Saturday, March 31, 2012

Mega Millions Winners Still Not Richer than Romney

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

One of the nicest things about living overseas is that I have no direct access to the lotteries that have eaten America over the past few years like a ravenous cancer.  So, being 7,000 miles away from the greedy madness, I awoke this morning with no delusions that I might be suddenly richer than Romney - or even the Queen of England.

The Mega Millions prize was reportedly $656 million.  Had just one person won that obscene mound  of money, he or she would have had a greater net worth than the Queen ($500 million) or Willard "Mitt" Romney ($250 million) - at least until the tax man showed up for his cut.  If two people had won the Mega Millions, the theoretical prize - the one paid out over time - would have been $328 million, way below the wealth of the Queen, but still comfortably out in front of Romney.  But, as luck would have it, there were three winning tickets sold - one each in Maryland, Kansas, and Illinois - so the theoretical payout will be $218 million and change per winning ticket.  If the winners decide to take the cash option, they will each immediately take home a check of $158 million.

Only time will tell if they are able to afford car elevators, but it is doubtful that even with their new found millions, these people will have what it takes to buy their way into a serious race for the Presidency.  Things like that take a lot more than just piles hard cash.  Oh, the money helps, but so too does a lifetime of privilege, going to the right schools, and growing up among America's richest and most influential people.  It's called the "ruling class" for a reason, and those that are part of it damn well know it.  Nouveau riche lottery winners need not apply.

And as far as the British ruling class goes, when Willard "Mitt" Romney gets his $12 million beach shack in La Jolla torn down and replaced with a glamorous new structure four times the size of the original - complete with at least one elevator for the family cars - why that stodgy old Buckingham Palace will be put to shame!  Let the Queen put than in her pipe and smoke it!

Joe Scarborough Is Smarter than Ann Coulter - and More Honest

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

At one time in his checkered past, MSNBC commentator and program host Joe Scarborough was a Republican congressman from Florida, and from the political ashes of that rather conservative past, Scarborough has risen to become a voice of moderation in the media.  Republicans would serve themselves well to listen to what he has to say - particularly on the subject of the shooting of Florida teen Trayvon Martin.

This week  "Morning Joe" Scarborough went after some right-wing websites and a few individual conservatives for their defense of the vigilante shooter, George Zimmerman, and statements questioning the innocence of the 17-year-old Martin.   Scarborough, who has spoken out for the arrest of Zimmerman, said that he found the behavior and remarks of the shooter's defenders to be "disgusting."

Joe Scarborough noted that the conservative publication, National Review, had correctly summarized what the shooting of Trayvon Martin represented:

"As National Review said almost immediately after it happened, this has nothing to do with gun rights, this has nothing to do with the Second Amendment, this has nothing to do with stand your ground laws, this has nothing to do with the NRA.  This has everything to do with a guy that's trying to play security cop, who is unhinged, who chased down and shot a 17-year-old kid armed with Skittles and iced tea."

Scarborough noted that some racist websites and some more mainstream conservative web sites are going through the victim's social networking pages looking for photos that would portray him in a bad light, while completely ignoring "pictures of him holding up a birthday cake smiling, him fishing with his dad, him standing outside of his home proudly dressed in a tux ready to go to prom."

Every picture tells a story, and the right-wing fringe wants to story to be that a young black hoodlum got what was coming to him.

"This is beneath contempt," Morning Joe said.  "These people on the far right are being fools to try to make this a political issue."

Enter Ann Coulter, right on cue.

The ever-angry Ms. Coulter joined Laura Ingraham on her radio show last Friday where the two women proceeded to have a snarl-down over the despicable treatment that NBC and some celebrities are supposedly giving to George Zimmerman.

Poor George.

Ann is concerned that all of the negative publicity surrounding this incident may place Zimmerman or his family in danger - from vigilantes, one would suppose.  "This is beyond irresponsible," she railed.  "It's a lynch mob.  This isn't how we try cases in this country and the last time you saw this sort of thing on a regular basis was of course again from the Democratic Party and the Democratic Party's outgrowth - the KKK."

Poor Ann.

Did the angry Ms. Coulter study history under Professor Gingrich - and was Sarah Palin in the same class?

Here's how it went down, Annie.  Yes, the Democratic Party was fairly racist at one point in its past, and yes,  members of the Ku Klux Klan of yesteryear undoubtedly cast many Democratic ballots.  But let's be intellectually honest here.  Even you know that the Democratic Party of the second half of the 19th century and first half of the 20th century is not today's Democratic Party.  That same group of angry white people began to drift away from the Democratic Party during the presidency of FDR, and by the time LBJ was running the country they were stampeding to become Republicans.

The racist crackers of the Old South were once Democrats, but their descendants, at least those who have chosen to be true to their twisted dogma of white superiority, are Republicans, birthers, and teapot crackpots.  They're your people, Annie, and they are definitely not Democrats.

If Lincoln were alive today, he would most asssuredly be a Democrat and he would probably be sitting in the Rose Garden on a fairly regular basis having a beer with Barack Obama.  Lincoln had a lot in common with Obama, including a healthy respect for humanity and all of its beautiful colors.  That's today's political reality, Annie.  Deal with it.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

by Pa Rock
Film Fan

Last night I came across the movie, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, on one of the Japanese movie channels.  The book of the same title was written by Winifred Watson and first published in 1938.  A movie version was soon planned because the material was so funny and touching,  but that project was scraped with the onset of World War II.  The book was re-released in 2000, and Hollywood discovered it once again.   The film finally came about in 2008.

This is the story of a governess, Miss Guinevere Pettigrew, who is experiencing trouble finding a position due in part to her penchant for being a tad too plain-spoken.  As the movie starts she has been reduced to seeking sustenance at the public soup kitchens of pre-World War II London, and she is having God-awful luck scoring a meal.  Through a little chicanery on her part, Miss Pettigrew steps into a position of social secretary to a floozy nightclub singer named Delysia Lafosse who is trying to sleep her way into a leading role in a new play on London's West End, all the while ignoring her piano-playing partner, Michael, who truly loves her.

Miss Pettigrew spends one day with Delysia and her pretentious and kooky friends, and in that short period manages to sort out everyone's complicated relationships - and find a relationship for herself.  Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is very reminiscent of the BBC television series, Jeeves and Wooster, with the domestic help being brighter and more practical than their more affluent bosses.   The jazzy soundtrack harkens back to Timothy Hutton's A Nero Wolfe Mystery - and it even has a bit of the feel of Some Like It Hot.   

Frances McDormand stars in the title role in this fast-paced comedy.  As Miss Pettigrew she is funny, she is hungry, and she is the sanest person in milieu of whack-a--doodles that make up the remainder of the cast.  Miss McDormand, who shines in every role she tackles, gives a stellar performance as Guinevere Pettigrew - and in my humble opinion,  she is the actress that Meryl Streep wanted to be.

Amy Adams is the airhead Delysia who has trouble sorting out what she really wants in life - but one day with Miss Pettigrew helps her to discover her priorities - beginning with the poor piano player played by the very talented Lee Pace.  Their duet of "If I Didn't Care" is a showstopper.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is a wonderful place of respite in a world that is moving too fast.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Bobby Rush Goes Symbolic

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The piece that I posted yesterday on symbols was just a bit premature because not too many hours later a congressman, Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois, who also happens to be a black American, created quite a stir in the U.S. House of Representatives with an audacious burst of symbolism.

