Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bristol Palin: Overpaid Bad Example

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Bristol Palin, the spawn of Sarah and Todd, is, if nothing else, just like her money-grubbing mother. While Sarah busies herself cranking out books faster than she can possibly write them - and speaking to any group with a spare hundred grand lying around, elder daughter Bristol is hard at “work” pulling in her own pile of ill-gotten cash.

Bristol has reportedly brought in over three hundred thousand dollars walking around the stage on her “Dancing with the Stars” gig. An internet rumor also has her being considered for her own reality television show. And then there’s her lucrative speaking engagements. Like her mom, Bristol will chatter on mindlessly about nearly anything for a fee of between $15,000 and $30,000. Her specialty topic, of course, is the importance of sexual abstinence for young people.

One can’t help but wonder how Bristol’s abstinence message is being viewed by America’s youth. On the one hand, those who choose to practice abstinence can often look forward to a hardscrabble life of trying to make ends meet, while on the other hand, a youngster who didn’t practice abstinence becomes a millionaire and famous television personality as she warns kids not to follow her bad example.

Greed and hypocrisy must be hereditary.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Pidgeon English and Popeye's Chicken

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

(Rock's Note:  I got home from Korea Sunday night only to find that my Internet connection at home got screwed up while I had my computer unplugged and with me on the trip.  Consequently, I am having to blog on base during lunch at a small Internet cafe.  My Okinawan blog is being completely neglected - sorry about that!  Due to the fact that I have lunch on my mind, today's missive deals with one of my lunch routines at Kadena.)

The number of places to dine on base is very limited and almost all are American fast food franchises.  Usually I try to mix it up a little, hitting a different place every day.  That works for about a week!

One of the primary functions of the American military in Japan appears to be to provide jobs for the local nationals.   There was an election for Governor of Okinawa this past Sunday and both of the main candidates ran on platforms of limiting American military expansion on the island.  One candidate seemed to be advocating the removal of all American troops.  He lost.  The politicians took those positions because that is what a big portion of the voting public appears to desire.  But the removal of American troops would create an immediate economic crisis of gigantic proportions to the thousands of Okinawans whose livelihood revolves around the many American military bases housed on this small island.

Almost all of the employees of the fast food joints on the military bases are Okinawan, and while all of those people speak English, few do so with much proficiency - so what one orders is likely to not always be exactly what one gets.

As an example, once a week or so I go to Popeye's Chicken to place my standard order at the drive-up window.  What I want are two pieces of chicken breast (mild), one biscuit with honey, and a large unsweet iced tea with heavy ice.  I don't think that in twenty trips or so that I have ever gotten exactly what I ordered.  The chicken is sometimes spicy, the tea is often sweet - sometimes with little or no ice, and the biscuit...well, the biscuit is a major deal!  Some of the employees think that a biscuit automatically comes with each chicken breast, so if I order one biscuit I may get three.  But, when I try to outsmart them and not order a biscuit, chances are I won't get any!  Usually there will be no honey, but the absolute most that I ever receive is one packet per biscuit - must be a company, cheap-ass policy.

Needless to say, with the various items that may wind up in my lunch sack, the total due at the window is never the same.

It is useless to try to straighten things out, because questions from customers only cause more confusion.  I take what I am given and drive off quietly, thankful that I am at least getting something for lunch!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Wikileaks Lifts the Veil on Government Secrecy

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The U.S. military recently underwent heavy introspection and massive amounts of hand-wringing and whining after Wikileaks posted thousands of "secret" documents that our leaders never wanted to see the light of day (or reason).  Most were fairly innocuous messages and assessments that should have never been classified as secret in the first place.  The real damage inflicted by the Wikileaks document dump was that is showed the cavalier way in which the government - our government - routinely wields its "secret" stamp to keep the bothersome citizenry in ignorance. 

After all, why should "we the people" have any concern over how our government spends our money or squanders our resources?  It's not like we have any plausible "need to know." 

Now Wikileaks has shifted its focus onto the U.S. State Department with the beginning of what promises to be another massive document dump of breath-taking proportions.  Today's best little gem was that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been surreptitiously gathering information on members of the United Nations.   There was also a salacious tidbit about Saudi Arabia constantly pestering the United States to attack Iran. 

It is comforting to know that at times when democracy seems to be suffering mortal wounds (Watergate, the Florida recount of 2000, Tom Delay bribing his way to power in Texas) something like Wikileaks will burst onto the scene to once again empower and inform those who routinely suffer  the tyrannies of government run amok.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Goodbye, Korea!

by Pa Rock
World Traveler

It's early Sunday morning in Seoul and still dark outside.  I am getting ready to head down to breakfast, and then my friends and I will board the bus for the airport at Incheon.  The flight home begins at noon, and we are scheduled to arrive in Okinawa around 9:00 p.m.  After claiming our baggage it will take another hour to get to my apartment - and then - work tomorrow!

It was a fast holiday!

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Seoul Tower and the Korea War Memorial

by Pa Rock
World Traveler

This is Saturday of Thanksgiving Day weekend, our final full day in the Republic of Korea.  Kelly and I began the day going to the Seoul Tower, an observation structure that sits atop a mountain in the center of Seoul.  The structure itself is 777 feet tall, although the observation deck is far below the tip of the tower.  But the view is grand - even on a crappy, cloudy day like today.  (There was ice on the ground at the base of the tower, something that I have not encountered since being in the Midwest last December and January - not that I get sentimental over winter ice!)

After the trip to the Tower, Kelly took the tour bus on to re-shop the Insadong, and I cabbed it back toward the base where I visited the Korean War Memorial before walking back to the hotel.  The War Memorial is immense with lots of aircraft, big guns, tanks, trucks, and watercraft outside, and sculptures, paintings, displays, and dioramas inside.  There was also a Korean wedding being set up on the grounds of the Memorial for an afternoon wedding.  I snapped a few photos of that as well.

Pictures will be up soon at www.okinawanodyssey.blogspot.com.

Busan by High Speed Rail

by Pa Rock
World Traveler

Me and my two traveling companions left Seoul before daylight this morning on a high-speed train heading to the coastal city of Busan.  I haven't checked the stats on Busan, but it's big - really big - with high rise apartments everywhere and lots of housing built onto the sides of the hills.  It is somewhat reminiscent of San Francisco, but without the cable cars and Rice-a-Roni!

We took a bus tour of Busan, and departed the tour at one point to grab a taxi and go to the Hae Dong Yong Gung Temple, a Buddhist sanctuary carved into the sides of bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  The temple is a beautiful and serene place of peace.  There will be pictures on my other blog, hopefully tomorrow:  www.okinawanodyssey.blogspot.com 

Korea's high-speed rail is awesome, and it was packed going and coming on our trip today.  At some point the United States has to move into the future with its own fast rail system, but that probably won't happen until the last gallon of oil has been sold, consumed, and eaten aaway a little more of the ozone layer.  A good infrastructure is essential for a sound economy and an effective defense - but we will undoubtedly have to learn that the hard way.

