Monday, April 30, 2012

Monday's Poetry: "Nightfishing"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Tomorrow is May Day, which always brings to mind spring and summer and the things that I like to do when the weather is fair.  My first thought was that I would love to be floating down Elk River on an inner-tube watching nature slide by quietly as I drifted along.  So just for a whim I looked for a good poem about floating downstream on an inner-tube.  Surprisingly, there are some inner-tube poems lurking in cyberspace, but none that really caught my attention.  Next I thought about camping and campfires, but again failed to find anything that spoke to me.

Finally I thought about fishing.  I'm not much of a fisherman, but when I was young I lived on the river and really enjoyed messing with the sun perch who called the Elk River home.  I would catch and release the same orange and blue fish multiple times in the same day.  I had a great time, and the fish were well fed in the process.  And then I thought about a time or two that I went fishing at night and how calm and peaceful that was.

All  of which led me to google "fishing at night poetry" which produced a wonderful piece entitled "Nightfishing" by Gjertrud Schnackenberg.  "Nightfishing" involves an older couple fishing on a lake at night, but it is basically the story of loving someone through the separation of death - not exactly what I was looking for, but so good that I want to share it.

by Gjertrud Schnackenberg

The kitchen's old-fashioned planter's clock portrays
A smiling moon as it dips down below
Two hemispheres, stars numberless as days,
And peas, tomatoes, onions, as they grow
Under that happy sky; but though the sands
Of time put on this vegetable disguise,
The clock covers its face with long, thin hands.
Another smiling moon begins to rise.

We drift in the small rowboat an hour before
Morning begins, the lake weeds grown so long
They touch the surface, tangling in an oar.
You've brought coffee, cigars, and me along.
You sit still, like a monument in a hall,
Watching for trout. A bat slices the air
Near us, I shriek, you look at me, that's all,
One long sobering look, a smile everywhere
But on your mouth. The mighty hills shriek back.
You turn back to the hake, chuckle, and clamp
Your teeth on your cigar. We watch the black
Water together. Our tennis shoes are damp.
Something moves on your thoughtful face, recedes.
Here, for the first time ever, I see how,
Just as a fish lurks deep in water weeds,
A thought of death will lurk deep down, will show
One eye, then quietly disappear in you.
It's time to go. Above the hills I see
The faint moon slowly dipping out of view,
Sea of Tranquillity, Sea of Serenity,
Ocean of Storms...You start to row, the boat
Skimming the lake where light begins to spread.
You stop the oars, midair. We twirl and float.

I'm in the kitchen. You are three days dead.
A smiling moon rises on fertile ground,
White stars and vegetables. The sky is blue.
Clock hands sweep by it all, they twirl around,
Pushing me, oarless, from the shore of you.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Importance of the U.S. Military on Okinawa

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

There was an article on the Internet today stating that a new agreement between Japan and the United States will result in 9,000 U.S. Marines being moved from Okinawa to new duty stations in Guam and Hawaii.  The article went on to say that this move will help to assuage the feelings of the Okinawans, many of whom reportedly do not want the U.S. military on their island.  The readers' comments that followed the article, however, painted a different picture of the American presence on Okinawa.

The United States has had troops on Okinawa for the past sixty-seven years.  During the first twenty-seven of those years the island was actually under the control of the United States, but authority over Okinawa was ceded back to the Japanese government on 15 May 1972.  I remember that day well because I was living on the island when the reversion to Japanese control occurred.

Not everyone is happy with the continued military presence of the United States on this small island.  Some local residents of Okinawa do want us to leave for a variety of reasons including, as stated in today's article, some criminal activity committed by our troops against local nationals over the years.  Barney Frank, a congressman from Massachusetts, has been openly critical of our country having troops stationed on Okinawa.

But for every nay-sayer, there are several who want us to stay.  There are numerous U.S. bases, particularly on the southern half of the island, and many of the employees who man the restaurants, bowling allies, theatres, and even offices on these bases are Okinawan nationals.  Thousands of Okinawans draw their pay checks directly from the United States government.  Add to that the money that Americans spend in the local shops, markets, and housing offices each day, and it is readily apparent that America has a profound impact on the economy of Okinawa.

Even when the 9,000 Marines leave there will still be thousands and thousands of service men and women stationed here.  And there is also a thriving civilian community of Americans, many of whom married Okinawans and elected to spend their retirement years on this beautiful island.

Yes, some Okinawans want us to leave, but my sense is that their number is far from a majority.  Far more seem to have a desire to keep us right where we are.

I had Friday off, and I used that day to take care of quite a bit of personal business.  Early in the morning I drove to Torii Station, an Army base, and spent over an hour talking to a very nice Okinawan lady who is in charge of my civilian personnel record.  She was trying to arrange my transportation back to the United States this July.  Following that, I drove south to Kadena Air Force Base where I went to the post office and mailed a large package to my grandson.  The clerk who handled the transaction for me was a young Okinawan man.  Next I stopped at a McDonald's off-base for a sandwich.  The lady at the drive-through switched seamlessly from Japanese to English when she heard my voice over the intercom, and I noticed several cars with American plates in the parking lot.  My next stop was at Camp Foster Marine Corps Base where I had to pick up a couple of things at the local quick stop.  Again, it was an Okinawan at the check-out counter who rang up my purchases.  And my final stop that morning was at Lester Naval Hospital where I went to visit a friend.  I saw several local nationals working at that hospital as I made my way to my friend's room.

Sixty-seven years is a very long time, but America will not have a military presence on Okinawa forever - and when we are gone, I suspect that we will be sorely missed.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Demonizing Sandra Fluke

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Sandra Fluke is a law student at George Washington University who also happens to be a very bright and very well-read contraception-access advocate.  She knows the topic so well that when Congressman Darrell Issa decided to have a hearing on the subject of whether government should mandate insurance companies to pay for contraception, Democratic members of Issa's committee (the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee) wanted her name added to the witness list.  Those silly Democrats thought that the list of witnesses, all male and all with religious affiliations, could do with a little balance.

But Congressman Issa wasn't having any of that fair-and-balanced crap in his committee meeting.  Ms. Fluke was not permitted to testify.

The Democrats on Issa's committee then decided to hold their own meeting and hear the learned and female perspective of Ms. Fluke.  She gave powerful testimony and would have quickly faded into the political background if Rush Limbaugh hadn't decided to get involved.

The loud and always arrogant Limbaugh went on a tirade regarding Ms. Fluke for three days - February 29-March 2, 2012 - in which roared his disapproval of government-mandated contraception coverage and his particular disdain of the young lady who carried the message to Congress.  Limbaugh called Ms. Fluke a "slut" and a "prostitute."  He also said that if government was going to fund her birth control, the taxpayers deserved to see videos of Sandra Fluke enjoying the sex that they were helping to fund.

Over a hundred sponsors of Limbaugh's radio show cancelled their advertising on his program and some stations even quit broadcasting the show as a result of Limbaugh's vulgar and mean three-day tirade.  (Unfortunately, the Armed Forces Radio Network was not among the outlets that cancelled.)  Eventually the loud-mouthed radio personality felt it in the checkbook and apologized.

Now, nearly two months later, another conservative entertainer has also blasted Sandra Fluke in a public forum.  Monica Crowley, a Fox talker, learned that Fluke had gotten engaged to be married, and tweeted:  "To a man?"  Crowley quickly coughed up a weak apology saying that her remark had been a joke - and she had just proven that liberals have no sense of humor.

