Saturday, April 30, 2011

Tom Tancredo's New Conspiracy Theory

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Former Colorado congressman Tom Tancredo, who earned his street cred raving about illegal immigrants, is having trouble playing nice - particularly when it comes to President Obama.

Last October the bellicose Tancredo referred to the President as "a greater threat to the country than Al Qaeda."    He has also suggested sending the President "back to" Kenya.  But now the long-form birth certificate is out for all to see, and anyone with a lick of sense knows that President Obama is not an illegal immigrant, and is, in fact, a natural-born American citizen.  This would be a great time for Tom Tancredo and thousands like him to apologize and move on.

But don't hold your breath waiting for civil discourse to prevail.

Now Tancredo is putting out a new conspiracy theory - this one saying that crafty Obama had the long-form birth certificate all along, but kept it private so that the Republican Party would look like a bunch of nuts.

Tom, there are so many things that make the Republican Party look nuts:  the racism of the tea baggers and birthers, anti-immigrant craziness in Arizona, total insanity and union-busting in Wisconsin and Ohio, the war on Medicare and Medicaid, the attacks on NPR and Planned Parenthood, rabid support of two never-ending wars, tax breaks for America's richest individuals and big corporations, hate disguised as religion, John Boehner, Rush Limbaugh, the Koch brothers, and, of course, you.   And yes, Obama's intelligence and quick wit also weighs in heavily against your party.

Many in the Republican Party knew all along that birtherism was going to rise up and bite them in the butt.  Ken Buck, also a Coloradan who ran unsuccessfully as a Republican for the U.S. Senate last year was overheard telling an aid,  "Tell those dumb asses at the Tea Party to stop asking questions about birth certificates while I'm on camera!"  Ouch!

Now I'm going to sit back and calmly wait on Donald Trump to produce his tax returns.  Popcorn, anyone?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Kiko and the Battle of Okinawa

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The Kadena Base Exchange as well as most other Base and Post Exchanges world-wide have annex areas on their property where local vendors lease stores and floor  space to sell their wares.  Last year I had shopped at one of these annex stores at Kadena and came away with some great oriental goods for holiday gifts.  A pleasant, older lady had waited on  me then.  Today when I went back into that same store to look around, she was again on duty.

The Okinawan saleslady was obviously somebody's revered grandmother.  She was stylishly dressed, and her white hair had strong hints of lavender and even a bit of pink.   She was puttering around dusting, but as I was her only customer and had already selected a couple of items to purchase, she quickly engaged in conversation.

Kiko told me that she was born on Okinawa in 1937 and had been eight-years-old during the Battle of Okinawa.  I already knew some of how brutal things were during the war for the residents of Okinawa.  They were subjects of the Japanese at the outbreak of the war, though Okinawa had been an independent kingdom for several hundred years and most did not really consider themselves to be Japanese.  But the Japanese brought its war machine to Okinawa in full-force in a final all-out attempt to keep the Americans from reaching the Japanese mainland.

Some of the worst fighting of the war occurred on this small island during the nearly three months that the battle raged.  Okinawan men were conscripted into the Japanese military, and their families were left to fend for themselves.  By the time the siege had ended, the island was decimated and the locals who survived were literally living hand-to-mouth.

Kiko told me that she was born in Yomitan City, a community about ten miles north of the present Kadena Air Base.  She had four brothers who were taken south to fight in defense of the capital, Naha, and of those four, only one survived the battle.  She said that she and her mother fled Yomitan, along with many others, and headed north to the larger city of Nago on foot.  She said they would walk all night and hide during the day.

Kiko said that after the Americans won the battle they began gathering up the locals.  She said that she and her mother were captured and placed in a large military truck and taken to a camp.  She was very scared.  When they arrived at a camp, the Americans tried to feed her, but her mother told her that she must not eat what they were providing.  She said one American tried to give her a chocolate bar, but when her mother stopped her from taking it, the GI unwrapped it and took a bite himself to show that it was okay.  Then, she said, her mother permitted her to eat the candy.

Kiko-san had a lovely smile and even managed to laugh a few times as she told me her war story.  She said that after she grew up she moved to mainland Japan for a few years, but finally came home to Okinawa.  Although at seventy-three she could be retired, she didn't want to be at home doing nothing.  Today she has two part-time jobs - one at the Kadena Airport, and the other selling goods and chatting with Americans at the Base Exchange.  She said that she likes Americans very much.

And I liked her!

Birther Freak Show Rolls On

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

It's finally happened.  For months, and months, and months America's crazy birthers have said that all President has to do to prove he is a natural-born citizen is to produce his "long-form" birth certificate.  If the President is a real American, just show us that birth certificate and we'll go back to being nice, rational human beings.

Well, today Barack Obama did just that, and predictably, it still isn't enough to satisfy the freak show.  In fact, Obama said back when this thing started that there would be no convincing some of these people - no matter what documentation he produced.  Obsessions die hard.

The story goes something like this:

The Obama administration, tired of the cable news mentality of focusing only on celebrity gossip, political intrigues, and conspiracies fueled by ego-maniacal publicity-seekers, asked the state of Hawaii for permission to circumvent their established policy of not releasing the long-forms so that he could plunk his down for public perusal.  Donald Trump, a reality show host who is using the birthers for political gain and increased ratings, immediately took this lemon and stirred up a pitcher of lemonade.  The Donald told anyone who would listen, that he personally had forced Obama's hand.  Oh, the omnipotence of Donald Trump!  How has America survived two-and-a-half centuries without him?

Then Sarah Palin chimed in with her take on the matter which was basically that the whole birther mess was engineered by the President for political purposes.  He wanted to create a situation in which some of his political enemies would look like doofus hicks.  A few members of the House Republican leadership echoed similar sentiments.  That Obama is such a shifty political devil!

Many Republican's, of course, are happy to see birtherism dealt a death blow - that's one less contingent of kooks to deal with in 2012.  Problem is,the President was right - there is no way in hell that people who have committed two or more years of their lives to preaching this nonsense will be content to let it go.  They have a conspiracy gene embedded in their DNA.

The President talked to reporters Wednesday morning and lamented the fact that all of their networks had cut away from regular programming to broadcast his remarks on the birther story, but if he had walked into the morning news conference to discuss something really important, such as the budget, the regular programming would have continued.  After making his point about the shallowness of our major news sources, he went on to refer to the more prominent birthers as "carnival barkers."

So how did Orly Taitz, the queen of the carnival barkers, react to the President producing the evidence that she has been demanding for over two years?  Not surprisingly, she is not convinced.

Orly's first problem is with the way the document is written.  Barack Obama is referred to as "African" on the birth certificate, but Orly, who in addition to being a crackpot and a dentist, is apparently also some sort of historian.  She noted that the common usage at the time was Negro - not African.  She is also of a mind that a "natural-born citizen" in addition to being born on American soil, must also have two real American parents.  Orly has more new rules than Bill Mahr!

And so it goes.

Birtherism is as dead as Ken Lay, and it's time for the freak show to roll on down the road.   There ought to be a bus leaving for Roswell just about now!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Practicing Tolerance

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

A  prominent male chorus has recently had two of its members outed over sexual orientation, but the group handled the surprise with so much grace and acceptance that it ought to serve as an example for every other social organization in the country.  The Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles, an exemplary choir of male voices which performs nationally and internationally, has learned over the past few months that two of its members are straight.  And, refreshingly, the Chorus is open to individuals based on their singing ability, and even straights are welcome.

The two men, Chris Yraola and Jordan Bell, reported that they have had no trouble fitting into the group, even after coming out as straight, but Jordan did note that some of his straight friends outside of the Chorus questioned why he would want to belong the the gay group.  He told those questioning his decision, "...just because you're in a gay chorus doesn't mean you're gay.  I'm here because it's an outstanding chorus."

One wonders if a choir in a "Christian" fundamentalist church would be equally accepting of a gay member?  (Okay.  One doesn't really wonder!)

