Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Jan Brewer Gives More Rights to Guns

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

There are apparently two Jan Brewer's:  the exceedingly rare one who occasionally slips forward and does something so uncharacteristically good (such as her recent move to increase the state's Medicaid funding) that one has to wonder if she is taking her meds correctly, and the other far more common, sun-dried desert variety whose every move seems to be the result of chronic sunstroke.  It was the second, more odious Jan, who was inhabiting the governor's chair today as she signed a "gun rights" bill into law - a bill that some cynics pointed out actually gives rights to guns - not to people, but to the guns themselves.

And it's not the first time she's done it!

Last year our governor signed a bill into law that prevented fire arms from being destroyed if they had been forfeited or seized.  The law said that the police agency in possession of those guns had to sell them to authorized dealers.   Theoretically, I suppose, a souvenir hunter with a big bankroll could wind up with the cache of "military grade" weapons that Arizona Nazi and political activist J.T. Ready used to kill his girlfriend and her family last year in Gilbert.  And what serious gun enthusiast wouldn't want to own the guns that Minuteman Shawna Forde and her gang of crazies used to kill that father and his young daughter in Arivaca?  The bill that Jan signed gave protections to guns, not gun owners, and it could conceivably raise gun collecting to a whole new level.

Today our governor signed another piece of unique Arizona legislation.

The city of Tucson, after suffering the horrendous shooting - massacre, actually - in January of 2011 in which six people were killed including a nine-year-old girl and a federal judge - and a congresswoman was seriously injured - decided to sponsor a gun buyback program.  Lots of organizations donated money to help the police purchase guns from citizens who came forward to voluntarily turn in their weapons.  It was a private affair between people with money and people with items to sell.  Capitalism.

The police bought many weapons.

Then they took their newly acquired  property - the guns they had paid for - and proceeded to destroy them.

And the goobers in the Arizona legislature went apocalyptic, complete and total bonkers!

The Arizona legislature rushed to pass a bill that prevented any government agency within the state from destroying weapons acquired in a buyback program.

The legislature continues to fight plans to expand Medicaid, but thank God guns are safe!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Monday's Poetry and the Real Cost of Cheap Shirts

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Last week a garment factory in Bangladesh collapsed killing nearly four hundred individuals, people who were literally stuffed inside of a sweatshop working for criminally low wages so that you and I could save a few dollars on discount clothing.  Bangladesh is notorious for sweatshops.  They exist because there is a ready market for cheap clothing, much of it in the United States and Great Britain.  Nearly seven hundred people have died in factory fires in Bangladesh since 2005, and there has been at least one other instance of a factory collapsing there as well.

May Day occurs this week.  May 1st historically was celebrated in our country both as a rite of spring and as a focal date of the American labor movement.  Today's poetry selection comes from the era when our labor movement began to truly flex its muscle and show its resolve.   The tragedy of Bangladesh shows us where we would be without the sacrifices of those who fought so valiantly for American worker's rights.

Look for that union label!

The Workers' Maypole
by Walter Crane
          (written April 13, 1894)

World Workers, whatever may bind ye,
    This day let your work be undone:
Cast the clouds of the winter behind ye,
     And come forth and be glad in the sun.

Now again while the green earth rejoices
     In the bud and the blossom of May
Lift your hearts up again, and your voices,
     And keep merry the World's Labour Day.

Let the winds lift your banners from far lands
    With a message of strife and of hope:
Raise the Maypole aloft with its garlands
     That gathers your cause in its scope.

It is writ on each ribbon that flies
     That flutters from fair Freedom's heart:
If still far be the crown and the prize
     In its winning may each take a part.

Your cause is the hope of the world,
     In your strife is the life of the race,
The workers' flag Freedom unfurled
     Is the veil of the bright future's face.

Be ye many or few drawn together,
     Let your message be clear on this day;
Be ye birds of the spring, of one feather
     In this--that ye sing on May-Day.

Of the new life that still lieth hidden,
     Though its shadow is cast before;
The new birth of hope that unbidden
     Surely comes, as the sea to the shore.

