Saturday, June 30, 2012

Temporary Quarters

by Pa Rock
Weary Traveler

I rolled off of the old air mattress just after dawn cracked this morning and began the final sweep of my apartment.  I was still hauling and pitching when the landlord's office girl showed up at 0930 hours to check me out and collect my keys.

I will be living at the Shogun Inn (guest housing) on Kadena for the next fourteen days.  The building that I am in was military billeting at one time, but looks as though it has been remodeled to fit other needs over the intervening years.  My apartment has a small kitchen with a microwave, large refrigerator, and a sink.  The living room has several comfortable chairs and a large television.  The bathroom is large, though nothing special.

The bedroom, however, will take some getting used to.  It is small and cramped with a regular-size bed and another large television.  The closet is the smallest that I have ever seen in a motel-type of room - approximately three feet in width and maybe eighteen inches deep.  There is about a foot of space for hanging long items, like pants, but most of that is taken up with an ironing board and an iron.  The two feet reserved for shirts is atop a three drawer chest - upon which sits the room safe - so a shirt cannot hang there but must be semi-wadded.  Then, to frost the cake, the closet sits right behind the bedroom door which must be closed in order to open the closet!

Military planning at its finest!

The room is only forty dollars a night, so I guess it's a case of getting what you pay for!

Tonight friends Murphy and Nefredia and I are going to the Officer's Club at Camp Courtney to listen to jazz - which is great because I really need to unwind!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Obamacare Survives - and So Does the Supreme Court!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I awoke this morning in the Far East fully expecting to hear that the rabid, right-wing partisans trying to pose as impartial jurists on the Supreme Court had ripped the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”) to shreds and pissed on the remnants.  Imagine my absolute euphoria when Armed Forces Radio told me that the law had been preserved in its entirety.
It was suddenly a glorious morning!
I am not the only one who was surprised by the ruling.  The right has been almost giddy the past few weeks in anticipation of a huge political embarrassment for the Obama administration.  Of course they knew that there were political risks with a small group of judicial activists overturning such a significant piece of social legislation.  Orange John Boehner had cautioned Republican House members not to go too overboard with celebrations “if” the act was ruled unconstitutional.  And Fox Noise has barely been able to contain its glee (deliberate word choice) as to what they felt sure would be Obama getting his comeuppance.
The swing vote had been expected to be Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Republican appointed by Reagan.  There seemed to be little doubt that the other four Republican appointees, Justices Alito, Scalia, and Thomas – and Chief Justice Roberts, would vote to severely wound or perhaps kill the legislation.  But Kennedy voted with Alito, Scalia, and Thomas to throw out the Affordable Care Act in its entirety.    Shockingly, it was Chief Justice Roberts who swung the vote in favor of ruling the act as constitutional and thus saving the signature piece of legislation of President Obama’s first term.
There has been a lot of chatter on the political blogs today suggesting that Roberts originally voted against supporting the Affordable Care Act, but had a last-minute change-of-heart when he felt that the decision would be seen as another thinly-veiled political attack by partisan jurists – in the spirit of Bush v. Gore and Citizens United.  At some point, it was argued, Roberts made a decision that he wanted the Court that bears his name to be seen as at least somewhat judicial.
Good for you,   Mr. Chief Justice!
Former Swiss citizen Michele Bachmann said that this decision was good for the knuckleheads because it will fire up the conservative base and help to win the election for Romney.  It has certainly angered a segment of the Republican Party, particularly the ones whose tin foil hats are a bit on the tight side anyway, but their wrath is nothing compared to the firestorm that would have ensued if the Supreme Court had put the insurance companies back in total charge of deciding our health care options and benefits.  The President had openly implied that a vote against the Affordable Care Act would serve to de-legitimize the Court in the eyes of the public.
I suspect that Chief Justice Roberts had a sense of what the future would be in the face of a purely political decision on the part of his Court – and at the last minute he opted for judicial restraint and cloaking the Supremes with a modicum of dignity as a legitimate arbiter of the law.
Again, good for you, Mr. Chief Justice.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Lickin' Fingers on Okinawa

by Pa Rock
Chicken Connoisseur

When I first arrived on Okinawa in early 1972 there was exactly one American fast food joint on on the entire island - an A&W located on Highway 1 at the north edge of Naha.  Before I left a year-and-a-half later, Kentucky Fried Chicken had also come to the island and opened a shop on Kokusai Street.  That was forty years ago - and the chicken was good - and we were glad (ecstatic, really) to have it.

Over the intervening years, while I was back in America, I began to feel that the Colonel's standards were slipping - or perhaps it was my memory and taste buds slipping - but the product impressed me less and less, to the point that eventually I weaned myself off of those eleven secret herbs and spices altogether.  And when I discovered El Pollo Loco in Arizona and California,well, there was just no going back to the Colonel.

Now there are a variety  of American fast foods available on Okinawa including dozen's of A&W's, McDonald's, and Kentucky Fried Chicken's.  The military contracts to have Popeye's Cajun chicken sold on it's bases, but Colonel Sanders controls the chicken sales out in the community.  While I don't have any major criticism of Popeye's, other than the locals who work at the one on Kadena screw up every order at the drive-through window, I have grown bored with their menu.

I've been here for two years and never managed to set foot in a Kentucky Fried Chicken, but the other night while planning a picnic lunch for the trip to Zamami, I decided to try a bucket of KFC to see how it compared to the product that the company sold in America.

I was impressed.  In fact, it was a case of fast food shock and awe!

The restaurant was clean, the service quick and courteous, and the food was wonderful.  The chicken was fresh, and it had obviously been fried in oil that was also fresh - and it had been drained of excess grease before being placed in the bucket.  The pieces were large and meaty and cooked to perfection.  And, best of all, I got what I paid for.  Yup, I took it home and counted!