Things are still very calm in Korea.  The government is doing a lot of saber-rattling and talking about buying more arms on the international market, but the people seem to have completely tuned the controversy out.  The arms merchants can sleep well tonight, knowing that they have good customers on both sides of the DMZ.

Tomorrow Kelly and I are going to climb the Seoul Tower.  She is then going to backtrack and do some shopping, and I plan on visiting the Korean War Museum.  Our third musketeer is sick and needs to spend the day recuperating.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Korean Tensions, or Lack Thereof

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

After two complete days of absorbing Seoul, Korea, the one thing that stands out to me is the complete lack of any apparent tension over the recent provocation from the north.  Yesterday there were several police buses parked outside of the Gate 10 at the Army Garrison at Yongsan, with several of those young policemen patrolling up and down the street - but that seemed to be more theatre than anything else.  There has been some local television coverage of the damaged houses and people who had to flee their homes, but there is no sense of a national crisis.

Basically South Korea seems to have waved its fist in the air and said "You better not do that again!"  South Korea is wealthy and industrialized, while North Korea is dirt poor and militarized to the teeth.  An all out war between the two countries would be catastrophic, for each of them as well as the United States and probably China.

Seoul is a big, bustling, modern city, and life seems to be going a brisk pace - all commerce, no fear.  The amount of wealth in this region is immense - nice cars, clothes, and electronic gizmos.  If there is a poor area hiding someplace in the urban sprawl, we have yet to encounter it.  I have not seen any homeless or street people.  How many major American cities can make that claim?  Seeing this place leaves me wondering if we are really as wealthy in America as we like to think.

Tomorrow we are heading to the coast, so maybe I will get a more balanced perspective on the country of South Korea from that side trip.

Notes on Place Names:

We met a Korean lady at the airport in Incheon.  She told us that "san" means mountain.  Loosely translated, Osan (where the U.S. has a large airbase) is "crow mountain,"  Busan is "bay mountain," and Yongsan (the army base where we are staying and where President Obama visited two weeks ago) is "dragon mountain."  Our hotel at Yongsan is actually called "Dragon Hill."

The Korea Adventure Continues

by Pa Rock
World Traveler 

This morning my pals and I went to the Seoul Arts Center which is several blocks long and almost as wide.  We took in a design show there which had some amazing work ranging from design projects by school students to projects of professional artists.  We also walked through other shops and galleries.  With all of that art just oozing forth, what did I buy?  A couple of 3-D postcards!  There's no accounting for taste!

After a morning of the arts, we walked several blocks until we found a subway station.  We wanted to get to Seoul Station, the main train and subway station in Seoul, to purchase tickets for our planned outing to Busan tomorrow.   We managed to figure out how to purchase the tickets from a machine that had an English option, but couldn't figure out which gate to board.  Fortunately we ran into a wonderful little Korean man named Pang.  Pang got us on the right subway train, led us through a transfer, and got us to within three stops of Seoul Station before he had to depart at his own stop.

Mr. Pang was seventy-six years old.  He and I were both veterans of our respective armed forces, so we talked about that.  He said that the Korean government had asked his to sign a paper agreeing to fight in Vietnam and he declined.  Mr. Pang was a smart cookie!   He said that he has one son, and that son is currently giving him some problems - but he didn't get specific.  I told him that my kids are perfect!  He also talked about an American that he knew well back when he was in the military.  His friend was William Hughes of Philadelphia.  Mr. Hughes eventually returned home to become an elementary school teacher.

Kelly took a picture of Mr. Pang.  If she emails it to me, I will post it on www.okinawanodyssey.blogspot.com    I am posting many photos of the Korean trip on that site.

Our late lunch was at Seoul Station - some little panini bistro.  Kelly and I had dessert at Cold Stone.

This afternoon we walked around a large open-air market near the train station.  Tomorrow we are taking a high-speed train to the coastal city of Busan for a day of sight-seeing.

Tonight I will be enjoying a nice Thanksgiving meal here at the Dragon Hill Hotel.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Situation in Korea

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

News reports indicate that things are tense on the Korean peninsula, but after a day of heavy-duty sightseeing across Seoul, I can report that the tension is not that apparent here on the ground.  Myself and two friends are staying at the Dragon Hill Lodge, a five star hotel located on Yongsan Army Garrison in Seoul.

This morning I rode the elevator down with an active duty Army Lieutenant Colonel.  I asked about all of the military commotion coming out of the north, and he told me that the situation had already calmed down.  That must be right, because we visited several parts of Seoul today and never heard anyone even discussing what was occurring - or not.

Seoul is to Okinawa as New York City is to Joplin.  It is busy, expansive, and very westernized.  Prices out on the economy are better than they are in Japan's rural prefecture of Okinawa, they drive on the right side of the road - as God intended, and the food smells better!

Everywhere we went people were friendly, often stepping up to offer advice or discuss local history.  One fellow attached himself to me as we were entering the historic shopping district of Insadong.  He told me that the long, narrow street was between five and six hundred years old.  (His motivation seemed to have an opportunity to practice his English.)  Two female Korean information volunteers approached my friend Kelly along the Insadong shopping district and asked if she had questions.  I know that one of her questions was how to say "thank you" in Korean.

The big disappointment today was that our planned outing to the DMZ on Saturday appears to be cancelled due to Kim Jong Il's strutting and sniping.  He reminds me quite a bit of one of our recent dimwitted U.S. Presidents - all hat and no cattle!   But, even morons can stir up monstrous, senseless wars!

Pictures of today's tour of Seoul will soon be posted on my other blog:  www.okinawanodyssey.blogspot.com

Monday, November 22, 2010

Christian Hate and the Medal of Honor

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Bryan Fischer is a spokesperson for a right-wing loony group from Idaho called the American Family Association.  This week he became embroiled in an Internet controversy after making disparaging remarks about our country's highest military recognition - the Medal of Honor.  Fischer, who fancies himself a "Christian," seems to be incensed that the Medal of Honor is going to people who only save lives and do not do any actual killing.

On Tuesday of this week President Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to Sgt. Salvatore Giunta for "exposing himself to withering enemy fire as he helped a wounded colleague to safety and rescued another who was being dragged away by Taliban insurgents."  Sgt. Giunta was wounded in the process.

Fischer did not seem to take well to the award being given to Sgt. Giunta, and one can only suppose that he also found the picture of the President, that particular President, making the award especially irksome.  He lashed out by declaring:  "When are we going to start awarding the Medal of Honor once again for soldiers who kill people and break things, so our families can sleep safely at night?"  He also went on to lament that the Medal of Honor has become "feminized."

So, in one gigantic, ignorant swoop, Bryan Fischer managed to malign a very brave American soldier, our nation's highest military honor, and women - while also missing the entire point of what Jesus was all about.

