Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Targeted Political Donations

by Pa Rock
Political Activist

As campaigning gets more expensive with each passing day, political candidates of all parties step up their appeals for donations.  Republicans know better than to ask me for cash, but I still get the occasional letter to my deceased father asking for cash to help finance some GPO nitwit.  But the Democrats shamelessly ask me for cash, with multiple appeals coming from some candidates daily.

And I do support some individual candidates, ones that I suspect can win or whose message I find particularly appealing.  What I do not do anymore is to support the general  money collection efforts set up by Democrats in Congress.  The Senate Democrats have their Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC), and the house has its counterpart, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).  I quit donating to those two groups this year because of their strong tendency to support incumbents - including some who need to be out of Congress.  (Senator Blanche Lincoln, I'm looking at you!)

That's not to say that I don't read the deluge of emails sent by the DSCC and the DCCC.  I am always interested in learning more about which candidates need and deserve support.   There are some very good Democratic candidates out there who may make it into Congress this year.  Joe Sestak, a Congressman and retired Admiral, has a good chance to take Arlen Specter's old senate seat in Pennsylvania.  Scott McAdams chances look better and better in the Alaska senate race, and Robin Carnahan of Missouri has an excellent chance of ridding Congress of Roy Blunt.  And there are more good Democrats out there with actual chances of winning - unlike Blanche Lincoln.)

It's going to be a tough year, and it is important that good candidates have the resources to get their messages out and correct the falsehoods loosed by their opponents.  I'll send my money where I think it will do the most good, and I won't waste it on people like the Democrats who stood in the way of medical and financial reform.  It's called targeted spending, and its what people do when times are tough.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Jan Brewer Lets Innocent Man Rot in Jail

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The marriage of William and Carol Macumber was unraveling in 1974, and, unfortunately for Bill, Carol was an employee of the local sheriff's office and was studying fingerprinting.   As he fought to save the marriage, Carol went to her superiors at the sheriff's office and told them that Bill had told her that he had killed two people in the desert north of Scottsdale twelve years prior.    Some fingerprint evidence turned up, evidence that Carol had the ability to manufacture, and Bill was convicted of the murders and sentenced to life without parole - largely on Carol's testimony.

But, unknown at the time, another man had confessed to the murders several years earlier.  Ernesto Valenzuela had killed two other people.  He told his lawyer in 1967 that he had also killed the two people out in the desert.  The lawyer kept that admission in confidence for several years until Valenzuela was killed in prison.  Then with permission from Valenzuela's mother, the lawyer came forward with the information.  When Macumber was arrested, the lawyer who knew of the other confession offered to testify at his trial, but the judge in the case refused to allow it, believing that the admission by Ernesto Valenzuela was "unreliable."

Other people took up the cause, and in 2003 another lawyer investigating the case located Macumber's son, now in his forties, and told him that he believed his father was innocent and that his mother had framed him.    The son, who knew his mother well enough to be concerned, took up the cause of getting his father freed.

Last year the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency voted unanimously to recommend that the 74-year-old Macumber should be freed because the Board felt that he was innocent.   The Board's recommendation went to Governor Jan Brewer.  Ms. Brewer, who had just a few days earlier announced her candidacy for election as governor, declined to free Biill Macumber without giving a reason.

Bill Macumber is ill and will very likely die in prison for a crime he did not commit.  He is frail enough not to be a threat to society.  But Jan Brewer, who uses Rosie the Riveter as her campaign image, wants to have a tough image - tough on Mexicans, tough on crime, and tough on prisoners.  Letting a convict go, even an innocent one, would tarnish her tough bitch image.

So Bill, you will just have to suck it up and die behind bars, because Jan Brewer has her own priorities - and you ain't of of them!

(To sign a petition about this legal injustice and Jan Brewer's despicable inaction, please visit  http://humanrights.change.org/petitions/view/free_william_macumber_2)

Free William Macumber!  Fire Jan Brewer!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Anita Bryant: Evil Step-Mother of the Tea Party

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I had the television on for background noise as I was unpacking today, listening to Sean Penn's Academy Award-winning performance as Harvey Milk, in a movie that was peppered with snippets of Anita Bryant speeches from the 1970's.  Ms. Bryant, for those not in my age range, was a former beauty queen and recording artist who became infamous as a high priestess of hate and homophobia just as America was beginning to address the issue of gay rights.

The Oklahoma born singer was living in Florida and making a living as a huckster for the state's orange juice industry when the Dade County Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance making it illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation.    Even though the measure had been sponsored and introduced by a friend of hers, the singer was having none of it.  Ms. Bryant, a member of some branch of the Southern Baptist Convention, declared a holy war on homosexuality, and started a protest that eventually got the Florida law repealed and encouraged the passage of some hate legislation in other states.

After listening to Bryant spew her hate in the film today, I got on the Internet to learn what had become of her.  The last I had known about this hate-filled precursor of Jan Brewer, she had a small music show going in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.  According to what I found in the public domain, she has also had music shows in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and Branson, Missouri - all failures - and she owes massive amounts of back taxes in all three locations.  (And if you can't make it in Pigeon Forge, Eureka Springs, or Branson - where the hell can you make it?)

It all turned sour for Ms. Bryant when she got politically active in Florida.  The goobers down there liked her enough to vote out the anti-discrimination law, but elsewhere she became a pariah.  The gay community led a national boycott of her employer - the orange juice industry of Florida - and gay bars removed ""screwdrivers" from their drinks menu and replaced them with "Anita Bryants," drinks made with apple juice and vodka.   Within a year the Florida orange growers let her go.  Not long after that she was hit in the face with a cream pie thrown by a gay rights activist - on television.  Wiping the mess from her face, she quipped, "Well  at least it wasn't a fruit pie!"

That little gal from Oklahoma sure did have a sense of humor!

America's cheerleader for hate divorced her first husband, the father of her four children, shortly after she became infamous.  She apparently alleged some type of mental cruelty, which is rich considering what she had just put the nation through.    He was more of a fundamentalist than her, because he still believes they are married in the eyes of God.  That divorce cost her some support with the loony fringe.

Ms. Bryant and her second husband now live in Edmond, Oklahoma, where they fend off creditors while she "runs" some type of international ministry.   I spent an afternoon in Edmond a couple of months ago at Pep Boys getting  some tires put on my Dad's truck after a blow-out on the interstate.   It's a decent little berg, but she can have it - and Edmond can have her, because the age of Anita Bryant has mercifully passed.

Anita Bryant single-handedly rallied the gay community and gave it the impetus to move forward into the era of today when states are not only passing anti-discrimination legislation, some are also even passing laws to allow gay marriage.  She was instrumental in giving the movement its motivation and energy, although she would be loath to admit it.

Anita Bryant showed America how ugly it could be, and America was repulsed.  Today her evil spawn - Sharron Angle, Rand Paul, Michelle Bachmann, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Sean Hannity, Laura Schlessinger, and others of that ilk - are again encouraging Americans to hate, and like Bryant, they will eventually overstep the bounds of decency and offend the good people of this country.   Progress is slow, but America always moves forward - eventually.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Bolts, and Washers, and Nuts - Oh, My!

by Pa Rock
Moving Specialist

With the exception of a medical drama today that took up a couple of hours (see www.okinawanodyssey.blogspot.com), I have devoted the rest of the day to unpacking boxes and putting together a pair of end tables that I bought new in the States and had shipped over here unassembled.

