Thursday, June 30, 2011

Jesus Chicken with a Side of Waffle Fries

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Last January I ran a piece in this blog entitled "Chick-fil-A Gets Creepy" that discussed the fact that the fast food chain was planning to help sponsor an event in Pennsylvania whose aim was "to piss and moan about same-sex marriages." In deference to Chick-fil-A, I also pointed out that they make "a damned good chicken sandwich."  The primary sponsor of the event was the Pennsylvania Family Institute, a homophobic group which was on the record as saying that same-sex couples harm civilization.

Well, the story is still brewing thanks to a nasty little chain email that appears to be coming out of some fundamentalist churches - and is quite possibly a corporate ploy to stir its base into buying more chicken sandwiches.  A friend of mine (and he is a friend) who gets all of the wrong messages from his Baptist theology, has forwarded the email to me.  The first line:  "Now the socialists have targeted Chick-fil-A."  And from there on it tends to get rather mean and nasty.

The hit piece is largely lifted from an article that conservative writer Michelle Malkin had in the National Review in February.    It mentions all of the hot-button points for right-wingers:  the company was founded in the south, it employs 50,000 workers in "nearly" 40 states, and pulls in more than two billion dollars in annual revenue as it "serves millions of happy customers with trademark southern hospitality."

(New definition:  Southern Hospitality - some high school kid inquiring over a squeaky intercom if you would like waffle fries with your order.)

The email (and Malkin) noted that the fast food chain's official corporate mission is to "glorify God" and "enrich the lives of everyone we touch."  (Hence, the waffle fries!)   Also mentioned was the fact that Chick-fil-A closes on Sundays so their employees can spend the day "at worship and rest."

The primary target of the email seemed to be some unnamed "progressive-activist" bloggers who have waged "an ugly war against Chick-fil-A."  Among the heinous activities of those bloggers was the derision of the Chick-fil-A company as "anti-gay," and the making of mean references to their main product as "Jesus Chicken."

So yes, those evil bloggers must indeed be socialists!

(And I think I just saw Jesus pulling into the drive-thru at What-a Burger!)

J.P. Morgan Chase: A Stockholder's Perspective

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I am not a fan of banks.   Having a checking account with Bank of America, I have felt entitled to rail against its excesses (of which there are many) in this space on several occasions.  I also have two credit cards through J.P. Morgan Chase, which I feel entitles me to speak to their excesses as well.

I got my first Chase card several years ago, and though I can't remember why, I must have been lured in by some bit of wicked and/or misleading advertising - because in all of the time that I have had that card, I have never used it.  In fact, I requested in writing that it be cancelled, but I still get the occasional pack of complimentary checks prodding me to please spend their money and become a slave to their obscene interest charges.

When I arrived at Kadena, I was encouraged to join the Officers Club.  Membership is good for a five percent discount some places (usually places that I avoid), and it seemed like a supportive and good thing for a new base employee to do.   Membership is eighteen dollars a month, billed through a Chase credit card.  After inadvertently missing a payment a few months ago and receiving a hefty penalty, I decided to cancel the card.  I wrote to Chase who eventually wrote back and told me that I did not have the authority to cancel my card - only the Kadena Officers' Club could make that request.  

Kadena is a big base, but I eventually made it by the Club where I inquired about cancelling my card.  I made that inquiry at the very same desk where I got the application for the card in the first place.  The lady there told me that I would have to go to a building on another part of the base in order to cancel.   Today I finally made it to that building.

It took fifteen minutes to locate the right office, and once I found it I discovered that the sole clerk was busy with another customer.  She was very kind and set a chair out in the hallway so that I could wait out of the way. After nearly half-an-hour of sitting outside of the door like some errant seventh grader waiting to see the principal, I finally got in and was able to conclude this most recent misadventure with J.P. Morgan Chase.

I probably could have continued to put up with Chase for my last year on the island, but when I received the last statement they included a copy of their policy outlining my very limited rights to control of my personal information.  After reading that pissy little manifesto, I thought to myself - this crap ends right here, right now!

One thing I learned was that Chase has the right to use my personal information (social security number, account balances, transaction history, and credit and payment history)  pretty much however they damned well see fit, and I have virtually no say in the matter.  Not only may they use that personal information in the management of my accounts (which I understand), but they can also use it to market services and items to me - both by themselves as well as with other financial companies.  J.P Morgan Chase may also use my personal information to educate other banks about my transactions and experiences, and to spread information about my credit worthiness.  The individual consumer cannot limit any of that type of sharing!

Even a consumer's social security number can be shared without the consumer's permission!

Chase said that I can't limit this type of sharing because federal law does not give me the right to limit it.  Average people don't own congressmen and senators, but banks damned sure do.  So the honest response would have been that consumers can't limit the flow of personal information from banks because banks don't want them to. 

Much to my personal amusement, I now find myself a bona fide shareholder in both Bank of America and J.P. Morgan Chase.  Neither of those banks is worth as much today as they were when my father originally purchased their shares – even with the government stimulus money that they greedily swallowed like hogs at the trough. 

But that’s alright because I’m not in the selling mode.  I want to remain a shareholder so that I can feel entitled to bitch about their abusive policies not only as a victim, but as one of the owners as well.  If a few more owners would muster some long overdue outrage, maybe we could curtail the astronomical salaries and bonuses of the CEOs, directors, and other high level corporate maggots.   That money could be far better spent paying living wages to the women who work on the front lines of the banks as tellers and minor bank officers.  Cutting the bosses' salaries and bonuses could also help in reducing credit card interest levels and those criminal fees that rape the poor.   Who knows, maybe making the bank big shots live like mere mortals might even lead to paying back the stimulus money that saved their corporate asses after Bush flushed the economy.

Sooner or later I’ll see you boys at a shareholder’s meeting.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Ugly Is Only Skin Deep

by Pa Rock
Television Addict

I read on the Internet today that America Ferrera, the star of the television series, Ugly Betty, recently married her long-time boyfriend, Ryan Piers Williams.  Up until two weeks ago that would have meant nothing to me, because until AXN started running autopsy shows during the dinner hour and forced me to seek out other channels, I had no idea who America Ferrera or her alter ego, "Ugly" Betty Suarez, were.

But now I know.

I have been watching Ugly Betty each weekday evening - and three times on Mondays.  Basically I have caught the end of season one and the beginning of season two.  I have seen the episodes where Salma Hayek guest-starred as a very shrewd Mexican magazine editor, and even caught one episode featuring Marlo Thomas as an older woman who had a penchant for young men.  Hayek was one of the show's executive producers.

I like this show.  True, I have some difficulty with the name, but I get the point that the show is trying to make.  Betty, America's character, was hired by a very rich publisher to be a personal assistant to his playboy son whom he had just made editor of his big fashion magazine.  The father chose Betty for the job because of her looks - somewhat of a weight issue, bad bangs, eyebrows that look like jousting wooly worms, thick glasses, and blue braces.  He felt that she was someone with whom his son would not have sex.

Viewers quickly see that Betty is a great assistant who gets her boss out of many scrapes of his own making.  She is dependable, loyal, and impishly cute even if she has no sense of fashion.  The lesson, of course, is that just as beauty is only skin deep - so, too, is ugly.  It's who we are on the inside that really matters.

The setting is downtown Manhattan, and the show focuses on the lives of the rich and famous - as well as Betty's ordinary Mexican-American family who live in Queens.  Many of the best and most revealing moments occur when the high and mighty of Manhattan find themselves coming to Queens for the advice and warmth of Betty's family.

Ugly Betty, just in the few episodes that I have seen so far, touches on some very timely issues.  She and her sister, Hilda, have been raised by their widowed father, Ignacio, whom they discover is actually an illegal immigrant.  Hilda's son, Justin, is a young adolescent who shows every sign of being gay - and he is warmly accepted by his loving family and those who enter the Suarez home.   And Alex, the other son of the rich publisher who was thought to have died in a skiing accident, returns to his family and friends as the trans-gendered Alexis.

