Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Willow Files

by Pa Rock
Proud Grandfather

I learned last night that I have a new granddaughter.  Willow Files was born in the wee hours of November 30th in Salem, Oregon.  She will soon be at home with her older brothers, Sebastian and Judah Files.

Congratulations to Scott and Molly and their wonderful little family.  Willow, welcome to the party!

Much love from Pa Rock!

Alabama's Racist Immigration Law Backfires

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The good white people of Alabama were so proud of themselves earlier last year when they managed to pass an immigration law that was even meaner than the one adopted in Arizona.  HB 56 was intended to put all of those job-stealing Mexicans on notice - Alabama jobs would be held by Alabamans,  and all illegals would be found out, stripped of their basic human rights, jailed, and deported.  Police had to begin asking everyone they stopped to prove that they were in the country legally.  Show me your papers, please.

It was going to be a Godsend.  The unemployment rate would drop drastically, crime would evaporate, and all of the Mexicans would be somebody else's problem.  Best of all, God's chosen language, English, would go unchallenged as the basis for verbal communication in Alabama - though sometimes when the locals use that language, it is slobbered out in a manner that begs for a translator.

And if the goal was to get rid of the Hispanics, the law worked wonderfully.  That population, both legal and illegal, fled the state en masse.  Unemployment has dropped slightly, but probably only temporarily, and farmers are being very vocal about the fact that their crops are rotting in the fields because they can't find farm laborers.  So it will be awhile before the full economic impact of HB 56 is known, but initial reports are troubling.

Still, the folks in Alabama are very proud of the fact that they are just as mean-spirited as Arizonans.   Well, that is they were pumped up until the arrest of an illegal earlier this week in Tuscaloosa, and now they don't rightly know what to think.

Detlev Hager, a 46-year-old citizen of Germany, was pulled over by a Tuscaloosa policeman because his rental car did not have a license tag.  When the police officer asked the mandatory questions regarding proof of residency and citizenship, the poor man could only produce a German identification card.  The policeman did his duty according to HB 56 and proceeded to haul Mr. Hagar off to jail.

It turns out, however, that Mr. Hagar did have a reason and a right to be in this country - as did much of Alabama's former Hispanic population.  He is a manager for Mercedes-Benz and was in America visiting the Mercedes-Benz manufacturing plant in Tuscaloosa.  He is a very important person whose company was lured to Alabama fifteen years ago with massive state tax breaks.  His arrest was such a big deal that the governor, when he learned of the incident, immediately called the State Director of Homeland Security to find out just what the hell was going on.

Now it seems that some residents are beginning to rethink HB 56.  They want to harass some immigrants, but definitely not business executives from Europe who happen to be significant players in the state's economy.  The law is apparently too colorblind and may need a bit of fine-tuning!

It will be interesting to see what their state legislature spits out next.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

J. Edgar

by Pa Rock
Movie Aficionado

Clint Eastwood's new film on the life and times of J. Edgar Hoover, the man who created the Federal Bureau of Investigation and served as its head for nearly half a century, is a big cinematic mess - and it pains me terribly to say that because I really, really wanted this movie to be good.  The film was a mishmash of snippets from Hoover’s life, lightly stirred, and poured into a story line that hopped forward and backward almost without strategy. It was confusing and often boring.

The fault for this cinematic debacle lies completely with the director, the writer, and the film editor. It was as though none of the three could determine where they wanted to take this effort, or what they wanted it to accomplish.

That said, the acting was superb. Leonardo DiCaprio and Dame Judi Dench (Hoover and his mother) are both Hollywood legends who can always be counted on to bring their characters to life with vitality and believability. Surprisingly though, the best performances were turned in by co-stars Naomi Watts and Armie Hammer.

Watts played Helen Gandy, the spinster who served as Hoover’s personal and confidential secretary for decades at the FBI. (It was Gandy whom many believe destroyed all of the blackmail files that Hoover kept on political rivals immediately after the old man’s death - before Richard Nixon could get his sweaty hands on them.) Watts portrayed Gandy as a caring and sensitive soul who had a compassionate understanding of her boss.

Armie Hammer was Clyde Tolson, Hoover’s lover and dedicated assistant. It was Hoover’s relationship with Tolson that could have been the core of this story, but Eastwood seemed to fear going there – at least for any sustained examination. Eastwood’s Hoover and Tolson were two lonely and frustrated men who grew old and frail just beyond each other’s physical embrace.

Eastwood deserves credit for portraying the old coot as the blackmailer and power abuser which he obviously was, but there was so much more to the man.   His deeply closeted homosexuality, his intense racist bent, his hatred of FDR and the Kennedy's - all of those could have been more closely examined and drawn more fully into the script.

It becomes obvious during the movie that Hoover and Tolson, both aging bachelors, are in some sort of relationship, though they are never free to show their love to the world.  A recent book that I read regarding the FBI referred to Hoover and Tolson as having been in a "spousal relationship," and though they always lived in separate residences, they rode to and from work together in the backseat of Hoover's staff car, usually dined together, and took their vacations together.  When Hoover preceded Tolson in death, he left his estate to Tolson, the man he had  promoted to Assistant Director of the FBI.

To the movie director's credit, he did a nice job of depicting how strongly Hoover hated Martin Luther King, but there was not much beyond that to show Hoover's deeply held racist views.  Robert Kennedy as Attorney General inquired of Hoover almost daily as to when he was going to hire some black FBI agents.  On the few occasions that he did relent and employ black agents, they were routinely shuffled off into domestic duties - such as cooking and drivering.  Hoover knew the black man's place in society even if the Kennedy's did not - but Eastwood failed to fully show that ugly side of his subject.

Hoover had collections of files on many public people.  He was always quick to let them know about those materials and that he was keeping a copy for "safety's sake."  According to the Eastwood version, FDR couldn't fire him because Hoover had evidence showing that Eleanor had been in a lesbian relationship.  (Pot-kettle, Mr. Hoover?)  And also according to this movie, he had an audio-taped session of JFK wrestling in the sheets with a mobster's girlfriend.  (Judith Exner)  Both of those stories have been referenced by numerous historians and are undoubtedly true.  LBJ eventually appointed Hoover Director of the FBI "for life."  His file must have really been juicy!

But Hoover's laundry was not clean either.  Many believe that the reason he refused to recognize the presence of organized crime in America is that the Mafia had its own blackmail file - on him and Assistant Director Tolson.

J. Edgar is a film built on snippets.  I was surprised that it did not include a bit on the character assassination that the FBI did on liberal activist and actress Jean Seberg.  At one point the agency released information to gossip columnists indicating that the baby the pregnant actress was carrying had actually been fathered by a black man - a member of the Black Panther Party.  Many still believe that the extreme harassment by the FBI was a contributing factor in Seberg's suicide.  Jean Seberg starred with Clint Eastwood in the film Paint Your Wagon.

Expect a few Oscar nominations for the acting in J. Edgar - and maybe for costumes and set design, but while Clint may get a nomination just because he is a Hollywood legend and really, really old, he won't be taking home one of those little statuettes.

I am glad that I saw J. Edgar once, but once was plenty.

Monday, November 28, 2011

And a Little Child Shall Lead Them

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Okay, this piece is not about a little child.  The focus is on a young lady, aged eighteen, who is a senior in high school.  But when Emma Sullivan is compared to Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, the crusty, snarly old politician whom she humiliated and slew in less than 140 typed characters, Emma is indeed a child - but also a force of nature to be reckoned with.

