Sunday, October 31, 2010

Frustrated, Angry, and Fearful Voters

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Our Pacific daily rag, Stars and Stripes, which is more fair and balanced than Fox News - but not much, carried a banner headline yesterday:  "Frustrated, angry, and fearful voters will head to polls."  The accompanying article went on to basically predict a Republican sweep of the elections on Tuesday.  That frustrated, angry, and fearful headline will have little to no impact on the outcome of the election because, like me, everyone on this tiny island - as well as in Korea, Japan, and Guam - who can vote in the American elections either has already done so, or has opted to blow it off.

The American voters out in the Pacific won't be the scruffy little tail that wags the dog.  The military is still seen by many as being the GOP in uniform, and that image holds true for some of the older members.  But the young people in the military are different.  They are more apt to be open-minded than their crusty old leadership, and they don't fear the new or the unknown.  Just this week, for example, NBC's Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engle broke the story that the big survey that the military has been conducting on the gay-unfriendly policy of "Don't Ask-Don't Tell" shows that young people in the service basically have no issues or problems serving with openly gay troops.

The times have changed, and they have really changed since the election of our young and dynamic African-American President.  Barack Obama is a man who inspires the young people in the military, many of whom are people of color.  They like him, they like Michelle.  Finally, at long last, ordinary folks are living upstairs at the White House, and our young service men and women like that.

Elections are about perceptions and numbers.  The perception that the Stars and Stripes is promoting - along with all of the right wing news outlets and many of the mainstream sources, is that Republicans will win big on Tuesday.  They have pumped expectations up to such a level that unless that GOP wins everything, it will actually be seen as a loss for them.  The media has the expectations so high, that many GOP supporters may just stay home - figuring that their votes won't be needed.

Here's hoping that they do!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Nevada Angle: Running on Racism

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I don't get to see "Meet the Press" on my Japanese satellite system, but from reading on-line reviews of last Sunday's program on the Internet, it must have been a doozey!  Apparently Rachel Maddow, one of the most astute and intelligent political trackers in the country, talked about one of Sharron Angle's recent television ads, and labeled that ad the most "overtly racist" of the 2010 campaign season.

Angle's racist ad features a group of new high school graduates, all white, celebrating their graduation - when suddenly a group of dark skinned, menacing-looking young men are shown, and depicted as illegal immigrants out to steal college grants and tuition assistance from the deserving white kids.  Yup, the good guys were white and the bad guys were brown.  (As God intended, Sharron?)

It's not that Ms. Angle isn't smart, the problem is that she is insensitive to the point of being dangerous - and she drinks her own Kool-Aid - she believes the crap that she spreads..   It's not about fairness or what is legal - it's about her adherence to fundamentalist Christian theology and her staunch belief in a wrathful, white, male God.  Right now she is just an interesting sideshow, but if she makes it to the Senate, Sharron Angle will be a dangerous national embarrassment.

America is a better place than that.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Google Is Big Brother!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I use Google a lot, and basically I like it.  My email is through GMail, a Google program that is user-friendly and lets me keep massive amounts of stored messages.   I also have two blogs, this one and Okinawan Odyssey ( through Blogspot, another Google program.

But Google is certainly far from being the altruistic giant it once pretended to be.  It has teamed with Verizon to kill the concept of Net Neutrality in favor of a high-speed zone reserved for those with the ability to pay big bucks.  (A protest group called the Raging Grannies recently made some noise at a Google event regarding the corporation's shameful stance on Net Neutrality, and one of those old sweeties carried a sign saying "Google is Evil if the Price is Right!"  Yeah, buddy!

But there is more to the reason that Google stock is currently selling at nearly $620 a share than simply their plan to peddle space on the proposed faster lanes of the Internet.  The company reads the emails of schmucks like me who use GMail, and then posts ads trying to make a few more dollars off of things mentioned inside of those emails.  There is no right to privacy in the Land of Google!

A few days ago I emailed a friend who is stationed in Korea and told him that some other friends and I would be coming to Korea over Thanksgiving.  I told him we would be flying into Incheon and staying in Seoul.

That was a couple of days ago.  Now, every time I pull up an email from anyone, it is accompanied by a string of advertisements about Korea.   This afternoon's selection includes pitches for the following:  Fly to Seoul from $249 (, Incheon Airport Hotel  (, Korea Sales Office (,Want to Study in Korea? (, Guesthouse Korea (,  Hyatt Hotel in Seoul (, and Seoul (

So Google, you're reading my  mail.  I guess that is technically no worse than the Bush Administration going through  the telephone calls of every citizen in America for "national security" reasons.  Might makes right - right?  I have started keeping my curtains closed in case the guy who drives your Google Maps car tries to film through my windows - of course he would have to scale six stories to do it!  But something tells me that you all probably have a big fleet of black helicopters for just such circumstances!   And please don't break in to peek in my underwear drawer - I promise it won't be worth your effort!

Okay, Google, it's fairly obvious - you're greedy and you suck!   I hope that you accept my gentle observations in the helpful spirit in which they were intended - and please, please don't cut me off!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sharron Angle: Dumb and Dumber

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The Republican U.S. Senate candidate from Nevada, Sharron Angle, now says that even though she avoids the major press outlets like the plague, she will begin speaking to them when she is elected to the  Senate.  Sharron feels that the regular press is a tad too critical of her odd views and lack of basic information.   It's a pity that she has clammed up, because her views are so danged interesting!

Take social security, for instance.  Sharron has tried to ignore questions about social security throughout the campaign, and she gives a vague impression that she is not too opposed to it.  Recently, however, a tape has surfaced in which she can clearly be heard stating that social security is an example of society's "wicked ways"  and should be "transitioned out."  Yup, she's against it!  And while she has the seniors down, why not kick them again?  She favors the privatization of Medicare.  (So cut off the money supply to poor seniors, and screw with their medical care.  Nice work, Sharron!)

Sharron Angle is opposed to the idea of legalized divorce - this from a resident whose state was once the place where everyone in the United States went to get a divorce!.  Sharron thinks that marriage is for life, no matter what type of monster your spouse may eventually morph into.

Sharron also thinks that pregnancies are forever - well...9 months anyway - and nothing should  be done to terminate a pregnancy, even a pregnancy that was the result of rape or incest.  So when daddy gets his 11-year-old princess pregnant, she must carry that pregnancy to term.  That, sayeth Sharron, is "God's plan."

The Republican from Nevada also opposes the concept of welfare programs.  The poor must work, and, in an effort to insure that there are plenty of jobs available, Sharron also opposes minimum wage.  Let the markets take wages where they will - through the floor!  The big, multi-national corporations have got to love this gal!

And there is so much more!

Sharron believes fervently in the "right" to bear arms and often rattles on about  "Second Amendment remedies" to societal issues that she views as problems.  She notes that sporting goods stores are having trouble keeping ammo in stock because the county is "arming."   She believes that citizens are basically distrustful of their government and are preparing to take things into their own hands.  (I guess it's not treason when conservatives plot the overthrow of their government.)

She is opposed to the legalization of marijuana - and alcohol!  (Hey, Sharron, would making alcohol illegal be a good business move for Las Vegas, or Reno?  Didn't we try that once already, and didn't that social experiment bring about a rapid rise of organized crime in America?  Have you ever read history, Sharron - or anything else for that matter?)

Sharron Angle is opposed to the United States belonging to the United Nations.

She does not believe in the separation of Church and State, nor does she believe that the Constitution intended that outcome.  Sharron, you see, is a good "Christian" woman (in the meanest sense of the word), and she believes the rest of the nation should be saddled with her religious beliefs - as God intended.

