Thursday, March 31, 2011

Personal Pain

by Pa Rock
Sad Puppy

It is Friday afternoon on Okinawa.  This is supposed to be my Friday off, but I have spent the whole day in bed - with a blinding shoulder pain - some day off!

I don't know what is wrong, but my instincts tell me that it is probably more psychosomatic than anything else.  I didn't pull a muscle, though that is what this feels like.  I know this -  I am tired, completely worn out, and this throbbing shoulder absolutely refuses to let me get so much as even a few minutes of sleep.

I have a friend here who lost her driving privileges.  To help out, I have been driving her home most evenings.  This past Monday was one of those evenings.  After dropping my friend off, I returned to my apartment where a second friend planned to meet me and cook our supper so that we could then drive to Naha and pick up a third friend from the airport.  Got that so far?

When I arrived home after dropping friend number one off, friend number two wasn't here and dinner wasn't cooking - but my phone was ringing.  The call was from the first friend, the one I had just taken home.  She said that the second friend had been practicing driving her motor scooter and had a wreck and broken her arm - and she was enroute to the hospital with yet another friend.  I would have to fix my own damned supper, and brave the city traffic and go to the airport by myself - which I did.

I picked up my third friend and drove him to his apartment and then headed home.  I tried to reach friend two with the broken arm, but her phone was turned off.  It was ten-thirty when I finally crawled into bed - very late for me on a work night.  I was awakened an hour later by friend two and the other friend who had driven her to the hospital.  She had stayed with me for a couple of months when she first arrived on the island, and asked if she could have her old room back so that I could help look after her and get her back to the hospital in the morning;  I was happy to do it.

That was Monday night.   My friend has two broken bones in her arm.  The military hospital was able to cast her arm the next morning, but they lacked the little metal parts necessary for a surgical repair.  Today she may or may not be getting care at an Okinawan hospital.  She left with a co-worker this morning heading toward a local national hospital, but I have been too groggy and in too much pain to find out what is going on.  I guess someone will tell me something sooner or later.

My own trouble started when I woke up in throbbing pain at about 2:00 a.m. Thursday.  I managed to get to work later that morning where I borrowed a heating pad from friend four and worked as a struggling invalid the rest of the day.  Strangely, my pain is in the right shoulder - the same side and vicinity as my roomie's broken arm.  Her pain migrated to me.  It is very likely psychosomatic.

I drove myself to Camp Foster this morning and bought my own heating pad - and it was a very painful outing.  I need to go again and get some milk - and maybe a sandwich, but that is going to have to wait.

I hurt, I miss my family, and I wish I had a dog!

FUBOA and the Horse You Rode in On!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Bernie Sanders, America's Senator. recently highlighted a list of sleazy American corporations that didn't pay taxes last year.  This is his list of the rich piggies who couldn't be bothered with paying taxes - or paid damned little:

1.  Exxon Mobil had $19 billion in profits in 2009 and paid no federal income taxes.  To frost the cake, Exxon actually received a $156 million dollar rebate from the IRS!  Thanks, suckers!

2.  Bank of America made $4.4 billion in profits last year and received a $1.9 billion dollar tax refund from the IRS.   Bank of America also received a nearly $1 trillion bailout from the feds during 2009.  How does that make you squeal?  BOA owns Community Bank which has facilities on most of the military bases on Okinawa, and it is, by necessity, where I do my local banking.  This week I had to pay my rent.  To do that I had to trade dollars for yen, and BOA was selling yen at the horribly low rate of 79 to the dollar.  However, if a person had plenty of yen, they would buy it back for 83 to the dollar.  Crooked conniving bastards!  FUBOA and the horse you rode in on!

3.  General Electric has made a whopping $26 billion in profits over the past five years, and during that same time the former employer of Ronald Reagan has received $4.1 billion in federal refunds.  GE currently has launched a Twitter campaign trying to convince the public that the company is porking them in the nicest possible way!

4.  Chevron got a $19 million refund from the IRS last year after making $10 billion in profits.  Think about that one the next time you pull up to the pump and start going through sticker shock!  Asshats!

5.  Boeing just received a $30 billion contract from the Pentagon to build airborne tankers - after lubricating enough congressmen to get the original contract taken away from a foreign contractor.  Boeing also got a $124 million refund last year.  And those tankers will arrive late and have massive cost overruns attached - and Boeing won't pay any taxes on those profits either and will probably score another hefty tax refund.

6.  Valero Energy had $68 billion in sales last year and managed to drag in a $157 million dollar tax refund.  Over the past three years it has received a $143 million tax break from the oil and gas manufacturing deduction.

7.  Goldman Sachs did pay some taxes in 2008 (yeah, team!), but that was only 1.1 percent of its income profit of $2.3 billion.  Goldman Sachs also received almost $800 billion in bailout money from the feds.

8.  Citigroup made over $4 billion in profits last year but paid no federal income taxes.  It's portion of the federal bailout was $2.5 trillion.  Pig, pig, piggie!

9.  Conoco Phillips made $16 billion in profits from 2007 through 2009, but it received $451 million in tax breaks through the oil and gas manufacturing deduction.  (Maybe if I did a big hole in my back yard and claim to be hunting for oil, I could skip paying taxes and get a big refund!)

10.  Carnival Cruise Lines made more than $11 billion in profits over the past five years, but paid a tax rate of only 1.1 percent.  And they made that money while cruising!

But our politicians - especially the teabaggers - are out in front of things.  They are going to save the entire country by defunding NPR and Planned Parenthood - a savings that wouldn't cover the cost of doughnuts at the annual GE stockholder's meeting!  Meanwhile, the teabaggers and every other single Republican Congressman voted to continue tax breaks to the oil and gas companies.  They know where the campaign cash is stacked!

The Supreme Court declared more than a century ago that corporations are people - but they are obviously very, very special people!  

Bernie, if the tax man leaves me any money this year, I will send a few bucks to you.  An honest politician is as rare as a corporation that pays its fair share to the government.   You, sir, are a gem!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Lying Politicians

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The Daily Beast  ( ran a fun article today that focused on the truthiness of some of our better-known politicians.  The result was an "ignorance" rating of ten well-known public figures.  Although this measure was hardly scientific, it was very interesting and had a factual basis - and many politicians are wary of those pesky facts.

Basically the researchers took a variety of statements from the individuals who were studied, and then checked those statements for veracity.  They were then awarded points - with statements proven to be true or mostly true receiving zero points, statements half-true or barely true garnered one point each, false statements earned three points each, and "pants on fire" outrageous lies pulled in a whopping five points each.  The number of statements checked were also factored into the rankings.

It should come as a surprise to no one that Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, a Republican from Minnesota who lusts after the Presidency (and will achieve that office at about the same time Jesus Christ rides a Missouri Jumping Mule into Madison Square Garden), was found to be the biggest liar.  The screwball Bachmann was rated on nineteen statements, and, of those, zero were found to be true or mostly true, two were rated as half-true, three were barely true, eight were outright false, and six were "pants on fire" lies!

In defense of Bachmann, a proud home school teacher, some of her lies may be little more that just old fashioned stupidity.  For example, she recently complimented the state of New Hampshire for being the birthplace of the American Revolution - Lexington and Concord, you see.  Problem is, the Lexington and Concord of Revolutionary War fame were located south of New Hampshire - in Massachusetts!  The article in the Daily Beast focused on another gem of Bachmann's American history - the one where she said that there was a swine flu outbreak in the 1970's during the administration of Jimmy Carter.  There was a swine flu scare in the 1970's - but it was during the Ford administration and it never developed into an actual outbreak.  Where does this home school teacher get her facts?  Could it be that she buys her history books from Texas?

The second biggest liar was former Republican National Chairman Michael Steele.  He was checked on eight statements.  Four were true, one was half-true, one was false, and two were "pants on fire" lies.