The story has made all of the literate news outlets over the past few days.  Ms. Sullivan, a resident of Fairway, Kansas, and s student at Shawnee Mission, was taking part in a Youth in Government program in Topeka last week when she tweeted to a friend across the room that Governor Brownback, who was speaking to the group at the time, "sucked."  The next day the governor's gestapo came across that tweet as they were combing through the social media sites to find out what people really think of God's man in Topeka.  The staff promptly notified Youth in Government saying that the comment was not respectful, and that organization passed the pissy complaint on to Emma's principal.

The principal, one Karl R. Krawitz, called Emma into the office and lectured her for an hour, instructing her that she needed to write a letter of apology to the governor, and even providing her with talking points for the letter.  The letter was due on the principal's desk today (Monday).

But then Emma's older sister got into the act and decided that maybe the press needed to be informed of this outrage.  Now the worm has turned on Governor Brownback (who is in the process of learning about the power of social media), and Emma finds herself in the catbird seat.

When Emma tweeted that jab at Brownback she had a mere 65 followers on Twitter, mostly her high school friends.  Now, with the unwitting assist from the governor's office, that number is skyrocketing.  This morning I checked out her Twitter page and she had over 3,200 followers.  A few minutes ago that number had climbed to 5,777.  Governor Brownback and his squad of thick-headed sycophants have succeeded in enabling an 18-year-old high school student to become a significant force in Kansas politics.

What is Emma Sullivan's political agenda - now that she has such a mighty forum?  She would like to dialogue with Brownback and others about his decision to veto the Kansas Arts Commission's entire budget - a move that made Kansas the only state in the nation to completely eliminate funding for the arts.  (Sam, that move alone proves that you really do suck!)

Emma tweeted today that she has decided not to write the letter of apology.  Now the ball is in the court of Principal Krawitz.  As a former high school principal, I can predict the following:  No matter what decision Krawitz makes with regard Emma, he will lose his job.  Kansas will rehire principals during February and March, and Mr. Krawitz will be seen as the man who let this situation get out of control.  The governor has been offended, and state government in large measure funds the schools.  The hand that feeds the high school has been bitten.

What the principal and governor fail to appreciate (well, they may appreciate it now) is that social media has changed the entire political dynamic in this country and the world.   It is because of Twitter and Facebook that the Occupy Movement was able to fortify itself and grow.  Those scroungy protesters didn't have to rely on the media who initially ignored them - they just tweeted their way into significance.  It was also social media that brought down the governments of Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya.  The people in those countries took charge of their own futures and created their own way of getting the word out.

And Emma Sullivan who was tweeting to just sixty-five of her friends a few days ago, now has an international audience of nearly six thousand - and that number is growing by the minute.

You can follow Emma Sullivan on Twitter  @EmmaKate988

It's a new world, Sam.  Buckle up, it's going to be a bumpy ride!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Kramerbooks: The Best Little Bookstore in America!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I don't make it to our nation's capital very often, but when I do get there one place that I always visit is Kramerbooks on Dupont Circle.  It is such a fun place to browse and shop!

Kramerbooks is comprised of several small rooms that are strung together like some sort of devious Chinese puzzle, and each of those rooms is packed floor-to-ceiling with a delicious array of real books (the kind you hold in your hands and proceed to read by turning actual pages).    Those books range from bestsellers to wonderfully obscure finds of which NPR is probably not even aware!   I have a dozen or more volumes here with me on Okinawa that I originally came across on the shelves at Kramerbooks.

The reason for this sudden walk down memory lane is that I read on the Internet this morning that President Obama took his two daughters holiday shopping at Kramerbooks on Saturday.  He made time in his busy day to highlight shopping at a small business and to spend time with his kids.  The President exhibited good values, both in a business sense and also in a family sense.

President Obama has had only one wife, with no hint of scandal in the marriage.  He spends time with his children and is involved in their lives on a very positive basis, and he even lets his mother-in-law live with the family.  I think that when it comes to real family values, the President has it nailed.

Wouldn't you agree, Newt?

A Drive South

by Pa Rock
Road Warrior

I rode south today with two of my buddies, Kelly and Valerie.  We went to the Ryukyu Glass Factory at Itoman and then on to Peace Park at the extreme southern end of the island.  I had already been to both, but the girls had yet to visit either - and I was more than ready to revisit these cultural centers.

We watched glass being blown and pottery being thrown at Itoman, and also spent a couple of hours walking through the shops.  It is the Year of the Rabbit, and I was able to find a couple of beautiful small glass rabbits to send to my two new granddaughters for their first Christmas.  (Granddaughter number one, Olive Noel Macy, was born October 12th in Overland Park, Kansas, to Tim and Erin.  Granddaughter number two, Molly and Scott's baby, is due to be born next week in Oregon.)  Now that I think of it, Grandson number one, Boone Macy, is also a rabbit - being born in 1999.

I have grandchildren born in two different millennia!  How cool is that!

Peace Park was called Suicide Cliffs back in the seventies when I was first on the island.  It is the place where thousands of Japanese soldiers chose, or were encouraged by their leaders, to walk off of the cliffs and fall to their deaths on the rocks below rather than face imminent capture by the Americans.   Forty years ago there were a couple of dozen monuments on the cliffs honoring the war dead.  Today the sight is immense, covering a hundred acres or more, with many monuments set off by fantastic landscaping, dark granite walls with the names of those who died in the war on Okinawa engraved on their surfaces (both Japanese and Americans), and a sprawling museum that has many exhibits and on-going films of the war.

Soft-hearted Kelly was so overtaken with the experiences depicted in the museum that she walked off and found a quiet corner in which to have a cry.  The Okinawan people, who were very rural and rustic at the time of the war, got caught in the middle of something that did not concern them (politically), and was well beyond their ability to control or even influence.

We did have a nice visit with a pair of American tourists, Bill and Jen McDonald, who teach at a military installation on the mainland near Hiroshima.  It is always nice to reset our view of Okinawa by seeing it through the eyes of visitors.

Supper was at Jack's Place on Kadena - always a treat!

(Photos of today's outing will soon be up on - as soon as I finish posting the pictures of the Guam trip.)

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Twilight of the Twilight Movies?

by Pa Rock 
Social Commentator and Film Critic

The worst part of Thanksgiving Day wasn't the cheeseburger that I ate at Burger King after my plans for the day fell through.  And it wasn't pushing my way through the PX with the other holiday losers.  No, the absolute worst part was the God-awful movie that I stumbled into as the day was drawing to a close.

I have seen two previous Twilight movies and found them to be entertaining diversions.   Perhaps, I naively thought, the new episode in the franchise might be an acceptable way to spend the remainder of Thanksgiving Day.  I chose to go the the 4:30 p.m. showing  knowing full well that it would have an abundance of obnoxious young teens who were being neglected by their parents so that they could run wild and terrorize me in the process.  But I am a tolerant individual, so what the heck. Besides, the next showing wasn't until 8:00 p.m. which would be edging up dangerously close to my bedtime!

I sat on the back row where it is so loud that the little darlings would be unable to talk and be heard during the movie.  (The back row is directly under the theatre's speakers.)  After getting comfortable in my seat, four of the awkward monsters pushed and kicked their way into the row in front of me -three girls and a boy, all about twelve years of age.  The movie hadn't started yet, but the group remained remarkably quiet anyway - that is until another twelve-year-old girl came traipsing up the aisle.  They called her over and she sat down directly in front of me.  She told them that she had just finished watching the previous showing of the movie, but her mom had not come to pick her up so she was going to watch it again.

Great parenting, Mom!

