Friday, May 31, 2013

Old Joe Gets a Reprieve

by Pa Rock
Maricopa Voter

America’s most expensive sheriff, octogenarian Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, learned yesterday that he will not have to face a recall election.  Joe needed some good news – just last week a judge ruled that he and his department have been racial profiling and discriminating against our Latino residents.

Respect Arizona, a group composed largely of volunteers, had been passing petitions trying to get Arpaio recalled.   The deadline for that effort was yesterday afternoon.  Spokesmen for Respect Arizona stated that they failed to collect the 335,000 signatures necessary to mandate a recall vote. The citizens running the effort declined to turn their petitions in to county officials – a maneuver that gives them a ready database of somewhere north of 200,000 names and addresses in the event another attempt is made to remove Arpaio from office.  That move also denies the names to Arpaio.

And so Old Joe remains in office and the lawsuits against the county go on.  State and county officials whine incessantly about how Arizona doesn’t have enough money for its schools, foster care system, infrastructure, Medicaid, and a dozen other necessary public services, but Joe remains golden. 

The tens of millions of dollars that Arpaio he has already cost Maricopa County – and the millions in judgments that will result from cases currently being litigated because of the actions and excesses of his department – could certainly be put to better use.

I have voted against Joe Arpaio twice, signed the recall petition, worked at a petition drive, and even donated money to the effort.  My conscience is clean, but my soul is saddened.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Terrorism, American Style

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

American terrorists appear to be busy harvesting castor beans and making ricin.   Last month James Everett Dutschke of Tupelo, Mississippi, was arrested for sending letters laced with the deadly toxin to President Obama, Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi, and a local judge named Sadie Holland.   He is currently awaiting trial and the possibility of life in prison. 

That was last month.

A 37-year-old man in Washington state has been charged with threatening (in a letter containing ricin) to kill a federal judge.

That was last week.

Yesterday it was revealed that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his anti-gun violence organization, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, had received two letters containing ricin along with comments and threats regarding their position on gun policies.  The letters were postmarked in Shreveport, Louisiana, and postal officials said they could have originated in Louisiana, Texas, or Arkansas.

That was yesterday.

And today we learned that someone has sent yet another ricin-laced letter to the President.

Clearly not everyone appreciates the democratic process, and not every terrorist is from the Middle East.   One comfort that we can take from this insidious attack on civilization is that every time one of these morons is caught, he loses his right and ability to carry guns.  Granted, it’s a small comfort, but a comfort nonetheless.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Ding Dong, She's Going, Going . . .

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

When awaking to the news that one of the biggest crackpots in Congress is not seeking re-election, a person just knows that this would be a great day to buy lottery tickets!  Michele Bachmann, who got the biggest scare of her political life in the 2012 congressional election - and who is under serious investigation for the way her presidential campaign operated in Iowa - has decided to leave a winner and not chance an almost certain electoral defeat in 2014.  One also suspects that she will pocket some unspent campaign cash by withdrawing early.

I wish her well, I really do.  I hope she grows old gracefully and quietly sitting on the patio of her million dollar golf course home dodging golf balls, cashing her farm subsidy checks, and reading the collected works of Gore Vidal.  And if things don't work out well for her in Minnesota, she can always claim that Swiss citizenship and move.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to see a fellow about a Powerball ticket!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The End of the NRA?

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

There is an ad running on Arizona television stations that is bringing a lot of negative scrutiny to our junior U.S. Senator, Jeff Flake.  In that ad the mother of one of the shooting victims at the movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado, a Phoenix resident by the name of Caren Teves, tells about a letter that she sent to Senator Flake asking for his support on legislation for expanding the system of background checks on gun purchases.  Senator Flake did her the courtesy of writing back, in longhand.  In his reply to the mother of the murdered young man, the senator promised her that he would support a system of expanded background checks.

But when legislation to that effect was voted on in the United States Senate on April 17th of this year, Senator Flake succumbed to the mythology of the National Rifle Association, a political fallacy that the organization continually foists on elected officials - the notion that it is all-powerful and can destroy politicians who support any type of firearms regulation, no matter how sensible it is.  Flake caved and voted against the expanded background checks.

(Most polls show that nearly 90% of Americans favor extended background checks for gun purchases.)

And now that Colorado mom is on television, day-after-day, quoting from Flake's reply to her and stating clearly that he is not a man of his word.