Stand fast, then, Oh Workers, your ground,
     Together pull, strong and united:
Link your hands like a chain the world round,
     If you will that your hopes be requited.

When the World's Workers, sisters and brothers,
     Shall build, in the new coming years,
A lair house of life--not for others,
     For the earth and its fulness is theirs.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Lies We Tell In Phoenix

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

This is Sunday, the 29th day of April, and the local weather forecast is for the temperature in the Valley of Hell to reach a roasty-toasty 100 degrees this afternoon, our first official three-digit reading of the year.  That's right.  One hundred degrees in April!  Tomorrow, also April, the temperature is expected to top out at one hundred and three!

There's a lie that we tell here in Phoenix about the temperature that goes something like this:  Sure it's hot, but it's only hot a couple of months a year and that can be tolerated.  The rest of the year it's all palm trees swaying in soft breezes.  And when it's hot - well, it's a dry heat.  The truth of the matter is Phoenix is hotter that hell from May through October - that's half a year - and while the heat may be dry, it is still hotter than blazes - like sticking your head in an oven.   Welcome to summer in the desert.

Another favorite local lie greets visitors as they arrive by air in Phoenix.   Sky Harbor Airport recently decided to improve its image by posting signs all over the facility proclaiming it to be the friendliest airport in America.  The new public relations campaign apparently lacked a personnel training component, because many airport employees, particularly those on the payroll of TSA, are still as rude and angry as ever.  The goal of being the friendliest airport in America is commendable, but sadly it is unlikely to be achieved any time soon.

Another lie that we enjoy telling out here is that the Sonoran Desert is littered with decapitated individuals, the result of Mexican drug cartels gone berserk.  I have lived here, on and off, for several years and have never heard of one actual decapitated body being recovered in the desert, yet some of our politicians never tire of recounting their presence.  (Jan Brewer, I'm looking at you.)

But my favorite Phoenix lie is the one that all America seems to know.  It is that our local sheriff, Joe Arpaio, is "America's Toughest Sheriff."  Old Joe is a lot of things, but "tough" really isn't one of them.  He is one of America's most expensive sheriff's, having lost numerous lawsuits over wrongful deaths in his jails and misuse of authority - and those lawsuits have cost Maricopa County and its insurers millions of dollars.    Arpaio is also one of America's most agile sheriff's, especially considering his advanced age of eighty-plus years, never missing a chance to jump in front of a camera or an open microphone and put his spin on a news story.  He has had a reality television show with Steven Seagal and Fox News has him on speed dial.

But tough?

Making prisoners were pink underwear and watch the Disney Channel is not a sign of toughness, Joe.  Perversion, maybe - but not toughness.

So on your next trip to Arizona take the train to Flagstaff, then rent a car and drive to Sedona.   That way you'll miss the heat, Sky Harbor Airport, the headless ghost bodies in the desert, and the scary specter of Joe Arpaio.  All of that - and Sedona is beautiful!  I'll meet you there!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Cherry Blossom Time in Marshfield

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I heard a report on National Public Radio this morning about an annual celebration in the small Ozark town of Marshfield, Missouri.  I know Marshfield well, so when I heard it mentioned, I sat up and paid attention.  It seems that a few years ago one of the residents had the idea to plant a bunch of cherry trees, and then invite descendants of U.S. Presidents out to Marshfield to enjoy the annual spring bloomage.  Somehow or another, the event became successful.

Today not only do descendants of many U.S. Presidents visit Marshfield each spring to enjoy the cherry blossoms, but the descendants of other historic notables show up as well.  The NPR report talked about a multi-great grandchild of famous slave Dred Scott sharing a breakfast in Marshfield with a multi-great grandchild of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

Surprisingly, the community of Marshfield has a presidential history that goes beyond the cherry blossom event..  President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara visited the town for a 4th of July parade just after the very brief first Gulf War.  I was in the audience that day watching the President and First Lady, along with a host of Missouri Republican trolls, standing in a bandbox saluting an endless stream of military vehicles loaded with men and women in uniform circling the Marshfield square.