Then the new girl and one who was two seats down (they had the boy in-between them making him a real "tweener") started a conversation about who they hated at school and why - and the more they talked, the more dramatic and louder they got.  I put up with their pre-adolescent drivel for fifteen minutes, knowing that when the movie started, their drama would come to an end and we could all focus on the cinematic drama.

The national anthem played and we all stood.   The national anthem ended and we all sat.   And then the blessed noisy previews started.  Things rattled along fine until the feature presentation began.  The girl who had already seen it got bored very quickly and began texting her friend two seats down.  They traded texts for about half-an-hour before the princess got up and left the theatre.  I doubt that it had anything to do with the old man who accidentally kicked her seat every time she opened her flip-phone, but you never know!

Sadly, it turns out that the unsupervised children were the most interesting part of the experience.  The Twilight Saga:  Breaking Dawn Part One is a stinkbomb!  The first third of the movie dealt with preparations for Bella and Edward's wedding, and the last two-thirds focused on Bella sitting around pregnant waiting on the birth of her demon child.  Jacob ran across the screen shirtless on one occasion, and several marines in the audience hooted.  That basically describes the entire movie.   It was draggy, dull, and dumb.  Even the twelve-year-old's got bored with it quickly.

But sadly there will be another in this soapy franchise.  The Twilight Saga:  Breaking Dawn Part Two has already been filmed and is in the can.  And my guess is there will be a few more of these affronts to basic intelligence before today's adolescent wannabes age out of the cycle and their younger siblings show an interest in something even more banal.   Parents, after all, have to get their kids out of the house every now and then!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Republicans Take Themselves a Bit Too Seriously

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

A couple of very recent news articles serve to illustrate just how cold, rigid, and humorless at least two nationally prominent Republicans are.  Holier-than thou Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas and equally pious Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota apparently lack the ability to turn the other cheek.

Brownback's staff monitors social media to check all mentions of the governor.  This week Brownback was speaking to a group of high school students who were in Topeka to see their government in action when a young lady, a high school senior, tweeted that he "sucked."  God's man in Topeka wasn't going to take that lying down - you bet he wasn't!  The ensuing ruckus was bigger than Dorothy's cyclone, and the poor girl wound up spending nearly an hour in the principal's office being lectured - and had to write a letter of apology to the governor.  (My guess is that she thinks the principal sucks too, but probably won't tweet it!)

But the ire of Sam Brownback is small potatoes when compared to the Godly wrath of Michele Bachmann.  Ms. Bachmann, who hasn't bothered to stop by her taxpayer-funded job in the past several months, did find time to appear on Jimmy Fallon's Late Night earlier this week  Now one would think that anyone appearing on Fallon's show might expect be on the receiving end of some ridicule, but the overly uptight Michele apparently expected nothing but reverence.  As she walked out on stage, the show's band played a few licks from a 1985 Fishbone song called "Lyin' Ass Bitch."

Ms. Bachmann, when someone explained the affront to her, went nuts, demanding apologies from Fallon and NBC.  Eventually Fallon and an NBC vice-president mumbled their regrets - but not until after Bachmann marched onto Fox with a rant about how nobody respects conservative women.

Brownback and Bachmann need to get over themselves.  They're coming off as the dweebs back in high school that nobody liked.  It's time to grow up, smile a little, and act like adults.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The University of Guam

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

We are halfway through our last day on the island of Guam.  Valerie is down on the beach swimming, and I am ensconced in the hotel lobby replying to email and blogging.  I am still lobster red from our trip around the island on Monday, so playing on the beach has lost its appeal.

This morning after breakfast at a nice local cafe we hit the road in search of adventure.  We both wanted to see the University of Guam, and after asking some locals for directions (one of whom did not seem to know that  Guam even had a university), we finally found our objective.  The lady that we rented our car from on Sunday gave us some very helpful advice - "Just keep driving, you can't get lost on Guam!"  And she was correct!

The university is small, with several modern buildings and a beautiful campus.  We went through a couple of the academic buildings, the student center and bookstore, as well as the university library.  I took a bathroom detour while we were in the Social Sciences and Humanities building, and when I came out I found that Valerie, true to her nature, had corralled a social work professor and was busy chatting him up.  Professor Gerhard Schwab is from Austria, but he has been at the University of Guam for over twenty years and loves it.  The professor, who was wearing shorts and flip-flops, said that the Department of Social Work graduates about fifteen students a year.  He also said that last year they had a course on military social work, something that is just coming into fashion in the States.

Professor Schwab said that his wife was home packing for a big "Peace Conference" on Okinawa, and he seemed surprised that we had not heard of it.  I guess that the military base where we work must have inadvertently forgotten to get the word out about a "peace" conference.

(News in English on Okinawa is limited, sanitized, and highly filtered. Much of it comes through Fox - and didn't I hear just yesterday that people who get their news through Fox are less informed on world events than people who basically get no news at all?   Why yes, I did hear that.  It was the result of a survey taken by some college students - no doubt godless humanists - unfair and imbalanced godless  humanists!)

Guam: Where America's President Refuels

by Pa Rock

Today was  not nearly as active as yesterday.  We drove to Andersen Air Force Base on the north end of the island for lunch and some souvenir shopping at the Base Exchange.  Then, heading south, we stopped at the Micronesian Mall where Valerie got her fingernails and toenails painted,  and I bought a book and went to the movies.  The movie that I saw was "J. Edgar" which featured crappy writing, editing, and direction (sorry, Clint), but may still take home several Oscars for remarkable acting.  Look for lots of great things to come from Armie Hammer.

When we returned from our island drive-about yesterday, I noticed that the flags in front of our hotel were all at half-staff.   After inquiring, I learned that a National Guardsman from Guam was killed in Afghanistan a week or so ago.  Army Specialist Calvin "Cal" Evangelista Pereda stepped on an IED and lot his life in America's longest war.  He was just twenty-one-years-old.

Memo to Barack:  I voted for you because you were going to end these futile wars and close Guantanamo.  What happened?

Speaking of our President, I mentioned two days ago that Air Force One had landed on Guam this weekend late at night.  The presidential plane actually sat down at Andersen Air Force Base to refuel as the President was going from Hawaii to Washington, DC.  That sounds like the long way home to me.  While he was on Guam, the President reportedly did not leave his luxury airliner.  In fact no one would even confirm that he was here.  However, the President, being the good guy that he is, picked up the Guamanian (non-voting) delegate to Congress, Madeleine Z. Bordallo, and gave her a lift back to DC - and Ms. Bordallo couldn't resist letting her friends know that she hitchhiked aboard Air Force One.

The President's aloofness did not sit well with the people of Guam, or at least with the Guam press.   He was roundly criticized in both the Marianas Variety and the Pacific Daily News for failing to get off the plane and shake a few hands.  The headline in the Marianas Variety was a classic.  It read "Obama Passes in the Night."  That same issue had a front page photo of some disappointed locals with a very large banner that read:  "Guam:  Where America's President Refuels."

Mr. President, it is true that most of the people living on the United States Territory of Guam cannot vote in US elections, but they are still subject to the laws and vagaries of our country, and they deserve to be shown the same respect as any wheat farmer in Kansas or steel mill worker in Pennsylvania.  Cal Pereda from Guam died for our country just days ago in Afghanistan.  Would it have been too much to have at least stood in front of the cameras for a couple of minutes and acknowledged his sacrifice?

(Note:  Guam, Puerto Rico, and Washington DC should all be granted statehood, but that is unlikely to happen as long as Republicans get elected to Congress in large enough numbers to block their admissions.   All three of those unrepresented entities have majority populations that are non-white,  and Herman Cain and Clarence Thomas aside, Republicans know that most racial minorities are not going to be their friends at the polls - and for good reason.  At least that's how I see it.)