Way to go, man of God.

Monday's Poetry: "High Flight"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Last night while watching The Man Without a Face, I listened in rapt attention as Mel Gibson gave a dramatic rendition of "High Flight," a sonnet familiar to many for no other reason than it was once used as the sign-off for some television stations - back in the day when television stations actually signed-off to signal the end of their broadcast day.  This poem was also used in part by President Reagan when he led the national mourning for the crew of the space shuttle Challenger.

"High Flight" was written by a young American who was serving as a pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II.  I say young, because John Gillespie Magee, Jr., died in an aircraft accident while training in 1941 at the tender age of nineteen.  At the time of his death, Magee had actually penned several poems of such power and beauty that they would merit his recognition as a poet of great renown  - but it was "High Flight" that insures his legacy.

High Flight
by John Gillespie Magee, Jr

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, --and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of --Wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air...
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark or even eagle flew --
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

I will probably be hearing (in my head) Mel's rendition of this paean to flight as I board the plane for Korea tomorrow!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Perspective on the War

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I heard a comment on the radio less than an hour ago that left me waxing philosophical.  The person speaking made reference to our brave men and women in uniform who are "fighting to keep our country free."  My gut reaction to that statement is to proclaim that George Bush's "war on terror" was launched to seize Iraqi oil fields and transport routes, and to depose Saddam Hussein because Little George wanted to prove something to his daddy.  Bush's international strutting had diddly-squat to do with keeping America free.   And basically, that is what the history books will one day show - in every place but Texas!

But does the phony pretext of the war mean lessen the significance of the contribution of these brave souls who put their lives on the line in the hell that is Iraq and Afghanistan?  Certainly not.  They marched off to war after having been indoctrinated in the lies of Bush, and Cheney, and Fox News, firm in the belief that they were needed in the Middle East to keep America safe.  (Many actually believed that the World Trade Center had been attacked by Iraq - it wasn't.)  But naivete aside, they put on uniforms and entered the fray for the most noble of reasons - the defense of their nation and her citizens.

So yes, these young people are patriots fighting to keep our country free.

I am currently reading the most disturbing book that I have ever encountered.  The Good Soldiers by David Finkel (a reporter and Pulitzer Prize winner) is a devastating account of an Army battalion that was sent from Ft. Riley, Kansas, to Iraq as part of the Bush "surge" in 2007.  Finkel was embedded with the unit.  He tells of the war through the experiences of this unit in such graphic detail that some nights I can only read a couple of pages before I have to set it aside.  It is sad and shocking and painful, and it shows how out-of-touch George Bush, a man who forgot to go to Vietnam, was with the realities of humanity.

I will review The Good Soldiers in this forum after I manage to complete it.  Each of my children can expect to receive a copy, because I don't want any of them to blithely allow their children to march off to war without a complete understanding of what war is all about.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Never Misunderestimate the Power of Dumb!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

With the 2010 midterm elections barely over and most (but not all) of the races decided, Fox News and its political  arm, the Republican Party, are busy predicting to anyone who will listen that Barack Obama can't possibly win re-election in 2012.  And while many in that repugnant organization are focused on repealing health care and destroying social security,  a growing number are preoccupied  trying to figure out ways that they can become the candidate to challenge Obama.

Mitt Romney is busy telling anyone who will listen that he is the logical choice.  Several of the big money types have already cast their lot with Romney and he would appear to be in a formidable position.  Sadly for the Mittster, he comes with baggage, and not all of it is Louis Vuitton.  It was Mitt Romney, who when he was governor of Massachusetts, instituted what was essentially the Obama health care plan in that state - several years before there was an Obama health care plan.  Now, of course, he opposes any plan that would make health care more accessible or affordable to the unwashed masses.  Then there is that pesky Mormon thing.  While Mitt considers himself to be the most moralistic white boy in America, there are legions of fundamentalist Christians who firmly believe that Mormonism is a cult that has no connection whatsoever to real Christianity.   Finally, did the country get its fill of wealthy spoiled brats with George Bush?  Romney did his Mormon missionary duty knocking on doors along the French Riviera.  Mitt Romney would make an interesting challenger to the President!

Tim Pawlenty, the outgoing governor of Minnesota, also thinks that he will be a player.  He won't, of course, because there are too many sharks circling around in the Republican cesspool to let the mild-mannered Minnesotan make more than a minimal splash.  He will be little more than a headline or two as the big fish rip him open for their bloody breakfast.

The Reverend Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas and now a Fox News personality, will be in the fray.  He got off to a good start in 2008, but couldn't close the deal.  Huckabee, being the good Christian that he purports to be, stands with the wealthy and privileged on most social and economic issues - firmly entrenched in the theology that the poor were born that way and should stay that way - unless God intercedes and gives them money.  Huckabee also will face further grilling about his son's involvement in the abuse and death of a dog.  Huckabee himself, as governor of Arkansas, fired the head of the state police when he refused to let Huckabee's version of the story go unchallenged.  Huckabee will last longer than Pawlenty, but he, too, will be fish food.

Sarah Palin, another Fox News personality and former half-term governor of Alaska, is out making noises about running for President.  She has been criss-crossing the lower forty-eight campaigning for teabaggers and making the odd dollar for speaking - while saying absolutely nothing of substance, of course.  Sarah knows she is popular - after all, her stooges have manned the phones week after week and managed to get Bristol into the finals of Dancing with the Stars!  Could there be a more significant qualification than that to  lead this great country.   Sarah is even out with a new book, one that reportedly attacks both the President and First Lady - and accuses Michelle Obama of hating white people.  That makes it painfully obvious who Sarah considers to be her base.  (I'm waiting for Katie Couric's next interview of Sarah Palin - the one in which she easily proves that Sarah has never read any of the books that she purports to have authored!)

Former Speaker of the House, New Gingrich, another tired old warhorse in the Fox stable, wants to take a run at President Obama.  Gingrich has been pining the presidency ever since Bill Clinton relegated him to the back of Air Force One.  His chances of moving to the front of the plane are less than nil.

Little Ricky Santorum, former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania, also wants to be the elected leader of the free world.  Santorum probably doesn't have the political chops to get the nomination, but he is one mean bastard and could definitely be someone's Cheney.

Sam Brownback just left the Senate, voluntarily, and went home to Kansas and got himself elected governor.  He, too, is lusting after the White House, and figured he stood a better chance running as a governor from America's heartland rather than as a Washington insider.  Brownback has a long and complicated connection with the evil Christian fundamentalist group, The Family, and the potential for embarrassment during a national campaign is almost endless.

There will also be a candidacy from either Congressman Ron Paul or his son, Senator-elect Rand Paul. Whichever of the two decides to run will start off with a minimum of thirty-percent of the Republican primary votes.  The Paul voters are as determined as they are dumb - and when it comes to the Republican Party, never misunderstimate the power of dumb!