Lots of musical productions by the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles can be found on You Tube.  Check them out!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Finally, a Palin Book that I Might Actually Buy!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Levi Johnston. the former Crown Prince of Alaska, is out with a new book, a reported "tell-all" about his former almost-in-laws, the Palin's.  He said, quite modestly, that he penned this blockbuster wannabe "for me, my boy Tripp, and the country."

Well, Levi, speaking for myself alone, I thank you.  Carnival grifters have been a lifetime fascination mine.  I await your expose with baited breath!

Of course, Levi, you are as much a grifter as your Baby Mama, Bristol, and the great Sarah herself.  You have sold photos of your hockey-toned body to Playgirl Magazine while deftly  managing to keep your business asset hidden behind a ball glove.  (Didn't Sarah look down her beak and refer to that as "porn?")  Something tells me she probably has a more in-depth knowledge of pornography than she lets on.  Heck, maybe your book will address her and Todd's bedroom reading - hope so!

Bristol used her relationship to the freak show to manage a gig on Dancing with the Stars, and, of course, she has made more than a few dollars peddling the virtues of virginity.  Now she is even writing books.  (Those Alaska schools must be awfully damned awesome to produce so many young authors!)

And then, or course, there's the Mama Grizzly herself who has now officially written more books than she has read.  Sarah (or her designated typist) is writing for people who can't read, speaking to people who can't think, skillfully inciting masses of asses to unmitigated rudness, and doing it all while traveling first class and making big, obscene fees.  (Barnum said it best:   "There's a sucker born every minute.")  Sarah figured out really quickly where the money was at - and it wasn't in frittering away her time as Governor of Alaska.

So now you're an author.  I love the title of your book:  Deer in the Headlights:  My Life in Sarah  Palin's Crosshairs.  Crosshairs!  Ouch, that's gotta hurt!  Obviously your ghostwriter is much funnier than Sarah's!  I plan to buy a copy and then send it to you for an autograph - if that is alright with you - because I suspect that your book will be the cultural high-water mark of the Palin phenomenon.

I actually did buy one other book about Sarah Palin.  It was Going Rouge by the writers of The Nation Magazine.  Funny, funny stuff - and it threw the Fox noise machine into a tailspin as it tried to explain to people that Going Rouge wasn't actually Sarah's book - Going Rogue!    But, as Barnum said...

Monday, April 25, 2011

No Child Left with Dignity

by Pa Rock
Social Worker

Just when you think the teabilly agenda couldn’t get any meaner or crazier, along comes…State Senator Bruce Caswell of Michigan.

Senator Caswell, a white, male Republican extremist and noisemaker, has kicked his small mind into gear and come up with the newest high-water mark for hate legislation.  Caswell wants to deny new clothes to the children in Michigan’s foster care system.

That’s right, as if being in foster care isn’t stigmatizing enough on its own, Senator Caswell wants to kick these extremely vulnerable children one more time – just for good measure – so they understand how truly worthless they really are.  Good one, Brucie!

Most states provide a yearly allowance for clothing their foster kids.  It isn’t much, usually just a couple hundred dollars for a year – certainly not nearly the amount spent on an average child in a middle class family.  But those few dollars represent more than just a couple of outfits, new underwear, and maybe two pairs of shoes.  That money brings with it a modicum of self-esteem, an opportunity for the least among us to have a few nice things and not stand out quite so tragically when they encounter their new “normal” classmates at their new schools.

But enough of that liberal nonsense.  Senator Caswell says that foster kids should only be allowed to shop in second hand stores and thrift shops.  Why, Caswell says that he always had to wear used clothes while growing up – and look what it did for him!

Yes, if used clothing made Senator Caswell the man he is today, funding for new clothes for children in foster care ought to rise to the level of national crisis!

This is a personal issue for me.  I worked with kids in foster care for a dozen years and had the opportunity to witness firsthand, over and over, just how cold and dehumanizing that system can be.   The young people coming into care were predominantly poor (Yes, the rich also abuse their children, but they have lawyers who can hold the system at bay, whereas the poor go from being victimized by their parents, to an even scarier world where their lives are completely dependent of the kindness of strangers.)   They ride away from home in the backseat of a stranger’s car with usually nothing more than a few clothes and maybe a stuffed animal – all shoved carelessly into a black trash bag. (Sadly, in the child protection sector, black plastic bags are referred to as “foster kid luggage.” )  If they’re lucky, their siblings are with them, but that isn’t a guarantee.

I saw kids pulled from their homes and cast into households where they might or might not be treated with the love and respect that every child deserves.  Even the best of foster homes – and there are thousands of really good foster homes -  even in the best homes a foster child can never know for certain when a foster parent may suddenly get angry over something trivial and call a caseworker to come and take the child to yet another home.

I read once that, on average, an ordinary child in foster care will experience life in a minimum of six foster homes.  That’s six trips, usually late at night, in the backseat of a caseworker’s car, with one or two stuffed garbage bags, heading to another stranger’s home – and another placement.

No Bruce, don’t give the little bastards new clothes.  For their crime (being poor) they should live in orphanages and make their own shoes and clothes in factories that pay well below minimum wage.  Isn’t that part of what the American dream is all about?  Or is that just the Republican dream?

One item that I read said that Senator Caswell’s proposal would save the state of Michigan $9.9 million.  But, that same Michigan legislature where Mr. Caswell “works” is currently involved in giving $1.2 billion in tax breaks to businesses.  Now I know that is the Republican dream - pamper the wealthy and piss on the poor!

Senator Caswell, you are one arrogant and shameless excuse for a human being!

(A suggestion for practical retaliation:  Buy one nice suitcase and donate it to your local child protection agency.  Let's save the garbage bags for what comes out of these teabilliy legislatures!)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Things I Miss About Phoenix

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Last night two friends and I attended a play on Okinawa - a performance by a local group of theatre aficionados that used minimal props in an elementary school cafeteria to bring a bit culture to our corner of the Pacific.  It wasn't Broadway or the West End, but it was fun - and such a welcome break from the routine that seems to consume most of our time and energies.

I have been out here for nine months, and the thing that I miss most about the states is access to culture.  Phoenix, Arizona, while being a racist wasteland on the surface, does have intelligent elements of its citizenry who are intent on offering up more for the residents than the relentless drumbeat of hate.  There are a dozen or more good theatre venues in the Valley of Hell, and I had the pleasure of visiting many of them.  The Valley also boasts art galleries and a nationally renowned dance company.  And the all night jazz on the local NPR station, KJZZ, gave pure delight to sleepless nights!   It was also in Phoenix that I came within whispering distance of Marlo Thomas and Jimmy Carter, and was close enough to Barack Obama and Caroline Kennedy to be singed by their passion.

The other thing that I will always miss about Phoenix is my cadre of really good friends.  The people that I allowed into my life there will remain in my thoughts and memories for a lifetime.  They were a wonderfully selfless crew who would and did do almost anything to make my life in the desert bearable and fun.  It must have been the heat that forged such strong friendships!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Marine Corps Humor

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

This Saturday started off rainy on the island of Okinawa, but has fortunately cleared into a sunny and pleasant afternoon.

I have already made two trips across the highway to the Marine Corps Camp Foster - first to the PX where I did some unnecessary shopping while a friend got her toes and eyebrows attended to.  I left there with two shirts, a book, and a large padded enveloped that I later used to send my grandson a package for his birthday.  The second trip was to the post office at Camp Foster where I mailed off that package and a couple of cards to my daughter and daughter-in-law.

(Occasionally I get this spastic/palsy thing going with my hands that makes it almost impossible for me to write legibly, and today, unfortunately, was one of those days.  I tried very hard, but the cards to the girls went out looking like the worst efforts of the quickest kid in the kindergarten class!  Self diagnosis:  too much caffeine.)

It was during the trip to the post office that I observed a gem of Marine Corps humor.  A sign was posted next to the service counter that featured a drawing of a marine in full battle rattle along with the following statement:  "Nobody goes postal like a marine!"

