as much of an issue as the poor old woman's cranium?

The body is on ice awaiting a court hearing in Colorado where a judge will have to decide who gets what.

For some odd reason I am reminded of a book that I once read that involved young men who worked nights at a grocery store stocking shelves. One of their recreations during those late hours was a game called turkey bowling. They would make pyramids of canned goods, and then use frozen turkeys as bowling balls to knock the cans down.

But I digress...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Arizona Birthers on the March

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The Arizona Legislature still hasn't balanced last year's budget, and they certainly seem to have no interest in tackling this year's deficits - so why do they bother even meeting?

The primary reason our state legislature meets is to come up with more ways to kiss the gun lobby's ass. When the legislators run out of more and easier ways to arm more and more Arizonans, they turn their mischievous nature to other areas, like finding new and clever ways to violate the civil rights of our Hispanic residents.

Now the Arizona Legislature has branched off into a new way to waste time: birtherism. Yesterday a state House committee approved a measure sponsored by 40 (all Republicans) of the state's 90 House members that would require presidential candidates who want to appear on the ballot in Arizona to submit documents proving they meet the requirements to be President.

Yup, these goofballs will do anything to keep from having to address that boring old budget!

Just for the record you sun-addled desert racists, Barack Obama did present his birth certificate for public perusal, the state of Hawaii officially says he was born there, and newspaper announcements from 1961 in Hawaii announce his birth - there - in Hawaii. Also for the record, you goobers have absolutely no say in who may or may not run for President.

So why not set aside the cheap theatrics and turn your attention to what you are being paid to do: governing. Fix the budget! Maybe you should consider taxing guns, or ammunition, or stupidity. Those would all generate significant revenue in this state!

(Speaking of birthers, John McCain came out with a television ad today linking his primary opponent, J.D. Hayworth, with a pair of prominent birthers - the implication being that Hayworth is a whacko. Poor John has been away from Arizona too long. He has forgotten that real Arizonans like whackos!)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Terrorist is a Terrorist is a Terrorist!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

If nineteen young men, mostly from Saudi Arabia, fly hi-jacked passenger planes into both towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania - that's terrorism! I buy that definition wholeheartedly! (Of course, if the attacks of these Saudis somehow lead us to declare war on Afghanistan and Iraq, that's just goofy, and I do not agree with that.)

It was also terrorism when Timothy McVeigh parked a Ryder truck loaded with explosives in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. McVeigh drove off nonchalantly in a waiting car and was undoubtedly still within earshot when the truck exploded and killed 168 members of the human race and injured 680 others, destroyed or damaged 324 buildings within a sixteen square block area, and destroyed 86 vehicles. Did I mention that 19 of the dead were children? That was terrorism - big time!

And there was another terrorist attack last week when an angry old man, Joseph Andrew Stack, flew his aircraft into a building in Austin, Texas, that houses the local offices of Internal Revenue Service. It seems Mr. Stack felt that he had been hassled by the IRS, and his solution was to fly a suicide mission into the offices of his nemesis. He also burned his house to the ground before the flight so those sneaky tax bastards couldn't seize it to pay for the damages that he was about to inflict on their offices.

Mr. Stack succeeded in killing himself in his protest, and he also managed to kill one other individual - 68-year-old Vernon Hunter, an IRS employee.

Ken Hunter, the victim's son, is mad, damned mad! He has heard people referring to the terrorist, Andrew Stack, as some sort of hero instead of the murdering bastard that he really was. The victim, Vernon Hunter, served two tours in Vietnam. The victim was the real hero - not the terrorist! Just ask Ken.

Ken Hunter has plenty of reason to be pissed off. There are certain scary elements in our society who are trying to deify Andrew Stack. He did, after all, attack the IRS. One of the proposed tenets of the Tea Bagger movement is to abolish the 16th Amendment - a move that would do away with the IRS.

Today Rep. Steve King of Iowa (a Republican, of course) lent his voice to the rancorous anti-IRS chorus. King said:

"It's sad the incident in Texas happened, but by the same token, it's an agency that is unnecessary and when the day comes when that is over and we abolish the IRS, it's going to be a happy day for America."

Take that mealy-mouthed statement by Rep. King, and add to it other bizarre sentiments spouted by members of Congress - such as Michele Bachmann calling for people to get "armed and dangerous" against the administration's clean air policies - or the same loon's call for people to not cooperate with census takers, and we have a situation where elements of our government are coming dangerously close to being anarchists - or terrorists - or at least cheerleaders for terrorists!

Fasten your seat belts because Bette Davis was right - it's going to be a bumpy ride!

Pilots, start your engines!

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Foggy Day in London Town: The Royal Renditions

by Pa Rock
Music Critic

The vagaries of my iPod supplied the impetus for this evening's post. The little silver iPod contains my entire music library, in excess of 4,000 songs, and goes with me everywhere. I have a station for it at work and at home, and use earphones at the gym. It has become a ubiquitous part of my life.

One of the albums that has a home on my iPod is Judy Garland's live performance at Carnegie Hall. It is a double album actually, recorded on April 23, 1961. Many of the songs were written by Harold Arlen who was in the audience that night. The album is pure Judy at her absolute best - a truly classic recording.

Rufus Wainwright is an admirer of Judy Garland. He is also an openly gay male who talks of of growing up "wanting to be Dorothy—on good days. On bad days, I wanted to be the Wicked Witch." In 2006 he paid tribute to Judy Garland by performing the exact same concert at Carnegie Hall. It was a daring move, one that could have been a huge embarrassment both to himself as well as to Judy's legacy, but young Wainwright carried it off beautifully. I recently purchased his two-disk recording of that concert and added to my iPod's repertoire.

My iPod is habitually set to shuffle, which means that the songs play in a completely random order - or at least I thought it was completely random until today. This morning as I was banging away on the computer at work, I was treated to Judy Garland's "A Foggy Day in London Town." It was bold and full and throaty - and so captivating that I was drawn from my work to listen. "Foggy Day" was Judy at her very best, and the audience roared their approval.

Judy's song ended and I began to mentally drift back to work. But when the next song started, I was surprised to hear the Rufus Wainwright version of the same song. Wainwright, the son of singers Loudon Wainwright III and the late Kate McGarrigle, has a rich musical heritage. He has been praised by Elton John as "the greatest songwriter on the planet," which is mighty heady praise considering the source. In addition to all of that, he is a passable singer, but certainly no Judy Garland. Garland belted out her ballads, Wainwright merely sang them. She was the queen of the stage at Carnegie Hall, and he was but a sweet-voiced prince.

Still, it was fun to hear the two versions of "Foggy Day" presented back-to-back. But the comparison didn't end there. As Wainwright's version of "Foggy Day" ended, a third variation began playing - this one by Michael Buble, the scrappy Canadian who has cornered the Frank Sinatra niche in contemporary music. Buble is an amazing singer, with a vocal range and strength that places him high in the ranks of the world's great balladeers, people like Sinatra, and yes, Judy Garland. The King was in the house, and he kicked butt all over foggy London town!

The entire experience, Judy and Rufus and Michael - took less than fifteen minutes, but it was a profound education on the impact that a vocal artist can have on a song. Enjoy the lyrics and imagine your favorite singer bringing them to life.

A Foggy Day (in London Town)
by George and Ira Gershwin

A foggy day in London Town,
Had me low, had me down.
I viewed the morning with such alarm,
British museum had lost its charm.

How long, I wonder, could this thing last?
But the age of miracles hadn't past,
For suddenly I saw you there.
And through foggy London town the sun was shining everywhere.

A foggy day in London Town,
Had me low, had me down.
I viewed the morning with such alarm,
Your British museum had lost its charm.