Howard Dean, former Governor of Vermont and Democratic National Chairman, was next.  Six of his statements were checked.  One was true, one was mostly true, one was half-true, and three were false.

Sarah Palin, a politician who talks incessantly and says very little, came in fourth.  Forty-five of her statements were checked.  Ten were true (shocking, I know), six were mostly true, seven were half-true, six were barely true, twelve were false, and four were "pants on fire" lies.

Congressman Paul Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin, was measured on seven statements.  One was true, two were half-true, three were barely true, and one was "pants on fire."

Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat and former Speaker of the House had fourteen of her statements fact-checked. One was true, two were mostly true, six were half-true, two were barely true, two were false, and one was "pants on fire" false.

Harry Reid, a Democrat who is the Senate Majority Leader, was checked on ten statements.  Two were true, one was mostly true, three were half-true, one was barely true, and three were false.

Mitch McConnel, the Republican Senate Minority Leader, had ten statements that were examined.  Two were true, two were mostly true, two were half-true, one was barely true, and three were false.

Orange John Boehner, a Republican who is the current Speaker of the House, had thirty-seven of his statements checked.  Of those, fourteen were true, three were mostly true, three were half-true, five were barely true, and twelve were false.

Vice President Joe Biden rounded out the list.  The Democrat who served in the U.S. Senate since about the time he hit puberty, talks a lot and had forty-four of his statements examined.  Ten Biden statements were found to be true, eight mostly true, ten half-true, eight barely true, five false, and three "pants on fire" lies.

That's a whole lotta mispeaking going on!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

This Little Light of Mine

by Pa Rock

The events of the past few weeks here in Japan have gotten me thinking about basic preparedness.  The necessaries that local announcements are stressing people should have on hand are plenty of bottled water, a battery-operated radio, and a good flashlight.  I always have a good supply of water, and I have a kick-ass flashlight, but I still need to come up with the radio.  They sell them in the PX, so I just need to get out make the purchase.

But it is my flashlight, or rather its batteries, that currently have my interest.  I have a really good flashlight, one of the long, black ones like the police use to intimidate vagrants and teenagers.  It is a four-cell job, meaning that it operates off of four "D" batteries.  I bought the flashlight six years ago just as I began working with the military, and while I have never had much need to use it, it has always worked when a need did arise.  So after the earthquake and tsunami on March 11th, I tried it out and found that it was still working - on its original batteries!

I took the next logical step in basic survival strategy last weekend and purchased a new pack of four "D" batteries, figuring that they would get me through at least a couple of more years.  What a surprise I got when I opened the flashlight and examined the old batteries!  They were Duracell alkaline, the same as the replacements that I had just purchased.  There was no corrosion, and, in fact, the old batteries were as bright and shiny as the new ones.  And on each of the old batteries was printed in large letters the probable expiration date:  March of 2011!

And the expiration date on the new batteries?  March of 2017!

My cynical nature has led me to believe that much of what is offered up to consumers is intended for the briefest possible usage, because as more things break or wear out, more goods are sold.  What a shock to find that Duracell makes batteries that are intended to last half-a-dozen years!

My stockbroker should expect a call from Okinawa, Japan!  I've seen the light - and it is amazing!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Monday's Poetry: "Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

The following song (it's poetry to me) presented itself on my iPod yesterday as I was huffing and puffing on the evil treadmill at Gunner's Gym.  It was written by Ed McCurdy  over half a century ago and expresses his view of a much better world than the one in which we currently find ourselves.  I am reprinting it here with deep appreciation to the man who penned the thoughts, as well as great respect to Congressman Dennis Kucinich, the man who faithfully keeps trying to make McCurdy's vision come true.

Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream
by Ed McCurdy

Last night I had the strangest dream
I'd ever dreamed before
I dreamed the world had all agreed
To put an end to war

I dreamed I saw a mighty room
Filled with women and men
And the paper they were signing said
They'd never fight again

And when the paper was all signed
And a million copies made
They all joined hands and bowed their heads
And grateful pray'rs were prayed

And the people in the streets below
Were dancing 'round and 'round
While swords and guns and uniforms
Were scattered on the ground

Last night I had the strangest dream
I'd never dreamed before
I dreamed the world had all agreed
To put an end to war.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Prosecutor and the Weather Girl

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Geraldine Ferraro died yesterday after a twelve-year struggle with cancer.

The feisty congresswoman from New York City kicked down a lot of gender-specific doors in her time and shattered a mighty thick glass ceiling.  The daughter of Italian immigrants, Ms. Ferraro ignored the advice of one of her uncles who proclaimed that she was pretty and should just get married.  Instead she put herself through college, and then took an "acceptable" job for a woman and became an elementary school teacher.

Unhappy with the drudgery and low pay of teaching, Ms. Ferraro went to law school at night while keeping up with her day job.  She was cautioned when she began law school that she would be taking a position that should be going to a man.  She and one other woman graduated two years later in a class that otherwise was all men.  Ms. Ferraro practiced law for awhile and then became a prosecutor.  Eventually she headed up a Special Victims Unit (yes, like the one on Law and Order) that specialized in family violence.

Geraldine Ferraro, a politically active Democrat, ran for Congress in 1978 from her district in Queens, an ethnically diverse community that was the fictional home to televisions All in the Family.  And while Archie Bunker probably would not have voted for her, the rest of his family would have had no issue casting their ballots for the liberal Ms. Ferraro who described herself as a "small c" conservative and a tough-as-nails prosecutor.  She won that election and went on to serve six years in Congress.

And though Geraldine Ferraro lived a life of constant acclaim and accomplishment in a world that had traditionally been dominated by men, her greatest claim to fame came in 1984 when the Democratic National Convention nominated her as Walter Mondale's running mate - thus making her the first woman to ever be placed on a national ticket.  Although the Mondale-Ferraro ticket went on to lose to the incumbents, Reagan and Bush, Geraldine Ferraro handled herself remarkably well.  She had one national debate with Vice-President George H.W. Bush, and during that exchange the elder Bush tried to chide her over her lack of foreign policy experience.  Ms. Ferraro took issue with his tone and excoriated the Texas blue-blood with this classic line:  "Let me just say first of all, that I almost resent, Vice President Bush, your patronizing attitude that you have to teach me about foreign policy."

After losing that election, Ms. Ferraro soon retired from the House and made two unsuccessful attempts to win election to the Senate from New York.  Her last public efforts were in Hillary Clinton's campaign for the Presidency.  During that time she reportedly became enraged when she learned that one of her children had voted for Barack Obama and against Hillary in a primary election.  It left her with the feeling that the ideal of gender equality  in politics had been subsumed by the different demands of a new generation.

That was in 2008.

Interestingly, 2008 was the year that the Republican Party finally put a female on their national ticket - two-and-a-half decades after Ferraro had smashed that glass ceiling for Democrats.  But instead of choosing a candidate with a wide range of experience in teaching, law, and politics - the Republicans chose a weather girl with four years of city council experience and a little over a year as a governor of one of the least populous states in the nation.  

Even though the contrast between Geraldine Ferraro and Sarah Palin could not have been more stark, Ferraro took the nomination of Palin as a sign that society was moving forward.  In speaking of the Palin candidacy, Ferraro had this to say, "Every time a woman runs, women win."   Surely those are words that Ms. Palin would never "refudiate."

Moments ago President Obama tweeted the following:  "Saddened to learn about the passing of Geraldine Ferraro. She will forever be remembered as a trailblazer who broke down barriers."

Geraldine Ferraro did blaze trails and break down barriers, and because of the efforts of her and other formidable women's advocates of the twentieth century, our daughters and granddaughters are entering a more open and accepting world - a world in which they don't have to rely on being elementary school teachers, weather girls, or the wives of successful working men in order to get ahead.

Rest in peace, Geraldine.  You've earned the rest and the peace!