Mrs. Teves also confronted Arizona's senior senator, John McCain, at a town hall meeting about the need to get assault weapons off of our nation's streets.  McCain told her, to the cheers of a roomful of drooling mouth-breathers, that Congress would never support a ban on assault weapons, and that she was in need of some "straight talk" on the matter.

Ironically, both Arizona senators with their relentless pandering to the NRA are out of sync with the majority of American voters and a change in American values.  The tide is turning, and, as in the case of gay marriage, it is turning swiftly.   Both men face a gloomy future of being stuck on a sandbar listening to an incoherent Wayne LaPierre spouting drivel and waxing nostalgic for an America that has moved on.

There is an article in the May 28th issue of The New Republic by Alec MacGills entitled:  "This is How the NRA Ends."  And while that title may sound a bit overly hopeful and optimistic, the writer does a good job of exposing the false mythology of the NRA and showing how Mayors Against Illegal Guns, under the leadership of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, is creating a pro-gun control campaign that mirrors the NRA in its organization and ruthlessness.

Bloomberg's group, as well as one formed by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly - and others, are bringing pressure to bear on the politicians who turn their backs on the wishes of the public and instead carry water for the NRA.  According to the article by Mr. MacGillis, Bloomberg used the vote on this issue to determine which senators to support for reelection and which to oppose.  Much to Harry Reid's chagrin, two that the mayor and his group will be actively working against are David Pryor, a Democrat from Arkansas, and Mark Begich, a Democrat from Alaska - both of whom genuflected to the NRA when they should have stood tall.

The point of the article in The New Republic is that the NRA is not as mighty as they wish us to believe.  The writer noted that the NRA supported sixteen senate candidates in the 2012 election, and of those thirteen lost.  He also noted that the percentage of Americans who own guns is decreasing.

Clearly the National Rifle Association has seen better days.  Their new cammies are made with invisible thread - and the public is finally seeing them for what they are - a bunch of buffoons and bullies whose self-interest clearly does not match that of the nation.

Does this shifting public sentiment portend the end of the NRA?  One can only hope.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Monday's Poetry: "Bivouac of the Dead"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

In honor of Memorial Day, which the people of my parent's generation called "Decoration Day" because it was the day when families traditionally decorated the graves of their loved ones with flowers, I have chosen a poem that has a strong relationship to military cemeteries.

"Bivouac of the Dead" was written by Theodore O'Hara in 1847 to honor Kentuckians who died in the Mexican War.  The poem started becoming popular after the Civil War, and was often placed on Confederate memorials in the American South.  Today portions of "Bivouac of the Dead" appear on placards throughout Arlington National Cemetery, and a stanza is inscribed on the McClellan Gate at Arlington.

This is a somber poem, but it serves to remind us of the futility of war and finality of death.

Bivouac of the Dead
by Theodore O'Hara

The muffled drum's sad roll has beat
The soldier's last tattoo;
No more on life's parade shall meet
The brave and daring few.
On Fame's eternal camping-ground
Their silent tents are spread,
And Glory guards with solemn round
The bivouac of the dead.

No rumour of the foe's advance
Now swells upon the wind;
No troubled thought at midnight haunts
Of loved ones left behind;
No vision of the morrow's strife
The warrior's dream alarms;
No braying horn nor screaming fife
At dawn shall call to arms.

Their shivered swords are red with rust,
Their plumed heads are bowed;
Their haughty banner trailed in dust
Is now their martial shroud,
And plenteous funeral tears have washed
The red stains from each brow,
And their proud forms in battle gashed
Are free from anguish now.

The neighing steed, the flashing blade,
The trumpet's stirring blast,
The charge, the dreadful cannonade,
The din and shout are past;
No war's wild note, nor glory's peal,
Shall thrill with fierce delight
Those breasts that never more shall feel
The rapture of the fight.

Like the dread northern hurricane
That sweeps this broad plateau,
Flushed with the triumph yet to gain
Came down the serried foe;
Our heros felt the shock, and leapt
To meet them on the plain;
And long the pitying sky hath wept
Above our gallant slain.

Sons of our consecrated ground,
Ye must not slumber there,
Where stranger steps and tongues resound
Along the heedless air.
Your own proud land's heroic soil
Shall be your fitter grave;
She claims from War his richest spoil -
The ashes of her brave.