How long, I wonder, could this thing last?
But the age of miracles hadn't past,
For suddenly I saw you there.
And in a foggy London town the sun was shining everywhere.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Shutter Island

by Pa Rock
Film Critic

Director Martin Scorsese has done a most respectable job of channeling Alfred Hitchcock in his new release, Shutter Island. The story is set in the 1950's on a remote island in Boston Harbor that is home to an insane asylum/prison housing America's most dangerous lunatics. Shutter Island is a place from which there is no escape.

The Hitchcock influence on Shutter Island is apparent early on with the background music that keeps getting louder and more intense, always nearing a crescendo. The old institution sitting atop the cliffs could easily be Manderly, as could the inside of the classic home occupied by the asylum's chief doctor, Ben Kingsley. There are also cryptic flashbacks, rats and crazy people galore, suspected Nazi's, a raging hurricane, and a plenitude of plot twists and startling revelations. Nothing is as it seems on Shutter Island!

There are even two versions of Jimmy Stewart in this suspenseful period piece, Leonard DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo. DiCaprio is a World War II vet who was present at the liberation of Dachau. In the intervening years he has become a United States Marshall and gone through a grievous tragedy. DiCaprio deals with a stable of personal demons while trying to figure out what is really occurring on Shutter Island. Mark Ruffalo is DiCaprio's steadying influence who follows him around the island trying to keep him focused on what he needs to do.

Shutter Island is a dark and disturbing place. It is where nightmares merge with madness, where hallucinations weave in and out of reality. It is a place where monsters live - and good men die.

Shutter Island is a place that Alfred Hitchcock would have loved..

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Of Chicken Hawks and Moral Superiority

by Pa Rock
Son of the Sixties

I will begin with this disclaimer: Although I was the right age to have served in Vietnam, I did not. As stated so aptly by Dick Cheney, I had "other priorities."

Lots of people in my generation found ways to avoid going to Nam - my route was to stay in college until the last possible moment, and then go in the army as things were winding down in the "conflict." College enrollment, as a matter of fact, literally skyrocketed during the Vietnam era.

Bill Clinton avoided military service by staying in college during the conflict years. Republicans tried to hang the label "draft dodger" on him during his early years in the White House, but that effort was hampered because many Republican notables had also failed to answer their country's call during LBJ's Asian fiasco.

Surprisingly, many of those who were of the right age but didn't serve went on to be big time drum-bangers for the current Middle Eastern debacle: Of course there was the de facto President "The Dick" Cheney, and the list also included the likes of Donald Rumsfield, Phil Gramm, Clarence Thomas, George Will, Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, Pat Buchanan, Lou Dobbs, Paul Wolfowitz, Karl Rove, George Tenet, John Ashcroft, Roy Blunt, Tom Delay, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, and Richard Perle - to name but a few. Political satirist and former Texas politician, Jim Hightower, refers to these individuals and others who were too good (or too cowardly) to fight then but now are steeled with patriotic fervor as "chicken hawks."

My favorite chicken hawk, however, actually did serve - sort of. George W. Bush rushed into the Texas Air National Guard in a transparent effort to avoid the draft. He let the government train him to become a fighter pilot, but avoided going to Vietnam and using that much-in-demand skill. What was Bush doing during 1972 when he should have been flying bombing missions in Vietnam? Don't bother asking him - he doesn't remember! But fast forward thirty-one years and there he was - prancing around the deck of that aircraft carrier in his flight jacket proudly declaring victory in Iraq! Mission accomplished, eh George?

Historically speaking, the United States has not been on the winning side of a war or "conflict" since World War II ended in 1945. America and her allies clearly had the moral high ground during that war. Our objective was to defeat the Nazis and the fascists, and to rescue the overrun peoples in Europe and the Pacific. World War II was a necessary war with a noble purpose.

Moral superiority is an important component of warfare. It is much easier to support the nation that occupies the moral high ground. We didn't have that high ground in Vietnam, where we were clearly viewed as the invading force - by the Vietnamese as well as by many sitting safely at home in front of their television sets. Our young people fought courageously in jungle conditions against enemies who were nearly impossible to differentiate from our allies, and those fortunate enough to return to the United States often found themselves to be the objects of scorn and ridicule. Even the august Veteran's of Foreign Wars (VFW) opposed legislation designed to assist the young people who were returning from Vietnam.

Jumping to the present, we still do not have the moral high ground in the Bush Oil Wars. Oh, there is a sense of moral superiority, but it is a dangerous fallacy foisted on our nation and our military leaders by the religious right. Many of those holier-than-thou flag-wavers believe that we are in the Middle East to bring down Islam, that we are mopping up the non-Christians in preparation for Christ's return - which many of those Blble-thumpers believe is imminent. (That is also their argument against environmentalism - Jesus is on his way back, so why conserve or clean up anything?) What a mockery of the ideals of Christ!

Which finally brings me to my point!

Several weeks ago I received a chain-email from a friend - a Vietnam veteran. (I have since received the same email from three other sources, so it is busy making the rounds.) One component of that email was a list, supposedly put out by a U.S. Naval Command in the Middle East, that was trying to eliminate some of our pseudo moral superiority. It was a list of tee shirt slogans that were no longer permitted to be worn by military people or government civilians. And while the list was being forwarded to amuse and could have possibly been made up, I saw several similar tees while at Ft. Campbell and suspect that this memo was all too real.

That memo follows:

All commanders promulgate upon receipt.
The following T-shirts are no longer to be worn on or off-base by any military or civilian personnel serving in the Middle East:

1. 'Eat Pork or Die' [both English and Arabic versions]
2. 'Shrine Busters' [Various. Show burning minarets or bomb/artillery shells impacting Islamic shrines. Some with unit logos.]
3. 'Napalm, Sticks Like Crazy' [Both English and Arabic versions]
4. 'Goat - it isn't just for breakfast any more.' [Both English and Arabic versions]
5. 'The road to Paradise begins with me.' [Mostly Arabic versions, but some in English. Some show sniper scope cross-hairs.]
6. 'Guns don't kill people. I kill people.' [Both Arabic and English versions]
7. 'Pork. The other white meat.' [Arabic version]
8. 'Infidel' [English, Arabic and other coalition force languages.]

The above T-shirts are to be removed from Post Exchanges upon receipt of this directive. In addition, the following signs are to be removed upon receipt of this message:

1. 'Islamic Religious Services Will Be Held at the Firing Range at 0800 Daily.'
2. 'Do we really need 'smart bombs' to drop on these dumb bastards?'

All commands are instructed to implement sensitivity training upon receipt.

Slogans like those listed above fan the fires of hatred and intolerance. We will never win the hearts and minds of the local populace through demonizing and ridicule. Yes, their religious fundamentalists are dangerous, but so are ours. Yes, they have crazy politicians, and we definitely do also. Yes, they are whipped into a frenzy by Al-Jazeera, and we have Fox News relentlessly beating the drums of war.

They are different from us, and we are different from them, but neither is morally superior to the other.

And therein lies the rub.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Bad News - Good News for Sen. Frank Lautenberg

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Frank Lautenberg, the senior senator from New Jersey, is eighty-six-years-old. He has been an important member of the United States Senate for over twenty-five years, and is perhaps best known for sponsoring the Lautenberg Amendment (1996) to the Gun Control Act of 1968. That amendment makes it a felony for those convicted of domestic violence to ship, transport, possess, or receive firearms or ammunition. Military service members and police are not exempt from the Lautenberg Amendment. In other words, some big macho guy who beats his wife will no longer be allowed to own or play with guns. The Lautenberg Amendment is good law.

Senator Lautenberg was admitted to the hospital a couple of days ago, and today his diagnosis became public. The following statement was released by his office:

After several days of hospitalization and testing, Senator Lautenberg's doctors have diagnosed that he has a B-Cell Lymphoma of the stomach (stomach cancer). This is a curable tumor, and will require treatment over the next few months.

