Monday, January 31, 2011

The Age of Ignorance

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Representative Jack Kingston from Georgia is one strange  He apparently was a guest on Real Time with Bill Maher recently - an act of exceeding strangeness for a conservative lawmaker from the heart of Dixie, since Maher loves to be outrageous and lob F bombs with wild abandon.   Once on the program Kingston felt compelled to announce that he does not believe in evolution.  Okay, I understand the concept of playing to the ignorant base, but why do it on Bill Maher's show. Maher is a human buzz saw who would rip someone like Kingston to shreds in seconds over far less controversial remarks, and the few people from Kingston's district who might actually watch the program would be unlikely to vote for him under any circumstances.

Kingston went on to proclaim that he believes he came from God - and not from a monkey.   He then scampered off the set on all fours and climbed up into the theatre's rafters - where he peeled and ate a banana and threw the peeling and his poop on audience members!

The Gallup poll, a political scripture of sorts, reports that 40 percent of Americans believe God created human life as it exists today - and that He did it a mere 10,000 years ago.  Science and fossils be damned because facts have no relevance when it comes to belief!  St. Gallup also found that 52 percent of Republicans believe in the fiction of Creationism, while just 34 percent of Democrats and Independents have been suckered into that nonsense.

Of course, as Bill Maher himself pointed out on his show a couple of years ago, when illness strikes, even serious Creationists want the services of doctors who have been trained in real science.   Smoke, mirrors, and collection plates can only go so far, and when death looms large these "believers" aren't so damned anxious to test their theories!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

McDonald Territory

by Pa Rock
Territorial Citizen Journalist

Noel, Missouri, is a small town in the southwest corner of Missouri.  During the 1950's it was a popular tourist destination with a clear river running through town, scenic limestone bluffs that hung out over the major highway, several commercial caves, and many tourist courts.  Noel was the weekend getaway of choice for people from Tulsa and Kansas City.

Those were good years, before Ralston Purina came to town with a chicken processing plant that fouled the local waterways, and before Branson developed into a commercial monster that sucked away all of the tourists and their much-loved dollars.

Noel was perhaps at the pinnacle of its existence as a tourist mecca in 1961 when the state of Missouri inadvertently (or otherwise) failed to include the popular resort community of its annual Family Vacationland map that was distributed far and wide to show the most popular vacation spots around the state.  The good people of Noel, particularly business leaders and those directly involved in the tourist trade, were not amused.

The end result of this offensive omission  was that the village fathers, and a few of the mothers, formed a tongue-in-cheek secession movement aimed at separating McDonald County from the rest of the state of Missouri.  Noel and it's neighboring communities became known as "McDonald Territory" for the remainder of that year, and a publicity circus ensued that brought far more tourists to the area than a mention on any old state map could have accomplished.

I was thirteen-years-old and in the seventh grade at Noel during the brief life of McDonald Territory.  My parents owned a cabin court just north of town in Ginger Blue Village, where we worked hard every summer to capture as many of the tourist dollars as possible to help maintain through the poor times of winter.

This year is the 50th anniversary of McDonald Territory, and to honor that significant event in local history, the McDonald County Historical Society has published a commemorative calendar with photos and trivia associated with that small but significant piece of local history.  David Sparlin of the Historical Society was kind enough to send me one of the calendars, and leafing through it has left me awash in memories.

Please bear with me as I take a stroll down memory lane, one page at a time.

The cover of the calendar has a photo of  local businessman Z.L. "Zeke" McGowan standing next to the "Welcome to Missouri" sign that is located a few miles south of Noel on the Arkansas border.  Zeke, wearing a buckskin jacket, had his hand raised in a sign of peace facing an Indian man in a full headdress.  Other than the feathers, the Indian, identified as Cherokee "Chief" Henry Suagee, was attired in long pants and a long-sleeved shirt such as those worn by the paleface men of that era.  Further on in the calendar is a photograph of Zeke and the Chief sitting in the grass and sharing a peace pipe.

(Zeke McGowan was our local electrician.  After he retired from that field, he and his wife, Helen, opened a gift shop within the city limits of Noel on the banks of Butler Creek.  Many years later when Missouri's Lieutenant Governor Harriett Woods visited the county, I gave her a keepsake plate featuring the Noel overhanging bluffs that Zeke and Helen made and sold in their gift shop.)

The January page of the calendar shows three heavily armed men in hillbilly attire.  They were Jim Stevens, Jim "Squeak" Howerton, and Jim Riley.  Jim Riley was the father of my classmate and good friend, Mary Riley Olsen.  He was a butcher at the local grocery.  I don't remember Jim Stevens occupation, but he was the father of three good kids - all in my age range.  He died early, and his widow, Pat Stevens, was my daughter's babysitter when she was an infant.  Squeak Howerton was my boy scout leader.  He operated heavy equipment with his dad and brothers.  One year we covered his large road grader in pine bows and turned it into a camping scene for an entry in Noel's Christmas parade.  I was a freshman in college when I heard on a Springfield radio station one morning that Squeak had been killed when his earth mover had rolled over on him while working on a project at Lake of the Ozarks.

February is a photo of twenty-three men standing in front of Noel's famous bluffs at night - most of whom were armed with long rifles.  The photo is entitled "Call to arms against that tyranny of omission."  McDonald Territory formed its own militia to protect its borders.  At various times these militiamen would stop cars at the border seeking identification and then telling the travelers of places to go and things to do in the Territory.  The Territory even issued its own visas, wooden nickels, and postage stamps.  Strangely, wherever the militia popped up, the press was never far behind.  Several of the men in that picture were good friends of mine.

The March page is dedicated to the "elected" officials of McDonald Territory, twelve individuals who probably elected each other.  Dan Harmon, the vice-president of the Territory, was a member of one of the town's founding families.  Dan and his wonderful wife, Roseanne, were our next door neighbors in Noel when my children were growing up.  They still live in that same house.  Zeke McGowarn, mentioned earlier, served as the president of the Territory - which, I suppose, gave him authority to negotiate with the Indians!

April commemorates some of the Territorial Militia's shenanigans as they battled to secure the borders.  One great photo included on that page is of Rex Chamberlain and Monk Lovett on horseback looking like a couple of extremely tough hombres.  Another photo shows a large group of militiamen fixing to stop a Kansas City Southern train as it came through Noel.  I'm willing to bet that didn't happen!

May features a group of gun-toting, flag-waving militiamen standing on and around an antique vehicle.  My good friends Dan Harmon and Louie Fiorito are included in the group.  There are also photos of the Territory's official  2-cent stamp and its visa.  I have a sheet of the 2-cent stamps, as well as a couple of the Territory's wooden nickels - and I think that I may even still have a Territorial visa.

The June page contains two photographs of Stan Levitt, a television newscaster from Joplin who made several trips to Noel during the outbreak of independence.  Levitt had lunch at Ginger Blue Resort during one of his outings into the Territory, and while there he filmed Elk River as it meandered in back of the old hotel.  He commented on his show that night about a loud duck that seemed to be in charge of the river - and I was awfully proud because that duck, a mallard hen, was mine!  I might never get my fifteen minutes of fame, but my duck had scored hers.

That little duck and two or three others came by one fall and stopped to eat with my Muscovys.  (Rex Chamberlain had given me the four Muscovy's a few years earlier when they were just fuzzy ducklings.)  They hung around for the winter, but when spring came, all of the ducks disappeared except for the lone hen.  She built one nest on the riverbank, but it flooded away.  Later she walked up the long hill (fifty yards or so) and built another nest behind our house.  Some critter found it and made a quick meal of the eggs.  The hen remained childless but hung around for years - quacking up a storm and acting like she owned the river.

The July entry deals with the fate of the Territory.   One of the end games for the secession movement was the possibility of giving the county back to the Indians.  Another was to join with Arkansas, giving that state a northwestern "bootheel" to match the one that Missouri had dipping toward Arkansas in the southeastern corner of our stater.  The third possibility was to have McDonald Territory join with neighboring Delaware County, Oklahoma, and Benton County, Arkansas, to form a new state.  If that would have happened, it would today be one of the more prosperous states in thee nation because Benton County went on to become the home to Wal-Mart Stores, Jones Truck Lines, J.B. Hunt Trucking, and Tyson Foods.  But in 1961 Benton County, Arkansas, was just as impoverished as the rest of northwest Arkansas and southwest Missouri.

I drew a flag for the Territory as an art project, and a photographer heard about it and came to school and took my picture while I was working on it.  As far as I know, that picture was never published anywhere.  The August page of the commemorative calendar has several militia photos including one in which some members are raising a "Territory" flag atop Mt. Shira.  Unfortunately for the spirit of the movement and posterity, it was a Confederate flag.