A standout  performer in the show is former Miss America, Vanessa Williams, whose character is vile and sinister enough to be Cruella DeVille's wicked step-mother.

The show, Ugly Betty, ran four seasons, from 2006 until 2010 (85 episodes).  It was very well written and acted, and reinforced time and again the truism that ugly is only skin deep.

For the record, America Ferrera is actually quite pretty!

My very best to Mr. and Mrs. Ryan Piers Williams.  

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Ms. Hernandez Goes to Washington

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Angelica Hernandez, who recently graduated as the valedictorian of Arizona State University's Mechanical Engineering School, will be testifying before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee later today.  She was not invited to speak by either of Arizona's Senators, Jon Kyl or John McCain, who both probably don't know who she is, or even care for that matter.  She was invited to speak before the Committee in support of the Dream Act by Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois.

Even though Angelica Hernandez is smarter than 99.999% of the sand rats and other hillbilly vermin who  live in Arizona, she stands a very real chance of being deported because she is - through no fault or machinations of her own - "undocumented."  The valedictorian of ASU's Mechanical Engineering School might have to take her intellectual gifts and abilities south of the border while people like J.T. Ready, Russell Pearce, and Joe Arpaio get to remain in Arizona proudly waving their flags of intolerance.

The Dream Act is proposed legislation that would create an opportunity for "illegal" immigrants who came to the United States as children to obtain permanent residency, as long as they continue on to college or military service.  These children had no say where their parents moved them, but now they are established in communities and schools with friends and social lives - and now they want the same opportunities that all of their friends who reside here "legally" have.  They want to be able to go to college or the military and not have to worry about being sent back into a country and a culture that they literally never knew.

The Dream Act has been debated in Congress before and failed due to pressure from bigoted and nativist groups like the Tea Party.  This week Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey is introducing a comprehensive immigration reform package that will again include the Dream Act.

There are an estimated 11 million "illegal" immigrants in this country, many of whom arrived here as children.  Those young people are just as American as the rest of us in every real sense of the word, and they deserve to be treated with acceptance and respect.  From a Christian perspective this is a no-brainer - these children should be treated as we would expect our own children to be treated.  It is also a no-brainer from an economic perspective - we need people like Angelica Hernandez to help insure our successful future in the global marketplace.

Let's not mortgage our future by being stampeded by a bunch of racist crackpots.  Let's do the right thing by these young people and give them permanent residency.  It would be the best possible outcome for them and for us.

Angelica, you rock!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Monday's Poetry: "The Day Obama Decided"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

I came across the following poem by Margit Berman on the World Wide Web today - and really, really liked it.  The Day Obama Decided talks about how we are wasting our resources and energies on war and hate, and it looks at some of the things we could accomplish if we would redirect all of that effort into positive channels.  Yes, it smacks of the Golden Rule and that touchy, feely stuff - but I really, really liked it and hope that you will also.  If you do, please share it with others.

The Day Obama Decided was dated June 15, 2011.

The Day Obama Decided
by Margit Berman

The day Obama decided enough was enough
and turned off his TV and slept well for the first time since 2007,
and Nancy Pelosi decided enough was enough
on a weekend in Vermont, when she threw
the Times and the Post into the woodstove unread,
and Congress decided enough was enough
staring into the mirrors of their sleeping consciences:
They began by ordering all the troops home.
You should have seen the parades.
They marched past boarded-over buildings
and threw grenades
made from tulip bulbs and tomato seeds
into weedy empty lots.
They pulled trailers down the highways
past the cornfields
and wheeled hot tubs up to the doors
of arthritic old ladies,
presented bottles full of bubble bath
stamped "Courtesy of U.S. D.O.D."
They rode ferris wheels with teenagers from Guantanamo,
passed baklava, pupusas, and mangoes on sticks
down the streets to anyone who wanted them.
Then they marched down Pennsylvania Avenue.
The doors of the White House were flung wide open.
Anyone who wanted to could stream in
for a handshake and a plastic flag.
The air was thick with confetti
from all the shredded fear laws.
Open your mouth: You can still
taste the jagged edges.
"SB1070" and "USA PATRI"
melt away on your tongue.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Iowa's Waterloo?

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

It's the crazy season again.  People have once more started talking about Iowa in terms that would indicate that the denizens of that corn-strewn state have some deep political insights - and are much smarter than the rest of us when it comes to sorting out the quality of Presidential candidates.  Every four years Iowans get to have coffee with the candidates, chat with them on the sidewalks and in church, and then tell the rest of us who the best choices are.

It's all foolishness, of course, and the national media feeds into the nonsense by blanketing Iowa with their surveys and news crews in an attempt to crunch numbers quicker than all of their competitors and tell us with god-like journalistic certainty who the leaders are and who will most likely be moving into the White House come next January.

And Iowa is supposed to determine that for all of the rest of us.  Little, corny Iowa!

Iowa guards it's first-in-the-nation status religiously (sarcasm intended) and has laws in effect that say it will always be first - regardless of how early other states schedule their caucuses or primaries in an attempt to upstage the pseudo-importance of Iowa.   The problem is, of course, many states  lust after the benefits of that early voter pie.


The early states get to actually meet the candidates up close and personal - in coffee shops, and homes, and yes, dairy barns.  Candidates who seldom drive themselves to work are suddenly squeezing cow teats for the drooling press corps!    When the candidates come to town, they also draw in the dollars.  Local television and radio stations and newspapers sell ads aplenty, those previously mentioned coffee shops have days (and tips) like never before, motels in small towns fill up with news crews and campaign staff, and everyday Joe's peddle balloons, buttons, bumper stickers - and flags, flags, flags!

It's a freaking bonanza of attention and dollars!

It also has political benefits.  Livestock producers, both in and out of Iowa, know that the primary reason for the high cost of feed is the diversion of corn into ethanol.    Instead of aiming our national energy policies toward truly renewable sources such as solar, hydro, and wind - the farm lobby convinced lawmakers to pump their energies into ethanol, the result of which not only bit the corn-consuming public in the butt, but got in the pockets of livestock growers as well.

Thankfully, America's dalliance with ethanol appears to be coming to an end, but unless this ridiculous primary/caucus system graduates into something more fair to the majority of Americans, we will be destined to see future legislation whose only purpose is to make people happy in the early-voting states.

By the time the majority of us get to weigh in with our preferences, the major party candidates have already been anointed and our votes seem so meaningless that many of us just elect to stay home.  Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina have proudly stepped forward and made the decisions for us.

The current primary/caucus system is shameful.  There are several plans being floated to replace it, but political realities being political realities, there will be an ice storm in Phoenix before any meaningful reforms are allowed to replace the current craziness.

My favorite plan for reforming the process is the one being put forward by the National Association of Secretaries of State - the individuals who actually run the election processes in the fifty states.  That august body has endorsed a regional primary system where states are grouped by region:  West, Midwest, South, and Northeast.    Members of a region would all hold their primaries and caucuses on the same date - and the order of the events would rotate every four years.  (The West, for instance, might get the honor of being first, but four years later it would be last.)  Candidates could concentrate their energies, money, and time in one region at a time.

Another idea that has been floated is that of a National Primary Day - one where we all go to the polls on the same day  and vote for our favorite contender.  That would also be much more fair than letting Iowans and New Hampshirites and South Carolinians tell us who the party nominees will be.

But, alas, those plans are far too practical.  The current process is a mishmash of election crap created by the political parties of the various states, and enacted into state law by their legislators.  The national parties try to exact some power over the process by threatening not to seat delegates at their national conventions if the state parties fail to honor hoary traditions, but, as with Florida in 2008, that draws fire from state political parties (the ones hurt in the process) and some candidates who want to curry favor with that particular electorate.  (Hillary, I'm looking at you!)