That was the bad news.

The good news, of course, is that Senator Lautenberg has a very good government health care plan that allowed him to have "several days of hospitalization and testing," something that is not available to millions of Americans - some of whom will also develop potentially deadly conditions and not have the opportunity to have them diagnosed in a timely manner.

That is the state of health care in America today: the rich or the well-connected get it, those of us with good jobs and concerned employers get it, and the rest of the rubes had better damn well stay healthy, because ordinary people in the richest country on earth cannot afford to pay for most health care procedures out-of-pocket.

Congress must act to limit the crimes of insurance companies in order to insure that everyone has access to health care. Crimes? Here's an example: Anthem Blue Cross, the largest health insurer in California, just announced that they are going to have to increase their rates - which are already outrageous - by 39 percent! They have to do it because they just aren't making enough money!

Nobody believes that bullshit, but in case you do, here are some facts: WellPoint, the parent company of Anthem Blue Cross, reported a profit of $2.7 billion for the last quarter of 2009. That is damned near a billion dollars of profit per month! WellPoint, United Health Group, Cigna, Aetna, and Humana collectively reported profits in 2009 that were up 56% over 2008. These are thieving, criminal enterprises run by thieving, criminal bastards!

Angela Braly, the President and CEO of WellPoint makes a total annual compensation of $9,844,212.00. Seriously! That is a tidy $26,970 plus change per day - including Sundays and holidays! Does anyone really need to make $26,970 per day? Do Californians (or the rest of us for that matter) need to face criminal rate increases so that Ms. Braly can park her tush on a solid gold crapper?

America needs an affordable health care option, a government sponsored plan - exactly like the one that Frank Lautenberg has - a plan that is fair and reasonable and can serve as an alternative to the crap-for-plans that WellPoint and the other insurance criminal enterprises routinely foist upon the public - the public that has no other option.

WellPoint through Anthem Blue Cross showed its cards this week, and it has a winning hand. Without serious competition they can and will charge whatever they damn well please. Competition won't come from the other insurance companies - it never has! They are all hogs at the trough robbing the rubes. It is going to take a strong government plan to make the system honest. The public option is a must!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Mellencamp for Senate!

by Pa Rock
Political Commentator

The sudden retirement of Evan Bayh from the United States Senate means that Indiana will have an open senate seat up for grabs this fall. Today the internets have been buzzing with the rumor of a grassroots movement to draft John Mellencamp to run as a Democrat for that seat. The singer, who is known for his music about small town American values and raising money for struggling farmers at Willie Nelson's Farm Aid concerts, is a very well known resident of Bloomington, Indiana.

Yes, John Mellencamp is a very practical liberal, and yes, the people of Indiana are very proud of their native son. I hope that he responds to the nudge and throws his hat in the ring. Mellencamp has the smarts and the energy to be a truly spectacular United States Senator.

Now ain't that America for you and me!

Run, John, run - like a cougar!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Dig, Plant, Water, Repeat

by Pa Rock

I'm still destroying and rebuilding my yard, one small section at a time.

Last night I planted a standard navel orange tree in the back yard. That and the new strawberry patch are my only back yard improvements so far, but I am also looking at getting a barbecue charcoal smoker and a picnic table for that part of the yard. It will be my little private respite area, a good place to bang on the computer or write in peace.

Tonight I worked at clearing the spot out front by the road where the bougainvillea bush recently resided. I got it leveled off and the border straightened. Then I stood back and tried to come up with a plan for that spot. I had been considering a century plant, but since the spot is right on the road, I figured that an expensive century plant would certainly get run over sooner or later. Then, as I looked around, what should I spy but some big chunks of prickly pear cactus that my neighbor had just lopped off of one of his overgrown yard specimens. The neighbor was very happy to let me have as much as would fit nicely in my spot. He said that the park manager was going to pick up whatever was left over and have his wife fry it for supper. (I had fried cactus once in Sedona - and it was really good!)

I planted three starts of prickly pear in the newly bare spot - which completes the front yard - for today!

Dig, plant, water, repeat ... ad infinitum!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Bye-Bye Bayh! Don't let the door hit you in the ass...

by Pa Rock
Political Commentator

Evan Bayh, the man who wanted to be Hillary's veep, but couldn't even carry his home state of Indiana for her - not to mention her luggage on a sunny day, announced yesterday that he has chosen not to run for a third term in the Senate. His announcement came after he had already collected $13 million in donations for the election, and only one day ahead of the deadline for another Democrat to jump in and take his place on the ballot - something that did not happen. Bayh's swan song, with his picture-perfect family standing at his side, contained much pissing and moaning about the way Congress works.

He should be able to recognize the short-comings of Congress - he was a big part of the problem!

Today Bayh took another shot at Congress and seemed to be aiming specifically at his Democratic colleagues. He said on The Early Show: "If I could create one job in the private sector by helping to grow a business, that would be one more than Congress has created in the last six months."

A senior House Democratic aide responded to that horse shit with this gem:

“It is hard to stomach lectures from Sen. Bayh on jobs. For most Americans, if they were as unproductive in their jobs as Bayh has been in his, they wouldn’t have the luxury of quitting — they would be fired.”


But don't worry about the Bayh family missing any meals. The senator will park his privileged butt on K Street and make a nice living peddling influence as a lobbyist - a promotion from whore to pimp. Enjoy the money, Evan, and don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out of the Capitol!

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Wolfman

by Pa Rock
Film Critic

The Wolfman is gonna get you if you decide to stroll through the English moors on the night of a full moon. He will be howling, local dogs will be baying, horses will throw their riders, and the incensed villagers will be tromping through the darkness with torches, lanterns, and pitchforks. Some will die in all of the commotion, ripped apart by big wolf claws or chewed up by razor sharp wolf teeth, and they will be the lucky ones. The unlucky ones will be those who are merely bitten by the wolf and live to fear the full moon themselves.

Benicio Del Toro is the young actor who returns to his family estate, Black Moor, to search for his brother who has gone missing. Just prior to his arrival, the brother's badly ravaged and decomposed body is found in a ditch. The villagers are certain that the young man was killed by the wolf creature that has recently started roaming the moors on the brightest moonlit nights.

The dead brother left behind a beautiful girlfriend, Emily Blunt, who quickly becomes the love interest of the surviving brother. The other remaining family member is the patriarch, Anthony Hopkins, who literally wreaks of evil.

The plot is wolfishly predictable, but fortunately it is submerged into some of the best cinematography every to grace the silver screen. The candlelit rooms of Blackmoor, the moonlight pouring through the fast-moving clouds and onto the desolate moors, the village, the coaches rushing through the night - it was a visual feast - every shot a masterpiece!

Benicio Del Toro was adequate as the prodigal son who returns to Black Moor to find and confront the evil that killed his brother. Emily Blunt was also adequate, somewhat like a lady in waiting for a really good Masterpiece Theatre role. Anthony Hopkins was his usual great self as the secretive father - but just great. I kept wondering what Jack Nicholson could have done with that juicy role.

But it was Geraldine Chaplin who was the most memorable member of the cast. It has been forty-four years since she played opposite Omar Shariff in Doctor Zhivago, the most beautiful scorned wife in movie history. Now she is old and prunish (Meryl Streep without makeup), and just the right person to bring the gypsy healer to life. Geraldine Chaplin, Charlie's daughter, remains a mesmerizing screen presence, a joy to watch!

This is one movie that I may see again - in the theatre. Now that I have absorbed the storyline, my next viewing will be with my iPod and a couple of Moody Blues albums. Now, that would be some blissful entertainment!

Race to the Bottom

by Pa Rock
Arizona Voter

The race is on! Today former Arizona Congressman and right-wing radio personality J.D. Hayworth announced that he will indeed run against crotchety old John McCain in the Republican primary for McCain's senate seat. Right on cue, McCain has veered so far right that he is in danger of falling over.