A group of Civil War buffs from Carthage got a little news coverage when they planned an attack on the Territorial Militia.  Some of them were caught and "arrested" on Mt. Shira beach.  Photos of that phase of the secession are on the September page.  There is also a nice picture of the old Noel City Jail, a barbaric place that still stands proudly along Butler Creek today - although its door no longer locks!

A pair of local citizens put up some housing tracts as prizes in a "land rush."  Hundreds of people gathered and stormed the hills looking for the free parcels.  Related pictures are on the October page.

November features a large photograph of a Territorial delegation visiting Governor John Dalton in Jefferson City.  Again, my friend Dan Harmon (a future state legislator) found his way to the center of the picture!

The final page of the calendar shows the McDonald Territorial Border Patrol leading a parade in 1962.  There are also more recent pictures of vintage Border Patrol vehicles with some of the area's younger citizens posing nearby.

The McDonald Territory Secession 50th Anniversary Calendar is a wonderful collection of local history.   For information about acquiring your own copy (I don't know the price or shipping costs), please contact the McDonald County Historical Society at P.O. Box 572, Pineville, MO 64856 - and tell them that Pa Rock sent you!

My sincere thanks to all of those who were instrumental in gathering information and photographs and putting this calendar together - and a special "thank you" to David Sparlin for sending me a copy.  You all have done well!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Ohio Woman Jailed for Being a Good Mom

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

There is nothing equal about educational opportunities in America, especially in regard to public K-12 schools, and many Americans actively fight to maintain this inequality.

Kelly Williams-Bolar of Akron, Ohio, was recently arrested for enrolling her daughters in a richer and safer school district than the one in which they lived.   The richer district, Copely-Fairlawn, was so incensed at what they suspected this African-American woman was doing, that they hired a private investigator to follow her and prove that she was actually a resident of one of Akron's poorer school districts.  Judge Patricia Cosgrove sentenced Ms. Williams-Bolar to 10 days in jail and community service as a warning to other poor people to stay the hell out of the more affluent Copely-Fairlawn District.

The problem is an old one in America, one that is familiar to most educators.  Over eighty cents of every dollar that goes to public schools is from local and state sources, and most of those dollars are generated in property and corporate taxes.  Rich districts have more property value, and hence their schools are better funded.  Poorer districts, where many minority citizens live out of economic necessity, suck the hind tit when it comes to school funding.

This rich-poor dynamic also plays out in the various states where some have more money to invest in education than others - or more interest in producing an educated citizenry.  New Jersey spends over $9,000 on each of its students per year, while Mississippi and Utah only ante up just over $3,000 for each of their students.

It was that situation that led the courts to try to mix things up a few decades ago with "busing" programs that took children out of their local districts and into ones across town.  Busing was fought, loudly and sometimes violently, by angry parents - more often than not white parents from the richer school districts.

The surest way for this problem  to be corrected is to have schools be funded at the federal level - perhaps through special educational taxes levied on all citizens - including corporate citizens.  But people want to maintain local control over schools so that local values can be taught and practiced in the schools.  They worry that more federal funding will mean more federal control over curriculum.  Some areas of the country, Texas and Arizona leap to mind, are particularly intolerant of outside influences.

School districts also want to have the ultimate say-so over  how their budgets and spending priorities are set.  Some areas value technology education, others value science or liberal arts, and still others value football.

As long as these entrenched school funding policies persist, some districts will continue to fill universities while others shuffle their students off into unemployment lines and jails.

Kelly Williams-Bolar is headed to jail for attempting to break out of a system of entrenched racism.  She is headed to jail for trying to make life better for her children.  She is a good mom, and for that crime she will be behind bars with so many other impoverished citizens of color whose main crime was to be born in the wrong place and under the wrong circumstances.  That is a shameful outcome for America in the 21st century.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Truly Gritty

by Pa Rock
Film Connoisseur 

Out of all of the Oscar-nominated films this year (and ten are way too many!), the only one that I have managed to view on this remote Pacific coral reef is True Grit.  Two friends from work and I had a guys' night out last Tuesday and went to see the Coen brother's remake of the 1969 classic. was really, really good - and gritty!

I saw the original movie back in the day, but so much time has passed since then that I was fuzzy on details.  John Wayne won the Academy Award for Best Actor in that film, his only win in a long history as a lead actor.  Six years later (1975) he did a sequel entitled Rooster Cogburn, the name of the Duke's character in True Grit.  Wayne's co-star in the second film was the immortal Katherine Hepburn, and somehow my mind had muddled that sequel with the original movie, leaving me thinking that Katherine Hepburn was a co-star in the the 1969 version of True Grit.  She wasn't.

The fictional Rooster Cogburn was a drunken U.S. Marshall who also happened to be the toughest hombre to ever traverse Oklahoma Indian Territory.  And while John Wayne nailed the character, his Oscar was probably due more to the fact that Hollywood realized this star of hundreds of movies was fading away, and if they were ever going to recognize him with an Oscar, True Grit would be the last best opportunity.

Jeff Bridges was the new version of Rooster Cogburn.  Bridges, who achieved fame as Duane Jackson in The Last Picture Show just two years after John Wayne won his Oscar, also nailed the character of Cogburn.  Like his predecessor, Bridges was able to stay atop his horse while charging into a gaggle of bad men with both six-guns blazing - all the while holding the reins in his mouth!  Truly true grit!  One of my friends referred to that scene as the actor paying homage to John Wayne.  I felt that Bridges' Rooster Cogburn also payed homage in large measure to the late Lee Marvin through his stark similarities to Marvin's characters in Cat Ballou and Paint Your Wagon.  John Wayne, Lee Marvin, and Jeff Bridges all gave stellar performances as tough old drunks.  It was almost as if they weren't acting!

Matt Damon was the Texas Ranger (Glen Campbell's character in the original version) chasing the same outlaw as Cogburn.   Damon's performance was exceptional - to the point that I didn't recognize him and had to come home and check the credits to find out who played the part.  Josh Brolin was the nasty and evil lout who had killed several men and was on the run with a group of outlaws in Indian Territory.  Though his role was a bit part, Brolin gave it the energy and evilness that people have come to expect from Coen brothers' characters.

But the true star of this movie was young Hailee Steinfield who was a mere girl of thirteen during the filming.  While riding out into Oklahoma Indian Territory with Bridges and Damon in pursuit of her father's killer, she showed herself time and again to be as tough and as talented as the two older men.  Whether it was riding her horse across a river or shinning up a tall tree to cut down a hanged man, Steinfield was equal to the task - and equal to the lawmen who were trying to leave her behind.  The dialogue sparkled in this film, and Steinfield never stumbled on so much as a syllable - and the camera loved her!  She was simply amazing!

Jeff Bridges has been nominated for Best Actor, an honor unlikely to come his way if for no other reason than he won the same award last year for Crazy Heart - playing a broken down country and western singer.  (Is a stereotype developing?)  But, Tom Hanks won Best Actor two years in a row, so it is possible.  Lightening is more likely to strike with Hailee Steinfield who has been nominated for Best Supporting Actress.  Her performance was mesmerizing and fully deserving of the Oscar.

True Grit is a movie that should appeal to anyone - from academics to teabaggers.  It is a great artistic achievement and very entertaining.  Get thee to a theatre and see it!

Boycott Rush's Sponsors!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

California State Senator, Leland Yee, a Chinese-American who is running for mayor of San Francisco, is calling for a boycott of Rush Limbaugh's radio sponsors after the loudmouthed pork chop did a nonsensical and derogatory impersonation of Chinese President Hu Jintao and then refused to apologize for his blatantly racist act.  The offense occurred on January 19th, prompting a complaint from Yee.  The Rushbag, true to form, responded by making fun of Yee.

And now Senator Yee is calling for a boycott of companies who sponsor the Limbaugh daily spewings.

Sometimes boycotts work.

A national boycott of Glenn Beck's sponsors in 2009 reduced his paying advertisers to a few phony gold hucksters.  He currently remains on the air through the grace and largess of Rupert Murdoch.   Beck, like Limbaugh, has a mouth that doesn't always seem to engage with his brain.