So which is it, geniuses?  Is Sandra Fluke an insatiable slut who is constantly having sex with men and thus is in need of all the birth control that she can stuff into her body - or is she a lesbian with no need at all for birth control.   Can't you people have an occasional meeting to get your slander straight?

Both remarks sound like textbook examples of projection.

To Sandra Fluke's credit, she did not seem to take the Crowley remark too personally, but she did point out that whether it was said it jest or not, it was homophobic.   (Hate speech from a Fox News personality -shocking!)

Congratulations, Sandra, on your upcoming marriage to Adam.  President Obama has said that your parents must be very proud of you - and I know that he is right.   You are an amazing young woman!

Jesus for Dummies

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

William Rivers Pitt is, in my opinion, the best political writer banging on a keyboard in America today.  This week he posted an exceptional piece at in which he takes American Christianity to task.  The article is titled "The Weight,"  and it can be found here:

Yes, Mr. Pitt is a political writer, and yes, his current article focuses on Christianity, and no, he has not strayed too far afield because, unfortunately, there are few things in America as political as Christianity.  Mr. Pitt proudly proclaims his own Christianity, but he sadly notes that it is "brutally hard to be a Christian in America these days."

And it's true.

William Rivers Pitt is not the type of Christian to whom we are often subjected.  He is moral and ethical and takes care of his own business with God.  Pitt's concept of Christianity is based on the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the New Testament which tell the story of Jesus and provide us with his philosophy and teachings.  Mr. Pitt's Christianity is based on those teachings, things like the Golden Rule:  "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."  If the world could only have one law, that one would be hard to beat.  Another worthy possibility also came from Jesus:  "That which you do to the least of my brothers, you do unto me."

The world would truly be a wonderful place if every decision that we made as individuals or collectively as nations was carefully measured by those two yardsticks.  Or how about this one, also from Jesus:  "Love one another as I have loved you."  (John 13:34)

Pitt drew a bead on the loud, moralizing Christians who thunder about their God in public places while demonizing those who aren't in lockstep with their own particular views on how the world should operate.  These are the loud and angry political Christians whom Pitt referred to as "Jesus shouters."  (Evil bastards like the Phelps' clan of Topeka - or greedy bastards like mega-church pastors or television evangelists - leap to my mind.)  He quotes Matthew 6:5-6 and  notes that these words of Jesus are a "command."

"Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray while standing in synagogues and on street corners so that people can see them.  Truly I say to you, they have their reward.  But whenever you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.  And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you."

God isn't about the show, God is about the quiet and deliberate discussion.  He (or She) doesn't want to sit through a newscast or a war in order to hear our views.  A humble prayer would be much more welcome  - according to Jesus.

William Rivers Pitt concluded his piece with the following:

"...I believe that I am my brother's keeper, that I should worship without bragging about it, that the poor will God-damned-right inherit the Earth, and that what you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do unto me.  I believe that the first four books of the New Testament are a wonderful blueprint for being a decent person on this planet, and that's what I live by, as best I can. 
"I am an American Christian, and it is a burden to bear."
The world would be a saner, safer, and much happier place if we all possessed the same level of Christianity as William Rivers Pitt.

God bless him.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Nobody Is Higher Than Joe

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Is there anyone on the planet that does not know that geriatric Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, suffers from delusions of grandeur?   Why, anytime someone from the press snaps a photo within twenty miles of Phoenix, the ancient lawman will usually find a way to be in it.  He deputizes every half-wit conservative celebrity who comes to town and then invites them to ride along as he terrorizes the downtrodden.  Not too long ago he  even had the cajones to walk into an event for Vice-President Biden - one to which he wasn't invited - and then tweet later that he had just come from a meeting with the Vice-President.

The legality of President Obama's birth certificate?  Clearly that is something so important that it should only be decided by a cop of Joe's girth stature.

And he loves to tell about the time he arrested Elvis in Las Vegas, and how they eventually became great friends.

With an ego the size of Joe Arpaio's, it takes something as big and empty as the Sonora Desert to accommodate it.

Today there has been a story in the press that perfectly illustrate's Sheriff Joe's dangerously over-inflated ego.  During filming of a documentary that PBS is doing on Arizona's hateful anti-brown law, SB 1070, Arpaio is heard responding to a prisoner's question of whether the federal government has greater authority than he does.  "No," Old Joe replied, "Nobody is higher than me."  He told the prisoner that he is elected by the people and serves the people - and not any governor or president.

Nobody is higher than Joe Arpaio.  Not Governor Brewer, not President Obama, not the Duke of Earl, not the Queen of England, and not the Prince of Peace.  Joe trumps them all - and he serves the people -  well, the old white ones, anyway.

What's so danged hard to understand about that?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Demise of the Teabaggers

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

It's amazing what the passage of just two years can look like politically.  In 2010, the same year that the President was able to bring about the passage of national health care legislation (The Affordable Care Act), the lunatic fringe of the far right was in complete control of not only Repbulican candidates and talking points, but they were also having a serious impact on what some Democrats were saying and doing as well.  These hillbillies with their handmade (and often misspelled) signs would get on large corporate air-conditioned buses where they would be carted around the country to put on "spontaneous" demonstrations against anything that was philosophically opposed by Freedom Works, Karl Rove, ALEC, or the Kook Koch brothers.

Mitt Romney had to deal with these morons for the past year or so as he vied for something that he felt entirely entitled to:  the Republican presidential nomination.  He drank their Kool-Aid and espoused their positions as easily as he might order a fine meal and the right wine at a posh restaurant.  But with Little Ricky Santorum leaving the race, Romney was finally the obvious winner and suddenly the teabaggers were learning that they were no longer calling the shots.

The press has been full of stories today about Romney's positions quickly changing on a whole host of important issues.  His aides are literally burning the knobs off of the old Etch A Sketch!  The Republicans are going to become more reasonable, at least until the election is over, whether their teabaggers like it or not.

But the Republican Party is not the only place witnessing the return of common sense.  Democrats who let the right-wing rabble of the Republican Party impact their judgement are also paying the price.  Blanch Lincoln, the former Democratic senator from Arkansas, got in bed with the snakes two years ago hoping to lure enough of them to vote for her so that she could save her senate seat.  But snakes are snakes, and they didn't even give sweet Blanch a kiss for abandoning her principals and the poor of Arkansas.

Today two more Blue Dogs - incumbent Democratic congressmen - lost primaries in Pennsylvania and will be leaving Congress next January.  Representatives Tim Holden and Jason Altmire, both of whom had voted against the Affordable Care Act two years ago, were put out to pasture by members of their own party.

As Congressman Holden and Congressman Altmire pack their bags and head back into the real world, they can thank the folks wearing the tin foil hats who scared the bejezzus out of them two years ago.  What appeared to be a massive public movement was nothing more than a cankerous traveling circus.  And now the clowns are all back in front of their televisions watching reality shows and old Chuck Norris movies, and if Holden and Altmire want to join them, they can bring the popcorn!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Responsible Speech

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Our Constitution guarantees the citizenry certain rights, many of which are outlined in the first ten Amendments, also known as the Bill of Rights - and I am a fan of those rights, including the Second Amendment - because I feel that a well organized government militia should have the right to keep and bear arms.  But with each of the rights outlined in the Bill of Rights also comes a certain degree of care and responsibility.

Obviously, freedom of speech does not give a person the right to yell "fire" in a crowded auditorium if there is no fire, and hate speech designed solely to instigate one group of individuals to target or harm another group of individuals does not, to me at least, seem to be representative of what James Madison and the others who contributed to the great document had in mind when they were putting quill to parchment to codify their lofty ideals.