Does the current system really suck that badly?  You betcha, it does!  Just look at the miscreants and other voters of South Carolina (another very early primary state) who gave us George W. Bush.  One of the ways in which Bush won the 2000 Republican Primary in South Carolina was through a "whispering" campaign that his main opponent, John McCain, had fathered an illegitimate black child.  Those Bushies knew just exactly what would get the attention of South Carolina Republican voters!

Today it was revealed that the Des Moines Register, the largest newspaper in Iowa, polled Iowa Republicans deemed most likely to participate in the caucuses this winter and found Mitt Romney leading with 23%.  Mister Moneybags was barely ahead of Minnesota Congresswoman (and welfare recipient) Michele Bachmann who mustered 22 percent.  Bachmann has recently discovered that she was born in Waterloo, Iowa, and will officially announce her candidacy there this week.  She will be a major cow teat-squeezer and could conceivably win the Iowa Republican Caucuses!

And then the press will be touting her "inevitability."

Need any more evidence that the system is mortally flawed?

Didn't think so.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Root of Power

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I worry about today's politicians because they see political power as something that arises from whipping the masses into a frenzy, often over issues based in bigotry and hate, while failing to understand the responsibility that comes with that power.  People join political movements out of fear, anger, and need - and it is the "need" component that ultimately determines whether they will stay with the movement or not.  Politicians can yell about immigrants destroying the economy until the cows come home, but at some point they actually have to begin making positive changes in peoples' lives, or the momentum moves on to other politicians who address matters in more practical and positive terms.

James "Whitey" Bulger was arrested this week in California after being on the run for seventeen years.  The old Boston mob boss (now in his eighties) was personally responsible for lots of crime and reportedly more than a few murders.  Yet, not everyone in Boston is pleased that he has been caught.  Bulger, you see, was also a consummate politician who understood how to build and take care of his base.  If a family in South Boston was in need, Bulger's people showed up with groceries, or rent money, or access to medical care.  He was there for his people, and they, in turn, were loyal to him.

Bulger built bridges into the Boston police community and even into the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and it was, in fact, FBI agents who tipped him off that the government was about to pounce seventeen years ago - giving him an opportunity to flee.  The movie, The Departed, was based loosely on Whitey Bulger, and Matt Damon's character who was groomed by the mob to be a cop and ultimately their inside man on the force, is an example of how Bulger's power actually worked.   Bulger gave jobs to kids, sent them to school, directed them into career paths, and let them know when repayment was due.

Tom Pendergast ran Kansas City in much the same manner several decades earlier, and he was preceded by George Washington Plunkitt and Boss Tweed in New York.  Those political bosses literally built power block-by-block and precinct-by-precinct, trading favors for votes.  And while a vote might be viewed by some as sacred, when your family is hungry it is simply a means to a meal.

Mob bosses and political bosses understand that the root of power is the ability to take care of people.  If the government would step up and assume some social responsibility, or insure a decent standard of living for all who are willing to work, the need for "bosses" would start to dry up.  If churches would begin helping the poor instead of demonizing them, the need for "bosses" would start to dry up.   If people would begin focusing on the Golden Rule instead of the rule of gold, then the need for "bosses" would start to dry up.

Whitey Bulger will spend his final few years in a cage - and he has earned that.  But Whitey Bulger was enabled in his quest for power and control in South Boston by several levels of government who couldn't or wouldn't meet the needs of their citizens, gilded churches with agendas other than helping the poor, and individuals focused solely on personal greed.  Those in need were left to Whitey.

Super 8, Super Great!

by Pa Rock
Film Critic

Super 8 opened today in Japan, I had the day off and was well rested, and Camp Foster chose to run the new movie at its theatre this evening - just across the street from where I live.  It was the perfect storm!

My grandson, Boone, told me a couple of weeks ago that he really liked this movie, and that recommendation took a strong precedence over the snarly little reviews that I read on-line.  People who had seen the movie were getting all twisted about little discrepancies and historical goofs - like the color of the tank on a space shuttle model being brown instead of white.  What a bunch of whiners!  I took Boone's recommendation (and my good friend, Valerie) and went to the first Okinawan presentation of Super 8.

Steven Spielberg didn't write or direct his movie, but he was one of the three producers - and it had definite echoes of an earlier Spielberg film, The Goonies - with a hint of an even earlier Spielberg classic, ET.   The plot of Super 8 has a small group of young adolescents making a zombie film, witnessing a colossal train wreck, and then playing cat-and-mouse with their parents and the military who seem to be conducting some nefarious business in the town as a result of the train wreck.  It had the look and feel of the band of kids in The Goonies who were on a treasure hunt.

I loved Super 8 - and The Goonies!   I didn't notice any of the flaws that seemed to drive other viewers insane because I was too busy watching and enjoying the movie.  Perhaps the people who made Super 8 didn't want the inevitable comparisons to The Goonies, but there was no way that wouldn't happen.  I think they missed the boat by not casting Sean Astin (Mikey), Josh Brolin (Brand), and Jeff Cohen (Chunk) as the dads of Joe, Alice, and Charles - respectively.

Super 8 was fun from beginning to end, and the train wreck was spectacular!   My grandson is so much smarter than those geeks who were straining their eyes looking for historical inaccuracies!    Those dweebs missed a really great movie!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Tale of An Undocumented Worker

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Jose Antonio Vargas came to the United States from the Philippines at the age of twelve.  His mother packed him off to live with relatives, telling the boy that she would join him here shortly, but she never did.  Vargas graduated high school and college in the United States and went on to become a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist whose by-line has appeared in many national publications.  All things considered, he has built an amazing career in journalism.

But Jose Antonio Vargas has recently thrown caution to the wind and announced that he is an undocumented worker who is residing in the United States illegally.  He said that he did not realize that he was undocumented until the DMV told him that his Green Card was a fake.  Since learning that shocking tidbit, he has been forced to live in fear of being found out and deported.  Here is how he described that life:

"Over the past 14 years, I've graduated from high school and college and built a career as a journalist interviewing some of the most famous people in the country.  On the surface, I've created a good life.  I've lived the American dream. 
"But I am still an undocumented immigrant.  And that means living a different kind of reality.  It means going about my day in fear of being found out.  It means rarely trusting people, even those closest to me, with who I really am.  It means keeping my family photos in a shoebox rather than displaying them on shelves in my home, so friends don't ask about them.  It means reluctantly, even painfully, doing things I know are wrong and unlawful.  And it has meant relying on a sort of 21st-century underground railroad of supporters, people who took an interest in my future and took risks for me."
Jose Antonio Vargas is an American by any fair measure, and his case serves to poignantly illustrate just how ridiculous American immigration policy is at this time in our history.  America should be fighting to attract immigrants with the skills and ambition of Mr. Vargas, and we should be constantly striving to strengthen our country by enriching our cultural diversity and not limiting our national gene pool to angry whites of European descent.

Of course, if Mr. Vargas is deported we can always give his job to some deserving, red, white, and blue-blooded real American:  Billy Bob Beerbelly down in Bigfoot, Oklahoma, would love to have the job that Vargas has been hogging.  Billy Bob has read a newspaper - a couple of times - well, parts of a newspaper - and he was home-schooled by his parents, Buck and Babe Beerbelly, where he learned all about his ancestors raising dinosaurs and how we fought the wrong people in World War II.  Billy Bob really wants to work - when he's not tweaking!

Oh God, please step up and protect us from ourselves!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Obama Store

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

It's finally here - some positive news about the 2012 presidential campaign:  The Barack Obama on-line store is up and running.  The site offers the usual stuff:  bumper stickers, yard signs, campaign buttons, and several styles of tee-shirts.  Most have only the distinctive Obama logo along with the year 2012.

My favorite item, however, is the Obama coffee mug that features the President's smiling face on one side with the slogan, "Made in the USA," and a copy of his birth certificate on the other side.   Slam, bam, thank you Jesus!   The mugs literally say it all!  I may order several to have on hand as Christmas gifts for my special friends!  (Heck, I'm even tempted to become a coffee drinker!)