And she wants to do away with the U.S. Department of Education, and she opposes putting fluoride in drinking water...and the list of nonsense is almost endless.  God help us if she does win the election and keeps her promise to start talking to reporters.  The news will get crazier and crazier!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Teabaggers Stomp the First Amendment

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Teabaggers aren't known for intellectual pursuits, and, in fact, tend to regard literacy as something suspect.   Oh, some do more than clean their guns, guzzle beer, and make misspelled protest signs, and a rare few even read.  They read things like the Bible, well at least the parts they agree with like the Old Testament's one warning about homosexuality, and they read the Constitution - well, probably only the non-socialist stuff like the Second Amendment.   And, a rare few even read books - The Turner Diaries leaps to mind.

But when it comes to news, there is no reading required.  All a concerned teabagger has to do is park his or her flabby butt in front of a television and turn on Fox News, a fair and balanced reporting of what is going on in the world - or not.  If it ain't Fox, it ain't important.

So I guess that is why they get so pissed when others try to cover their events and ask them non-scripted, potentially embarrassing questions.   Sharron Angle, a teabagger and Republican Senate candidate in Nevade, literally ran from reporters trying to ask her non-Fox questions, and recently she employed a decoy to lead reporters out one door while she scurried out another.  Ms. Angle knows her limitations, and she is too intellectually challenged to deal with someone who is not on Rupert Murdoch's payroll.

A few weeks ago Republican (and teabagger) Alaska Senate candidate, Joe Miller, made the real news when some of his paid security staff handcuffed and detained the editor of a local paper who was trying to ask the candidate a question.  When the real cops showed up, the rent-a-cops were made to unshackle their catch.

Last night a worker for MoveOn.Org was trying to ask Rand Paul (a Kentucky teabagger/Republican Senate candidate) a question when one of Paul's political operatives pushed her to the pavement and stomped on her head.  The lady is in the hospital with a concussion.

The right-wingnuts are very selective about who they talk to, and they put maximum effort into controlling access to their candidates.  Sarah Palin, herself a Fox employee, speaks only to news organizations like Fox and sarcastically refers to the major news outlets as the Lamestream Media.  Karl Rove kept such tight control over George Bush's appearances that people were required to have tickets before they could even be at any event where Bush might take questions.  Rove, on occasion, planted phony journalists at news conferences to lob softball questions to his boss, a former "C" student and proud of it!

It's a shame that all of these wingers don't take the time and effort to read the rest of the Constitution.  The First Amendment is far more important that their much ballyhooed Second Amendment.  It is the First Amendment that provides for of Freedom of the Press, without which we would soon begin to look and act like so many mindless North Koreans.  When we interfere with a free press - by running from them, shackling them, or trying to smash their skulls - we are limiting our ability to oversee our government.  When we ignore the First Amendment or openly defy it, we do so at our peril.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Mother Squeezes the Pulp Out of Palin!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist 

My November-December issue of Mother Jones just arrived today.   (It takes a while to reach the Japanese prefecture of Okinawa, and this unique issue was probably perused by several sweaty hands along the way!)

The cover art of this particular issue of Mother is what makes it so appealing.  It is done in the manner of an old style pulp magazine from the early part of the last century. The central focus is on a very large (Amazonian) woman who is clad in white short slip and bra (possibly a halter top) with much more skin being on display than fabric..  The woman, whose knockers are straining for their freedom, is Sarah Palin.  She has just pulled up one suburban home with her bare hand and is bending to reach for another.  The art is as cheesy as it is titillating.  (I am thankful that my copy did not arrive with the pages stuck together!)

The bold headline of this cover of Mother Jones is "ATTACK on the Middle Class!"  One sub-header is "A confused and frightened citizenry votes against its own self-interest."  The other minor headline states:  "They say they're taking back America, but really they're taking your money!!!"  Bold lettering, bright colors, frightening realities - just like those pulp covers from yesteryear!

I will get around to reading the article in a day or so, but right now I am totally fixated on Sarah's enhanced mammaries.    This cover is so great that I am going to have it framed - my place could use some fine art!

Thanks, Mother.  You done good!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Monday's Poetry: "Of Politics"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

I'm trying to take a break from politics because the sarcasm and cynicism is wearing me down.  (It takes lots of energy to be both sarcastic and cynical day after day!)  So, in order to give my frazzled brain a bit of respite, I opted to use a Monday poem - and, miracle of miracles - I found one dealing with the sarcasm and cynicism of politics.  Enjoy!

Of Politics
by Lawrence S. Pertillar

Of campaign trails
They all sound great
And in the debates everyone captivates
But those who vote
Are provoked by them
Knowing that whoever wins
It's back to an elite agenda
With that as a priority once again.

Those who know
Their lifestyles waine
Realize their lives remain
Stagnant with nothing changed
As the entertainment
Of politics
Stays the same as usual
And shamelessly blatant.

I am in one of my cynical moods, and languishing there less than two weeks before an election that could send a couple of dirty dozens of lunatics to Congress, I see Mr. Pertillar as being particularly prescient..

Sunday, October 24, 2010

"Hey, Rocky! Watch Me Pull a Rabbit Out of a Hat!"

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Anyone who was coming of age in the 1960's knows that Rocky and Bullwinkle set the bar for intelligent, yet very funny, cartoons.  The show ran for the first two years (1959-1961) as Rocky and His Friends, and it was carried under the banner The Bullwinkle Show  from 1961 to 1964.  It was smart and witty, offering humor on one level for children and wickedly funny one liners designed to keep the older crowd in front of the television as well.

Bullwinkle, a proud graduate of Wassamadda U, was a master showman whose tricks seemed to always backfire.  He and Rocky were regularly called from their home in Frostbite Falls, Minnesota,  to take part in many adventures, often involving saving the government from the evil machinations of those sneaky Russians, Boris and Natasha.  It was all fun, some of the best fun on television!

The classic shows are finally becoming available on DVD, and I recently became the proud owner of Season 4.  (I have the earlier ones on backorder.)  So, for the next few weeks I'll be sharing my spare time with Rocket "Rocky" J. Squirrel, Bullwinkle J. Moose, Boris and Natasha, Sherman and Mr. Peabody, Dudley Do-right and Nell, and all of the other characters who joined forces to make this such an unbelievably good show.

Rocky and Bullwinkle were really big in their time, but the concept would never work today.  There is no way that teabaggers would condone a show that featured a flying squirrel and a moose as domestic partners!  Besides, teabaggers just don't get the concept of "funny!"  But I digress.  For those with open minds and a good sense of humor, the boys from Frostbite Falls are just as funny now as they were then!

If my kids have read this far, they will know what to expect for Christmas!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

It's Time to Impeach a Supreme

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Presidents take great care in choosing Supreme Court Justices because they serve for life and can carry on a President's political philosophy long after he leaves the White House.  It is the Constitution that grants the Justices their jobs for life.  A lesser known fact regarding the Constitution and the people who serve on all Federal Courts, including the Supreme Court of the United States, is that the document also contains a recourse for removing a really bad Justice from the Court.  That remedy is called impeachment.

The impeachment procedure for removing Federal Judges and Supreme Court Justices calls for  the House of Representatives bringing charges (impeaching) and the U.S. Senate trying the matter.  The Senate must cast 51 votes in order to convict and remove an individual from office.

Republicans like the idea of impeachment when they are trying to use the process.  They famously wasted several months of the nation's time back in the late 90's when the House brought two charges of impeachment against Bill Clinton for getting his knob polished by Monica Lewinsky in the White House.   However when Democrats started talking about impeaching Dick Cheney for legitimate causes a decade later the Republicans set up a howl to the heavens.