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Descent into the Heart of Darkness

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Today we hopped in the rental car and tried to drive around the island.  The trip, with no stops, reportedly takes a mere three hours.  We did some stopping.  Seven hours later we dragged back into the hotel, having only seen about one half of this paradise in the Pacific.  What we did see was the southern half of the island - and it is beautiful beyond words!

Our first stop was at an underwater observatory where we saw the little fishes swim among scuba divers.  (There was a dive class being held nearby.)  Stop number two was a marina where Valerie struck up a conversation with the skipper of a small boat that carts tourists around Guam.  Today he was taking a group out to watch dolphins at play.  I got a good picture of Valerie and Captain Mike that will be up on my Okinawan blog in a few days.  I'm not set up here to post photos.

Every time the highway curves along the coast of southern Guam, another postcard shot comes into view - so we did lots of stopping - crashing surf, sleepy lagoons, villages, and even a group of itinerant pigs!  Valerie, who loves to talk to strangers, made friends with an American and his Japanese wife at a swimming hole in a park in one of the southern villages.  A couple of hours later we saw them again at a seaside tourist stand and burger joint.

I had just bought a tee shirt there for my grandson that honors Shoichi Yokoi, the Japanese soldier from World War II who was discovered hiding in the wilds of Guam in 1972 - not realizing the war was over.  When Valerie's new friends came in, they told us that since they saw us at the swimming hole, they had been to the cave where Shoichi had hidden all those years.  We decided that some backtracking was in order.

The site where the cave was located was in a very remote spot.  We left the car in the parking lot, walked through some displays set up for tourists (including a pair of live reindeer), and then boarded a rickety cable car (a  plastic box on a ski lift type of cable - not sure what it is actually called) to be carried across a steep ravine and past a beautiful waterfall.  Disembarking, we walked beside and below a breathtaking display of water cascading over boulders, across a suspension bridge that swung perilously with each step - the kind of bridge that would have broken if Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner had been in front of us trying to get across - and finally down a long, twisting trail for a half-mile or so.  It was truly like we were descending into the heart of darkness.  I kept expecting to see severed human heads mounted on stakes.  The horror, the horror!

Finally we reached the cave, which wasn't a cave at all.  It was a shaft dug straight into the ground that supposedly led to a hand-dug horizontal chamber.  The shaft was lined with large stalks of bamboo.  It was a Saddamesque hidey-hole that poor old Private Yokoi reportedly lived in for twenty-seven years until he was discovered and captured by a group of Chamorro hunters who had to explain to him that the war had been over for nearly three decades.

(I was serving on Okinawa in 1972 when Shoichi Yokoi was captured.  It was a really big deal.  He was taken to Tokyo to meet the Emperor (Hirohito, the real emperor) and feted by one and all as a war hero.  Yokoi died in Nagoya, Japan, in 1997 at the age of eighty-two.)

That was what we saw.  After we left the "cave" and returned to the cable cars for our ride back up to civilization, this is what we heard:  Valerie, of course, struck up a conversation with the young Chamorro park guide who was operating the lift.  He told us that the "cave" was not where the soldier had been hiding.  In fact, he said that he, himself, had helped to dig that particular cave because so it would be much easier to access than the real cave which was nearby on top of a very steep hill.  He said that he had been in the real cave once.  He did a lot of smiling as he told the tale, and Valerie was not sure that she believed him.

When we got back to the parking lot area, I asked a female park guide if that was the real cave.  She looked kind of startled and then said that it was not.  She said the real cave had collapsed a few years ago during a typhoon and a new one had to be dug on what they hoped was the same spot.  I told her that I had heard that the real cave actually was a cave and that it was located on a hilltop.  She said that was not true.

I never got to the bottom of that story because about that time thirteen pigs of various sizes came roaming out of the woods and laid down in the shade on the parking lot.   We had a great time trying to get the bored porkers to pose for pictures.

I am easily amused.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Guam: Where America's Day Begins

by Pa Rock
Globe Trotter

Valerie and I arrived on Guam just as the morning sun was beginning to shine across the Pacific.  Our friend, Lenny, who owns a home and a car on Guam, gave us a lift from the airport to our hotel - the Hilton.  The staff at the hotel shuffled  our reservation around to find a room that was empty so we could catch up on our sleep after the night flight from Okinawa.

Before we hit the room, we decided to have breakfast at the hotel buffet.  The $25.00 per person experience left a lot to be desired!  This afternoon we rented a car and began exploring the island.  One of the things that we discovered was that Circle K has a  special - a really good hot dog and a can of any domestic beer for $1.99 - and it was so much better than our breakfast!

It is just a question of knowing where to shop!

Just heard the President Obama's plane landed on Guam last night, but he apparently did not meet with anyone while he was here.  Guam used to be known as the Pacific's gas station - I guess that it still is!

Tomorrow we are going to drive around the island - three hours with no stops, but I am sure we will do some stopping.  We will also be taking our snorkeling gear and undoubtedly playing in the blue Pacific Ocean.   (The Hilton and all of the big hotels are on Tumon Bay, which is beautiful beyond words.

Today's temperature was a pleasant eighty degrees or so!  Not too shabby for Thanksgiving week!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Continental Flies When They Damned Well Please!

by Pa Rock
World Traveler

Saturday morning, and here I sit on Okinawa.  I was supposed to be sitting on a beach on Guam, perhaps nursing a large drink called a Trash Can, and staring dreamily out across the blue Pacific.  But no, I am still on Okinawa.

My friend Valerie and I planned to board a non-stop flight from Naha, Okinawa, to Agana, Guam, last night, but less than a full day before our departure we received a notice that the flight had been cancelled, and we would be leaving on the next flight - 24 hours later.  So maybe tomorrow we will be sitting on that Guamanian beach.   Who knows?

Our flight had been booked on Continental - and they cancelled the whole damned flight and moved the passengers onto the manifest for the next day.  I am familiar with many types of airline outrages, and have been the victim of most, but this particular outrage was new to me.  When Valerie called to complain, impolitely I'm sure, she was told that no aircraft was available.  (Which I suspect is airlinese for "We didn't sell enough tickets to make the trip worthwhile.")

So now I am left to wonder if Continental does manage to get us to Guam, will they have an airplane available to bring us back to Okinawa at the end of our trip - so we can get back to our jobs?  With my luck they probably will!

Blood Types and Personality Traits

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

A friend (psychologist) and I were at a meeting recently with a dozen or so young service men where marriage issues were being discussed.   At some point during the session one young man who was married to a Japanese woman stated that the first thing a Japanese woman wants to know about a man is his blood type - not for medical reasons, but to have an indicator of the type of person he is.  Before he had hardly finished making that point, a couple of other members of the group who were also married to Japanese or Okinawan women chimed in that he was correct.  Blood types were also apparently being cited as indicators of compatibility.

Because neither my friend nor I had heard of this cultural anomaly, he decided to follow through today with some Internet research on the matter.  The following was taken from information posted by Joy Alari, and though I can't vouch for her credibility, it does seem to go along with things that the men in the session were saying.

Ms. Alari notes that while it is normal in the United States to match a person's personality to horoscopes, the Japanese have a preference for matching personality traits with blood types - a fad that she said started in Japan in the early 1930's.  Everyone in Japan knows their blood type, and, according to the author, not only are mates sometimes selected on this criteria, but some companies have even been known to divide their workers by blood type.