Hayworth says that McCain campaigns as a conservative and legislates as a liberal. McCain says "Get off my yard!" Hayworth says that McCain has been in the Senate too long (24 years). McCain says "Get off my yard!" Hayworth asks what has McCain done for Arizona in the past decade? McCain says nothing - he has dozed off.

Both of these slugs have big names lined up to campaign for them. McCain has the new Republican senator and rock star from Massachusetts, Scott Brown, in his stable of campaigners, along with his old running mate, Sarah Palin. (The fact that Palin is standing by the man who brought her to prominence has some of the rabid right-wingers spitting remarks that link her to the likes of Benedict Arnold or Barack Hussein Obama!)

J.D. Hayworth is garnering the nutburger endorsements - well, all but Palin's. Pat Buchanan has already announced that he is supporting Hayworth, and (no surprise here) Sheriff Joe Arpaio is also lending his his sterling reputation to enhance the Hayworth vote. (Look out, John. Hayworth has his sights set on the senile seniors of Sun City - your base!)

Get out the lawn chairs and the margaritas. This race is gonna be fun!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

I Can Dig It!

by Pa Rock
Master of the Yard

I had good intentions of taking the day off and going to a movie, My first choice was The Wolfman, but I got to the theatre too late for that one. Then I decided on The Blind Side because it was still in previews, but by the time that I got inside and saw the massive popcorn lines, I gave up and cashed in my ticket. I'm not going to watch any movie without popcorn and a big coke. And besides, I really wanted to see The Wolfman anyway. If I wanted to watch some feel good football flick, I would rent a copy of Rudy and watch it with Scroungy Bastard.

I should have known that Valentine's Day was a poor time to go to the movies - every cheap bastard in the Valley of Hell was standing in line with the love of their lives waiting to buy a pair of afternoon discount movie tickets. Ah, love!

With my afternoon plans in the crapper, I fell back into my comfort zone and went to Lowe's. There I bought a standard navel orange tree, bricks, blocks, potting soil, and bark mulch. Back at the hacienda I finished lining my street front with bricks to keep my yard pebbles from washing into the street. After that I went to work on removing a bougainvillea bush. By the time night caught up with me, I had the entire bush cut down almost to ground level, and had put a lot of work into digging up the base and roots. I still have that to finish tomorrow.

Why is it that the two scourges of desert landscaping, bougainvillea and lantana, have such beautiful names? I have spent considerable energy over the past few months trying to tame my bougainvillea bushes - thorny bastards - and pulling up lantana. Actually, both plants are attractive, but they grow like crazy and tend to take over. Give me some simple citrus trees, a few cacti, and a strawberry patch - that I can handle!

The weather is beautiful right now in Arizona - and visitors are always welcome at Pa Rock's place!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Second Time Around

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Extinction is such an ugly word, the elimination of an insect, or an animal, or a race of people. Once they are gone, they are gone forever - or are they?

I am not a fan of the writing of the late Michael Crichton. He used stilted language and pedestrian phrasing to tell his stories, but his books sold in the bazillions. The reason for his huge success was not his writing ability, which was limited, but rather is was due to his amazing ideas. Crichton was so original in his thinking that most of his books have already found their way into film - where skilled screenwriters kicked the insipidness out of his words.

My favorite Crichton novel was Jurassic Park, the story of a obsessed scientist on a remote island who used DNA from mosquitoes trapped in amber to re-engineer the beasts from which the mosquitoes had been supping - various types of dinosaurs. I read the book, saw the movie, and, a few years later as I was travelling through Russia, had the opportunity to view quite a bit of amber jewelry - much of which contained insects that had become stuck in the tree sap millions of years ago - even mosquitoes!

And so, I wondered, could Crichton's fantastical thesis - that dinosaurs could be brought back through science - be realized. Not one to doubt the inventiveness and persistence of man, I believe that some young scientists are busy today working on that very project.

There are two actual efforts to bring back an extinct species that have been in the news lately. Japanese researchers have been scaling glaciers in Siberia looking for the frozen remains of wooly mammoths, a species of huge elephant-like creatures that roamed the earth for millions of years, but receded into extinction during the last ice age, 11,000 years ago. These scientists are hoping to find some viable wooly mammoth sperm, and if they are successful in that quest, they will use the sperm to impregnate some unsuspecting female Asian elephants. They have developed a genetic plan that they believe could result in the birth of genuine wooly mammoths in just a few generations of selective breeding.

The other attempt to reverse extinction is occurring through the efforts of a Dutch group who are endeavoring to return Europe to a more natural state. One of the group's projects is to repopulate the European countryside with the massive cattle that used to roam across Europe in large herds. These cattle were called aurochs, and they date from prehistoric times. In fact, some of the earliest recorded history, cave paintings, feature aurochs. These huge cows were domesticated about 8,000 years ago, but were eventually killed and eaten into extinction, a process that was probably accelerated by changing land use patterns and the destruction of auroch habitats in Europe. The last known auroch died in a Polish nature preserve in 1627.

Scientists plan to collect auroch DNA from skeletal specimens currently housed in museums. They will study that DNA and compare it to the DNA of modern breeds to determine which ones are descended from the original auroch stock. Once that is determined, they plan to create a "genetic mosaic" plan to selectively breed the modern descendants back to the original stock. Sounds complicated, but we will know in a few generations (of the cattle) if they are heading in the right direction or not.

So where will all of this science lead us? Will we see the day when McDonald's offers up a genuine brontosaurus burger - with or without fries? Will we see cowboys at rodeos being bucked from angry aurochs? Will ivory poachers one day fix their evil sights on wooly mammoths?

It's impossible to tell what the world will be like in the next year, let alone the next century, but I think that it's fair to assume that our grandchildren and their grandchildren will see and experience things that would surprise even Michael Crichton - that is, unless science itself becomes extinct and mankind drifts back into an age of darkness. If that happens, humanity itself could be the next victim.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Out of Africa

by Pa Rock

While Sarah Palin and others with severe intellectual deficits may prattle on about the earth being a mere six thousand years old (and dinosaurs and humans living together in harmony!), those capable of independent thought with even a modest education know better. Our planet, according to science, was formed through explainable and natural forces more than four-and-a-half billion years ago. Humans are relatively new residents on earth, having appeared a scant four to five million years ago. If my ciphering is to be trusted, humans have resided on this planet for a mere one one-thousandth of its existence.

Science has posited that life began on earth when the primordial oceans were stimulated with electrical charges - i.e. lightening - and microscopic, one-celled organisms were created. These first inhabitants eventually evolved into more complicated life forms, some of which finally made their way onto shore. It was probably on the continent of Africa that the ancestors of modern humans first appeared

In the 1970's researchers discovered the skeletal remains of a female hominid in Ethiopia who subsequently came to be known as "Lucy." She had walked upright in Africa 3.2 million years ago, and was our oldest human ancestor discovered up until that time. In 1992 the age of humanity was pushed further back when researchers, also in Ethiopia, came across bone fragments that have proven to be a female hominid who lived about 4.4 million years ago. The specimen is known as "Ardi," and she is the earliest known descendant of the last common ancestor shared by humans and chimps.

Yes, at one time humans and chimps had a common ancestor, and yes, the people who decry that scientific fact the loudest are more likely than not the ones who have evolved the least from that common ancestor!