The Green Hornet Disappoints

by Pa Rock
Movie Goer

I slipped away from my apartment this afternoon and drove over to Camp Foster where I watched the midday showing of The Green Hornet, for the amazingly cheap ticket price of just four dollars and fifty cents.  Oh how I wish I hadn't let go of that money!

My expectation was that the movie would be campy and fairly funny, but the reality was that it was loud and annoying.  Seth Rogen as Britt Reid, aka The Green Hornet, somehow managed to turn what should have been a credible super hero into a bumbling nuisance.  Cameron Diaz, the film's eye-candy, gave a flat performance that did nothing to enhance the film or her career.  If this movie had any saving grace, it was Jay Chou's performance as Kato, the Hornet's personal assistant and technical expert.  Chou's Kato was at least likable.

The movie was really, truly, bad - and Seth Rogen deserves double raspberries because he also helped to write it.

The best part of the afternoon was exploring the theatre at Camp Foster.  It is huge!  My seating preference is always the back row, but this back row was so far away from the screen that I wished I had brought my binoculars.  But, after the film began, I was glad that I had left them at home!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Jack's Place on Kadena

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Shortly after my arrival on Okinawa last summer my boss took me to dinner at Jack's Place, a privately owned restaurant located on Kadena Air Base.  It is a great place to dine with most meals in the $15 to $30 range.  The rambling restaurant is three stories tall with a very nice dining area,  bars and lounges, and an outdoor bar on the roof with blazing tiki torches.  Tonight I was back for my second visit at Jack's with my group of buddies - as my birthday celebration continued to drag itself out over the week.   There were five of us present including two relatively new members to the group, and two of our regulars were AWOL (temporarily stateside).

The friends that I have made here are the absolute best part of living on Okinawa.  The civilians are like our military counterparts in that people come and go.  Just as you are getting to know someone they move on - or you do - and new people come in.  We tend to become a very fluid society.  We are also very good about looking out after one another - something that is extremely important in a foreign culture where those of us who are single - including everyone in our group - do not have extended families of blood relatives nearby to rely on in times of need.

Tomorrow is Saturday, and I hereby declare my birthday at an end!  Fortunately Murphy has one coming up in mid-April, so we can have another excuse to party!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor Has Left the Stage

by Pa Rock
Film Buff 

Elizabeth Taylor Hilton Wilding Todd Fisher Burton Burton Warner Fortensky Taylor has made her final exit from life's stage, and I suspect that we are all somewhat poorer for her passing.   Liz was seventy-nine-years-old at the time of her death in Los Angeles on March 23rd.

Her first movie appearance was when she was a scant 10-years-old, and by the age of twelve she had the lead in 1944's National Velvet (well, the lead if you don't count the horse!)  Over the years she developed into a formidable actress and true screen legend.

To me, Elizabeth Taylor's high-water mark as an actress will always be as the drunken, foul-mouthed wife in Mike Nichols' 1966 film version of Edward Albee's play, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolfe?  In that movie, she and her then husband, Richard Burton, play a dysfunctional married couple, George and Martha.  George is a college professor who has not lived up to his wife's expectations.  Late one evening they invite a young professor and his spouse home for a nightcap.  The younger couple, Nick and Honey (George Segal and the wonderful Sandy Dennis), watch in horror as George and Martha begin verbally assaulting each other, and eventually they get pulled into the warfare.  The entire movie is a long, but fascinating, drunken battle of wits.

Elizabeth Taylor was a prominent advocate in the fight against AIDS.  She was so outspoken on this cause that the ignorant Phelps klan of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka have already announced plans to picket her funeral.  (Nobody upstaged Elizabeth Taylor in life, and I am confident that the activities of this loony group of homophobic morons will only make her legend more enduring.   She would probably feel honored to know that she inspired their wrath!)

Elizabeth Taylor was also known for being a buddy to the late Michael Jackson, and she gave the singer the nickname "King of Pop."  When Jackson was trying to rebuild his reputation by granting a long interview to Oprah Winfrey at his Neverland Ranch, who just happened to be lounging on his couch as the cameramen panned the living room but the regal Liz!

The actress was often defined by her far-ranging field of husbands.  She earned the enmity of the nation when she stole actor/singer Eddie Fisher from Debbie Reynolds. Eddie and Debbie (Carrie Fisher's parents) were thought of as "America's sweethearts."   Eddie Fisher once remarked that "A fifty thousand dollar diamond would keep Elizabeth Taylor happy - for about four days!"  Richard Burton was able to hang onto her for a much longer period of time, but he also gave her a much bigger diamond - over 69 karats!   Another famous husband was John Warner, a Virginia politician who married her shortly before he was elected to the United States Senate.    For a few years people went to Washington D.C. dinner parties just for the possibility of seeing the famous actress.

Taylor and Burton took their legendary diamond onto "The Lucy Show" in the 1970's, and the hapless Lucy, of course, seized an opportunity to try on the spectacular ring - and got it stuck to her finger!

Elizabeth Taylor grew with age and was often the butt of late-night television jokes about her increasing weight.  Joan Rivers once famously described her as "a woman who puts mayonnaise on an aspirin!"

But, love her or mock her, Elizabeth Taylor had an amazing life - and she was able to live it on her own terms.  She may have left the stage, but her impact will be felt for generations!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

They Say It's My Birthday!

by Pa Rock
Seasoned Observer

Today I celebrated my birthday on Okinawa for the third time.  I was living on this little island the day that I turned twenty-four, twenty-five, and now sixty-three.  I really don't remember the first two, but the big six-three was nice.

My sons each called this morning before I left for work - Wednesday morning here, Tuesday night there - and I had a tweet from my daughter.  So any day that I hear from all of my kids is a good day indeed!

My friends Valerie and Kelly surprised me at work with two cakes that Valerie made, a plant, and a wonderful large birthday card that had my name and birth date written in Japanese script (kanji), with staff signatures on the back.  It is a wonderful souvenir of the island!  People were in and out of my office all day sampling Valerie's cakes - and there is plenty left for tomorrow.  Friday after work several of us are going to continue the celebration by going to Jack's, a nice restaurant on the air base.

Apparently Facebook knows it is my birthday, and I am not certain how I feel about that.  I have received some notices that friends have posted birthday greetings on my wall.  If you are in that group, thanks.  Unfortunately, I can't respond to the messages because Facebook expects me to regurgitate a password to access my page.  The password is long forgotten and I have no interest in seeking another - but I do appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Things remain good on Okinawa, but please continue to keep Japan in your thoughts and prayers.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tweet This!

by Pa Rock

Some days writing a blog borders or being a joy, but at other times, more often than not it seems lately, the daily drudgery of coming up with something to fill a few paragraphs and trying to make it interesting to others is about as much fun as a good session of corporal self-mortification.  There is one form of web-writing, however, that I enjoy without reservation:  tweeting.

I discovered about a year ago and just this past week posted my 2,000th tweet.  Most of those little gems of 140 characters or less were my own creations, but occasionally I "re-tweet" the gems of others.  I am currently "following" the tweetage of 53 other individuals with a wide variety of interests, and 111 follow me - though Allah alone knows why!

I don't follow Charlie Sheen, but I understand that over three million people do.  That is probably related to the same instinct that causes people to stand around and gawk at car wrecks!

The thing that I like about tweeting is the mental challenge of being brilliantly creative in a mere 140 characters.  I also like crossword and logic puzzles.

Today there was a "quick vote" on the page asking simply, "Do you tweet?"  As of a few minutes ago 198,826 people had responded.  Ninety-three percent of those (184,111) were not tweeters, while 7% (14,715) were.  So it's not for everyone.

A clever sentence can kick the crap out of a whole page of nonsense.

See you on Twitter @PaRock.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Will New York City Be the Next Tokyo?