And, lest we forget, there is also a full deck of jokers and batshit crazies like Michele Bachmann, Haley Barbour, Vicky Hartzler, Jan Brewer, Liz Cheney, Stephen Baldwin, Christine O'Donnell, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Sharron Angle, Joe Arpaio, and Shirley Phelps-Roper.  Hell, Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman might just decide to team up and try to buy the damned thing!

Personally, I hope they all run!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Ed Shultz Versus "the Drugster"

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Friday's are nice.

I like Fridays not only because that day signifies the end of the work week, but also because I get every other Friday off by working an extra hour every Monday through Thursday.  And on the alternate Fridays when I do have to work, I only have to put in eight hours instead of nine.  So every Friday is special.

The Fridays that I do have to go into the office are also special because the drive home is so much nicer. By leaving at 4:30 p.m. instead of 5:00 p.m. I get to listen to MSNBC's Ed Schultz on the radio instead of psychopathic Rush.  Ed doesn't yell nearly as loud as the mouth from Cape Girardeau, and he certainly makes much more sense.

Tonight, in fact, Ed was talking about Rush, whom he refers to as "the drugster."  Ed has the notion that Limbaugh is just a wee bit racist (sarcasm is mine), and that he spews racist garbage all over the airwaves.  Ed's chief complaint is that the FCC allows Rush to wax racist and has no guidelines in effect that could curb this dangerous behavior.  He questions why radio stations that require a license from the government in order to operate couldn't have some basic rules in place that would require "the drugster" and others of his klanish ilk to be civil or silent on the subject of race.

I suspect that a Limbaugh response would be that he has a First Amendment right to say whatever he damned well pleases, but, as Ed Shultz pointed out this evening, with rights also come responsibilities. But assuming that responsibility is not the Limbaugh strong suit (and it's not), and agreeing that he can spew his hatred in any private venue where citizens aren't tied to their chairs and forced to listen, does that "freedom" bar the government from setting a few rules regarding issuing and re-issuing licenses to use the public airwaves?  Do our young people who came of age in a fairly open society have to be subjected to Missouri bootheel racist crap vintage 1960?

Okay, Rush is bitter that a black family lives upstairs in the White House, especially a very bright and energetic black family.  But does his racial hatred have to be sprayed across the land like so much liquid manure?

There are some communities where only one radio news outlet exists - such as mine, and in those communities we may have to suffer opinions with which we strongly disagree - but must we be condemned to "the drugster's" raging renditions of Orville Faubus and Lester Maddox?

Racist rants beget violence - always have and always will.  Americans have worked to pull ourselves out of that ugly swamp since the country's founding.  We are making progress, but that progress is put in peril when paid performers like Rush Limbaugh lend legitimacy to racism by spewing it from hundreds of radio outlets.  He will never act responsibility unless he is forced to do so - and the time for that is now!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Genealogy Phase

by Pa Rock
Family Researcher

Most families have one person who dedicates an inordinate amount of time to collecting and preserving the family history.  Often it is some retired cousin who has the time and money to take their motor home through the hills and hollers of Kentucky and rural Virginia to visit courthouses and cemeteries in search of small nuggets of information that will result in the positive identification of some errant g-g-g-grandparent, or that grandparent's sibling or cousin.  That hobby, or affliction, is referred to by research types as "genealogy."

I took up genealogy in the early 1980's and became the go-to guy for anyone with questions regarding the ancestors of my children.  I diligently wrote to state capitals, county seats, and even one Canton office in Switzerland collecting documents (primarily birth, marriage, and death certificates - all for a fee), and eventually managed to flesh out a family tree for my kids that reflected around 250 grandparents - many of them with primary documentation.  Through primary research and latching onto the work of others, I was able to follow one of my mother's ancestry lines back fifteen generations into the 1500's.

Coupled with my personal research, I also had a newspaper column in the Ozarks that at one time ran in fifteen small town newspapers.  I published Rootbound in the Hills for 242 weeks.  It dealt primarily with queries from readers about their own misplaced Ozarks' ancestors.  (The complete collection of those columns may be found at  http://rootboundinthehills.blogspot.com/ )  I'm ashamed to say that I have yet to get them indexed, but if anyone reading this would like to take on that challenge, help yourself!

So, for a few years, I was heavily into genealogy - but that fire eventually faded and died as I went through a couple of major life changes.  Today boxes of my primary records are sitting in a storage building at Rock's Roost in Missouri - a storage building that the squirrels and rats have eaten their way into - and it may be a couple of more years before I am in any  position to effect a rescue of whatever is left of those documents.  I do have all of the factual data entered into a program on my computer.

I mention all of the above, because I can feel the interest in genealogy starting up again.  I am slowly slipping back into my genealogy "phase."  (Is that because I am getting close to retirement age or perhaps sensing my own imminent exit from this realm of existence?)  The past few evenings I have even started to "google" the names of some of the individuals whose past had me stumped years ago - and I am finding lots of good information that other researchers have posted.  What would have required a trip to the Mormon Library in Salt Lake City thirty years ago, can now be accomplished from sunny Okinawa with the aid of the Internet!

All of those grandparents who walked from the east coast to the Ozarks in three or four generations are now flying around the globe in nanoseconds - and Pa Rock is out to find them!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Scanners and Gropers and Creeps, Oh My!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

"Never mind my 'junk,' I resent having to walk on the nasty airport carpets shoeless!"  PaRock on Twitter earlier today.
I have wanted to write about the outrage of full-body scanners and minimum wage gropers employed by the TSA for a couple of days now, but I have held off because of the company that those complaints would put me in.  Over the past two days I have heard both Limbaugh and Hannity pissing and moaning over this true outrage, but, of course, their patter is that the blame for the whole mess belongs with Obama - because, as with all evil in the world, none of it was present until the country went crazy and elected a Kenyan socialist to the Presidency.

But Rush and prissy little Sean be damned because it is an outrage anyway - even if they have the temerity to agree with me!

The story has circulated around the globe regarding the San Diego passenger, John Tyner, who refused the full-body scan and then, as he was about to be sexually felt up by the TSA, declared loudly, "...if you touch my junk, I'm going to have you arrested."  It's a common-man-rebelling-against-the system, David versus Goliath, good conquering evil kind of story.  It's the kind of story that appeals to the rebel in all of us.

Airports are places almost guaranteed to make a Buddhist scream.  The situation has never been good, with fluctuating rates, routes, and peanuts, but it became considerably worse after twenty or so young Saudis (not an Iraqi or Afghani in the bunch) blatantly attacked our country using passenger jets as weapons.  Suddenly we had airport police (TSA) setting up obstacle courses in every airport.  They began with some level of professionalism, but the Bush administration quickly quashed that and replaced the professionals with minimum wage workers - workers with big badges and minimal law enforcement training - and loosed them on the traveling public.