Tonight two friends and I are headed to Camp Foster for dinner at the Macaroni Grill followed by a play.  A troupe of local players are putting on a post-modern production entitled 100 Lunches.  I am really looking forward to that cultural outing.

Friday, April 22, 2011

GOP Trump Card is a Joker

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

William Rivers Pitt is one of the finest political writers working in America.  He fillets American politicians and political movements deliberately and deftly, and then serves their boned carcasses up with delicious side orders of humor or biting sarcasm.  His columns at are guilty pleasures that always manage to light a fire under me - even on the most dreary of days.

Pitt's column at Truthout today focused on Donald Trump, a businessman/huckster who is suddenly talking about running for President.   The writer noted, gleefully, that Trump's adoption of the cause of "birtherism" has given him an instant leg-up with the goofiest fringe of the Republican Party, and while the national GOP is happy to have the kooks running rampant during an off-year Congressional primaries and even the general election, they will want these noisy miscreants under control next year when the Presidency is at stake.

Trump is currently running ahead of all GOP candidates in national polls primarily because of his loud acceptance of the birther doctrine (the claim that the President was born somewhere other than America).  That nonsense is a political winner with  a large percentage of the Republican Party.  None of the other potential GOP candidates have crawled out on that same limb with Trump because none would want to have to defend that ridiculous notion in a general election.

The Republicans have shamelessly used the teabaggers and birthers for their own ends - such as organizing them to shout down Democratic officeholders at public events, and now it appears that the party has become the captive of its evil spawn.

Pitt posits that Donald Trump may just be messing with the GOP with his talk of a full-fledged campaign, but anytime a billionaire with strong national name recognition has something to say, people will listen.  Right now Trump is giving strong attention to the birthers - and the Chamber of Commerce Republicans are squirming in their private clubs and board rooms.

And it couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of folks!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

GOP Throws Away $500,000 to Protect Discrimination

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

U.S. House Republicans, a unique breed of primates who believe the only way to balance the national budget is to control spending, don't mind throwing our money away when it helps promote one of their hateful values.  After President Obama announced several weeks ago that he would direct the Department of Justice to quit defending the "Defense of Marriage Act," (DOMA) because the homophobic piece of hate legislation is obviously unconstitutional, Republicans in the House took it upon themselves to offer a half-million-dollar contract to a private law firm to defend their law in court.  And to frost the cake, they were able to do it in Committee without even allowing the House to know about it or vote on the expenditure.

California Republican Representative Dan Lungren, the chairman of the House Administration Committee, pushed the funding through his committee.  The lucky recipient of the public money will be Paul Clement, an Atlanta lawyer and former Solicitor General under George Bush.

No vote, no competitive bidding, no problem.

There are some really good challenges to DOMA already heading to court.  Karen Golinski, a San Franciscan who has worked for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for nearly two decades, is suing because her wife has been denied federal health benefits under this law that was drafted by America's "family values" party.   Three members of the California Public Employee's Retirement System are also suing in the Ninth Circuit because their same-sex spouses were denied enrollment in the retirement system's long-term care insurance program.

Edith Windsor is suing in the state of New York following the death of her female spouse.  They were married in Canada and the state of New York officially recognized the marriage.  But - and there always seems to be a "but" - when the spouse died, the Internal Revenue Service, long a bane of conservative politicians, stepped in and demanded estate taxes of $363,000 that would not have been levied on a heterosexual couple.  And that is so rich in irony because Republicans tend to despise estate taxes - often referring to them in the pejorative as "death taxes."

Five states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriages - and more will follow this year.  Young Americans recognize that there is nothing in the concept of gay marriage that threatens their own sexuality or way of life.  The world is changing, whether Republicans like that notion or not - and no amount of "our" money is going to be able to stop society's march toward social justice.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Jan Brewer Sprouts a Little Backbone

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

In a move of political daring, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, a person who has never been known for political daring, this week broke with her long-time puppeteer, State Senate President Russell Pearce, and vetoed three bills that were supported by the repugnant Pearce.  Or, as the Phoenix New Times more cleverly put it in discussing just one of those vetoes::

"It pains us, but big props must go out to Governor Jan Brewer, who today vetoed one of the most ridiculous, conspiracy-based, purely symbolic pieces of legislative garbage to pass the Arizona Legislature:  the humiliating "Birther Bill."

 Arizona's proposed Birther Bill originally called for political parties to provide a "long form" birth certificate to the Secretary of State for any Presidential candidate that they wanted to place on the Arizona ballot.  Many Americans have no access to "long form" birth certificates and most states provide a simpler "Certificate of Live Birth."  Some Republicans, sensing a problem in allowing only one form of proof, amended the measure to allow a "circumcision certificate" or a baptismal certificate to stand in lieu of the long-form certificate.  Brewer, herself a former Arizona Secretary of State, decided that documents discussing penises might be just a little far-afield to mix with the solemn duties of government.  She described the bill as "a bridge too far" - and going nowhere, I might add!

The Arizona governor also vetoed a bill that would have allowed guns on campus.   Brewer lamented that while she supported gun rights, that particular piece of legislation was so "poorly written" that it could muddle federal and state prohibitions of guns on K-12 campuses.  The confusing language of the bill was undoubtedly intentional to a degree because Pearce's people want guns legal everywhere in the state:  churches, hospitals, universities, libraries, bars, kindergarten cloakrooms, you-name-it.  What was good for Tombstone is good for Arizona - or some such horse manure!

And the final bill that Governor Brewer vetoed was a measure that would have forced her to sign a compact with other states to defy the federal healthcare reform.  Clearly Jan was flexing her muscle on something other than a cocktail glass - and nobody was going to force her to do anything!

Like the Phoenix New Times, I hate to give the Arizona Governor credit for anything positive, and up until now that has never been an issue.   But those vetoes were good things and will help make Arizona look a little less foolish in the eyes of the world.  Good work, Governor!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Racist Teabagger Apologizes for Being Stupid

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

This story could almost be funny - if it weren't for the fact that it is so sad, disgusting, and predictable.

Marilyn Davenport, a Tea Party activist and elected member of the Republican Central Committee of Orange County, California, has learned the hard way that in our modern world there is no such thing as a "private" email.  Marilyn got one of those funny pass-around emails in her inbox, and it was just so hilarious that she had to share it with friends.  It was a "birther" email and very racist.  Soon her private correspondence found its way into the public domain, and now Marilyn is apologizing ad infinitum, and is undoubtedly very sincere in her regret over having been caught.

The email has been all over the Internet news sources today.  It is one of those sophomoric things that were very common among the racist rabble a few years back when it started to dawn on them that Barack Obama might actually become President of the United States.  The email is basically a doctored photo of a family of chimpanzees sitting for a formal portrait.  Present on the photographer's bench are Papa Chimpanzee, Mama Chimpanzee, and Baby Chimpanzee - and someone has cleverly photo-shopped President Obama's face over that of Baby Chimpanzee.  The caption reads:  "Now you know why no birth certificate."

Yuck, yuck!  That Marilyn is a real card, ain't she!

With the California NAACP demanding an apology (which she issued) and her resignation or dismissal from the Orange County Republican Central Committee (which she is resisting), Ms. Davenport has vowed to not repeat her error.  In explaining her temporary lack of good judgment and basic human decency, she invoked ...wait for it... Christianity!  Her statement said in part:  "I am an imperfect Christian lady who tries her best to live a Christ-like, honoring life."

Somehow I knew that a racist, birther, teabagger, Republican from one of the most conservative counties in the America just had to be a good Christian!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Monday's Poetry: "He'll See It When He Wakes"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

This week has been the 150th Anniversary of the start of the American Civil War, a tragic affair that was fought almost exclusively on American soil and almost exclusively by Americans.  It was the first war that was photographed extensively, and a big chunk of our national literary heritage was born of this period.  The following is a selection that is typical of the poetry from that era.  It is sad, and it is real, and it is a picture of war as clear as any photograph ever taken by Matthew Brady.