Representative Peter DeFazio of Oregon is talking about pursuing the impeachment of Chief Justice John Roberts, based primarily on the Court's Citizens United ruling that is responsible for all of  the anonymous money flowing into the current election cycle - quite a bit of it apparently from multi-national and foreign corporations.

This is personal to Congressman DeFazio.  He is being outspent by a group called Concerned Taxpayers of America.   Apparently that "group" is comprised of two taxpayers - one who lives in Maryland and the other in New York.  Thanks to the Citizens United ruling, these two carpetbaggers can "legally" spend as much as they damned well please to defeat an Oregon Congressman.

It has been nearly two centuries since an attempt was made to impeach a Supreme Court Justice, and while the House did impeach Justice Samuel Chase for partisan political activity, the Senate did not convict him and Mr. Chase remained on the Supreme Court.  It is highly unlikely that DeFazio's efforts would even get that far.

But maybe Congressman DeFazio would fare better in his impeachment efforts if he were to switch targets.  Justice Clarence Thomas is suspect on many of his decisions, including Citizens United, due to his Wife's vile and salaried efforts on behalf of conservative causes.  Virginia Thomas made news a week or so ago when she called her husband's nemesis from his confirmation hearing, Professor Anita Hill, and left a voice message requesting an apology from Ms. Hill over things that she said about Clarence Thomas two decades earlier.

Professor Hill reported the very strange call to the FBI.

Ms. Thomas was trying to pull a stunt to get the conservatives more fired up for next month's elections.   What she in fact did, however, was to remind Americans about all of the sexual stuff that was brought up during the Thomas confirmation hearing.  Thomas, according to Ms. Hill, had an unusual interest in pornography, and talked inappropriately around women in the workplace.  And even though the Senate went on to confirm Clarence Thomas to the supreme Court, Anita Hill's testimony was damning, and the Justice is reviled by many women's groups to this day.

So Ginny Thomas called Anita Hill and asked for an apology for sworn testimony from twenty years ago.   Professor Hill declined to recant the truth - and now America is again chuckling at the reminders of Clarence Thomas's porn hero, Long Dong Silver.

But it gets worse for the Justice and his right-wing mouthpiece wife.  Now an old girlfriend of Justice Thomas has come forward and confirmed the things that Anita Hill told the Senate those many years ago.   Lillian McEwen told The Washington Post that back when she knew Clarence Thomas he was "obsessed with pornography,"  adding  "It was something he talked about quite frequently."   She also said that he had asked a colleague about her bra size, and that he was a regular at a shop in Washington DC's Dupont Circle that offered pornographic films."

Granting corporations the power to bankroll elections and stifle democracy may not be enough to justify impeachment, but surely bald-faced lying at your confirmation hearings ought to hit the mark for removal from office.  Congressman DeFazio needs to think about altering his target from Roberts to Thomas.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Politics, Arizona Style

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Arizona is, by many measures, a mighty stupid state.  A majority of the goobers who call that sandpit home are intellectually challenged and proud of it.  They are racist, homophobic. gun-toting morons who have only recently swung down from the trees and learned to walk upright.  But that is only the loud and obnoxious majority - the folks who think of Jan Brewer and Joe Arpaio as gods.

There are also many good folks living in Arizona.  Most are in hiding out of fear of their beer-belching, ass-scratching neighbors, but a few have risen to positions of prominence making them easy targets.  Somehow people in Arizona have managed to elect Democrats to five of their nine seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, something that the state's rabid teabaggers and other mongrels are vowing to change - apparently one way or another.

The right-wingers are foaming at the mouth in their eagerness to remove two of these Congress People in particular.  Representative Gabrielle Giffords of the 8th District (the southeast corner of the state) is in their sights because she is progressive, intelligent, and a woman - three strikes!   John McCain, who isn't smart enough to wash Gabby Giffords' car, is contributing cash and his voice to the campaign against her.

The other Democratic Congressman who really irks the right is Raul Grijalva of the 7th District (most of southwest corner of the state).  Giffords and Grijalva are both headquartered in Tucson,  the city that is split by their districts.

Today Congressman Grijalva, a fierce advocate of immigrant rights, received a package at his Tucson office. It was decorated in swastikas (the Arizona state bird) and contained a toxic white powder.  The Congressman wasn't in the office when the package arrived.  The place had to be shut down and the police were called.  Congressman Grijalva has been the subject of at least one prior death threat.

I have no idea who sent that envelope full of white powder to the congressman - nor why the post office let it get as far as being delivered - but I do know who some of the people are responsible for this domestic terrorism.  They are the people who seek their political strength through fear-mongering and hate.  People like Jan Brewer and Joe Arpaio have carefully and intentionally cultivated the climate of hatred that leads to this type of terroristic activity.  State Senator Russell Pearce and neo-nazi J.T. Ready have helped to inflame the passions of the state's poor, white underclass.  State Superintendent of Education Tom Horne is proud of his work to eliminate Women's and Ethnic studies in Arizona schools, helping to marginalize those folks who didn't have the good sense to be born white and male.

Yes, Arizona is a stupid state - and the people who gain their political strength through making and keeping it stupid are shameless!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Virginia Thomas, Political Slug

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Virginia "Ginnie" Thomas is the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.  She is also a right-wing slug who leaves a trail of ugly slime wherever she goes.  Ginnie  is a former consultant at the Heritage Foundation, and she has recently helped to found the reactionary Liberty Central and is serving as its president.  She has also been an attorney and labor relations specialist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, an organization not known for its love of fairly-paid American labor.  She is a right-wing extremist and proud of it.

This week Ginnie made news when she inexplicably telephoned Professor Anita Hill and asked for an apology for sworn testimony that Ms. Hill gave during the confirmation hearings on Uncle Thomas nearly twenty years ago.  Well, she didn't actually get to speak with Professor Hill, but she did leave her a voice mail.  To Professor Hill's credit, she did the responsible thing when she came across the weird call on her answering machine - she notified the F.B.I.  The F.B.I. is always a good option when dealing with crazy stalkers!

Ginnie's not-too-transparent objective in telephoning Professor Hill was to drudge up one more red herring to be slung around by a hungry press before the upcoming elections.  And it did provide an interesting diversion for a couple of hours.  Unfortunately for Ginnie Thomas and her teaparty lemmings, most of the news reports were critical of her strange behavior, and it gave the press a golden opportunity to look back at Uncle Thomas and his fascination with Long Dong Silver.

I, for one, enjoyed the walk down memory lane.  Thanks for the diversion, Gins!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Atta Boy, Dan Choi!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Daniel Choi was an exceptional soldier, of that there can be little argument.  The 2003 West Point graduate went on to be an Infantry officer in Iraq.  He was also a skilled Arabic linguist.  He was the kind of soldier that Don Rumsfield probably had wet dreams about recruiting.  Unfortunately from the perspective of the small minds who run the United States military, Choi was also problematic - so problematic that they put him out of the Army, albeit with an honorable discharge.  Dan Choi, in addition to being a fine soldier and highly skilled linguist, was (and still is) gay - a loud and proud homosexual man who came out of Rachel Maddow's national television show.

The wheels of justice often grind exceedingly slow, but they are always grinding.  A few weeks ago Federal Judge Virginia Phillips ruled that the military policy of "Don't Ask - Don't Tell" was unconstitutional.  Just today in fact (perhaps yesterday in the States) she announced that she would not stay order demanding the the military quit enforcing this joke of a policy that Bill Clinton saddled the armed forces with nearly two decades ago.  The Obama administration, which is on the record as opposing DADT and seeking its repeal, is nevertheless going to appeal Judge Phillips' ruling.

Craziness, right?