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I currently reside in Japan, albeit nearly a thousand miles from Tokyo, so the nuclear nightmare that is enveloping much of the land area on the Japanese mainland is very personal to me.  I have friends who live on mainland Japan, friends who have been flown into the Tokyo area to help deal with the crisis, and relatives in the United States whose plans to visit Okinawa and Tokyo appear to have been put on an indefinite hold.

Hopefully a quick and complete response coupled with a healthy dose of pure blind luck will prevail, and a nuclear catastrophe will be avoided - this time - but none of us can currently know that will be the outcome.  What we can do immediately, however, is to begin to review nuclear energy policies and facilities around the globe, and especially those within the United States.

As I pointed out yesterday, there are two nuclear reactors in Buchanan, New York, which are collectively known as Indian Point.  The reactors are a scant 34 miles from downtown New York City, and within fifty miles of over 17 million living, breathing human beings.  What I didn't mention yesterday is that Indian Point is just two miles from the Pampano fault line, meaning that it is entirely conceivable that an earthquake could rock the reactors at some point.

Two nuclear reactors - plus a fault in the earth's crust -  plus 17 million people equals something more horrific than even Hollywood could fathom.

Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, is asking that Indian Point be shut down for the time being until its safety can be carefully assessed.   That's a reasonable request, but not one that will sit well with the big energy companies who overcharge consumers so they can line every greedy politician's pocket with cash donations.

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, himself a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, was asked on Fox News Sunday whether the reactors at Indian Point should be shut down.  Chu's reply:  "That is an issue."

It sure as hell is.

Gregory Jaczko, the chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission went out on a limb earlier this week and told Congress that American nuclear reactors can survive natural disasters.  Let's hope that he means that all 105 nuclear reactors in the United States can survive all natural disasters, no matter how intense.   But somehow I doubt that a government bureaucrat, even one with a grand title, has the omniscience to know that for an absolute fact.  And if Mr. Jaczko can't back that statement up with 100 percent absolute certainty, then he is, in effect lying to us.

Energy companies routinely lie to us, always have and always will.  Our elected leaders and their appointees need to be brutally honest with us and let the people have a voice in the "future" of nuclear energy.  It's not about campaign donations, it is about the survival of the planet.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Some Nuclear Facts

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

There is a fascinating article at The Daily Beast  (  regarding nuclear power production in the United States.  The article has to do with the vulnerability of America's nuclear power plants based on a number of factors - most of which relate to location (number of people residing within 50 miles, likelihood of an earthquake, expected number of hurricanes in the next century, miles to a potentially active volcano, and number of significant tornadoes to affect the location within the last hundred years.)  There is so much good information that it would probably take sorting onto an Excel spreadsheet in order to fully comprehend its significance.  (That may be my next project!)

According to what I have just read, America currently has 105 nuclear reactors on 65 sites - all within the lower forty-eight states.  The oldest to be licensed was the R.E. Guinn reactor near Ontario, New York in 1969.  The most recent to be licensed and go on-line was the Watts Barr reactor near Spring City, Tennessee, in 1996.  In addition to the license issue in 1969, 49 licenses were issued in the 1970's, 49 in the 1980's, and six in the 1990's.

Power companies love to whine that there have been no new plans for any nuclear reactors in the United States in last thirty or forty years, and that may well be - but it gives the impression that nuclear power has been dead in its tracks for three or four decades, and that is false.  The last nuclear reactor went on line less than fifteen years ago.

Sixty-seven nuclear reactors are located within fifty miles of populations greater than one million people.  Forty-six are within fifty miles of populations in excess of two million people.  Sixteen are within that same distance of over five million people, and one, Indian Point near Buchanan, New York, is within fifty miles of over 17 million individuals!

Eight of these nuclear power plants are located within 250 miles of a potentially active volcano,  one has a likelihood of 5 (out of a possible 6) of being in an earthquake at some point, fifty-four are in areas that can reasonably expect to have over twenty hurricanes in the next century, and twelve are in areas that have seen over twenty significant tornadoes in the past century.

That's a lot of dice rolling every day of every year.  Sooner or later we're going to crap out somewhere - and it will be in a big way!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Riding the Waves

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

My friend Valerie and I just spent a half-a-day at sea whale-watching.  It was a beautiful day, and the whales were plentiful and playful.  (Photos at

We tried to get our friend Nefredia to go with us, but our tough-as-nails friend, who grew up on the mean streets of New York City and has experience dealing with some of the worst of the worst, wasn't having it.  She said that she doesn't fear what she can control, like crack whores and street thugs, but she wasn't about to put herself in the path of something that she could not control - like a tsunami!

Two weeks ago nobody here gave a second thought to tsunamis - they were little more than something that happened in disaster movies or the third world.  But now, of course, they are on everyone's mind.  In preparation for this trip out onto the high seas, I did a little research.

First of all, I thought if a tsunami happened along, I would rather be at sea where I could ride the wave instead of driving down the Okinawan coast where I could be washed out to sea in a leaky Nissan Cube.  I'm not a physicist (or a sailor), but that just made sense.  What I learned after talking to people who knew about tsunamis was that I was exactly right!  (Sooner or later it had to happen!)

It turns out that was the reason that all of those ships and large boats were lined up on the horizon the night we were anticipating a possible tsunami.  The vessels stood far more chance of being wrecked or torn up if they were in port than if they were out at sea.  A tsunami is just a really big wave, and most ships actually will ride the wave.  Tsunamis do their real damage when they hit the shore, rush onto land, and then rush back out to sea.  It is all of that property that was never meant to ride waves that gets damaged - like my Nissan Cube - and all of the people who get banged around with the property and then washed out to sea.

The tsunami last week sped across the ocean from Japan to Oregon and California.  Were there any reports of ships capsizing or being lost at sea?  I didn't hear of any.  Surely many must have encountered that swell that played hell with the vessels in some harbors along the U.S. coast.  They met the challenge and rode it out!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Big Win for Common Sense in Arizona

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

It would appear that the worm of intolerance has finally begun to turn - at least in the Scorpion State.  Yesterday was an amazing day for the rebirth of common sense at the Arizona State Capitol where the State Senate voted to turn down five pieces of crazy, racist nonsense - bills that were near and dear to the hearts of Senate President Russell Pearce and Governor Jan Brewer.

Now, at least for the time being, Arizona will not be challenging the birthright guarantee of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution.  Senate Bills 1308 and 1309 would have required that children must have at least on parent who was a U.S. citizen or permanent legal resident in order for that child to be considered a citizen - a position that is clearly at odds with Supreme Court interpretations of the Constitution.  The nativist elements in Arizona, those individuals who would benefit most from an influx of some new genes into their closed-minded societies, have been foaming at the mouth in their rabid denouncements of these "anchor babies."

No word yet on whether Joe Arpaio had begun setting up a nursery at Tent City in anticipation of those bills passing.

Other defeated bills would have kept "illegals" out of state universities, community colleges, and even public schools.  They would have also kept these individuals from driving on public roads.  Sixty Arizona business chief executives sent letters to legislators asking them to vote down the measures because they felt they would be harmful to business.  Enough Republicans agreed with that assessment to join with Democrats and defeat the bills.  Senate President Pearce was not happy.  He huffed and puffed that he stood with "the citizens of Arizona and not a bunch of businessmen that write me a letter."

Arizona's wall of intolerance is beginning to show some cracks - and the same is happening nationally.

Republicans in Wisconsin were shocked this week to find that Democrats there are much more fired up than the GOP when it comes to organizing for recall elections - and the GOP is likely to be swept from power there in short order.  Nationally, Republicans held a "special" vote in Congress to defund National Public Radio and Public Television - a move that will save a whopping $10 million a year from something that actually benefits people, but the same cretins voted in lockstep to continue giving government money to big oil companies.  Now people are even beginning to openly discuss the cost of the the never-ending wars in the Middle East - $400 million a day in Afghanistan a day.  Four hundred million dollars a day!