It is so refreshing to have something positive to focus on with regard to the 2012 presidential election.  I for one am tired of hearing about who is a good Christian and who isn't, who hates Planned  Parenthood or unions the most, who is the most homophobic or racially bigoted, who has piled up the most money, who is the meanest in the debates, and which primaries and/or debates are smart to skip.  It's all just so much santorum!

I hope the Republican's don't steal the President's thunder and come up with their own coffee mugs.  People might actually stand in line to buy a Newt mug with his picture and coupled with his Tiffany's bill  - or photos of his wives.  Or how about a Bachmann mug with her photo on the front and a map of the route between Lexington and Concord on the reverse - a Massachusetts' map!  Or another big seller might be a Palin mug with her picture under a rifle crosshairs on one side and a picture of Paul Revere's horse on the other.  How about one featuring a picture Little Ricky Santorum that is complemented with a picture of a santorum stain?  (Google it.)  The possibilities seem almost limitless!

Let's go shopping!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Idaho Republican Legislator of the Year

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

2006 was a very good year for Idaho State Senator John McGee because that was the year that he received a couple of highly prestigious honors.  In was in 2006 that the young man (in his early thirties) was named Idaho Republican State Legislator of the Year - and - Idaho's Young Republican of the Year.  The political future of Senator McGee appeared to be very bright indeed.

But things changed dramatically a couple of nights ago when the up-and-coming state senator was found drunk and passed out in the back seat of a vehicle that he had stolen - a vehicle that was pulling a 20' trailer.  Apparently the senator had been drinking most of the evening at the watering hole of a local country club.  He left, on foot, about two in the morning, and was next seen by a couple of young boys walking around the yard of a stranger's home (barefoot) where he had jack-knifed the stolen Ford Excursion and trailer.

Senator McGee allegedly told authorities that he was on his way to Jackpot, Nevada, a town 180 miles southeast of Boise that is known for (surprisingly!) gambling.  He told the owner of the property where he was arrested, a volunteer county jail chaplain, that he was looking for the "Promised Land!"


When he saw the chaplain's wife step out onto the front porch in her bathrobe, he reportedly said, "Look, there's an angel."  It was at that point that the homeowners called the police.

The senator's escapade launched him into the big time.  The next evening Jay Leno cited the incident during his monologue, and then after referring to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Anthony Weiner in the same bit, Leno went on to postulate:  "What is this, spring break for politicians?"

Senator McGee serves from his hometown of Caldwell, Idaho, in the southwestern quadrant of the state very near the capital of Boise.  He is currently the Chairman of the Republican Caucus in the State Senate and the head of the Transportation Committee.  It would appear that plans to progress beyond those august levels of leadership may be currently on hold.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Monday's Poetry: "The Hollow Men"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Today's selection is a morose look at the ending of times by one of the most revered twentieth century poets, T.S. Eliot.  As we get crazier and crazier focusing on celebrities, and politics, and wars, perhaps our time would be better spent in trying to figure out just who we are as a species and where we are headed.  Does mankind have a purpose, and, if so, are we pursuing it?

Or are we instead nothing more than hollow men heading toward a quiet extinction?

(This piece is dedicated to the best dramatist in America.  He knows who he is!)

The Hollow Men
by T.S. Eliot
A penny for the Old Guy


We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats' feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death's other Kingdom
Remember us - if at all - not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.


Eyes I dare not meet in dreams
In death's dream kingdom
These do not appear:
There, the eyes are
Sunlight on a broken column
There, is a tree swinging
And voices are
In the wind's singing
More distant and more solemn
Than a fading star.

Let me be no nearer
In death's dream kingdom
Let me also wear
Such deliberate disguises
Rat's coat, crowskin, crossed staves
In a field
Behaving as the wind behaves
No nearer -

Not that final meeting
In the twilight kingdom


This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man's hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.

Is it like this
In death's other kingdom
Waking alone
At the hour when we are
Trembling with tenderness
Lips that would kiss
Form prayers to broken stone.


The eyes are not here
There are no eyes here
In this valley of dying stars
In this hollow valley
This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms
In this last of meeting places
We grope together
And avoid speech
Gathered on this beach of the tumid river

Sightless, unless
The eyes reappear
As the perpetual star
Multifoliate rose
Of death's twilight kingdom
The hope only
Of empty men.


Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o'clock in the morning.
Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
                                 For Thine is the Kingdom
Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
                                      Life is very long
Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
                                 For Thine is the Kingdom
For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Michele Bachmann's Ugly Game

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Gay rights activists have "glitter-bombed" Republican presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty in recent weeks, causing each momentary embarrassment and perhaps a heightened sense of vulnerability, but certainly no physical harm.  And both, to their credit, took the incidents in a good-natured manner.    Gay activists now credit those two with having "seen the rainbow," and the press refers to them as being members of the "glitterati."

Yesterday another activist tried to expand the ranks of the glitterati by hurling a glitter bomb at Minnesota Congresswoman (and welfare recipient) Michele Bachmann.  Fortunately, the glitter bomber missed.  I say that the miss was fortunate, because if Bachmann had been hit, there would have been hell to pay.

Not only is Michele Bachmann a world-class drama queen, she is also known for not playing nice.  In fact, she doesn't play at all.  Bachmann has built her career on vilifying certain groups, chief among which are gay Americans.

In April of 2005 when Bachmann was running for Congress she was speaking to a small group at a town hall meeting.  When people in the gay-friendly audience started asking about her opposition to gay marriage, she cut the meeting short and headed to the bathroom.  Two women, one of whom was a five-foot-tall ex-nun, followed her into the bathroom to continue the discussion.  Bachmann responded to their presence by screaming, "Help!  Help!  I'm being held against my will."  She fled the scene and called police.  Her report said that she had been "absolutely terrified" and "had no idea what those two women were going to do to me."  

The county attorney, knowing a stunt when he smelled one, declined to press charges.

So think before throwing those glitter bombs at Michele.  She is humorless.  And woe be to the first male reporter who stands in her way or, God forbid, accidentally touches her.  That's when the game will really turn ugly!

AARP Still Sucks!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I quit the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) several years ago when it endorsed the Bush pharmacy plan for Medicare that was written in total by the pharmaceutical industry.  But then the group redeemed itself and supported President Obama's Affordable Health Care Act and I rejoined.  Unfortunately, it now looks as though the senior citizen's advocacy group - which is basically just a vehicle to sell seniors insurance - is again throwing its members under the bus.

The Wall Street Journal, a Rupert Murdoch rag, has a front page piece saying that AARP will no longer oppose cuts in Social Security - information that the rag says it got from AARP policy director John Rother.  And although AARP has now jumped into defensive mode and is saying that the Journal article is "inaccurate," the hoary old gray monstrosity is not saying "how" it is inaccurate.

Something smells mighty fishy.

Members who are as pissed as I am might be interested to know that the last time I got mad and emailed them a notice to cancel my membership, I eventually received a refund check on my dues from the organization.  I will be cancelling my membership - yet again - and encourage others to consider that option as well.  We may need that dues' refund to help deflect the Social Security cuts - cuts that will reach into all of our pockets.

If Social Security benefit cuts take place, what will be next?  Cuts in Medicare, my friends, cuts in Medicare.  Many states are also busy destroying their public employee unions in a full frontal assault that will eventually cripple the pensions of their members.

This is the conservative vision for the future of America - senior citizens living hand-to-mouth, health care only for the rich, the elimination of inheritance taxes so the wealthy can pass their fortunes on to their imbecilic offspring, tax cuts for the richest Americans and the biggest and most greedy corporations, rape victims being forced to give birth to the babies of their attackers, little girls being forced to give birth to the babies of their fathers, creationism being taught in public schools as science, an end to ethnic diversity, gays forced into re-education camps -and endless wars!  It's a future more horrific that anything George Orwell could have imagined - you betcha, it is!