The most recent list of the Rushbag's radio sponsors that I could find was from exactly one year ago - January of 2010.  Certainly new lists will be posted soon.  I plan to do my part to support this good effort. Advertisers need to be informed loudly and often that racism has no place - anywhere - in the twenty-first century.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which has licensing authority over television and radio stations, also needs to hear some righteous wrath from people who are tired of this abuse of the public airwaves!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Pa Rock Gets Coined

by Pa Rock
Civilian All-Star

My friend, Valerie Seitz, arrived on-island from Luke Air Force Base two weeks ago.  I was her sponsor - responsible for telling her how to prepare for Kadena, collecting her when she arrived, and helping her to get around and assimilated - as well as getting in-processed.  I haven't been the best of sponsors, but I was better than the one that I had when I came over.  Last week Valerie went to the Base Newcomer's Briefing, and, as a part of that process, newcomers are encouraged to write about their sponsors - and the one who gets the best write-up is recognized at the following week's briefing.

Well, lucky me, because Valerie can really write!  Today I was recognized as the Sponsor of the Week and given one of the base commander's special commemorative coins.  Our General is off-island for a few weeks, so mine was presented by a stand-in colonel - but, it is the General's coin - and that is a really big deal for me!  I have worked for the military just over six years, and this was the first time that I have been "coined."

The process for presenting the coin is very unique - it is passed to the recipient in a handshake!

Most field grade commanders (majors and above) have their own special coins that they give out.  My friend, John the Chef, at the British Wine and Tea Shop, brazenly asks his customers if they have a coin for him.  He has quite a nice collection - but he won't get mine!  Most of the commanders have their own unique design for their coins.

The hospital at Luke Air Force Base actually sold its commemorative coins to those who wanted one - $5,00 each.  That's just not right!

I understand that President Obama even has his own coins for special recognitions - but I won't hold my breath waiting on that to happen!

Boone, this one will go to you.  Now I need to figure out how to score a couple more for your cousins!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Still Kicking After All These Years!

by Pa Rock
Dead Pool Master

I'm not basically a fan of super market tabloids, and it is a rare day when I spend $3.59 for one - but I did just that last week while standing in the checkout line of our local commissary.  I bought the most recent issue of the National Examiner because it had a cover story on the death of JFK - a crime that I intend to solve during the early years of my retirement.   The story, "Top FBI Agent Reveals:  Oswald Didn't Kill JFK!"

Well, duh!

The article goes on to to accuse Joseph Milteer, "a radical civil rights terrorist with ties to the Ku Klux Klan and the States Rights Party" of organizing a team of snipers to kill the President.  It then blames the cover-up of that "fact" on FBI bureaucratic bumbling and the push to get the matter over and done with quickly.  The article is basically supposition based on little more than fragments of record and memory.  Disappointing, yes, but not surprising - considering the source.

But, also included in this issue was some quality stuff like a photo of Susan Boyle sucking her thumb, as well as one of those interesting "Dead or Alive" pieces.

The following, mostly taken from that "Dead or Alive" article, are offered as possibilities for all of you still trying to come up with viable names for the 2011 Pa Rock's Dead Pool.  They would, of course, all be relatively low scores because points are determined by subtracting the person's age at their time of death from one hundred.  Hopefully, each of these celebrities from the past will all make it to one hundred and beyond, and have absolutely no value whatsoever in the next few Dead Pools!

Ernest Borgnine, the former skipper from McHale's Navy, turned 96 yesterday.  Did you know that he was once married to Ethel Merman?  I'll bet that when she called him to dinner, he came running!

Lauren Bacall, who was a mere child when she was married to Bogie, is a sprightly 86 and still makes occasional appearances on television such as a cameo in The Sopranos.  I also remember her doing several stints on The Rockford Files where she displayed great chemistry with James Garner.  Garner, age 82, was also well known in the pre-Rockford era as the gambler Bret Maverick in the television show Maverick - one of my Dad's favorite westerns.

Jackie Cooper, a former child star on the Little Rascals, and later a star of multiple television series - and a talented director, is eighty-eight.  Do you remember The People's Choice with Cleo the talking basset hound?  Or Hennessey?  What a great comedic actor!

James Arness, aka Marshall Dillon of Gunsmoke, is eight-seven.  If my father would have identified a role model, I am certain that it would have been Arness.  Dad watched Gunsmoke reruns up until his final days.

Actress Arlene Dahl, the mother of Lorenzo Lamas, is 82 and still very active.  The article that I read said that she is on husband number six.

Eva Marie Saint, best known for winning Best Supporting Actress for her role in On the Waterfront,  is eighty-six.  She has stayed happily married to producer Jeffrey Hayden for the past 59 years!  How's that for a Hollywood marriage!  My personal favorite Eva Marie Saint movie was The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming! in which she played the calm wife of Carl Reiner during a New England community meltdown.  My son Tim, the screenwriter, had the honor of meeting this very fine lady last year at an awards dinner in Hollywood, and she said just the right thing - that she liked the movie script that he had written.  So she is obviously a very smart elder cookie!

Sidney Poitier, the classy actor who has starred in many great movies, is eighty-two.  He teamed up with two giants of the film business in the 1967 when he played the lead in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner opposite Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy.  What actor wouldn't love to have that on his resume!  My favorite Poitier film was Lilies of the Field, for which her captured the Oscar for Best Actor - the first black actor to do so.

Phyllis Diller, the spastic kook and comedienne who was always slamming her husband, Fang, is still kicking high at ninety-three.  One of her running buddies is the eternal Betty White who turned 89 earlier this month!  I'm sure that they are both too fast for me!

And finally, there is former child star Mickey Rooney, who grew up on film playing a character named Andy Hardy.  Young Andy was always wanting to put on shows with an equally young and enthusiastic Judy Garland.  When Rooney finally was allowed to grow up, he married Ava Gardner and a half dozen other beauties.  Mickey Rooney is a young ninety!

Again, I truly hope that all of the above are with us for years to come.  They have led amazing lives, and have all benefited from their time with us.  Bob Hope would have put it this way:  Thanks for the memories!  Those memories have been great!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Pa Rock's Dead Pool: 2011

by Pa Rock
Dead Pool Master

Okay, there has been enough interest expressed to try this Dead Pool thing one more year.  2011 marks the fourth year of this effort.  This will be my absolute last year doing this unless we can really stir some interest.  If you are reading this, please enter - and then forward the site to a few dozen of your friends.  There are three prize levels, but with ties and such, I have written six checks the past two years.  That's real money - and some of it could be yours!

Here are the rules: (Basically the same as last year.)

1. Select 10 prominent individuals (persons who would be known to most of us) whom you think could die in 2011 - 1 February - 31 December. Your list might include politicians, royalty, sports figures, Hollywood types, famous criminals, etc. All selections must be human.

2. Entries accepted by email to or by responding to this blogpost.

3. Deadline is midnight, January 31st, 2011 - that gives you a week to get your entry in!

4. Only one entry per person, please.

5. Entrants need to be at least eighteen-years-old and have a valid email address.

6. Do not pick any low hanging fruit. If it is common knowledge that someone will likely expire during the next eleven months, play fair and don't choose them.

7. Winners will be determined on a point basis. The age of the deceased will be subtracted from 100 to determine the amount of points awarded. The death of a young person will gain more points that the death of someone in their eighties or nineties.

8. Prizes this year will be cash. $50 for first place, $25 for second place, and $10 for third place. In the event of a tie - last year three people tied for first and two for second - the prize will be awarded to each individual who tied. (If three people tie for first place, poor old Pa Rock will cough up $50 for each of them.  Ouch!)

9. Have fun - and start getting those lists in!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Obama's Place

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

My nephew, Reed Smith. put a comment on last night's post describing a scene that he watched play out on Bill O'Reilly's entertainment show.  Reed said that he was at the gym doing his running and O'Reilly was playing on the facility's television.  His guest was Glenn Beck.  Apparently they were whining about the cost of the recent State Dinner where the Obama's hosted Chinese Premier Hu Jintao.

Reed said that he was glad that I wouldn't get the chance to see it, living overseas and all, because it would set my blood to boiling.  Unfortunately for me and many others, the military and its local propaganda arm - the Armed Forces Network - show us damned little in the way of news over here - except, of course, Fox, which really isn't news at all.  Everything that we get here is delayed, but, sooner or later, I will probably be exposed to the same drivel that Reed described in his comment.

I will be honest and admit that I don't have a clue as to the price of a State Dinner, but I do know that diplomacy and diplomatic acts - like State Dinners - are a much wiser expenditure of our national funds than the alternative to diplomacy - which all too often is war.  What O'Reilly and Beck did not talk about, I'm willing to bet, is the cost of the Bush wars, wars which have wrecked our country morally and economically, and show no sign of ever ending.   The amount that President and Mrs. Obama spent on that fancy dinner wouldn't cover ten minutes of expenses for those wars - if that!

(People like O'Reilly and Beck are always quick to nickel-and-dime anything that is proposed or accomplished by Democrats - like social security and health care - claiming that programs like those are breaking the country, but when we dump the entire national treasury into wars that are not necessary and can't be won - well, if those wars are Republican fiascoes like the current ones, then they ballyhoo them as necessary expenses for our national security.  That, of course, is bullshit.

Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck were undoubtedly careful not to state their real objection to the Obama's State Dinner.  Their real problem is that they see President Obama as an uppity Negro who should be serving at the dinner rather than hosting.  In the O'Reilly and Beck world view, Barack Obama is three-fifths of a person who does not know his place.

Well, Bill and Glenny, the rest of America does know where Barack Obama's place is at:  1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC - upstairs in the family quarters.  Deal with it, you jerkwater jokes!

(And Reed was right - just writing about it set my blood to boiling!)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Night the Bed Fell on Keith

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Just as Comcast gets its grubby hands on NBC, the network and Keith Olbermann announce that they are parting ways.  Coincidence?  Not very damned likely!

There are lots of things about this developing situation that make me angry.  Keith's Special Comments have set the standard for television editorials.  He is bright and erudite, and I will miss his classy analyses and thoughtful commentaries.

And who else will come forward to read Thurber to us?  When I am truly down, as I am this evening, my most effective home remedy is to pull out my volume of Thurber and reread The Night the Bed Fell on Father.  I have read it dozens of times, and it never loses its punch.  I was transfixed the night that Keith sat in his big armchair and read it to me across the airwaves.  It was such an unexpected and wonderful treat.

I would like to see Bill O'Reilly read The Night the Bed Fell on Father, but since it has zero sex, I doubt that it would have any appeal to him.  And somehow I just can't imagine O'Reilly making anything sound funny - at least intentionally.  Glenn Beck might give it a try - if the money was right - but he would spoil the effect by crying as he read.  Sean Hannity's version would have the bed falling on himself, and it would be Obama's fault.  Rush Limbaugh might provide an extraordinary rendition of the classic tale as he roared and snorted his way through the text, loudly pointing out the leftist leanings of each of the characters, but it would lack the Thurber subtlety.  Rush doesn't do subtlety.

Keith Olbermann is a young man, especially by my standards, and a very talented individual.  His star will rise again, and when it does I hope that NBC suffers pangs of remorse - or at least a significant drop in audience share.  I also hope that Keith got his hand very deeply into their corporate pocket on his way out the door.  That would bring a smile to my face, perhaps not as wide as a Thurber smile, but a smile nonetheless.

Good luck, Keith.  Talk hard!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Another Tragedy Prepares to Ravage Tucson

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Minuteman "leader" Shawna Forde is headed to court next week to face first-degree murder charges in the shooting deaths of an Arivaca, Arizona, man and his ten-year-old daughter.  The girl's mother was also seriously wounded in the racist attack on the Hispanic family.  Ms. Forde and two male cohorts forced their way into the family's home on May 30th, 2009, claiming to be immigration officers.

Although the motive was at least partially racial, it appears that the man who was killed was suspected of being a drug trafficker, and Forde and her fellow thugs were hoping to score some cash or drugs in the assault as well.

Shawna Forde is one of Arizona's finest, if one considers the state's finest to include the likes of  Neo-Nazi J.T. Ready, State Senate President Russell Pearce, and Sheriff Joe Arpaio, because, like them, she has built her reputation spewing racism and hatred and committing outlandish acts of oafish behavior.   She came to Arizona from Everett, Washington, a few years ago to participate in Minuteman activities against Mexican immigrants.  She was initially a member of the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps, a wacko group that had trouble adapting to Ms. Forde and her bizarre behavior.  She eventually broke from them and formed a more wacko splinter group called the Militiamen American Defense (M.A.D.)

Although Shawna Forde apparently did not pull the triggers in the deaths of the father and little girl, Sheriff Clarence Dupnik of Pina County alleges that she planned the attack and ordered the murders.  She and each of her accomplices have been charged with first-degree murder.

Shawna Forde's trial begins this week in Tucson, and it is certain to reopen wounds that the community would like to see healed.  One would hope that Arizona itself can eventually be allowed the time and space to heal, but many things will have to change there before the state can expect to be granted that luxury.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Palin's Psycho Persona

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Sarah Palin loves being the victim.  Dead and maimed bodies were piled up at a shopping center in Tucson less than two weeks ago, yet it was Sarah who was the victim.  Poor, sweet Sarah...former local weather girl...all that is pure and virtuous about America.  What a martyr!

Or not.

"Don't retreat, reload!"  wasn't meant to be taken literally.  It wasn't an incendiary remark.  It wasn't violent rhetoric.  It just the way Mama Grizzlies talk.  It was just a humorous one-liner that slipped from the mouth of a pit bull wearing lipstick.

"Blood libel," she whined after the Tucson Massacre.  Remember Charlie Brown from the 1950's when he lamented, "Why is everybody always picking on me?"  That's Sarah.  She is just out trying to be significant - and hustle a few bucks off of the loony fringe of the Republican Party - but people keep picking on her.  Why?  It sure as hell couldn't have anything to do with what she says - or does - could it?

Sarah Palin is arguably one of the most divisive and dangerous politicians in America, not electorally dangerous - just plain, damned dangerous!  Her famous gun crosshairs chart that targeted twenty members of Congress added fire to the fuel that ultimately engulfed Tucson.  No, she did not pull the trigger, but she let it be known, loudly and proudly, that these Congresspeople needed to be taken out of Congress, and she marked their districts as literal targets.  It was a graphic presentation that could have a negative influence on people - particularly mentally unbalanced people.  But it was also cutesy - like Sarah - and it let America know how tough she was.  Mama Grizzly, pit bull with lipstick, Don't Retreat, Reload!  Build that image - sell those books!

Here is what Gabby Giffords had to say about the Palin terrorist graphic shortly after her office was attacked in Tucson:

"You know, for example, we're on Sarah Palin's targeted list, but the thing is the way that she has depicted it is the crosshairs of a gun-sight over our district.  When people do that, they've got to realize that there are consequences to that action."


Gifford's husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, told Diane Sawyer that his wife felt that she might be shot, given the hostile political climate - a climate spurred on by people like Sarah Palin.

And let's not forget to give an inflamed shout-out to Sharron Angle, failed Senate candidate from Nevada, who loved to chatter on about people reclaiming their rights through "2nd Amendment Remedies!"

Do Palin and Angle ever ponder Lady Macbeth when they wash their hands?  Do they even know the significance of the Lady Macbeth reference?  Was that Shakespeare feller an author, or did he simply manufacture fishing reels?

Today as I was walking down the aisle of the Shopette at Luke Air Force Base, I passed the greeting cards,  There, prominently displayed near the center of the display was a card featuring Sarah Palin's face on a cartoon body.  She was holding a rifle with a large scope, and the caption read:  "Shoot!  As good as you look, I'd never guess it's your birthday!"

That's the image that Sarah wants to project - and American Greetings helped her to do it.  That obscene "greeting" sells for $2.69.  The only thing funny about it was that it was printed on recycled paper - something that those with a "Drill, Baby, Drill" mentality probably wouldn't appreciate.

It is all about image, and Sarah Palin has worked like an Alaskan state trooper trying to project sweetie-pie and toughness.  But, as recent polls indicate, Americans may finally be seeing through all of the crap and taking notice of the real Sarah Palin - and they are being turned off.

Sarah Palin's precipitous slide in the polls is a well deserved consequence of her ruthless greed and crass self-promotion.  What went around has come around - and it has bitten her in the ass!  

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Results for the 2010 Pa Rock's Dead Pool

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

2010 has come and gone - and I am more than a few days late and more than a few dollars short in determining and posting the results of the most recent Pa Rock's Dead Pool.   Like last year, there were several ties.

3rd Place went to Ron for correctly predicting that former Yankee's owner, George Steinbrenner, would bite the big one in 2010.   George died at the ripe old age of 80, leaving Ron with 20 points.

2nd Place was captured by Camille and Brenda who each correctly foresaw the demise of Elizabeth Edwards.  The classy political wife died just before the end of the year at the age of 61, earning 39 points each for Camille and Brenda.

1st Place was a three-way tie between Judy, Darby, and Nick who all zeroed in on the permanent exit (stage left) of former child star, Gary Coleman.  He died earlier in the year at the young age of 42, leaving the three winners with 58 points each.

I need addresses on all winners except Ron and Nick - and then the prize money will be in the mail.  Please email me your snail mail information Camille, Brenda, Judy, and Darby.

2010 was the third annual dead pool, and participation was less than stellar.  Who would be interested in trying this a fourth time, and would you be willing to aggressively spread the word to get more participants?

Let me hear from you.