My father owned a small appliance store when I was a kid in school, and I was always tasked with the grunge work at his store.  Anytime something needed assembled - things like television stands and lawnmowers - I was the lucky person that got to spread all of the parts out and spend the afternoon trying to make sense of diagrams while getting things to snap or bolt together.  I hated it!

So what was I thinking when I bought a computer table and a pair of end tables, unassembled, and brought them overseas to put together?  They will all be returning to the States as assembled pieces of furniture.  That's for damned sure!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Murkowski Gets Baked in Alaska

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

This coming political rout by Republicans that all of the talking heads (and Republicans) are predicting, is becoming less and less likely, particularly with regard to the Senate.  Oh, yes, the GOP will take some Democratic seats, like the one occupied by Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, but she has been such a miserable blue dog, that the Republicans are likely to miss her more than the Democrats will.  Evan Bayh's vacated seat in Indiana will also fall to Republicans, but it was amazing that a Democrat ever held that seat in the first place.  Indiana, after all, is the state that sent Dumb Dan Quayle to the Senate.

There is a list of current Democratic Senate seats over which Republicans, teabaggers, and Fox News are salivating, and Republicans will take some - at least the two mentioned above.  What isn't being talked about by the prognosticators, however, is that there are some Republican Senate seats that are going to slide over into the Democratic column.  I am currently predicting that three will go Democratic - Missouri, Kentucky, and Alaska - with a fourth, Florida, either electing a Democrat or an Independent.

The biggest Senate election news of this week comes from Alaska where all of the major polls had incumbent Republican Lisa Murkowski listed as a safe bet to be re-elected.  Ms. Murkowski, who was originally appointed to the Senate by her father, Governor Frank Murkowski of Alaska, spent over 1.4 million dollars to win her primary election against teabagger Joe Miller this past Tuesday.  (That's a lot of oil and gas money!)   Miller spent a paltry $200,000 on the election - and he has apparently beaten the incumbent by several hundred votes.  Now Murkowski is running around with her lawyers trying to figure a way to change the vote totals or get her name on a third-party ticket.

But it's too late now, and Lisa Murkowski loses even if she wins.

If she pulls some political shenanigans and messes with Joe Miller's victory, she will piss off large chunks of the idiot fringe - voters that she would need in order to beat Democrat Scott McAdams, a native Alaskan and Mayor of Sitka, in the November general election.

And where is Sarah Palin in all of this Alaska drama.  Well, Mama Grizzly is the person who took the governor's seat away from Murkowski's father, and there appears to be no love lost between her and Senator Murkowski.  In fact, Palin endorsed Joe Miller.

The stars are lining up in Alaska, and they appear poised to lead Democrat Scott McAdams to the Senate!

God I love teabaggers - especially when they roll in the mud fighting "mainstream" Republicans!  Snakes fornicating - could anything be sweeter!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Another Gay Republican

by Pa Rock 
Citizen Journalist

The Republican Party which prides itself on such virtues as bigotry, greed, and general insensitivity toward minorities and the poor, developed a nasty chink in its armor of hate today when Ken Mehlman, former chair of the Republican National Committee during the reign of Little George Bush, announced to the world that he is gay!

Say what?

The former leader of the Republican National Committee, one of the two most homophobic organizations in America (the other being the Westboro Baptist Church), is himself a homosexual?

Yes, he is.

And, yes, there is a God!

And, yes, she's laughing her gay ass off!

Common estimates are that one in ten American men is gay, and one in twenty women in this country is a lesbian - and some of them are Republicans, and a few even attend that hateful little "church" in Topeka.   Sometimes it is the loudest and meanest who are really the most conflicted.

Good job on coming out, Ken.  May you find peace and contentment in your life - and may your political party wake up and feel the humanity.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

John McCain: The Lights Are On, but...

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I used to be a fan of Senator John McCain, back when he was the mavericky outsider poking fun at yuppie puppy George Bush.  But that was before he left his soul out in the rain and it shrank so drastically.

I followed the primary election in my old home state of Arizona over the Internet today, and was not surprised to see McCain easily defeating conservative nutbag J.D. Hayworth.  It became apparent early on that  McCain would beat tea-party favorite Hayworth, because McCain threw his principles aside, like so much outdated clothing, and ran  to Hayworth's right - and Hayworth's right is a very ugly neighborhood indeed!

As the results were coming in, Huffington Post said that McCain was "horsewhipping"  Hayworth, and, in the end, he did win decisively.

To win of course, Old John changed his position on many major issues from immigration reform  to the subject of whether he had ever labeled himself a "maverick" or not.  McCain's BFF, elder-bachelor Lindsey Graham, explained to reporters that McCain had to change some of his positions because of who he was running against.  McCain shot back that Graham was wrong because he, McCain, had never changed any of his positions.  Whether that preposterous statement from McCain was just a bald-faced lie, or the result of advancing dementia, is yet to be seen.

And even though John McCain is historically one mean bastard, my money is on the dementia!

The Democratic National Committee has issued the following statement regarding McCain's primary victory, and it is just too damned good not to quote in its entirety!

“Today, the Republican party of Arizona nominated for Senate JD Hayworth in the shell of a politician that was once John McCain,” said DNC National Press Secretary Hari Sevugan. “The complete takeover of the Republican party by the Tea Party has included taking over the soul of a Senator who was once the face of comprehensive immigration reform and who now would just build the ‘danged fence;’ a man who once reveled in being a maverick and who now is a rubber stamp for the extreme rightwing; a man whose name was synonymous with campaign finance reform and who now barely registers a notice when the law that bears his name was gutted by the Supreme Court to favor corporate America. So, we congratulate JD Hayworth on his nomination tonight.”

Poor John - the lights are on, but nobody's home!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mandating Christ at Ft. Eustis

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Some of my best memories of four years of active duty in the military center on and around Ft. Eustis, Virginia.  The small base, located just outside of Williamsburg and a short drive from Virginia Beach, is home to the Army’s Transportation Center.  I was there for the Transportation Officer's Basic Course in 1971, and returned a couple of years later where I served as the executive officer of a Marine Maintenance Company and a Group Re-Enlistment Officer.  Virginia was friendly and beautiful, and it offered so much for this former history major to see and do. 

I was saddened last year to hear that Ft. Eustis is being phased out as a free-standing military base with its Transportation training function going to Ft. Lee, Virginia.   (Ft. Lee has long housed the Army’s Quartermaster School.)  This week I was extremely disappointed to read about the religious controversy that is rocking Ft. Eustis and Ft. Lee.  It is a situation that has apparently been in the making for some time, and has seemingly blossomed into a full crisis after several years of military brass turning a blind eye to what has been occurring at these two important Army bases.

According to news reports, a group of eighty soldiers were punished last May for refusing to attend an evangelical Christian concert that was presented at Ft. Eustis as a part of “The Commanding General’s Spiritual Fitness “concert series.  Those reports indicate that the concerts were begun by Major General James E. Cunningham while he was the CG at Ft. Eustis.  Chambers, who states that he was reborn as a Christian at the age of sixteen, later became the CG at Ft. Lee and expanded his spiritual brainchild to that base as well.