It's so crazy in fact, that even the most faded and jaded of military minds can see the writing on the wall.   DADT is ending.  Maybe it has ended, maybe it will end after the mid-term election when the Senate reconsiders it, or maybe it will end when the government's appeal of the Phillips decision reaches the Supreme Court - but it will end.

Today (yesterday in the States) word got out to the public that the military has told recruiters to stop rejecting otherwise qualified gay people who want to enlist - even if they state upfront that they are gay.  That's a huge move on the part of the armed forces, and a very rational reading of the inevitable.    They did keep a disclaimer out there warning gay enlistees that if the courts rule in favor of "Don't Ask - Don't Tell," they could wind up being ushered out of the service.  But that sounds like a lot of extra work, extra expense, and utter nonsense.

Today 29-year-old Dan Choi along with a gaggle of friends and reporters went to the military recruiting offices at Times Square in New York City.  Choi initially tried to enlist in the Marine Corps, but found out after filling out their forms, that the age limit for new marines is twenty-eight.  Fortunately the former army lieutenant knew that the Army wasn't that particular.  He filled out the Army's enlistment forms and has been tentatively accepted - as a Specialist, E-4 - quite a drop in esteem and pay from his glory days as an officer.  But Dan Choi didn't care.  He's back in the Army.  Dan Choi has come home!

Good for him, and good for America!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Arizona's 3rd: A Bright Spot in Sand Land!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

What's America coming to?   Why couldn't the hapless son of a hapless former Vice-President just be handed a seat in Congress if he really, really wanted it?  Doesn't tons of money and family connections count for anything anymore?

Poor little Benny Quayle, spawn of Dan and Marilyn, hasn't experienced a lot of success in life up until now. Of course being, white, privileged, and rich, he really didn't have to be eaten alive with ambition.  Oh, he had some success as an anonymous contributor to a raunchy Internet website called Dirty Scottsdale where he penned his prurient prose under the pseudonym Brock Landers - the name of a fictional porn star in the movie Boogie Nights.  But adopting the persona of a fictional porn star really wasn't the stuff of classy resumes - particularly classy political resumes.

Ben was enjoying the life of the idle rich until this spring when John Shadegg, the long-time Republican Congressman from Arizona's 3rd district, decided that he would not run for re-election.   Ben was a resident of Shadegg's district, and the opportunity to move from one privileged lifestyle to another was probably more than lesser men could have passed up.  Ben threw his beanie into the ring and won a ten-way Republican primary with a less-than-hefty 23% of the vote.

After that all he had to do was sit back and wait for his coronation in November.

But Ben put the elbow grease into the campaign and raised a hefty $1.3 million to ensure that the heavily Republican district kept their Republican representation in Congress - namely him.  And he earned that money the old fashioned way - by begging it off of Daddy's friends.  Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfield coughed up $500, and George and Laura Bush kicked in a thousand bucks each.  Even the elder Bush's - Daddy's former boss and his wife (George and Babs) held a fundraiser for him in their Houston home.   Ben learned early on in life that it's not what you know, it's who you know!

But all the king's horses and all the king's men - and all of their money - may not be enough to buy a seat in Congress for this child of privilege.  News reports today indicate that Ben Quayle is trailing his Democratic opponent, Jon Hulbard!

Good job, Arizona!   Keeping Brock Landers out of Congress may not completely atone for Arpaio, Brewer, Horne, Pearce, Franks, McCain, Kyl, Thomas, and Ready - but it's a big step in the right direction!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Teabaggers Break Out the Brown Shirts

by Pa rock
Citizen Journalist

America has always been blessed with more than its share of political crazies, but, even so, they seem to be out in more abundance this year than ever before!   There's Christine "Chronically Unemployed Witch Wanabe" O'Donnell in Delaware, Rand "Aqua Buddha" Paul in Kentucky, Meg "Spend a Billion" Whitman in California, a wrestling promoter running for Senate from Connecticut, people who don't believe in evolution, people who think that a little girl raped by her father should be forced by law to carry his child to term, and even people who think that medical doctors should trade their services for chickens!  The stupid has gotten so deep that the press seems to have started regarding it as normal.

Yesterday there was a shocking story out of Alaska, but the majority of the Internet press seems to have been inoculated against outrageous political (and in this case - criminal) behavior.

Alaska teabagger and GOP Senate candidate Joe Miller was speaking at Central Junior Highs School in Anchorage (a very public location) when he was confronted by Tony Hopfinger, the editor of the Alaska Dispatch, an Internet publication that Miller apparently felt was partial to write-in candidate (and incumbent Senator) Lisa Murkowski.   Hopfinger was trying to ask candidate Miller some questions when Miller's private guards (goons) stepped in and told him that if he did not quit asking questions he would be arrested for tresspassing at the "private" event.  When Hopfinger persisted in his First Amendment right, he was manhandled by the private guards and handcuffed.


Handcuffed by a group of private security guards at a public political event!

When the real police arrived, the editor was promptly released.

Is that what America is becoming - some sort of feudal police state joke where anyone with his own little army can exert phony police power over those who irritate him.  Are we entering an era of the all-powerful rent-a-cops?  Is this part of the Bush-Blackwater legacy?

Yes, there apparently were criminals at the political event in Alaska today, but the editor of the Alaska Dispatch was not one of them.  He was well within his Constitutional rights to be at a political event being held in a highly public place asking questions.  The criminals were the ones who put him in shackles - and their boss who condoned the action.  If Joe Miller is a typical example of the teabagger mentality, we could be in for some truly awful times.  Brown shirts may be making a comeback!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

NPR Reminds Employees that First Amendment Does Not Apply to Them

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert will have dueling rallies in Washington, DC, on October 30th, responses, of sorts, to the affair that Glenn Beck held for American fascists just two months ago in front of the Lincoln Memorial.  Stewart's "Rally to Restore Sanity" is, of course, a clever broadside aimed at Beck and his legions of know-nothings.   Colbert's "March to Keep Fear Alive" also highlights and pays fake homage to Beck's favorite weapons, fear-mongering and rabid hate speech.  Colbert's shtick is to present himself as a conservative and show the fallacy of the right-wing positions as he supposedly promotes them.

Stewart and Colbert are two of the mainstays of Comedy Central, but in spite of their appellations as comedians, both command a fair amount of respect in political circles.  Colbert recently testified before Congress on the subject of immigration, and many young people in America (and a few of us old codgers as well) rely on Jon Stewart's television show as a major source of news.

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are easily as newsworthy as Glenn Beck, and far less likely  to incite violence.  Their "dueling rallies" will be a fresh breeze across our nation's capital, one that will help to eliminate the stench left behind by Beck.  The rallies will be newsworthy, and those fortunate enough to be able to attend will come away better for the experience.  The ability to attend this type of event, or even an odious Beck rally, is granted to citizens by the First Amendment to the Constitution which conveys, among several rights, the right of free assembly, speech and expression.

The First Amendment applies to all citizens with the apparent exception of employees of National Public Radio (NPR).    The country's premier non-commercial radio network has always been seen as a bulwark of democracy, an isle of respite in a sea of stupidity.  But now NPR has issued an unbelievable edict to its employees - all of its employees.  The venerable National Public Radio has commanded that none of their employees will attend or support the Stewart-Colbert rallies in any manner, to include even donating money for the promotion of the events.

Interestingly, no such irrational order was issued by NPR with regard to the Glenn  Beck rally.

NPR does not want to be seen as "liberal."  Their goal must be to shift their image to "fair and balanced."  This asinine decree goes a long way toward achieving that end.

What's Up with DADT?