Amid the clouds of battle smoke The sun had died away, And where the storm of battle broke A thousand warriors lay. A band of friends upon the field Stood round a youthful form, Who, when the war cloud's thunder pealed, Had perished in the storm. Upon his forehead, on his hair, The coming moonlight breaks, And each dear brother standing there A tender farewell takes. But ere they laid him in his home There came a comrade near, And gave a token that had come From her the dead held dear. A moment's doubt upon them pressed, Then one the letter takes And lays it low upon his breast -- "He'll see it when he wakes." 0 thou who dost in sorrow wait, Whose heart in anguish breaks, Though thy dear message came too late, "He'll see it when he wakes." No more amid the fiery storm Shall his strong arm be seen, No more his young and manly form Tread Mississippi's green; And e'en thy tender words of love -- The words affection speaks- Came all too late; but O thy love Will "see them when he wakes! No jars disturb his gentle rest, No noise his slumber breaks; But thy words sleep upon his breast -- "He'll see them when he wakes."

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The People's Budget

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I had dinner with friends last night, and at some point during the evening a new acquaintance (of mine) asked if we had ever heard of the People's Budget, a liberal view of how government could manage itself more efficiently.  Of course, living on Okinawa where most of the news funnels through the military and is dispensed by Fox as "fair and balanced," none of us had.

There are several proposed budgets floating around Washington, DC:  Paul Ryan's draconian Republican Budget that wants to eliminate life as we know it for the elderly and the working poor, the Obama Budget which is less draconian but still far from visionary, and then there is the People's Budget that is being floated by the Progressive Caucus in the House of Representatives.  (The Progressive Caucus with a membership of eighty is the largest single caucus in the House.)

The Republican budget wants the government to be funded by the poor and run for the benefit of the wealthy, the Obama budget stresses "shared sacrifice," whatever the hell that is, and the People's budget takes an entirely different approach by cutting real pork and placing the onus of paying for government on those who can best afford it.  What a revolutionary concept!

There are two sides to a budget ledger, as any average sixth-grader knows:  revenue (income) and spending.  If a budget is to balance (which our country's seldom does), spending must not exceed revenue.  Republicans hate paying taxes - out of some primal fear that if they let go of a dollar, some poor person may get it - so they look to balance the budget by cutting spending.  The problem for them is that the only places they seem to be willing to cut are in social programs, and those, with the exceptions of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, are small potatoes in real money.  Republicans will not cut where the big bucks are stacked - the Defense budget - because Defense contractors are some of the GOP's most dependable fatcat contributors.

Democrats rally to save the really popular social programs, like the three mentioned above, but they too are reticent to rein in Defense dollars for fear that the Republicans will try to show them as "weak on terrorism." (Remember when that was "soft on communism?" - same brush, different paint.)

Then on the revenue side of the equation, those most able to pay - big corporations and the uber-rich, are protected by the Republicans who prattle on endlessly about the importance of not raising taxes and the idea that if the rich have even more money they will invest it in the economy and more jobs will appear.  That never happens, but still the trickle-down  myth lives on.

The predictable end result is that social programs take an annual beating, the Defense Department stumbles along with more money than it knows how to spend, and every congressman and senator rushes to fund the special "bridge to nowhere" back home that will keep their constituents happy, the rich get richer - and the debt grows and grows and grows.

The People's Budget, however, takes a different approach.  It raises taxes on the wealthiest Americans back to the levels they were paying when our economy was sound, and it starts pulling back the dollars that slide by the pallet-load down the Defense black hole.  It keeps programs that are proven and necessary, cuts those that go on-and-on with no positive results, and allows the wealthy and corporations the honor of paying their fair share to the country that gave them the opportunity to amass that wealth.

To see the People's Budget in its entirety, please go here:

To see my friends and I relaxing, please go here:

Friday, April 15, 2011

Paul Ryan Digs a Hole and the GOP Tumbles In

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The Republicans in Congress are more than a little drunk with power these days - they are terminally wasted!

Last week Paul Ryan, a congressman from Wisconsin who heads the House Budget Committee, finally released the Republican Party's vision of a responsible budget for our country.  Well, it wasn't responsible, but it definitely was Republican!  Ryan's proposed budget would trim trillions from the budget over the next few years - off of the backs of the poor, of course - while protecting the tax advantages of the rich and famous.  And in our tea party world, a certain amount of that crap is capable of sprouting wings and flying,  But Congressman Ryan got so caught up in whacking the poor and defenseless that he made a fatal error.

The Ryan proposal gutted Medicare - well, not completely, but certainly enough to insure that the program would be on the way out.  Ryan thinks it would be much better to issue old people government vouchers and let them shop around for health care bargains.  Problem is, while medical costs would continue to rise, the government funding for these vouchers would be subject to annual cuts.  All Ryan's Medicare proposal actually does is to ration health care by income.  The rich will get it, and the poor can piss off - or sell their homes to pay medical bills and then move in with their kids.

The Ryan budget went before the full House yesterday where it passed, with every Democrat and four brave Republicans voting "no" in order to attempt to save Medicare, one of the most necessary and successful social programs in our nation's history.  Kudos to Republicans Ron Paul of Texas, Walter Jones of North Carolina, David McKinley of West Virginia, and Denny Rehberg of Montana - for having the intelligence and balls to not walk off the cliff with the rest of their party.

Hopefully commonsense will prevail in the United States Senate and Medicare will be saved.  The people will be heard on the issue during the primaries and general election of 2012.

One teabagger famously screamed during the battle for health care reform, "Keep your damned hands off my Medicare!"  Well, honey, your Medicare is in peril, but it's not from the Democrats.  Those creatures you spawned are coming after your Medicare!

Good luck with that!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Up and Down the Road We Go

by Pa Rock
Road Warrior

It has been a busy day on the island of Okinawa.  I headed to Kadena early where I was first in line when Community Bank (a subsidiary of the non-tax-paying Bank of America) opened its doors.  There I purchased two certified checks, one made out to the "Arizona Department of Revenue" and the other to the "United States Treasury."  Then I motored over to the local US Post Office (PSC 80) where I mailed those checks  out to their intended recipients.

The amount was not insignificant - a total somewhere north of four grand - but hey, it warms my old cockles to know that Governor Jan Brewer and the racist crackers in the Arizona legislature can now buy themselves some quality white sheets - with king-sized ones for State Senate President Russell Pearce and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.  I also sent the Feds enough to fund the health care benefits of at least two teabagger Congressmen for a couple of months.  (They got elected so they could get theirs - Allah love them!)

(Speaking of flabby-ass Arpaio, there is a gay romance coming to light in the Valley of Hell  that probably has old Joe's jowls a-joggling!   Some steamy emails between two of Joe's boys - one a former prominent deputy who retired and came back to work for Joe as a civilian, and the other a current prominent deputy - have inadvertently landed in the public domain .  For the salacious details, slip on over to

My next stop was at the off-base home of a massage therapist who came highly recommended by several friends.  I haven't had a real massage in years, but I scheduled one for today, my alternate Friday off, because my shoulder and arm continue to hurt.  It was a good experience, and I have booked a follow-up for two weeks from today.

Feeling relaxed after a little more than an hour on the massage table, I headed out to a local Quick Stop where I paid my electric bill (3,100 yen), and then stopped by a friend's house to see if he wanted to go to the Base Exchange for lunch - but he wasn't home, so I went back onto base alone.

I tried to pay a bill at the base clinic, but there was no one in to take my money - a situation that is extremely common.  Re-pocketing my medical money, I headed to the BX where I dined on some really bad Chinese food.  Walking out of the BX after lunch, I came by the new shop of the Turkish gentlemen who sold me some rugs last fall.  They are back peddling a variety of things in addition to their oriental rugs - including a variety of beautiful chess sets, Meerschaum pipes, jewelry, and puzzle boxes.  I ended up buying a chess set with pieces that appear to be Balkan (they also had Greek, Roman, British, Egyptian, and some of the Ottoman Empire).  Over the course of a few short months these guys have gotten me for enough coin to put a significant dent in the Turkish national debt!  But what the hell - I got another mighty fine toy!