I am so glad that I gave Okinawan Kentucky Fried Chicken a chance.  It turned out to be one of the best eating experiences that I have had in the Far East.  Harlan Sanders would be proud!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Rethinking McCaskill

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

My ardor toward Missouri's senior senator, Claire McCaskill, is beginning to cool.  Ms. McCaskill, who served several terms as Missouri's state auditor and even defeated a sitting governor of the state in a Democratic primary (though later losing to Roy Blunt's curious son in the general election), was elected to represent Missouri in the United States Senate in 2006.  She is currently in a dog fight to win re-eleection to her senate seat.

While only having run for one civic office (a city council seat where I tied my incumbent opponent and won the office with a coin toss), I do have a lifelong interest in politics and am not unfamiliar with how Missourians think and vote.  In fact, for a couple of years in the early 1980's I served as the Democratic Party Chairman in McDonald County, Missouri.  I have helped to plan Democratic activities, hosted candidates in my home, knocked on doors, handed out flyers, and donated to a host of poliitcal beggars.  In fact, I have sent money to Claire in the past.

When I give money or other support, I do so with no strings attached.  Unlike the Koch brothers or Sheldon Adelson, when I donate my few dollars I do so without an expectation of any quid pro quo - I am simply trying to help good people get elected.

Only one time in my sixty-four years have I tried to contact a member of Congress seeking assistance in navigating the federal bureaucracy, and that was a request to Senator McCaskill's office to assist me in dealing with the Treasury Department over its colossal boondoggle in trying to sell savings bonds electronically.  I felt like I had identified a major consumer issue that was costing the government money.  McCaskill's people sent an irrelevant response to my email communication - and ignored my letter altogether.  It's not how I would run a public office, but, hey, I'm just a small-time donor living out on the world's elbow.

That was a disappointing experience that put me in my place quite nicely.  But I could live with it because keeping McCaskill in the Senate is important if for no other reason that it would deny the seat to a Republican troglodyte like Sarah Steelman or Todd Akin.

But McCasskill has been busy over the past few years trying to distance herself from the left edge of the Democratic Party.  She likes to fashion herself as a "centerist" or a "blue dog."  She seems to feel that moderation will win her enough support from the few dozen moderates who inhabit Missouri's Republican Party to provide her with one more victory.  It won't work, of course.  Those people wouldn't support her if she had an endorsement from Sam Brownback or his favorite cousin, Jesus Christ.

This week Claire McCaskill pushed all of her "blue dog" chips onto the table when she announced that she would not go to the Democratic Convention in Charlotte, NC, this summer.  McCaskill said that she would be too busy campaigning.  "Too busy campaigning" is code for keeping her distance from President Obama.  That is sad and it is shameful.  Obama needs to win Missouri - and McCaskill needs to stand up for real Democratic values and our President.

I will return from overseas in a couple of weeks, and at that time I will be able to choose between keeping my voter registration in Missouri where I could grudgingly help Claire with my single vote - or transferring it to my new state of residence, Arizona, where I could vote against Joe Arpaio and work more effectively against the onslaught of racist laws and policies that are eating the state like cancer.   Sadly, it's not a hard decision to make.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Jerry Sandusky's Worst Crime

by Pa Rock
Mental Health Provider

From Wikipedia:
As a medical diagnosis, pedophilia, or paedophilia, is defined as a psychiatric disorder in adults or adolescents 16 years of age and older, typically characterized by a primary or exclusive sexual interest in prepubescent children (generally age 13 years or younger, though onset of puberty may vary). The prepubescent child must be at least five years younger than the adolescent before the attraction can be diagnosed as pedophilia.

Jerry Sandusky, one of the most reviled individuals of this young century, has been dealing with a mental illness called pedophilia for many years.  The disease was his demon, and he was unable or unwilling to bring it under control.  He submitted to his darkest desires and willfully, often through complex and intricate planning, sexually violated a group of young boys over many years.  He was a monster, and he was very, very dangerous.

The trial is over, and if the defendant had even a whisper of decency, it was a trial that would never have been held.  But Jerry Sandusky, the former assistant football coach at Penn State and newly convicted perpetrator of sex crimes against children, wasn't man enough to admit his guilt and let the young men whom he molested when they were mere boys avoid yet one more humiliation.  Sandusky roared his innocence, and each of the savagely wronged boys had to relive their personal nightmares one more time on the witness stand.  Sandusky was raping them yet again.

And that raging denial was shameless.

But now that the trial is over and Sandusky has been found guilty of 45 counts of sexual abuse against children, he is still proclaiming his innocence.  If he had just shown the strength of character to admit his guilt, even at this late hour, and sincerely apologize to his numerous victims, he might have relieved some of their shame and horror - just a little.

But the coach would like us to believe that he is the victim.

Sandusky's greatest crime against these children was his failure to own his crimes, and to let the boys know that the problem was his and his alone.   A real man would have fallen to his knees before them and begged their forgiveness - but Jerry Sandusky is not a real man in any sense of the word.

And he is not a victim.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Monday's Poetry: "Baghdad, Mon Amour"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Lately I have dedicated a lot of time to reading some of what I consider to be classic literature.  Two examples are the first volume of Library of America's Vonnegut Collection, and, more recently LOA's collection of Louisa May Alcott's most famous books.  When I get back to the States and unpacked, my next big reading endeavor will be a four-volume complete collection of A Thousand and One Arabian Nights.

Many of the tales told on those famous Arabian nights took place in or around Baghdad, one of the earliest cultural centers of the world - a place with a rich and colorful heritage.   I have a regret that I will never be able to visit the city as it was just a couple of decades ago.  Now that it has been decimated through the excesses of both Saddam Hussein and the War on Terror, there appears little to be left of the glorious city that once existed in peace on the banks of the Euphrates.

And that is very sad.

Today's poem, "Baghdad, Mon Amour," is a love letter to the city from one of her sons.  It is a sad and beautiful tribute to a place that has been ravaged by war for far too long.  The poem was written by Salah al Hamdani, and it was translated by Molly Deschenes.