Sarah Palin has every right to live in a world of superstition and ignorance, but if we want our children to function and compete in a modern world, we must make sure that they are exposed to the concepts of real science and understand their place in the continuing evolution of humanity. We owe it to Lucy and Ardi, we owe it to our planet, and we owe it to the future of our species - whatever that may be.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Joe Arpaio and the ACLU of Arizona

by Pa Rock
Maricopa County Registered Voter

Joe Arpaio has been the sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, for eighteen years. When he runs for his sixth term in 2012, the geriatric lawman will be eighty-years-old. Arpaio, who styles himself as "the toughest sheriff in America," never misses an opportunity to grab a headline. Lately, however, not all of the headlines in Sand Land have been drooling over his machismo. In fact, Old Joe is being investigated by the Feds, threatened with eviction from his swanky offices atop the Wells Fargo Building in downtown Phoenix, derided by thousands of protesters led by Linda Ronstadt, and rapidly slipping from deification to ridicule.

Many of those in positions of authority who have dared to speak out against the sheriff have found themselves being intimidated with deputies parked outside of their homes, or, worse yet, becoming targets of criminal investigations.

And it's not just the powerful who suffer the wrath of Arpaio, the county's poor Hispanics find themselves being racially profiled by the lawman and his deputies. Arpaio learned early on that there is a great deal of racial resentment toward much of Arizona's Hispanic community, and he focused on rounding up "illegals" through well publicized immigration "sweeps" throughout various communities in the county. Catching a few (often very few) illegal border-crossers resulted in much more publicity than doing the mundane tasks often associated with county law enforcement - such as serving the backlog of over 40,000 warrants that are awaiting delivery.

Our sheriff makes the news literally every day, and he turns up in national and international news on a fairly regular basis also. For a while he even had his own television reality show. And while Joe Arpaio may not be the super lawman that he believes himself to be, he is a super showman with an impeccable sense of knowing where the cameras are located. Last November, for example, he showed up at a Joe Biden event in Phoenix, uninvited, goosed his way to the front of the crowd, shook hands with the veep, and then immodestly tweeted: "Just got done meeting with the Vice President of the United States."

This evening I received an appeal for funds from the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona. The letter focused on the work of the ACLU with regard to our esteemed sheriff. The ACLU is a protector of the United States Constitution, particularly the first ten amendments, more commonly known as the Bill of Rights. It is within those ten amendments that our civil liberties reside.

The ACLU of Arizona had this to say regarding Sheriff Arpaio:

"As the elected sheriff of Maricopa County, Sheriff Joe Arpaio is legally and morally obligated to abide by the rule of law. He doesn't have the luxury - despite his actions and statements in the press - of picking and choosing which portions of the Constitution to uphold or ignore when they don't fit his political agenda.

"That's precisely why the ACLU has taken on Sheriff Arpaio. We act on the principle that no one is above the law."

The letter continued that "fifty percent of the ACLU of Arizona's legal efforts are devoted to challenging the prejudicial practices and policies coming out of Sheriff Arpaio's office." Current lawsuits in which the ACLU is involved include those aimed at ending racial profiling by the sheriff's department, improving jail conditions and medical care for prisoners, stopping illegal arrests and detentions, ensuring medical care for women in the county's jails, and ending discrimination against Muslims by the sheriff's department.

Joe Arpaio's margin of winning has gone down with each election, but he still has legions enthusiastic supporters who buy into his tough talk and posturing - particularly the retired people who swarm into Phoenix like biblical plagues of locusts and get off on seeing someone who is in their age range wielding unchecked and deadly power. To them he is a hero.

To the rest of us he is not.

Donations to the ACLU of Arizona may be mailed to P.O. Box 17148, Phoenix, AZ 85011. My check is in the mail.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Don't Ask - Don't Tell: The End Draws Nigh!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Lt. Daniel Choi is a West Point graduate and infantry officer who is also an Arabic linguist, and with those qualifications he is a hot military property - or at least he was. Dan Choi, a man who speaks Arabic fluently and has a degree from our nation's premier military training university, was drummed out of the United States Army last year because he is gay.

Late yesterday a rumor began circulating on the internets that said Lt. Choi had been ordered back to active duty. As a former Lieutenant in the Army myself, and a natural born skeptic, I had my doubts about the accuracy of that report. Besides, there was no accompanying story about Rush Limbaugh's head exploding!

Today there is some clarification. Dan Choi has not been ordered back to active duty and the wall of DADT has not fallen. But the wall has cracked - significantly. Choi, with the support of his former superiors in the New York National Guard, was allowed to drill, in uniform, this past weekend with his troops on "critical infantry tasks." What that says to me is that the wall is about to crumble, and leaders in the New York National Guard are anxious to get this super soldier back in action!

Last week Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Admiral) Michael Mullen both announced their support for doing away with Don't Ask - Don't Tell. (Strangely, Limbaugh's head did not explode then either, but, like the DADT wall, it does appear to have significant cracking!)

Here is what Admiral Mullen had to say on the issue:

“It is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do. No matter how I look at this issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens.

"At the end of the day, that is what the debate is all about, ending discrimination. You either believe gays should be discriminated against, or you don’t. I happen to believe they should not be."

The military is changing for the better. People like Bob Gates, Mike Mullen, and Dan Choi are bringing changes that will ultimately strengthen our country and respect the patriotism of all Americans - not just those who happened to be born straight.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Bloody Orange

by Pa Rock
Amateur Horticulturalist

I had to drive all the way across the Valley of Hell last fall in order to secure a Blood Orange tree. The one that I snagged had four oranges on it when I made the purchase. The nurseryman cut into one of them to prove it was a blood orange, but, alas, the fruit was orange - an orange orange. Not to worry, he told me. It hasn't turned yet. But he guaranteed me that the tree would indeed prove to be a blood orange - as advertised!

During the process of getting the fairly big tree out of the backseat of my convertible, two more oranges fell off of the tree. For the past two months or so, one lonesome orange has hung securely to a small branch while it ripened.

Last night I picked that solitary orange and peeled it for dessert. As the outer peeling was coming off, I was disheartened because the fruit appeared to be black inside. Oh, great. I had waited too long and it had decayed!

But no! As I peeled away the inner protective skin I found that the fruit was a beautiful, bloody red! And it tasted great!

I have found a recipe for blood orange margaritas - so when next year's crop comes in I will be busy!

Monday, February 8, 2010

They Really Are Crazy!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The Daily Kos web site ( hired a professional polling organization to find out what Republicans really think about many political and social issues. The poll was conducted between January 20 and January 31, 2010, and focused only on self-identified Republicans. Although many, if not all, of the views expressed by those polled reflected the type of thing put forth as news by Fox, the survey results were quickly lambasted by Bill O'Reilly and Karl Rove as being a fraud.

Interestingly, even though the official Fox line was that this poll was a fraud, Fox commentator Chris Wallace drew from the survey results when he was interviewing Sarah Palin and trying to make her look like a viable Presidential candidate. When the survey asked which Republican candidate would the responders support, Sarah Palin led the list with 16 percent. Mitt Romney was second (11%), followed by "The Dick" Cheney (10%), Newt Gingrich (7%), Mike Huckabee (7%), Tim Pawlenty (3%), Ron Paul (2%), John Thune (2%) and Undecided (42%) - and of that list, "undecided" should be the most preferable!

(BTW Palin and Huckabee are Fox employees. How's that for "fair and balanced?")

Another highlight from the poll for Republicans was this: Should Barack Obama be impeached? Thirty-nine percent said that he should! (One wonders what the grounds would be, or would it simply be: "Grounds! Grounds! We don't need no stinking grounds!")

Or how about this jewel: Do you believe Barack Obama was born in the United States? (Thirty-six percent of those polled believed that he was not born in the United States, never mind the evidence to the contrary. (They don't need no stinking evidence either!)

Do you believe Barack Obama is a socialist? Sixty-three percent bought into that notion, never mind that probably none of them has any idea what a socialist really is. If Rush and Glenn yell it enough, it must be true!

The poll also asked this: Do you believe Barack Obama wants the terrorists to win?
And while only a knucklehead would believe that the Commander-in-Chief supports the other side, 24% of respondents (nearly one-in-four) thinks that our President is secretly pulling for the terrorists.