And now I am home and had lunch.  Nap time!

The Tax Man Cometh - But Only for Some

by Pa Rock
Tax Paying Fool

Tomorrow is April 15th, the date by which federal and state taxes are traditionally due to be paid, although this year the doomsday has been pushed back to Monday, April 18th.  That three-day push-back is due to the fact that this year "Emancipation Day" in Washington, DC, will be celebrated on April 15th instead of the actual anniversary date of April 16th - which is a Saturday - and government employees are already off on Saturday.  (Emancipation Day commemorates the day that President Lincoln freed 3,100 enslaved persons in Washington, DC, months before he authored the famous Emancipation Proclamation on January 1st 1863, that freed 3.1 million slaves in all of the states that had left the Union.)

(My first guess was that April 15th was probably Good Friday this year.  Silly me.  Good Friday falls one week later on April 22 - which means Easter must be Sunday, April 24th, the actual end of Lent and the date on which I can resume ranting about the ignorant pork shop from Cape Girardeau!)

But I am going to honor tradition and pay my taxes tomorrow.  They are significantly higher this year, but unlike some, I still think that it is a privilege to pay taxes in order to help meet our mutual needs as a society.  I like driving on paved roads, knowing that all children have the opportunity to go to school, police and fire protection, hospitals and emergency rooms that open their doors to anyone, and the thousand other benefits of shared public sacrifice.  I hope by the time I return to the States to finally retire that high-speed rail will be becoming a reality.

So it has been with  mild amusement that I have listened to Representative Ryan and President Obama declare their visions of how to bring down the debt and fix the economy.   Ryan is Republican to the core.  He  preaches cutting the hell out of any and all social programs, and wants to put Medicare on a voucher program - a process that will quickly result in many old people not being able to receive medical care because even with vouchers, they won't be able to meet the ever-rising costs of healthcare.  Let them die in the streets, right Ryan?  If they had been practicing theivery and greed at an early age, they could have met their medical needs.  They could have also met those needs if they had exhibited the good sense to get elected to Congress.

President Obama doesn't want to abandon Medicare, but even he is talking about making cuts in Medicare and Medicaid expenses - and that is very troublesome.  Americans need more access to good healthcare, not less.

But the President has gone a couple of places in his budget proposal where Republicans will not tread under any circumstances.  He is talking about some reductions in the Defense budget - the drainpipe that is sucking down most of our ability to stay economically viable and thus independent.

The President is also again talking about taxing the richest individuals and corporations in America at a higher rate.  In fact, for many corporations, such as General Electric, paying any taxes would be an increase over what they currently contribute to the national coffers!  Republicans, of course, go absolutely nuts when people point out that the rich could be doing more.  They scream about "raising taxes" as if that would affect all Americans - it won't.  The only ones who would be singled out are individuals making over $250,000 a year and big corporations - traditional campaign finance sources for Republican politicians.

Warren Buffett once noted that his personal assistant (glorified secretary) paid more in taxes than he did.  Buffett feels the rich should pull more of their own weight - but not many other millionaires and billionaires share that view or would spout such heresy.

Republicans also prosletyze that money should be lavished on the rich so that it can trickle down to the working classes.  (Members of Congress aren't considered working class, so they just hold their hands out for direct "donations.")

My good friend Xobekim pointed out recently that money doesn't trickle down in our economy, and that those who wanted to know what actually does trickle down should consult their plumbers.

Amen, Brother Box, amen!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Balls, General Electric! Balls!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

President Obama  recently pulled a gigantic bonehead move by naming the CEO of General Electric, one Jeffrey Immelt, to head the President's Council on Jobs and Effectiveness.

General Electric managed to turn a profit of over five billion dollars in the US alone last year  - and more than fourteen billion internationally, yet did not pay one damned dime in federal taxes.  This year General Electric is seeking major concessions from unions in its shrinking American workforce.

That in itself represents corporate balls the size of Neptune, but it gets worse.

Immelt's total compensation package - what he takes home in salary, bonuses, stock options, and office supplies - was somewhere north of fifteen million dollars last year.  Today, being a very, very, very  minor stockholder in GE, I received an email plea from the corporate monster to resist a minority stockholder group's efforts to rein in Immelt's pay.  It looks like, the way I read the intentionally confusing document, that GE claims to be offering Mr. Immelt a total compensation package that they believe is worth only $21 million dollars, but the evil minority stockholder group thinks it is in excess of $27 million.

Maybe if Jeffrey Immelt would accept a decent wage, he could free up enough General Electric revenue to pay union wages and maybe even throw the government a few tax dollars.  Maybe then he would become a role model for other CEOs, and together they could plow some of their corporations' profits back  into activities that actually would create jobs - or at least help to pay down the national debt.

President Obama, you have apparently cast a vote of confidence for Jeffrey Immelt.  I will not be following your lead.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Century of Change

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Today is April 12th, a date that marks a couple of watershed events in world history, events which happened to occur exactly one hundred apart.  On April 12th, 1861, forces of the newly formed Confederate States of America began a 36-hour bombardment of the Union garrison at Ft. Sumter, South Carolina, effectively beginning the American Civil War.  Exactly  one hundred years after that (fifty years ago today) the Soviet Union sent the first man into space.

The American Civil War ended the tragic institution of slavery, but it also opened wounds in families, communities, and the country that lasted for decades.  Indeed, there are forces at work in some states today fantasizing about the possibility of secession, and there are those who still regard the Confederacy with pride and even admiration.  But with the conclusion of the Civil War, the most contentious issue in American history up until that time was resolved - at a cost of over half a million lives.

One hundred years later the Soviet Union shocked Americans by successfully sending a man into space and bringing him home safely.  The "space race" was on and America found itself sitting in the dust.  That young cosmonaut, Yuri Gargarin, was only twenty-seven-years-old when he flew into the unknown and made history.

(Gargarin was killed a few years later when a jet he was piloting crashed.  He is buried with the Soviet Union's heroes in the Kremlin Wall, and twelve years ago I had the opportunity to stand at the spot in front of that famous wall where his ashes are interred.)

The amount of change that happened from the time of ragged soldiers fighting and dying on American soil until man ventured forth into space seems almost surreal.  And the fifty years since Gargarin's flight into space have been no less amazing.

At the time of Gargarin's flight, Kennedy and Krushchev had to communicate by diplomatic couriers or use the once-famous "Red Telephone."   Now almost anyone in America can communicate instantly with almost anyone in Russia through the Internet.   Now, instead of just two countries having the power to lob nuclear missiles indiscriminately, several nations have that ability.  Racism was practiced  more openly and tolerated in America in 1961.   Today racism is still with us, but  it is much more apt to be called out and treated with scorn - and a black man leads our nation.  Several men, all Americans, have walked on the moon in the past half-century, and America and the Russia have actually cooperated on some manned space flights.  And fifty years after Gargarin's famous flight, the Soviet Union has long disappeared from the geo-political map of the world.

What will the world be like in fifty more years?  My grandchildren will see and experience things that I cannot even imagine - and I am hopeful that they will enjoy a lifetime of wonderment - just as I have!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Monday's Poetry: The Islamic Poets

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator 

Terry Jones is a minister (of sorts) at a radical fundamentalist church in Florida.  On March 20th he pulled a publicity stunt for his own glory that resulted in the deaths of twelve innocent people in Afghanistan.  Mr. Jones and his church put the Quran, the Muslim holy book, on trial for crimes against God, found it guilty, and sentenced it to a good Christian burning.  The United States  media recognized the affair for what it was - a mean-spirited piece of gimmickry - and declined to give Mr. Jones and his believers any publicity, but one French news agency did promote the event, and the result was angry mob violence and death in the Middle East.