Baghdad, Mon Amour
by Salah al Hamdani

You cannot be crucified
On the side of a page
Of a story that is not your own,
Nor to the rhythm of the deaths that brood your plagues
Because there will be no cry to relieve your grief.
You cannot be crucified on the banks of the streams
Your body bleeds,
When the Euphrates washes away the secret of its soul
At the birth of a new defeat.
I know this:
No wound deserves a war.
You cannot be crucified at nightfall,
When you did not close your prayers
On the body of palm trees
Because there is no honorable assassin.
You cannot be crucified for the cinders of calamities,
For the tombs of your gods,
Or for the belief of a dying humanity.
Baghdad mon amour,
Not son, nor father, nor God,
No prophet crowned by the church will save your soul,
Not that of Mecca,
Not that of those who refuse
To share the olive trees in Palestine.
This is my notebook of war,
The years of exiles folded in a suitcase
Too long abandoned to the dreams of the convicted.
This is my share of victims,
My share of moon,
My harvest of nothingness,
My share of dust, words and cries.
This is my misfortune
Like a comma locking a line of ink.
Baghdad my love,
I was crouched in the corner of the page
In the shelter of the arid days,
Far from the torrents of blood
That carry the name of those shot with the silence of man.
Baghdad, mon amour,
Sitting like a Bedouin in a mirage
Lying on my shores, I cherished my own shroud.
Far from the cross, Fatima’s palm and the star of David
Far from their books, their wars
Wandering in the sand of the dunes,
From the steppe to the city
I drag my body from season to season,
I trail you along from the couch to the mirror, from my room to the street
Between my writing and my solitude
In the shelter of their cemeteries,
Their martyrs, their morgues.
Baghdad my love,
You cannot tremble at the threshold of these ruins of days,
A civilization trained to kill
Violated your virginity.
Baghdad, city forever rebellious against your torturer Saddam,
You cannot groan at the only revelation of this hegemony,
Those who rushed around your body at death’s door,
These “liberators” are their accomplices.
Madinat-al Salam,
City of peace,
Love in the soul of writing.
Baghdad my wound,
My father the working man died without knowing joy,
My mother mislaid her youth in the mirror
And the only witness to my first grief on your breast
Is the breath of the sand,
The starry sky and God’s gaze on the call to prayer.
I wished so much today that man had never discovered fire
And cursed it to advance so much in its own din.
This soil that gave birth to me, today put to death.
Oh mother! I want to return inside your flesh
To hear the beating of your heart,
To quench my thirst in the murmur of your breath.

Sunday, June 24, 2012


by Pa Rock
Peaceful Drifter

Today Murphy and I joined a small group of people from Kadena Air Base and went on a tour to Zamami, one of the beautiful Kerama Islands that dot the blue seas along the coast of southern Okinawa.  Most of the day - for me - was spent beach-combing and trying to stay out of the hot sun.  Murphy rented a motorcycle and did a private tour of the island.  He also did some snorkeling while I sat under a beach umbrella and read.

Our guide for today's travels was a delightful little Okinawan woman named Setsuko who is a walking, talking history book on Japan and Okinawa.  She was born in Kin Village, Okinawa, three months before the Battle of Okinawa and has developed a life-long interest in that subject in particular - and history in general.

Setsuko is very short and probably doesn't way a hundred pounds, but she fancies herself to be overweight.  One of her favorite sayings is to tell a tall person, "If you will give me an inch, I will give you ten pounds!"  She also blurted out several times during the day, "Americans all look alike!"

Setsuko told of going to the States during the late sixties and early seventies to "look for a sugar daddy."  She said that she unfortunately chose the wrong city in which husband-shop:  San Francisco!

According to Setsuko, Zamami is the most beautiful of the islands that surround Okinawa.  She said that (in her opinion) Yoron is the second most beautiful and Tokashiki is third.  Today completed my sweep of her top three!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Okinawan War Memorial Day

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Today is the 67th anniversary of the end of the Battle of Okinawa, the bloodiest encounter in the Pacific during World War II.

Friend Murphy and I drove to Peace Prayer Park on the south end of the island today where we encountered the remnants of this year's memorial service.  It appeared as though thousands of people, mostly Okinawans and Japanese, had gone to the ceremony commemorating the war dead.  Of those who remained when we arrived, many were sitting in front of specific places on the walls which have inscribed with the names of all who died in the battle:  Okinawans, Japanese, Americans, and Brits.  Flowers had been placed in front of many of the Okinawan and Japanese sections of the wall, and the smell of incense offerings wafted through the summer air.

Some families were having picnics on the park grounds, and I watched one very elderly lady pointing at a name on the wall and telling a story to a young child.

I have a plan for a tribute to Okinawa that I have been mulling over for the past two years.  I would like to photograph all of the American and British names on the wall (the Okinawan and Japanese names are written in Konji script), and then enter them into a posting on the Internet where it could serve as a genealogical and history reference.

(I have not been able to find the list of American casualties anywhere else on the Internet, and I am certain that there are descendants of some of these thousands brave men who would love to know that their ancestors have been memorialized on a stone wall on Okinawa.)

Unfortunately, the war gods do not seem to be in sync with me on this project.  I have been to Peace Prayer Park on three previous occasions, and photographed enough panels of the wall to know that it can be done.  Today I went there with the sole goal of finishing the task - only to discover that after charging my camera battery last night, I forgot to put it back in the camera!

I have three weeks remaining on the island and may get it done yet.  I believe there are over fifteen thousand names on the American wall panels, and they that would then have to be transcribed from the photos onto an Internet posting - so it will be a lengthy process even after I get the pictures taken!

Maybe the fifth time will be a charm!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Church-Controlled Cities Sued by Justice Department

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division is bringing suit against the towns of Colorado City, Arizona and Hildale, Utah which sit somewhat conjoined on the border of those two states.  The suit alleges that the towns are actually under the control of an off-shoot of the Mormon Church - the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), an organization that actively promotes polygamy and has been known for supplying underage "brides" to male church members.