Enough already!

Open your windows, lean out into the polluted air, and yell the immortal words of Howard Beale at the top of your lungs:  "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!"

And then demand that AARP refund your membership dues!

Friday, June 17, 2011

To Build a Fire

by Pa Rock
Dedicated Reader

One of the classes that I enjoyed most in high school was English (long before it was “language arts”) where every year we were treated to alternating quarters of writing and grammar followed by literature.  In the writing and grammar quarters we learned – actually learned -  things like subject-verb agreement, starting sentences with a capital letter and ending them with a piece of appropriate punctuation, sentence structure (through diagramming), and how to build a complete paragraph – one that carried and finished a thought.  I found that stuff fascinating.

But I always looked forward to the literature quarters.  Our literature books were big and bulky and packed with magic.  One quarter each year we would tackle something substantive such as Silas Marner, Great Expectations, or the god-awful Julius Caesar.   (Shakespeare wrote some great things – Hamlet, for example, or A Midsummer Night’s Dream, or The Taming of the Shrew – but why would anyone try to foster a love of the Bard in high school students with Julius Caesar?  Yet forty plus years ago, that was the play most often used to introduce young minds to Shakespeare.)

The other literature quarter focused on poetry and short stories.    It was in those quarters that I learned to love the quaint New England of Robert Frost, the crazy family of James Thurber, and the killing cold of Jack London’s frozen northland.  In fact, it was works of those three authors that I remember best from high school:  Robert Frost’s Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, Thurber’s The Night the Bed Fell on Father (both mentioned previously in this space), and Jack London’s savage tale of the triumph of nature over man – To Build a Fire.

This morning while sitting in my car reading before work, I had the chance to revisit To Build a Fire, which although not a mystery story, was included in the June 2011 issue of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine as a “classic” short story.    The piece was selected and introduced by author Martin Limon who, like me, first encountered it in a high school English class.    In describing his initial reaction to the story, Limon said, 

“Nothing had prepared me for such complete immersion.  Nothing has prepared me for a writer who could grab me by my teenage neck and yank me into a new world.  Nothing had prepared me for Jack London.”

The man, the dog, and the Yukon on a day when the sun would not shine and the temperature was seventy-five degrees below zero.   To Build a Fire is not a fanciful tale.  It is realism at its most real and serves to remind us that in the end nature always prevails.  That, I think, is a good thing.

(Note:  My high school teacher was Jennibel Paul.   The writing skills that she taught have served me well throughout life, and it was by her efforts that I developed a love of reading and good literature.  Mrs. Paul was a terrific teacher!)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Stepford Candidates

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist  

As the dust begins to settle from the big New Hampshire Republican debate, the race is on for journalists to tell us who won, and, more importantly, who is going to win.  The first actual primary votes won't be cast for nearly six months, but the campaign hacks and professional spinners are frantically trying  to make their man or woman look like the inevitable candidate - and American journalists have risen to the bait and are rigorously disseminating the message.

Mitt Romney won because everyone was fearful of looking too mean or shifty or underhanded if they laid a glove on him - that's the spin that seemed to carry the furthest.  The rest of the spin is that Mitt is the most sane of the pack and the most electable.  Some would also argue that the same holds true for former Utah governor, Jon Huntsman.  Huntsman did not lose the New Hampshire debate because he chose to sit it out.  Huntsman, like Romney, has a wealth of experience in business and govenment, a personal fortune, an impeccable reputation, and a highly photogenic family.

Romney and Huntsman are very much alike when it comes to their families.  Romney, who has only been married once, has a pretty wife and five handsome sons - all over the age of thirty.  The Romney's appear to be a family that was assembled by a Hollywood casting agency - Stepfords, one and all.  But so too are the Huntsman's.  Mrs. Huntsman is pretty, and apparently politically ambitious.  They have five children of their own - three daughters and two sons - all grown - as well as two younger adopted daughters, one from India and the other from China.  The Huntsman's are also very, very Stepford - with a bit of an international twist.

And even though the Romney's and Huntsman's are picture-perfect, they each have two significant deficits - as least as far as some members of their party are concerned.  Both have expressed the occasional grain of commonsense - such as their shared belief in man-made global warming or their understanding that government does have some social responsibilities.  But beliefs such as those are an anathema to teabagger riffraff who think they control the Republican party - mouth-breathers whom Romney and Huntsman will have to court, at least nominally, until the nominating conventions next year.

The other Achilles heel shared by the two pretty boys is their religion.  Both are Mormon.  While many people fully accept Mormonism as a Christian religion,  that is not the case with all Christian fundamentalists - most of whom are firmly aligned with - or are members of - the teabagger branch of the GOP.  Many of those individuals regard Mormonism as a cult.

The Romney's or the Huntsman's would look great on the White House Christmas card, but I think that it is damned unlikely that the right-wing rabble will sit idly by and let either of them get the Republican nomination - regardless of what the spinners are trying to tell us today.  And if hell freezes over and one of them does get the nomination, that person would still have to defeat a very popular President Obama.

The chances of hell freezing over twice in one year are not good.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Alan Colmes: The Left Wing of Fox

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

As I have often stated in this space, the news and opinion outlets on the island of Okinawa - for Americans - are dismal, and if it weren't for the Internet there would be very little offered in the way of variety or intelligent discussion.  While there is a bit more balance with television options, the Armed Forces Radio Network is abysmal.

AFRN offers one radio program aimed at helping people learn how to master their finances, but the host is hell bent on promoting his own "university" and products - and Christian proselytizing.

It is, however, in the realm of political talk radio where AFRN especially sucks wind.  Rush Limbaugh is a staple the network likes to air during evening drive time when everyone is trapped in their cars with limited audio options.  Rush, of course, oozes right-wing crap and slime by the bucket.

Liberal talk is primarily represented by Alan Colmes, an employee of Fox News - thus allowing them the false claim of being "fair and balanced."  Mr. Colmes is pro-Obama and in favor of government involvement in the economic sector.  He also holds liberal views on social policies.  The problem with Alan Colmes is that he is every bit as loud, offensive, and obnoxious as Rush Limbaugh.  Colmes takes pride in the fact that calls to his program are not "screened" and anyone can call in to talk about anything.  He then, quite obviously, gets swamped with chowder-heads who think that Sarah Palin would make a great President and illegal immigrants should be shot and then deported.

But those are the callers that Alan Colmes wants.  He likes picking on morons, yelling at them, making fun of them, and then hanging up before making some more demeaning remarks on the air.  He is every bit the intolerant bully that Rush Limbaugh is.

And that's a shame because there are people on both ends of the spectrum who are smarter than these yahoos and much easier to tolerate.   It's almost as though Armed Forces Radio Network prefers noise over thoughtful opinion.  Perhaps the network doesn't trust its listeners to think critically - or doesn't want them to.

I now turn off Rush and Alan - that is my version of "fair and balanced."

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

State Legislators Don't Need No Stinking Degrees!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The Chronicle of Higher Education, an effete, intellectual publication aimed primarily at college and university teachers and professor wannabes,  has recently issued a rather sobering report on the level of education  among America's 7,400 state legislators, the fine men and women who think up and pass state laws.  A disturbing number of those legislators might be more suited to just sitting at home and passing gas.

Yes, yes, I know, not all education comes from the classroom, and many of the yokels who like the perks of working part-time at their state capitols (perks like per diem, for instance, or government funded health care), undoubtedly feel that their life experiences are just as valuable as book-learning.  But, we are in the twenty-first century, a time when most people are experiencing at least a couple of years of college.

According to the Chronicle, one in four of America's state legislators don't have a college degree - that's 25% which is slightly better than the 28% of American adults overall who lack college degrees.  But that's about as good as the news gets.