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I have been all over the Internets trying to figure out just what game President Obama is playing with Judge Virginia Phillips' decision to end the military's evil and indefensible "Don't Ask - Don't Tell" discriminatory policy against gay service members.  Some of the web sites say the President is requesting that Judge Phillips stay her own policy so that Obama won't have to get his hands dirty, others say he is asking for the "stay" because he does not have to decide whether to appeal or not until 60 days after she officially orders her decision to be enforced.  Sixty days would get him well past the midterms.  Some say he wouldn't dare appeal, others say he wouldn't dare not appeal.

Obama himself went on his Twitter account yesterday and made the promise that DADT would end, and it would end on his watch.

Promises, promises.

Barack Obama made a campaign promise that he would get rid of this terrible policy, but two years later what has the President done toward keeping that promise?  Absolutely nothing.  Now he is implying that his Justice Department will go to Court to try to thwart the decision of the woman who did charge forward to end the discriminatory and unconstitutional practice.

Mr. President, you were elected to make the changes that you campaigned on.  You were elected to lead.  If you can't or won't lead, get out of the way and let Joe Biden run things.  He won't pussyfoot around!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

At Long Last I'm Back!

by Pa Rock
Power Walker

The last time that I put in a full hour on the evil treadmill was in mid-July just before I left the United States.  Since arriving on Okinawa, I have come up with excuse after lame excuse to keep from pounding out sixty minutes on the treadmill.  I have had several ten and fifteen-minute sessions, and the occasional twenty or thirty-minute walk, but nothing longer.  Last Monday I was on the verge of breaking back into the long walks when my treadmill suddenly shut itself down at 35 minutes.   The Gods appeared to be in league with my lazy nature.

Today is my first Friday off on the new work schedule, and I felt that it might be a good time to head over to Gunners Fitness Center and try to get my groove back - and, miracle of miracles, I did it!  Sixty minutes of sweaty marching later I had logged 3.49 miles.  That's way below my record (4.22) and below my average (3.75), but it is a good start!  Now, with 3.49 as the marker to build on, I am ready to start getting serious with taking care of myself - no matter how sweaty the process gets!

One thing that has been holding me back is my tennis shoes.   (I guess they're called "trainers" in this day and age.)  I bought a new pair shortly before leaving the States and got rid of the shabby (and comfortable)  ones that I had worn the past couple of years.  Big mistake.   My feet continually hurt in the new shoes.  Today, after leaving Gunners, I headed off to the Post Exchange at Camp Foster and bought two pairs that are each half a size larger than the ones I have been wearing.  (Two pairs because they were on sale and discounted crazy deep!)  We'll see if new footwear makes the ordeal easier to master.

It's great to be back!

The Perfect Job for Rahm

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has his whine on.  The head of the U.S. Defense Department appears to be beside himself because he has lost control of the "Don't Ask - Don Tell" issue.  Gates is distressed that a federal judge has done what he and his boss, President Obama, have been avoiding for months - brought about an end to this goofball policy aimed at keeping gay military members in the closet.

According to Secretary  Gates, the military needs time to plan and train before making such a momentous change.  He would rather the matter be left in the hands of Congress where it could be ignored and gather dust for another seventeen years.

Well, Bobby, shit happens!  The judge has spoken and its too damned late for your unbecoming petulance.  If you seriously thought that training would be necessary to handle this certain eventuality, you should have started two years ago - on the day that Barack Obama got himself elected Commander in Chief.  Candidate Obama was outspoken in his condemnation of DADT (clue one), and he was very popular among young troops (clue two).  The fact that you have dawdled for two years speaks volumes to your obstinance or cluelessness - or both.

By and large our young soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines have no problem serving with openly gay co-workers.  They are way out in front of the brass on this - and they are the future of our military and our nation.

I understand that you are retiring at the end of this year.  It is my sincerest hope that President Obama appoints as your successor someone who has the balls to stand up to the entrenched military establishment and remind them that their bosses are the people of America, and the military will not be run with reckless disregard for the needs and desires of our citizenry.

Recent news reports allude to the President's continuing frustration with our military leadership's absolute refusal to even discuss any options for leaving Afghanistan.  If that is true, the blame must fall squarely at your feet.  If the generals and admirals feel that they are in charge, that can only be based on their disrespect of you, or of your disrespect of President Obama.  Civilian leadership and command of the military seem to be sorely lacking - and you must own that.

Yes, Bobby, it's time for you to go.

Your replacement needs to be a rabid pitbull, a hungry jackal, or a pissed-off rattlesnake.  Your replacement needs to be someone who can turn the Joint Chiefs into a blubbering gaggle of school children with the briefest of memos.  Your replacement needs to be the meanest bastard to ever walk the halls of the Pentagon.

I hope that President Obama has the good sense to replace you with Rahm Emanuel.  Mr. Emanuel, who reportedly never uses the word "mother" as anything but an adjective, could move the military beyond "Don't Ask - Don't Tell" before lunch on his first day - and have a comprehensive plan for ending George Bush's Glory and Oil Wars  by the end of his first week at the Pentagon.

Rahm Emanuel for Secretary of Defense:  It's about putting civilians back in charge of the military - the way the Constitution set it up in the first place!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Federal Judge Strikes Down DADT

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

A gay Republican group went to court in 2004 seeking the end of the military's odious "Don't Ask - Don't Tell" discriminatory policy against homosexual service members - and today Federal Judge Virginia Phillips ruled in their favor with a decision that ends the policy once and for all.  Ends it, that is, unless the Obama administration decides to go against its own better instincts and appeal the decision.   The President, who promised during the 2008 campaign to end DADT, has since equivocated, set up a military climate survey on the question, and essentially ignored his promise to the voters.  He now finds himself in a corner, directly behind the eight ball, which is exactly where he deserves to be.

Mr. Obama essentially has three choices.   The worst, obviously, is to instruct his attorney general to go to court and fight Judge Phillips' ruling.  The Republicans and their fleabag (teabag) friends already think he's a Kenyan, Muslim, socialist who is out to destroy the military and the country.  He would not win one iota of respect from any of that bigoted lot by trying to cater to their desires.  Choice number two would be to do nothing and let the judge's ruling stand.  The  policy would end, which would be a very positive outcome, but it would be thanks to a fearless federal judge and not to the person who was elected to lead us into an age of enlightenment.  It would essentially be a missed opportunity for forthright leadership.  The third option would be to get out in front of the judge's order - which has sixty days to be appealed - and declare DADT dead by Executive Order.

Has President Obama got the cajones to declare this joke of a policy dead?  I voted for him thinking that he did, and I hope that I may still be proven right.

Here is a link to one of several web petitions urging the President not to appeal Judge Phillips' decision.  I signed, proudly!

(Note:  The group that brought the suit was the Log Cabin Republicans, an organization of gay Republicans who must feel that their party has something to offer them besides constant threats and relentless shaming.  Good work, guys!  The rest of America is proud of you!)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sharron Angle and the Militant Terrorist Situation

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Sharron Angle, the vacuous, fundamentalist joke that Nevada is trying to foist on the nation, appears to be taking a page from the Karl Rove campaign playbook.  The simpleton politician doesn’t seem to be able to utter a coherent sentence without revealing her shallowness on the issues and her religious intolerance.  

So just what is Ms. Angle’s campaign strategy?  It’s simple – obviously!  The Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate actively hides from the press – even to the point of physically running from reporters.  She tries to address only groups who share her paranoid delusions.

Unfortunately for the senator wannabe, the occasional scoundrel slips into her events and reports on the wackiness.  That happened when Ms. Angle met with a tea party group (what else?) in late September and was asked about Muslims wanting to take over America or, at the very least, an American city.  She replied that it was a “militant terrorist situation” and that Frankford, Texas, and Dearborn, Michigan, are currently being controlled by Sharia (Islamic) law. 