Do you believe ACORN stole the 2008 election? That's right - when you get bored with making Obama the boogie man, wheel out ACORN - an organization that works at getting minorities registered to vote - egads! A mere 21% felt that ACORN, a group of community organizers, figured out a way to get the most decisive majority since the 1980's into the Obama column on election day. Nonsense!

Here is my personal favorite: Respondents were asked if they believed that Sarah Palin was more qualified to be President that Barack Obama. Fifty-three percent of those polled felt that she would be the better President of the two! Talk about your alternate universes! Oooh-wee-oooh!

Do you believe Barack Obama is a racist who hates White people? Glenn Beck thinks so, and so did 31% of Republicans who took this poll. Can you say "paranoid crackers?"

Here is one that I would agree with: Do you believe your state should secede from the United States? Twenty-three percent felt that their state should leave the Union. Take Arizona, please!

And then they had a predictable change-up to rattle those people who were just automatically answering "yes" to everything. But there was no fooling these folks. The question: Should Congress make it easier for workers to form and join labor unions? Sixty-eight percent said no. I'm actually surprised that the number wasn't higher considering that the GOP is generally and historically been cheerleaders for big business.

Here's a good one: Would you favor or oppose giving illegal immigrants now living in the United States the right to live here legally if they pay a fine and learn English? A hearty 59% said they would be opposed to that.

Should openly gay men and women be allowed to serve in the military. Fifty-five percent said that they should not - this from the party of Larry Craig and Mark Foley! Get a grip, folks, it's the 21st century - and your kids have gay friends!

Homophobia was even more apparent with this question: Should same-sex couples be allowed to marry. Seventy-seven percent (over three-in-four) said that they should not enjoy the same rights as heterosexual couples.

Should gay couples receive any state or federal benefits? Sixty-eight percent said that they should not.

Should openly gay men and women be allowed to teach in public schools? Nope! Seventy-three percent said that they should not be allowed to teach in public schools.

Here is one that broke closer to even: Should sex education be taught in the public schools? Fifty-one percent said it should not be taught, and 42% believed that sex education should be taught in public schools.

Should public school students be taught that the book of Genesis in the Bible explains how God created the world. Seventy-seven percent said that Genesis should be taught in school.

This one had a surprising result - to me at least: Are marriages equal partnerships, or are men the leaders of their households? Seventy-six percent said that marriages are equal partnerships. (Way to go, gang! You got one right!) Thirteen percent said that men are the leaders of their families, and 11% weren't sure.

Should contraceptive use be outlawed? Thirty-one percent said that it should be. Great - like we need those people reproducing!

Or, get this: Do you believe that the birth control pill is abortion? Thirty-four percent believe that the birth control pill is the equivalent of abortion.

This one was no surprise, considering who was being polled: Do you consider abortion to be murder? Seventy-six percent of those polled agreed that abortion is murder. Men, or course, were more likely to agree with that statement than women.

Do you support the death penalty? Yes, of course, with an amazing 91% favoring that irreversible punishment.

This one might be a sign of the times: Should women work outside of the home? Eighty-six percent said they should.

And, finally: Do you believe that the only way for an individual to go to heaven is through Jesus Christ, or can one make it to heaven through another faith? Sixty-seven percent (two out of every three) said the only way to get to heaven was by following the teachings of Christ.

Fifty-six percent of the Republicans interviewed were men, and 44% were women.Eighty-nine percent were White, with other races making up 11 percent. Young voters (18-29 year-olds) made up 9% of responders, ages 30-44 accounted for 21% of those surveyed, ages 45-59 comprised 33%, and those over age 60 made up 37% of responders. Eleven percent were form the American northeast, 42% were from the south, 22% were from the midwest, and 25% were from the west. (Old White Christian men from the south - yep, that would be fairly representative of the Grand Old Party!)

Overall, with a few exceptions, the survey showed a "fair and balanced" picture of the Republican party. Many of those interviewed were quick to parrot back the crap that they have been hand-fed by Fox since the general election of 2008, but when the mirror was held up to Fox, they suddenly didn't like what they saw. Live by the manure spreader, die by the manure spreader!

Good job, Fox. Your sheep are hypnotized - hope they don't walk off of a cliff.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Arizona Gun Insanity

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Arizona is out of money. The state can't meet last year's budget shortfall, let alone next year's! The governor has been pushing a plan to pass a sales tax, something that would keep the burden of funding society on the poor and not offend any big Republican donors, and it looks like the Republican controlled legislature is finally ready to put the concept of an increase in the sales tax in front of the voters. It might pass, though I doubt it, and it certainly won't garner my vote.

(Coincidentally, the City of Phoenix has just announced that it will be placing a 2-cent sales tax on groceries.)

The legislature hates the idea of taxes, but the boneheads serving in the Arizona House and Senate have finally run out of tax-avoiding gimmicks. Now they can sit back and let the voters drive the bus for awhile.

Giving the Arizona Legislature any type of respite, however, is always a bad idea - because those goobers can go from bored to batshit crazy in less time that it takes to strap on their guns.

And, of course, the only thing of interest to most Arizona legislators is guns, specifically ways to get more people carrying with less and less government "interference." There are two bills of note currently working their way through the legislative process. The first would allow college instructors to carry weapons on campus, and the second would eliminate the silly requirements of background checks and training in how to use weapons safely. Really!

With regard to the first bill, the one that would allow professors to pack, it is already being portrayed as not comprehensive enough. Some students are proposing that they be allowed to carry weapons on campus as well. One student quoted in the local press lamented, "I don't believe just giving (the right to have weapons) to teachers is enough, because some teachers won't carry." Something tells me that genius will be in the legislature in a few years!

The other piece of legislative craziness was authored by State Senator Russell Pearce, a protege of our notorious sheriff, Joe Arpaio. Whenever it's a slow news day in the Valley of Hell, local reporters can always shake something controversial out of Pearce, and Arpaio too, for that matter. Now the senator wants to completely return Arizona to its glory days of the wild west - no background checks and no training! That could draw in every psychopath in America, but it will undoubtedly be counterproductive for tourism. Who would want to visit a state where every ex-con and lunatic is likely to be armed! Hell, even Wyatt Earp wouldn't put up with that lunacy!

So Arizona is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy - and will undoubtedly fall into that ravine sooner rather than later - and the state's crazy-as-hell rush to the gun shops will kill off one of the state's few money-makers - tourism. This is one more big reason why Phoenix will not be hosting any major political conventions.

When this state goes into receivership, I hope that the first order of the bankruptcy judge is to tell the legislators to stay home. The damage that these fools have already wrought will last for generations!

Enough, already!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Political Conventions

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The tea-baggers are in Nashville this week staging a for-profit convention that is so loony even Michele Bachmann, the queen of the loons, felt obliged to send her regrets. So far they have heard former Congressman Tom Tancredo spew more racism than George Wallace could have whipped up in his prime, Joseph Farah (editor of World Net Daily) fling birther crap at the primates in the audience, and "Judge" Roy Moore bash gays with so much gusto that one wonders what secrets are hidden in his attic. And the finale of this orgiastic celebration of hate will be a speech (a very well paid speech) by Sarah Palin. Her moronic twaddle will bring down the house - you betcha it will!

Nashville made a lot of money off of this "political" endeavor, what with the sales of white bedsheets and handguns going through the roof. And the hookers probably did well also because some of these rubes ain't been to the city in a coon's age.

Political conventions, even screwy ones like the one playing itself out in Nashville this week, can be real money makers for a city. Hotels, restaurants, bars, liquor stores, florists, gas stations - they all make money when the drunks and perverts are in town.