The fog is lifting, the sun is coming out, and someone is going to have to answer to all of this stupidity and hate that has paralyzed the nation for so long - and it's about damned time!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Crazy Stupid

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

If there was ever a time when all Americans need to rise up and stand together, shoulder-to-shoulder, in angry indignation over the sins and stupidity of our government, surely it is now.

For more than a decade we have watched in almost complete silence as government bureaucrats and political appointees scratched through scientific documents and replaced statements backed by rigorous research with agenda-driven political drivel.  We have stood by like so many poop-stained statues of politicial whores while morons railed against the concept of global warming because it snowed once last winter, or fought against the needs of the environment because Jesus would be arriving at any minute so there was no point in wasting money to protect the planet.   We have seen the fable of "creationism" challenging the fact of evolution for space in our children's textbooks - with the backing of state governments.  We have born witness to state and local governments eagerly legislating racism,and  guaranteeing the rights of almost anyone to carry a gun almost anyplace - sometimes without permits or even rudimentary training in how to use firearms.

It's crazy - crazy stupid!  And it's getting crazier and stupider!

A few months ago President Obama, whose timing was piss-poor, went to Congress asking for $4 billion in loans to help kick-start the new construction of nuclear power reactors - as if the big energy companies need any public money.  Two of the first projects will be located on the Texas Gulf Coast - and they will be constructed and managed in part by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the same firm that operates the units in Japan that are currently in melt-down mode.

If the teabaggers are serious about cutting the budget, here's hoping they take a look at that line item.  This is not the time to be building nuclear reactors - this is the time to be shutting them down.  This is the time to roll up our collective sleeves and get serious about alternative energies.  The wastelands of the western United States should be sparkling with millions of solar panels.  The Dakotas, where the wind never stops blowing, should have windmills turning as far as the can see.  The churning waters of the Atlantic and Pacific should be generating power each time a wave comes crashing ashore or rushing back to sea.

Those technologies exist today.  The only thing missing is the public will to move forward - and that inertia is due primarily to the obstinacy of our legislators and their corporate masters.  Big oil companies want to keep pumping until the last drop is gone, and damn the consequences!   And if it takes wars in foreign lands to expand their supplies and routes - well, damn those consequences, too!  Electric companies get a bigger and quicker return on nuclear - especially if they are being subsidized (like the oil companies) by the taxpayers.  Sadly, the teabaggers who live with the delusion that they speak for the little guy, but in fact are tools of corporate America, fight the very people who could actually bring down the national debt - the greens, the anti-war groups, and the rare news sources (like NPR) that aren't themselves lackeys of corporate America.

The American Gulf Coast suffered enough carnage at the hands of BP, Halliburton, and Trans-Ocean just last year.  Surely the people who fish, and shrimp, and scratch for a living along those shores have done nothing so vile as to warrant the attentions of the Tokyo Electric Power Company.

Enough already!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

CNN Quick Vote on Humanity

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist has a feature on its homepage that usually draws my interest.  The "Quickvote" is a poll of readers, totally unscientific, that gages opinion on topics of current interest.  Topics might range from the craziness of Charlie Sheen or Michele Bachmann to more serious matters like the popular uprisings in the Middle East.  Usually these polls are up for the better part of a day and garner a couple of hundred thousand votes.

Today CNN posted a Quickvote question that I found to be really thought-provoking.  The question was, in essence, "If you could save lives by going into a damaged nuclear reactor and shutting it down, even if you knew that would cost your own life, would you do it?"    Unbelievably, the network pulled that really great question down after only a couple of hours.  The vote at the time I ran across the poll was was 51% yes to 49% no with roughly 10,000 votes having been cast.

The question was almost a no-brainer to this old fart who came of age in the sixties.  Of course I would,  That is ultimately why we are here - to make the world a better place, peacefully.  But half of the respondents thought differently.

I would like to see Gallup or some other scientific polling firm take on that same question and then display the demographics of the responders.  How would the people who aggressively support nuclear energy respond to the question?  What about the "Praise Jeezus and Pass the Ammunition" crowd?  Are they even remotely interested in saving others?  How does it break down between Democrats and Republicans, between NPR and Fox News listeners, among various religions?  How do the opinions of today's twenty-somethings compare to those of their parents - or of their grandparents?  Does educational level or net worth make a difference in whether a person would be more likely to make the ultimate sacrifice to save others?

And when all of that gets settled, then we can return to worrying about Lindsay's kleptomania, Bieber's haircut, and Kate's wedding dress!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sarah Palin Threatens to Move to Arizona

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Poor Arizona just can't catch a break.  The Scorpion State already has more than its fair share of gun-toting Neanderthals and other miscreants, many of whom serve in the state's legislature, but now America's intellectual wasteland is being threatened with the possibility of becoming home to yet another right-wing, agenda driven, joke of a politician.  Sarah Palin says that she owns a house in the Phoenix area and may just move south!

Local newshounds report that there are four homes in Maricopa County owned by people with the last name of Palin.  None owned by a Sarah Palin, but one owned by a person with the same name as her sister, and another owned by a person with the same name as her father.  And Bristol, of course, has also announced that she is buying a luxurious distressed property there as well - getting a bargain off of somebody else's misfortune.

One story has it that Sarah is planning to base a Presidential campaign out of Scottsdale, though a Palin candidacy seems to become less likely with each passing day.   Maybe she has realized that being President would probably involve more than just proficiency in Twitter and Facebook.  Being governor of Alaska was a bit too daunting, so being President might be a real drag - and take away from her lucrative speechifying career.  And now that Todd has a hobby, he might be too wrapped  up in other things to be of much help with Cabinet meetings and the like.

The other story is that Sarah wants to move to Arizona so that she can run for John Kyl's senate seat, and while the sand goobers would elect her quickly and think they had a prize - again, it would be too much work to actually be a senator.

My theory is that the Idaho native has worn out her welcome in Alaska.  She quit her job there as governor after serving only half of a term - and her personal choice for the Senate from Alaska, Joe Miller, was beaten by a write-in.   There appears to be writing on the wall, and even Sarah can read it.

If Sarah Palin is heading south, it is more likely for the fun in the sun and the warm, neighborly friendships that she can develop with people like Jan Brewer, Joe Arpaio, and Russell Pearce.  Birds of a feather prey together - and chew on the same carcasses.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Great Tsunami of Atlantis

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

As the horror in Japan keeps unfolding before our bewildered eyes, the power and wrath of nature reminds us of just how small and inconsequential mankind really is.  Someday we will bring an end to our own existence on this planet through greed and stupidity, and a few short years after that nature will have erased most of the evidence that we were ever here.

There was an historical story on the Internet today that touched on the subject of tsunami's.   The premise was that the legendary city of Atlantis, referenced by Plato 2,600 years ago, actually did exist - but instead of being swallowed up by the sea as Plato described, it more accurately fell victim to a tsunami and is now buried in ancient mud in southern Spain.  The National Geographic Channel will soon air a special on this amazing archaeological endeavor entitled "Finding Atlantis."

The horrific images out of Japan are circulating the globe in milliseconds thanks to the power of the Internet and electronic communications, and they almost make it feel that these natural disasters arose with the same technology that reports them.  Tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, and even tsunami's have been occurring almost since the day the planet was formed in the wake of the Big Bang - and it was a helluva lot longer than six thousand years ago!  These events are old news in the cosmic order of things, and they are nature's less than subtle way of reminding us that she is still the boss!

The more we screw with nature - by insisting on driving gasoline-powered automobiles, building nuclear reactors, or creating massive cities along the seacoasts - the sooner our lease here will expire.  When that happens there will be no Plato's left to record our demise, nor any students left to read about it.  We will effectively have extinguished ourselves.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Hell and High Water

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Things are still quiet here, unusually so.  This is Sunday evening, and I suspect that tomorrow as everyone heads back to work we will all begin to feel some sense of normalcy.  Work does that to a person!