The desire to know about blood types allegedly originated because of a racist assertion from the West which stated that Orientals were lower on the evolutionary chain than Occidentals.  That ridiculous and unscientific theory was insulting and demeaning, and a Japanese scientist, Furukawa Takeji, set about disproving it through a study of blood types.  One of the results of his work was a public rush to match personality traits with blood types.

Below are the general theories of each blood type as they relate to personality traits.  The author cautions that the Rh factor does not play any role in either blood type or personality traits.

Type O  
People with the Type O blood group are said to be creative, confident and quite popular.   They enjoy being the center of attention. Type Os are also outgoing and very social, and, though mostly initiators, they may not always finish what they start. 
Type A 
People with the Type A blood group, are said to be very trustful, honest, and conscientious to a fault. Type As are also known to be perfectionists.  They might seem outwardly calm when in reality they may be quite nervous.Type As are also artistic, and are sometimes shy and sensitive. 
Type B
People with Type B blood group are strong-willed and goal-oriented.   They always finish whatever they start on time and in good order.   People with Type B blood group always seem to find their own way in life.
Type AB
Those with a Type AB blood group, are an interesting lot.   Though they are trustworthy and honest, it has been said that they seem to have a split personality.  Those in the Type AB blood group like helping people.They are outgoing and confident, but they can also be shy. 
Compatibility by Blood Groups:
A is said to be most compatible with A and AB  
B is said to be most compatible with B and AB
AB is said to be most compatible with AB, B, A and O
O is said to be most compatible with O and AB

I am Type O, which I always assumed meant that whoever typed my birth certificate had spelled my name wrong!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Holiday Notes

by Pa Rock
Happy Tourist

Unbelievable as it may seem, the two holidays that usher in the gift-getting season occur next week.  The first is Thanksgiving and with it the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade which always culminates with the appearance of Santa Claus.   I have never been to the Macy's Parade, but I will make it one day - hopefully before they retire the Bullwinkle balloon!

The second holiday next week, of course, is the day following Thanksgiving, an evil creation of corporate America known as "Black Friday."  It is the day in which feeble-minded shoppers line up at their favorite stores in the dead of night so that they can stampede their way to the bargains when the stores open at daylight.  People have literally been trampled to death as they rushed into the madness to grab clothing, toys, and electronics so that they could properly observe the birthday of Jesus.

I will spend Thanksgiving with my friend, Valerie, in Guam.  That small American territory bills itself as "the place where America's day begins."   While on Guam we will swim, snorkel, and relax - and Valerie wants to hit some real American stores - Guam reportedly has a Ross's, K-Mart, and a Target.  We leave tomorrow night (Saturday at 1:00 a.m.), and we will return to Okinawa on Wednesday evening.   Our plan is to celebrate Thanksgiving Day at the USO by having a great holiday meal and enjoying the entertainment.

And although I won't get caught up in any Black Friday nonsense, I will dedicate part of next weekend to getting my holiday gift packages ready to mail.  (I have been making my purchases all year, discretely, and without having to knock down any old ladies in the process.)   Timing is critical:  the local post office won't guarantee delivery on anything mailed from Okinawa after the 6th of December.

My Christmas plan was a solo tour of Vietnam, the whole damned country, but two of my buddies have now signed up to go along, so that will be fun - and the trip will help take our minds off of our loved ones who are enjoying a more traditional holiday back in the states.

By the time the Season rolls around again, I should be back home and mooching a turkey dinner off of one of my children!  Any offers?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Feds Reportedly Conspire with Mayors to Evict Protesters

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The Internet news sites that I frequent have been clogged with stories all day about Wall Street tool Michael Bloomberg sending in his police force in riot gear to clear Zucotti Park, ostensibly, according to the billionaire mayor of New York City, for health and sanitation reasons.  The rabble and the city have been in and out of court all day challenging and defending the attack on the protesters and the destruction of their property.  At last report, they were being allowed to drift back into the park, but without tents, tarps, sleeping bags or any other items that would help to fend off a New York City winter.

Apparently a special effort was made to move the press away from the commotion while the Pinkertons New York City police dealt with sign-wielding anarchists.

Oddly, parks are beginning to be cleared in other cities as well.  Recent days have witnessed removal of protesters from the green zones in Portland, Oregon, and Oakland, California.  Is the fact that a dozen or more American cities began acting almost in tandem on clearing their parks completely coincidental?  One would have to be mighty stupid to think so.

Whereas President Cheney might have simply ordered up a military blitzkrieg to deal with the social malcontents, the Obama administration is being a bit more discrete.  Rick Ellis, a reporter for the Minneapolis Top News Examiner, ran a story today citing an unnamed justice department source who said that each of the recent police actions has been coordinated through the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, and some other federal agencies.  He said specifically that local police received "tactical and planning advice" from the national agencies.

The reporter continued:

"According to this official, in several recent conference calls and briefings, local police agencies were advised to seek a legal reason to evict residents of tent cities, focusing on zoning laws and existing curfew rules.  Agencies were also advised to demonstrate a massive show of police force, including large numbers in riot gear.  In particular, the FBI reportedly advised on press relations, with one presentation suggesting that any moves to evict protesters be coordinated for a time when the press was the least likely to be present."
The article also quotes Oakland Mayor Jean Quan as telling the BBC that she had recently been involved in a conference call with officials from eighteen cities who were struggling with the same situation.  A few days later, Mayor Quan, having since smartened up, declined an invitation to expand on her remarks.

But yes, it looks at though the "coincidence" of this spate of park closures is not a coincidence at all, but a well-planned and coordinated assault on the civil liberties (especially freedom of speech and assembly) of Americans living in many communities across the United States.  It is, unfortunately, our tax dollars in action - and it is shameful!

At least the Pinkertons never pretended to be working in the public's interest.  They were hired thugs working for corporate America and everybody knew it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Michele Bachmann is Clueless!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I received an email from the American Civil Liberties Union today that was not only informative, but also thought-provoking and even somewhat entertaining.  The ACLU, as most Americans are aware, is a selfless group of individuals focused on protecting our civil liberties as outlined in the first ten Amendments to the United States Constitution - a.k.a.  The Bill of Rights.

Sometimes the ACLU is unpopular with certain groups of individuals because "everyone" means "everyone," and the venerable civil liberties organization will go to court to defend the speech rights, for instance, of odious entities like the Klan, the Fred Phelps family, and even the Koch brothers.  But the Constitution and its Bill of Rights protects all of us, and without it none of us would be safe to voice our opinions.   The ACLU attempts to be as blind as Justice herself in defending the constitutionally- guaranteed rights of every American.

There are some in this country who are basically opposed to rights for many under-priviliged or overlooked Americans, and constantly demonize the ACLU.  Ms. Bachmann obviously regards the ACLU as an enemy of freedon - freedom as she defines it.  Ms. Bachmann is pandering to those Americans who wave their flags and speak proudly of "freedom," all the while maneuvering to deny basic freedoms to certain groups of individuals - groups such as the poor, racial minorities, women, union members, and gay Americans.   When it comes to defending the rights of those groups in court, the ACLU is often somewhere in the mix.

During last Saturday's umpteenth Republican debate Michelle Bachmann, a great thinker with a degree from Oral Roberts "University," apparently said this:  "Today, under Barack Obama, he is allowing the ACLU to run the CIA."    After successfully wedging that soundbite into the debate, she followed it up the next day on Meet the Press with a clarification - stating that she meant to say the CIA is being run in accord with the "philosophy" of the ACLU.