There are times in the House when Members may rise and speak on any topic for one minute.  Representative Rush was using his one minute of fame yesterday when he suddenly pulled off his suit jacket and revealed that he was also wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt (commonly called a "hoodie") beneath his more appropriate attire.  The congressman then pulled the hood up onto his head, donned a pair of shades (sunglasses), and proceeded to talk on the subject of racial profiling - highlighting how the real hoodlums in America are often clad in business suits and run criminal activities known as banks and corporations.

The guardian of decency who was in charge of the House chamber at that time was Rep. Gregg Harper, a Republican from Mississippi, and he did not take well to the sudden appearance of a terrorist right in the midst of that august body.  Mr. Harper, some of whose constituents who have probably worn more than a few hoods in their day, started yelling for the House Sergeant-at-Arms to get down there and enforce the no hood hat rule.  Rep. Rush continued to talk, and Rep. Harper continued to try to yell over him - until someone from the Sergeant-at-Arms' office finally got to the center of the commotion and led the uppity congressman away.

It was a good thing that all of this happened while Orange John Boehner was away from the Speaker's podium, because not only would he have gone nuts too, he would have also cried while he was yelling!

So Rep. Rush made his point.  A black man wearing a hoodie is symbolic of something bad - and an easy target for John Law (or some stupid vigilante) to drag off or kill.

Bobby Rush is my elder - by two years -  and I respect him greatly!

(Congressman Rush is a former officer in the Illinois Chapter of the Black Panthers and has served time in prison.  He later had a severe change-of-life when he became a born-again Christian.  In 1999 his 29-year-old son, Huey, was gunned down and killed by robbers in front of his home in Chicago.  In 2000, Rush defeated a young Illinois state senator by the name of Barack Obama in a primary election for the House of Representatives seat which he now holds.  Rush beat Obama by a more than 2-1 margin.)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Power of Symbols

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Somebody shook the Mitt Romney Etch A Sketch and now there's a picture of a car elevator on it!

Poor Mitt, a man who literally runs from one gaffe to another, had yet one more rotten day today when the staff of one of his sneaky opponents leaked a copy of his San Diego house renovation plans to Politico, revealing among other things that he has paid a lawyer over $20,000 to lobby San Diego County zoning officials for approval of plans to almost completely tear down and then rebuild his San Diego (La Jolla) beach house.  (I've owned houses that didn't cost $20,000!)  The plans showed that among other outrageous accouterments, the palace by the ocean will have an elevator to move his cars from floor-to-floor.  Nice, Mitt.  Car elevators certainly add to your credentials as Joe Six-Pack.

And then there was the remark about Ann Romney's Cadillacs (plural) and his being friends with owners of NASCAR teams.

When it comes to identifying with common Americans, Mitt Romney is right up there with George W. Bush, and just about as clueless.

President Obama, on the other hand, did show Americans that he gets it when it comes to stereotyping black kids as criminals - and the awful emotional burden that puts on the parents of black youth.  Obama told the nation that if he had a son, that boy would have looked like Trayvon Martin - the black teen who was murdered last month by a fellow who fancied himself to be a neighborhood protector, a fellow who had a history of racial profiling and insensitivity, a fellow who was armed and looking for trouble.

America understood the President's symbolism.  He is a father, and as a father he has a certain level of dread over the safety of his children.

Newt Gingrich tried to turn the President's statement into a bigoted remark by saying that Mr. Obama needs to worry about all children and not just black children.   What the President's statement said to me was that he is worried about the safety of all children in a society that is steeped in hate and guns.   The President stood proudly as a symbol for parenthood and sanity.

Geraldo Rivera (who once went by the name Jerry Rivers when he didn't think it was cool to be Hispanic) played a deft hand of blame-the-victim when he said that hoodie that Treyvon was wearing actually was part of the reason he was killed - he looked like a hood.  Bill O'Reilly, an entertainer on Fox News, got on board with that sentiment, with the implied conclusion being that if young Treyvon Martin had been walking around dressed as a Mormon missionary he would not have been stopped and ultimately killed by the neighborhood vigilante.

Yesterday I saw a photograph of Geraldo Rivera and Bill O'Reilly sitting together at a professional basketball game - and what were they wearing...wait for it...hoodies!  Apparently hoodies are cool on flabby old white men, but put one on a black youth and its an advertisement for an impending crime.

All things considered, I am inspired by President Obama's use of symbolism, and flabbergasted by Romney's.  I hope that America has the sense to elect someone in November who understands more than just the needs and aspirations of millionaires.  If Mitt wants to think that he is like the rest of us, he should invest in a carport.  They are very popular and practical in San Diego.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Jerry Brown Is Still a Smart Fellow

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Although I am not overly fond of politicians, Jerry  Brown, the governor of California, is one whom I at least grudgingly respect - and have for many years.  Brown, who now has served as both California's youngest and oldest governor, is also the son of a California governor.  His daddy, Edmund G. "Pat" Brown was the seasoned politician who defeated Dick Nixon in the 1962 governor's race, causing Tricky Dick to blubber to the press that they would "not have Nixon to kick around anymore."  As per usual, Nixon lied on that one, too.

But Jerry Brown followed the Reagan's into the California Governor's Mansion.  Sorry, that's a lie.  (Just talking about Nixon has gotten me into fabricating facts!)  He followed Ronnie into the governor's office, but refused to live in the Governor's Mansion which was brand new and had been constructed at the behest of Ronnie and Nancy.  He did a tour of the new palace with some television reporters at one point, and scoffed inside of the big empty building that it looked like a Safeway.  Here's betting that Nancy got a knot in her shorts over that one!  (Brown also refused to be chauffeured, instead signing a car out of the California Highway Patrol's motor pool and driving himself where he needed to go.

But even though he refused to live like political royalty, he was super cool in his own way - and even dated Linda Ronstadt - and it's hard to get any cooler than that!

All of that was years and years and years ago - and now he's back in Sacramento once again serving as governor.  He followed Arnold Schwarzenegger into office and found the treasury was as bare as Mother Hubbard's cupboard.  There was nary a dime in the Golden State's coffers, and there were roads to repair, prisoners to feed, and bills to pay.  Arnold had focused too much attention on his domestic help and not enough on pay-as-you-go government.

So now Jerry Brown, the governor of California, is faced with the unenviable task of bringing spending in line and raising revenues - revenues are generally taxes for those of you who speak only Gop or Jesus.  He has come up with a tax plan that actually makes sense - enough sense that 64% of Californians say that they approve of it.

Governor Brown's tax plan is to increase sales tax by a quarter of a percent for four years, and place a graduated surcharge on the income taxes of people making over $250,000 a year for seven years.

Republicans, especially very rich Republicans, like sales taxes because they are regressive and the brunt of the pain is felt by the poor - the people who spend all or nearly all.of their income on groceries and the other day-to-day necessities of life.  The rich obviously don't want to see their own taxes raised, but that is the trade-off Brown is proposing - and it seems to have hit the right note.