Congratulations to the current crop of winners!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Dick Speak

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Former Vice-President Dick Cheney has given Jamie Gangel of NBC News one of those phony interviews that he and Shrub Bush were so famous for in the last administration - one where he pre-selected the questions and provided unchallenged, softball answers.  But, even with the lack of journalistic integrity, a few facts did manage to make their way through the smoke screen that passed as an interview.

Cheney is towing the party line, as established by Rush Limbaugh, that hate rhetoric had nothing to do with the shooting in Arizona.  It was strictly the independent act of a lunatic.  Of course, lunatics can't buy guns and ammo just anyplace, so Arizona was ripe for the shooting - but Cheney didn't address that issue.

Cheney also thinks that Obama will be a one-term President because he is not basing all of his decisions on what Wall Street wants. Cheney believes firmly in the Calvin Coolidge principle that what is good for business is good for America - the business of America is business - and school children would be of far better service to their families working in factories where they could supplement the family income instead of wasting their days in classrooms.

Old Dick reported that he has a new heart pump, and he admitted that he is considering a heart transplant.   If he was a poor person living in Arizona he would, of course, be waiting to die.  But hey, even I don't begrudge the old bastard a new heart.  It certainly couldn't hurt!

The primary reason for the Cheney interview, however, wasn't the state of the world, Obama's socialist tendencies, or even the Dick's health.  The primary reason that he deigned to speak to the press is that he is peddling a book.   Timing is everything, Dick Wad.  If you had just trotted that tome out a month ago, Halliburton could have snatched up a couple of hundred thousand copies with corporate funds and given them to its employees as holiday stocking-stuffers.  But that ship has sailed.

Maybe Ann Coulter could help you out by starting a book club!

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Light of Martin Luther King

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

It is a sad irony that Arizona, the state that fought so hard to keep from officially recognizing the Martin Luther King federal holiday, would still be on the front burner of public awareness as a simmering cauldron of hate nearly a half century after the death of Dr. King.

The following quote from Dr. King was lifted from today's edition of The Huffington Post.  It is apropos to the continuing state of affairs in the Scorpion State, as well as to the national affinity toward hatred and guns.

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction ... The chain reaction of evil -- hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars -- must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation."

There are lots of truly good people out in Arizona who are beginning to stand up to the likes of Joe Arpaio,  Jan Brewer, Russell Pearce and J.T. Ready.    They need our support and our love.   The light of Dr. Martin Luther King needs to shine on forever.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Reagan Legacy

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Ronald Reagan's sons, one of whom is sort of intelligent and the other of whom is Michael, are having a little dust-up because the semi-intelligent son, Ron, has suggested in his new book that his father, the GOP's face of God, might have been suffering from the early stages of Alzheimers while he was still in the White House.

I thought that was a given.

Michael, the son who isn't sort of intelligent, is peddling his own book and is relying on the hordes or Republican lemmings to faithfully buy copies.    Poor Michael is simply appalled that Ron would give voice to what many Americans knew at the time was true.  Michael's book will tell the party faithful what they want to hear -  and not one word of heresy!  It will warm the cockles of Ann Coulter's heart!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The January Jump

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The Ramble serves as a collecting point for my views on things that interest me, and although I put it out on the Internet for all to read, I know that few people do.   In fact, I can prove that few people read my ramblings because I use a service that counts the hits for me and tells me where most of the visitors come from, as well as what terms some were searching that led them to one of my posts.  (

On an average day twenty-five or thirty people find their way to Pa Rock's Ramble, and in an average week two or three of those will leave a comment on some posting - often an old one.   That's plenty.  I am basically writing for my own enjoyment and to keep a running history of how I feel about various things.  Someday a few of my grandchildren - or their grandchildren - may read through this collection of gibberish and be truly horrified at their Pa Rock's bizarre views.  Hope so.

Last January the Ramble caught fire when my nephew, Reed Smith, was lying comatose in an Amarillo hospital following the horrible New Year's Eve accident that killed his father and his father's cousin.   For several days this blog was the only regular outlet for news on Reed's condition, and he had literally hundreds of friends who checked in regularly.  It was normal at that time for the Ramble to receive over 500 hits a day.  A few stayed connected with me even after Reed's miraculous recovery.

(Reed Smith is easily the second most popular native-born Arkansan in the world, and if he ever gets into politics he will quickly leave Bill "Bubba" Clinton in the dust!)

This week the Ramble caught fire again, although briefly.  The thing that brought this January jump was an entry that I wrote on Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords on October 24, 2009.  It was a brief biographical sketch in which I recognized her as the bright spot in the Arizona congressional delegation.

Last Saturday (Friday in the States) I had a whopping twenty-five visitors to the Ramble.  On the following day, the day that Gabby Giffords and others were savagely attacked in Tucson, the hits jumped to 1,058 due to people searching for information on her via the Internet.   The next day the hits were down to 155, then 80, and by yesterday only 52 people stopped by.

I know that my posts last January kept people up-to-date on Reed's condition, and I hope that my old biographical piece on Gabby Giffords was helpful to those who were trying to learn more about one of the best people in Congress.

I am glad to have people occasionally stop by to peruse my work (despite my grumblings to the contrary), but I would hope to reach a point where they aren't delivered to the Ramble by a tragedy.

For those who stopped by the Ramble today, please continue to keep the Tucson victims and their families in your thoughts and prayers.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Tightening Up the Zodiac

by Pa Rock
A New Pisces

The solar Zodiac is changing.  The twelve signs which claim us on the date of our birth have been the same since they were charted in the skies over 3,000 years ago.  But those signs, based on the alignment of the stars to the Earth and Sun, have gradually changed over the past three millennia, causing a need for the Zodiac to be updated.    Astronomer Parke Kunkle says that the Earth has a wobble to its axis, and that continuing wobble has created a one-month bump in the alignment of the stars.

According to Parke Kunkle, it is now time to add a thirteenth sign to the Zodiac.  He is recommending the addition of Ophiuchus which will run from late November through mid-December.

The modern Zodiac will reflect the following:

Capricorn:  January 20 - February 16
Aquarius:  February 16 - March 11
Pisces:  March 11 - April 18
Aries:  April 18 - May 13
Taurus:  May 13 - June 21
Gemini:  June 21 - July 20
Cancer:  July 20 - August 10
Leo:  August 10 - September 16
Virgo:  September 16 - October 30
Libra:  October 10 - November 23
Scorpio:  November 23 - November 29
Ophiuchus:  November 29 - December 17
Sagittarius:  December 17 - January 20

While the original Zodiac had twelve signs with approximately thirty days each, the new, more modern Zodiac will have thirteen signs of unequal lengths.  Virgo, for example, will last nearly a month and a half, while poor Scorpio has been reduced to a  mere six days.

That must be some wobble!

The article that I read stated that even though the new Zodiac is accurate in today's skies, it will likely be ignored by astrologers.  The authors noted that the shifting alignments have been known and noted since at least 500 B.C., but that astrologers have remained faithful to the original model.

Lazy bastards!

My sign has shifted from Aries to Pisces - that's quite a bit for me to get my old gray head around.  But times change, and I think that I will move forward and recognize this new Zodiac as the official one that I plan my life around - just to piss people off!

Nancy Reagan is undoubtedly livid!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Truth is Out There

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The National UFO Reporting Center is located in Davenport, Washington.   That organization has collected over 30,000 reports of Unidentified Flying Objects in U.S. airspace in the past fifteen years.  Those reports are sorted by U.S. counties at

(Who even knew that such an organization existed?  Is Fox Mulder on its board of directors?)

Many counties filed no reports, while others had dozens and even hundreds.  Looking at the map does not reveal any rhyme or reason for some counties having literally hundreds of sightings while others close by had none.  Could it be related to meth use?  Or a diet too rich in tea?

Esmeralda County, Nevada, which, according to Wikipedia, is located half-way between Reno and Las Vegas, had the highest UFO reporting ratio in America with 479 reports per 100,000 individuals.  It is known for closed mines and ghost towns.  Kent County, Texas, came in second at 427 per 100,000.  Kent County had a total population of 859 people in 2,000, and, interestingly, it is a dry county.

Keya Paya, Nebraska, had reports of 374 per 100,000 people, and there were 269 UFO sightings per 100,000 people in Lake and Peninsula County, Alaska – many of which could be seen from Sarah Palin’s front porch!

McDonald County, Missouri, reported 26 sightings per 100,000 - actually a very paltry number considering that the county's population would have to quadruple to be anywhere near 100,000.  Local pride should remain be in tact, however, because it still had more than any of the adjoining counties in Missouri, Oklahoma, or Arkansas.