Convicted pedophile and polygamist Warren Jeffs was the leader of the FLDS, and the suit contends that much of the control of the organization still resides with him.  (As if to legitimize that claim, Warren Jeffs yesterday issued an official edict from his prison cell in Palestine, Texas, saying that only fifteen male followers whom he has personally selected may father children within the church.  Apparently sex will not be permitted by other male members of the community.)  Jeffs is serving a life sentence in the Texas prison for his conviction on two felony counts of sexual abuse against two underage girls.  It took a jury only thirty minutes to find him guilty of those very serious charges.

The FLDS Church membership began to decline after Warren Jeff's conviction and all of the negative attention that he brought to the organization, but it is estimated that about 10,000 people are sitill members of the group.  Most live in the communities of Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah.

The current lawsuit by the U.S. Justice Department alleges that "the cities' governments, including the Marshal's Office, have been deployed to carry out the will and dictates of FLDS leaders, particularly Warren Jeffs and the officials to whom he delegates authority."   The Marshal's Office was noted to be carrying out FDLS law instead of enforcing the actual laws.  There is also an allegation that non-FLDS members are far more likely to cited by local law enforcement officials than are members of the church.

The following two accounts were outlined in the current lawsuit and were obtained via the on-line edition of The Phoenix New Times:

  • In 2001, Jeffs issued an edict that all domestic dogs would be banned from the Cities.  Less than one month later, in compliance with Jeffs' edict, Marshal's Deputies went to each household in the Cities and asked residents to turn over any dogs that they had in the home to the Officers.  The Marshal's Deputies then shot and killed the dogs in a slaughter pit a short distance from the Cities.  Two of the Marshal's Deputies involved in this incident remain employed by the Marshal's Office.

  • On or about May 18, 2010, a group of non-FLDS children attempted to play at the public park.  A Marshal's Deputy told the children that they could not play at the Park and threatened them with arrest if they continued to play.
The lawsuit alleges that the entities of the towns routinely deny access to public facilities to non-FLDS members, and even refuse to run water to new properties owned by people who are not members of the church.

Is this what our nation would look like if religious zealots and their elected offal are successful in knocking down the wall that separates church and state?  One can only hope that we never have the opportunity to find out!

Ron Paul, Hypocrite

 by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I like politicians who practice what they preach, walk the walk, live life by the same rules that they expect you and me to follow.  People like that are true leaders.

Unfortunately for us, many politicians expect the rest of us to live our lives in a more austere manner than they would ever consider doing themselves.  Take for example the congressional bloviators who don't want to spend any of our nation's resources on health care for common people, but are delighted with their own government-paid health care.  Or governors and state legislators who would never think of not voting in an election, yet spend vast amounts of time on the public dime figuring out ways to eliminate groups of individuals they don't like from the voting rolls.

Today an excellent example of a politician acting in a hypocritical manner surfaced when Texas congressman and perennial presidential candidate Ron Paul revealed that he receives monthly social security checks.  He's old enough, and he's entitled - and good for him.  The system was designed to help old farts like Congressman Paul survive his golden years.  Sadly though, the check-grabbing congressman isn't very eager to see the rest of us get ours.

Ron Paul, who has a long and vocal history of opposing federal welfare programs, has announced a plan whereby young people could opt out of social security - a code for bankrupting the program by draining off mandatory contributors and contributions.  That's the same principal employed by people who want tax breaks so they can send their children to private or religious schools - syphoning off the funding in the hope of killing public, taxpayer-funded education.  (Then those little beggars can go back to work in the factories where they belong!)

And  old Ron calls it individual liberty - and maybe it is because he is freely pocketing his social security checks.  But some things require a collective effort if they are to work  - public education, old age assistance, and democracy are all examples.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Vagina Vote

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The state of Michigan is in a bit of a political turmoil which has been brought on by the state's Good Old Boys' Club, aka the Michigan State Legislature.   It seems the legislature, which is over 75 % male in a state where females are in the majority, was busy trying to legislate some more draconian abortion-limiting legislation when an uppity woman, Democratic Representative Lisa Brown, managed to get the floor to speak against the bills under consideration.  Rep. Brown ended her remarks by stating, "I'm flattered you're all so interested in my vagina.  But no means no."

The next day when Rep. Brown showed up at her duly elected post to comment on some other bills before the legislature, she learned that the Republican majority had cut her off from commenting for one day due to her "lack of decorum" on the previous day.  Also barred from speaking for a day was Democratic Representative Barb Byrum for putting forth a proposal that a man be required to prove that his life was in danger before he could get a vasectomy.

Goose - gander, folks.  Goose - gander.

One Republican representative by the name of Mike Callon (a middle-aged white male, of course) in speaking about Rep. Brown's lack of decorum said that her choice of words was "so offensive, I don't even want to say it in front of women.  I would not say that in mixed company."

Is there a term or word that Rep. Callon would use?  Of the several words that I personally have heard to reference a woman's hoo-ha, vagina is by far the most sterile and least offensive.

But the Republican sensibilities prevailed and the two potty-mouthed women were silenced so that the men in the legislature could make calm and rational decisions about women's bodies without being bothered by any nonsensical or filthy-minded females.

But every vagina has its day.

One day after the arbitrary political silencing, the women arose with a vengeance.  Several female legislators took over the steps outside of the state capitol and staged a reading of the Broadway play, The Vagina Dialogues.  Eve Ensler, the person who wrote the play, was on hand for the public reading which drew thousands to the capitol.  She described the performance as one of the most "thrilling" nights she's had in the past sixteen years since the play was first produced.

Representative Brown gave a message to her male counterparts in the legislature by telling one commentator that vaginas had brought them into the world, and vaginas would vote them out!

One wonders at the audacious nature of men who cringe at hearing the word "vagina," yet work so diligently at setting the rules regarding women's bodies - especially their vaginas.