What Ms. Angle did not know was that some infidel had slipped a tape recorder into the teabagger event, and that person quickly released a tape of her astoundingly stupid remarks. 

Frankford, Texas, used to be a small town close to Dallas, but the big city swallowed up the small one in 1975.  Frankford, Texas, hasn’t existed for thirty-five years – under Sharia law or anyone else’s!  A person who is trying to appear smart enough to be a United States Senator ought to be able to fact check something as simple as whether or not a city exists. 

Approximately 30% of the population of Dearborn, Michigan, is Muslim.  (And it’s not a crime – yet – to be Muslim and living in the United States!)   The mayor of Dearborn reports that Muslims have lived, worked, and practiced their religion in Dearborn for over 90 years – with no problems in the community.   He says that Dearborn has seven mosques and over 60 Christian churches. 

Dearborn does not seem like the “militant terrorist situation” that Ms. Angle railed about to the rabid right-wingers.  The only militant terrorist situation appears to be Ms. Angle and her army of racist, Islamaphobic, gun-toting morons.  Peaceful co-existence may work in Dearborn,  but out in real America the teabaggers ain’t having it!  They're locked and loaded, and hunkered in their bunkers waiting on the second coming.   And if the Jesus who returns doesn't have the right skin tone - or speaks Arabic - or has a boyfriend, well, there's always those "Second Amendment remedies" that Ms. Angle likes to reference!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Monday's Poetry: "Sukiyaki" or "Ue o Muite Arukou"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Yesterday evening, following the conclusion of Okinawa's annual tug-of-war, I sat on a park bench in Naha watching my feet swell and listening to some haunting music being sung in Japanese by a fellow sitting on another public bench on the opposite side of the rest area.  His voice was clear, resonant, and somewhat mournful.  He only sang two songs that I recognized.  One was the holiday standard, Silent Night, and the other was Sukiyaki, a song that was released worldwide in Japanese in the 1960's and placed well on the American pop charts - the only time I remember a Japanese crossover hit making it big in the United States.  The actual title of Sukiyaki (the name of a Japanese food) was Ue o Muite Arukou  which translates to I Look Up as I Walk.  (The American version was titled Sukiyaki because it was easier for the Americans to say, and they had some concept of the word.)  

The young male singer who made Sukiyaki an international hit was Kyu Sakamoto who was just 21-years-old in 1963 when his hit single was released to worldwide acclaim.  Sakamoto died in a plane crash in Tokyo in 1985.

Another international artist, Daniela Mercury of Brazil, released her own recording of Sukiyaki in 1996.  Her recording was also in Japanese, the language that best carries the beauty of the verse.

If you are as old as me, you will be able to hum along as you read the lyrics.  Enjoy!

Ue o Muite Arukou
by Kyu Sakamoto

Ue o muite arukou
Namida ga kobore nai you ni
Omoidasu haru no hi
Hitoribotchi no yoru

Ue o muite arukou
Nijinda hoshi o kazoete
Omoidasu natsu no hi
Hitoribotchi no yoru

Shiawase wa kumo no ue ni
Shiawase wa sora no ue ni

Ue o muite arukou
Namida ga kobore nai you ni
Nakinagara aruku
Hitoribotchi no yoru

Omoidasu aki no hi
Hitoribotchi no yoru

Kanashimi wa hoshi no kage ni
Kanashimi wa tsuki no kage ni

Ue o muite arukou
Namida ga kobore nai you ni
Nakinagara aruku
Hitoribotchi no yoru

I Look Up as I Walk
by Kyu Sakamoto

I look up as I walk
So that the tears won't fall
Remembering those spring days
But I am alone tonight

I look up as I walk
Counting the stars with tearful eyes
Remembering those summer days
But I am alone tonight

Happiness lies beyond the clouds
Happiness lies up above the sky

I look up as I walk
So that the tears won't fall
Though the tears well up as I walk
For tonight I'm all alone tonight

Remembering those autumn days
But I am all alone tonight

Sadness lies in the shadow of the stars
Sadness lurks in the shadow of the moon

I look up as I walk
So that the tears won't fall
Though the tears well up as I walk
For tonight I'm all alone

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Saturday Afternoon at the Movies

by Pa Rock
Movie Aficionado

After it became apparent that yesterday was not going to follow the script that I had prepared, I went with Plan B, which was to go out and get a couple of movies and kick my brain into neutral for the remainder of the day.  Unfortunately, I wound up selecting movies that were so good, my poor brain had no opportunity to slough off.

The first film that I watched was The Oxford Murders starring John Hurt and Elijah Wood.  I have a penchant for British mysteries, and have even spent a few hours roaming the campus at Oxford, so I felt this movie offered some promise of time well spent.  (Although I did go into the viewing with some question as to how murders could possibly be solved at Oxford without an able assist from Inspector Morse or Detective Sergeant Lewis!)

The Oxford Murders is the story of a young American, Elijah Wood, who comes to the august university in hopes of studying under a world renowned philosopher and numbers theorist, ably portrayed by John Hurt.   Although the student and his would be mentor initially get off on the wrong foot to the point Wood begins packing to return to America, they soon become connected to one another through a series of murders which appear to be linked because of mathematical symbols connected to the acts.

There is a lot of numbers theory woven into this mystery, and it marks the second time that I have seen the Fibonacci sequence explained in a movie.  (The first was in The Da Vinci Code.)  Add to the incidental math education the fact that John Hurt just keeps getting better and better, and The Oxford Murders becomes a movie that justifies a quiet afternoon at home.

The movie that took up the remainder of my afternoon was La Mission, the tale of a really tough but well respected Chicano bus drive in San Francisco's Mission District.  Law and Order's  Benjamin Bratt stars as Che, at the tattooed, tough-as-nails bus driver in the film that was written by his brother, Peter Bratt.    Che is an ex-con and recovering alcoholic who lives for his friends and neighbors and the survival of their neighborhood.   He restores old cars into beautiful lowriders that he and his buddies parade through the neighborhood every Friday evening.

Che also lives for his motherless 18-year-old son, Jesse (Jeremy Ray Valdez), and it is apparent that being a single parent has been the saving grace of Che's checkered life.  Che's life, and his relationship with Jesse, spirals out of control after he accidentally discovers that his son is gay and involved with a white youth from an upscale community.

La Mission is a simple story that is driven and sustained by Benjamin Bratt's amazing acting skills.  His Che is a man of passion and conflict, a man who can inspire hope and confidence one moment, and abject disgust the next.  Benjamin Bratt drives this movie and makes it an amazing experience.

The Oxford Murders and La Mission are both well worth an afternoon at home.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Stars and Stripes, the military's de facto newspaper abroad, ran three pictures this week of the Westboro Baptist Church hate group.   The photos accompanied articles about these "Christians" and their systematic disruptions of military funerals.   The first, which ran on Wednesday, October 6th, (the day the Phelps circus  appeared before the United States Supreme Court), had a front page photo of retired Maj. Gen. Bill Branson saluting in uniform, with sign-carrying protesters in the background.  The signs carried by those vermin said:   "Thank God for Dead Soldiers,  God Hates Your Idols, God Hates You, God Killed Your Sons, and Thank God for 9/11."

Two days later, on Friday, October 8th, Stars and Stripes ran another front page photo of the hate group from Topeka, Kansas.  The only two readable signs in that picture showed one of the Phelps' terrorists holding a sign that read "America is Doomed," and someone else holding up a sign picturing a rifle's cross hair targeting Uncle Sam and the words, "God's View."  On page eight of that same issue was one other photo in which a young male child was holding a pair of signs stating "Fear God" and "You're Going to Hell," and young adult male holding a sign aloft proclaiming "Thank God for Dead Soldiers."