Yesterday's Stars and Stripes, our daily newspaper, looked almost like a tabloid.  The cover page was one large color photograph of carnage and burning houses in Japan with the caption "Hell and High Water."  Inside were several other photos similar to ones that have been circulating over the Internet - our other daily news source.  The newspaper contained a notice that U.S. forces in the Pacific are readying themselves to help with disaster relief in Japan.   The proximity of Okinawa to mainland Japan makes it almost a certainty that Kadena Air Base - where I work - will be a major player in the relief effort.

One statistic that I gleaned from yesterday's edition of the Stars and Stripes is that there are 86,000 service members and civilian defense employees  currently residing in Japan - many of whom have family members living here with them.

The newspaper coverage stated that there has been no significant damage to U.S. ships, aircraft, or facilities.  The U.S. Air Base at Misawa  lost electricity and telecommunications.  Some civilian flights were routed away from Narita Airport (which is just outside of Tokyo) due to damaged terminals, and those planes were re-directed to the U. S. Air Base at Yokota which is also near Tokyo.  (Narita is the terminal where people heading to Okinawa are most likely to land and clear customs before heading on south.)

Clearly the situation with the nuclear reactor is ominous, with some press reports stating that it is in the process of a meltdown.  This, just as the United States is trying to whip up public support for building more nuclear reactors!  Earthquakes can happen anywhere - even in the central United States.

For those old friends who remember Mineko, the exchange student who lived with our family thirty years ago, she is fine.  Mineko lives in the Tokyo area.  She was home alone when the earthquake hit, and said that items flew from her cupboards and smashed on the floor, but she and those close to her escaped the devastation unharmed.

I haven't heard anything about aftershocks today, so maybe the worst is over.  For the moment, calm prevails.  Please keep Japan and her wonderful people in your thoughts and prayers.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Situation on Okinawa

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Below is the text of an email that I just sent out to friends and family.  It will have to serve as today's blogpost.  If there are any significant updates from this part of the world I will post them on Twitter @PaRock.

Hello All, 
First of all, I am fine and the Japanese Prefecture of Okinawa where I reside appears to have come through the current earthquake crisis without a scratch.  However, aftershocks are still rocking mainland Japan, so Okinawa could yet experience some of the natural disaster turmoil that is spreading across Japan.  At this point I feel relatively confident that we are in no danger here, but my heart breaks over the devastation that has struck Japan. 
Six years ago when the disastrous earthquake hit Indonesia, my response was to send a donation to Doctors Without Borders, a group of selfless and dedicated humanitarians who are often the first helping agency to make it into a region after a catastrophe happens.  I remain so impressed with the good work that this group does, that I send them a small, automatic donation on a monthly basis.  If you want to do something that would directly be of benefit to the earthquake victims, I recommend Doctors Without Borders.  The Red Cross and UNICEF are also quick to respond to these natural emergencies. 
(As I was writing this sirens began going off in my neighborhood.  I walked out onto my sixth floor balcony - that has a clear view of the East China Sea - and saw nothing significant - except for a long line of commercial ships and boats that appear to be parked across the horizon.   I have been out and about today and the most noticeable difference that I observed is that weekend traffic is much lighter than usual.  Okinawans scoff at typhoons and go right on driving through the torrents of wind and rain, but this earthquake and tsunami stuff seems to have them spooked.) 
Thank you for the emails and phone calls of concern.  I feel safe in my current environment and am not overly concerned.  Mainland Japan, however, remains a major worry.  Please consider sending them a couple of dollars for the relief effort if you are able - and keep the people living on Japan in your prayers. 

My best to you all.

Okinawan Tsunami Watch 2011

by Pa Rock
Nature Freak

Japan, which sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, has had some major earthquakes this week, including a colossal 8.9 jumbo quake a couple of hours ago that was centered in the Pacific close to Tokyo.  Internet footage shows some frightful destruction in and around Tokyo.  The Japanese capital was basically rebuilt from the ground up after World War II, with most buildings being carefully constructed to minimize earthquake damage - so the fact that there was so much havoc and destruction from the one today is extra concerning.

I was at work when the big one struck, and we felt nothing.  Okinawa, a Japanese prefecture (state), is also known for its sturdy buildings.  I live on the sixth floor of an eight-story apartment building that is so well made that I am confident that nothing short of a Bruce Willis disaster movie could bring it down.

(Since moving here last summer, I have felt two mild quakes - both in the morning while I was still in bed.  If I had been up I might have not even noticed, but the minor earthquakes caused my bed to gently sway for five seconds or so.)

There is talk on television and radio about tsunami warnings across the Pacific and as far out as Hawaii.  Estimates are for a wave anywhere between 20 inches and 20 feet to roll ashore here.   The latest prediction is that it will hit Okinawa at 6:12 p.m.  Current time is 5:29 p.m.  My apartment faces the East China Sea, but I plan to be on the balcony with my new binoculars just in case.

Little cars with loudspeakers are in the streets.  Unfortunately whatever they are blaring about is in Japanese.  They are probably rattling on about the tsunami alert, but they could also be giving political speeches or talking of a big sale at the Jusco Department Store.  Oh how I wish these Okinawans would do me the courtesy of speaking English - as God intended!

I have pumped up my large air mattress just in case.  The Great Tsunami of 2011 might provide a great opportunity to visit Taiwan!


Thursday, March 10, 2011

State Senator Dale Schultz Redeems Himself

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Yesterday I correctly identified State Senator Dale Schultz as one of three Wisconsin legislators who had personally benefited from federal farm subsidies.  Senators Shultz, Olson, and Harsdorf did collectively take in more than $300,000 in federal money over a period of several years.  I felt that their personal affinity for public money was somewhat hypocritical considering that they were part of the evil cabal trying to strip teachers and public employees of their right to bargain collectively.

Well, while I was right about the money end of the equation, I was wrong with regard to the intent of Senator Schultz.  It turns out that the Republican Schultz is somewhat of a political anomaly - a moderate Republican.

This afternoon as the Wisconsin state senate used a shameless parliamentary trick to strip teachers and public employees of their rights to bargain collectively, one lone Republican stood up against that outrage:  State Senator Dale Schultz.

Mea culpa, Senator Schultz.  While I will never be a fan of farm subsidies, I rise to acknowledge your act of political courage.  You, sir, are a good man.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

GOP Senators Put the "Con" in "Wisconsin"

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

While Republican state legislators and other teabagger riffraff in Wisconsin are busy vilifying school teachers and state workers for expecting to receive a living wage and a modicum of respect for their public service, at least three of those same legislators have been shamelessly bellying up to the public trough and then loathe to admit it.

The story broke today that three Wisconsin state senators, all Republicans, have been sucking down considerable amounts of federal farm subsidies.  State Senators Luther Olson, Dale Schultz, and Sheila Harsdorf have all been pocketing government handouts for several years.  In fact, from 1995 through 2009, this trio of dedicated public servants managed to grab a total of more that $300,000!  And if that wasn't embarrassing enough, then they went and got themselves elected to the state legislature where the public would pay for their health insurance and fund their retirements.


And what do Wisconsin teachers get?  Ridicule!

The reporter working this story placed several calls to offices of Olson, Schultz, and Harsdorf.  Not surprisingly, none of the calls were returned.   Some things just aren't comfortable to talk about.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Rush Doth Protest Too Much

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

This evening as I reached across the front seat of my little car to perform my daily ritual of turning off Rush Limbaugh, I detected a quiver in his delivery that caused me to stall the termination.   To my complete shock, I quickly observed that the bully of the airwaves was on the defense - big time!  The Rushbag was roaring and whining about some Internet story which claimed that his radio show has used hired actors to call in with questions - questions which would lead him into his pre-selected rant of the day.   One of the points he seemed determined to make was that the story had originated with a "Jewish" Internet magazine.