The Republican war on women continues, but now they are beginning to fight back. 

It feels like the sixties all over again!

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Empty Apartment Blues

by Pa Rock
Mover and Shaker

I have been carefully wrapping my possessions and placing them in plastic storage boxes for the past two weeks.  This morning, shortly after 8:00 a.m. and just after I had pulled down and packed the last of my curtains and drapes, the movers showed up and went to work with a vengeance!  By noon my apartment was completely empty, and within a few days my stuff will be on board a ship slowly heading toward the United States.

Regardless of how slow that ship goes, my belongings will still be waiting in storage in Phoenix long before I am ready for them.  I don't leave Okinawa until July 14th, and when I do get back in the Scorpion State, it will still be several weeks before I find a place to live and unpack.

I will be camping in my empty apartment until June 30th when I will go into transitional housing on Kadena.  And "camping" is the appropriate verb.   I have an air mattress, clock radio, old wooden chair, a  towel, knife, fork, spoon, can opener and enough clothes to get by on until I fly off of "the Keystone of the Pacific."

One of the four young men who packed and moved my stuff today spoke very good English.  I told him that I had been on the island forty years before.  He said that his mother was an American high school student on Okinawa in the mid-70's, and that she had met his dad here (an Okinawan) married, and had him.  The young man said that his mother now lives in Phoenix but doesn't like it there.  She is  trying to move to northern Arizona.

We were under a typhoon alert last night, but nothing happened.  Today the weather was great for awhile, but it began to rain lightly as they were loading my things onto the moving van.  As the van pulled away, the skies opened!   Now I am at an Internet cafe (The Spot) on Camp Foster blogging and waiting for the rains to cease.

Blogging will be difficult and catch-as-catch-can for the next couple of weeks, but I will try hard to keep the effort going.

Come see me - but bring your own chair!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Monday's Poetry: "Act Now"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

I am still so psyched over President Obama's announcement earlier this week that he is stopping the deportations of certain young people who have grown up in this country and have a history of showing respect toward our laws and our institutions - kids, in fact, who have proven themselves to be better citizens than many of those who continually deride them because of their race and ethnicity.  It was a gutsy move, one that immediately inflamed the core of the Republican Party - the bigots, baggers, and birthers - people who are continually inflamed anyway.

I have been poring over the Internet in search of a suitable poem to honor the President's long-overdue, and much appreciate, decision.  I was amazed at how many poems about immigration use the word "dream," but probably should not have been because building a better life for ourselves and our families is a universal dream.  Maybe if everyone was aggressively pursuing that dream, we wouldn't have time for all of the stupidity and hatred.

"Act Now" was copyrighted in 2010 by Paul LaTorre.  It is a beautiful piece of work.

Act Now
by Paul LaTorre

Friends, Romans,
(& Republicans)

Please lend me your ears

I promise to give them back
when done, but
I must decree-

I have a dream...

That the Dream Act
Will be

That rational minds will
Cast the bigots out

Manuel can tell
Bill O'Reilly-
"Puto, get your feet
Off my couch

Your Egalitarian fat ass
storming off set of
'the View',
fuck it- WE'LL DO IT LIVE!!
on FOXNews-
kick rocks, Willy
this is my house of

I have a dream that
immigrants here for
far over ten years already
can proudly
call themselves
'part of US'

O say can you see?

All races painting Our land-
demanding opportunity
on these golden shores
just as surely as
our foreign
forefathers did

No four score & seventy
years ago,
all our American heroes
now lay

Wasn't Einstein of
German descent?

Was Madeline Albright not
a jew refugee
during World War II
from the Czech Republic?

Our golden boy-
shot in his
while riding shotgun,
nodding & waving

MLK assassin grazed
by hate
as he campaigned
in Memphis

Can we respect them,
For their vision?

While still wanting to
pave way for new
Roberto Clementes
who may have come here
in an inner tube

Don't they deserve
the same chance
as me or you?

Where is the space
to stir it up,
in this- the supposed
melting pot?

Open door policy-
slammed shut,
followed by
a swallowed key

A chastity belt on
Lady Liberty
for phantom Democracy

I had a dream,
but was shaken from it
It was taken from me by
veto of Senate-
a rude awakening

may never be on
the Menu
in this restaurant,
shall we always be an
elitist, 'me first'

Maybe generation Reggaton
can change it

Do not
Made by

Revolutionary minds
who captivated,
should we have sent
the Beatles back?

No British invasion,
or room for
Asian math, African rhythms,
gorgeous Hispanic women

Don't suffocate the flag,
let's take it back
to hang a future wave of
kid's hearts upon
the stars
we saluted

You pilgrims, too
did once migrate here to
escape oppressive rule

Don't deny them of a

For you had that once

Let's grasp at
of this nation's
first intention-

Not Independence,
let's make it once again a land of
milk, honey &

Act now,
to abort the agenda of
American exceptionalists, so

If they're truly that disturbed
by hard-working imports
let them pick up their bags &
take a banana boat to
with Sarah Palin

Let's deport those truly
killing equality
bring some light to a sleeping

So every person on our shores
can have a Dream

Watergate at Forty

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Forty years ago today five bumbling burglars were arrested in the headquarters of the Democratic National Party located at the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C.  Those arrests set a series of events in place that eventually ended the presidency of Richard M. Nixon.

The five burglars were Bernard Barker, Virgilio Gonzalez, Eugenio Martinez, Frank Sturgis, and James W. McCord, Jr.  Three of the five - Barker, Gonzalez, and Martinez - had been born in Cuba and were active in the anti-Castro movement.  Barker, in fact, had once served in the Cuban Secret Police under dictator Fulgencio Batista.  Sturgis, while born in the United States, was also active in the anti-Castro movement and had once dated Castro's girlfriend with whom he had engaged in a failed plot to poison Fidel.  McCord was a former CIA agent and a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force Reserves.  McCord's friends also identified him as being an "active Baptist."