Well, the good folks (and they are good folks) at the ACLU could not let that pass, and today they released a rebuttal to Ms. Bachmann, an individual whom the organization sees as being clueless. In that rebuttal, the ACLU offered "Five Clues that the ACLU does not run the CIA."  They follow:

CLUE #1: If the ACLU ran the CIA, we wouldn't have undermined our security and values by using waterboarding and other forms of torture. 
CLUE #2: If the ACLU ran the CIA, we would have helped restore our nation's standing in the world with a full and complete accounting of any past involvement in torture. 
CLUE #3: If the ACLU ran the CIA, the senior officials who authorized U.S. involvement in torture would have been brought to justice in a court of law. 
CLUE #4: If the ACLU ran the CIA, there wouldn't have been any secret CIA prisons operating around the world. 
CLUE #5: If the ACLU ran the CIA, the American people would never have seen extraordinary rendition, indefinite detention, targeted killing of people far from any battlefield, and other human rights abuses carried out in our name. 

So, Michele, the ball is in your court.  May I suggest that you use some of your government Medicaid income or your government farm subsidy income to buy a vowel - or a clue - or perhaps a brain.   Or if those accounts are running low, maybe you could tap into the millions that your angry campaign has begged off of America's feeble-minded.  You definitely have a lot to learn about the ACLU and the CIA.

For those wishing to support the fine work of the American Civil Liberties Union, please visit:   Here's a clue:  the American Civil Liberties Union has nothing at all to do with the management of the Central Intelligence Agency - though America's honor would be in much better shape if it did!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Monday's Poetry: "The Joyful News of Your Arrest"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

The continuing news of the spreading "occupy" movement that is occurring back in the States is both heartening and alarming.  It is great to know that so many people are coming together in parks and in front of public buildings all across America to make our leaders hear and see and feel their anger over the unrelenting corporate choke-hold that controls our lives, a hold that grows stronger with each passing month.  However, at the same time, it is unbelievably sad that our public officials are, in some instances, literally going to war against the protesters.  One wonders who they work for, if not the people?  (Well, one really doesn't wonder.)

Today the news told of the disgraceful police attacks on the "occupiers" in Portland, Oregon, that were ordered by Mayor Sam Adams.  He has reportedly had two parks closed and fenced off - that after dozens of Portland citizens were arrested.  Two public parks are now off limits to the public.  Good one, Sam.

Last week it was Mayor Jean Quan in Oakland, California, trying to get her police back into line after she and the police chief loosed their storm troopers on the occupiers.  A few weeks ago Dr. Cornell West was arrested as he was demonstrating outside of the Supreme Court in Washington, DC.

The more these outrageous and dangerous police actions continue, the more apparent it becomes that the political agenda of the one percent is suppression of the voices of the masses.

Alice Walker has recently published two new poems regarding the Occupy Movement.  Both follow.  The first, "The Joyful News of Your Arrest," speaks specifically to the arrest of Professor West at the Supreme Court.

If poets of Alice Walker's caliber are focused on what is occurring in the streets and parks of America, it is time to admit these civil protests are not only newsworthy, but also historic.  Ms. Walker is giving a proud voice to the movement and the people who are huddling outside in the cold to keep it alive.

the joyful news of your arrest
by Alice Walker

this sunday morning everything
is bringing tears.
in church this morning
not a church anyone from my childhood

as church
a brother singing
about the bigness of love
and then this moment
news of your arrest
on the steps of the supreme court
a place of intrigue and distrust;
news of the illegal sign you carried
that you probably made yourself:
Poverty Is The Greatest Violence Of All.
brother cornel. brother west.
what a joy it is
to hear this news of you.
that you have not forgotten
what our best people taught us
as they rose to meet their day:
not to be silent
not to fade into the shadows
not to live and die in vain.
But to glorify
the love that demands
we stand
in danger
shaking off
our chains.

The World We Want Is Us

by Alice Walker

It moves my heart to see your awakened faces;
the look of “aha!”
shining, finally, in
so many
wide open eyes.
Yes, we are the 99%
all of us
refusing to forget
each other
no matter, in our hunger, what crumbs
are dropped by
the 1%.
The world we want is on the way; Arundhati
and now we
hearing her breathing.
That world we want is Us; united; already moving
into it.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Marines Rock!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I just returned from a "quick" trip to the Camp Foster Post Exchange where I went to buy a sixty-nine cent package of envelopes.  There weren't many people in the store, so while I was there I also picked up some holiday gifts and cards.  By the time I made it to the checkout counter my haul totaled two hundred and six dollars and change!

It was like one of those quick trips to Wal-Mart that manages to keep so many Americans well-stocked on crap - and broke!

But I did find some great Japanese-themed presents for my loved ones back in the states.  One of the gifts that I purchased, however, will not be going to family - at least not to my family.  The marines on Camp Foster have a "Toys for Tots" display just inside of the Post Exchange that is staffed by young members of the Corps decked out in their dress blues.  I bought a nice set of Lincoln Logs, one of my  favorite toys while growing up, and placed it in the Tots' collection box.  It was my second donation to that box this weekend.

If there are finer people on Okinawa than the young men and women of the Marine Corps, I have yet to meet them.  When I need any form of personal courtesy at Camp Foster, a marine will step forward to provide it.  These service members are polite and well-mannered, beginning or ending most sentences with  "sir," whether they are in uniform or walking around base in civilian attire.   They represent our country well.

I am proud to support "Toys for Tots" on Okinawa - as well as members of the Marine Corps who work so hard each year to make Christmas a little merrier for kids everywhere.  You guys rock!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Help

by Pa Rock
Movie Aficionado

The movies that play at the Armed Forces Theatres generally fall into two categories:  those for children, and mindless action flicks.  Very rarely does something fit for intelligent adults make make it onto the military movie playlist.

Tonight at the theatre on Camp Foster I was privileged to see one of those rare exceptions.   The Help, starring a host of remarkable female actors, is a stunning achievement.  The plot revolves around Eugenia , or "Skeeter" (Emma Stone), who returns to her hometown of Jackson, Mississippi, in 1963 after graduating from Ole Miss.  She wants to be a writer, and in order to gain some real world experience she accepts a position at the Jackson newspaper writing a column on housekeeping.

The subject of her column, as well as her rebellious nature and the simultaneous rise of the civil rights movement, puts Skeeter into contact with the black maids of Jackson and she soon becomes determined to tell their stories in a book.  But to interview blacks and do anything that would promote unrest between the races was an offense that could result in arrest - or worse - in segregated Mississippi.  Ever so slowly Skeeter gets the women who cook, clean, grocery shop, and care for the children of the white socialites of Jackson to tell their stories - and it all has to be done in absolute secrecy.

First question:  What does it feel like to raise a white child while your own children are at home being taken care of by somebody else?

And the stories that Skeeter hears are heartbreaking:  maids are not allowed the use the restrooms of their employers for fear they will pass on some of "their" diseases - though they are expected to clean those same restrooms, maids having their own eating utensils that were expected to be kept separated from the master's, pay below minimum wage with nothing withheld for social security, and even one maid who was passed on from mother to daughter in a will - stories of degradation where everyone knew their place.

The stories were powerful, as was the overall movie, and the cast was incomparable.  Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer portrayed two of the more outspoken maids and much of the movie centered on their travails.  Cicely Tyson was an elderly maid who had worked for the same family for decades when she was suddenly fired for inadvertently embarrassing her employer.  Sissy Spacek played the mother of the most heartless of the young socialites (Bryce Dallas Howard) and provided rare bits of comic relief.  Allison Janney was Emma Stone's mother who was initially focused on finding her poor daughter a man so that she could get on with her life, but slowly came to realize that the girl was special even without a man.