What is unique about all three of those photos is that they appeared to be selected in such a way as to completely avoid the Phelps' mantra:   "God Hates Fags."   (In absolute fairness to the publication, the photo on the inside of Friday's paper did show the young adult male wearing the group's website,, on his tee-shirt, but that message was partly obstructed by the strap that ran diagonally across his chest.  Also, the Phelps' bizarre hatred of homosexuals was pointed out within the text of both articles.)

Unfortunately, not everyone reads the text of articles - far more are likely just look at the pictures and get angry without realizing exactly why the Phelps' trash are disrespecting our deceased service members and their families,  The root of all this evil is the group's obsession with gays in society.  They believe that the United States government, and by extension, its military, enables the existence of gay individuals in our society and promotes the acceptance of a gay lifestyle.

The United States military, unlike modern military in many other countries, has itself yet to come to grips with the fact that gay Americans do love their country, and gay Americans do serve vital roles within the military in defense of their country.   The arcane policy of "Don't Ask - Don't Tell," forces many of this country's finest to deny who they really are - or face expulsion from the service of their country.

Stars and Stripes, by the careful selection of the photos it chose to run - or by photoshopping, failed to fully express to its public just what all of the hullabaloo is really about.  It was a golden opportunity to show their readership the true nature of these homophobic monsters, to let their readers know the agenda of the enemy within - and it was an opportunity sadly missed.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

But Stars and Stripes didn't want to go there.  At least not with color photographs!

Freedom of Expression: A Basic Right

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Two very different and important freedom of expression cases have been in the press this week.  The first involved the odious spawn of Fred Phelps who went before the Supreme Court on Wednesday to press their claim that screaming and yelling at funerals of our nation's fallen soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines is a Constitutionally protected right - First Amendment Freedom of Speech (or Expression - because they also like to walk on our national flag).  As disgusting as these crazy bastards are, they will undoubtedly prevail.  When the courts start deciding who has rights guaranteed by the Constitution and who doesn't, it's only a matter of time until we are all afraid to speak.

The Phelps, like gonorrhea and cockroaches, will always be with us.  They will be forever pulling hateful stunts to garner attention, like the schoolhouse bullies that they are, so the best offense is just to tune them out and know that they will be screaming even louder on the day that they are marched through the gates of hell.

The other case involving freedom of expression  concerns Danny Lampley, a lawyer in Tupelo, Mississippi, (the hometown of Elvis) who was arrested for remaining silent.  Mr. Lampley spent about five hours behind bars for refusing to participate in a group Pledge of Allegiance in the courtroom of cracker judge Talmadge Littlejohn.  The judge was playing up to the teabagger yokels who all rose to the bait with comments questioning Mr. Lampley's patriotism.

The Supreme Court ruled more than seventy years ago that school children could not be forced to say the pledge of allegiance, but Mississippi either hasn't gotten the memo, or believes that lawyers have less in the way of Constitutional rights than school children.  Danny Lampley has every right to express himself through silence, and if this case becomes a court issue, that will be quickly confirmed.  Even our current Supreme Court is smarter than that.

And as for Judge Littlejohn, he needs to turn off Fox News and crack open a law book or two - preferably ones  printed since the 1950's.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Christian Group Discovers the Golden Rule

by  Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Yesterday I commented on the recent string of young gay suicides, noting that they are often (nearly always) the result of stupidity and ignorance run amok.    Many of the malignant bastards who feel called upon to heap their garbage on these kids do so in the name of their religion - usually some twisted branch of Christianity.

Several years ago gay rights advocates came up with a special day to call attention to the horrific consequences of gay bullying.  They enacted an annual "Day of Silence" in which participants stayed silent as protest of the bullying.  Some conservative Christian (sic) groups, of course, could not let anything sponsored by the gay community go unchallenged, even something as tame as a day of silence, so they formed their own observance on the same day.  The Christian (sic) response was labeled a "Day of Truth," and it was established primarily to "counter the promotion of homosexual behaviors and to express an opposing viewpoint from a Christian (sic) perspective."

Recently Exodus International, one of the groups originally involved in the hateful "Day of Truth" counter-protest, withdrew its support from the event.  Alan Chambers, the President of Exodus International, apparently went back and re-read the Golden Rule.  He said that his group is now pulling out of the "Day of Truth" activities because of the recent attention being paid to gay bullying.  Chambers noted "(that) attention has helped us to realize the need to equip the kids to live out biblical tolerance and grace while treating their neighbors as they would like to be treated, whether they agree with them or not."

What a beautiful sentiment - and from a Christian, no less!

As a sidebar, Focus of the Family and its leader James Dobson have no intention of setting their bigotry aside, and they will continue to fully support the "Day of Truth."  Seig Heil!

"I like your Christ.  I do not like your Christians."  Mahatma Gandhi.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Stop the Hate!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Suicide is something that affects me personally, and deeply, not because I've ever considered it - I haven't, and not because it has been an alternative chosen by someone close to me.  I have known a few people who have taken their own lives, and each of those acts of desperation was very sad, very unnecessary, and resulted a tragic wound that friends and family were left to deal with for years.

Suicides often seem to feed off of one another.  A few years ago the folks of Plano, Texas, were burdened with an extended string of suicides  from their local high school.  Each successful suicide seemed to spawn another.

The military has had a plague of suicides over the past few years.  Last year Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, ceased business as usual for a few days in order to give commanders and counseling professionals time to work with the troops and try to get a handle on that  installation's rampant spate of suicides.

And it is a problem in all of the military services.  My job routinely involves counseling individuals who have expressed some suicidal ideation.  I have to listen extremely carefully, make sure that I ask all of the right questions, and reach a decision as to the level of risk that the person is under.  It is a very stressful job, one where missing or misreading a cue could result in a fatality.

One way not to pull somebody back from the edge is to humiliate or shame them.  I recently read about an 11-year-old boy who committed suicide because he was being bullied at school.  Eleven-years-old and dead because other parents and teachers did not teach their children how to behave in a civilized manner, in fact, they probably taught them how to behave in an uncivilized manner.

There have also been at least five deaths by suicide of gay youth in the United States in the last three weeks.  Homophobia is ugly and awful, and it is so easy for young people to listen to their parents and other adults spewing hatred against minorities - such as gay people - and assume that it is therefore somehow right or justified because people that they look up to feel that way and are outspoken in their bigoted opinions.

Tyler Clementi was a freshman at Rutgers University until the 22nd day of September this year.  That was when he posted the following on his Facebook page:  "Jumping off the gw bridge sorry."  Tyler did end his life that day by going into New York City and jumping to his death from the George Washington Bridge.  He became suicidal after his roommate and another person broadcast a live sexual encounter between Tyler and another man over the Internet.

That incident was a gross invasion of privacy, and it threw Tyler into such a depressed state that he felt death was his only recourse.

How sad for Tyler, and how sad for the rest of us.  He was a bright young man whose future was cut short by the ignorance and malice of others.  Tyler lost.   We all lost.    How long must we tolerate the ignorance and hatred that is spewed from the pulpits and from "patriotic" podiums and from puritanical pundits.  These are our children - they are our future.  Yes, the youth of America are a mixed bag, but it is their diversity that makes them great and ensures that our country will survive as a vibrant democracy.  We cannot abide ignorance, hatred, or bullying.