But Arizona is where my homeboy pride really resides.   The Scorpion State had UFO sightings in every county.    When that word gets out, expect the state legislature to pass a hate crime disguised as legislation – and look for Joe Arpaio to hold a press conference!  No illegal aliens means no illegal aliens – unless, of course, they are willing to scrub toilets and do yard work for sub-minimum wage!

Lock and load, Arizona.   Lock and load!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Small Signs of Hope in the War Against Guns

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Representative Peter King, a Republican from New York who is the new chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, plans on introducing a bill in Congress that would limit where guns could be carried.  Unfortunately, the bill being  proposed by Congressman King would help to protect him and other federal government officials - the President, Vice-President, all members of Congress (House and Senate), and federal judges – but it would do squat for the rest of us.  (Sort of like the government –funded health insurance for Congress that Republicans are so quick to grab for themselves, all the while fighting to keep ordinary people from having that same life-saving necessity.)

Congressman King’s bill would make it illegal to carry a gun within 1,000 feet of any official of the federal government.  It is self-serving to the point of being shameless, but I support the measure anyway.  At least it is movement in the right direction, no matter how minor.   

Carolyn McCarthy, a Democrat who is also from New York, is proposing a bill that would limit the sale of high-capacity clips for weapons.    The extended clip that Jared Lee Loughner had on his Glock semi-automatic pistol gave the weapon a total firing capability of thirty-three rounds without reloading.

The laxness of gun regulations in America is appalling, and in some areas of the country – like Arizona – criminally insane.   It is time to start the process of taking our country back from the tyranny of gun manufacturers and their bastard child, the National Rifle Association.  Representatives King and McCarthy deserve our thanks and support for standing up to these high-dollar bullies.   

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Pot-Kettle, Mr. Limbaugh, Pot-Kettle

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I just finished listening to a portion of the Rush Lard Butt Radio Explosion on the drive home tonight.  (Armed Forces Network likes to air it's absolute worst reactionary programming during lunch - because some of us eat in our cars - and in the evening drive time.)  Today was the Rushbag's first day back after the Tucson massacre - it was his Monday show.  (We are delayed here in numerous respects!)

Rushbag, predictably, was raving on and on about the "drive-by media," mainstream media, and any other news outlet that is not controlled by Fox Noise or the Republican Party, as being complicit in a scheme to blame this "unfortunate event" in Tucson on him (It's always about Rush!), Sarah Palin, and other good people like them who deplore violence.  (Funny thing, though - he never did mention the cross-hair target that nitwit Sarah Palin put over Gabrielle Giffords' congressional district.)

Rushbag wanted his listeners, good Americans - all, to know that there was a plot afoot to use this "unfortunate event" as a pretext for writing more serious gun laws and taking away their god-given rights to arm every lunatic in America - and their children - with automatic weapons.  That's right - the old "Obama is coming to get  your guns" crap.

The extreme right, according to Rushbag, had nothing to do with the events in Tucson - and the Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik made a fool of himself for trying to blame the "unfortunate event" on hateful rhetoric inflaming simple minds.

The Gas Master's primary target was the assassin's parents for doing such a poor job of raising him.  (I, for one, have some thoughtful questions that I would like to ask the elder Limbaugh's.)  But he also put the blame squarely on the shooter, referring to him as an "insane dopehead."

Pot-Kettle, Mr. Limbaugh.  Pot-Kettle.

I listened with rapt attention up until the point that Rushbag explosively declared:  "They (the liberal media, I suppose) will never silence me!"  Then I turned him off.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Jan Brewer is Heartbroken

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The dust seems to be settling in Tucson, Arizona, after yesterday's madness.   The shooter has been arrested and charged, and Sarah Palin's staff is working overtime combing through her past tweets and posts trying to remove anything that sounds as though it was intended to incite - not a small endeavor.  The Sheriff of Pima County, where the murderous rampage occurred, laid the blame on violent and hateful rhetoric, and was quickly attacked with more hateful rhetoric for pointing out the obvious.  And, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer is "heartbroken."

Governor Brewer should be heartbroken  - and mortified with shame - because she has signed off on some of the most dangerous gun legislation in the nation.   Just this last April she scrawled her signature on Arizona Senate Bill 1108 which completely eliminates the need for a concealed-carry permit in most circumstances.  The bill, not surprisingly, was written by State Senator Russell Pearce, the former Chief Deputy of Sheriff Joe Arapio who authored Arizona's crazy, racist screed known as Senate Bill 1070 - a noxious piece of legislation that calls on Arizonans to be prepared to prove their citizenship if asked.  Of course, the only ones ever asked are brown Arizonans!

Concealed-carry permits are still required for carrying guns, even loaded guns, into bars and restaurants.  Thank God (or Praise Allah) for small mercies!

Under Jan Brewer's stewardship, laws have been enacted to allow guns to be taken onto school property as long as they remain in vehicles.  (Which is good, actually, because what teacher, or student for that matter, would ever get mad enough to walk out to his car and then re-enter the building with his six-shooter blazing?) People may even carry guns into the State Capitol and many other public buildings.  The age for buying shotguns or rifles is only 18 in Arizona, while the minimum age for buying a handgun is twenty-one - thanks to a danged federal law.

Governor Brewer did not fire those shots yesterday, nor did she have any direct involvement in the matter.  But, like the former nitwit governor of Alaska, she has done more than her share to promote her state as a mecca for loonies - a place where might makes right and he (or she) with the most guns wins.

Jan Brewer has every right to be heartbroken - we all are.  She also should be scared shitless - just like the rest of us!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Terrorism Rocks Tucson

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The news out of Tucson, Arizona, today is sickening and outrageous.  Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head at point-blank range by a right-wing lunatic with a semi-automatic pistol.  Gabby Giffords survives at this time, but six others are dead including Federal Judge John Roll, Gabe Zimmerman who was an aid to the congresswoman, and a nine-year-old girl who had just been elected to her school's student council and came to the event with neighbors to get a feel for democracy in action.

Rep. Giffords was hosting a "Congress on Your Corner" event for constituents at a Safeway in Tucson when the attacker walked up to her, shot her in the head, and then began firing indiscriminately.  In addition to the six people killed outright, thirteen others were wounded, some severely.

Ironically, the congresswoman was speaking at a meet-and-greet at another Safeway, this one in Douglas, Arizona, in August of 2009,  when an attendee accidentally let a pistol slip from beneath his jacket and bounce to the floor.  The gun was discovered as the crowd was leaving.

Today's terrorist was a 22-year-old male part-time college student from Tucson named Jared Lee Loughner. He purchased the murder weapon, a Glock 19 semi-automatic pistol with an "extended" magazine, legally at a gun store in Tucson two months ago, even though many in the community knew that he was unstable.  (One report from a long-time acquaintance of Loughner's stated that he was recently barred from his college pre-algebra class over disruptive statements and screeds.)  There has been a lot of press attention focused today on the long, rambling diatribes that Loughner had posted on the internet.  He seemed to be especially bothered with immigration and the inability of immigrants to speak proper English.

Arizona is an "open-carry" state that has no meaningful restrictions over the sale or transportation of firearms. The state is a major arms supplier to the Mexican drug cartels.

Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, the local investigating officer in this tragedy, has placed the blame squarely on the hate rhetoric that is so rampant in Arizona - and on the simple minds who are so easily swayed by the fear-mongering.

Sarah Palin had a posting up on her Facebook page identifying 20 House Democrats whom she targeted for removal from Congress because they voted for the Health Care Bill.   "Target" is the correct verb because each of their districts were identified on a map of the United States by the cross-hairs of a gun site.   Gabby Giffords was number four on her list.   This is the same Sarah Palin who uttered those famous words, "Don't Retreat!  Reload!"  Sarah had the surprising common decency (or smart fear of public reaction) to pull that posting down today.  It can still be seen at, and it is featured on today's Daily Kos.

Over the past several days mail bombs have been discovered by state office holders in Maryland, and another addressed to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was intercepted at a Washington, DC, post office.  The Maryland parcels contained letters complaining about the state's anti-terrorism tip line.  Those bombs and today's shootings are acts of terrorism, make no mistake about that.  The barbarians are at the gates, and our country is in peril from these lunatics and their "Second Amendment Remedies."

President Obama is sending FBI Director Robert Mueller to Arizona to personally take charge of the federal investigation of the Tucson massacre.  That's a good first step, but he needs to do more.   The state of Arizona under the leadership of such loons as Governor Jan Brewer, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Senate President Russell Pearce, and a host of lesser clowns, has time and again placed itself above and beyond federal law, thumbing the state's nose at Washington to the continuing glee of every gun-toting baboon in the state.  This is no longer a state's rights issue - it is an issue of decency, and safety, and humanity.   Arizona is out of control!