Others of note in the cast included Jessica Chastain, Aunjanue Ellis, and Mary Steenburgen.  Yes, there were also a few men in the movie, but they were almost included as after-thoughts.  This movie was a great vehicle for the ladies.

The Help was based on the novel of the same name by Kathryn Stockett.  Tate Taylor wrote the screenplay and served as the director.

This one will take home some Oscars.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

In Praise of Those Who Serve

by Pa Rock
U.S. Army Veteran

Today is the day that America pauses to honor her veterans, and while the military or its individual members often generate bad press, there is so very much that is good about the young airmen, soldiers, sailors, and marines who step forward to answer their nation's call to service.

I served four years in the military at a time when our country was bogged down in an unpopular war, and many Americans were suspicious of, or even repulsed by, the military.  Those who came home from the awful war in the Vietnam were often ignored or marginalized by American society.

I am not a veteran of the Vietnam War, but I feel kinship with the members of my generation who were swept up in that conflict - many of whom were draftees and did not willingly march off to the war drums that LBJ and Robert McNamara were relentlessly pounding.  They served in brutal combat.  And when those young people came home, they were not greeted with parades and proclamations - as their fathers and mothers had been after World War II.  Many were seen collectively as drug addicts and malcontents who had war experiences that civilized society couldn't comprehend or process.  They were shunned and shamed.  Even the venerable Veterans of Foreign Wars found itself in the hypocritical position of opposing benefits for Vietnam veterans.

Now, nearly two generations later, we are again bogged down in what appears to be endless war.  This time, however, there were no draftees - though some young people found themselves unable to exit the military for a while when their enlistments expired - due to a dastardly program called "Stop Loss."    The public relations program for these wars has also been smarter.  As an example, the official focus has been solely on American casualties, and not those of our allies or enemies, or on the collateral wounding and deaths of non-combatants such as children.   This time around journalists have not been permitted to photograph the planeloads of flag-draped caskets returning from the battle fronts.  The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been presented to the home front in far more civilized terms than was the Vietnam war.

The veterans of our current wars are faring better than the young people who came home from Vietnam, but we can still be doing so much more to reintegrate them into society.   There are some good programs that have been established to help with those suffering war injuries - such as the Wounded Warrior Program.   Unfortunately, unemployment rates for veterans remains high, and there are many homeless veterans living on America's streets.

One particular area where we are falling down as a society is the way in which we treat our returning female veterans.  We are now involved in wars in which our women fly planes, carry guns, and can become involved in actual combat - and many are returning home bearing the physical and emotional wounds of war.   Unfortunately, they are not receiving adequate treatment for their disabilities.

The following is taken from a recent posting of the Iraq Veterans Against the War, and while the source may offend some, the substance should offend all.  Please ponder:

  • Approximately 40% of active duty women have children, but military childcare is not meeting the current need and there are limited mental health services to help military mothers and their children.
  • Many VA medical centers are not women-friendly, and half of the nation's VA medical centers do not have a gynecologist on staff.
  • 1 in 3 women veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who were diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress also reported Military Sexual Trauma. Those women reporting MST were 4 times more likely to develop Post Traumatic Stress than those not reporting MST.  (MST also affects men. In FY 2010, the 45.7% of veterans who screened positive for MST were men.)
  • While the Veterans Benefits Administration approves 53% of all claims related to Post Traumatic Stress, it accepts far fewer claims — only 32% — when the PTS is related to sexual trauma.
  • Prosecution rates for sexual predators in the military is low; in 2010 less than 21% of cases went to trial. Of these, only 53% were convicted.
  • Women veterans are are twice as likely to become homeless as women who never served in the military. In the last ten years, the number of women veterans who have become homeless has doubled.  Most of them are under age 35.
  • It is harder for women veterans to find a job after the service. 14.7% of women veterans are unemployed.

Veteran's Day, 2011.  May it be a time of reflection when we recognize and honor the sacrifices of those who serve - and a time to reflect on what we as a country need to do to adequately repay that sacrifice and service.

Firing Paterno Was the Right Thing to Do

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Joe Paterno, the 84-year-old head football coach at Penn State, was fired today for "barely" reporting a case of child sexual abuse that was committed by one of his former assistants.  The Penn State Board of Trustees also fired the university president, Graham Spanier.  Paterno is in his forty-sixth year as head coach, and Spanier has been president of the university since 1995.

The story of the child sexual abuse of young at-risk boys (easy targets) by assistant Penn State football coach, Jerry Sandusky, has been in the news all week.  It began with tales of eight victims, but a ninth came forward today.   Who knows how many more may ultimately surface as the Sandusky villainy continues to come to light?

Sandusky founded a charity for at-risk youth called The Second Mile.  His primary involvement seems to have been to take pre-pubescent boys under his special care so that he could mentor them.  In 1999 a graduate assistant found Sandusky (then in his late 50's) in the Penn State showers with a 10-year-old boy.  When Paterno was told of the incident, he reported it to his boss, athletic director Timothy Curley, and then took no further action - even after it became evident that no one up the food chain was going to act on the information.  Jerry Sandusky remained free for another dozen years, and the young at-risk boys in Pennsylvania remained truly at-risk.

This week Sandusky was arrested and promptly posted bail.   The athletic director, Tim Curley, and Gary Schultz, the university's senior vice-president for finance, were also arrested and charged with perjury and failure to report.  They have also bonded out.

And Penn State appears to be in a state of turmoil.  Many students are protesting Paterno's firing, while others are outraged that it took so long to finally begin the process of exposing these horrendous crimes.  A "blue out" is planned for this Saturday's game against Nebraska so that fans can show support of the Blue Ribbon Campaign against child abuse.

I have worked with the victims and perpetrators of child abuse for a couple of decades, and here is what I know:  people who sexually abuse children don't stop, and it is a sickness for which there is no cure.  They gravitate toward jobs where there are potential victims:  coaches, scout leaders, teachers, youth ministers, and, of course, priests.  Most people in those jobs are good people who would never harm a child, but some turn a blind-eye to co-workers who behave in a suspicious manner around children.  They don't want to risk ruining the career of a co-worker, they don't want to get involved, or they don't trust the word of a child, and by doing so, re-victimize the child.

I listened to a sports call-in show on the radio this afternoon, and most of the callers chewed up this situation and spit it out correctly.  Almost to a person they said that the focus now has to be on identifying the victims and doing as much as is humanly possible to treat those victims.

Yes, it's sad that a coach as "legendary" as Joe Paterno has to lose his job over his lackadaisical approach to reporting a crime, but to do less would be to dishonor and victimize the little boys (now many are young men) even more.  Awful crimes were committed, awful mistakes were made, and now awful penalties must be imposed.  The Board of Trustees at Penn State has taken a hard stand on this matter - and it was exactly the right stand to take.

I will be wearing blue on Saturday.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Worm Has Turned!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

A year ago this week pundits were mourning the death of the Obama presidency and liberal prospects in America as the Republicans regained the majority in the House of Representatives.  Since that time the congressional members of the GOP have worked steadfastly to insure that many Americans are kept from working.  They have spent the last year attacking women's rights, unions, the environment, our new national health care plan, Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security - all the while blatantly protecting the rich from having to pay their fair share in support of the country that gave them the means to amass (or more commonly - inherit) wealth.

This past year has been very mean indeed.  The Republican field of presidential aspirants is little more than a schoolyard fight in which each candidate struggles to be seen as meaner than the rest.  It would be funny if it wasn't so sad.