Twenty-five percent of state legislators in Arkansas don't have any college credits - let alone a degree!  Arkansas, in fact, has the highest rate of non-college attendees serving in its state legislature of any state in America.  It was followed in second place by Montana with 18%, and three states - Kansas, South Dakota, and Arizona - rounded out the top five with 16% each.  Those are the percentages of state legislators with absolutely no college experience!

(Having lived in Arizona, I was shocked that their percentage was so low!  It takes a special level of moron to elect someone like Russell Pearce as the leader of the State Senate.)

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the best educated state legislature seems to be in California where 90% of the legislators have at least a bachelor's degree.   The remaining top five are Virginia with 89%, Nebraska with 87%, New York with 87%, and Texas with 86%.  Texas?  Texas!  (And yes, California has budgetary problems -  as do almost all states in America - but it also has the economy of a fairly large industrialized country and it is a place where millions of people choose to live for many, many reasons.)

Would the country be better off if there were some minimal education requirements before a person could qualify to sit in a legislature and write laws?  Who knows?  Dog groomers and manicurists are required to be trained and licensed in most states, but maybe functional literacy would be a handicap to legislators.  Again, who knows?  With all of the anti-intellectual fervor in America today, legislators may decide to completely stop funding public education - and then we all can be blissfully ignorant together!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Would You Like That Weiner in a Pun?

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Anthony Weiner has had a rough two weeks of it.  The congressman from New York City has landed himself in the middle of an Internet sex scandal that probably would have begun fading from the headlines by now if he had been blessed with a standard surname like Smith or Jones.  But a moniker like "Weiner" just begs to be abused!

One of Congressman Weiner's hometown newspapers, the tabloid - New York Post, has become a veritable pun generator with such classic headlines as:  "Weiner Roast," "Weiner Exposed," "Hide the Weiner," and "Battle of the Bulge:  Hard Time for Naked Truth."   Fellow New Yorker Jon Stewart stoically commented that he remembered the embattled congressman as having "a lot more Anthony and a lot less Weiner!"

Some other headlines pilfered from the Internet beat Weiner in grand style:  "Weiner blows it but refuses to withdraw,"  "Pressure grows on Weiner," and "Exposed Weiner refuses to resign." Then there was this classic, "Weiner constituents polled:  Stay in, they say."

Can it get any more literary than that?

Well, yes it obviously can.  Stodgy old NPR described the congressman from New York as being "testy."  Spirit Airlines even sucked the Member into one of its advertisements:  "Check out our Weiner sale boasting fares just too hard to resist."  Ouch!

And these jewels are also hanging out there on the Internet thanks to Weinergate:  "Weiner in hot water,"  "Weiner is shrinking," "Weiner shrinks from telling the whole story,"  "It's not that big a thing," "Dispute to be settled in small claims court," "It's just a member of congress," and, "Byte sized scandal."

Rush Limbaugh, who knows Andrew Breitbart personally and was rightly skeptical of any "news" put forth by the "journalist," began his original coverage of the story by saying that he found the Anthony Weiner controversy "hard to swallow."  (I personally find the notion that the Rushbag would find anything hard to swallow to be...well...hard to swallow!)

But perhaps the greatest Weiner pun was the one that slipped from the congressman's own lips when he responded to criticism by remarking, "I'm sorry I was a little stiff yesterday!"

They just don't write them like than any more!

Who says real journalism is dead?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Kong and Bogie

by Pa Rock
Movie Aficionado

The Japanese mystery channel, AXN, which normally keeps me company in the evenings, has begun running the British coroner-sleuth series, Silent Witness, at the time when I usually kick back in front of the television and allow myself to be entertained while eating supper.  But my sensitive system just can't abide the gruesome spectacle of full-color autopsies while I try to savor a meal prepared in the kitchens of Marie Callendar.

So, until AXN runs through its supply of Silent Witness reruns and comes up with something more appropriate for the dinner hour, I have begun channel-surfing with a vengeance.  During the past week I have been treated to some older American movies of the first order including the Michael Keaton classic, Beetlejuice, one of the cleverest and funniest movies ever made.

"Hey Mister Tallyman, tally me bananas!"

I also had the opportunity to experience a couple of movies this week that were much older than Beetlejuice.

The first of the really old classic movies that I saw was the original King Kong which was filmed in 1933 and starred Faye Wray as the damsel who was hauled up the Empire State Building by the big monkey.  The movie was hokey in some respects, such as with the island natives and their ceremonies.   But it wasn't bad, considering that it was made in 1933.  I've not seen the 1976 version of King Kong, but I did see the most recent one (2005) and noticed that it managed to stay remarkably true to the original.

The other black-and-white gem that I viewed was the 1946 version of The Big Sleep starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.  The movie was based on a novel by Raymond Chandler (one of his Philip Marlowe masterworks) and was adapted for the screen by William Faulkner.  Unbelievably, with the script being the cumulative effort of two of the literary giants of the twentieth century, it was the writing that proved to be this movie's greatest flaw.  Yes, the dialogue, especially between Bogie and Bacall, was clever and snappy, but the movie's action was at times tedious and often confusing.  It would probably take two or three viewings to have a clear sense of who-killed-whom and why.  But hey, people went to the theaters to see Bogie and Bacall - just like they did to see Tracy and Hepburn - or Elvis and anyone - the story itself was incidental!

Nevertheless, I'll take a classic movie over autopsies any day!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Marshal Dillon Has Left the Long Branch

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

A significant era of television history came to a close last week with the passing of James Arness, the man who starred as Marshal Matt Dillion during the twenty years that Gunsmoke was a part of the American cultural landscape.  Arness, who starred in the weekly television western from its beginning in 1955 until the show's final episode in 1975 - and in five follow-up Gunsmoke television movies - died at the age of eighty-eight on June 3rd.

Arness, the son of Norwegian immigrants and brother of actor Peter Graves, got his start in the movie business in 1947 with a small role in a film called The Farmer's Daughter that starred Loretta Young, Joseph Cotten, and Ethel Barrymore.  In 1953 he played an Indian scout for the U.S. Calvary in the movie Hondo.  John Wayne, the star of that film purchased the rights to Hondo from Louis L'Amour, the man who originally published it as a short story.   The sale of that story led L'Amour to believe that he could write books - and boy did he ever!

But I digress.

John Wayne developed a personal friendship with the young actor who would go on to star in America's most famous television western series, and when the show premiered on CBS in 1955, it was Wayne who appeared on camera to talk about James Arness and to legitimize the young actor as somebody families could accept as a true western star.  If The Duke says the boy's alright, well then, Pilgrim...

Here is the John Wayne introduction of the very first television episode of Gunsmoke:

"Good evening. My name's Wayne. Some of you may have seen me before; I hope so. I've been kicking around Hollywood a long time. I've made a lot of pictures out here, all kinds, and some of them have been Westerns. And that's what I'm here to tell you about tonight: a Western—a new TV show called Gunsmoke. No, I'm not in it. I wish I were, though, because I think it's the best thing of its kind that's come along, and I hope you'll agree with me; it's honest, it's adult, it's realistic. When I first heard about the show Gunsmoke, I knew there was only one man to play in it: James Arness. He's a young fellow, and maybe new to some of you, but I've worked with him and I predict he'll be a big star. So you might as well get used to him, like you've had to get used to me! And now I'm proud to present my friend Jim Arness in Gunsmoke."

Gunsmoke actually began as a radio show and ran from 1952 through 1961.  Actor William Conrad was the voice of Marshal Dillon on the radio.  CBS took the show to television in 1955 as a thirty-minute weekly presentation on Saturday nights.   From 1957 through 1961 it was the highest rated television show in America.  The show was subsequently expanded to one-hour in 1961, after which its numbers began to decline and it never regained the top spot.   The final episode count at the end of the twenty-year run was 635 - a record that still stands.

Over the years a host of fine actors appeared on Gunsmoke, but the four who will be best-remembered for their roles are Arness, Amanda Blake (Miss Kitty - the owner of the Long Branch Saloon), Dennis Weaver,  (the limping deputy, Chester Goode), and Milburn Stone (the irascible Doc Adams).  They have all passed now, with Marshal Dillon bringing up the rear.