Two recent incidents of incendiary speech were cited in this space last week.  One had to do with Congressman Allen West of Florida who told an outrageous lie with nothing to back it up.  West claimed that over eighty Democratic members of Congress are communists.  Instead of apologizing for his lapse of sanity and political decency, he immediately doubled down on the remark and sent out requests for campaign contributions based on his crazy remarks.  What he said wasn't true, West knew it wasn't true, and yet he waved the comments like a flag and wanted to be rewarded for his dishonesty.

The other incident was from Ted Nugent, an aging rocker who calls himself "The Motor City Mad Man."  Nugent, long a board member of the National Rifle Association and avid "sportsman" (who was recently cited for bagging a bear illegally in Alaska) went nuts at the NRA convention is St. Louis and made very offensive remarks involving President Obama and the dangers that he posed for the republic if he happened to get re-elected.  Nugent's comments were so offensive and over-the-top that he got a special visit from the Secret Service so that he could tell them how he really felt.

(By the way, Teddy, it won't be a "sport" until the animals are armed.)

Yesterday word came that Mr. Nugent will suffer some consequences for his bitter attack on the President.  Ft. Knox, a large Army base in Kentucky, has cancelled a June 23 appearance of Ted Nugent at a show on post.  The other two classic rock acts, REO Speedwagon and Styx, will still perform as scheduled.  Ted had a "right" to rant about the Commander in Chief, and the Army had a right to cancel his performance.  With freedom comes responsibility.

Today DailyKos is reporting the Allen West has also had an appearance cancelled for his McCathyesque lie about the eighty Democrats in Congress.   The local NAACP had invited West to speak at their Freedom Fund Banquet in Martin County, Florida.   Today, four days prior to the event, West was uninvited.  Allen West may have felt that he had some constitutionally-protected right to tell a whopping falsehood, but the local NAACP also had a right to show their displeasure with his total disregard for truth by jerking his invitation to speak at their gathering at the Palm City Country Club.  With freedom comes responsibility.

The lies have been flying fast and furious this year, and the situation will undoubtedly get worse as the election nears because both sides view this election as a fight for America's soul.  People will be voting who don't like blacks, don't like Mormons, don't  like Muslims, don't like Mexicans, don't like guns, don't like people who don't like guns, don't like rich people, don't like the poor, don't like paying taxes, don't like laws, don't like unions, don't like Wal-Mart, and don't like God knows what.  It is going to be a very negative election and lots of stuff will be said and printed that has no basis in fact whatsoever.  Instead of getting mad when we get some provocative email, it will be our responsibility to check the facts and correct the errors - or lies, and then spread the truth.

And if that gets Allen West to calling us communists, so be it.  We'll be in good company with at least eighty progressive members of Congress.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Monday's Poetry: "Master and Man" A Titanic Tale

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Today's poem, "Master and Man" by legendary newspaperman and Hollywood screenwriter, Ben Hecht, was written a mere two days after the Titanic sank on the night of April 14-15, one century ago this month.  Hecht used but a few lines to highlight the bravery of the ship's captain, Edward John Smith, who functioned as a good sailor to the very end and went down with his ship.   In those same few lines he also contrasted Captain Smith's valor with the cowardice of J. Bruce Ismay, the chairman of the White Star Line which owned the Titanic.  Ismay, a passenger on the ill-fated ship, became known as "the coward of the Titanic" after he pushed his way into one of the lifeboats before all of the women and children had been admitted to the rescue vessels.

Another hideously wealthy passenger on the Titanic that night was New York millionaire, John Jacob Astor, the man who had built the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City just fifteen years earlier.  While some movie accounts show Astor gallantly setting in a deck chair listening to the orchestra play as the Titanic slipped beneath the surface of the icy Atlantic, in truth he, too, tried to save himself.  He ushered his young pregnant wife to a lifeboat and then asked 2nd Officer Charles Lightoller if he might accompany her in the lifeboat because of her "delicate" condition.  Lightoller told him to stand aside and let the women and children get in the boats.  Astor did as he was told and subsequently drowned.   His body was found floating in the frigid Atlantic one week later.

A third wealthy passenger, Margaret "Molly" Brown of Denver, Colorado, was placed in Lifeboat #6.  That lifeboat, as well as many others that night, left the Titanic with many of its seats empty.  Molly Brown reportedly raised hell with the ship's officer who was in charge of Lifeboat #6, demanding that they return and look for survivors.  The young officer resisted because he feared the lifeboat would be sucked under by the sinking ship's suction - or that it would be overrun with survivors.

Molly Brown tried to be a heroine, John Jacob Astor did the right thing, albeit reluctantly, and J. Bruce Ismay did what those born to privilege all too often do - he looked out for himself first.  John Richard Fry, a young father of two, was Ismay's valet and personal attendant.  He was also on the Titanic staying in a first-class accommodation next door to his boss.  Mr. Fry died when the ship went down.

Part of the lore of the Titanic is that Captain Smith was goaded into plowing through the ice field at night by Ismay so that the ship could arrive early in New York and be seen in an even more favorable light.  Another tale told by survivors is that Ismay made Captain Smith keep up speed even after the ship hit the iceberg, an act which caused the liner to sink faster.  If he had taken it more slowly, rescue ships might have made it to the Titanic in time to save more or all of the passengers.

Here is Ben Hecht's take on Captain Smith and J. Bruce Ismay.  It was published in the Chicago Journal on April 17th, 1912, and in the Chicago Daily Socialist one day after that.

Master and Man
by Ben Hecht

The Captain stood where a
Captain should
For the Law of the Sea is grim;
The Owner romped while the ship was swamped
And no law bothered him.
The Captain stood where the Captain should
When a Captain's ship goes down
But the Owner led when the women fled,
For an Owner must not drown.
The Captain sank as a man of Rank,
While the Owner turned away;
The Captain's grave was his bridge and brave,
He earned his seaman's pay.
To hold your place in the ghastly face of Death on the Sea at Night
Is a Seaman's job, but to flee with the mob
Is an Owner's Noble Right.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

And the Rains Came

by Pa Rock

I am so glad that Tim and his wonderful family came to Okinawa when they did because they managed to catch a beautiful week.  This past week, however, has not been so great.  We have had rain, rain, and more rain.  The air is heavy with humidity, and the clouds hang low and thick.

Last night some of us had planned to go to the annual festival at Ginowan City to celebrate Murphy's birthday.  The show ends with a gigantic fireworks display of 10,000 big boomers, and Murphy, a serious fireworks fan, had stated that was where he wanted to go for his birthday.  (Last year a group of us watched the show from the beach near my place. but he wanted to be right down among it this year.  The festival is about five miles south of where I live.)

Murphy and Valerie and I had dinner out in my hood hoping the rain would stop.  It slowed up, but didn't quit. We went back to my place assuming that the show would be cancelled, but a short time later we began to hear the booms of the show and could barely see the display through the distance and the rain.  Valerie decided she would drive us down into the activity to see what we could see.  After thirty minutes of driving through a downpour and in bumper-to-bumper traffic, we reached the park where the festival was being held.  People were leaving in droves, wearing rain slickers and gathered under umbrellas.  The man at the gate told us that there was no festival, but if we had tickets we could go in anyway.  We didn't have tickets, and we didn't go in.

But the fireworks continued unabated in the downpour!   They sounded great!

This birthday gathering was a wash!