The big political conventions - the important ones - will be in the summer of 2012. A dozen or so cities showed an interest in attracting one of these economic windfalls into their midst. It now looks at though the Republicans have their list pared down to Salt Lake City, Tampa, and Phoenix. The Democrats have Charlotte, Philadelphia, and Phoenix on their short list.

You can tell your friends that you heard it here first. The 2012 Republican Convention will be held in Tampa. Florida is damned important in the electoral count, and, unless their Presidential nominee gets caught in an airport men's room with a black rentboy, Arizona and Utah will be a lock. Hell, Utah would vote Republican even if their Presidential nominee was a black rentboy!

The Democratic Convention of 2012 will be in Philadelphia. Again, Pennsylvania is too damned important in the electoral count. It would be nice to give the nod to Charlotte for its first-ever national political convention, and the streets of Charlotte would be much more genteel and interesting than the hard urban downtown of Philly, but winning Pennsylvania trumps every other consideration.

But what about the biggest hole south of the Grand Canyon? Surely modern, downtown Phoenix would be difficult for several thousand conventioneers to pass up. Republicans in particular should appreciate Arizona's complete lack of any gun regulation and criminally low taxes. Their convention would be trouble-free with Shurf Joe Arpaio and his goons just itching to bust the heads of anyone who dared to protest outside of the convention hall.

The hard truth is, however, Republicans can't lose Arizona, and Democrats can't win it. Neither party needs or wants to spend a week in the Sonora desert in August to impress anyone! The only hope for Phoenix getting a convention would be if the tea-baggers manage to hold on a couple of more years. They could listen to a few racists and hate-mongers, and then take off for the border to hunt illegals. And the heat shouldn't be a problem because those sheets catch all the breeze!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Richard Shelby: A Cracker with Clout

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, a conservative legislator who is possibly as smart as Alabama's other senator, Jeff Sessions, but certainly well below the national intellectual average, is turning his greed and avarice into an art form. Shelby, who has long wallowed in political contributions from defense and aviation contractors, put the word out yesterday that he will personally filibuster seventy Presidential nominees unless Democrats kiss his flabby white ass and make sure that a couple of rich defense contracts for his home state are fast-tracked. Yup, another sanctimonious Republican who brays about good government is standing at the trough grunting angrily because his earmarks haven't been slopped in fast enough to suit him.

Richard Shelby is what's wrong with Congress - him and every other cretin in Congress who has had their hand out to special interests for so long that they can no longer remember who they work for. Shelby's campaign committees have accepted over one hundred thousand dollars in contributions from Northrup Grumman in recent years. Coincidentally, that is the company that he favors to receive one of the billion-dollar contracts for Alabama. Can you say quid pro quo?

Republicans used to accuse anyone who breathed the slightest concern about George Bush as being unpatriotic. When they were in the majority in the Senate just a few years ago, they routinely threatened to use the "nuclear" option and do away with the filibuster. Now that they are out of the White House and in the minority in Congress, they oppose everything (everything!) that the President proposes - including programs that were originally their ideas, and they use the threat of a filibuster on all legislation - no matter how trivial.

And as for respecting the President, they consider that to be an arcane concept. Republican office holders and party mouthpieces routinely sprinkle their comments about our nation's elected leader with words like "socialist," "unpatriotic," and "Kenyan."

Republicans truly are the party of "no." They have chosen not to govern and to block any attempt by the Democrats to do anything that would benefit the people of America. They have done all of this obstructing while peddling the notion that Democrats are bad for America and can't be trusted. Well now, thanks to shameless shills like Richard Shelby, their mask of piety is beginning to slip and America may finally get a good look at what the Republican opposition is really all about.

It's the money, honey. It's all about the money!

Republicans don't care about you, or me, or our kids - or even the elderly. It's not their problem if we have to work two (or more) jobs just to make ends meet. They could care less if we don't have health insurance - like they do. They care about their bank accounts and those of the people they represent - the fat cats on Wall Street who run America's biggest corporations and banks. Their answer to economic inequality is to lock up minorities and let the poor bear the brunt of funding society through sales taxes and other regressive measures that leave their piles of wealth alone.

Richard Shelby has landed on the gravy train, and while he might give occasional lip service to the concept of good government, it is definitely secondary to getting his own personal needs met - and screw the rest of us!

You can stamp that cracker "Sold American!"

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Let God Deal With It!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The ten Baptist missionaries who were stopped and arrested last week as they tried to spirit thirty-three Haitian children across the border into the Dominican Republic have now officially been charged with kidnapping and criminal association. Various news sources have stated today that, if convicted, they could wind up serving as much as fifteen years in prison.

At the very best these were bungling do-gooders whose aim was to better the circumstances of these horribly impoverished children while erasing their culture and religion. The children would have eventually been adopted by middle class white families and steeped in fundamentalist Christianity. That is the absolute best outcome, and that outcome is damned scary to those capable of free thought. At the worst, these youngsters would have been shunted into the sex industry or wound up as involuntary organ donors. (Don't think for a minute that outcomes like that couldn't happen to those sweet and trusting little children.)

But the missionaries swear that is what they were trying to protect these children from. That is why they were so eager to get them out of the country - quickly, quietly, and without any bothersome paperwork. They were saving them. That is what was in the hearts of the missionaries.

And now these ten good Baptists with pure hearts are sitting in a Haitian jail awaiting trial. They undoubtedly are counting on the United States government to come rushing to their rescue. That must not happen!

These people went into a tragically poor country that was dealing with the worst natural disaster to hit the Western Hemisphere in decades. They took advantage of the poverty and the chaos to suit their purposes. Instead of rolling up their sleeves and helping with the cleanup or doing something to alleviate suffering, they went out on a child snatch-and-grab operation.

Okay, maybe they were operating out of compassion and had only the best interests of the children at heart. We mere mortals have no way of knowing what was in the hearts of these accused kidnappers - and the U.S. government certainly has no way of knowing what was in their hearts either.

These people have apparently broken Haitian law and for that they must stand trial and suffer the consequences. The United States government needs to stand back and let the Haitian legal system handle the matter. And if these "humanitarians" need some outside muscle, let God deal with it. She will know what was really in their hearts!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Right-Wing Tools

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Unbelievable as it may seem, there are many Muslims living in the Middle East who think that Bush's Oil Wars are really Christian Crusades with the express goal of defeating Islam. Where would they get such a wacky idea? Well, possibly from statements attributed to Erik Prince, the founder and head of Blackwater (now called "Xe"), in which he basically declares shooting Muslims, regardless of their combative status, to be a goal of his shady organization. There are also the odd fundamentalist Christian leaders who occasionally get quoted spouting the same type of dangerous stupidity. It sort of makes one think that defeating Islam may have been part of the original war plan.

Did you know that Prince and his mother are closely aligned with James Dobson's Focus on the Family? More on that group later.

But much of that stuff about a holy war is just hearsay. Those paranoid Muslims really had nothing to back up their fears - until recently. Now it turns out that the defense contractor who makes sights for the rifles used in Iraq and Afghanistan has been inscribing their rifle sights - all of them - with references to Bible verses. As an example, a rifle sight might carry the inscription: "JN8:12" referring to John 8:12. The contractor, Trijicon of Wixom, MI, has a $600 million contract with the Army and Marine Corps to make the proselytizing sights. When asked about it, the company readily admitted what they were doing, blowing off any criticism because it obviously came from non-Christians. They have been making sights for the military, all with the Biblical inscriptions, since 1995, and no one had complained. (Of course, military culture doesn't really lend itself to complaints from the troops - even those who would find the inscriptions offensive.)

Military leaders claim that they had no knowledge of the inscriptions. They either weren't looking at their purchases, or they weren't listening to their troops - most of whom were well aware of the proselytizing, or (most likely) they agreed with the concept of a Christian jihad and just lied about not knowing the citations were on the sights.