On May 13th of this year a Christian rock concert was held at the Jacobs Theater on Ft. Eustis as a part of the Commanding General’s Spiritual Fitness series.  The feature act was three sisters who bill themselves as BarlowGirl.   Shortly after the concert, a complaint was filed with the Army’s Equal Opportunity Office and with the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) alleging that a group of eighty soldiers were punished when they chose not to attend the concert – after being marched in formation, after a day’s hard work, to the theater for the show.  The group was supposedly marched back to their barracks after they declined to attend the show, locked-down in the barracks, and told they were to spend the time performing personal maintenance and were not to sit, sleep, use their cell phones or laptop computers, or play electronic games during this “maintenance” time.

Of course, there are a couple of big problems with what is alleged to have happened at Ft. Eustis.  First of all, this is America and religion cannot be forced down anyone’s throat – no matter how much some fundamentalists would wish that were not so.  (Suggested reading:  The Constitution of the United States of America, the First Amendment.)  Secondly, religion in the military is in the purview of the Chaplain’s Corps, and is not to be promoted by commanders, even those with stars on their shoulders, because when commanders promote something, it often feels like an order to their subordinates.  And, again, this is the United States of America – a country where people cannot be ordered to worship God, especially a particular God in a particular way.

Was this two-star Bible thumping really meant to promote evangelical Christianity?   The following quote from the base newspaper, The Wheel, would argue that it was:

“Following the Apostle Paul’s message to the Ephesians in the Bible, Christian music’s edgy, all-girl band BarlowGirl brought the armor of God to the warriors and families of Ft. Eustis during another installment of the Commanding General’s Spiritual Fitness Concert Series May 13 at the Jacobs Theater.’’

It has only been a couple of years since our government was unable to provide our troops in the Middle East with body armor – real armor.  Now apparently that effort is being supplemented with the “armor of God!”

Just how much is this shameless promotion of a specific type of religion costing the American taxpayer?  Those figures are not available yet, but the Military Religious Freedom Foundation is going to find out.  The MRFF, already well aware that large sums of taxpayer money are being used to promote religion in the military – primarily religion with an evangelic Christian bent to it – is now launching an investigation to find out just how many tax dollars are being funneled into this clearly un-Constitutional activity.

Unfortunately for our country and the spirit of religious freedom, there seems to be a movement afoot to enshrine America at a fundamentalist Christian nation.  One third of Republicans are telling pollsters that they believe the President is a Muslim, something that alarms and offends them.   There is a minor national furor brewing over the proposed building of an Islamic Center in downtown Manhattan – as well as over the construction of mosques in several other localities throughout the United States.  At least one general has had his hand slapped over remarks he made indicating that we are in Iraq and Afghanistan primarily to defeat Islam – a view also expressed by some executives of our private army in the Middle East, Xe (formerly Blackwater).  And then there was all of that fundamentalist Christian nonsense being perpetrated on cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs – a community known to some as “God’s hometown.”

As a people, we owe gratitude to the young people at Ft. Eustis who turned the spotlight on this command-sponsored religious arm-twisting.  Now our country’s leaders need to step up to the plate and investigate and correct this odious situation.  We owe that to those eighty soldiers who put their careers on the line to correct a serious wrong, and we owe it to ourselves.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Monday's Poetry: "Everybody Knows"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

If you are a guest in someone's car, chances are good that you will find yourself listening to their music.  While spending much of yesterday riding in a friend's car, I received a solid education in the music of Leonard Cohen.  One of the albums Murphy played for my entertainment featured Jennifer Warnes singing tunes by Cohen, all good songs delivered in style that was purely Warnes.  The other collection was a live album of Leonard Cohen singing his own songs.  My favorite was a beautiful piece entitled "Everybody Knows," a tune that I recognized from the soundtrack of 1990's Pump Up the Volume. It brought out the darkness of  Christian Slater's disaffected high school pirate radio operator.

Leonard Cohen co-wrote "Everybody Knows" with his occasional collaborator, Sharon Robinson.  It's strong message has held up well.

Everybody Knows
by Leonard Cohen and Sharon Robinson

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded 
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed 
Everybody knows that the war is over 
Everybody knows the good guys lost 
Everybody knows the fight was fixed 
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich 
That's how it goes 
Everybody knows 
Everybody knows that the boat is leaking 
Everybody knows that the captain lied 
Everybody got this broken feeling 
Like their father or their dog just died 

Everybody talking to their pockets 
Everybody wants a box of chocolates 
And a long stem rose 
Everybody knows 

Everybody knows that you love me baby 
Everybody knows that you really do 
Everybody knows that you've been faithful 
Ah give or take a night or two 
Everybody knows you've been discreet 
But there were so many people you just had to meet 
Without your clothes 
And everybody knows 

Everybody knows, everybody knows 
That's how it goes 
Everybody knows 

Everybody knows, everybody knows 
That's how it goes 
Everybody knows 

And everybody knows that it's now or never 
Everybody knows that it's me or you 
And everybody knows that you live forever 
Ah when you've done a line or two 
Everybody knows the deal is rotten 
Old Black Joe's still pickin' cotton 
For your ribbons and bows 
And everybody knows 

And everybody knows that the Plague is coming 
Everybody knows that it's moving fast 
Everybody knows that the naked man and woman 
Are just a shining artifact of the past 
Everybody knows the scene is dead 
But there's gonna be a meter on your bed 
That will disclose 
What everybody knows 

And everybody knows that you're in trouble 
Everybody knows what you've been through 
From the bloody cross on top of Calvary 
To the beach of Malibu 
Everybody knows it's coming apart 
Take one last look at this Sacred Heart 
Before it blows 
And everybody knows 

Everybody knows, everybody knows 
That's how it goes 
Everybody knows 

Oh everybody knows, everybody knows 
That's how it goes 
Everybody knows 

Everybody knows

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A Day on the Road

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Home late after a day of exploring Okinawa with my friend, Murphy.  We traveled north to Nago, and then east to the British Wine and Tea Shop, a place that Murphy has been to several times.  The food was excellent, and very reasonable.  It was the best meal that I have had since my arrival here.  The remainder of the afternoon was spent at Okinawa's famous Churaumi Aquarium - one of the largest in the world.  Watching the fish endlessly drift by was mesmerizing.

These adventures will be explored in greater detail at  www.okinawanodyssey.blogspot.com

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Unboxing Old Friends

by Pa Rock
Shameless Collector

Saturday.  I have spent most of the day unboxing my treasures, ten boxes so far, and several more likely before I hit the sheets later tonight.  Much of what I unpacked and put away today were books, my oldest and dearest friends. The amount of books that I have is well beyond a guilty pleasure;  it is shameless, plain and simple.   I hauled a truckload of books and other distractions to Tim before I left the states, with the intention that he peddle them on Ebay, or do what I can't and throw them away.  I also sent quite a few into storage in Phoenix.  But still, here I am on Okinawa with books stacked on every flat surface..   They multiply like rabbits!