Friday, April 20, 2012

And Let's Not Forget Jeb

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist 

Yesterday I referenced a political article in The Huffington Post in which columnist Jon Ward discussed twelve possible Vice-Presidential picks that Mitt Romney may be considering - and I added two more of my own, bringing the total to fourteen.  Ward began his article quoting some sage advice from former Mississippi governor and serial pardoner Haley Barbour.  One caution that Governor Barbour had to offer was that the selection should be held up until the very last minute because things could always change.

And, right on cue, along comes Vice-Presidential candidate number fifteen.  Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida and the only intelligent son of George H.W. and Barbara, announced yesterday that he might look favorably on a chance to become Romney's running mate.  The entire Bush family has already endorsed Romney, and Barbara even stated her preference for Mitt back in 2008.   (White, moneyed, ivy league background - what's not to love?)

Jeb did have the good grace to say that he thought Romney should consider Florida Senator Marco Rubio for the veep position first, but if that didn't work out, Jeb might be willing to step forward and lend his proud family name to the bumper stickers and yard signs in the coming election.

"Reject Diversity:  Romney-Bush 2012!"

The Romney Veepstakes

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Jon Ward writing in the politics’ section of today’s Huffington Post provided an analysis of a dozen individuals whom Mitt Romney might consider as viable Vice-Presidential running mates.   He deftly listed the pros and cons of ten men and two women, as well as surmised the conditions under which each might be chosen to serve as second fiddle on the GOP ticket. 

Ward’s analysis looked at the experience each individual could bring to the ticket, as well as other factors such as geographic balance, gender and ethnicity, and compatibility with the older, rich, white guy who will presumably head the ticket.  And while he did a thorough job of vetting the potential veeps, Mr. Ward neglected to identify two of Romney’s most obviousness weaknesses, or to name the individuals who could most easily counter those deficits.

The twelve potentials put forth by Jon Ward were:   Congressman Rob Portman of Ohio, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana, Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, former governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia, Governor Susana Martinez of New Mexico, former senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina, and former governor and current Fox entertainment personality Mike Huckabee of Arkansas. 

From a geographical/electoral perspective Ohio and Florida are “must win” states for both parties.  Portman, according to the author, has a good political network in Ohio, but he is somewhat of a lackluster character and would not add much to the ticket in the way of personality.  Romney-Portman would be a pairing of two aging white men trying to appear relevant to a diverse nation.  Senator Rubio of Florida, however, is much younger (41) and would help to balance out Romney’s grandfatherly sixty-five.    Rubio is a Latino whose parents emigrated from Cuba before he was born, and he has an appealing biography.  Unfortunately, some of it is fiction.  

Marco Rubio says that he is not interested in becoming Vice-President, and just today he made himself more of a long-shot by proposing a limited Dream Act that would give some illegal youngsters access to college in the United States.  That legislation will put Romney in awkward position since he has adopted Joe Arpaio's "if you're brown, you go down" philosophy on immigration.

Bob McDonnell, the governor of Virginia, also represents a state that Republicans must win if they are to recapture the White House.  President Obama took the traditionally Republican state in the 2008 election, but he should expect a repeat of that conquest to be very difficult to achieve.  Ward says that other than Portman, Governor McDonnell is the most personally compatible with Romney.

However, there is one fly in the ointment with Governor McDonnell that Ward failed to acknowledge.  The Virginia governor is on a crusade to keep guns out of the hands of crazy people, and he has recently written to all of the other state governors asking them to join with him in making certain that insane individuals have a very hard time acquiring weapons.  That won’t go over well with Ted Nugent and the troglodytes in the National Rifle Association who believe that everyone (except liberals) should be armed.  (But Romney probably thinks that he has that constituency tightly sewn up, particularly with a black man currently in residence at the White House.)

New Jersey would also be a very nice pick-up for Republicans in 2012 and, as Jon Ward points out, Chris Christie is an extremely popular Republican governor of a basically Democratic state.  Ward sees Christie’s biggest weakness in the veepstakes being his penchant for straight talk (the author refers to him as a “smash mouth”) and his exuberant personality.  Governor Christie might have a tendency to upstage the head of the ticket, and Mitt Romney is not the type of person who would enjoy being overshadowed.

Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley are both of Indian-American extraction, and both are governors of southern states – states that Romney will almost certainly carry regardless of who holds down the second spot on his ticket.  Jindal has had a fairly successful record as governor of Louisiana.  Haley’s record in the South Carolina statehouse has been more problematic.  Both would bring some ethnic diversity to the ticket, and Haley's presence on the ballot would help tamp down the Republicans' well deserved reputation for being anti-female.

Susana Martinez, the governor of New Mexico, is the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants.  Her state leans Democratic and she has been an acceptable governor (for less than two years), but electorally New Mexico is almost insignificant.  Still, a woman (and a Latina woman at that), would certainly add some much-needed diversity to a ticket headed by starchy-white, old Mitt.

Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin would also bring some youthfulness to the Republican ticket, but being the House architect of the plan to radically alter and/or eliminate such popular and necessary programs as Social Security and Medicaid, he would certainly provide the opposition with an endless stream of powerful talking points.  Ryan would be quite a gamble for a candidate like Romney who prefers being able to waver and flip-flop on his positions.

Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, and Mike Huckabee?   Two yawns and a corndog.

Little Ricky Santorum certainly stands less than a snowball’s chance in hell in being selected as Mitt Romney’s running mate.   He lost his last statewide election in his home state of Pennsylvania by sixteen points, so there would be little electoral advantage in selecting him.  Santorum’s base, staunch Catholics and the tea party rabble, have no place to go but to Romney, so what would be the point in putting someone as pissy and poisonous as Santorum on the ticket?    And if all of that wasn’t enough to take Little Ricky out of the running, there appears to be a very strong level of animosity between him and Romney.

What major deficits did the author overlook, and who are the candidates most able to compensate for those deficits?  Mitt Romney has no military experience, nor does he have any substantive experience on the world stage or in the handling of international affairs.   (Doing two years of Mormon missionary work on the French Riveria probably won't impress anyone beyond Fraternity Row!)  But just who could add some military or international gravitas to Romney’s lightweight resume?  Two names leap to mind:  David Petraeus and Condoleezza Rice.

Petraeus is a former Army four-star general with over 37 years of experience in the military.  He was a chief architect in planning America's involvement in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  But if he is to get credit for that, he must also own much of the blame for the endless and futile nature of those conflicts.  Petraeus was appointed to head the Central Intelligence Agency last September, a maneuver that may have been President Obama’s easiest way of finessing him away from the microphones of war.    Petraeus, the good soldier, would know and accept his place in the chain-of-command and would not be at risk of upstaging the star of the ticket.

Former National Security Advisor and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice doesn’t have the military chops of Petraeus, but she is certainly well steeped in international relations and the diplomatic arts  - and she is a black American with a compelling story of growing up in segregated Alabama – and she is female.  If her last name were Gonzalez or Jiminez, she would be damned near irresistible to Romney and his advisors.   Ms. Rice has the added advantage of being able to pull the Romney ticket exactly where it needs to go – toward the center of the political spectrum.

While I would rather see Mitt Romney honor his party’s base and run with somebody who eschews true Republican values - like Ted Nugent or Joe Arpaio, for instance - I’m betting that when the dust settles in Tampa this August, Obama and Biden will be facing Romney and Rice.   The President should prevail regardless, but with Condoleezza Rice on the Republican ticket, it won’t be a cakewalk.

Don’t take anything for granted, Mr. President.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Indictment Coming for Sheriff Joe?