The big problem with "temporary" taxes like these is that when they expire, there is always a move to extend them or make them permanent with the appeal that voting to keep them in place "won't raise your taxes" - (because your taxes were actually raised when the original laws went into effect.)

Politicians are so sneaky!

But I like Jerry Brown anyway.

And I like Linda Ronstadt, too!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Monday's Poetry: "Anger Management in the McDonald's Drive Through"

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

One of the roles that I have played at each of the four military bases where I have worked over the past few years is that of being a facilitator for the Men's Anger Management Group.  Today I ran across the poem, "Anger Management in the McDonald's Drive Through" by Leon Jane and felt that it accurately portrayed bits and pieces of individual stories that I have heard in the anger groups over the years.

The writer of this piece, Leon Jane, issued the following statement with his work:

I made this poem up as it isn't based on anything that I have done in a drive through. I guess I dedicate this poem to all the hard workers in our fast food industries who have to endure the likes of customers who think that they deserve a little more attention and privileges than any other person. 

I second his sentiments.  Always be nice to the crew kids, even when they screw up your order.  Being angry negatively impacts our health, makes us look like  losers, is often directed at the wrong person, and seldom changes anything.   Whenever we are being served fast food, "thank you" is the appropriate response - whether it was what we ordered or not.  Remember, none of it is healthy anyway!

Anger Management in the McDonald's Drive Through
by Leon Jane

I'll crack your head with my fists of steel!
All I damn well wanted was a Quarter Pounder meal.
Instead I get this crazy dish,
who the heck thought of the Fillet-o-Fish?
I'll rip that speaker box off its mount.
Who said this was food? It doesn't count.
Now Ive got a square fillet swimming in tartar,
all I wanted was beef, what do they care?
Send out that ridiculous clown, I'll clean up his cheesy grin,
with a swift knuckle sandwich to his plastic chin.
Give me a burger with a shake and fries
Don't be giving me "you'll have to wait" lies.
I'll back my truck up to your drive through garden,
to get my dollars worth, if I am begging your pardon.
I'll dig out your plants and take them for free
they'll be better than the useless napkins that you're giving me.
I'll empty my garbage, from my cars foot pan,
come on you pimply manager, give me a hand.
Bring me your McAttitude on your minimum wage,
I'll give you life advice from my derelict age.
No need to call the police, nothing is alarming,
now my anger subsides with a sense of calming.
All I needed was a sugar hit to send me home,
nothing like a chocolate drizzled soft serve cone!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

My Life as a Bowler

by Pa Rock
Happy Bowler

One of the things that I hated in junior high and high school was the physical education classes.  These were  usually under the supervision of young teachers who were far more concerned with their coaching duties than they were with teaching students how to be physically fit or to take an interest in healthy physical activities.  If these yahoos (the teachers) were not busy poring over their playbooks and ignoring the bullies pounding the defenseless, they were sitting in the bleachers reading the newspaper or a magazine while a brutal game of dodge ball played itself out on the gym floor.  Injuries were the rule, not the exception.

I never forgot the trauma of dodge ball, and as a principal years later I ended the practice at three different schools.

Physical education was different in college because there it was about learning.  At Southwest Missouri State College in the 1960's, four one-credit PE classes were required for graduation.  I loved each of mine and learned a great deal from those experiences.  The first PE class that I took was some sort of general class that had a basic focus on weight-lifting.  The instructor was a wonderful fellow named Jim Mentis who was also the college's head football coach.  It was there that I learned that even a non-jock, like me, could lift weights. My best was the one that required me putting the bar on my shoulders, with lots of weights attached, and proceeding to do squats.  I don't remember the amount of weight that I was able to squat, but it was significant and I could literally do it almost endlessly.  Some of the gorillas (Bears, actually) from the football team who were taking the class for an easy "A" were impressed with my squatting ability.

My next college physical education class was tennis.  I took it in the spring, and we had to walk several blocks to a small park for the class.  I learned the fundamentals and by the end of the semester could play a respectable game of tennis.  I wish now that I had maintained that skill, but for many years my life led me places where tennis courts were scarce.

The third PE class that I took was folk and square dancing.  I loved square dancing, and I could allemande left or right (and promenade, do sa do, and swing my partner) with the best of them.  I actually got good at it. I also learned to do the polka in that class and enjoyed that as well.

But it was bowling in my senior year of college where I really shined!  I had bowled some in high school and was poor to barely mediocre - and knew it.  Our college had a new program that year called "pass-fail" where a student could choose to pass or fail a class rather than receive a specific grade.  I figured with my poor bowling history, that it would be a smart move for me and my grade point average to take bowling on a pass-fail basis and not sweat the sure-to-be low grade that would pull down my already suffering g.p.a.

Stupid me!

My old friend, Coach Mentis, was the bowling instructor, and, as with lifting weights, he taught me how to actually bowl.  Halfway through the course I knew where to stand, how to approach the line, how to release the ball, and which arrow to release it over.    By the end of the class I was rolling an average of 180 per game, and was easily the most improved bowler in the class.  I would have had the "A" with no sweat, but had to settle for the lousy "pass."

I bowled on an Army league on Okinawa a couple of years later, but the abundance of beer involved in that activity began to reduce my bowling skills considerably.  My clearest memory of bowling on that league (perhaps my only clear memory) was that one night I successfully made a six-seven-ten split, much to the amazement of myself and most of the people in the bowling alley.  I was supposed to have gotten a special patch for that achievement, but that never happened.  Forty years later I still want my damned patch!

Nearly twenty years after that when my youngest son, Tim, was in elementary school, we lived two blocks from a bowling alley in Neosho, Missouri.  Tim and I got into the habit of bowling every weekend.  My 180 average had slipped to about 100 by then, but he and I had a lot of fun at it anyway.  We got so dedicated to the game that we bought our own bowling balls.

We left Neosho in 1992 and I have bowled one or two times since - until last night.

Valerie Seitz, a close friend and co-worker whom I knew from my time in the Valley of Hell (Phoenix), set up a bowling party at Kadena Lanes last night as a finale to my week-long birthday blowout.  We were joined there by several people from work.  (I am going to list them here just so I will always remember who turned out to watch me embarrass myself!):  Daniel Murphy, Nefredia Covington, Ron and Carolyn Gibb, Airman Jackson, SSgt Keith Buehler and his beautiful bride Sarah, Nicole Murphy and her two-month-old daughter Saphyra, and Stephanie Reitman and her children Lauren and Tyler - and I hope I haven't forgotten anyone!)  And we had such a great time!

Being the guest of honor, I felt that it was incumbent upon me to roll the worst game - so everyone else could experience some success.  I was told that I had to at least bowl my age, and I couldn't even muster that.  My first game was a miserable 48, but I was able to surpass that in the second game, just barely, because I got lucky with a spare in the ninth frame and wound up with a walloping fifty-one!  That was a total of 99 pins in 20 frames!

Coach Mentis would have been appalled!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Thank You, Eric Fehrnstrom

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Amazingly, the Romney campaign jalopy continues to chug along.  True, it's balanced on three wheels, the power steering is out, and the driver's side door won't open far enough to allow the perpetually embarrassed candidate an opportunity to bail - so it still struggles toward the finish line in Tampa with a pack of rabid dogs snarling and snapping at its bumper.