The five burglars were convicted of conspiracy, burglary, and wiretapping.

Two other men were subsequently arrested in connection with the burglary.  E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy were thought to have been close by and communicating with the burglars by radio as they searched the offices trying to find documentation that would tie the Democrats to political money from Cuba.  Both Hunt (a former CIA agent) and Liddy eventually pleaded guilty to wiretapping, planting surveillance equipment, and theft of documents..

In addition to most of those involved in the Watergate break-in having Cuba connections, at least four are routinely mentioned in JFK assassination theories:  Hunt, Gonzalez, Martinez, and Sturgis.

Two fearless reporters for the Washington Post, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, took the story of an unusual burglary and stuck with it, peeling back layer after layer of lies and obfuscation generated by the Nixon White House, until it became painfully clear to most of America that the President himself had been directly involved in trying to cover-up the extent of the crimes that were revealed as a result of the arrests of those five hapless burglars.

For awhile Congress got very self-righteous and passed many laws to clean up the political process.  But that was forty years ago - and the piety has waned.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Obama Adds Some Heart to U.S. Immigration Policy

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

President Obama made a bold move today in the field of immigration policy by announcing a halt to the deportation of certain younger undocumented immigrants.  Hundreds of thousands of young immigrants will now be eligible for work permits if they meet a few minimum requirements.

To be able to take advantage of this program, a modified DREAM Act much like one that has recently been proposed by Republican Senator Marco Rubio,  individuals must have lived in the United States for at least five years, have no criminal record, currently be in school, and be a high school graduate or have an honorable discharge from the U.S. Coast Guard or the Armed Forces.

In announcing and justifying the new policy, the President said:

"These are young people who studied in our schools.  They play in our neighborhoods, they're friends with our kids, they pledge allegiance to our flag.  They're Americans in their heart, in their minds, in every single way but one - on paper. 
"They were brought to this country by their parents, sometimes even as infants, and they often have no idea that they're undocumented until they apply for a job, or a driver's license, or a college scholarship."

 The new policy is set to take effect immediately.

Upon hearing of the President's humanitarian change to U.S. immigration policy, the baser elements of the Republican Party (the bigots, baggers, and birthers) went nuts.  Well, more nuts.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Odious Octogenarian

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

It's over.  I missed it.  Joe Arpaio, the world's most dangerous sheriff, turned eighty-years-old yesterday and celebrated by conducting one of his infamous "Illegal Immigrant Roundup / Employer Sanctions Operations" (#61) where he and the boys tied up traffic around an auto parts store in downtown Phoenix for God knows how many hours and netted a total of six brown suspects.  The sixty-one roundups thus far have garnered 633 brown people to puff up the population of Joe's Tent City and his chain gangs.  (That's just a little over ten gardeners and maids per roundup.)  And it all helps to keep old Joe right where he wants to be - in the headlines.

After the "roundup," Arpaio took his staff out to the track for some afternoon fun in the sun.  It was the go-cart track and the deputies reportedly raced each other.  Joe said that no public money was used for the outing, which seems odd because he has a strong affinity for using public money for screwball reasons - such as recently sending a deputy to Hawaii to double-check President Obama's birth certificate.

Of course, we have to take Joe's word for it that he is eighty because he has never submitted his own birth certificate for public review.

But hey, the old coot is probably eighty (at least) and he deserves to be given a little slack.  Joe was first elected sheriff at the tender age of sixty and has served twenty years in that position.  His tenure has been noted for vindictive investigations and arrests, Latino roundups, jailhouse deaths, and numerous lawsuits that have resulted in the county and its insurers paying out millions of dollars to those wronged by the sheriff's office - or to their surviving family members.

Marty Atencio, a mentally disabled man, died in one of Arpaio's jails last December.  The medical examiner has recently concluded that the death was due in large measure to "law enforcement subdual."  Atencio's family is suing for twenty million dollars.

This week another Latino inmate, 40-year-old Raymond Manuel Farinas, died in an Arpaio jail after being there less than 11 hours.  He was arrested on a weapon's charge (in Arizona!) and had bond set at one thousand dollars.  His mother rushed to the jail and posted the bond, and then waited on her son to be released.  The next news she got was from a member of Arpaio's staff who told her that Raymond had choked to death while eating a peanut butter sandwich.  Farinas' mother doubts that story because her son was allergic to peanut butter.  (I doubt it because the house specialty is supposedly green baloney sandwiches which are far less expensive than peanut butter.)  Both the victim's mother and girlfriend said that they have seen the body and that Raymond had a cut on his forehead and a big bruise over his eye.

It smells like another lawsuit in the making - but that doesn't worry old Joe.  And apparently it has yet to worry a majority of Maricopa County taxpayers because he keeps getting re-elected.  It's sad to watch people line up like lemmings to vote against their own self-interest.

But enough about dead inmates and sucker taxpayers, I'm writing to wish old Joe a very happy (albeit belated) birthday.  Joe, may you have many, many more, and may they all be celebrated with you wearing pink underwear and sitting on a cot in Tent City trying to wheeze up enough air to blow out the candle on your baloney sandwich.  That would truly be justice.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Elderly Inmates

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Years ago when I was a state child welfare worker, one of my jobs was to supervise children and teens in foster care.  I didn't have them in my own home, but just supervised their placements making sure that their needs were being met and that they were safe.

One of these kids that I inherited from a worker in another county was a fifteen-year-old boy named Joey.  (Okay, Joey wasn't his real name - but for privacy reasons that is what I am going to call him.)  Joey had been raised by his grandmother since the day he was born until he was thirteen, and even though he knew she was his grandmother, he appropriately called her "mom" because she was the only mother he had ever known.