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

There has been a lot of news coming out of Arizona over the past few days, and for a change most of it is good.  First, it looks as though President Obama's campaign team has about decided to put Arizona in play this year and not just automatically cede it to the knuckle-draggers and sandbillies who righteously believe that the majority of Arizonans are as dumb as they are.  Current polling shows the President and Mr. Romney in a dead heat in the Scorpion State.

The good guys in Arizona won a significant victory earlier this month when a three-member disciplinary panel of the Arizona State Supreme Court voted to disbar former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas and his top aide, Lisa Aubuchon, over their involvement in some of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's political payback shenanigans.  The pair lost their licenses to practice law in Arizona for a minimum of five years.  (Thomas, a close ally of Sheriff Arpaio, came extremely close to being elected State Attorney General in 2010.)

And the third bit of good news out of Arizona involves the fraudulent and flatulent sheriff of Maricopa County himself - Joe Arpaio.   The old windbag calls himself  "America's Toughest Sheriff" and is famous for shaming inmates, well-televised "round-ups" of "illegals" which usually do little more than tie up traffic for an afternoon, and other stunts - often with celebrities in tow.  For over the past three years Sheriff Joe has been the subject of an on-going federal investigation regarding a host of allegations including the mistreatment of prisoners and rampant racial profiling.

Last December the U.S. Department of Justice issued a report of its investigation that found serious civil rights violations in the way Arpaio and his deputies ran the sheriff's office.  One of the temporary remedies was to place a federal monitor in Sheriff Arpaio's office to insure that the civil rights of inmates and the general public were  not being violated.  Old Joe was effectively slapped down.

But this week the sheriff went on the offensive with the Feds and announced that he would not allow any monitor into his office.   Now the ball is in the Fed's court, and it seems likely that they may be about to declare that they have had enough of his halfwit theatrics and haul the ancient lawman into court.  Michael Manning, a Phoenix attorney who requested a federal civil rights investigation of Arpaio in 2008, stated that he believes a federal indictment of the sheriff could come within the next thirty days.

Be still my heart!

The Sheriff of Maricopa County is no more above the law than any of the rest of us.  It's high time that he was made to account for his rampant disregard of civil rights and the process of law - and if that results in him being issued pink underwear and made to sleep on a cot in Tent City, so much the better!

Joe, be sure to try the green bologna sandwiches.  I hear they are an amazing value at just seventeen cents apiece!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Second Coming of Joe McCarthy

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

If the past week was any indication, Republican politicians and their celebrity butt-kissers will have to send for ladders if they expect to rise to a level where they can even fight in the sewers.  Allen West, a Republican congressman from Florida and clearly one of the dumbest people ever to serve in Congress, told voters in his district that he has heard that "over eighty" of his Democratic colleagues are communists.   And instead of being properly embarrassed by making such an absurd statement, he promptly sent out mailers trumpeting his remark and asking for campaign contributions.

That was followed by geriatric rock star Ted Nugent going absolutely nuts at the NRA convention in St. Louis and referring to President Obama as "vile" and "evil," and then extolling the gathering of dentally challenged gun-rights activists to chop off the heads of Democrats in November.  He also went on to mention that there are some "corrupt monsters in the federal government under this administration" and "communist czars that he (Obama) has appointed."

Communists.  There's that word again.  Today it is difficult to even find a communist in Eastern Europe or Russia, yet these yahoos think that America is rife with them.  Communists, it would seem, include anyone who disagrees with Allen West or Ted Nugent  - and that covers a lot of people, myself included.

Name-calling and bullying.  Didn't we get past that type of politics in the 1950's.  West and Nugent are every bit as vile and contemptible as the late Joe McCarthy, and, like McCarthy, they seem to be operating without a sense of decency.  If the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Mr. Romney, fails to call them out on their incendiary remarks, then he too suffers from a lack of decency and will have ownership in the results of their unbridled hate-spewing.

It's time to man-up, Mitt, and do the right thing.  Denounce these red-baiters and bring the political discourse into the twenty-first century.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Trip Back to 1940

by Pa Rock
Family Historian

1940 may not have been a pivotal year in American history, but it can be argued that it was nestled snugly between two years that were.  The preceding year, 1939, has been labeled by many film historians as the greatest year in the history of Hollywood because of the release of a raft of incredible films including The Wizard of Oz, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Gone with the Wind, and Stagecoach.  But far more importantly, it was the year that the Second World War began with Hitler's invasion of Poland, and Great Britain and France's subsequent declaration of war on Germany.  The United States would enter the war following the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

But in 1940 things were still relatively quiet in America.  The Great Depression was waning, thanks in large measure to reform and relief policies put into place by the administration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  Many homes were starting to get electricity, and most had radios (connected to car batteries if homes weren't yet wired for electricity).  Cars were becoming more common, some roads were being paved, and airplanes were becoming familiar sights.  Indoor plumbing was even reaching from the cities and into many rural communities.

Franklin Roosevelt was so popular with the American public that he won a third term as President of the United States in 1940, the only person to have done so before or since.

1940, being a year ending in zero, was also a census year - a time in which census takers went from house to house enumerating the population of the United States - collecting names, ages, and other nuggets of information that genealogists and family historians salivate over.

The federal census records are one of the most valuable sources of family history information in existence.  They are released to the public, by statute, seventy-two years after the information was collected.  This week, the census information for 1940 was released by the National Archives, and the demand to look at those records was so great that the Archives website crashed almost immediately.

There are a few other places to access the images of the 1940 census sheets.  I used today for my first peek into the records, and in about thirty minutes I was able to locate my grandfather's household and found that my mother, age 18 at that time, was still living at home.  (She had graduated from high school in 1939, so I thought that she might have been out living on her own by then.)

So far only the two least populous states in 1940 (Delaware and Nevada) have been indexed to where they are searchable by name, but hopefully over the next several months more will be indexed to make searching for misplaced relatives easier.  To search the non-indexed census sheets, you must have a good idea of where your ancestor lived in the summer of 1940 - state, county, and precinct or township.  It seems like a lot of bother for those of us who are used to working in cyberspace and having instantaneous gratification, but the results are so personal and rewarding that the effort will be time very well spent.

1940 was realistically the end of an era in America.  The following year we would enter World War II which would be followed by the Cold War, the Korean War, the space race, the Vietnam War, civil rights protests, war protests, the assassinations of the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King, Watergate, the oil crisis, the attacks of September 11th, and the endless wars in the Middle East.  Somehow it felt peaceful and comforting to take a stroll back seventy-two years in time and peek through the window of my grandfather's household.   Things seemed happier and less complicated then.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Monday's Poetry: "Funeral Blues"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Two weeks ago as I was watching the movie, "Four Weddings and a Funeral" for the second time in about ten years, I was suddenly blown away during the funeral sequence when Matthew (John Hannah) recited the following poem at the funeral of his lover, Gareth (Simon Callow).  It was the most moving moment in the film because the poem fit the occasion so well, and Matthew's rendition of it was a work of oratorical beauty.  "Funeral Blues" by W.H. Auden says so much in just a few words, and it leaves the reader (or the listener) knowing the deep extent of the survivor's pain.

Funeral Blues
by W.H. Auden

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone, 
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone, 
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum 
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come. 

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead 
Scribbling on the sky the message 'He is Dead'. 
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves, 
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves. 

He was my North, my South, my East and West, 
My working week and my Sunday rest, 
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song; 
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong. 