Every time poor Mitt catches a break and actually wins a caucus or a primary, somebody charges in and says something that drains the thunder from the victory.  Usually, of course, it's the candidate himself who steps all over the narrative that he is trying to sell the country - the thrilling (yawn) tale of how he made a fortune on his own, how he is a magnificent manager, and how he will be the CEO that the country needs and deserves.  He spoils his story by saying things that just don't connect with common people - like telling working stiffs in Michigan that his wife has Cadillacs (plural), or a crowd of NASCAR enthusiasts (the poor end of the Republican base) that he has friends who own NASCAR teams.  Poor Mitt just doesn't get how to connect with anyone who makes less than seven figures.

And then those shifty Democrats dredge up stories about Romney that make him look bad (of course, that is their job) - like how his company, Bain Capital, has a history of destroying companies, laying off workers, and sending jobs overseas.  Or the fact that Bain Capital and Mitt himself have banked in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands in order to deprive Uncle Sam of some of their tax burden.   What a bunch of true Americans!

The Romney family is so big that its members can't help but being the source of the occasional embarrassing tidbit.  Wasn't it one of his pretty sons who first told the tale of Mitt putting the family Irish Setter, Seamus, in  a kennel on top of the family station when they drove off on vacation?  As a dog lover, I find that to be the most troubling footnote in the Romney narrative.  If he treats the family pet that way, what kind of compassion would he have for the rest of America?

The unkindest cut of all came this week just as the Mittster was basking in the victory that he purchased in Illinois.  No sooner had the votes been counted and the self-congratulatory speeches given than his old jalopy blew a gasket - a big one.   Romney's political opponents have long painted him as being opportunistic - a flip-flopper who has no core values and will say anything to anyone to gain political advantage.  A reporter asked Romney political adviser Eric Fehrnstrom about how his candidate would go about moving back to the political center in a general election after having to adopt so many fringe (lunatic) positions in the race for the nomination.

It was an astounding moment of truth - the verification by a senior Romney adviser of what most of his opponents and much of the country had been saying all along about the candidate being ready to support any side of any issue.  Eric Fehrnstrom answered the reporter's question about going from primary election mode to general election mode with this comment:

"I think you hit the reset button for the fall campaign.  Everything changes.  It's almost like an Etch A Sketch.   You can shake it up and start all over again."

So much for core principles.   Flip-flop, flip-flop, flip-flop!

Thank you, Eric Fehrnstrom, for speaking truth to politics!

(Special note:  Mitt Romney's spurious claims about being a job-creator could actually be true in the case of  Etch A Sketch.  Sales of the toy are going through the roof.  Little Ricky Santorum even pulled into a Toys-R-Us and bought one for himself and carries it to campaign stops like it was his personal laptop.  And the Ohio Art Comapny which manufactures Etch A Sketch has reported that the price of its stock has tripled since Eric Fehrnstrom's prescient remark.)  

Friday, March 23, 2012

Will You Still Need Me, Will You Still Feed Me?

by Pa Rock
Birthday Boy

That's right, it's my birthday - the fourth that I have celebrated on Okinawa - #24, #25, #63, and now #64.  I have had a wonderful day, and indeed, a wonderful week!  Dinner with friends last weekend, lots of prezzies and warm wishes from friends today, and tomorrow night several people from work are meeting at the bowling alley on Kadena to continue the celebration.  Getting old has its perks.

I also had the very good fortune of hearing from all of my children today.

Good friend Rose Maxam from college days sent me a YouTube clip of the Beatles singing "When I'm Sixty-Four."   I have been whistling that song all week.  The clip is here:    Thanks, Rose!

And here, just for grins, are the lyrics:

When I'm Sixty-Four
by The Beatles

When I get older losing my hair,
Many years from now,
Will you still be sending me a valentine
Birthday greetings bottle of wine?

If I'd been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door,
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four?

oo oo oo oo oo oo oo oooo
You'll be older too, (ah ah ah ah ah)
And if you say the word,
I could stay with you.

I could be handy mending a fuse
When your lights have gone.
You can knit a sweater by the fireside
Sunday mornings go for a ride.

Doing the garden, digging the weeds,
Who could ask for more?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four?

Every summer we can rent a cottage
In the Isle of Wight, if it's not too drear
We shall scrimp and save
Grandchildren on your knee
Vera, Chuck, and Dave

Send me a postcard, drop me a line,
Stating point of view.
Indicate precisely what you mean to say
Yours sincerely, Wasting Away.

Give me your answer, fill in a form
Mine for evermore
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four? 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Tennessee Is Still Not Evolving

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

When it comes to state legislatures turning their states into laughingstocks, none can compare with Arizona.  Those scorpion-milkers and jackass-breeders are in a league of their own - steeped in hate and damned proud of it!  But over the last few years there seems to have been a rash of other state legislatures pushing to prove that they are every bit as backward and bigoted as the mental midgets who write the laws in Arizona.  Wisconsin is fighting to dismantle public employee unions, Kansas is at war with women, and Missouri is putting a bronze bust of Rush Limbaugh in its state capitol.  The crazies are seizing power and being ...well, uh ... crazy!

Tennessee is now trying to add its name to the list of scary places to live.   Monday evening of this week a bill was passed by the Tennessee State Senate that will protect teachers who want to promote "alternate scientific theories," or ideas otherwise known as hokum with no scientific basis in fact.  This means that science teachers will now be able to present "creationism" starring Adam and Eve as a "theory" on par with evolution. They can also cast aside scientific data from around the globe and calmly state that there is no such thing as climate change and global warming because it snowed once last winter.

It also means that Bubba, and Joe Bob, and Reverend Piddle - who all sit on the local board of education in Grinder's Switch - will likely be asking science teacher applicants hardball questions like, "Just how many days did it take God to create the Earth, anyway?"  Or, "You  don't believe in that global warming nonsense, do ya?"  It won't take long before science teachers across the state come to fully realize just which "theories" are preferred by their local communities, whether they have any basis in fact or not.

Tennessee, of course, has been down this road before.  John T. Scopes, a science teacher at Dayton High School, was charged in 1925 with ignoring a state law that forbid the teaching of evolution in Tennessee classrooms.  World class lawyer Clarence Darrow defended Scopes, and three-time Presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan defended the literal word of the Bible as he prosecuted Scopes.  The whole affair was known as the "Scopes Monkey Trial," and it turned the little town of Dayton into a summer-long carnival as the media and interested on-lookers descended on the community to be near the trial.  Scopes was eventually convicted, because he had indeed broken the law, but he was given a light sentence, and Mr. Bryan who had been pummeled by Mr. Darrow for his illogical fundamentalist religious views, died just a couple of days after the trial ended.

Tennessee became a national laughingstock - and now, eighty-seven years later, the Volunteer State is right back gnawing the lid off of the same can of worms.  It is apparently much like Arizona - a place where nothing evolves.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Work It, Ricky - Work It!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

When it comes to respect, or lack thereof, Little Ricky Santorum is in a class with comedian Don Rickles.