The result of this mish-mash of security is a system that functions differently in every airport.  What is fine in Phoenix is damned in Denver.  And Kansas City...well, bad example, because nothing is fine at Kansas City International.  (For a while Kansas City TSA workers also had to clean planes between flights.  Maybe they still do.)

So leave it to technology to make a bad situation totally intolerable.  The new full-body scanners render an essentially nude image of every passenger - even children.    Of course, there have already been reports of these nude images being preserved and passed around by TSA employees.

This is quickly becoming a civil rights issue.  At what point will privacy rights kick in, or do we completely give up that right to ride on an airplane if we have a sense of modesty?  Someday there will be a bus bombing, or a train bombing, or a discount store bombing.  Will we then be scanned and squeezed before riding a bus, or a train, or shopping at a Wal-Mart?   When society becomes completely dominated by rent-a-cops and full-body scanners, the terrorists have won.

"How about two sets of passenger jets - one for those who agree to be screened and groped, and the other for those who don't?"  PaRock on Twitter earlier today.

I would be on the latter, thank you very much!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bi-Polar Radio

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I have written about the maddening situation with regard to American radio on Okinawa before, either here or in my other blog:  www.okinawanodyssey.blogspot.com.

Basically, the situation is this:  There are two American stations on the island that try to accommodate every single one of the troops, dependents, and civilian workers who make up the American community.  One of those stations is an FM catastrophe which has a play list of twelve or fifteen songs, mostly rock hits from the 1980's, along with a couple of rap numbers and one or two sobbing country tunes  about patriotism and beer.

The other station, an AM train wreck, was described to me on the evening that I arrived on-island as "the NPR station."  Would that it were!  I could survive on a steady listening diet of NPR, and have done so in several locations.  I have heard NPR at its best, KJZZ, for instance, in Phoenix which has wonderful jazz well into every night, and at its worst from a station out of Nashville that spent every afternoon droning on and on with really slow and painful violin classical music.

Unfortunately, our local AM station is NPR only in the mornings - when it broadcasts NPR's morning programming from the previous day.  The rest of the day it is talk radio, truly nasty talk radio.  Driving to work this morning was wonderful because I was treated to NPR's standard insightful news and commentary.  Coming home tonight:   Rush Limbaugh!  (I don't turn the car radio off because all of the knobs and buttons are labeled in Japanese, and I can never get it turned back on - but, praise Jeezus, I have learned which button controls the volume!)

Limbaugh, who is deaf, yells - incessantly.  He is also drug-addled when explains his lack of coherence.  But I am somewhat puzzled by his raging hatred of the President.  Could it have something to do with growing up as a privileged white boy in largely impoverished, and mostly black, southeastern Missouri?  Does his seething contempt for President Obama have anything to do with the notion that certain races have certain places of acceptability in society, and our President has ventured into the wrong social strata?  Or is it just mental illness?

I am home now.  It is evening, and my head hurts, and my bi-polar radio needs a good therapist!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Monday's Poetry: "Five Houses Down"

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

McDonald County, Missouri, could be one of the most beautiful places in the United States.  It has wooded hills that flower heavily with the blossoms of Dogwood trees every spring, clear streams with gravel beaches, and limestone bluffs that hang out over the roadways in many places.  The county was home to gospel legend Albert E. Brumley who wrote many time honored classics including "Turn Your Radio On," and the immortal "I'll Fly Away."  It was also the filming location for the 1939 movie, "Jesse James" which brought Hollywood stars Henry Fonda, Tyrone Power, Nancy Kelly, and Jane Darwell to the county for several months.

But given all of its breathtaking scenery and history, McDonald County is anything but beautiful.  The citizens of the county are fiercely independent and do as Ronald Reagan instructed them to do - they distrust their government.  The result is that they don't want anyone, especially government, telling them what to do.  There is practically no zoning in the county, resulting in a situation where every wistful vista is scoured with rusting cars on blocks, dilapidated trailer houses, cur dogs running wild, and enough litter and rubbish along the roadways to fill a fleet of trash trucks.

Who cares if not having property zoning laws makes prime real estate essentially worthless and drives off tourists?  At least the locals don't have to suffer government telling them what to do.  McDonald County is probably what the whole country would look like if Sarah Palin was President.

So I have selected the following poem, "Five Houses Down," for this week because it reminds me of McDonald County and particularly of some of my neighbors on Old Pine Trail.


Five Houses Down 
by Chris Wiman

I loved his ten demented chickens
and the hell-eyed dog, the mailbox
shaped like a huge green gun.
I loved the eyesore opulence
of his five partial cars, the wonder-cluttered porch
with its oilspill plumage, tools
cauled in oil, the dark
clockwork of disassembled engines
christened Sweet Baby and benedicted Old Bitch;
and down the steps into the yard the explosion
of mismatched parts and black scraps
amid which, like a bad sapper cloaked
in luck, he would look up stunned,
patting the gut that slopped out of his undershirt
and saying, Son,
you lookin’ to make some scratch?
All afternoon we’d pile the flatbed high
with stacks of Exxon floormats
mysteriously stencilled with his name,
rain-rotted sheetrock or miles
of misfitted pipes, coil after coil
of rusted fencewire that stained for days
every crease of me, rollicking it all
to the dump where, while he called
every ragman and ravened junkdog by name,
he catpicked the avalanche of trash
and fished some always fixable thing
up from the depths. Something
about his endless aimless work
was not work, my father said.
Somehow his barklike earthquake curses
were not curses, for he could goddam
a slipped wrench and shitfuck a stuck latch,
but one bad word from me
made his whole being
twang like a nail mis-struck. Aint no call for that,
son, no call at all. Slipknot, whatknot, knot
from which no man escapes—
prestoed back to plain old rope;
whipsnake, blacksnake, deep in the wormdirt
worms like the clutch of mud:
I wanted to live forever
five houses down
in the womanless rooms a woman
sometimes seemed to move through, leaving him
twisting a hand-stitched dishtowel
or idly wiping the volcanic dust.
It seemed like heaven to me:
beans and weenies from paper plates,
black-fingered tinkerings on the back stoop
as the sun set, on an upturned fruitcrate
a little jamjar of rye like ancient light,
from which, once, I took a single, secret sip,
my eyes tearing and my throat on fire.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Arizona Prepares to Light(en) Up!

by  Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Arizona, America's rest home, is known for such absurdities as Jan Brewer, Joe Arpaio, and rabid racism, but what it is not known for is progressive legislation.  Anything that smacks of intelligence can just pass right on through to California, because the Arizona sand goobers aren't buying anything but guns, ammo, and Bibles.

So, how surprising is this?  Proposition 203, a voter initiative designed to allow the growing and distribution of marijuana for serious medical uses has passed - barely.  The measure won by 4,341 votes out of a total of 1.67 million cast.This legislation, which is apparently safe from  "tinkering" or repeal by the legislature due to Arizona's Voter Protection Law, represents the third time that medical marijuana has passed a vote of the people. The first two attempts, however, suffered from technicalities that kept the laws from being implemented.  Arizona now joins fifteen other states and the District of Columbia where citizens may be given the option of treating pain and nausea with a doobie!