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one, 
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun, 
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood; 
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Baby Olive Is Flying Home!

by Pa Rock
Proud Grandpa

The Kansas City Macy's ended their trip to Okinawa early this afternoon and are now either at the airport in Narita, Japan, awaiting their next flight, or someplace out over the Pacific Ocean heading toward Los Angeles and ultimately Kansas City.  They ran into some snafu with their tickets at Naha, but fortunately we were at the airport early enough to get everything figured out - which was made harder due to the language barrier.

We had a wonderful visit and got to see much of the island of Okinawa.  I leave here in just 90 more days, so I realized that many of our stops on the island would probably be the last time for me to see those particular sights.   It's sort of like I am already in my "good-bye" mode.

It was wonderful having company from the states, and truly a blessing to get to know my granddaughter so well! Soon I will be seeing all of my grandchildren!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Baby Olive on Kokusai Street

by Pa Rock
Proud Grandpa

This afternoon Pa Rock's good friend, Daniel Murphy, came by and took all of us to Kokusai Street in Naha where we walked, and shopped, and had supper.  Kokusai Street is the tourist center of Naha - as it has been ever since Pa Rock's first tour on Okinawa forty years ago.  We walked through many shops and even visited a large fish market where we saw an assortment of unusual fish and other creatures from the sea.

One of the stores that we visited on Kokusai Street sells a couple of hundred varieties of salt.  We tried samples of several different kinds.  Many street vendors were giving out samples of their foods.  Pa Rock bought a tangerine from a fruit stand, and Olive's parents bought a box of enormous strawberries and ate them as we walked along through the shops.

Baby Olive continued to be a hit with the Japanese women and made many new friends.  She will probably miss all of the attention when she gets back to Kansas City!

Tomorrow morning Baby Olive and her parents will board a plane in Naha and begin their long trip back to the United States - and Pa Rock will miss them a whole bunch!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Baby Olive Tours the Hood

by Pa Rock
Proud Grandpa

Today we stayed fairly close to home.  We began the morning with a walk along Araha Beach where we watched some students practicing their soccer moves.  Next we went to a local grocery and department store where we had fresh pastries and did a little shopping.  Olive made several new friends in the store, mostly older Japanese women who seem fascinated with her red hair and blue eyes.   She grinned at everyone who talked to her.  After that, as we were walking home, we stopped at a McDonald's for a morning snack.

This afternoon we went back to Camp Foster and did some more shopping.  Olive again made friends with several people.   She always manages to turn on the charm if people approach who want to talk to her - even if she is feeling a little fussy.

Our final stop this evening was American Village where we walked through a couple of shops and finally came to a small restaurant where Olive's mother got to try some fresh sushi.  She said it was wonderful.  Olive and Pa Rock walked around while her mother and father ate their supper.

Tomorrow will be Olive's last full day on Okinawa, and we are talking about going downtown to Kokusai Street in Naha.  The street has many unique shops and even a big fish market. (Baby Olive may not like the smell of the fish market - but we'll see!)

Sunday Baby Olive will get on a plane and fly back to the United States - and Pa Rock will be so sad!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Baby Olive Goes Island-Hopping

by Pa Rock
Proud Grandpa

Today our little group managed to find the route out to the four islands that we had looked for yesterday.   Henza, Miyagi, Ikei, and Hamahiga Islands are all accessible via bridges from the mainland and each other.  We found a nice beach on Miyagi Island where Baby Olive and her parents waded in the Pacific Ocean - but poor little Olive was not that impressed with the chilly water

I have decided that Japanese women must feel that it is lucky to hold red-headed, blue-eyed babies, because everywhere we went today the Asian women would flock around Olive wanting to hold her.  And Olive, of course, charmed them all with her infectious grin.

Lots seems to be happening in politics back home, but I won;t go to those ugly places while I have my relatives here to write about.  We are having such a wonderful week!  However, I am anxious to comment on Mitt's women issues, Allen West's stupidity, and George Zimmerman's long-overdue arrest.    It's all coming, like projectile vomit, next week!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Traffic Trap on an Otherwise Nice Day

by Pa Rock
Road Warrior

We were headed south this morning and I was looking for breakfast.  To my left was a bus lane which I knew not to drive on,  but suddenly there was a McDonald's to my left as well.  I pulled over into the bus lane to turn into Mickey D's - and a Japanese cop jumped into the road in front of me and directed me into the driveway just short of the fast food joint.  That driveway led to a vacant lot where the cop and several of his fellow cops spent the next half-hour writing a ticket and trying to explain in total Japanese how I had just committed nothing short of the crime of the century!  My fine is 6,000 yen - a little less than seventy dollars.  I was so embarrassed because Baby Olive and her parents were with me!

We managed to get on past Naha and to what was once the small fishing village of Itoman.  Itoman is no longer a village in any sense of the word.  Our first stop was at the Itoman Glass Factory where we watched glass being blown and did a little shopping.  From there we went to the southern tip of Okinawa and walked the grounds of Peace Prayer Park.  The park used to be much smaller, but it has grown considerably over the past forty years.  It now has many memorials to the war dead of World War II, both Japanese and Americans, along with a large war museum.   (Peace Prayer Park used to be called "Suicide Cliffs" because it is where many Japanese soldiers walked off of the cliffs in order to avoid capture by the victorious Americans.)

Leaving the park, we decided to drive north along the Pacific coast - something that I had not done before.  We saw a lot of very beautiful scenery, but failed to find the large islands that are connected to Okinawa by bridges.  I had been to those islands once before, but today had no luck in retracing the drive.

But it was all good.  Olive is a very pleasant traveler and slept much of the time that she was in the car.

Baby Olive will be six months old tomorrow!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Baby Olive Visits Air Force, Army, and Marine Corps Bases

by Pa Rock
Proud Grandpa

Today our happy little family group visited the Base Exchange on Kadena Air Base, the office where Pa Rock works, the beach at Torii Station (an Army facility), and the Post Exchange at Camp Foster Marine Corps Base.

Several of Pa Rock's friends at Kadena held Olive and made silly faces at her - and she loved the attention!  She got a couple of new outfits at the Kadena BX, and her first swimsuit at the Foster PX - and she dipped her toes in the East China Sea while at Torii Beach.

Tonight we will be heading out to dinner at Pa Rock's favorite Okinawan restaurant - Sam's Anchor Inn.  Tomorrow, weather permitting (and the weather has been great), we will drive to the Itoman Glass Factory and then on to the very southern tip of Okinawa where we will visit Peace Prayer Park.  The park features many memorials to Japanese and American fighting men from World War II, as well as an excellent museum containing a great deal of information on the Battle of Okinawa.

It's go, go, go!  Baby Olive and her parents will probably be glad to get back to Kansas City where they can get some rest!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Baby Olive Visits the Aquarium, Arboretum, and the Pineapple Factory

by Pa Rock
Proud Grandpa

Baby Olive, along with her parents and Pa Rock, spent today on the road.  We went to the beautiful Churami Aquarium at Ocean Expo Park where we saw enormous fish and little fish, and sea turtles, and even dolphins jumping in the air!  While we were at the aquarium, Olive met another little girl named Olive!

Our next stop was the Arboretum which is a large area dedicated to horticulture.  It is also located at Ocean Expo Park.  There were lots of different types of beautiful orchids in bloom, bougain villa aplenty in many colors, and even a large indoor pond covered in lily pads where bullfrogs serenaded us with their loud, throaty, foghorn voices.

Olive made friends everywhere we stopped, and she seemed to be very popular among older Japanese women.  It was probably her red hair and blue eyes, along with her infectious grin!