Last week when Santorum probably should have been camped out in Illinois kissing babies and tipping cows, he opted instead to rush down to Puerto Rico, insult all of the Spanish speakers (most of the island's population), and then rip off his shirt and lay by the pool.   It was narcissism gone wild!

While everyone deserves a day or two in the sun, a serious presidential contender should probably keep his shirt buttoned until he has put in some serious time at the gym getting ready for the big unveiling.

But Little Ricky was in Puerto Rico, dammit, and he had spent all winter in the snow and ice trying to light a fire under the evangelicals, teabaggers, and other right-wing riff-raff, so he deserved a little time for himself.  Off came the shirt!

Of course, it didn't take long for someone to recognize God's Flabby White Boy beached by the pool, and a picture was snapped that made it onto the Internet quicker than Sarah Palin could name a book.  And when Little Ricky eventually saw the photo, he apologized to the world saying that he could probably stand to lose fifteen or twenty pounds.

I don't mean to be critical on the subject of weight.  I could certainly stand to lose forty or fifty pounds - maybe more.  But I don't go around flaunting my flab, and if I were running for the highest office in the land I would certainly tend toward staying covered up.  But Little Ricky let it all hang out, as it were, and placed himself directly in the line of fire of the paparazzi - as well as the thousands of tourists who are on each and every one of Puerto Rico's beaches each and every day.

But the story gets even better more disrespectful.  The guy who snapped the offending photograph was visiting San Juan while on an all-gay cruise.  That's right!  The biggest little homophobe in America got his picture taken, bare-chested, by a gay man out cruising the Caribbean with a shipload of other gay men!

Oh Ricky, you know those godless gays made copies and plastered the ship with them.  And if those prints could talk, the tales they would tell!

Next time do everyone a favor and keep your shirt on!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tom Nutt Goes to California

by Pa Rock
Family Historian

Today's posting is for my twelve-year-old grandson, Boone.  We were talking over the telephone last Sunday and Boone was telling me about his periodic visits with his maternal great-grandmother, Ireme Olive (Tippee) Christerson.  Boone is very patient and will sit and listen for long periods of time - even  to old people.  He also knew another great-grandparent - my dad, Garland Eugene Macy - who passed away when Boone was ten.  Somewhere during  our conversation on Sunday, he suddenly asked, "Hey, Pa Rock, do you remember any of your great-grandparents?"

Only three of my great-grandparents were alive when I was born, both of my dad's grandmothers and his maternal grandfather.  One of his grandmothers, Etta Orvilla (Griffith) Nutt, died in the summer of 1950 when I was two-years-old, and the other grandmother, Louella (Pritchard) Macy passed away in the summer of 1954 when I was six.  Most of the relatives called her Granny Pritchard, and when my mother felt that my little sister, Gail, was getting too bossy, she would refer to her as "Miss Pritchard!"

I have no memory of Etta, and only a vague recollection of Louella.  I remember that Louella smoked a pipe and she would sit in our kitchen smoking her pipe and visiting while my mom did household chores.  Mom complained long after Louella's death about how mad she would get because Louella would strike her wooden matches on the bottom of our kitchen table in order to light her pipe - leaving long, black marks that Mom felt obliged to clean.

Thomas Franklin Nutt was my dad's grandfather on his mother's side.  Grandpa Nutt died in 1958 at the age of eighty-eight.  He worked as a concrete finisher most of his life and helped to build the courthouse in Neosho, Missouri.

There is a bit of a family mystery with Grandpa Nutt.  He was born in Missouri in 1870 (according to information in the 1880 census records).  In 1880 he was living in the home of his grandparents, Henry and Celena (Rutledge) Nutt in Neosho, Missouri, where Henry was the town marshal.  To this day no one knows who his parents were, but the most likely scenario is that he was the illegitimate child of one of Henry and Celana's older daughters.

My grandmother, Hazel (Nutt) Macy told me years ago that Grandpa Nutt had told her that his father had gone out west with another man, and that the traveling companion eventually returned and said that Tom's dad had been killed by Indians.

But back to Boone's question:  Yes, I did know Tom Nutt fairly well.  In the summer of 1957 our family was piling into our old 1953 Chevrolet preparing to drive to California on vacation.  Just as we got everything loaded, my grand-aunt, Ethel Macy, a daughter of Tom's who had married another Macy, came pulling into the driveway with Grandpa Nutt in tow - where she announced that he would be riding to California with us so that he could spend some quality time with some of his other children - Bob Nutt, Earl Nutt, and Daisy (Nutt) Lindblad.  My mother was especially angry about Ethel's mandate and did a slow burn for 2,000 miles!

A Macy family vacation involved driving and driving and driving and finally unpacking with some relatives.  There was no money for motels, and we took much of what we ate from home.  When Dad and Mom were both  too tired to drive, they would find someplace to stop for a couple of hours and sleep in the car.  Gail and I were in the back seat, and we napped on either side of 87-year-old Grandpa Nutt!

But we were headed to California, and we damned near made it without a serious incident.  Somewhere in Arizona, however (Dad thought it was Tucson, but from studying a map I am more inclined to guess Yuma), Grandpa Nutt lost it and decided that he had been kidnapped.  He started swinging his cane at his abductors, hitting Gail and I - and I am sure my parents as well.  We wound up leaving him at some sort of hospital or rest home, and his son Bob had to drive out from Los Angeles and retrieve the confused and cantankerous old man.  When he finally got him back to Los Angeles, Grandpa Nutt started saying that my family had stolen his money.  It turns out that he had hidden his wallet in the facility where we had left him - and Bob had to drive to Arizona a second time where he was able to find Grandpa Nuttt's money.

It was a trip that I won't forget, and it is my clearest memory of Grandpa Tom Nutt.  He died in Neosho the following year.

Now I am wondering if my life will be that adventurous and interesting when my children start shuffling me from home to home in an effort to give each other quality time with their dad.  Start planning now kids - the time draws near!

The Obituary of Thomas F. Nutt from the Neosho Daily News on 15 May 1958: 

Thomas f. Nutt, Rt. 2, Neosho, died at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday at Sale Memorial Hospital after a four week illness.  He was born in Neosho and had lived here his entire life. 
Mr. Nutt was a concrete finisher.  His survivors included five daughters and three sons.  Mrs.  C.E. (Hazel) Macy, Rt. 3, Mrs. Jack (Ethel) Macy, Sr., Rt. 2, Mrs. Daisy Lindblad, Temple City, CA, Mrs. Ina Johnston, Winter Garden, Florida, Mrs. Mable Sour, Joplin, Robert, El Monte, CA, Earl, Riverside, CA, and Claude, Wichita, KS. 
Funeral services will be conducted from the Clark Funeral Home Chapel at 3:30 p.m. Saturday with burial in the Belfast Cemetery.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Monday's Poetry: "Daffodils"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

This week marks the beginning of spring - my favorite season.  And it is certainly starting to feel like spring here on Okinawa.  Our winter, such that it was, lasted longer than usual, but now the temperatures have settled into the seventies and eighties, the birds are singing, and the warm breezes are blowing.  The flowers on Okinawa bloom all year round, but right now they are especially lovely.