President Chester A. Arthur threatened to send federal troops to Tombstone, Arizona, in the 1880's to establish law and order.  It may be past time for the current President to revisit that option.

Although I never personally met Gabby Giffords,  I have nothing but the highest respect for her.  I wrote about Ms. Giffords in this space on 24 October 2009:  I also made a minor donation to her most recent campaign, a real nail-biter that was so close the results weren't official for a couple of weeks after the election.

Be well, Gabrielle Giffords, and know that you are loved and respected by thousands of people whom you will never even meet.  May those who were wounded with you today receive the full benefits of quality medical care and know that America awaits with guarded optimism for their full recovery.  May the families of those who died in Tucson today find some comfort in knowing that the deaths of their loved ones may serve as the wake up call from this nightmare of madness that has consumed Arizona.

And as for you, Sarah, instead of focusing on "reloading," might I suggest that you spend some time "reflecting" on what happened in Tucson today and how you could use your fame and celebrity to bring down the level of national tension.  Don't Reload, Sarah!  Reflect!

Jan Brewer's Death Panels Kill and Kill Again

by Pa Rock 
Citizen Journalist

Sarah Palin was right about something, well kinda sorta, and that itself is worth more ink that her recipe for S'mores.    Last year she was screaming and yelling about the death panels that would be part of the evil Obamacare, and lo and behold, now we have a skimpy version of national health insurance, and the dreaded death panels have materialized.  But there is no relationship between the two.  The health insurance is a national issue, and the death panels are purely an Arizona phenomenon.

That's right, Sarah.  Government is choosing which patients will live and which will die - just like you predicted, but it's not the federal government making those life and death decisions, it's the right-wing cracker government of Arizona.  Your good buddy, Jan Brewer, is presiding over a state government that has brought about the deaths of two innocent people since last November, with predictions of as many as thirty more completely innocent individuals shuffling off of this mortal coil within the next year due to the actions of the government of Arizona.

At issue is Arizona's rush to save $1.4 million in their state budget by disallowing organ transplants that are paid for through Medicaid.  Yes, $1.4 million is a pile of money, but it is minuscule when measured against the state's $1.4 billion deficit.  Governor Brewer probably spends more than $1.4 million a year just on conferences, meals, mileage, and bar tabs for her staff.

If Arizona wants to solve its budget mess, the legislature and governor ought to look at raising taxes - which are damned near nothing in the Scorpion State.

But at least now we know what happens when voters pack a government with hate-mongering Christians - innocent people die!

Friday, January 7, 2011

112th Congress Opens with a Major Boehner!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The much-anticipated 112th Congress is off and running, and if the first day is any indicator, it is going to be a very funny session indeed!

The freshly minted Republican majority is busy foisting stunts and gimmicks on the nation's legislature.  Taking a cue from their intelligentsia wing (the one headed by Michele Bachmann), this session opened with a reading of the Constitution by members.

Unfortunately for those seeking historical accuracy, the version that was read was edited to leave out the embarrassing bits - like the part where our founding fathers, portrayed as Gods by the right-wing loonies, decided that slaves would only be counted as three-fifths of a person for taxing and Congressional apportionment purposes.  Republicans tend to get very uncomfortable when discussing anything that brings a clear focus on how the Old South really was.   Congresssman Jesse Jackson, a black representative from Chicago, was livid at the intentional omission.

Also dropped from the reading was the 18th Amendment, the one where religious zealots forced their will on Congress more than a century ago and got a prohibition on the manufacture, sale, and distribution of most alcohol.  The 18th Amendment was responsible in large part for the rise of organized crime in America.  The Amendment was later repealed, which was today's zealots' excuse for dropping its inclusion from the reading. They didn't want Americans to be reminded that a savage dose of Christian fundamentalism isn't always the best medicine for our country

The Republicans came back into power in the House of Representatives on promises of fiscal responsibility and forcing the country to pay-as-you-go.  Okay, fiscal responsibility is a great concept.  News estimates indicate that this foray into Constitutional education cost American taxpayers in the neighborhood of $1.1 million.  That includes salaries, utilities - including heat and dozens of perking coffee pots, and extra police protection.  Over a million dollars!  Smooth move Orange John!

The extra police protection was put to good use when a crazy birther named Theresa had to be removed from the house gallery after she began yelling our accusations that our President does not meet the "natural born" citizen requirement.  Sadly, not every birther nut present was seated in the gallery.

Two of the Congressmen reading the doctored document - Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas and Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania - took part in the process even though they had not been duly sworn in as Members - a requirement of the Constitution before Members can take part in official business.  Sesssions and Fitzpatrick were at the Congressional Visitors' Center chatting up a group of donors to Fitzpatrick's campaign while the official oath was being administered to the Members who weren't out begging.  Yup, instead of taking the oath to serve the office to which they had been elected, they were out shamelessly fundraising!  Talk about a harbinger of things to come!

Some Democrats tried to pass a bill today requiring that every Member of Congress announce whether they are taking the free government health insurance or not.  Democrats voted for the measure en masse, but Republicans who campaigned on concepts like making government more transparent, voted the measure down - also en masse!   Their free government health care is their business - not Joe Taxpayer's!

Today one of the wags from referred to the initial hours of the Republican takeover of Congress as a "major boehner!"  Too true, too true!

Funny, funny times are upon us!  And to frost the fruitcake, Michele Bachmann is now talking about running for President!  And this was just day one!

I fear that I may do myself serious harm before America corrects this abomination - because I am way too old to continually be ROTFLMAO - and my floors are as hard as John Boehner's cold, cold heart!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Chick-fil-A Gets Creepy

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Chick-fil-A makes a damned good chicken sandwich, and it is one of the fast foods that I really miss out here in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  Unfortunately for me and hopefully for them, I will probably also be missing that famous chicken sandwich when I return stateside.

There was a story on the Internet today claiming that the venerable peddler of cooked poultry carcasses is helping to sponsor an event in Pennsylvania next month whose aim is to piss and moan about same-sex marriages.  Yup, the maker of those delicious chicken sandwiches is funneling its money and support to the Pennsylvania Family Institute, a homophobic group who have stated that same-sex couples harm civilization.

That, of course, is nonsense, but there is probably an argument to be made that eating family meals in a car instead of around the dinner table might be harmful to civilization.  Maybe the well-known chicken vendor should be putting its money and political muscle behind a movement to encourage cooking at home and eating meals as a family.  Hell, I might even contribute to that one!

Support real family values - boycott Chick-fil-A!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Man Without a Ship

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Navy Captain Owen P. Honors was relieved of command of the USS Enterprise today and given a desk job by his Navy superiors.  Losing command of one on our nation’s only eleven aircraft carriers is a big step down for the controversial, yet popular, officer.

The sudden professional pummeling of Capt. Honors came as a result of his involvement in filming and airing a series of juvenile and sexist videos aboard the USS Enterprise several years ago when he was the Executive Officer (2nd in command) of that ship.  Among other things, Honors’ films reportedly depicted a couple of female sailors sharing a shower, as well as an unhealthy dose of gratuitous profanity and gay-bashing.

The Enterprise is essentially a floating city manned by 3,000 sailors, chiefs, and officers.  Capt. Honors' indiscretion occurred in 2006-2007 while the carrier was deployed supporting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.   Many of his former troops have risen to his defense today, describing the captain basically as just some good old boy who was trying to keep morale up.

Three thousand individuals, give or take, were exposed to Capt. Honors' mean-spirited and lewd films, yet none stepped forward to complain, even senior officers aboard the aircraft carrier, until a Virginia newspaper came into possession of clips from the films and went public.  That looks and smells like the military culture closing ranks to protect its own.  But when the spotlight of public scrutiny gets fired up – the cockroaches begin to run for cover!

Isn’t that basically what happened with the Tailhook scandal back in 1991?  Remember Tailhook?  That was when 100 Navy and Marine Corps aviators sexually assaulted 83 women and 7 men during the fun and games portion of the Tailhook Association Annual Conference held at the Las Vegas Hilton.  Reportedly, several flag officers (admirals and generals) were in attendance and knew of the outrageous behavior, yet they failed to report it.  But some prudish types didn’t appreciate being groped and raped, so word of the incidents eventually got out to the press, forcing the military to step in and make adjustments to its culture.    Good old boys were supposedly no longer going to be permitted to run amok.

But twenty years later Captain Owen P. Honors thrusts himself forward to demonstrate that the more things change, the more they seem to stay the same.  Here's hoping that he develops some insight and compassion for others as he steers his desk across the Sea of Bureaucracy.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Wacko's Book Club

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

A couple of infamous tea-baggers have made the news lately with references to books they have read, and while I am doubtful that either of these ladies have read anything more substantive than than a small romance novel or micro-wave instructions, I will give them the benefit of a doubt for purposes of ridicule.