So 'neath their parent turf they rest,
Far from the gory field;
Borne to a Spartan mother's breast
On many a bloody shield;
The sunshine of their native sky
Smiles sadly on them here,
And kindred hearts and eyes watch by
The heroes' sepulcher.

Rest on, embalmed and sainted dead!
Dear as the blood you gave,
No impious footsteps here shall tread
The herbage of your grave;
Nor shall your glory be forgot
While Fame her record keeps,
Or Honor points the hallowed spot
Where Valor proudly sleeps.

Yon marble minstrel's voiceless stone
In deathless songs shall tell,
When many a vanished age hath flown,
The story how ye fell;
Nor wreck, nor change, or winter's blight
Not Time's remorseless doom,
Shall dim one ray of holy light
That gilds your glorious tomb.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Shame of Maricopa County

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Sheriff Joe Arpaio had little reason to enjoy the holiday weekend thanks to a well-deserved judicial slap-down.

U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow issued his ruling in the Arpaio racial profiling case, Melendres v. Arpaio, on Friday - a ruling in which he officially recognized an outrage that been passing for standard police work in Maricopa County for the past six years.  The judge ruled that Arpaio and his department do participate in racial profiling and discrimination - a practice that the judge has ruled must stop.

Arpaio has already said that he will appeal the 142-page ruling.  Meanwhile, America's most sued sheriff will undoubtedly face new lawsuits based on the Judge Snow's ruling.  Arpaio's legendary misdeeds have already cost Maricopa County and its insurers tens of millions of dollars, and many more lawsuits focused on the actions of the Maricopa County Sheriff and his department are still working their way through the courts.

Sheriff Joe is also the subject of a recall effort.  The activist group, Respect Arizona, has until this Thursday to come up the necessary signatures to bring about the recall election.  They are currently short on signatures, but many are hopeful that this latest rebuke of the sheriff will stir enough last-minute support to make the effort successful.

Sadly, the citizens of Maricopa County have ownership of Joe Arpaio because we keep electing him, and by owning the geriatric sheriff, we also own his misdeeds and discriminatory practices.  His bluster, buffoonery, and blatant illegal practices should shame us all.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Murder Most Funny Comes to Luke

by Pa Rock
Theatre Fan

Last night I had the absolute pleasure of watching the stage play, Arsenic and Old Lace, presented by our local acting troupe, the Luke Experience, at Luke Air Force Base.  The play is a three-act comedic masterpiece written by Joseph Kesselring almost seventy-five years ago.  It had a very successful and lengthy run on Broadway before being made into a movie by director Frank Capra, an immediate screen classic starring Cary Grant.

The Luke players performed this smart and witty play extremely well.   This is the fourth production that I have seen this group put on since I got back to the States ten months ago, and they just keep getting better and better.  The fourteen actors who appeared on stage knew their lines, hit their marks, and were awfully damned funny.    Director Linda Johnson had her show ready to go.

All were so good that it would be hard to recognize any as standouts.  That said, Daniel Calderone was very impressive as Mortimer (the Cary Grant role in the film), a newspaper drama critic who happened to discover that his two elderly aunts, Abby and Martha, were enjoying a pastime of poisoning lonely old men and then burying them in their basement.  Laurie Snyder and Lacey Quattelbaum were charming and sweetly sinister as the aunts.

Jerry McCalmon had a lot of fun playing Teddy, Mortimer's brother who believed he was Teddy Roosevelt.  Every time the aunts bumped off a lonely old geezer, the would send Teddy to the basement to dig another lock in the Panama Canal where the "yellow fever" victim would be interred.

Cris Ceroni portrayed the third brother, Jonathan, a murdering psychopath whose presence on stage gave a creepy counterbalance to the cheery homicides of Abby and Martha.   Ceroni's performances are always a pleasure to watch.  Ozzy Orozco gave a humorous take on the character of Dr. Einstein, Jonathan's personal plastic surgeon.  Sofie Calderone was also very funny in her role as Elaine, Mortimer's girlfriend.

Others in the acting ensemble included Jack Gibbons, Lee Hartwig, Jeanette Backhaus, Nick Cripe, Curtis Sproul, Demetrik Rushing, and Ron Fantasia.

The biggest improvement in the current show was the sound.   The past plays have suffered from a very inferior sound system that snapped, crackled, and popped throughout the performances.  Last night I could hear every word.  At first I thought that the troupe must have raised some money and gotten a new, state-of-the-art sound system, but later I came to the realization that they were operating without headsets and doing a wonderful job of projecting and making themselves heard.