This past Saturday night two good friends, Murphy and Nefredia, took me out to dinner out of respect for my advanced years.  After a fine meal at the Macaroni Grill, we came back to my place and walked from there to American Village (about a mile) where we planned to listen to some jazz.  We never found a venue that we liked, and instead spent most of the evening just walking around American Village and looking in the shops.  But the weather was the highlight of the evening.  The night was balmy, the night was delightful, and we had a wonderful time just being with each other and enjoying the fine spring evening!

And somehow all of that got me to thinking about my little farm, Rock's Roost, back in the Ozarks.  One of the last things that I did in the fall of 2004 before moving away the following January, was to plants lots and lots of flower bulbs:  crocus, hyacinths, tulips, and, of course, my favorites - daffodils.  In fact, I dug a substantial trench next to the road where I planted dozens, if not hundreds, of daffodil bulbs.  And now, over seven years later, I have yet to be home at the right time to see the blooms.  I hope they are blooming right now, and I hope they are beautiful.

So, for today's poetry selection, I am happy to share William Wordsworth's best effort:  Daffodils, sometimes also known as I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.

Happy spring - and go fly a kite!

by William Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.  

Saturday, March 17, 2012

An Open Letter to Claire McCaskill

by Pa Rock
Missourian Abroad

Dear Senator McCaskill,

I realize that the life of a United States Senator must be very fast-paced and hectic.  With that in mind, and with a deep appreciation of the work that you do for Missouri and the nation, I am making one final attempt to bring a matter to your attention that I believe is weakening our nation and depriving its citizens of a way to save money while expressing their patriotism.

First, as background, I am a Missourian living abroad where I work with the U.S. military.  I have five wonderful grandchildren, two of whom live in Missouri.  Since the oldest was born twelve years ago, I have been making dutiful purchases of $100 Series EE Savings Bonds through my Missouri bank each month for each grandchild.  It was a system that worked very well, and I have built up a nice stack of savings bonds that will help put my grandchildren through college  - possibly even Missouri colleges.

Unfortunately for me, and I suspect thousands of others as well, the Treasury Department quit selling the Series EE Savings Bonds through banks on January 1st of this year, and announced at that time that they would begin selling the bonds over the Internet.  I have signed up for an account with the Treasury Department and now have an account number and a password, but multiple visits to the Treasury website have been totally frustrating.  There appears to be no way to actually buy the bonds.

I have recently spoken to an officer in my bank back in Missouri and asked her if she knew how to navigate the bewildering system.  The bank officer responded that one of the tellers at her bank had also been on the Internet trying to buy savings bonds for her grandchildren and had also given up.

Senator McCaskill, that is outrageous.  You and I are both old enough to remember when purchasing savings bonds was one of the most patriotic acts that a citizen could perform.  Every dollar that the government takes in through the sale of these bonds is one less dollar that we have to borrow from China.  What would Harry Truman think of a government bureaucracy that keeps citizens from supporting their government?

Here are two simple things that your office can do which will either validate or impugn my premise that it is now virtually impossible for ordinary citizens to purchase Series EE Savings Bonds:  1.  Ask a member of your staff to try to navigate the system and see if they can purchase a bond.  And, 2.  Shoot a note over to Secretary Geithner and ask to see the figures for savings bonds sales for the first three months of this year versus the first three months of last year.  I predict that the drop in sales this year as compared to last year will be startling.

That might even make a good campaign issue.

I will not bother you any further on this subject.  I am now in the process of setting up savings accounts with my bank for each grandchild, something that I find very sad because the old system worked so well.

Senator, I know that you and your staff are unbelievably busy.  Your direct tweet to me, the only valid communication that I have had from your office, stated that you receive 8,000-10,000 emails and letters a week "just from Missourians."  Please remember that I, too, am a Missourian, and I am also an American who cares deeply about my country.  Whether I am buying savings bonds or not, the system needs to be fixed so that others may have that savings option - and our government may maintain that revenue stream.

Thank you for all you do.

Rocky G. Macy
Missourian Abroad

Sharia Law Comes to Arizona

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Arizona just keeps getting meaner and stupider.

This week there is a piece of legislation making its way through the Arizona Legislature that would allow employers to deny their workers health insurance coverage for contraception - based on the employer's religious beliefs.  Those in favor of this latest tactic in the war on women state that it is a matter of religious freedom and First Amendment rights.  Those opposed see it more clearly as employers imposing their religious beliefs on the poor souls who work for them.

Count me in the latter group.

I spent this evening in the company of good friends.  One, the sweetest lady on Okinawa, said that she cannot believe that the Republicans and religious fundamentalists are attacking contraception, something that has been an accepted and prevalent family planning practice in America for half a century.

My other friend, a male, noted that even though conservatives love to rail against Sharia Law, they are in effect no different than the Mullahs when it comes to the treatment of women.

Here are some of my concerns:  Will these same employer's grant their pregnant employees maternity leave, or time off when these unplanned children become ill?  Will they pay their employees sufficient salary to raise a family?  Will they provide health insurance for families of their employees?

It's expensive to raise a kid - far more expensive than the cost of birth control pills.

What's next, gentlemen?  Burqas?

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Lost Art of Television Repair

by Pa Rock

While my friend Murphy and I were out running up and down the island today, I told him that I had taken my malfunctioning computer in for repairs earlier in the day, and, right on cue, the problem disappeared as soon as the repairman touched the machine.  That led to another story - about how my printer quit two weeks ago.  I went to the Post Exchange on Camp Foster and bought a new one.  After cutting open the box on the new printer, I suddenly thought of something that I hadn't tried with the old one.  So I picked it up a couple of inches off of the table and dropped it - and, of course, the printer resumed working.

Murphy responded with, "Do you remember when we used to fix televisions by hitting them?"

Of course I remembered that.  Often all it would take to get the picture or sound back - or to get the blasted picture to quit rolling - was to slam a hand up against the side of the television.  Then, if that didn't work, a person could call a repairman who would come to the house and fix the offending television right on the spot.  The worst case scenario was that he would cart it off to his repair shop for a week or two.

My Dad had an appliance store in Noel, Missouri, while I was growing up.   One of the major items that he handled was televisions - small ones called portables that might weigh anywhere from twenty pounds to well over a hundred, console televisions which were big pieces of furniture - and entertainment centers that would have a large television, a phonograph, and an AM-FM radio.  The entertainment centers would often take up an entire wall in the living room.  (So you can see why repairmen tried to fix the sets in the house rather than lugging them to the shop.)

Dad had a repairman, Kenneth Headlee, who ran a television repair shop right in Dad's store - so he could honor the warranty on every set that he sold.

Now, of course, when a television quits working we throw it away and buy another - but my Dad never progressed that far.  When his television quit, he  would grumble around for a month or two and claim that he was looking for a repairman, and then eventually give up and buy a smaller model to put on top of the one that had quit.  At one point he had a tower of three televisions!

And I am sure that my Dad hit every one of the offending televisions!