On the way home we stopped at the Pineapple Factory, a tourist affair where guests ride through a small pineapple plantation in small pineapple cars.  When the guests finally disembark, they have to walk through a maze of souvenir shops before reaching the safety of the parking lot.  There were lots of free samples of pineapple wines, cakes, and candies to be had on the way through the rat's nest of souvenir shops.

We are safely back at my apartment now and getting ready to walk to American Village where Olive and her parents (well, mainly her parents) can experience some authentic Japanese cuisine.

Just how honest are the Japanese and Americans living on Okinawa?  We accidentally left Olive's new stroller behind my apartment house this morning, and when we returned eight hours later it was still there.  I really don't even feel the need to lock my car here - crime is almost unheard of.    (And, when we got to Ocean Expo Park we found a place that loaned baby strollers - free!)

Okinawa is a nice place to live - and to visit!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Baby Olive Visits Kadena Marina

by Pa Rock
Proud Grandpa

The Kansas City Macy's arrived on Okinawa just after one o'clock this afternoon.  They had to spend last night at a hotel on mainland Japan and were bused across Tokyo to a different airport for the flight south this morning. A couple of people getting off the plane on Okinawa with Tim and Erin were commenting about what a wonderful baby they had - and they were so right!

Baby Olive is the sweetest thing!  She has been in airplanes almost constantly for the past couple of days, and is just so happy and playful!  And she is so pretty - red hair and bright blue eyes!

This afternoon we took her for a stroll along Araha Beach, and tonight we had dinner with three of my best friends - Valerie, Nefredia, and Murphy - at Kadena Marina - the place where 700 American ships massed for the initial assault on the Japanese stronghold of Okinawa during April of 1945.  Olive flirted with everyone at our table.

It has been beautiful here today - just the sort of day that a person would want to welcome family to this island.  

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Baby Olive Spends the Night in Tokyo

by Pa Rock
Proud Grandpa

Baby Olive and her parents missed their flight out of Tokyo's Narita Airport tonight and will now arrive on Okinawa tomorrow shortly after noon.

International flights can be a real challenge, and especially very long ones like Los Angeles to Tokyo.  Once the plane lands in a foreign country, passengers must get all of their baggage gathered up and go through Immigration and Customs - which can be a time-consuming process as well as a major hassle.

But the good news is that by spending the night on mainland Japan, Olive and her parents should arrive on Japan's southernmost prefecture nicely rested - and that is works out well because Pa Rock already has plans to take them to dinner with some of his friends at Kadena Marina late in the afternoon.

Valerie and I did make it to the Naha Airport tonight and waited out the first flight in from Narita.  We had a good time exploring the airport, and Valerie, who has never known a stranger for long, made friends with a lady from France and her chihuahua named Gizmo.  I stepped away for just a minute and when I returned Gizmo was on Valerie's lap and licking her face!  So the evening was enjoyable even if the Kansas City Macy's weren't able to join us.

The real fun starts tomorrow!

Baby Olive Is Nearing Tokyo!

by Pa Rock
Proud Grandpa

It is early evening on Okinawa and the sun is preparing to set out over the East China Sea.  My granddaughter, Olive Noel Macy, should be just about to disembark at Narita Airport in Tokyo.  She and her parents, Tim and Erin, will be on the ground a couple of hours and then board a plane for a short flight to Okinawa.  Pa Rock will be at the airport shouting and waving and irritating all sorts of people!

I received an email from Tim this morning saying that their flight out of Los Angeles was leaving forty minutes late, a fact that could cause them to miss the first evening flight out of Narita - but there is another one less than two hours later.

My friend, Valerie Seitz, showed up early today and helped me get things ready at the apartment for my visitors.  She is planning on following me to the airport this evening just to make sure that we have room for all the luggage.  It is wonderful to have good friends, and Valerie is one of the very best!

Wishing you smooth flights Tim and Erin and Baby Olive!  See you  in Naha in a couple of hours!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Christian Bullies

by Pa Rock
Social Observer

American fundamentalist Christians are waging what appears to be a holy war against state legislatures that are passing laws to protect students against bullying.  That's right, religious extremists are pro-bullying, and they are bullying legislatures and some school districts into staying away from the fight to protect poor gay kids from their thuggish classmates.

Bullies protecting bullies - in the name of Christ.

Last month a "Christian" lobbying group managed to kill a proposed anti-bullying bill in Arizona because the group felt that the bill promoted gay values.  The minority leader of the state senate, David Schapira, blamed the head of the lobbying group and called her a legislative terrorist.   He said, "Cathi Herrod, an unelected lobbyist, killed a bill that would protect all Arizona kids purely because of her intolerance of gay kids."

Michigan recently passed an anti-bullying bill that actually had a special provision protecting religious bullies based on a "sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction."  Public outrage eventually forced lawmakers to pull the special provision for Christian bullies and begin holding all bullies accountable.

An anti-bullying bill in Canada also stirred the rage of Orthodox Jewish and Christian groups because they felt the measure was "a vehicle to indoctrinate children into embracing a new sexual revolution."

The impetus to kill anti-bullying legislation stems from the fact that many of the laws currently being promoted are in response to suicides of gay and lesbian youth.  And while these very vocal Christians may not actually want bullies roaming the halls of their community schools, they also do not want anything being promoted in the schools which would cast any sympathy or compassion toward gay kids.  They suffer under the delusion that these young people have chosen to be gay - and they see being tolerant and fair as some sort of endorsement of a homosexual lifestyle.

The people fighting the anti-bullying legislation are mean and irrational.   Their God is an angry God.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Other Jersey Boys May Be Headed to Broadway

by Pa Rock
Theatre Aficionado

When my friend Carla and I did five Broadway shows during seven nights in the Big Apple back in January of 2009, the show that was the most fun, for me at least, was Jersey Boys, the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.   The people in the audience, especially the old farts, knew the words to every song, and it took monumental restraint not to bust out singing!

A year or so later I was with my sister, Gail, in Las Vegas, and we assigned her son, Reed Smith, the task of getting us show tickets.  Reed got us seats for the Las Vegas production of Jersey Boys, and it turned out to even be better than the Broadway version.  The show was a combination of a great story and some really outstanding music from the sixties - in fact, lots and lots of wonderful music from the sixties.

Today I read that another group of Jersey boys will most likely be heading to Broadway in 2014.  This group probably won't bring along much music, but damn will they be funny!

The boys are Dante and Randal who run a convenience store and a video rental place, and Jay and Silent Bob who stand out front of the establishment selling drugs and talking trash to people entering and leaving the two businesses.  Well, actually it is only Jay who does the trash-talking because Silent Bob is, after all, silent.

That was the gang from Clerks, a really great movie filmed on a very tight budget back in 1994.  Twelve years later in 2006, they made the sequel, Clerks II, which featured the same foursome operating in and around a fast food joint.  Both movies would fail to pass the Evangelical sniff test - what with a young lady having sex with a dead man in a dark restroom in the original movie, and a bestiality segment in the second.

But grossness aside, they are truly funny films.

Today I read that the writer and director of the Clerks movies, Kevin Smith, now says that he is thinking about taking the concept to Broadway with a stage version of a yet-to-be-written Clerks III.  Smith, who also portrayed Silent Bob in the movies, has the brains and ingenuity to make the transition from film to a stage production - and I am betting that his Broadway show will be every bit as funny as the movies.