It was very patriotic, motivating, and a lot of fun.  (I heard a rumor that there is a large photo of me in the town's official souvenir book of the event - but I've never seen it.  I'm sure GHWB didn't mind sharing the glory!)

Good luck with your celebration, Marshfield.  It sound's like a good opportunity to sit down and rewrite a little history.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Pa Rock's Fantasy Dinner Party

by Pa Rock
Party Planner

There was a bit of buzz in the blogosphere this week about a fantasy dinner party that Barbra Streisand and Piers Morgan spontaneously planned on his show one evening.  The object was to come up with a list of individuals, living or dead, whom Ms. Streisand would like to have at a dinner party.  Her guests included founding fathers and American Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, physicist Albert Einstein, artists Gustav Klimt and Edward Hopper, and entertainer Fannie Brice.  While I thought Jefferson and Ms. Brice (whom Streisand played in the movie Funny Girl) would have been interesting dinner companions, none of Barbra’s list would have landed in my own stack of embossed invitations.

(Actually Babs, your party sounds like a big old yawn!)

Who would I have invited?  Please read on.

I am inviting eight guests to my soiree who will be carefully assigned into four couples, as well as a ninth young lady who will be my date for the evening.

Seated at Table One will be Michelle Obama and Abraham Lincoln.  I’m sure that these powerful social activists will have much to discuss in the far-reaching field of equality.  Poor Abe will probably be shocked at how far we have come in areas such as gender equality and sexual orientation, and as for racial equality, well, the presence of Mrs. Obama in a non-servant role will speak to that quite nicely.

Table Two will be the fun table.  Benjamin Franklin will be pitting his charming colonial wit against the bawdy repartee of Mae West – and Poore Richard’s Almanack will never be the same!  Something tells me that Dr. Franklin will enjoy the evening immensely and may well come up and see Miss West again  - and again!

The older twosome at Table Three will be Dame Agatha Christie and Ho Chi Minh.    It is unlikely that these contemporaries ever met in life, but I suspect that they would have been pleasantly cordial to one another.  Both were crafty strategists who, like the best of chess masters, could plot many moves ahead.  At some point during the evening I would slip over to their table and engage Uncle Ho in conversation about his passion for feeding the fish in the lake by his little house in Hanoi.  I suspect he might enjoy hearing about my love of feeding the birds.

I also want to make a personal swing by Table Four where Rachel Maddow will be dining with Jesus Christ – because I want some personal assurance that the vile and vindictive Christ that has been foisted on the world by fundamentalist Christians has no basis in historical fact.  Then I will go back to my own table and and let Rachel get to the bottom of that resurrection story.

In fact, I will be in a hurry to get back to my table – and you would be too if you were sitting across from Cher!  And if she can’t make it or backs out at the last minute, Tina Turner will be waiting in the wings!

That, Babs, is how you plan a fantasy dinner party! 

Gustav Klimt, indeed!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a menu to prepare.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Corporate Faith Healing

by Pa Rock
Struggling Recuperator

Day by day it becomes clearer to me that the biggest obstacle to healing is the billing practices of doctors and hospitals.  Nature and modern medicine will take care of the body's needs, if stress and worry can be held at bay.  Unfortunately, in today's world,  doctors and hospitals are rabid dogs intent on getting their money before the patient dies, lawyer's up, or gives all of his or her resources to some other nefarious medical provider.

I am so sick and tired of medical bills.

Today I received a bill from the hospital where my surgery was performed.  I chose the hospital for the angiogram which ultimately led to the surgery.  I did not choose it for the surgery, but had it selected for me by the physician who did the angiogram and whom I learned later is on the board of directors of the hospital.  At the time I thought it was an independent community hospital and made no objections to being directed into their care.

Today I received a bill from that hospital saying that I owed a few pennies less than $180.00.  There was absolutely no explanation on the bill as to what it was for.  The bill stated that the original amount was nearly $6,000, insurance had paid nearly $1,300, and the rest, minus my $180 had been written off.