Then Murphy started talking about television rabbit ears, and tying tin foil to rabbit ears - and I was overwhelmed with nostalgia.  And that led me to remembering cars that I would have to jump on in order to get them to start - but that's a whole other story!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Daring Young Man

by Pa Rock
Reader and Human Being

Here is how "association" works, at least in my nimble mind:

Several weeks ago I had collapsed in front of my television and was channel-surfing when I came across the movie classic, "It Happened One Night" just as it was about to begin.  It's called a "classic" for good reason, so I made some popcorn and settled down to enjoy the show - a movie that I had not seen in many years.  About an hour into the feature there is a wonderful scene when a busload of people are driving through a rural landscape on a dark and rainy night.  One of the passengers began to sing a popular song from the previous century, "The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze," and others on the bus started joining in - with different passengers getting up and adding verses.  They were having a great time until the bus rolled off the road and got mired in the mud.

After the movie ended, I was still humming the song of the daring young man, and my mind drifted back to my high school literature class forty-some years earlier when I had read William Saroyan's signature short story, "The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze."  I remembered that I had been impressed by the story and by Saroyan's talent as a writer, but the fog of way too many years left me with no memory of what the story was about.

A quick visit with my friends at confirmed that the story was still available, and, in fact, was the title story in a collection by Saroyan.  I made the order, it arrived a few days ago, and I have already read several of the stories including the one that I was after.

And I remain very, very impressed with the writing abilities of the late Mr. Saroyan.

William Saroyan wrote "The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze" in 1934 at the height of the Great Depression.  He was only twenty-six-years-old at the time the piece was sold to Story magazine.  This very short story chronicles the last day or two in the life of a young man looking for work and slowly starving to death.  It is a stark and very realistic tale of street life during the depression.  There were large numbers of unemployed desperately competing for a very few jobs, and some lived on the streets, and some died on the streets.

However, not only was Saroyan a gifted chronicler of the times, he was at the forefront of a much less formal type of writing, a narrative told in patterns and rhythms that more accurately mirrored the way people actually talked.  His work is complicated, yet very easy to read, and his characters linger well beyond the last pages of their stories.

The daring young man haunts me.  He wanted to work, desperately, yet there was no work - and he starved to death.   It was 1934.  There was no unemployment insurance, and certainly very little in the way of a safety net.  And he died.  And thousands of others died during those horrible years - but those years gave rise to Social Security, insurance to protect bank deposits, and national jobs' programs like the Works Progress Administration, Civilian Conservation Corps, and the Tennessee Valley Authority.  America became a country that was not afraid or ashamed to take care of its most desperate souls.

But now the children and grandchildren of the people who struggled through the Great Depression are running the country, and their response to economic hard times is to vilify the poor.

We are becoming a truly shameless society, and our bus is about to get mired in the mud - again.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Sad Day for Learning

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I feel as though the best friend of my youth has died.

Today I learned that Encyclopedia Britannica is ending its print edition.  That's right, those magnificent sets of books that many parent's bought on credit in the years following World War II so that their children would not fall behind academically will soon be nothing more than an historical curiosity.

And that is sad.

Oh, we all knew it was coming, what with the invention of the Internets, search engines like The Google, and on-line reference tools like Wikipedia - but today's announcement makes it seem like the lingering relative has finally passed.  And it is so sad.

Yes, Wikipedia is much more up-to-the minute and undoubtedly has many more topics.  (I venture to guess that Encyclopedia Britannica has probably never printed a word on the frothy sex mixture now known by millions as "santorum.")    But the topics that the encyclopedia did cover were often explained by experts in the field, whereas Wikipedia entries are written and "corrected" by damned near everybody.

(Interestingly though, I read some research today on the Internets that had experts in various fields compare Wikipedia entries on topics with those of Encyclopedia Britannica,  and the  printed encyclopedias proved more accurate, but not by much.)

Encyclopedia Britannica will continue with an on-line presence, but it won't be the same.  The magic of encyclopedias for me was always the accidental learning that happened as I thumbed through a volume looking for a particular topic - but was continually drawn to other interesting things that I came across while searching for my subject.  It was like visiting a candy store  - with so many sweet things to sample.  Often I would spend the entire hour of "study hall" just browsing through a volume or two of my school's encyclopedias.  Looking something up in an on-line encyclopedia will take the learner straight to what they are looking for - and cheat that person out of all of that accidental learning.

I miss the trappings of my youth - radio dramas, cars with fins, slide rules, company stopping by the house just to visit, music with pleasant melodies and words that made sense - and now I guess I'll miss encyclopedias, too.  The world is just moving too damned fast!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Romney Tries to Dumb It Down for Tuesday

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Just when you thought the Republican primary season couldn't get any dumber, along comes Tuesday, March 13th, with its twin primaries in Alabama and Mississippi.  Mitt Romney, who can only tolerate a cracker if its holding a truffle or a dab of caviar, somehow thinks that he may have a chance to win one or both of those states, and with a southern victory, go back to his blathering about being inevitable.   Press reports indicate that he is on the ground in the Old South talking about NASCAR, grits, coon dogs, and the wonderful apple pies that his mother's cook used to bake when he was a boy in prep school.  He has apparently even begun dropping the "g's" from word endings and addressing groups as "ya'll."

Of course, he may actually win one or both of those states if Santorum and Gingrich, as expected, split the conservative vote.  Mitt won't actually win with a majority, but he'll take a narrow win in a three-way and tout it as a voter mandate - or maybe God's will.

And Alabama and Mississippi should not be under-rated, because they are rapidly becoming the bedrock and intellectual base of the Republican Party.

A very recent survey by PPP asked Republican voters in Alabama and Mississippi two very revealing questions.  The first was:  Do you believe that Barack Obama is a Christian, a Muslim, or are you not sure?  The second question was:  Do you believe in evolution, or not?

Fourteen percent of Alabama Republican voters believe that Barack Obama is a Christian.  Forty-five percent believe he is a Muslim, and 41% are not sure.  When it comes to evolution, 26% of Alabama Republicans believe in evolution, 60% do not, and 13% are not sure.

It gets worse in Mississippi.

Just 12% of Mississippi Republican voters believe our President is a Christian, 52% (a clear majority) believe he is a Muslim, and 36% are not sure.  As for evolution, 22% of Mississippi Republicans believe in the theory of evolution, 66% do not believe in evolution, and 11% had no opinion.

DailyKos pointed out today that Alabama and Mississippi are also two places that would like to bring back literacy tests as a requirement for voting!  (If that were to happen, there might not be any Republican voters!)

The apes have spoken!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Monday's Poetry: "Happiness"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

I discovered the poem "Happiness" by the late Raymond Carver in Andrew Sullivan's column, The Dish.   It is a glimpse of friendship told with simple, yet beautiful words.  Carver's poem lives up to its title by conveying an idyllic feeling of happiness.

And I am happy to share it here!

by Raymond Carver

So early it's still almost dark out.
I'm near the window with coffee,
and the usual early morning stuff
that passes for thought.

When I see the boy and his friend
walking up the road
to deliver the newspaper.

They wear caps and sweaters,
and one boy has a bag over his shoulder.
They are so happy
they aren't saying anything, these boys.

I think if they could, they would take
each other's arm.
It's early in the morning,
and they are doing this thing together.

They come on, slowly.
The sky is taking on light,
though the moon still hangs pale over the water.

Such beauty that for a minute
death and ambition, even love,
doesn't enter into this.