Rush exploded over and over that the story just wasn't true.  His program, he groaned and moaned, is entirely unscripted.  But, even if that is true (and his lips were moving, so I doubt that it is), the show is certainly not totally spontaneous.  Rushbag made several references to his "call screeners."

I regret dipping into this particular rancid pile of manure when there are so many more socially relevant issues that beg attention - Charlie Sheen, for example - but paying homage to Rush on Fat Tuesday just feels so right!  Now I will swear off mentioning Rush for forty days.  If only the rest of America would do their fasting in the same manner!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Bernie Sanders is Still Speaking

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Bernie Sanders, the irascible Senator from Vermont who is also the longest-serving political independent to ever sit in Congress, made news back in December when he took the floor in the Senate and spoke out against the shyster tax deal that Republicans demanded - the deal that kept the richest among us from having to return to the older, slightly higher tax rates.  Trickle down, trickle down, trickle down - they shouted.  Bullshit, Bernie replied, ad infinitum.

Today America's Senator was on the warpath again, with his arrows still flying at the same slimy target - America's richest (people and corporations) who seem to feel no sense of duty or shame when it comes to pulling their fair share of the tax load.  In response to all of the ludicrous and nonsensical proposed budget cuts that have been being bandied about, which, taken in total, would have a less than negligible effect on reducing the deficit, Senator Sanders suggested something that would bring some serious money into the treasury.  His plan would be to place a 5.4% surtax on adjusted gross incomes of more that $1 million - a plan the he says would generate as much as $50 billion a year in new income.  He is also proposing an end to tax breaks for big oil and gas companies - a total heresy in the Republican prayer book.

The good Senator makes his case thusly:

At a time when the wealthiest people in this country are doing phenomenally well, when the effective federal tax rates for the richest Americans are the lowest on record, and when the top 2 percent have received hundreds of billions in tax breaks in recent years, it is unacceptable that those in our society who have the most are not contributing in the effort to reduce our deficit. It would be morally wrong for the United States Congress to move toward a balanced budget on the backs of the most vulnerable people in our society while asking nothing from the wealthiest. 

So while Rome burns, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell and the rest of the usual suspects are busy whittling away at NPR, education, health care, programs for veterans, school lunches, union pensions, Social Security, Medicaid, and anything else that does not contribute directly to their campaign coffers.   But when it comes to a vote on whether to end the federal subsidies of big gas and oil companies - like it did last week - the Republicans in the House voted unanimously to keep giving those greedy bastards our money.  And when it comes to rolling back tax cuts for the very richest among us and asking them to do their share - they are opposed in lock-step.

Hey you right-wing goobers:  wave the flag, protect the rich, stockpile guns, and praise Jesus - and if you can malign gays, the poor, or minorities while you are at it, well that's just gravy!  Don't worry about that silly Golden Rule, shoving camels through the eyes of needles, or any of that lefty stuff.  The true purpose of life is to get yours and screw everybody else, right?

How sad that you disparage the religion that you tout so loudly.

Keep talking Bernie - and thank you for worrying about the rest of us!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Where Do I Donate?

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

A scraggly bunch of protesters calling itself the "Texas Nationalist Movement" is demanding a statewide vote on the topic of secession.   The small but loud contingent of unhappy rabble is upset with federal mandates and taxes.  They feel that the government in Washington, D.C. has gotten out of control and is spending their hard earned taxes on things that they don't want.

I, for one, would like for the national government to be relieved of the responsibility of taking care of Texas - and Arizona, too, for that matter.  Let them manage their own affairs, maintain their own highways, hospitals, schools, universities, prisons, postal delivery, and national defense, while meeting the needs of their poor, sick, and elderly.  I predict that it would be a sobering experience.

Hey, yahoos, if you get this piece of nonsense to the ballot, put me down for a donation!

And if you find that governing yourselves ain't all that you'd imagined, check out the possibility of joining Mexico - then I would definitely support that danged fence!

Republicans Goings Nuts

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Republican members of the House of Representatives voted unanimously this week to extend federal subsidies to the big oil and gas companies - while continuing to whittle away at the little things in the budget that they don't like.  One boneheaded congressman from Colorado is pushing a bill that would defund National Public Radio (NPR), ostensibly to save money, though the few dollars saved wouldn't fund our wars in the Middle East for more than ten minutes.  And they're busy trying to kill Planned Parenthood, keep the old style light bulbs, and yank the tracks out from under high-speed rail.

The Republican agenda is actually quite simple:  Kill anything that benefits humanity, do anything that could help cause President Obama to fail - and fuck anyone who gets in the way!

The current poster boy for all of this idiocy is Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, the goober who is out trying to bust public service unions.  The worm has apparently turned in Walker's state and a majority of the public  is now giving him a strong disapproval rating - even in conservative polls.  But the knucklehead governor is on a mission from God and will not be deterred by falling polls or basic decency.

Other states are gearing up to bust unions while hiding behind the phony mantra of "saving money."  Some are making abortion their issue of choice.   (Governor Walker is also writing Planned Parenthood out of the state's budget.)   Governor Scott of Florida is making his stand by turning down federal money for high-speed rails - something that would bring jobs and tourists to his state.  Florida politicians from both parties are slamming Scott over that move - knowing that Florida's share of the high-speed rail money will now go to other states.

And then there are the racist legislators in Arizona who have cranked out enough anti-immigrant and pro-gun bills during this session of the legislature to wallpaper the Capitol!

Republicans like war and big oil, and they enthusiastically throw trillions of dollars into those black holes without so much as a second thought.  They like God, and guns, and any issue that will distract the rubes.  What they do not like is spending pennies on programs that actually benefit humanity.  They portray those are wasteful, or worse yet, "socialist."   They support big business - their base, and things that help them directly - such as health care for state legislators and Members of Congress.  But health care for regular folks is something that should be purchased by those little guys from the insurance companies that the big guys own.

It's a racket.

The fact that Republicans treat America's underclass with such outrageous contempt speaks volumes about the true commitment to Christianity.  If Jesus does come back, somebody is going to get smoked - and my money says it won't be the meek, and the poor, and the powerless!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Books for Idiots

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Books were once literary achievements penned by intellectual giants.  People like Jack London, Edith Wharton, Charlotte and Emily Bronte, John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, and Mark Twain told us tales and eternal truths of the human condition that challenged us to recognize the plight of others and work to make society a better place for all.

Today there are still some fine authors carefully crafting their thoughts into tomorrow's masterpieces, but there are also quite a few typists out there pounding crap into cheap paperbacks with the sole intent of shameless self-promotion.  This is especially true of the political classes.  When a politician has his or her eye on the Presidency, for example, a book on the market serves several purposes.  It puts his name on the book shelves, gets him invited onto talk shows to peddle his bound pages, provides a ticket and a reason for going into places that might otherwise be hard to justify - like New Hampshire or Iowa - and lets him fashion a printed philosophy designed purely to incite the rubes.

Yes, Democrats are almost as likely as Republicans to suddenly claim to be authors, but they are very unlikely to be invited onto Fox News, by each other, to plug their lame efforts.  Republicans have turned cranking out nonsense cloaked as books into an art form.

As a case in point, let's look at the five Fox news personalities that I mentioned yesterday:  Gingrich, Santorum, Bolton, Huckabee, and Palin.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is actually a history professor (of sorts) who has written a couple of historical volumes - primarily about George Washington and the Second World War.  But Newt is currently focused on politics.  Here is a sampler of what he has been grinding out over the past five years:  Rediscovering God in America:  Reflections on the Role of Faith in Our Nation's History (2006), Real Change:  The Fight for America's Future (2009), and  To Save America:  Stopping Obama's Secular-Socialist Machine (2011).  Notice how the author manages to squeeze the entire thrust of his message into the title?  Most of the following use the same technique - a short, crisp title, followed by a colon and a colorful harangue.