First up is Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, a welfare queen who does quite nicely off of her personal farm subsidies but doesn't want the hungry poor to receive any unemployment insurance.  Ms. Bachmann recently admitted that she used to be a Democrat, but changed political party affiliation to the GOP after reading Gore Vidal's Burr.  I, too, have read this account of our third Vice-President - and liked it.  But there was nothing in Mr. Vidal's presentation of the traitorous Aaron Burr that would make me want to become a Republican.

What message did Ms. Bachmann get from this biography of Aaron Burr?   Did she believe that his effort to steal the Presidential election from Thomas Jefferson was some sort of precursor of Bush v. Gore and thus worthy of praise and adoration?  Did she feel that Vidal unfairly demonized his subject for shooting and killing Alexander Hamilton, the ultimate Federalist, in a duel?  Was the problem that Vidal illuminated Burr's treachery in his personal plot to take American land through force?  Or was she just offended that Gore Vidal, a very "out" gay man, wrote anything at all?

The message that I got from Burr was that unscrupulous people find their way into power for reasons of personal greed - and that message certainly did not drive me into the arms of the party of corporate America!

Then tonight on the way home, the crackpot de jour who was filling in for Rush Limbaugh, happened to mention that Sarah Palin was a fan of C.S. Lewis.  Okay, maybe she has seen some of the Chronicles of Narnia on television - the cartoon episodes - but I seriously doubt that she has read the complex and very philosophical C. S. Lewis.  I have worked my way through the print version of the Chronicles of Narnia as well as his science fiction / religious trilogy, and, while he is very thought-provoking, he is also very deep.  C.S. Lewis is way too much work for simple Sarah.

And yes, it is a very cool concept to be able to imply that you read one of the premier philosophers on the subject of Christianity, but the Lewis view of Christ is much more ethereal than anything Sarah would ever acknowledge.  Why, Lewis, never even went so far as to deny the theory of evolution or to suggest that dinosaurs and man walked the earth at the same time - 6,000 years ago.  Obviously by Sarah's standards, C.S.Lewis was not a true, gun-toting Christian, so why try to claim that she has read him.  Color me unimpressed - as hell!

But, who am I to talk   I'm currently reading Louis L'Amour!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Louis L'Amour and the Lowe's and Lane's

by Pa Rock

My Dad was an unabashed fan of cowboy literature, movies, and television programs.  Growing up, no matter how late he had to work most nights, come Saturday evening he was always parked in front of the television watching Marshall Dillion of Gunsmoke or Paladin of Have Gun, Will Travel.  He bought classic westerns during his later years and watched many of them over and over, and a few good friends would copy western movies off of the cable and give them to him.  (Cable was a personal extravagance which he would not abide!)  One of the regular Christmas gifts that I procured for him his final few Christmases was Louis L'Amour's collected short stories, a new volume of which would miraculously appear in bookstores during each Christmas buying season.  I think that my son, Nick, bought the final one for him in the weeks before Dad died on Christmas Day of 2009.

When we were cleaning out Dad's things preparing to auction off his much loved "stuff," I bundled up the L'Amour collections, six in all, and took them home with me with the thought that someday I would read through them and thus share a little something with my Dad.  Those volumes followed me to Okinawa where they have waited patiently on a shelf while I worked my way through some other reading priorities.

Before getting to them, I came across a free copy of one of L'Amour's classic novels, Hondo.  That little book appealed to me because a long-deceased friend in McDonald County, Missouri, began referring to me as "Hondo' in the sixties when I was always putting around town on some raggedy-assed scooter or motorcycle.  That friend, an older man named Bill Parnell, referred to me as Hondo until the day he died some two decades later.

Before tackling the hundreds of collected short stories of Louis L'Amour, I decided to begin with Hondo.  It is the tale of a very capable woman, Angie Lowe, who is living on her farmstead in the desert of southern Arizona.  Angie and her six-year-old son are by themselves in the dangerous Apache country because her shiftless husband, Ed Lowe, rode off for supplies months before and never came home.  Ed appears a few chapters later holed up in the safety of the Army post where he plays dishonest poker and relieves good people of their hard-earned cash.  He definitely does not want anyone at the fort to know that he abandoned a wife and small child in Apache country.

Handsome and rugged Hondo Lane happens by Angie's little farmstead that was built by her industrious father and not the shiftless Ed.  He tames one of her horses, does a few necessary chores, buys the horse from her, tries to get her to leave with him for the safety of the fort, and then gives her a big, sloppy kiss because Hondo knows that is what all women want and need.

Angie spends the next several months pining for Hondo because he is a great kisser, and she also deals with the Apaches who have designs on her body or her scalp - and her ranch.  During one particularly tense moment, six-year-old Johnny fires his father's pistol at some visiting Indians and fells and angry brave - though not fatally.  The great chief, Vittoro, is present and observes the lad's bravery - and immediately cuts both of their thumbs so that he can be Johnny's blood brother.  He then becomes Johnny's protector.  Vittoro soon decides that Angie is not safe remaining on the farm, and orders her to choose one of his braves to marry and then move to their encampment.  Angie has some racial issues and tells him that although she respects him, whites should marry whites and Indians marry Indians,

Did I mention that this was written in 1953?

Meanwhile back at the fort, Hondo Lane meets awful Ed Lane and winds up killing him.  Hondo is riding back to Angie's ranch when he is captured by Apaches, and while being tortured by his captors, a tintype of young Johnny that Hondo had taken off of the dead Ed flips out of his shirt pocket and hits the ground.  Vittoro recognizes the picture of his little blood brother, and, believing that Hondo must be Angie's husband, returns him to her so that he can teach the young boy the ways of being a man.

And, there is more to the story, including the death of Vittoro during a battle with the cavalry, and his replacement as chief by the vengeful Silva, the Indian brave that Johnny had shot chapters before - and the evil skunk who killed Hondo's dog.  But that can all wait for another telling.

After finishing Hondo,  a surprisingly readable though thoroughly dated literary effort, I decided to tackle the volumes of short stories.  Being a person of great organization skills and a moderate dose of OCD, I elected to begin with story one in volume one.  It was called The Gift of Cochise, and, wouldn't you know that it had a very familiar feel.

One of the main characters in The Gift of Cochise is a hard-as-nails, but very pretty and feminine farm wife named Angie Lowe.   Angie is living on her farmstead taking care of sever-year-old Jimmy and five-year-old Jane after her semi-shiftless husband, Ed, rode to El Paso, one hundred miles away, for supplies.  The problem is, of course, Ed had been gone too long.  The great Apache chief, Cochise, drops by with a hunting party and wants to know where her husband is.  She tells him, but the wise old Indian believes that Ed must be dead because why else would he abandon a wife and two children in this desolate and dangerous land.  Cochise develops a paternal fondness for little Jimmy and tells Angie that for him to become an able man, he must have a good male role model.  (Okay, Cochise didn't use the term "role model," but that is what he meant!)  He then told Angie that she must choose one of his braves to marry, and she replies negatively with her racist screed.

Meanwhile in El Paso, Ed Lowe has bought the supplies and stops by the local saloon to wet his whistle before the long ride home.  While standing at the bar shooting the breeze with the bartender, Ed observes three desperadoes push back their chairs and prepare to gun down a lone man who has done them no apparent harm.  Good-hearted Ed steps in to help even the odds - and gets himself killed.  But, thanks to Ed's timely intervention, all three desperadoes die and the man he helped made it out without a scratch.  That man, Ches Lane, learns of Ed's lonely wife and children from the bartender, and sets out to find them.

And, predictably (by this time) Ed eventually gets himself captured by Cochise who, in turn, presents him to Angie - because the stranger is so daring and brave - as her great white hope.

It turns out that this version of the tale was written in 1952 - an obviously different time in America.

After finishing my first two L'Amour pieces, I began to wonder if I would be running into Angie and Ed - and one or the other of the Lane's - in everything by L'Amour.  Some research was in order.

And here's the rest of the story:

Louis L'Amour wrote The Gift of Cochise in 1952 and it was published in Collier's Magazine.  John Wayne, America's favorite cowboy actor, read the story in Collier's and recognized a good tale when he saw it.  Wayne bought the movie rights, Hollywood changed the wimpy-sounding Ches to Hondo, made Ed thoroughly evil, and added the sloppy kiss.  When the movie came out, Louis L'Amour wrote the novelization of the script - a saucy little book called Hondo.

And now you know...