The other thing that seems to be expanding exponentially are framed pictures of family.  They're everywhere, they're everywhere!  I'm not going to be hanging pictures of the walls of this beautiful apartment, so I guess it is fortunate that I have so many book cases for storing books and displaying the lives of my loved ones!

Today's question:  What's worse than an infomercial?  Answer:  A Japanese infomercial!  Con-artists know no borders - and they have no shame!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Target in Bullseye Over Right-Wing Political Donation

by Pa rock
Citizen Journalist

It been mere months since the Supreme Court of the United States opened the flood gates for corporations to pour unlimited amounts of cash into the political process through its controversial Citizen's United decision.  President Obama and others argued at the time that it was a bad decision that would give vast amounts of political power to corporations.  And even though Justice Alito mumbled at the State of the Union speech that the President was wrong in his conclusion, he most assuredly was not.

Late last month the corporate offices of Target showed just how badly corporations can behave in the political process when they donated $150,000 in c ash to MN Forward, a political action group whose main function is to pay for political ads for Tom Emmer, a reactionary Republican candidate for governor of Minnesota who is an outspoken opponent of gay rights.

Target, President Obama, Justice Alito, and the rest of us learned a couple of things after knowledge of this political donation became public.  First, the public can - and in this case, did - weigh-in on Target's decision to help fund Emmer's campaign.  There were petitions (I signed several over the Internet), news stories, and protests in front of Target stores.  The second thing the giant corporation learned was that all of this public anger puts fear in their stockholders, especially the big stockholders such as management firms, unions, and pension funds.

 Three management firms have sponsored a corporate resolution demanding that Target revamp its donation process to avoid the chance of additional incidents of public outrage.  Those three firms, - Calvert Asset Management, Trillium Asset Management and Walden - together hold $57.5 million of Target stock.   The New York state pension fund and some  union investment managers are considering signing onto the resolution, which calls on Target's independent directors to review the criteria and risks in making donations to organizations active in political campaigns.

I am (or was) a dedicated Target shopper who enjoys the fact that the national chain store offers a better quality and variety of merchandize than everyone's bane - Wal-Mart.   But I won't go back in a Target store as long as they continue to support right-wing bozos.   I refuse to enable their public treachery!

So the public has some say after all.   That's good news for the little people, but not to worry - the Supreme Court is probably searching for ways to limit public input into corporate affairs as we speak!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Westboro Baptist Church Cuddles with ACLU

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The Constitution is the document that gives structure to our government, and, through its first ten amendments, commonly known as the Bill of Rights, provides a list of civil liberties for its citizenry.  And of those ten amendments, none is more cited, or maligned, or as important as the First.   It is the First Amendment that guarantees our freedom of the press, freedom to assemble peacefully, freedom to petition our government for the redress of grievances,  freedom to worship (or not) as we please, and the right to speak freely. 

The Constitution of the United States of America applies to everyone residing within this country’s borders, as well as to many Americans who are living abroad – such as members of our military.  It protects the rights of Christians, Jews, Muslims, atheists, homosexuals, prisoners, undocumented workers and their children, Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, libertines, and even vegans. 

The Constitution also protects the rights of stupid and mean people.  It is the First Amendment that gives Nazis the right to assemble, practice their hate speech, and hand out their disgusting pamphlets.    Dr. Laura Schlessinger said that she is abandoning her radio program so that she may regain her First Amendment rights.   She apparently feels that she has a Constitutional right to spew racial epithets over the air, and sadly, she probably does.    The First Amendment guarantees the rights of free speech to everyone, even bigots.

It is the American Civil Liberties Union, a group routinely demonized by conservatives, which is often on the front line fighting to maintain the rights outlined in the first ten amendments.  But in guarding our civil liberties, the ACLU often has to hold its collective nose and defend the rights of people and groups that decent people would strive to avoid.    

Case in point:   The state of Missouri passed two laws in 2006 to keep protestors away from funerals.  The laws were written to keep the odious Fred Phelps family of the Westboro Baptist Church away from the funerals of American servicemen who  died in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.  (The Phelps’s are raging homophobes who have somehow reached the convoluted conclusion that the death of Americans in wars is God’s punishment for our government’s condoning homosexuality.

The Phelps’ clan, in the personage of odious Fred’s odious daughter, Shirley Phelps-Roper, enlisted the aid of the ACLU to go to court and defend their First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly, rights they felt were being usurped by the two Missouri statutes.   This week a federal judge agreed that the crazies in the Westboro Baptist Church have the right, as outlined in the First Amendment of the Constitution, to express their “free speech” by demonstrating at funerals.

The decision will be appealed, but it is unlikely that it will be overturned.  A Federal Appeals Court has previously ruled that “there was no compelling government interest in protecting people from unwanted speech outside of their homes.

Other states are passing similar statutes, and are likely to meet with similar court decisions – because the Constitution cannot pick and choose who it will protect.  It is there for all of us – even Laura Schlessinger and the Phelps’ family. 

(For a look directly into the abyss of hell - and to learn more about the Phelps’ family, check out their website at www.godhatesfags.com .  Prepare to be disgusted!)  

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Good Riddance, Dr. Laura!

by Pa Rock 
Citizen Journalist

Idiotic radio personality, Dr. Laura Schlessinger, has announced that she will be ending her radio show when her contract expires at the end of this year.   This sudden departure from the public airwaves is a result of a rant that Dr. Laura unleashed on a black female caller last week – a rant in which she felt compelled to use the N-word eleven times in five minutes!

(That’s a mark that would have been hard for Orville Faubus, George Wallace, or even Lester Maddox to have hit in their heydays!)

Schlessinger lamented on Larry King Live that she was quitting radio in order to “regain” her First Amendment rights.  Seriously!  She stated, “I want to be able to say what’s on my mind and in my heart, and what I think is helpful and useful without somebody getting angry.”

And I agree with the F-wording B-word.  The First Amendment does protect her right to say almost anything.  But if her mind and heart are filled with racial hatred, and if she feels that demeaning an entire race of people is helpful and useful, then I am glad that she is giving up, or losing, her big public podium.    But I suspect that using the N-word will continue to make people angry regardless of where or how she chooses to spew it.

Dr. Laura, who is entitled to use the title “doctor” due to having a PhD in physiology, needs to get with the twenty-first century – or at least with the latter part of the twentieth century.    Slavery ended 150 years ago.  Jim Crow is dead, and segregation is a thing of the past.    The Klan and other hate groups are little more than impotent sideshows in most of the United States - with big portions of Arizona, Oklahoma, and South Carolina serving as sad exceptions.  If she is strongly committed to being an angry bigot, let her take her rage to some insignificant little blog where she can say what is on her mind without offending thousands.

It’s therapeutic, Laura.  You can trust me on that because I am a counselor - a real one!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Costs of War

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

“This is still a very complex place.  We’re not going to be sure of the outcome for three, or five, or 10 years.”  General Ray Odierno, top American military leader in Iraq.
Stars and Stripes ran several pieces today on the United States military’s gradual withdrawal from Iraq.  The primary article, entitled “The Long Goodbye,” was written by Heath Druzin.   It contained a lot of current statistical data relating to the Iraq War that I have not seen presented anywhere else in such a concise manner.