Little Ricky Santorum, former Senator from Pennsylvania, hasn't had a book on the market since 2006, but he wants to be President in the worst way - the only way he could possibly be President - so I would expect that he has something about ready to go to press.   Santorum's three most recent print endeavors appear to be:  It Takes a Family:  Conservatism and the Common Good (2005), Rick Santorum (2005), and Darwin's Nemesis:  Phillip Johnson and the Intelligent Design Movement (2006) which he wrote with William A. Dembski.  So, in case you have any doubts, Little Ricky is a conservative Catholic with a houseful of kids who doesn't believe in any of that evolutionary crap.  And, by authoring a book in which his name is the entire title, one might also suppose that he has a bit of an ego!

John Bolton, former Ambassador to the United Nations - the one appointed by George Bush but never confirmed by the Senate - has put out two titles in the past four years:  Surrender is not an Option:  Defending America at the United Nations (2007), and How Barack Obama is Endangering our National Sovereignty (2010).   How sad that we as a nation had to have someone of Bolton's limited world view representing us at the United Nations.   Fortunately, the President gaveth and the Senate tooketh away!

Mike Huckabee, former Governor of Arkansas, like Gingrich, had a career outside of politics, albeit a very similar career.  He was a minister where, like a politician, his survival was dependent upon being able to root his way up to the public trough where he was supported by the kindness of others.  So Huckabee has a couple of books out on things like Christmas and religion, but he is also focused on keeping his face before the redneck public.  Huckabee's four most recent political diatribes are:  From Hope to Higher Ground:  12 Steps to Restoring America's Greatness (2007), Do the Right Thing:  Inside the Movement that's Bringing Common Sense Back to America (2008), Character Makes a Difference:  Where I'm From, Where I've Been, and What I Believe (2009), and A Simple Government:  Twelve Things We Really Need from Washington (and a Trillion that We Don't! (2011).  Obviously the Reverend Mister Huckabee has some sort of hangup (or history) with 12-step programs.  And, for those who didn't make the connection with the first title, he is from the town of Hope, Arkansas, the same small community that foisted Bubba Clinton on an unsuspecting world.

Then there's Sarah.  The former half-term Governor of Alaska who commented recently on the "country" of Africa, is probably not a great consumer of books -  to state the obvious - but she has authored two with the able assistance of ghostwriters.  Sarah's contribution to American literature include:  Going Rogue:  An American Life (2009) and America by Heart:  Reflections of Family, Faith, and Flag (2010).  Sarah, being Sarah, probably has somebody chained to the keyboard at this very moment writing her third magnum opus.

And speaking of Alaska's most famous family of grifters:  Bristol Palin also has her own book deal.  She is too young to run for President, or even Congress, but the new Arizona resident knows the value of getting her name out before the public.  And who knows, she may even decide to run for Congress from Arizona in a couple of years - when she tires of the tedious college party circuit.   She dances almost as well as Tom DeLay, and has almost as much political gravitas as Ben Quayle!  What a natural!

Happy reading!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Five Fox "Journalists" with White House Dreams

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalists

In a bit of surprisingly ethical behavior, Fox News (sic) announced today that they were temporarily suspending two of their journalists (sic) because they appear to be preparing to enter the Presidential race.  Newt Gingrich and Little Ricky Santorum will be on some type of leave until their political mud starts to settle.  Left unsaid, of course, is what the news network (sic) plans to do with the rest of their journalists (sic) who are also itching to run for President:  John Bolton, Mike Huckabee, and Sarah Palin.

Working at Fox must be very inspiring.   What other network can boast of such a fine stable of dedicated news hounds willing to sacrifice their journalistic integrity (really big SIC!) in pursuit of public service?  Of course Fox, being "fair and balanced," undoubtedly has five intelligent, liberal journalists waiting in the wings poised to take their place!

You betcha, they do!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Mike Huckabee: Dumber than a Box of Birthers!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Mike Huckabee, the slickest politician to come out of Arkansas since Bubba Clinton, claims that he is not a birther.  He believes, and rightly so, that if Barack Obama had been born outside of the United States, the Clinton political machine would have discovered and used the information to get the nomination for Hillary.  But, that being said, Huckabee doesn't want to get too far away from his base - the lunatic fringe of the hateful Christian branch of the Republican Party.

Huckabee, a Fox News paid talking head, may or may not be running for President, and he is always peddling a book, so with the twin goals of stroking the idiots and making a few bucks, he called into The Steve Malzberg Show on Monday.  The host, a rabid right-winger, tried to get Huckabee to committee to the notion that Obama was born outside of he United States, and while the wily politician would not take that bait, he did get off on a tangent about Obama having a different world view from most Americans because he grew up in Kenya.

With the exception of a four-year stint with his family living in Indonesia (which is no where near Kenya), President Obama grew up in the United States of America.  Huckabee's comment was wrong, dead wrong - or as they might say in Arkansas, pure horseshit.  Interestingly though, the radio mudslinger never challenged the Fox News talker on his erroneous facts and went on breathlessly disparaging the President over something that had no basis in fact.

Of course, the whole birtherism "movement," which only seems to resonate with the more deranged elements of the Republican Party, has no basis in fact.  Facts are nothing more than troublesome diversions from their delicious paranoid delusions.

It is troubling that a man who fancies himself as ready to lead the free world feels the need to pander to idiots.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Death of a Full-Figured, Teetotal, Mean-Spirited, Right-Wing, Narrow-Minded, Conservative Christian Bigot Gal

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Jane Russell died this week at the age of eighty-nine.  The legendary Hollywood starlet was discovered by the equally legendary Howard Hughes who signed her to a seven-year-contract in 1940.  Hughes put Russell in his movie, The Outlaw, in 1941, but the film was not released until 1943 - and then only to limited circulation - due to the censors' concern over Miss Russell's 36-D assets.  All of the hoopla over her statuesqueness resulted in Jane Russell becoming one of the GI's favorite pin-up girls during World War II.

But, The Outlaw aside, Jane Russell is primarily remembered for playing opposite of Marilyn Monroe in 1953's Gentlemen Prefer Blonds, proving that she was capable of singing and being funny on film.  Russell and Monroe wowed moviegoers as the "Two Little Girls from Little Rock" who had the commonsense to know that "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend."

Miss Russell didn't do much professionally during the last few decades, and is best remembered in her later years for being the television spokesperson for Playtex Cross-Your-Heart Bras for "us full-figured gals."

Jane Russell underwent a "back-alley" abortion when she was nineteen, a procedure that resulted in her never being able to conceive again.  She and her high school sweetheart went on to adopt three children, and she became an advocate for adoption.

In reading the obituaries on this Hollywood icon I was surprised to learn that she was from the conservative wing of the film industry, perhaps a true acolyte of her mentor, Mr. Hughes.  Unbelievably, she was an opponent of abortion, even though she had personal experience with the horrors of the types of practice that often result when the procedure is made illegal or inaccessible.  She came of age in the film industry when America was focused on fighting communism, and she allied herself with the political philosophies of people like Charlton Heston and Ronald Reagan.  She said that she regarded Hollywood Democrats as "crazy."  She was also a supporter of George Bush's wars in the Middle East.

In 2003 Jane Russell went a long way toward penning her own epitaph when she described herself as "a teetotal, mean-spirited, right-wing, narrow-minded, conservative Christian bigot."  It's a good thing that she was blessed with a 36-D to balance things out!

As for me, I choose to remember Jane Russell as one of the "Two Little Girls from Little Rock" - a delightful comedienne who could hold her own on film with the likes of Marilyn Monroe.