A fifth person who was a semi-regular on the program and had a tenuous connection to my family was Anderson, Missouri, native Dabbs Greer who played the shopkeeper, Mr. Jonas.  Greer was a Hollywood character actor who appeared in hundreds of movies and television programs.  He even had an uncredited role as a bad guy in the first television episode of Superman.

My mother worked with Dabbs Greer at his family's drug store in Anderson in the late 1930's.  The first time I saw him he was walking down Main Street in my hometown of Noel, Missouri, heading for a dental visit with Dr. Dale Croddy and his wife, Virginia - whom Greer had known as a young man in Anderson.  My mother, upon seeing her old friend, rushed next door to the dental office for a quick hello, and although they had not seen each other for many years, Greer greeted her with, "Why, it's Flo, isn't it?"  Florine actually, but it probably was "Flo" in the 1930's!  A few years later I saw the actor at the license bureau in the county seat of Pineville, and in 1969 he was the speaker at my sister's high school graduation in Anderson.

But I digress, yet again.

My father, Garland Macy, who was a year younger than James Arness, lived for Gunsmoke.  Dad worked long days and sometimes well into the evening hours, but on Saturday nights he was firmly parked in front of the television to watch his favorites, Have Gun Will Travel and Gunsmoke.  In Dad's declining years he amassed a big collection of Gunsmoke tapes, and when he wasn't reading Louis L'Amour or Zane Grey (or the Wall Street Journal), he could usually be found in front of the television focused on the exploits of Marshal Dillon.

James Arness was an important part of twentieth century America.  At a time when it was easier to discern the good guys from the bad guys, Arness was always one of the good guys.   He will be missed by those of us of a certain age!

Rest in peace, old timer - and thanks for the memories!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Fit for a Day

by Pa Rock
Old Wheezer

I didn't intend to spend the day focusing on physical fitness when I got up this morning, but somehow it turned into one of those rare days when I seemed to sweat out more fat and calories than I consumed.

This is my bi-monthly Friday off, and I usually begin the "free" Fridays with a massage.  In fact, I have a standing appointment at 9:00 a.m. on those Fridays.  It is an extravagance, but it is such a nice extravagance!  I followed that with a visit to the gym where I marched two miles on the treadmill in thirty-five minutes.  (Most of the young people on the treadmills at the gym spend thirty-five minutes running, but I am thankful to be able just to keep moving that long!)

I came home at noon and whipped up enough tuna salad to last through next week, and then took off for Torii Beach where I walked the entire beach - probably at least three miles -  picking up sea glass.

And now the sun is setting, leaving me to wonder just where the hell did the day go?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Michele Bachmann Scrapes Bottom

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist 

Minnesota welfare recipient, Michele Bachmann, who also serves as a Member of Congress which puts her on the federal dole as well, is making lots of noise about wanting to run for President - of the United States, no less!  A few weeks ago she put the word out that she had asked God to provide her with someone to run a campaign, and God, that infinite jester, has finally coughed up a politico to help Ms. Bachmann in her quest for immortality - and it must have been one big nasty cough, because the new campaign manager came from the absolute bottom of the barrel!

Ed Rollins, a man who has been involved with some of the most odious politicians in the history of the Republic, has stepped forward to help lead Michele to the back door of the White House.   Rollins, whose political autobiography is entitled Bare Knuckles and Back Rooms, admittedly has skills in voter manipulation (based on his own boasts), but he is probably not someone whom Sweet Michele  would be comfortable sitting next to in church.

My favorite Rollins story is the job he did for and on Christine Todd Whitman.   Ms. Whitman was running for governor of New Jersey in 1993 against an incumbent Democrat.  After her campaign began to crash on the Jersey shore, the desperate candidate brought in Rollins to manage the affair.  Remarkably, she won, but by the slimmest (and perhaps slimiest) of margins.

Ed be praised!

But then before Christie and her family could even get unpacked in the governor's mansion, Rollins went public in a fit of self-aggrandizement and announced to the world that Whitman had won the election because he directed payment of cash to certain Black ministers so that they would work to suppress the votes of their congregations - a phenomenon referred to as "negative vote buying" in some political research.

Ed Rollins spent money to get Black ministers to hold down the Black voter turnout - and then bragged about it!

Oh, Michele, you are so blessed!

And I guess we can give the glory to God.  That old broad has one really wicked sense of humor!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Texting in the Theatre

by Pa Rock
Crabby Critic

A couple of years ago when my friend Carla and I spent a week or so in New York City hoping from one Broadway production to another, I sat next to a couple and their teenage daughter during the performance of Wicked.  I remember more about the teenage girl than I do the play - because she spent the entire performance texting on her cell phone.  I kept waiting for one of her parents to grab the phone and throw it onto the stage - or up into the balcony - but they were obviously used to the rudeness of their daughter and able to concentrate on the play.  Pa Rock, however, was not.

Today while surfing the net I came across an opinion piece talking about the use of cell phones in theatres - especially when they are being used for texting - and this rant began to bubble up.  I like to sit up high, usually on the back row, where I don't get bumped and jostled from behind.  The problem with that location is that it also affords me a view of most of the audience - people who tend to fade into oblivion until they take the notion to generate or answer a text message.  The instant they flip open their phones, a beacon of light darts forth and pulls me away from the movie.   There are times when the theatre auditorium twinkles with blue lights like some macabre Christmas display.

Last Friday evening when I was watching Pirates of the Caribbean with a couple of friends, one young lady a couple of rows in front of us tried to be more accommodating.  Instead of sitting in the theater and answering the messages that she was receiving, she would jump up, climb over people, and rush out to the lobby each time her phone buzzed - an action that was annoying on multiple levels!

And occasionally there are still some who attempt to talk on their cell phone during the movie, but audiences have gotten meaner and now tend to hurl insults at those morons.  I do remember one clever lady in Arizona who got up and walked out of No Country for Old Men after her phone rang multiple times.  She walked to the back of the theater, but not outside, where she could still keep up with the movie while she talked - and the entire audience got to listen to every word.

I think the only fair solution to this unmitigated rudeness would be to not allow cell phones in theatres.  And knowing that Americans are inherent rule-breakers, I would suggest that all movie patrons either be thoroughly patted down or walk through a TSA-style body scanner as they enter the auditorium.

Once we get the cell phone situation under control, then we can move on the curse of crying kids.  Maybe a minimum age - something at least in the double digits - would be in order.

And don't even get me started on restaurants!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Sweet Justice

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Bank of America, a multi-national corporation with neither soul nor conscience, took homeowners Warren and Maureen Nyengers to court in February of 2010 trying to evict the couple from their home in Naples, Florida - a home which they had purchased for cash.


Two months later the monster bank quietly dropped their deeply flawed case.  But before the case was dismissed, the Nyengers hired the services of Todd Allen, a local attorney who specializes in foreclosure defense. The judge in the case reasoned (rightly) that since Bank of America was wrong from the git-go, it should pay the legal bill of Mr. Allen.

But sometimes multi-national corporations don't get too concerned about the vagaries of some local judge, and Bank of America chose to ignore Mr. Allen's request for payment in the amount of $2,534.  That is, the big bank chose to ignore a legitimate order of the Court until Mr. Allen showed up at the local BOA branch office with sheriff's deputies and movers to lay claim to the contents of the facility.  The lawyer gave instructions to remove desks, computers, copiers, filing cabinets, and any cash in the teller's drawers.

The News-Press in Fort Myers, Florida, reported that "...after about an hour of being locked out of the bank, the bank manager handed the attorney a check for the legal fees."