Mr. Jones is a man with eyes who cannot see, a man with ears who will not listen, and man with a heart who has no compassion, and a man with a nose who smells to High Heaven!

Terry Jones and his pack of pious hate-mongers would have us believe that all Muslims are evil people  bent on the destruction of Christianity and civilization - when, in fact, Muslims are responsible for many of the wonders of civilization that we enjoy today.  The Golden Age of Islam lasted from the mid-eighth century through the thirteenth century - a period of time that paralleled much of the "dark ages" in Europe.   The Muslims of that time were instrumental in developing the fields of mathematics, astronomy, physics, architecture, economics, and literature.

What follows is a selection of five poems by Islamic poets.   Please note the beauty and hope contained in these verses.  It would seem that they reflect anything but hate and evil.

by Muhyiddin Ibn "Arabi
(written in the 12th century)

O Marvel! a garden amidst the flames.
My heart has become capable of every form:
it is a pasture for gazelles and a convent for Christian monks,
and a temple for idols and the pilgrim's Ka'bah,
and the tables of the Torah and the book of the Qur'an.
I follow the religion of Love: whatever way Love's camels take,
that is my religion and my faith.

by Jalaluddin Rumi
(written nearly a thousand years ago)

 I tried to find Him on the Christian cross, but He
was not there; I went to the Temple of the
Hindus and to the old pagodas, but I could not
find a trace of Him anywhere.
I searched on the mountains and in the valleys
but neither in the heights nor in the depths was I
able to find Him. I went to the Ka'bah in Mecca,
but He was not there either.
I questioned the scholars and philosophers but
He was beyond their understanding.
I then looked into my heart and it was there
where He dwelled that I saw Him; He was
nowhere else to be found.

O My Generous Master!
by Sheik Muzzafer Ozak

You created this servant of Yours and
brought him into being from a drop of water.
I do not even have the right to say I love You,
and yet I do love You. I always remember You.
I know that even my being able to remember You
is also due to Your guidance. My mentioning Your
Name of Majesty left me dizzy, bewildered, and
Is it possible to imagine anyone in this world
loving the Divinity and not becoming intoxicated with
such affection? So great a blessing is affection that
even if its possessor should stray into the wilderness,
the fire of his love would not allow him to feel the heat of
the desert.
Should the lover fall into the fire, the heat of his
love would extinguish that fire. The fire of love would cause
the poles and glaciers to melt. If mountains and boulders were
piled upon the back of the lover, the fire of his love would
prevent his feeling the weight of the load. Affection makes a
person forget about hunger and thirst, and keeps him on the
road of love.

Desert Rose
by Lena Winfrey Seder
(Contemporary Sudanese Poet)

I began my journey the day I was born.
My name told my destiny.
Yet, it remained hidden for me to discover.
I traveled a long time to get to this moment.
So many cactuses I stumbled over in the dark.
No star lighted my path-- I was not yet awake.
Naivety guided me into sandstorms that made wounds in my soul.
Ignorance blinded me as the cactus' thorns scratched me.
However, these wounds propelled me forward and kept me on
a certain path.
One day, when I looked ahead, I saw an oasis.
A mirage, I thought, so I slowly walked towards it-- expecting
to be fooled again.
When I reached the mirage, I found a rose.
I touched it and found it was no dream.
Entranced by this rose, I placed it in the vase of my heart.
As it took root, it became a part of me.
My blindness lifted, for I could see the true Light.
Faith rested in my heart.
My desert rose led me to this destiny.
When I stray-- its paper thorns remind me to come back to
the straight path.
Each day it continues growing, it strengthens my heart and
my soul.
I water it with my prayers, my charity, my fasting.
This rose is here to stay--
It guides me to an eternal Garden.
My thoughts, my goals, my actions are preparing my place in
that Garden.
That is where I will rest my roots--
As long as this rose remains in my heart.

Society's Disease
by Lena Winfrey Seder

Racism, the great crime of humanity.
Why does one's race always claim superiority?
We are all the same; there is no inferiority.
When we look at each other we see a resembling face.

As individuals, we do have differences.
Some of us may take risks and chances.
Others of us may be shy and give few glances.
We should find common ground and make peace.
The hatred and killing should desist and cease.
We are all the children of Adam and in life have a lease.
We should lend a helping hand to each other.
We should remember that Eve is our common mother.
We should love our human sisters and brothers.

It would help Terry Jones and other promoters of intolerance if they took a little time to study that which they seem determined to hate.  Clearly the words of these poets speak to the beauty they see in the world - or in the case of the final poem - to the beauty that should reside within all of God's children.   We need to respond to the goodness that surrounds us in our daily lives, and not to the stunts of false prophets.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Teabaggers Target AARP

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I'm not a big fan of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), primarily because their main reason for existence appears to be to peddle insurance and Medicare supplements.   I dropped out of the group a few years ago when it endorsed Bush's Medicare pharmacy plan for seniors - a plan that was authored by by pharmaceutical industry.  But last year when AARP redeemed itself by supporting the Obama administration's Affordable Care Act, I joined again.

However, as Gilda Radner used to say, "It's always something!"  Either Pa Rock gets pissed off, or the teabaggers take up arms.  Obviously the booger-eating denizens of Teabagger Nation would go nuts on any organization that supports their favorite bogeyman - "Obamacare!"

So these loud-mouthed morons have now convinced a few of their Congressmen to try to get the AARP's tax-exempt status revoked - primarily because they view the group as politically active on the wrong issues.  And that suits me just fine - but don't stop with the AARP.  If we don't want tax-exempt status for one organization because of it's overt political agenda, let's apply that same yardstick to some other well-known non-profit organizations as well.

I personally would like to see politically active churches paying their fair share of the tax load (Catholics and Mormons - I'm especially looking at you!)  And while we're at it, let's not forget one of the largest and best funded reactionary groups in the country - the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  Or better yet, the National Rifle Association!

There are so many great tax sources out there just waiting to be tapped!  Tax them all!

Terry Jones and the Case for Extraordinary Rendition

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The Bush administration came up with the appalling and sadistic practice of taking suspected terrorists to third-party countries where they could be severely tortured in order to gain intelligence.  It turned out to be not only barbaric, but totally useless as well.  People who are being tortured will say anything in order to get the torture to stop, and much of the intelligence being gathered from the practice of extraordinary rendition was totally false and of no use to anyone.  The prisoners simply said what their torturers and the CIA wanted them to say - anything to get the pain to stop.

Our Constitution forbids "cruel and unusual" punishment, but the Bush-Cheney cabal just moved people to other countries to avoid that little inconvenience.

But if there ever was a case for extraordinary rendition, it would certainly be that of "Reverend" Terry Jones of Florida.  Jones, a fundamentalist zealot, threatened to burn a copy of the Muslim Holy Book, the Koran, last September, but he withdrew that threat after a personal appeal from President Obama who wisely noted that such a provocation would place Americans abroad, such as members of the military, in harm's way.

A  couple of weeks ago Terry Jones rethought his threatened publicity stunt and put the Koran on trial in his church.  A "jury" of twelve ignorant crackers found the Koran guilty (of what, I do not know) and sentenced it to a good Christian burning.  The result:  a group of angry Afghan Muslims, unable to find any Americans to kill, settled on attacking a United Nations compound in Afghanistan and killing at least twelve people - including seven United Nations workers and four Nepalese guards.

Terry Jones fashions himself as a man of peace.  In his case, and his case alone, I think extraordinary rendition would be totally appropriate.  Our government should grab this "man of God" and fly him to Afghanistan where he could stand on a street corner and tell the Afghanis why his Holy Book is better than theirs.  If Mr. Jones' God is the one true God, he should be able to proselytize in relative safety.  If not, oh well.

(As an afterthought, maybe Fred Phelps should be invited to go along and give Jones moral support!)