Joey came home from school one day and found police in his home talking to his mom.  A short while later she was arrested and he was hurriedly sent to live with his only other nearby relatives.  The last time Joey had seen his mother was through a thick glass window in the local sheriff's office just before she was put on a plane and shipped off to a state far, far away where she was put on trial for a twenty-year-old crime.  She was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

Joey was obviously devastated.  His placement with relatives did not work out and he quickly wound up in foster care with no family support within hundreds of miles.  Two years later when I met him he had difficulty completing a thought without referencing his mom and talking about how horrible it was to see her through the glass at the sheriff's office.  He had been able to speak to her a few times  by phone, but basically they had to correspond through letters.  His situation was heart-wrenching.

I resolved to get Joey to the prison in that state far, far away so that he could have a visit with his mother.  I was with him in the visitor's center in the state women's prison when that reunion happened.  I don't know what I expected to see when mom (grandmother) came through the door into the visitor's center, but what I did not expect to see was a little old lady, obviously in poor health, being pushed through the door in a wheel chair.

A jury had said that mom did the crime and would have to serve her time, but my first thought was that this elderly individual was obviously not John Dillinger.  Did the state really need to take up bed space in a maximum security prison with somebody this frail and helpless?  Couldn't she be more appropriately treated (if prisons are for treatment) at a half-way house or some other less severe and less expensive facility?

Joey's mom was in her early seventies.  She told me at our first meeting that her "bunkie" was in her eighties.

We were able to get Joey back to see his mom the following two summers before he aged out of the foster care system.  I went on one of those trips, and I became a friend of sorts to mom.  We exchanged letters for several years, and through her letters kept she kept me apprised of her deteriorating medical condition, and the problems that she encountered in getting adequate medical treatment and necessary items like eye glasses and a new wheel chair after hers broke.  Life in the joint was miserable, and for the state it was an expensive situation to respond to the medical needs of the indigent elderly.

But we live in a society that values punishment far more than treatment.  Many promote prisons and the austere treatment of prisoners as deterrents to crime, but there is no credible research anywhere that backs up that assertion.

A few weeks ago I got an email from Joey,  now in his late twenties, stating that his mom had finally been paroled.  Today I got a second email saying that she had made her way back home and they have been reunited.  I don't know all of the details, but the news brought tears to my eyes.

This evening, quite coincidentally, I found a news item on the Internet regarding a new report by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) discussing the plight of elderly people in prison.  It stated that the population of old people behind bars had increased by 1,300 percent since the 1980's.  The report stated, rightly, that the elderly are seldom a threat to society, and the likelihood of a prisoner committing a new crime after release dropped dramatically as they became elderly.    The report calculated that a state would save approximately $66,000 annually for every old codger it released.  That's real money that could be funneled toward areas like crime prevention and education.

I am not saying that criminals should not be punished - including being taken off the streets when necessary.  But we all know that there are different classes of criminals, and the poor and minorities are far more likely to face the brutality of prison life than are celebrities, white collar criminals, and the uber rich.  Joey's mom went to trail with a  public defender who was overworked and not invested in her case.  She felt that her particular charge was the result of prolonged and serious domestic abuse, but with the bare minimum of legal representation, she was unable to present that claim to the jury in an effective manner.

Maybe mom deserved to go to prison, and maybe she didn't.  I don't know.  But I do know that our judicial system is flawed and the poor have far less success in dealing with it than do the rich.

But with the inequities of the court system set aside, once a person is in prison, rehabilitative treatment should be a goal for all but the most dangerous of prisoners.  (Most prisoners will be released at least once, and if they haven't learned positive things while inside, they darned sure will have learned criminal skills.)  And people who pose little threat to society, such as the elderly and infirm, should exit the penal system as quickly as possible.  Not only is that more humane and sensible, it saves state government thousands and thousands of dollars that could be better spent elsewhere.

It's time to let the grannies go.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Would You Like Whipped Cream and a Cherry on that Heart Attack?

by Pa Rock
Consumer of Food

I guess that I must have some unresolved issues with bacon.   I like bacon when it is in its proper place - such as next to a couple of beautiful eggs-over-easy with a side of wheat toast, or between two slices of whole grain bread nestled against some farm fresh-lettuce and a couple of slices of tomato.  But there are certain places that bacon does not belong, and the list of those offensive menu items appears to be growing.

First off, bacon does not belong on burgers.  There is just something morally reprehensible about mixing species on the same bun.  When Valerie and I were in Guam a couple of weeks ago, we were sitting out by the pool at the Hilton one evening and I ordered a cheeseburger.  When the small, over-priced burger arrived, I was aghast to find that it contained bacon - a fact that was not in evidence on the menu.   As I concluded my righteous tirade about mixing species, she grinned and said that I had ordered the same burger when we were there over Thanksgiving - and I had pitched the same fit then as well.

Call it a reoccurring senior moment.

The following night I decided to play it safe.  I tried to order a grilled cheese sandwich, but was told that the kitchen staff did not make grilled cheese.  For a few dollars more, however, they would make a grilled ham and cheese.  Thirty minutes later when the sandwich arrived and I bit into it, I discovered that it was a grilled ham and cheese with bacon!  The chef was obviously of the belief that everything is better with bacon.

And unfortunately for our national waistline, way too many people seem to hold that same belief.

Today I ran across an article on the Internet that said that Burger King is trying to spice up its menu with some new speciality items - one of which is a bacon ice cream sundae.  Somebody alert Michelle Obama and Mayor Bloomberg, because I am as serious as a heart attack!  Burger King is currently featuring a sundae made with vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce and caramel topping, and a strip of bacon in at least one of its Nashville locations.

Look for this cholesterol bomb coming soon to a Burger King near you!

But if your desire to fatally clog your arteries is so great that you can't wait, you might want to check out two other national food chains.  Denny's reportedly introduced a bacon maple sundae last year, and Jack in the Box has been offering a bacon milkshake.

People, if we are eating like that, we are out of control and we deserve to be waddling around like a  flock of French geese waiting to be relieved of their fat livers!