Kudos to you, Barrister Allen.  Since you are located on the Gulf of Mexico anyway, have you thought about representing some of the poor folks down there whose lives were wrecked by the oil spill?   I would be interested to see the value that BP places on one of its gas stations.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Monday's Poetry: "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere"

by Pa Rock
Former History Teacher

Half-baked Alaskan Sarah Palin is out stating "facts" again, and, as is her well-established pattern, she is stating them wrong. Palin, a former weather girl who struggled through five or six colleges to finally amass enough credits for a degree, has a penchant for screwing up things academic - such as geography and history. She has been the subject of some scorn and snickers before when she referred to Africa as being a "country," and noted that her hero, Ronald Reagan, graduated from Eureka College in California, when, in fact, it was Eureka College in Illinois. But it is in the field of history where she is beginning to garner critical attention and open-mouthed stares - even from teabagger Republicans. She has stated, for example, her notion that dinosaurs and humans walked the earth together a mere six thousand years ago. (Presumably the creatures died out because Noah couldn't fit two of them on his big boat.)

Palin and her spawn are currently on an inspirational bus tour to remind real Americans - like them - of their unique heritage. This week she flubbed remarks about Paul Revere in true Sarah style. When asked a question at one of her stops about the famous American silversmith, she described Revere as having warned the British "that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms, uh, by ringing those bells and, uhm, making sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells.” You betcha, she did.

Chris Wallace called Palin on her quack history on his Fox show this past Sunday. She responded by defending her version of the famous ride. 

"You know what? Here’s what Paul Revere did. He warned the Americans that “the British were coming, the British were coming.” And they were going to try to take our arms so got to make sure that, uh, we were protecting ourselves and, uhm, shoring up all of our ammunitions (sic) and our firearms so that they couldn’t take them."

"But remember that the British had already been there — many soldiers — for seven years in that area. And part of Paul Revere’s ride… And it wasn’t just one ride. He was a courier. He was a messenger. Part of his ride was to warn the British that were already there that, “Hey. You’re not going to succeed. You’re not going to take American arms. You are not gonna beat our own well-armed, uh, persons, uh, individual private militia that we have. He did warn the British."

Ms. Sarah also played her standard victim card by saying the question was a "gotcha" type of question and that she had answered candidly. She finished with the declaration, "And I know my American history!"

Which, of course, is bullshit.   (I guess we can all be thankful that she's not from Texas or they would undoubtedly have her running the committee that tells textbook publishers what they can and cannot put in their books.   American History as approved by Sarah Palin -  the horror, the horror!)

Sarah, just for your own personal edification (look it up!), here is a more accurate version of Paul Revere's famous ride.  I'll take Longfellow's account over yours any day.

The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

He said to his friend, "If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,--
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm."

Then he said "Good-night!" and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
The Somerset, British man-of-war;
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon like a prison bar,
And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide.

Meanwhile, his friend through alley and street
Wanders and watches, with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers,
Marching down to their boats on the shore.

Then he climbed the tower of the Old North Church,
By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the sombre rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade,--
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town
And the moonlight flowing over all.

Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,
In their night encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel's tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper, "All is well!"
A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay,--
A line of black that bends and floats
On the rising tide like a bridge of boats.

Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse's side,
Now he gazed at the landscape far and near,
Then, impetuous, stamped the earth,
And turned and tightened his saddle girth;
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry tower of the Old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and sombre and still.
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry's height
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns.

A hurry of hoofs in a village street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet;
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.
He has left the village and mounted the steep,
And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides;
And under the alders that skirt its edge,
Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.

It was twelve by the village clock
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer's dog,
And felt the damp of the river fog,
That rises after the sun goes down.

It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, black and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon.

It was two by the village clock,
When he came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze
Blowing over the meadow brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed
Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a British musket ball.

You know the rest. In the books you have read
How the British Regulars fired and fled,---
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
From behind each fence and farmyard wall,
Chasing the redcoats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load.

So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm,---
A cry of defiance, and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo for evermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Catching Up

by Pa Rock

Sunday evening, the sun is setting, and I am just completing my first weekend at home in two weeks.  I didn't get everything done that I had planned for these two days off, but it was a productive time nonetheless.

Somehow I managed to wash three loads of laundry, including all of the dirty clothes that I brought back from Yoron, and get them all folded and put away.  That was an amazing feat by itself.  I also did some cooking that will see me through the coming week.

I did get several of the photos from Yoron posted on the web this weekend.  You can view them on my other blog at

During the past few days I completed reading one book, Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea  (a re-read from my youth), and have begun Dirty Havana Trilogy by Cuban author and journalist Pedro Juan Gutierrez.  The Gutierrez book is a first person accounting of life among the underclass in Cuba in the early 1990's.  It is very poignant - and bawdy enough to legitimize the title.

I made it to the gym on Camp Foster twice this weekend.  All of the treadmills at Gunners' Fitness Center are now set to run only 30 minutes and then go into a five-minute cool-down mode before shutting off.  Yesterday I managed 1.91 miles in 35 minutes and was huffing and puffing to accomplish even that.  Today I did 2.03 miles in the same time period - in relative ease.  The secret, I suspect, has to do with regularity of effort.

I also managed to make a trip to the commissary where ninety dollars bought enough food for the next couple of weeks.  Armed Forces Network tells us that the commissary operates "at cost" plus five percent for upkeep - and that an average shopper will save thirty percent by shopping there over time.  Overall, I think that is a crock, but the occasional bargain does occasionally hit the shelves.

That's about it - except that in my spare time I am writing a long and somewhat complicated poem (or is it a ballad?) about a murder.  For a person who lives alone, there is never a shortage of things to do!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Mitt's Done!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

While Mitt Romney might be smart enough to win a national election, though I seriously doubt that he is, the Mittster is definitely too dumb to succeed in getting the Republican nomination.  In fact, in the spirit of Newt Gingrich, he appears to have imploded just hours after announcing that he was going to run.

Yesterday Romney and his family commandeered a New Hampshire farmhouse to make his big announcement, and before he had even stepped away from the podium, dingbat Sarah Palin showed up just down the road in her tour bus and sucked away all of Romney's reporters.  It was not the smooth campaign roll-out that he needed.

Now, Romney has apparently committed an unforgivable act by telling a gathering of New Hampshire residents something that runs counter to Republican orthodoxy.  He said that yes, global warming is occurring, and yes, it is due at least in part to the actions of mankind.  So not only is he a Mormon and a past supporter of government-run health care, but he is also a man of science!

Mitt, when you are trying to win primary votes from people who believe the earth is just 6,000 years old and dinosaurs were used by early men to pull plows, you probably want to shy away from anything founded in science.  Teabaggers don't take too kindly to intellectuals!

Just ask Newt!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Swishbuckler 4

by Pa Rock
Movie Aficionado

I just returned from an evening at the movies with a couple of friends where we saw the latest installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.  This fourth in the series was subtitled On Stranger Tides.  The plot involved Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), the gayest rogue to ever sail the high seas, prancing about on two continents in search of the fabled Fountain of Youth.

There were actually three parties in pursuit of the prize that had eluded Ponce de Leon two centuries before:  the Spanish government, the British government, and a pirate ship commanded by the legendary pirate, Sir Edward Teach, aka Blackbeard.  Captain Jack Sparrow was impressed into service on board Blackbeard's vessel where he tried unsuccessfully to lead a mutiny and endlessly flirted with Blackbeard's daughter, Angelica (Penelope Cruz), who also happened to be an old girlfriend of Sparrow's from one of the preceding three Pirates' films.

The plot was simple up to a point - three parties in a desperate race to reach the Fountain of Youth.  Unfortunately, it was soon complicated by vampire mermaids and a laborious and confusing process for using the Fountain that included two silver chalices, the tear of a mermaid, water from the fountain, and a guessing game.

The movie itself was also confusing and hard to follow.  I left the theatre confused as to why it had even been made, and why I had spent two hours of my diminishing life watching it.

My friends, however, liked Pirates of the Caribbean:  On Stranger Tides - and I like them, so it was an evening well spent!