But as the results of this week's elections come in, one thing is strikingly obvious:  the political worm has turned.

The sweetest outcome as far as I was concerned came from Arizona where Republican State Senate President Russell Pearce, the author of the racist, anti-immigrant screed known as SB 1070, lost a recall election and will have to vacate his Senate office by the time the results become official - hopefully tomorrow.  Hit the road, Russell - and Jan Brewer, you need to be sitting up and taking notice!

Also in Arizona, Democrat Greg Stanton defeated a Tea Party-backed Republican candidate to be elected Mayor of Phoenix.  Joe Arpaio, maybe you need to be paying attention to those shifting desert political winds!  (The Obama team has apparently decided that Arizona will be in play in next year's presidential election.)

Another major victory for common sense occurred in Mississippi where Initiative 26, the so-called "Personhood" measure that declared a fertilized egg to be a human being, was defeated.  It's the economy, stupid - not your whacked-out social issues agenda!

And Issue 2 failed in Ohio!  It was a ballot referendum on Senate Bill 5 which would have restricted collective bargaining rights for more than 360,000 public employees.  Ohio said a loud "no" to union busting!

Good work, America!  We have redeemed ourselves!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

When the Earth Moves

by Pa Rock
World Traveler

Earthquakes are not uncommon along the Pacific Rim  - or the Pacific Ring of Fire - and up until today I had felt three minor ones in the fifteen months that I have been on Okinawa.  All of those occurred early in the morning while I was still in bed, and they might have gone unnoticed but for the fact that my big iron bed is on wheels and tends to roll about when the building sways - even if the sway is very slight.

We had another earthquake about noon today, local time, while I was at work.  That quake was stronger - 6.8 on the Richter Scale - and did a good job of rattling the old building that I work in on Kadena Air Base.  We suffered no damage, but it was substantial enough that I figured I might come home to some breakage and disarray..

Most things at my house managed to stay put, but a few things were thrown from shelves and off of tables in several of the rooms.  The only broken items were two old flower vases that belonged to my mother, and they were in different rooms.  I had bought each of those vases for her, the oldest one half-a-century ago from the Ben Franklin Store in Noel, Missouri.    I was sad to lose those items, but the lesson is to not become attached to stuff.  Fortunately, no one was hurt in this event (as far as I know) - and that was a blessing.

Earthquakes are a fact of life in Japan.  They have recently been occurring in the American Midwest as well.  We are advised here that we should get under a table or a desk when the tremors start - or stand in a doorway.  That's all simple stuff to remember - and very effective.

So my advice to all of you Sooners and other Midwesterners who are having your first experience with earthquakes is to stay safe, and be careful where you put the family heirlooms!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Monday's Poetry: Scenes from the Vietnam War

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

As I mentioned in this space a couple of weeks ago, I had plans to go to Guam with a friend over Thanksgiving, and then on a tour to Australia at Christmas time.  The trip to Guam is still on, but unfortunately not enough people signed up to make the Australia trip happen.  So a quick change of holiday plans was in order, and I am now scheduled to fly with another friend to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam, on Christmas Day, spend a week being bused north through Da Nang and Hue, and finally ending the trip in Hanoi.  We will leave Hanoi on New Year's Day.

I didn't go to Vietnam in the 1960's when some of my high school and college classmates did, and to this day I am glad that I was spared that awful experience.  But in order to achieve a fuller understanding of the years that shaped my worldview and political persona, I thought that a trip there at this time might provide me with some insight into one of the most tragic and prolonged events of the twentieth century.

And while I have a very jaundiced view of the Vietnam War and the politicians who pushed us into it, I have nothing but respect for my friends who served there.  They were brave beyond measure.

My favorite works of fiction regarding the Vietnam War are The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien and Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson.  Both of these extraordinary authors are of my era.  O'Brien served in Vietnam and obtained his education on the war there.   Johnson, on the other hand, absorbed the Vietnam experience through participation in the counter-culture.  The movie that does the best job of capturing the pain and murderous nonsense of that war, in my opinion, is Apocalypse Now.

The following three poems were written by young men who served in Vietnam more than forty years ago.  They are snapshots of tragedy put into verse.

Midnight Movie
by Mike Subritzky  

(With the dedication:  
"To Jimmy B. from Huntly -  I hope you find peace mate.")

A quiet night in the barracks,
around midnight he starts it again,
he's yelling about some damned ambush,
and calling some Viet woman's name.

He always yells out he's sorry,
so sorry for all of the pain,
but every night around midnight;
he kills her all over again.

His life's in a kind of a freeze frame,
he can't move on from the war,
and every night just after twelve,
he's back in the Nam once more.

Back with the old 'Victor' Company,
back in that same Free-Fire-Zone,
and no bastard told those young Kiwi Grunts;
they patrolled near a woodcutter's home.

When the Lead Scout signals it's Charlie,
the Platoon melts quietly away,
the 'Immediate Ambush' signs given,
and the Safety Catch slips onto 'play'.

There's five in the group in pyjamas,
as black as a midnight in May,
and the Killing Ground moves into picture;
then the Gun Group opens the way.

Black figures are falling around him,
now he's up on his feet running through,
and they're sweeping the ground where they dropped them,
as he 'double taps' a screaming torso.

At the Re-Org his fingers are trembling,
the Platoon Sergeant gives him a smoke,
then it's back to the bodies to check them;
and his round hit a woman in the throat.

There are blood trails leading behind them,
and entrails are spilled on the track,
but the woman who screamed once is silent,
two rounds exit right through her back.

The jungle seems silent and empty,
as they dig down and bury the mess,
then it's check ammunition and weapons;
and don't dwell on the past just forget.

Another night in the barracks,
and Jimmy is yelling again,
it's that same old Vietnam movie,
that's spinning around in his brain.

He always yells out he's sorry,
so sorry for all of the pain,
but every night around midnight;
he kills her all over again.

by Jackson H. Day (Dak To, 18 August 1968)

Black clothed he sits there on the sandbags
Eyes covered by a bright yellow bandanna
Seeing nothing.

Boy in black surrounded
by GIs gawking and picturetaking
here buddy, I'm gonna give him a drag on my cigarette
take my picture

Hey George see the gook over there we captured
in the fight last night
yeah we slaughtered 'em
well we oughta shoot 'em all--runnin'
around the hills with their machineguns and rockets
they'd kill us any chance they got--and then we
bring 'em in here to this hospital
our own guys don't get any better treatment.

What the hell Mike it's just a
damn kid
don't look more'n thirteen or fourteen

Eyes puffy and verging on tears
Playing games too old for any man.

Back Then
by A.D. Winans

Intelligence never got much further
than downtown Saigon
or a short trip to Da Nang
most of us were in the states
doing our best to keep the world
safe from the Commie hordes
I remember one time interviewing
a young marine
a victim of the “Tet” offensive
he talked about  throwing Cong
out of helicopters after interrogations
claimed the nightmares kept him sleepless
kept seeing all those faces
in on between the walls
said a buddy of his had sent
home drugs concealed inside
body bags
but no one believed him
tiny pieces of flesh hitting
him in the face
blood between what was left
of his chewed down fingernails
and fragging a Lieutenant
kept haunting him
Intelligence said
he couldn’t be trusted
he was either a basket case
or perhaps just wanted out
of the military
so they gave him a three-day pass
just to play it safe
and made an appointment for him
to see a V.A. shrink
not surprised when
he didn’t show up
a week later
they discovered his body
down by the Beach Chalet
behind a forgotten old
WW 11 bunker
the bullet lodged in his head
no bigger than
the guilt he left behind