According to the S&S, as of 12 Aug 2010, 4,414 US troops have  been killed in the Iraq War, and another 31,897 have suffered wounds.  Of those wounded, 1,135 are now amputees.

Those numbers apparently do not reflect the service members who have suffered serious post traumatic stress disorder as a result of combat,  or those who ultimately committed suicide as a consequence of their war experiences.

In addition to those staggering numbers, there have been 1,487 death  claims filed on behalf of civilian contractors and subcontractors working in Iraq as a part of the war effort.  

Then there are the real civilian casualties – the 113,166 Iraqi men, women, and children who have died during the war – and those are just the ones we know about.  The Bush administration was adamant during the early war years that they were not keeping track of Iraqi casualties.

(Civilian deaths always outnumber those of the military.  The same article, while comparing war dead totals for previous wars, listed deaths in the US Civil War as 291,557.  Those were just the soldiers.  Most historians place the total deaths from our Civil War as well over half-a-million.)

War is best measured in blood, because blood is more immediate, more real.  But it can also be measured in dollars – and every dollar spent on war is a dollar that could be going to the benefit of humanity – feeding, teaching, healing, building, and ministering to the suffering.

The Iraq War, according to today’s article in Stars and Stripes, has run up total costs of nearly $750 billion – or three-quarters of a trillion dollars – in operating expenses    That figures out to nearly $2,500 for every man, woman, and child in America – and over $25,000 for every human being in Iraq.  The operating costs, however, are only a small part of the total war bill.   When medical and disability costs for veterans are figured in, as well as the total impact on our economy, the total cost of the war is in the neighborhood of $3 trillion – so far.  That is quite a pricey neighborhood!    Then there is on-going medical care for our wounded and disabled troops, as well as the costs of maintaining troops in Iraq until our departure is complete.

And that’s just Iraq.  When the quagmire in Afghanistan is rolled into the picture,  the costs, both in blood and treasure – really get outrageous! 

Monday, August 16, 2010

What Would Jesus Do?

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I came across a small, silver "Jesus fish" pin as I was unpacking my stuff this afternoon.  Emblazoned on the tiny fish were the letters WWJD, shorthand for What would Jesus do?  I have no idea where it came from, but it was probably slipped to me by some well-meaning proselytizer who had concerns about my immortal soul.   (Maybe one of the packers in Arizona dropped in my belongings after seeing all of my left-wing reading material!)

I have always enjoyed the challenge of trying to put myself in Christ's shoes when making a decision or taking a position.  Well, actually what I have enjoyed is watching the fundamentalist zealots try to rationalize their hate and bigotry by running it through some imaginary Jesus filter.  Somehow, I think I have just as much right to be Christ's mind reader as any of those Bible-thumping idiots.

Just what would Jesus do?

My Jesus, the one with a passion for life and a sense  of humor, wouldn't get all twisted about a mosque at "ground zero" in New York City, and he would probably frequent the place and make new friends.  He wouldn't despise a religion, or a set of ideas, or a group of people.  He would embrace them and learn from them.

My Jesus would attend gay weddings and have a great time.  He would also probably bring the wine.

My Jesus would be out in the Sonora Desert of the hottest days of the summer giving water and comfort to immigrants as they risked their lives to build a better future for their families.  He would lead them through the wilderness to safety and acceptance.

My Jesus would encourage brotherhood beyond borders, learning for its own sake, having fun, and following the Golden Rule.  

My Jesus would be a fun guy for all eternity - not the angry asshole that the fundamentalists would like to foist upon us.  

One of my friends has a "Jesus fish" bumper sticker.  It has four little feet, and the word "Darwin" written on its side.  My Jesus would get a laugh out of that!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Gentlemen, the Cow Has Left the Barn!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Wikileaks.org has dumped 91,000 classified United States government documents relating to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan onto the World Wide Web, and is threatening the imminent release of at least 15,000 more.  And although our government is officially enraged at this mammoth breach in security, news reports have not signalled much in the release that was surprising or damaging - just embarrassing.  

And therein lies the rub.  Our government, the government that supposedly works for us, the citizens, feels the need to classify tons and tons of paperwork, with the apparent primary objective of not embarrassing itself.

Is that the purpose of classifying documents - to stave off embarrassment?  Is that the way government should operate in a supposedly free and open society?

The military, right on cue, is overreacting to the Wikileaks document dump.  First of all, the big brass is collectively red-in-the-face and mad-as-hell demanding that Wikileaks bend to its will and stop publishing those embarrassing memos.  And now, they are instructing members of the armed forces not visit the site and not read any of the leaked memos that are available for general perusal worldwide by anyone with a personal computer.

This  week the United States Marine Corps issued the following statement:  (Emphasis is that of the Marine Corps.)

USMC Personnel (Marines/Civilians/Contractors) are hereby cautioned and directed to NOT access the WIKILEAKS website from a personally owned, publicly owned or US Government computer system.
By willingly accessing the WIKILEAKS website for the purpose of viewing the posted classified material – these actions constitute the unauthorized processing, disclosure, viewing, and downloading of classified information onto an UNAUTHORIZED computer system not approved to store classified information. Meaning they have WILLINGLY committed a SECURITY VIOLATION.

So the Marines can't read those pesky memos, but their grandparents can, their siblings can -  their spouses, and Sunday School teachers, and car dealers, and dog groomers, and newspaper editors back home can - it's just the United States Marines, the young men and women who stand on the front line of freedon, who can't access the piles of minutiae that the military would like to keep secret.
Obviously, there is one memo that the Marines have not received, and it is this:  With regard to the memos being posted by Wikileaks, that cow has left the barn!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Dan Fanelli Plays the Race Card

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Progressive Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson of Florida has an interesting email appeal for money circulating in which he flatly states that his opponent, Dan Fanelli, is a racist.  Mr. Fanelli, who won't be Mr. Grayson's official opponent until after Florida's August 24th primary, does have a problem when it comes to race.  He put out an ad last spring in which he compared an elderly white man to a young brown man in a tee-shirt - and asked which looked like a terrorist.  His point apparently was that lines at airport screening should only focus on foreigners, and let the rest of us safe whites pass right on through. 

Timothy McVeigh would have loved that!  So would Eric Rudolpah.

It is called racial profiling - and it is dumb because it does not work.

Mr. Grayson correctly pointed out in his appeal for money that not all terrorists are brown.  In fact, many of the most notorious were lily white.  Pull up a picture of Timothy McVeigh on the Internet and check it out.  That young man was absolutely wholesome.  Well, Mr. Wholesome blew up the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City killing a couple of hundred people - including many children who were attending a daycare in the building.

Fanelli is playing on our innate racial fears - just as Jan Brewer and her misanthropes are doing in Arizona.  It's not pretty, it's not fair, but it is highly effective.  Dan, Jan, and the Klan want us to be scared of people of color, because our fear gives them power.  That should not be what America is about in the twenty-first century!

Visiting the Neighbors

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I have spent the better part of the day getting moved into my new apartment.  I had my little car loaded down with the possessions that I brought over on the flight from the United States, as well as other things that I have accumulated since getting here.  It took me quite a while to find my apartment on my own, but I finally accomplished that - and got everything upstairs and unpacked.