"There are few things in this world more evil than a 'good' Christian!"  Pa Rock

Friday, April 8, 2011

It's the Culture Wars, Stupid!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Republican Congressmen and Senators - and Fox News - have been bloviating for months about the need to reduce spending, and they have been putting forth all kinds of things that they say need to be eliminated or cut back.  First they went after National Public Radio's minuscule federal dollars, then they zeroed in on Planned Parenthood -which is also a mere drip in the bucket of national spending.  Now, they are even talking about phasing out Medicare - and social security is also in their gun sights.  Anything, in fact, that appears to benefit the under-privileged is being targeted by the GOP as something that can and should be cut.

But NPR and Planned Parenthood are just little dollars.

The really big money flows into things like our never-ending wars in the Middle East, subsidies for the oil and gas industry, and tax breaks for America's biggest corporations  and richest citizens - and Republicans view those dollars as sacrosanct - necessary to produce a strong economy.  And even though trickle-down economics has been disproven more times more times than John Boehner has crawled into a tanning bed, they still rant and roar about what a grand job-creator it is - a BIG lie!  Giving money to the fat cats and war profiteers doesn't do squat for the people hurting in this rotten economy.   In fact, it is those insane policies that caused this rotten economy.

Now it turns out that the current budget battle isn't really about the money - something that most of us have known all along.  It is about imposing cultural changes on America.  Boehner said today that the Republicans won't support a budget compromise unless it defunds Planned Parenthood - a lifesaver to poor women.  He also wants riders approved to the budget bill that will defund National Public Radio (NPR) and put serious restrictions on the powers of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Republicans seem to have a natural aversion to protecting the environment - in fact, some openly say that we don't need to worry about saving the planet because Jesus will be here any day.  When he gets here, I hope he raptures those rat-bastards to Hades and lets the rest of us get things back to a more heavenly state.

When it comes to any type of government operation, the budget is what makes the monkey run.  The political philosophies of those in power get enshrined in the plans for how the money is to be spent.  The budget is also a damned easy place from which to legislate - if you don't like Planned Parenthood, don't try to defund it through honest legislation which could then be discussed publicly, voted on, and perhaps vetoed.  It is much easier to try and get what you want by attaching it to the budget bill as a rider - and then daring the President to veto the entire bill over a few draconian items.

The group of old white men who want to break Planned Parenthood and allow unsafe environmental practices may meet their match with President Obama.  I'm thinking he may just have the cajones to call their bluff!

Veto, Barack, veto!

"A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members."   Mahatma Ghandi

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Roseanne Cash was Right!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Several months ago Roseanne Cash referred to then House Minority Leader John Boehner as an "asshat" because he kept using the name of her famous father (Johnny Cash) as a punchline in his sleazy campaigning.

Today our government is teetering on the verge of a shutdown because Tanning Salon John can't bring himself to challenge the teabagger vermin who have infested his political party.  Boehner and his crew are annihilating social programs and shredding the economic safety net while continuing to support tax breaks for the corporations and the rich - and shamelessly shipping off what is left of the national treasury to the Defense industry.

Weren't Republicans the ones who were worried that Obama was going to kill Gramma through sinister "death panels"?  Now that same group of shameless scoundrels is openly talking about phasing out Medicare.  The Republican Party, those sanctimonious bastards who believe they are the human manifestation of God's will on earth, are in open warfare with the poor, the suffering, and the defenseless.  They literally have no shame.

Today's Stars and Stripes has a headline declaring that the military won't be getting paid if the government shuts down.  I don't think that even the Republicans are stupid enough to quit paying the military, but hey, I have often been guilty of giving them too much credit.

Tonight I came home to find a lengthy email in my in-box from another asshat.   Senator Roy Blunt, whose piety is exceeded only by that of John Ashcroft (yet another asshat) wrote to assure voters that the government might indeed shut down, but if that happens it will be the fault of Senate Democrats who have let government get too bloated.    Ol' Roy has voted to keep tax breaks for the oil and gas industry in place, and he also supported extending Bush tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires - but it will be a cold day in Hades before he will approve one thin dime for America's needy.

But change is afoot, and it is not going to be the type of change that Republicans will appreciate.  America's Hispanic sector has grown by leaps and bounds over the past couple of decades, and our brown neighbors are not amused at the way Republican politicians have ignored, marginalized, and racially profiled them.  (Joe Arpaio and Jan Brewer - I'm talking about you and every other redneck slug in America who has been whipping up anti-immigrant hatred in search of votes.  Those votes are going to be overwhelmed in the very near future by people who are sick and tired of being used as scapegoats by racists.)

Wisconsin had an election yesterday for state judges, and Democrats recaptured 19 districts that had gone Republican in the last election.  Governor Scott Walker came to the state house swinging the sword of hate against unions and public employees - but in the long run all he managed to do was cut his own legs out from under himself and show the citizens of Wisconsin that he is not competent to lead.

When the government shuts down - and mail quits being delivered, and social security checks quit appearing on time, and government offices close - Americans will begin to learn what Wisconsin knows - the Republican Party doesn't give a damn about the little guy, and Republicans can't be trusted to govern.

Roseanne Cash was right.  John Boehner is an asshat, but only on his best days!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Unions Stage a Comeback in Topeka

by Pa Rock 
Citizen Journalist

I just learned a couple of hours ago that my son's good friend, Chad Manspeaker, has been elected as city councilman for Topeka's sixth district.  What makes Manspeaker's election so completely enjoyable to me is more than just the fact that he is a friend of the family - it is the fact that a liberal Democrat with strong union backing can be elected to any post in Kansas.  It is a sign that the worm of ignorance may finally be turning.

A candidate actively backed by union members won an election to an office in Kansas - in Topeka, Kansas, no less - the home of the evil Westboro Baptist Church.  I hope that Governor Walker and his moronic Republican legislators in Wisconsin are starting to realize that they may have inadvertently kicked the crap out of a hornet's nest and must now bend over and accept the consequences!

Unions are not the enemy of working people - just as greedy fat cats like the Koch brothers have zero interest in helping anyone other than themselves.  Unions were formed to fight corporate greed, the dangers of sweatshops, and child labor.  They were necessary in the last century, and they are just as necessary today.

Kudos to Chad and his family - as well as to the Topeka firefighters and other proud union members who walked door-to-door with him meeting the voters.  Make us all proud, Chad!

I also just learned that my good friend and old college roommate, James Carroll, has been elected mayor of Noel, Missouri.  James has served in that position previously and did a marvelous job of bringing the citizens together after a horrendous local political scandal.  And even though I think James should have his head examined for wanting to be mayor again, I am proud of him and wish him the very best!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Obama - Again!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Jorunalist

It's on!  President Obama announced yesterday that he is a candidate for reelection.  While the election is still nineteen months away, it is worth noting that no Republican has yet to take the bold step of throwing his or her own hat into the ring.  Oh, the wing nuts and teabaggers are stirring a lot of sound and fury, but so far that is it from the right - just noise and nonsense.

I will be the first to admit that I am not as enamored of our President as I had hoped to be when I sent him my first donation several winters ago before he even announced his first candidacy.  I had great hopes that he would ride into Washington on a giant steed and lead us all to peace, equality, and happiness.  Instead, he has proven to be a politician - albeit one with somewhat of a heart and a conscience - which is a far cry from anything the right has to offer - but he is a politician nonetheless.

I voted for President Obama hoping to see revolutionary health care reform, but I had to settle for a lackluster product that, even though it is a big improvement over what we had  - nothing - still falls far short of the mark.  Obama the leader was subsumed by Obama the politician who wheeled and dealed down to a fairly dismal product so that it could get enough votes to become law.   His biggest opponents in the negotiations were members on his own party who feared the wrath of the voters if they supported a national health care bill.  Some got hammered by wrathful voters because they fought the President on the issue.  Remember Stinkin' Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas?