Listen  to this old, diabetic fat man.  I am your future, and I am not pretty!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Kansas City Star Looks at Noel, Missouri

by Pa Rock
Citizen of the World

Reporter Donald Bradley wrote an excellent piece in last Saturday's Kansas City Star entitled "In Small-Town Missouri, a Collision of Cultures."  The focus of the piece was Noel, Missouri, which is not only well recognized in some quarters as "the Christmas City of the Ozarks," but also happens to be the place of my raising - my hometown.

I have written in this space before about the immense cultural changes that have occurred in Noel over the past couple of decades.  The town has two primary industries - tourism with many canoe camps putting thousands of tourists on the beautiful local rivers each summer, and a large poultry-processing plant owned and operated by Tyson's.  Beyond that, most locals who choose to remain in the area are often employed in the Wal-Mart home office and warehouses in Bentonville, Arkansas, just twenty-five miles south of Noel.

Around twenty years ago the Tyson plant began recruiting Hispanic workers from south Texas.  Inevitably some illegals came north in the mix.  Many of those immigrants whom I knew personally proved to be very hard workers who often did two shifts a day at the "chicken plant" in order to support themselves and their families.  Often they were able to send money back to relatives in Mexico and Central America.  These good folks eventually began buying houses, and some even started opening their own businesses.

The Hispanics gave Noel a different appearance, one with which not all of the locals were comfortable.  Bright colors went up on a few of the homes and businesses, conversations on the streets were occasionally conducted in Spanish and local Spanish language periodicals began appearing in public places, and loud mariachi music was heard coming from speakers of some automobiles.  For those who liked "real" Mexican food, it was readily available in several of the new cafes.

Many locals got behind the evolving community, and, predictably, others resisted the changes.  The local schools, for instance, passed up the opportunity to begin offering Spanish in the lower elementary grades - a time when learning a foreign language is much easier.  The immigrant children were expected to become bilingual, and the native locals were not.  (I always wondered who would be the foremen and line-leaders in the town's industries of the future.  It seems likely that those supervisory jobs would go to people who are fluent in both English and Spanish.)  But I digress.

About five or ten years ago, Africans became arriving in Noel to work in poultry industry.  The fact that these immigrants were black, and often Muslim, again challenged the tolerance of those who had lived in the community for generations.  But, as Mr. Bradley pointed out in his fine article, these new immigrants have also begun to work their way into the fabric of the community.  The old Harmon Hardware Store, a three-story stone building that was constructed on Main Street in 1898, anchored the town's business district for nearly a century.  Today that stately and historic old building is the "African Store."

There has been much change in my hometown over the past two decades, and some have learned to live with it while others have not.  Mr. Bradley mentioned one white youth whom he observed that yelled a racial slur and then hopped in a pickup truck and sped away.  He noted remarks by a few in the community that were more guarded than they were openly accepting.  But Donald Bradley also talked to Mayor James Carroll (an old childhood friend of mine) and some others who were focused of the positives of living in a multi-cultural community and who have been making efforts to get to know the newcomers on a more personal basis.

All-in-all the feature article on Noel in the Kansas City Star was a an insightful look at how a small community is adjusting to some major cultural changes, and it showed the ways in which the diverse cultures are struggling to come together.  I commend the writer on his care and diligence in exploring my hometown and presenting it to the public in an even-handed manner.

I have always been proud on Noel - and I still am!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Monday's Poetry: "As You Leave Me"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Last week I featured a poem in this space by revered Hoosier poet James Whitcomb Riley.  I have a close friend here on Okinawa who grew up around Indianapolis and has a working knowledge of some of his state's more famous literary figures.  When I told Daniel that I was including a poem by James Whitcomb Riley in this blog, he told me an interesting story about where Riley is buried and a small movement to take some of the shine from Mr. Riley's apple.

James Whitcomb Riley is buried in Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis.  At 555 acres and over 25 miles of paved roads, it is the third largest non-governmental cemetery in the United States.  In addition to being the final resting place for Riley, it is also the permanent home to a U.S. President (Benjamin Harrison), three Vice Presidents of the United States, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Booth Tarkington, and a "prison poet" by the name of Etheridge Knight.

James Whitcomb Riley is buried atop a modest hill, or mound, which is the highest point in Crown Hill Cemetery. Several years ago a small band of intellectuals, at least one of whom's name is readily recognizable as a novelist and national speaker on men's issues, decided that Etheridge Knight was more in tune with the contemporary world than Riley - and the group resolved to honor his memory by each adding a handful of dirt to Knight's grave whenever they visited the sight.  The obvious goal was to eventually have Knight's grave be higher than that of Riley.

Daniel said that the project "has a long way to go."

(If the plot sounds familiar, it is very similar to that of the 1995  movie which starred Hugh Grant as The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill and Came Down a Mountain.)

Enjoy the following poem by prison poet Etheridge Knight - and if you ever happen to find yourself in Indianapolis, take him a handful of dirt.  All donations appreciated!

As You Leave Me
by Etheridge Knight

Shiny record albums scattered over
the living room floor, reflecting light
from the lamp, sharp reflections that hurt
my eyes as I watch you, squatting among the platters, 
the beer foam making mustaches on your lips.

And, too,
the shadows on your cheeks from your long lashes
fascinate me--almost as much as the dimples
in your cheeks, your arms and your legs.

hum along with Mathis--how you love Mathis!
with his burnished hair and quicksilver voice that dances
among the stars and whirls through canyons
like windblown snow, sometimes I think that Mathis
could take you from me if you could be complete
without me. I glance at my watch. It is now time.

You rise,
silently, and to the bedroom and the paint;
on the lips red, on the eyes black,
and I lean in the doorway and smoke, and see you
grow old before my eyes, and smoke, why do you
chatter while you dress? and smile when you grab
your large leather purse? don't you know that when you leave me 
I walk to the window and watch you? and light
a reefer as I watch you? and I die as I watch you
disappear in the dark streets
to whistle and smile at the johns