Happiness. It comes on
unexpectedly. And goes beyond, really,
any early morning talk about it. 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Who's Making News?

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The Washington Post has a feature called "The Mention Machine" which tracks the amount of times that the presidential candidates are mentioned in the mainstream media and on Twitter on a weekly basis.  The numbers are interesting, but not entirely what I would have expected.

Last week President Obama led the pack in mainstream media mentions, not surprising since he is the President of the United States and not just some right-wing wannabe.  Mr. Obama had 13,854 mentions followed by Mitt Romney with 7,389, Little Ricky Santorum with 5,660, Newt Gingrich with 4,262, and the man the media most likes to ignore - Ron Paul - with 2,744.

But when it came to what real people were talking about - on Twitter - things changed.  There Mitt Romney had 179,237 mentions, the President came in a close second with 170,300, Little Ricky was again third with 107,440, Ron Paul moved into fourth with 98,915, and Newt finished last with 68,666.

What would really be interesting would be if the Post had some way of sorting those Twitter mentions into positive, neutral, and negative.  That might tell us more than the national polls, and it would certainly get the Twitter freaks banging harder on their keyboards!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Great Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami One Year Later

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

It is Sunday, March 11th, here in Japan, exactly one year after the horrendous earthquake and tsunami struck northeastern Japan killing thousands (15,850), injuring thousands, and leaving thousands homeless.   There are also thousands (3,287) who remain missing twelve months after the event.

The Fukushima Daichi nuclear power plant was severely damaged in the quake and ensuing tsunami to the point it has been off-line since the devastation of last March.  Questions about its current safety as well as its long-term prospects have had a substantive impact on the Japanese political scene, and nuclear power, which had seemed ready to make a rebound, is now being looked at more cautiously on a world-wide basis.

Here on Okinawa we had no physical contact with the horror of March 11, 2011, but many of the Japanese businesses have had out collection canisters all year to help with recovery efforts.  My housing agents told me that several Japanese from the effected area relocated to Okinawa.

I hope that those who have moved here from northern Japan have not traded one set of troubles for another.  I have felt a half-dozen minor quakes since arriving on Okinawa nearly two years ago, the most recent being at 4:30 a.m. one morning last week.  It measured 5.4 on the Richter Scale and shook my bed for over thirty seconds.  A couple of months ago we had a more severe one that broke a few things in my apartment.  Being squarely on the Ring of Fire, a big one is almost certain to hit this little island someday.

Japan and the United States and all of the other countries that have invested in nuclear power need to give serious consideration to where they place these facilities.  The full story on Fukushima Daichi has yet to be told, and indeed new horrors regarding the disaster at the plant are still being discovered.  Public distrust of government statements regarding the safety of the Fukushima Daichi plant have led to many Japanese purchasing portable radiation detectors so that they do not have to rely solely on what their government tells them.

There is a great deal of information on the Internet regarding the placement of nuclear power plants in known earthquake zones in the United States.  We have a clear choice:  either become better educated on the role that nature can play with regard to these plants and then get active, or sit back and trust our government to protect us.  The Japanese had been content to trust their government - and they paid a heavy price for that complacency.  Will southern California be called on to pay a similar price for the benefit of energy giants and their pet politicians?

Unfortunately, we are one year out from the disaster that struck northern Japan - and people are beginning to forget the horror of what befell the Japanese.    If we do forget, it will be at our peril.

Olympia Snowe Isn't the Only Republican Woman to Bail

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

When Maine Republican senator, Olympia Snowe, decided this week to not seek re-election, many saw it as a manifestation of her frustration with the rightward, anti-woman tilt of her political party.  While some might argue that she could be more effective staying in the Senate and working on issues that are important to women, Senator Snowe determined it was time to leave all of the bickering and backbiting that has come to pass for governance in the halls of Congress.

Olympia Snowe did not necessarily bolt her party, she left the system.  Perhaps she felt that she could do more from the outside - speaking out on the issues as someone who no longer has to kiss Mitch McConnell's butt for committee assignments or nod in quiet agreement with legislative outrages.  Now, as Citizen Snowe, she will be able to say what she damned well pleases and not have to worry about offending some tobacco-funded  blowhard.

In fact, I don't think that Olympia Snowe was as much about leaving the Senate as she was about stepping away from the vilest elements of the Republican party.

There was a story in today's Washington Post by reporter Karen Tumulty putting statistics to a trend that has been obvious for sometime:  women in general are moving away from the Republican party.  A Wall Street Journal - NBC Poll last summer asked respondents which party should control Congress, and women selected Democrats by a four-point margin:  46% to 42%.  The same question in a new poll shows that gap has widened to 15 points:  51% to 36%.

The polling also shows that women's support of Obama has risen sharply since December, even though it remains flat among men.

Clearly the GOP is making some major miscalculations when it comes to the fairer sex - such as trying to eliminate insurance funding of contraception, waging its never-ending war on abortion, and almost totally ignoring Rush Limbaugh's slobbering "slut" tirade.   What self-respecting person could support a party that would deny her affordable contraception, refuse her an abortion when she becomes pregnant because she could not afford contraception, take away all government assistance that would help her to raise her child while holding down one or two minimum wage jobs, and then have to endure name-calling by some rich misogynist who has never had to raise a child?

It is almost as though the GOP is intentionally trying to drive women away.

And then there is the Republican problem with Hispanics, blacks, gays, intellectuals, artists, Girl Scouts, and everyone else except angry old white men.

It will be interesting to see how the Grand Old Party redefines itself after the Obama landslide of 2012.

Friday, March 9, 2012

It's All About Me!

by Pa Rock
Passenger on the Planet

It seems like just a couple of evenings ago that I was standing among thousands of people in Hanoi listening to rock music and getting ready to cheer in the New Year - and now it is almost the Ides of March.  Tempus fugit.

Today I finished my tax prep and mailed the mess off to my friend Lynn in McDonald County, MO, who will work her magic to get it all ready to file.  Last year I had to pay a bunch, and I am not expecting much better results this year.  One break might come with a small rent house that I own back in Missouri..  I paid out nearly fifty percent more in expenses on that little money pit than I received in rent during 2011.  Still, though, I am not expecting any refunds.

Tim and Erin and Baby Olive will be here in one month.  They will be on this small island about nine days, and I am so looking forward to their visit.  I have a bunch of interesting sites in mind to show them, so they will probably return to Kansas City tired.   I know that vacations always tend to wear me out.  But we will have fun while they are here!

I will be flying home (well, to Phoenix) for good on July 14th, marking the end of my two years in the Far East.  It has been a very good tour, and I have made some wonderful friends - people who I am sure I will be in contact with for many years to come.   Friends become extra-special when you are in a remote location, away from loved ones.

There are two things about Arizona that I don't like - the heat and the guns (oh, and also Joe Arpaio, Jan Brewer, the state's attorney general, and most of the legislature), but the one really great redeeming feature about the Phoenix area is its wonderful arts and entertainment scene.  There is live theatre in every part of the city, and some of the shows that I have seen there have been Broadway caliber.  So I will enjoy the nightlife.  I am also anxious to get back into the wonderful sauna at my old gym.

And time is flying, so I will be there soon.