Arsenic and Old Lace will be performed again tonight at the Luke Theatre at 7:00 p.m. as well as next Friday and Saturday nights also at 7:00 p.m.  It is a show that the whole family will enjoy - and I will probably go and enjoy it again before it closes.

Thank you, Luke Experience, for continuing to bring culture and entertainment to the base!  You guys rock!

Friday, May 24, 2013

One Fundamental of Good Customer Service

by Pa Rock
Consumer of Services

My job requires that I occasionally make phone calls to multiple public schools.  Generally I dread that task because schools have, by and large, adopted the customer-unfriendly practice of using automated call-routing systems that generally give a little speech about how great their programs are - before providing a variety of numbered options to deflect or stall calls.  The nuisance machines can cause a wait of several minutes before the caller is connected to the desired office - if the customer is exceedingly lucky!  Those suffering from a lack of stamina - or a lack of time - often give up and hang up.

As a customer service, that sucks.

(Doctors' offices are also becoming harder and harder to contact in a timely fashion due to those evil answering systems.  I'm personally very tired of a machine telling me "If this is a true emergency, please hang up and dial 911."  Well dumb ass, if it was a true emergency, I would have called 911 - but today I am just a poor schmuck who is trying to get a prescription extended or set an appointment!)

Over the past few days I have had to telephone numerous high schools located in the West Valley - and I suffered many call-routing machines.  However, late in the morning I phoned nine high schools in one particular district and got a human being first time, every time.  I did not have to put up with one recorded message.

That was a case of great customer service.  The phone rang and someone answered it.  What a concept!

If someone who owns a furniture store or a pizza joint wants to annoy their customers with a call-routing machine, so be it.  They won't be in business long.  But if agencies or offices that provide important services - government offices, schools, and medical offices and facilities - choose to impede customer service with these annoying and time-eating machines, then those making the decisions to do so should be caned in the public square at high noon!

I am hopeful that the use of call-routing machines is an aberration that has about run its course.  It wasn't an accident that every single high school in one Arizona school district answered their phones with a human this morning.   A conscious decision was made by somebody in that district office to treat the public in a respectful manner.  

If the phone rings, answer it.   Courtesy is a great customer service.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Arizona's Dangerous Desert Varmints

by Pa Rock

Arizona can be a damned dangerous place to live, and it’s not just the fact that we elect troglodytes like Jan Brewer and Joe Arpaio to public office - or the fact that every drunken moron has a stockpile of guns.    In addition to the dangers that we bring on ourselves, Mother Nature has also seen fit to keep us in line with a host of deadly creatures.

I was at a health fair today where one of the exhibits was a live rattlesnake whose rattle could be heard across the entire auditorium.  The Sonora Desert is a veritable playground to these sinister reptiles.   After I finished trying to get a tune out of the snake, I picked up a brochure on some other desert varmints.

I jokingly refer to Arizona as being “The Scorpion State,” but the name truly does fit.  According to the information that I acquired today, there are fifty-three varieties of scorpions in this state, one of which, the Bark Scorpion, is deadly. 

I told the young fellow at the snake exhibit about my close encounter with a scorpion, one that resulted in me being stung twice while trying to fight my way out of bed in the middle of the night.  I didn’t know what to do, so I pulled up information on the Internet which basically said that either I would die or I wouldn’t.  After about an hour I decided that I was probably in the latter category – so I went back to bed.  The fellow at the exhibit told me that the correct thing to have done would have been to go to the emergency room because the bites of just about any scorpion can be deadly if the victim is allergic to the venom.

I must have not been allergic.

It is hard to describe what a scorpion sting feels like, but for those of you from cooler climates, it feels exactly like the sting of a yellow jacket.  (Years ago while mowing my yard in southern Missouri I unknowingly mowed over a yellow jacket nest that had been constructed underground.  I was stung eight times - and felt that death would have been a mercy!

There was also information of Africanized honey bees (a.k.a. “Killer” bees).   While bees seem to be in some mysterious decline nationwide, Arizona has regular stories in the news about bee attacks.  Just a couple of weeks ago a hiker in the mountains around Tucson was killed by a bee swarm.  According to the material that I read today,  all bees in Arizona are now thought to be Africanized honey bees.

Living here is a challenge on so many levels.  If Jan and Joe or the teabaggers with guns don’t get you, Mother Nature just might.    Tourists beware!