The gas man came and turned on the gas.  He gave me a sheet of paper that said, "If you  have a problem with your gas, please show this paper to somebody who speaks Japanese!"  The rest was written in Kanji.

One of the ladies from the housing agency came by to conduct the move-in inspection.  We had lots of communication issues.  There were separate air conditioners in each room, each with its own set of unique instructions -  and all of the instructions are in Japanese!

Living here is going to be such an adventure!

Tonight I am visiting the neighbors - Camp Foster (United States Marine Corps) - using their Internet Cafe.  There is enough testosterone in this place to float a boat - a big one!

More tomorrow - if I can find an available "hot spot."

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Told You So!

by Pa Rock
Political Pundit

Politico.com, a fairly conservative political blog featured this headline today regarding this past Tuesday's primary elections in several states:

"Primary night yields good news for President Obama and Democrats."

Hmmm...that sounds vaguely reminiscent of something that I said in this space just a couple of days ago!
The first primary election that Politico showcased was the race for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senator from Colorado.  The President had a horse in that race, Michael Bennett, as did Bill Clinton with Andrew Romanoff.  Bennett won handily, giving President Obama a nice prestige boost. 

Meanwhile, Colorado Republicans nominated Ken Buck, a tea-bagger-type, to run against Bennett in the general election.  Buck was recently caught on tape making disparaging remarks about women.  Dissing 52% of the population probably isn't smart politics.  Mr. Buck is already being compared to Nevada whacko, and Senate candidate, Sharron Angle.

The tea-baggers are going great-guns in primaries, where the voters are fewer and more partisan, but success based on those criteria won't translate into November victories.     Tea-baggers are foisting ideologues on their party who can't win general elections.

Republican tea-baggers (Is there any other kind?) also nominated Dan Maes as their candidate for governor of Colorado.  Maes is the screwball who has been complaining about the socialist nature of Denver's shared bicycle program - a program that has been around for two decades and is extremely popular with many of the citizens of Denver's urban downtown.  Maes feels that programs which promote things like sharing bicycles will lead to a greater U.N. influence - and we can't have that, now can we!

Tea-baggers, please keep flexing your political muscle and nominating these unelectable nuts!

Republican tea-baggers in Connecticut nominated former fake wrestling promoter and President of the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment), Linda McMahon, to be their party's standard-bearer in the governor's race.  That might fly in the bayou backwaters of northern Louisiana and southern Arkansas, but it won't get off the ground in a state like Connecticut with a highly educated populace, many of whom commute daily to The Big Apple. 

(Just how will Ms. McMahon stand on the issue of exposing children to violence, when that is how she amassed her fortune?  Or how will she react to the use of steroids by athletes considering the massive use of steroids by her animals...er...uh...wrestlers?  Enquiring minds want to know!)

And there was much more good news for Democrats last Tuesday.  Check out the article in Politico.

Today's Politico also had a piece suggesting that an endorsement by Sarah Palin isn't necessarily a recipe for success, and, in fact, some Republican candidates are avoiding her.  (I think that I said something like that a couple of days ago also!)

Here's a little gem that will impact the general election  Over 80% of Americans disapprove of the way Congress is doing its job, however, most American's like their Congressmen and Senators - they just don't like those that the other guys send to Congress. 

There will be no big shifts in Congress this year, and if the tea-baggers keep high-jacking Republican primaries and nominating whack-jobs, there may actually be some Democratic gains. 

(Two cases in point:  Missouri and Kentucky will each fill Republican Senate vacancies with Democrats.)

You heard it here first!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Fair and Balanced

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The more that I read the Stars and Stripes, the better I like it.  That is a good thing, because when it comes to American newspapers printed on real paper, the S&S  is the only game in town - in my town, at least.

I was expecting this daily newspaper to be a staid and stodgy affair with a strong conservative bent.  But instead of some military announcement sheet with heavy censorship, I encountered a professional publication that is far more "fair and balanced" than the loud "news" outlet that claims that appellation.

Yes, many stories have a military focus because the overseas U.S. military population makes up a considerable portion of the newspaper's readership.  But today's military is young, and those young people have young interests and young ideas - and they are far more open-minded about many things than their grandparents, or even their parents were.

Today's edition features an editorial by Mary Tillman (Pat's mother) in which she lambastes retired general Stanley McChrystal for his role in the cover-up of the circumstances surrounding Pat's death.  She had read the article in Rolling Stone that resulted in McChrystal being fired and surmised that the article, "The Runaway General," by journalist Michael Hastings describes "exactly the arrogant individual I believed him (McChrystal) to be."

Ms. Tillman's editorial, taken originally from The Los Angeles Times, was titled "Tillman's mom on McChrystal:  I told you so." 

And did she ever!  Mary Tillman's book, Boots on the Ground by Dusk:  Searching for Answers in the Death of Pat Tillman, is a moving account by a bereaved parent that will bring the hardest of souls to tears.  In it she singles out General McChrystal for scrutiny.  She and her ex-husband, Pat's father, went on to implore Congress and the President to further scrutinize McChrystal before promoting him to head the war effort in Afghanistan.   Unfortunately for President Obama, he made the appointment anyway.

Now the President has corrected that mistake, but the war drags on.  And I am left with the growing certainty that no matter how things play out in Afghanistan, the Stars and Stripes will endeavor to give an honest assessment of what is happening there. 

If only Fox News possessed that type of integrity, or any integrity for that matter!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Republicans Declare War on Brown Babies

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

All of the so-called political experts are falling all over each other predicting how the Republicans are going to sweep the elections in November.  Why, they belch, the GOP might even regain control of the House of Representatives, making John of Orange Boehner the next Speaker!

That is just so much drivel and nonsense.  I personally would be surprised in the Republicans make any gains in November.  Why?  Because as a party, they are just getting stupider and crazier. 

For example: 

Sharron Angle, the "interesting" Senate candidate from Nevada, seems to believe that God has chosen her to run for the Senate against Harry Reid.  She is not overly literate on the subject of the Constitution, but she appears to be really up on her Ten Commandments, harping that our government is, in an of itself, idolatrous.  She believes that rape and incest are not sufficient reasons for allowing an abortion, and that some eleven-year-old girl who is impregnated by her father is carrying a gift from God.  (It's true - you can't make shit like this up.)

Rand Paul, the Republican/Libertarian candidate for Senate from Kentucky has problems with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and doesn't seem to believe that government should be able to keep businesses from discriminating on the basis of race.  Dr. Paul (who lied about being a board certified opthalmologist) is opposed to most government subsidies for most things - except, of course, government handouts to physicians - a group that he believes are entitled to make a comfortable living.  And then their is that pesky story that just surfaced in GQ about...well, it's too bizarre for me to recount here.

Michele Bachmann, the whack-job Congressman from Minnesota, never misses an opportunity to look foolish, and now, like Sarah Palin, she is flying around the country "helping" other Republicans.  Michele doesn't like big government either, and she also opposes government subsidies - except perhaps for those very fat government payments that go to her family farm.