No word yet on whether Sheriff Joe Arpaio will expand his "illegal" immigrant raids to include kicking in the doors of hospices looking for cancer patients toking demon weed, but if the activity draws any press, Joe can't be far behind!

Friday, November 12, 2010

On Thomas Jefferson, God, and Natural Manure

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I received one of those stupid chain emails yesterday from a conservative and very fundamentalist friend back in Arizona.  The subject of the email was Thomas Jefferson, and the gist of it was that Mr. Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence and the first President of the University of Virginia, was actually a very smart man.

Well, duh!

The email's original composer, probably Glenn Beck or some similar knuckle-dragger, collected a list of Jefferson facts and quotes and arranged them in such a manner as to show that he was actually very much in sync with today's right-wing toadstools who believe government should be some amalgamation of no taxes and Old Testament theology.

As with any list, this one is as noteworthy for the Jeffersonian beliefs that it fails to mention as for those that it does.

First of all, Thomas Jefferson was not the rabid man of God that some of his modern day trumpeters would have us believe.  He did have an interest in Jesus, the man, but knew that the gospels had been so corrupted over the centuries that their authors would be unable to recognize their words in the modern versions.    Ever the academic, Jefferson set out to clean up these stories in an attempt to discover the true Jesus.  He filtered the miracles and mysticism out of the Biblical stories, and came up with a literary product that is referred to today as the Jefferson Bible,  a compendium that preserves Jesus the teacher and the man of peace and love - not Jesus the magician who was the son of God brought to earth through a magical virgin birth.

Thomas Jefferson found religion as an institution be be dangerous and shameless.  In Notes on Virginia (1782) he wrote:

"Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned, yet we have not advanced on inch toward uniformity."
Jefferson saw religion as being the antithesis  to freedom - people would never be free so long as they allowed themselves to be subjugated to priests.  (He used the term "priest" as a collective noun for all manner of religious tyrants and beggars - preachers, ministers, clergymen, etc.)  In a letter to Alexander Humboldt in 1813, he had this to say about religious despots:

"History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government.  This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves of their own purposes."
Or this nugget from a letter to Horatio G. Spafford in 1814:

"In every country in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty.  He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own."
Beware the clergy and beware the politicians, for they are in league against the dignity and freedom of man.

For those promoting the current malarkey that our founding fathers were so extremely devout that they intended no "wall" between church and state, there is this succinct little gem from a letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper in 1814:

"Christianity neither is, nor ever was, part of the common law."
But it is not Christianity that gets most of the present-day yahoos to spouting Jefferson.  It is rather their belief that Jefferson felt that the people needed to periodically rise up and bring their government under control.  They further believe that Jefferson was speaking directly to them and to their circumstances.  Jefferson lived through our nation's only successful revolution.  He was instrumental in designing our break with Great Britain, ushering in the entire concept of foreign diplomacy, and establishing the precepts for our working democracy.  His was a time of rapid political change brought about through violent means.

The quote that today's "revolutionaries" (or "treasonous bastards," depending on one's point of view), get off on is this:

"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants.  It is its natural manure."
Timothy McVeigh was wearing a tee-shirt with that quote emblazoned upon it when he blew up the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing hundreds of innocent men, women, and children.  What a patriot!

These miscreants quoting Jefferson regarding the "tree of liberty" make the assumption that he was speaking to them,  when, in actuality, he was more apt to have been speaking about them.  As government becomes more despotic, such as when it begins to shamelessly cloak itself in religion, and commonsense is drowned out by moralistic thunder, then it becomes the duty of patriots to bring government back in line and remind it that it functions at the consent of the governed.  Government is a democratic function, not an arm of the church.

Jefferson, himself, had some personal issues with the concept of liberty.  He was a slave owner, and for thirty years he shared his bed with Sally Hemings, a woman he owned.  But Jefferson's history as a slaveholder doesn't tarnish his image with the modern tea party, a group best identified and defined by its collective hatred of our county's first black President.

The tea baggers are historically Jeffersonian in their concept of liberty, but the problem for them is that the country has moved on two hundred years into the future.    Yes, there are buffoons running around stockpiling canned goods and silver and weapons and ammunition - and masturbating to the notion of "Second Amendment remedies."   But that's a wet dream for morons, it's not real life.

Real life is democracy, a government run by principles that Thomas Jefferson helped to establish, a government that may occasionally suffer despots or rabid clergy, but always corrects itself through the guidance of the citizenry.

Our nation has grown over two centuries.  The chains of slavery are gone, women can vote and run for office, poor farms and orphanages are gone, gay couples can live together openly and even marry in some parts of the country, contraception and abortion are legal, we can connect to the world via the Internet, and yes, a black family does live upstairs at the White House.  The despots and clergy have fought all of those changes, but even with their opposition, we have advanced.

The tree of liberty is growing and flowering despite those who would have it otherwise.  It is fertilized through the use of ballots and free speech, and it grows strong in the light of reason.

The Best and Worst Places to Retire

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

As I nudge ever closer to my retirement years, I am prone to contemplating just where I should spend those golden times.  I would like someplace where the weather isn't bitterly cold or continuously wet, a location where my meager savings and retirement checks will stretch as far as humanly possible, an area where I will be relatively safe, someplace with good doctors and easy access to health care, an area that values education and educated people, and someplace where the politicians aren't all bordering on being sociopaths.  Taking all of those criteria into account and overlaying them across a map of the United States, the best retirement option for me becomes obvious:  Europe!

But for those of us destined to spend our final impoverished days in America, Money Magazine has done the research for us.  That esteemed publication has just released lists of the ten best and worst places to retire in America.  They base their findings on economic factors, climate, crime rate, and life expectancy.  I found some of their results to be surprising.

According to Money Magazine, the ten worst states to retire in are:  10.  Arkansas (whose border is within 3 miles of my little farm in the Ozarks), 9. Missouri (where I own property and have family), 8. North Carolina (I always thought I would love to retire in the Blue Ridge Mountains, perhaps near Asheville), 7. Ohio (you can have it), 6. Tennessee (been there, done that), 5.  Maryland (talked my way out of a traffic ticket there once), 4. South Carolina  (Jim DeMint - 'nuff said), 3. Alaska (I don't want to have to worry about whack jobs flying overhead shooting elk from helicopters), 2. Michigan (where the best employment opportunities seem to be in criminal endeavors), and, the worst state for retirement...1. Nevada (where it would be way too easy to blow a meager pension on the slots or at the blackjack tables).

Nevada was at the bottom of the chart because its cost of living is high - 105% of the national average, unemployment is high at 14.3%, and it has the third highest violent crime rate in the nation along with the 13th highest property crime rate.  It's life expectancy is a low 75.8 years.  It doesn't sound like the sort of place where an old person could rest easy at night.