The Westboro Baptist Church is evil, through and through.  Politicians who pander for votes by vilifying those who are different from their wealthy, white, straight supporters are also evil.  It's time for all of us who are sickened by this cruelty and hatred to stand up and fight back.  Silence may be polite, but it's not the answer anymore!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Bible-Thumping at the Air Force Academy

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Reports have circulated for the past several years alleging that the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, is overrun with Christian Evangelical staff who actively impose their fundamentalist beliefs on the cadet student body.   That should come as no surprise to anyone who has lived around the city of Colorado Springs, because it is well known for being a hotbed of Christian fundamentalist views and activities.    (Disgraced minister Ted Haggard who was the leader of the National Association of Evangelicals was based in Colorado Springs, and it was home to his wealthy mega-church.  Colorado Springs is also home to James Dobson's Focus on the Family.)

This past week more allegations surfaced regarding the strong influence that Evangelical Christians appear to be exercising over cadets at the Academy.  An anonymous email from one cadet has been picked up and distributed by multiple veterans' groups, civil rights' groups, and news sources.  In that email the unnamed cadet alleges that there is an "underground" group of a hundred or so cadets who must pretend to be rabid Christians in order to get along and maintain standing among their peers.  These young people attend Bible studies at the Academy and keep Christian learning materials in their rooms in order to not be outed as something less than fundamentalist in their beliefs.

A "climate study" was recently conducted at the Air Force Academy to address the long-standing allegations of undue right-wing Christian influence on life at the school.  Unfortunately, the superintendent at the Academy chose not to release the results, opting instead to tell the public that things were fine at his school.    Pressure is now being placed on the military to release that study or conduct a more comprehensive one.

The United States Air Force Academy has a long and proud history.   If the Academy has been co-opted by right-wing religious fanatics, that situation needs to change - and change soon!  The cadets and our country deserve better.  It is well past time for the Air Force Academy to throw open the doors and shutters and  let the light of reason and tolerance shine into its hallowed halls.   The Academy was created to be a first class university, not some two-bit Bible college.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Monday's Poetry: "Marching Men"

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Today's poetry selection, Marching Men by Martin Harris, was chosen to serve as a post script to yesterday's Ramble on the subject of war.  It was composed as a response to the sight of the coffins of British servicemen returning home from Afghanistan.  As with any war, poems are penned to commemorate courage and valor, and they are also written to lay bare the futility and horror of war.  The following selection is of the latter variety.

Marching Men
by Martin Harris

Think of wars in the past and then of wars that we have left
For when your country calls for you to murder, maim and persecute
In a war where nothing is gained, where the slaughter of people is inhumane
When your country sends its war machine of marching men and bullets clean
Rivers flow the colours red, drained from men that have been bled
And they tell you that God is on your side. That when you kill its justified.

But the spoils of war turn bad, when you send friends home in body bags
With anger strong and bitterness high, you struggle to fight the emotions inside
You’re told to be tough, you’re told to be mean, that you’re not a man, you’re a killing machine
But hidden away deep down inside, you are a man and you cannot hide
For your children scream and your children cry, for they don’t understand the reason why
Why at war its right to take a life but in peace time, it’s our worst crime
So your country knows what‘s good for you, now take your orders and carry them through
And finish it quick the job you do, to kill another man
For there will never be peace on earth my friend
So listen to the feet of the marching men

10 November 09

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Cannon Fodder and the Nature of War

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Today's Ramble is going to wade through the topic of war, modern warfare and the impact that it has on the young people who are called on to wage it.   There will be no flag waving, parades or ceremonies - if that's what you think war is about, go curl up in the Lazy Boy and watch some Fox News.  Modern war, like those that we have suffered through since the end of World War II, has absolutely nothing to do with glory.  Modern wars are waged by the wealthy and fought by the poor.   They are political and economic games played out in jungles, and deserts, and mountains - games that seldom have any semblance of a moral purpose.  

I just finished the book, Tree of Smoke, by Denis Johnson.   When I first picked it up a Powell's Books kiosk at the airport in Portland, OR, I briefly thumbed through the pages and made an assumption that it was a really well-written book on the subject of the Vietnam War, something similar to the works of Tim O'Brien.   But the Vietnam of Johnson's work was little more than a background fluttering in the breeze.  He did briefly touch on the fighting of the Tet Offensive, but primarily Johnson focused on how war destroys people, not from bombs and bullets, but from within.

To Denis Johnson, war is a disease that, if left unchecked, turns humans into craven monsters.  James "Cowboy" Houston, one of Johnson's central characters, was struggling through high school in Phoenix when the Vietnam war was just beginning to boil over.  His older brother, Bill, had joined the Navy a few years earlier and was wholly focused on screwing and drinking his way across the Pacific.  James wanted to get the hell  out of Phoenix and eventually convinced his Bible-thumping mother to allow him to enlist at the tender age of seventeen.

James crossed paths one evening with Bill in Japan, but it was obvious that the years apart made them strangers.  James' star was on the rise and Bill was gradually drifting back toward Phoenix - to a life of low-end jobs and time in jail.  James went on to Vietnam where he was consumed by the darkness of war.  He prayed at the altar of booze, and drugs, and sex.  He quickly learned to see the Vietnamese and objects for his personal pleasure - some for screwing, some for killing,  as he slowly descended into madness.

The Vietnam experience of James "Cowboy" Houston ended after he and his LURPS squad (Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol)  gang-raped a Vietnamese prostitute,  an activity that James capped off by ritualistically and sadistically stabbing her to death.  He followed that high by trying to lob a grenade into a sleeping platoon of Special Forces troops.  The death of the prostitute was just some boys-will-be-boys stuff that the military could overlook, but the attempted fragging of fellow soldiers indicated that young James had fallen over the edge and had to be dealt with.

The sergeant who was in charge of James considered two options.  He could keep him in Vietnam and let him stumble through the war until he was killed, or he could get him back home.  (James was serving his second war tour and had not been home.)  The sergeant opted to recognize James' long service in Vietnam and get him back to Arizona.  James was home only a brief time before he found his way to prison.

James Houston was serving in Vietnam during the years that America's children of privilege, this writer included, were hunkered down in college using scholarship as a means to evade the draft.  George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Don Rumsfield all know what I'm talking about.  Dan Quayle and Mitt Romney know, too.  The men and women running corporate America today, they also know.

James Houston was a fictional character, an author's invention created to illustrate a point.  Johnson's point was that war is dehumanizing.  James Houston was fictional, but Lt. William Calley was real,  James Houston was made-up, but Steven Dale Green was a living, breathing horror story.  James Houston didn't exist, but Jeremy Morlock damned sure did!  And for every Calley, Green, and Morlock that we know about, how many more young people stuck in a lingering war that no one understands, pulling multiple tours of duty in harm's way, and slowly being desensitized to the gentle demands of humanity?  They will reveal themselves to us, one-by-one, for decades to come.

Give him a gun, stoke him up with blind righteousness, and drop him into a place where the rules of civilization no longer apply.  It is a long-term recipe for disaster.

But it won't happen to Mitt, or George, or Dick, or Don, or Dan, or me - and God willing, it won't happen to our kids and grandkids.  Wars are fought by the poor, the ones easily influenced by slogans and flag-waving, the ones who need a job and health insurance, the ones who desperately want to find a way out of Phoenix, Arizona.

I heard a military officer say recently that we took too many questionable individuals into the service during the buildup after 9/11, and it was now time to usher them out.  I've seen that cynical cycle of behavior three times now - Vietnam, the first Gulf War, and Bush's Glory and Oil War.  When times are tough our country goes begging up and down the breadlines trying to fill the ranks of the military, and when the crisis ends, the rabble who are left are the first to be jettisoned.  

The young people who fight our wars are cannon fodder, and what the cannons fail to claim can go back to living on the streets because rich, greedy, corporate America will have moved on and won't need them anymore.   That is the nature of war today - and it is shameless.