Michelle Bachmann was recently making robo-calls in Missouri for Republican senate candidate Roy Blunt.  Blunt is leaving the House of Representatives after a lackluster career as the Minority Whip - the guy who hands John of Orange Boehner the toilet paper when he needs to wipe.  Blunt, a former good Baptist and President of Southwest Baptist University (sic) in Bolivar, MO, went to Washington and promptly divorced his wife of many years.   He took up with a tobacco lobbyist whom he has since married.  One of his sons is also a tobacco lobbyist.  Lucky for him that he has such good ties in the lobbying community, because he is going to be looking for work come November.  Kit Bond's Missouri Senate seat will be a gain for the Democrats on election day - thank you, Robin Carnahan!

Sarah Palin is, of course, peddling books and her speaking wisdom to the suckers who think she is relevant.  Her relevance will be quantified on election day, and the number will be dismal - for her.  She will have to go back to Alaska and be content hunting baby seals from a helicopter!

And now...now there is a movement afoot in the Republican Party to amend the 14th Amendment - the one written by the Republican Congress just after the close of the Civil War - the one granting citizenship to all people born in this country.  The 14th Amendment is probably the high water mark in the entire history of the Republican Party, and today's tea-bagging boneheads want to change it!  The issue is, of course, the children born to undocumented workers, particularly those from Mexico - the one's that the tea-baggers like to refer to as "anchor" babies.  Being born in the United States does make those children citizens, but it still does not confer citizenship on their parents. 

But those babies are brown, and the Republican Party - the party that was once home to the Great Emancipator - today's Republican Party has a strong and distinct preference for white.

The Republican's are opposed to brown babies, but they will encourage the unlimited production of white babies - even through incest!

Stir into the mix the fact that Barack Obama is still very popular and is a butt-kicking campaigner, and the Republican promise of a sweep in November is little more than smoke and mirrors.  It ain't a-gonna happen!

Monday, August 9, 2010

When Will We Ever Learn?

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist
We live in a nation that always has to have an enemy - some menacing evil-doer like Hitler, Hirohito, Stalin, Krushchev, Castro, Ho Chi Minh, Saddam Hussein, Osama bin-Laden, and even the silly little Kim Jung-il. Having enemies gives us an excuse to pour trillions of dollars into an obscenely bloated defense budget and then turn around and deny basic services to our citizens because those dollars bust the budget. Having enemies lets us feed the war machine at the expense of the homeless, hungry, and downtrodden (some of whom are veterans of our current wars). Having enemies makes great business sense, if your business is war.

The same principle, of course, works for the domestic arms industry. The NRA, the highly effective lobbying arm of gun manufacturers, is all about scaring the bejezus out of ordinary folk with talk of liberals and Mexicans taking over. Enemies sell guns...and ammo!

I am reading a great book (a really great book!) called Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson. It is a fictionalized account of the CIA and military in Vietnam. In an early portion of the book an aging CIA operative is lamenting the fact that the "Japs" used to be our enemies and the Russians were our allies, and then the action moved to Korea. If Korea fell, the rest of the world would quickly turn communist. And finally we were in Vietnam with the same concern. By that time the Japanese were our allies, and Russia was an enemy - and half of Korea was our ally - and half wasn't. His point was that allegiances shift as time goes on, and today's enemy is tomorrow's ally.

Fast forward to today when I read on the cover of Stars and Stripes that we are shifting into a cooperative mode with Vietnam. Vietnam is becoming our ally. Our enemies are now a bunch of tribal chieftains and corrupt power brokers in the deserts of Iraq and the rugged mountains of Afghanistan.

Korea wore us down. Vietnam wore us down and finally wore us out. Afghanistan wore the Soviets out, and it does not appear to be any more promising for us today than it was for them twenty years ago.

But we've sold a hell of a lot of guns, and fighter jets, and war systems.

I'm reminded of Dwight Eisenhower on his last night as President telling us to "beware of the military-industrial complex."

I'm reminded of Dick Cheney, a "chicken-hawk" who got five or six draft deferments to stay out of Vietnam, then loudly pounded the war drums encouraging America's poor and minority youth to get in there and fight for their country - while directing billions of government dollars in no-bid war contracts to Halliburton, a company that he had once run and from which he was still receiving a handsome income.

I'm reminded of Donald Rumsfield, who as a young man was too white and well-connected to be bothered with Vietnam, yet as Secretary of Defense instituted policies like "Stop Loss" that sent thousands of young troops to the Middle East for multiple tours and kept them serving involuntarily beyond what should have been the end of their enlistments.

I am reminded of prissy George Bush who learned to fly fighter jets on the government's dime, but then could not be bothered with going to Vietnam to put that skill to use. In fact, poor George couldn't even remember where he was in 1972! Yet he had no problem in stirring up a hornet's nest in the Middle East and sending the children of others into the maw of hell to fight for his glory.

I'm reminded of Pogo who uttered those famous words: "We have met the enemy and he is us!"

I'm reminded of words that Pete Seeger put in a song over half a century ago: "When will we ever learn, when will we ever learn?"

When indeed?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

For the Times They Are a Changin'

by Pa Rock
Connected Parent and Grandparent
This morning I spoke to each of my children, one of their spouses, two of my grandchildren, and my sister who was walking the streets of Las Vegas. Total cost for all of that talk: sixty-eight cents!

Thank you, Skype!

My first call was to Tim and Erin in Kansas City (where everything is up-to-date!). That was a video call via Skype, and it cost nothing! Nada, zip, zilch, nothing! Not a freaking farthing! I had the pleasure of seeing them while we spoke, and they had the horror of seeing me up close and personal on Sunday morning. (It was still Saturday evening in the states, and Tim asked me not to spoil the future by telling him what happened!)

Tim instructed me on how to use Skype as a simple phone - because Molly's computer is having issues and Nick hasn't learned to Skype yet. I had to give Skype ten dollars by credit card to buy phone time in advance - .112 cents per minute. (They charge for the regular phone, but not for the video connections. Don't know why, but it works fine for me.)

I called Nick and spoke for several minutes. Boone had left before I called and gone back to his mom and grandparents' house, so I called him there and we chatted awhile. (Boone is such a grown-up sounding young man!) Later I called Gail, having forgotten that she and her eldest, Dr. Heidi, are visiting Reed in Vegas this weekend. We talked briefly. My final two calls were to Molly. First I got her answering machine and burned up a couple of minutes because I couldn't figure out how to hang up over the computer. Then I called again and got her - and also got to talk to Sebastian!

Every word with everyone was crystal clear!

Did I mention that all of that talk ran a mere sixty-eight cents? Yeah, I guess I did.

Forty years ago on Okinawa it was cheaper to send a telegram that it was to telephone to the United States. There was only one alternative to international long distance, and that was to go to the MARS station, some sort of military shortwave setup, where a ham radio operator would connect a caller to another shortwave radio operator in the states, and the stateside radio operator would then make the call to the person to whom the caller on Okinawa wanted to reach. It was as convoluted as it sounds.

Cause de jour: Maintain net neutrality and keep the Internet free! Keep the greedy bastards at Verizon and Google at bay. And, oh yes, Facebook still sucks!

Brown and Schwarzenegger Link Arms for Gay Marriage

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist
When Federal Judge Vaughn Walker overturned California's homophobic Prop 8 this week, he originally said that the state could immediately begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but upon reflection he decided to stay that order until arguments could be made in court on the appropriateness of that action. Reactionaries, of course, want to stall the issuance of licenses as long as possible, and they are arguing that if more people get married and the Walker ruling is eventually overturned by a higher court, the status of the marriages that occurred in the interim will be in question.