At the other end of the spectrum, the good end, the top ten states for retirement according to Money Magazine are:  10.  Idaho (Idaho!  I guess the Mormons and militias take care of their own!), 9. Vermont (maple syrup and common sense), 8. Connecticut (New York City's bedroom), 7. Utah (again with the Mormons and militias!), 6. Virginia (with lots of battlefields and historic trails for old people to walk), 5. Iowa (corn and beef, beef and corn), 4. North Dakota (frigid temps but life expectancy is is 78.3 years - and crime is almost non-existent), 3. South Dakota (low cost of living, low unemployment, and, like its neighbor to the north, crime is almost non-existent), 2. Hawaii (expensive, but it is paradise, after all), and the best state for retirement...1. New Hampshire (where it may be colder than hell in the winter, but the locals can stay home by the fire because there is nothing to do in town anyway).

The cost of living in New Hampshire is 89 percent  of the national average.  It is 48th in the nation in both violent crime and property crime, and the life expectancy is 78.3 years - a full two-and-one-half years longer than the average life span of Nevadans.

All things considered, most people tend to wind up close to home, where family is near and where they feel comfortable.  Straying too far from home during the closing pages of one's life would be about as silly as moving overseas after the age of sixty!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Oklahoma: Proud to be Stupid!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The good people of Oklahoma just can't seem to help themselves when it comes to ensuring that their state will always serve as a national punchline.  One would think that being represented in the Senate by Tom Coburn and James Mountain Inhofe would bring the state more than its share of humiliation, but for some of the state's craziest cretins, there is always room for so much more.

Oklahoma is the birthplace and current abode of the grandmother of the Tea Party, nutbag Anita Bryant. It was also the only state in the union in which every single county voted against Barack Obama - leading more than a few observers to speculate that the state might be just a tad concerned with skin tone.

Or maybe they believed the Fox rumors that Obama was a Muslim.  These goobers aren't much on religious tolerance either.

Just last week, in fact, Oklahomans voted on an amendment to their state's constitution that prohibited the state's courts from using any type of laws in making decisions other than state law or federal law.  The amendment specifically forbid the state courts to ever use international law or Sharia law (Islamic law) in making decisions.  Obviously no state court in Oklahoma has ever used Sharia law in making any decision, nor would a state court ever have a need to do so.  But that was not the point.  The point was Oklahomans do not like the Islamic religion or Muslims, and they wanted to show their bigotry through a vote...something that would get them some press and remind the rest of the nation just how stupid Oklahomans really are.

Oklahomans were, not surprisingly, successful in their attempt to legislate hate and stupidity.  The measure that would ban Sharia law from being practiced in the Oklahoma courts passed by just over 70% (695,568 to 296,903).

While Oklahomans tend to take pride in their stupidity, it has to be noted that nearly one-third of the electorate couldn't be suckered into voting for the odious piece of race-baiting legislation.  It should also be noted that while Barack Obama lost every county in the state, he also received votes in every county and came close to carrying a few.  And while the people of Oklahoma are much more likely to elect people like Coburn and Inhofe to office, the state has also sent Fred Harris to the Senate and Mike Synar to the House.   It would seem that sanity can prevail occasionally, even in places like Oklahoma. By and large, however, Oklahomans are never proud of their saner moments!

The Mystery Missile and Government Secrets

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The government of the United States of America, our government, is currently going nuts over the release of tens of thousands of pages of "secret" documents by Wikileaks.   The most significant thing to result from that massive document dump is the fact that those pages contained little that most people did not already know - or at least assumed.  The obvious question is why does our government go to so much trouble to keep its day-to-day operational crap secret?  The next obvious question is can we really trust a government that is so quick to stamp "secret" on every scrap of paper that it generates?   The third question might be if the government keeps everything from its citizenry, is it really a democratic form of government - and are we truly free?

A lot of what Wikileaks has released amounts to little more than mid-level bureaucrats using the classification stamp to cover-up their mistakes and keep from embarrassing themselves.

And all of the stuff that has been dumped on the Internet by Wikileaks only deals with the current wars.  What a shame someone did not furnish them with the "secret" documents relating to Roswell, the Kennedy assassination, or the U.S. plots against Cuba.  Wouldn't it be fun to get a look at J. Edgar Hoover's "private" files, the ones he ruthlessly used to stay in power at the FBI!

We as a nation have been fed a steady diet of lies and misinformation by our own government since the days of the Cold War, and the subterfuge only seems to be getting worse.

There was an incident off the coast of southern California yesterday that illustrates the problems of government double-speak, or perhaps its ineptness complicated by lies, only too well.  Yesterday evening weather helicopter filmed what looks to be a vapor trail of a missile heading out into the Pacific Ocean.  Various experts have come forward and volunteered that it appears to be a large missile of the variety that are fired from submarines, but the government, our government, vehemently denies that they launched the missile.  The government doesn't stop there, it also asserts that it does not know the source of the missile - and - assures the public that the missile, launched dangerously close to Los Angeles, posed no threat to our national security.

No matter how you dice it, that is one big bunch of crap.  Either (A) the government lied about not being responsible for the launch, or (B) it is clueless as to the source of the launch and lied about it posing no threat to national security - because the government has no way of knowing if it posed a threat or not, or (C) some other group is experimenting with missiles and our government doesn't want us to know that they no longer have control of our skies.

Whatever the real story of the mystery missile, it will undoubtedly be stamped "secret" and locked away in some bureaucrat's filing cabinet.  It is obviously no concern of ours - the governed!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

McConnell's Headaches Are Just Starting

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, the tobacco companies' best friend in Congress, even including Roy Blunt, is strutting around giving interviews and appearing on talk news programs, pontificating about all of the power that the 112th Congress is going to wield.  McConnell, who is primarily concerned with flexing his tongue muscle, has proclaimed that nothing controversial will get across his desk during the up-coming lame duck session of Congress, the one in which the new members aren't yet seated and voting.  And who determines just what is controversial?  Why, Mitch McConnell does, of course!  He is after all, the Republican leader in the Senate.

But while McConnell may feel that he has the world by the nuts, there are a couple of storm clouds gathering on his rosy horizon.  The Republican Party, even though it gained six seats in the Senate, will still be the minority party in that august body - by a tally of 51-47.  And although they were able to completely obstruct the country's essential business in the current Congress with just forty-one votes, life may not be so pleasant with the some of the new arrivals, especially tea-baggers with angry agendas who won't recognize the need to honor the Senate's hoary old traditions - or its hoary old leaders!

Dan Coats is a case in point.  The once and future Senator from Indiana has recently gone on the record as embracing filibuster reform.  Egads!  Republicans favor filibuster reform when they are in the majority and Democrats can screw with them through that process - but they aren't in the majority and won't be even in the 112th Congress.   Stuffy old institutional Mitch is probably stuttering "WTF!" Doesn't Senator-elect Coats know that Republicans are supposed to be in lock-step on every issue - even if they are wrong?  Who the hell does this whipper-snapper think he is anyway?