In my humble opinion, our President has been way too much of a nice guy and gotten very little in return - if anything - for trying to get along with the wing nuts and teabaggers.  They want his hide, and they want it bad - a fact of life that is based in part on the color of his hide!

So, I'm not overjoyed with Barack Obama, but I sent him a small donation today anyway.  On the absolute very worst day of his life, he is still a more decent and caring person than anyone on the Republican's list of Presidential wannabes.  It only takes a quick glance toward places like Wisconsin and Arizona to see that Republicans can't be trusted to govern.

Keep religion in the churches, throw the teabaggers in Boston Harbor, and vote for Barack Obama in 2012!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Chain Mail Hate

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Let me tell you about two friends of mine, and no matter how this piece plays out - these guys really are my friends.

The first is a buddy from my army days.  He and I haven't seen each other since I left Ft. Riley, Kansas, and headed to Okinawa nearly forty years ago.  During the intervening years we have both raised our families, done our own things, and had limited contact with each other.  We re-established contact over the Internet a few years ago, and since then we have occasionally exchanged the same tired old jokes that get passed around and around on the net.

But my army friend has a political bent, and he either doesn't read the Ramble, or he is trying to convert me to fascism.   This friend, you see, hates Democrats in general and President Obama in particular.  This friend, like so much of America, seems to take his less than ideal circumstances to heart and want to blame unions, and women, and smart black politicians for his personal shortcomings.  I feel bad for him because his life obviously came up short by some measure, but none of us achieve all of our dreams.  It is so tragically sad, however, to see anyone blame their misfortunes on the straw men being put up as targets by Scott Walker and his ignorant ilk.   So many politicians make their marks in the world by dividing the working public against itself.

It has gotten to be so bad, that when this buddy sends his chain mail hate around, I just automatically delete it.    If I want to read the Klan's talking points, I will go to their website and get it firsthand.

My other friend is a former neighbor  from the Wheezin' Geezer Trailer Park in Arizona.  He and his wife are truly wonderful people who would literally do anything in the world for anyone needing their help.  They even adopted my cat when I moved to Okinawa.

But this friend has a serious blind spot when it comes to religion.  He is firmly planted in the hate wing of Christian fundamentalism.  When I was still in Arizona he was up in arms because the young people in his Baptist Church had succeeded in bringing some Christian rock music into the weekly service.  Now he sits at home most days, when he isn't sharing his ice cream with my kitty, and forwards Christian hate as fast as his fingers can type in email addresses.

Today this friend in Arizona forwarded a dire warning to me titled:  Beware of This Book!  Serious!!   The book rating all of those exclamations marks is Conversations with God and it's counterpart, Conversations with God for Teens by Neale D. Walsch.  According to the warnings in my friend's frenzied email, Conversations with God is so "devastating" that James Dobson talked about it twice on his radio program this week!  And if Dobson criticizing a book isn't damning enough to send you to the bomb shelter, Oprah praised the book.  (What the hell could a female, black, liberal like her possibly know about God or morality?)

(I will order my copy today.  Anything that sleazy Dobson defames moves automatically onto my "must read" list.)

The first example of heresy that is mentioned in this chain email involves an accounting of a young girl who asks, "Why am I a lesbian?"  Mr. Walsch, speaking for God, answers that she was born that way because of genetics just as others are born right-handed or with brown eyes.  He told the girl that she should go out and celebrate her differences.

Which of course is correct - and beautiful advice.  But hate-mongering Christians see homosexuality as a choice people make freely.  When they decide to repent this chosen sin, they can then get themselves into some type of "cure" program - much like Communist "re-education" camps.

Another girl asks:  "I am living with my boyfriend.  My parents say that I should marry him because I am living in sin.  Should I marry him?"  Walsch, again speaking as God, responds, "Who are you sinning against?  Not me, because you have done nothing wrong."

The final question mentioned in this email rant asks about God's forgiveness of sin.  His reply is "I do not forgive anyone because there is nothing to forgive.  There is no such thing as right or wrong, and that is what I have been trying to tell everyone, do not judge people.  People have chosen to judge one another and this is wrong, because the rule is "judge not lest ye be judged."

But if hate-mongering Christians are forbidden to judge others, how will they occupy their waking hours?  Maybe they could spend more time in church chilling out to some really good Christian rock music.  My money says that's what Jesus would do!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A Walk in the Hood

by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

It is a beautiful day on Okinawa- warm sunny, breezy.  I wouldn't know that except for the fact that my caffeine craving finally got the better of me and forced me to go out in search of a Coca-Cola.  I still hurt too much to drive, so I walked to one of the many outdoor vending machines armed with enough yen to meet my  needs.  Okinawans do not sell Diet Coke anywhere - even in their grocery stores.  To get Diet Coke, my favorite, I have to shop on one of the many military bases - and even the military does not always carry it.  Some general's portly wife must have a penchant for Pepsi products because that is the most common beverage on the bases.

But the Okinawan stand-alone soda machines are everywhere - six within two blocks of my apartment house - so I was able to  meet my caffeine needs in short order.  I purchased four tall cans Coke Zero for four hundred and eighty yen - approximately six dollars.  Oh yes, those Okinawans will miss us if we go!

It is early afternoon and I have been in and out of bed all morning fighting the continuing shoulder pain.  However, during all of that I did manage to get my weekly laundry done, so the day hasn't been a total wash - or has it?  This afternoon I will pop a Valium - or take a couple of shots of Baileys -  but not both - and sit absolutely still and try to read.  I am halfway through the third volume of the Millennium Trilogy and it is so good!  I am definitely falling in lust with Lisbeth Salander!

Tomorrow I am taking my first sick day since arriving on this island so that I can meet my regular physician who will lecture me for being fat and God knows what else.  How many young workers can say that they haven't taken a sick day or a day off in nine months.  Of course they have young families - and, given my druthers, I would prefer being chained to a desk and fighting the occasional illness than handling all of the challenges that come with  raising babies.

I think that I am actually starting to feel a little better.  It must be the Coke Zero!

Still Smarting!

by Pa Rock

A brief medical update is the best that I can do for a blog entry tonight because I am still suffering from the pain described in yesterday's posting and am just not up to being clever or verbose.

I have an aversion to hospitals, and have this particular fear that I will complete my own personal life cycle in a hospital bed in some sterile institution - when I would much rather die in my own bed or in that of some casual acquaintance.  I fear Sale Memorial Hospital (now Freeman) in Neosho, Missouri, because my sister and I were both born there and our father died there - and it would be just a bit too predictable for my own demise.  So I avoid that hospital at all costs.

But Sale Memorial (Freeman) is a long way from Okinawa, so I decided to take a chance and turn my fate over to a medical institution here on the island.

Today I had friends take me to Lester Naval Hospital on Okinawa.  It is just a few blocks from my  apartment, close enough, in fact, that I walked home after spending the better part of a day in a drugged bliss on a bed in the emergency room.  The doctors and wonderful staff at Lester checked everything and decided it was just a pulled muscle - the same diagnosis that I had already given myself.  They kept me six hours or so for observation and then sent me home with even more drugs.  I have a follow-up appointment there on Monday.

There is some personal circularity involved with Lester Hospital, because that is where my oldest son was born in 1973.

If you are one of the many friends and relatives who sent me good wishes today, thank you so much.  I am still in too much pain to acknowledge and write back to everyone who contacted me.  My new friend Don, whom I met through this blog, sent the following comment.  I really liked it and feel that it kind of sums up where I am in life:

Pain, no matter its source, sometimes seems endless. Emily Dickinson once said in a short poem that "pain cannot recollect where it began, or if there were a time when it was not." 

Because we are of an age, I can empathize with your situation. My own pain often springs, unbidden, from its hiding place deep within the ordinary routines of a life once lived without it. Bending, stretching or sometimes just waking up in the morning, can and has produced pain that is the more exquisite because of its unsuspected nature.

Don writes beautifully.  I'm on the mend.  My best to all.