But others in California are looking at it differently. They see this as an opportunity to flex the state's newly implanted equal rights muscle.

Once and future governor, Jerry Brown, went to court yesterday in his current role as the state's attorney general. In that capacity he asked that the court remove Judge Walker's stay and allow the state to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples immediately. By taking that bold action, Brown not only did what is right, he also helped himself politically by tacking to the left of his opponent in the governor's race, billionaire Meg Whitman - and leaving her stranded with the right-wing rabble.

(Poor Meggie has become something of a mess in trying to wend her way through the turbulent waters left in the wake of Prop 8. She was at one point in her life thought to be a liberal, or at least liberal on some issues. However, Meg did not bother to vote in any elections until recently because she was too busy raising her family and running eBay, so she conveniently has no record to defend. Later she voted for Prop 8, indicating that it was in line with her faith, although former employees and friends at eBay said that Meg had never been one to belabor the topic of faith before. But now she is stuck. You can't be a serious Republican contender in California and support popular social movements like gay marriage, and the tide is definitely flowing away from the Mormons and other social malcontents who spent a bazillion dollars to pass this extremist measure. What's a Meggie to do?)

Answer: Who cares. She can dump all of her billions into this race, but the momentum remains with Brown - and its getting stronger thanks in no small measure to his bold statements on the ugliness and unconstitutionality of Prop 8. The election is his to lose - and Pat Brown's son isn't going to botch it up.

But Jerry Brown's rush to court is nothing if not predictable. The really big news is that current governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has also gone to court asking that the state be allowed to start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples immediately. That's right, Republican Governor Schwarzenegger has joined the movement! (Here's hoping that O'Reilly or Hannity or one of those other Fox morons can't resist the urge to imply that Arnold is a big ol' homo - and the governator responds by feeding them their teeth!)

It continues to be a great week for California and for America!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Hiroshima, Sixty-Five Years Later

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist
The United States government, under the direct order of President Harry Truman and the auspices of the crew of the bomber, Enola Gay, dropped the first atomic weapon to be used on human beings sixty-five-years ago today. The target, of course, was the crowded Japanese coastal city of Hiroshima. The target was chosen because it was pocketed up against the sea by a group of mountains, thus holding in the blast for maximum effect. US war planners wanted to see just how much damage that baby could do!

Tens of thousands died instantly that morning, and within a couple of weeks the dead numbered around 140,000. Three days later a second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, annihilating the city and leaving 70,000 dead. President Truman then took to the airwaves and told the world, Japan included, that the third one would go down (Emperor) Hirohito's stovepipe. The Japanese sued for peace shortly thereafter.

I had the good fortune to visit Hiroshima in early 1973, just a scant twenty-seven years after the bombing. My wife and I were living on Okinawa at the time. We caught a military hop to Japan and stayed a couple of nights at the famous Daichi Hotel. (One of the other guests at that time was the then current Sumo Wrestling Champion of the World, Jesse somebody from Hawaii. We shared an elevator with him at one point, which was very crowded with just the three of us!)

But I digress.

Toward the end of our stay in Tokyo, we elected to try to visit Hiroshima. We took the famous Bullet Train south out of Tokyo and through Kyoto. At some point the Bullet Train route stopped, and we had to get off and board onto one of the famous "cattle car" trains where people are literally pushed into packed cars. I remember watching helplessly as our luggage was being handed over heads and went right past us. When we alighted in Hiroshima we were able to reunite with our suitcases.

Once safely off of the train, we were amazed to find that there were no Americans in sight in the crowded city. Eventually we found a police station and went in and asked in anyone spoke English. No one did, but they called a lady who translated. We told her that we needed a place to stay, and a little while later a mama-san showed up and took us to her Japanese inn.

Mama-san's inn was very traditional. She served us green tea at a low table in our room, and that night she came in and rolled out the traditional mats to sleep on.

We spent a day touring Peace Park, which is in the center of the city at the spot known as "ground zero." One structure still stood, a government building that had been fairly new when the bomb was dropped. The iron frame for its dome was still in place, like it had been immediately after the blast. That building, the center of Peace Park, was known as the Atomic Dome.

All of that comes back to me because today there was a picture of the Atomic Dome on the front page of Stars and Stripes. More on that later.

As we strolled into the crowded park filled with memorials from most of the world's countries (excluding, of course, the United States), we were fairly clueless as to what we were seeing. But as luck would have it, a Japanese man approached, introduced himself as "Hiroshi," and asked to show us the park, saying that he wanted to practice his English. Hiroshi explained the monuments and took us to the museum where we donned English headsets and walked through the exhibits of artifacts from the blast. There was a shadow on the side of the museum building of an old man eating a sandwich. It had been burned into the wall when the bomb went off.

Hiroshi also pointed out a laboratory on top of a hill above the city. He said that scientists in that building had been studying the effects of the blast ever since it occurred.

Peace Park was beautiful, both as a monument-filled garden as well as a concept. Most nations had built unique memorials there to celebrate the idea of peace. It was spring, everything was blooming, and everyone was courteous to two young people from the nation that had wreaked so much havoc on their city by the sea.

The other thing I remember clearly about Hiroshima is the pachinko parlors. That is something that was foreign to Okinawa at the time, but they were very plentiful and busy in Hiroshima. We walked into a couple and learned how to play - and won pockets full of little ball-bearings! I also remember cracking open what should have been (by my American standards) a hard-boiled egg at breakfast one morning, only to learn that it was actually raw! (Before leaving Okinawa I did learn to like raw egg stirred in with rice.)

Today, FYI, Okinawa is awash in pachinko parlors - but I haven't ventured into one yet!

Years after that visit I began using John Hershey's Hiroshima as a supplemental text in the high school American history classes that I taught. It is a very simple and moving account of the day of the blast as told by several survivors.

The Stars and Stripes ran a cover story on the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima today. There was a memorial service at Peace Park this morning, and, for the first time ever, the United States government had an official representative, Ambassador John Roos, at the event.

President Obama will be in Japan in November, and the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have both extended invitations for him to visit their cities. Considering that Mr. Obama has already won the Nobel Peace Prize, a visit to Hiroshima, at the very least, would seem quite appropriate. He could lay a wreath or establish a US memorial at Peace Park.

The Japanese press has been respectful in its praise of the United States finally showing up at the annual ceremony on the date of the Hiroshima bombing, but many in the press and in the public seem to feel that an apology for the angry destruction of a civilian city is in order. And while I agree that dropping an atomic bomb on anyone was a complete abdication of morality on the part of the United States government, I have this nagging issue with the fact that the Japanese government and military were the clear aggressors in the Second World War.

If an apology is due, and it undoubtedly is, perhaps it should be issued by the Japanese government to the citizens of Hiroshima. Either that, or they could first apologize for Pearl Harbor and then we could apologize for unleashing the atomic age directly upon their heads.

Or maybe we could apologize through an act rather than through words. Something simple, say...American leadership in the complete elimination of the world's nuclear weapons stockpiles. That would be a memorial worthy of a great people.