But the real fun will begin when Kentucky's new Senator gets to town.  Rand Paul doesn't like McConnell and the feeling is undoubtedly mutual.  Reason one has to be that McConnell actively supported Paul's opponent in the Kentucky Republican primary election - Trey Grayson.  Reason two:  Paul feels like he was elected to shake things up.  He is a rising star and will not be happy if McConnell tries to relegate him to the back bench.  Rand Paul is coming in with an agenda, albeit a goofball agenda, but an agenda nonetheless - and if Mitch McConnell gets in his way, well...he may just wind up getting his head stomped!

Break out the popcorn and get comfortable because this is going to be more fun than movie night at Clarence Thomas's place!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Monday's Poetry: "The Banks Are Made of Marble"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

This week's political victory by big business and the banks (the 2010 midterm elections) brought to mind the following protest song from the 1950's - a people's lament on the stranglehold that big banks have on our lives.  Unfortunately, with Republicans now in charge of the House of Representatives, things are likely to get worse in a hurry.

As you read the lyrics to "The Banks Are Made of Marble," you may hear the voices of Pete Seeger or Iris Dement drifting in on the breeze.

The Banks Are Made of Marble
by Les Rice

I've traveled 'round this country
From shore to shining shore
It really made me wonder
The things I heard and saw

I saw the weary farmer
Plowing sod and loam
I heard the auction hammer
Just a-knocking down his home

But the banks are made of marble
With a guard at every door
And the vaults are stuffed with silver
That the farmer sweated for

I've seen the weary miner
Scrubbing coal dust from his back
I heard his children cryin'
"Got no coal to heat the shack"

But the banks are made of marble
With a guard at every door
And the vaults are stuffed with silver
That the miner sweated for

I've seen my brothers working
Throughout this mighty land
I prayed we'd get together
And together make a stand

Then we might own those banks of marble
With a guard at every door
And we might share those vaults of silver
That we have sweated for

Saturday, November 6, 2010

MSNBC Moves to Silence Olbermann

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

It was a hard week for lefties, though not Armageddon by any means.  A handful of certifiable idiots managed to get themselves elected to Congress, and while the presence of people like Rand Paul and Vicki Hartzler will only serve to pull the image of Congress further into the pig slime, it could have been so much worse.   We will not have to suffer the legislative insanities of Senators Angle, O'Donnell, Buck, and Miller - praise Allah!

But even before the dust from the election had settled, MSNBC shocked the country by suspending its most outspoken political commentator, Keith Olbermann.  His crime?  Keith made political contributions to three Democratic candidates without first receiving the permission of his network overseers.  That's right.  MSNBC apparently has a corporate "rule" that calls for its news people and commentators to get permission before exercising their First Amendment right to "speak" through political donations.

Of course Keith has a right to donate to political candidates.  He could have crossed an ethical line when he interviewed (on air) at least two of the candidates to whom he gave money.  If those donations were made before the interviews, then he should have declared that - also on the air.  But, as of yet I haven't seen that claim made.  The offense seems to be simply that he made contributions to political candidates without seeking corporate permission.

Two other MSNBC commentators have also contributed to political candidates without a subsequent public flogging by their corporate masters.  Joe Scarborough and Pat Buchanan both gave to Republican candidates.  MSNBC said that Scarborough, a former Republican Congressman, got permission before making a donation in 2006.  Problem  is, he also made a large donation to another candidate this year - and he was a headliner at a Republican fundraising event.
And then, of course, there are the necessary comparisons to Fox News, the radio and television arm of the Republican Party.  Fox commentators routinely give to Republican candidates and even allowed them to pitch for donations on their programs.  Two Fox commentators, Palin and Huckabee, are already making noises about running for President in 2012.

I think it would be wonderful if news could be presented without a political slant - dare I say it, news that is "fair and balanced!"  NPR comes the closest to doing that, and the right wing wants to defund it - or sell it to Fox.  The days of unbiased news, if they ever existed, probably died during the Eisenhower administration.  Getting news, like buying a car, calls for careful shopping.

MSNBC is owned by General Electric and will soon be controlled by Comcast.  The head of Comcast was a fundraiser for our sadly inept - and most recent former President - George W. Bush.  Was Keith's suspension a legitimate concern for fairness in news, or in this case "opinion," or a scary portend of things to come as the nation's largest corporations secure their stranglehold over mainstream news sources?

We are in for scary times.  Long live NPR and the free Internet!

A petition demanding the MSNBC do the right thing and reinstate Keith Olbermann is on-line at http://act.boldprogressives.org/sign/petition_olbermann/?akid=2652.693919.x-Dx9O&rd=1&source=e2-tb&t=2   It currently has nearly a quarter of a million signatures from people who want to hear more than the Fox News slant on things!


by Pa Rock
Rabid Reader

I have just finished reading a book, a very good book that I would not have even bothered picking up under normal circumstances.  But this book was written by a friend, in fact, the author has been my best friend since around the time that Kennedy was in the White House.

The author of Sarren identifies himself on the book's cover simply as JSC, which I find mildly amusing because he is somewhat of a modest and unassuming character.  Humility has its place and is always more appreciated than blatant boasting, but if I had poured all of that time, energy, and talent into writing a book of nearly four hundred pages, my name would be on the cover in larger print than the title!

Sarren is a good-versus-evil tale set in a mythical realm with lots of magical overtones.  The title character is a young apprentice mage (sort of a cross between a healer and a magician) who learns that she is really an orphan of royalty destined to lead her kingdom into a great war that has been talked about and predicted for centuries.  In the lead-up to the epic battle, the author creates and explores a universe that includes remote island people, the flying people of the mountains, the Oncemen and evil red creatures, as well as Sarren and all of her followers.  They all have important roles to play in the story's climax.

I'm not a big fan of J.R.R. Tolkien, having just finished the long and extremely boring Lord of the Rings last summer, and when I began this book I did so with trepidation fearing that I might be wading into another Tolkien bog.  But I was pleasantly surprised.  Sarren is good, a solid saga told in a clear and crisp cadence.  It is the characters who carry the tale.  JSC created a group of individuals who are interesting and easy to care about.  I became involved in their adventures and kept turning the pages wanting to know where they were headed and what was going to happen.

JSC can keep his anonymity.   For those with any connection to Noel, Missouri, I will tell you that he and I both worked at the Ozark Theatre when we were kids, and he went on to own the joint.  JSC eventually became the mayor of our little town.  He has been a mail carrier for decades, has a wonderful wife and two grown sons, and has been covering his home in brickwork for more years than he would probably want me to mention!

I invite JSC to append purchasing information to this blog post.  Sarren is a good read.  Your money will be well spent!