New Zealand, when confronted with this same issue, chose to do the right thing. They are removing all of the inscriptions from the sights they already received, and have instructed Trijicon not to place Biblical citations on any future orders. No word yet on what our own government plans to do about this problem - a problem that actually places our troops in greater danger than they would have faced in a non-religious war situation.

So, a rifle sight made by Trijicon is one right-wing tool. Another tool worthy of note is Tim Tebow, Heisman Trophy winner for 2007. Tebow has played his last college football game and now seems hell-bent on injecting his religious beliefs into the American political scene. The quarterback, a fundamentalist Bible-thumper, has been known to cite Biblical passages (a la those on the rifle sights) in his eye paint before games.

Tebow has been in the news twice this week. The first instance was for making an anti-abortion ad with his mother that CBS is inexplicably going to run during the Super Bowl. The ad is being paid for by conservative religious zealot James Dobson and his Focus on the Family. Today it was announced that Tebow will also be a speaker at the National Prayer Breakfast, an annual event that is put on by the notorious "Family" of C Street fame. The ad and the speech will both burnish Tebow's political credentials, but those actions will also glorify two organizations (Focus on the Family and The Family) whose agendas are not necessarily worthy of glorification.

Every tool is designed to do a job, but not every job is the right thing to do.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Dead Pool Entries for 2010

by Pa Rock
Master of the Dead Pool

Last year fourteen people entered Pa Rock's Dead Pool, and six of those won money. I was hopeful the number of entries would rise this year - especially once the word got out about cash prizes - but that was not to be. This year there are thirteen of us in the competition. Here are the entrants and their picks:

Camille: Michael J. Fox, Andy Samberg, Steve-O, Seth Binzer, Joan Marie Laurer, John Gosslin, Woody Allen, Elizabeth Edwards, Willie Nelson, and Robin Williams.

Judy: Charlie Sheen, Mick Jagger, Jesse Jackson, Brittany Spears, Gary Coleman, Bill Clinton, Andy Rooney, Nancy Pelosi, John Madden, and Magic Johnson.

Erin: Mary Kate Olsen, Jeff Bridges, Madonna, John Goodman, Ringo Starr, Mick Jagger, Jack White, Ashton Kutcher, Andy Dick, and Eminem.

T. Hopkins (Tyzerman): Tom Sizemore, Dick Cheney, Tony Bennett, John Madden, John Voight, Sam Elliott, Larry Bird, Jacquin Phoenix, Peter Fonda, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Darby: Steven King, Harper Lee, Kris Kristofferson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Benjamin Netanyahu, Ben Stein, Barbara Walters, Roy Blunt, Gary Coleman, and Billy Graham.

Ron: Mickey Rooney, Hugh Hefner, George Steinbrenner, Billy Graham, Osama Bin Laden, Elizabeth Taylor, Muhammad Ali, Amy Winehouse, Hugo Chavez, and Tiger Woods.

Tim: Chevy Chase, Dustin Diamond, William Shatner, Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Jay Leno, Glenn Beck, George W. Bush, Carl Rove, and Sarah Palin.

Molly: Mike Starr, Betty White, Courtney Love, Steven Tyler, Keith Richards, Scott Weiland, Liza Minnelli, George Michael, Rush Limbaugh, Lindsay Lohan.

Brenda: James Arness, Elizabeth Taylor, Bob Dole, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Elizabeth Edwards, Queen Elizabeth, Joe Biden, Paul McCartney, Larry McMurtry, and Kit Bond.

Mary: Barack Obama, Tiger Woods, Joe Cocker, Queen Elizabeth, Steven Tyler, Macaulay Culkin, Betty White, Jack Nicholson, Meatloaf, and O.J. Simpson.

Nick: Bill Cosby, Hugh Hefner, Barack Obama, Dolly Parton, Mel Gibson, Janet Jackson, Woody Allen, Jimmy Carter, Gary Coleman, and Cher.

Alvin: Hamid Karzai, Harry Morgan, Steve Jobs, Amy Winehouse, Lindsay Lohan, Elizabeth Taylor, Jimmy Carter, Kirk Douglas, Steve Ballesteros, and Jay Leno.

Pa Rock: Joe Arpaio, Roger Ailes, John McCain, Prince Philip, Henry Kissinger, Celeste Holm, Harlan Ellison, Rose Marie, Mary Tyler Moore, and Rupert Murdoch.

Even with just eleven entrants, the selections were quite diverse. Elizabeth Taylor garnered the most selections - three - and several people were chosen by two entrants. The vast majority, however, were singletons.

Okay, we've done our part. Now it is up to the Grim Reaper to determine the winners!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Missionaries Are Not Completely Worthless...

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The Prime Minister of Haiti, Max Bellerive, said that it is clear that the American Baptists trying to take children out of Haiti without any paperwork or legal approval knew exactly what they were doing - and they knew what they were doing was illegal.

At this point it appears that some of the children being taken out of the country were not even orphans.

Laura Silsby, the spokesperson for the ten Baptists accused of child-trafficking in Haiti, was quick to invoke her values and her God on the thirty-three children that her group was trying to spirit out of Haiti. Sayeth Ms. Silsby: "The entire team deeply fell in love with these children. They are very, very precious kids that have lost their homes and their families and are so, so deeply in need of God's love and his compassion and just a very nurturing setting."

That is such a sweet sentiment! The crew, all ten abductors, fell deeply in love with the thirty-three Haitian children. And whose God is going to provide the love and compassion those kids so desperately need? Is it the God of the two churches sponsoring these child-grabbers: the Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, Idaho, and the East Side Baptist Church in Twin Falls, Idaho? Would the God of both of these Southern Baptist Churches be a Baptist God?

Chances are very good that none of the thirty-three children being illegally taken out of Haiti are Baptists. In fact, there are only two constitutionally recognized religions in Haiti: Voodoo and Roman Catholicism. A full two-thirds of Haiti's people are said to worship Voodoo spirits. Do these sanctimonious Baptists have any right at all to supplant Haitian superstitions with their own superstitions? Can you say "inquisition"?

The attitude that this group of religious do-gooders would give children a wonderful life in Christ rightfully offends Haitians. Max Beauvoir, the head of Haiti's Voodoo Priest's Association said, "These types of people (the Baptists) believe they need to save our souls and our bodies from ourselves. We need compassion, not proselytizing now, and we need aid - not just aid going to people of the Christian faith."

On a lighter note, one of the lawyers for the child-snatchers is bitching that they are being treated poorly. He whined, "There is no air conditioning, no electricity, it is very disgusting." What were they expecting when they begged money and flew to earthquake-ravaged Haiti - a Sandals resort?

"Missionaries are not completely worthless - they can always serve as a good source of protein!" ---Pa Rock

Offending Google

by Pa Rock
Frustrated Blogger

I have spent the last thirty minutes trying to post a comment to my blogpost from last night. A reader, The Werewolf Prophet, aka "Wolfie," asked about the source of a remark that I made about the going price of Haitian children. For reasons unfathomable to me, blogspot will not take my comment - so I am posting it here on its own. (Have I offended Google? Is that worse than offending the Southern Baptist Convention? Or Catholic Charities?)


Last night several news sources were quoting an anonymous policeman who felt that was the going rate. Today several more sources are talking about international adoptions usually require "processing fees" of up to $10,000.

Today, I found this tidbit at

"As far as we know they would have been, I say it clearly, sold for $10,000 each," said Georg Willeit, who runs the SOS Children's Village outside of Port-au-Prince. "That's what one of the policemen told us."

SOS stands for Save Our Children, a legitimate child advocacy organization.

Not airtight, but I never said it was. These international adoptions can be a real racket. Even domestic adoptions of perfect white babies through religious organizations can be quite pricey. Catholic Charities, I'm looking at you!