I have been looking for a good excuse to get back to Gotham, and Clerks III on Broadway more than fills the bill.   It will be fun seeing those boys from Jersey on the Great White Way!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Michele Bachmann Completely Disconnects from Reality

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I hated it when Michele Bachmann pulled her hat out of the Republican presidential ring because I figured the fun was certain to end with her departure from the national stage.  Fortunately along came surges by a whole host of heartless clowns, and the stupidity kept on rolling.  Now, sadly, it appears as those the days of multiple Republican candidates are numbered and the Grand Old Tea Party will be left with only Mitt Romney, a man who, though generally is duller than dishwater, does make the occasional sad gaffe due to his complete inability to identify with anyone making less than seven figures.

But the fun may not be over.  It appears that the irrepressible Ms. Bachmann has again found her unique political voice and put her act back on the road.  This week while appearing on Sean Hannity's radio program she uttered what has to be one of the classic pieces of nonsense for this entire election cycle.  While railing against the President and our new national health care package, Michele shook her head one too many times and her brain became completely untethered.  She told Hannity that if 40 million Americans "choose" not to have health insurance, that is their business and government should stay out of their lives.

So, when it comes to middle and lower income Americans, Michele Bachmann is as clueless as Romney.

That is, in fairness to Bachmann and Romney, standard Republican tripe.  In their worldview, everyone chooses what they have in life.  The poor choose to be poor, black males choose to live in prisons, and people choose to do other things with their money in lieu of buying health insurance - such as eating, putting gas in their cars, or paying for shelter.  Those 40 million (actually it is over 50 million) uninsured Americans choose to spend their money on other things, and that Kenyan Muslim terrorist in the White House should damn well leave them alone. Nobody should be forced to have health insurance, and certainly nobody should be forced to buy it!  Who the hell does Obama think we are - Canadians?

Ms. Bachmann, of course, made other choices for herself.  She chose to make a living off of government foster care subsidies and government farm subsidies.   She chose to get elected to Congress so that she could have government funded health insurance.   She chose a husband who had the potential to make a living off of government Medicaid payments.   And she and Marcus chose to live in a  million dollar home next to a golf course.  Choices.  What could be simpler?

Michele, how many of your neighbors in that exclusive golf club estate are black?  Just wondering.

Life, it would seem, is full of choices, and that is a good thing.  Unless, of course, the subject is something where people should have no choices - such as in areas of women's reproductive health.  Vagina's are strictly in the domain of the Republican Party officials and their old, white, male God.  Conservative bureaucrats stand ready to make all sorts of healthcare decisions for women - particularly poor women.

Obviously Michele Bachmann's logic and Christian compassion are both so skewed that they are in danger  of falling off the edge of the planet.  She represents her party well.  It remains to be seen how well Mitt Romney will represent Republican values once his Etch-A-Sketch is shaken up and reset.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

"Hunger Games" Fails to Satisfy

by Pa Rock
Film Fan

A friend and I went to see Hunger Games on its opening day at the Camp Foster (Okinawa) Theatre.  The fact that this “premier” occurred on April Fool’s Day is, I am sure, nothing more than a quirk in the alignment of the stars.  The movie was over-hyped, lame, and, in spite of some breathtaking scenery, pedantic and tedious.  The only “hunger” in evidence was a nagging desire in some members of the audience to rush out and salvage what was left of a beautiful Sunday afternoon.

The plot was simple.    The people of the world have grown tired of useless wars and decide to quench their bloodlust with annual survival contests called "Hunger Games" in which twelve geographic districts each have a lottery to send one boy and one girl to the capital to compete in the deadly events.  After several days of carnival and hype resembling a reality show on steroids, as well as some combat training, the twenty-four young people are finally set free to run into the woods where they must evade and kill each other until only one survives.  That person will be declared the winner of the "Hunger Games."

The heroine of the story is an older teen girl named Katniss from District 12 who volunteers for the games to replace, and thus save, her little sister who actually “won” the lottery.   Katniss, who grew up in the woods poaching squirrels and other small creatures to feed her mother and little sister, is adept at the survival stuff, and quickly becomes the target of several older and more villainous contestants who gang up in an effort to eliminate her.  The violence isn’t overly appalling considering what it could have entailed, and there weren’t even many hints of sex.

But the young people in the audience seemed to love Hunger Games, and scattered applause broke out several times in the theatre.  It was basically Twilight without vampires and werewolves – and the killing was the responsibility of ordinary young people, a couple of whom appeared to be no older than twelve.  

The movie had a very political feel to it - kill or be killed, don't question authority, wealth is a virtue.  The lotteries were representative of the draft with certain young people being forced into the maw of violence and death, regardless of their hopes for the future, to benefit the privileged classes.   The capital city where the games were organized was splendidly futuristic, and in some respects a utopia - the way the world could be if we didn't give all of our national wealth to arms manufacturers, bankers, and corporatists .  The twelve outlying districts were distinctly dystopian*, or miserably dreadful places.

And as with the draft, the lotteries reached into these dreadful places in order to find the fighters to protect - or in this case, entertain - the privileged classes.  The one percent had the wealth, and the ninety-nine percent were expected to help them keep it - or give them a really thrilling show.

Mitt Romney has said that he watched Hunger Games with his grandchildren and liked it.  I suspect that he really did enjoy the movie.  It was a tale of two realities - with the poor eating squirrels and fighting for survival, and the wealthy relying on them for entertainment.  And the games themselves were rigged.  It was a conservative wet dream of how the world could be.

(*Note:  The word "dystopian" has not yet made it into the Microsoft dictionary, but its first recorded use was in 1868 by economist John Stuart Mill.  It is literally the opposite of "utopian."  There is an article in today's Los Angeles Times detailing how the use of the word "dystopian" has surged in the print media since the release of Hunger Games.,0,303533.story)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Monday's Poetry: "Easter Day" and "The Easter Flower"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Spring arrived almost two weeks ago.  Yesterday was Palm Sunday, and Good Friday is right around the corner.  That means that next Sunday is Easter, a holiday made extra special this year because my youngest son and his beautiful family will be here on the island to help me celebrate!

In honor of this upcoming religious holiday, I have selected two poems to highlight, each by a favorite writer of mine.  The first selection is "Easter Day" by the wonderful British wit, Oscar Wilde, and the second is "The Easter Flower" by black American writer and influential member of the Harlem Renaissance, Claude McKay.

I'm sure that the Pope and fundamentalist ministers everywhere take great comfort in knowing that gay people like Oscar Wilde and Claude McKay were able to glorify the Christian story with their beautiful poetry - and I absolutely know that Jesus would have loved them just as they were.  Christianity is, after all, a religion based on compassion and love of our fellow man.

Easter Day
by Oscar Wilde

The silver trumpets rang across the Dome:
The people knelt upon the ground with awe:
And borne upon the necks of men I saw,
Like some great God, the Holy Lord of Rome.
Priest-like, he wore a robe more white than foam,
And, king-like, swathed himself in royal red,
Three crowns of gold rose high upon his head:
In splendour and in light the Pope passed home.
My heart stole back across wide wastes of years
To One who wandered by a lonely sea,
And sought in vain for any place of rest:
'Foxes have holes, and every bird its nest.
I, only I, must wander wearily,
And bruise my feet, and drink wine salt with tears.

The Easter Flower
by Claude McKay

Far from this foreign Easter damp and chilly
My soul steals to a pear-shaped plot of ground,
Where gleamed the lilac-tinted Easter lily
Soft-scented in the air for yards around;

Alone, without a hint of guardian leaf!
Just like a fragile bell of silver rime,
It burst the tomb for freedom sweet and brief
In the young pregnant year at Eastertime;

And many thought it was a sacred sign,
And some called it the resurrection flower;
And I, a pagan, worshiped at its shrine, 

Yielding my heart unto its perfumed power.