The bill said that my hospital was an affiliate of a company in Birmingham, Alabama (so much for community).  I called the toll-free number and talked to a very polite young man.  He said that he could take my money over the phone and email a receipt - and he could also send a detailed accounting of the bill by regular mail, but not by email.  The kid (okay, he was a really young man) told me, in answer to a very direct question, that he was based in San Antonio, Texas, with a company that owned Baptist Hospitals - of which my hospital was one.

So, not only did I not get to choose where I had major surgery - it was not in a community hospital, but in a conglomerate creature that is based either in Birmingham or San Antonio and is run by Baptists.  Freakin' Baptists!

I guess I'm getting better because my blood's really starting to pump!

And the Baptists have their $180 - Praise Jesus!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Bad Religion

by Pa Rock
Praise Leader

Once, a few years ago, I had my feelings hurt when I tried to access this blog from a computer at a business center at a U.S. Army hotel in Seoul, South Korea.  I was denied access because the hotel’s computer god had arbitrarily decided that the Ramble contained “hate speech.”  That set me to doing some serious soul-searching, and I eventually acquitted myself of the heinous charge.

It is true that I have been less that complimentary of certain politicians over the years, particularly Arizona politicians – but my rants against those desert desperadoes and degenerates have never been based on race, gender, sexual orientation or hat size.   They just do such strange things and beg to be talked about on slow news days.  Hell, entire magazines could be published on Jan Brewer and Joe Arpaio – weekly magazines!

But I don’t think that I hate.  I don’t even like hate.

I have a friend – and he is a friend at some level – a man who used to be a neighbor.  He and his wife lived close by when I was a resident of the trailer park here in Arizona.  At that time they were medically retired with serious health and money issues.  They were also heavily involved in a Christian church.    I also suspected that he had some issues with our country having a black President.

After I moved to Okinawa, my friend added me to his email distribution list and I learned just how far over-the-edge he had slipped.   He was suddenly referring to President Obama as a “socialist” and bellyaching that Obamacare was going to destroy the country - that from an individual who was completely dependent on government-funded health care.  While I strongly suspected that my friend’s irrational hatred of the President was based in racial prejudice, I wasn’t absolutely convinced until recently when I received an email from him with a photograph of a middle-aged black man with tattoos, wild hair, and glazed eyes.  The accompanying text said that it was an actual photograph of Trayvon Martin and that the photographs put out by the media were several years old.

 In other words, the kid’s image had been cleaned up considerably by the liberal, mainstream media.

In other words, he deserved to be shot.  He was black, wasn’t he?

My friend from the trailer park isn’t a bad person.  He and his wife showed me many kindnesses while we were neighbors, including feeding me lunch the day that I found out that my father had died.  But he does have some issues related to how he feels about people whose race is different than his own– and I feel like much of that prejudice is rooted in his church.

Now the “fair and balanced” television network is bleating on and on about how dangerous it is to tolerate Muslims in America.  What constituency are they appealing to?  A recent United States Vice-President bragged about his desire to turn mosques into cathedrals.  Whose votes was he pursuing?  A congressman on Long Island is currently using the Boston Marathon bombings as an excuse to call for more government surveillance of Muslim communities in America.  What message is he trying to deliver?

It’s all hate, and it’s all firmly based in religion, and its all ultimately about status, money, and power.

As John D. Rockefeller once famously said, “Let us prey.”

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Fins to the Left, Fins to the Right

by Pa Rock

Our lives are built around routines, and my routines have undergone a substantive change since the heart surgery last month.    No longer do I come home and sort through the junk mail while vegging out in front of the television – for now my junk mail has been washed aside by an unrelenting tide of pesky medical bills.

So far they aren’t enormous  - just constant and constantly bothersome.   Every day I receive anywhere from one to four bills from the hospital or individual doctors indicating that although somebody will ultimately be expected to pay thousands, I am, at this time, required to pay tens of dollars.  So I sit down at the kitchen table and write a handful of small checks and hope that will be enough to keep the wolves from the door until I win the lottery.

Here is how I think it works – and it scares me.  Hospitals and other medical providers intentionally inflate their bills knowing that insurance companies will refuse to pay beyond certain limits.  In the event that the insurance companies don’t pay at all, the patients get charged at the inflated rates.  Patients don’t have the insurance company’s abilities to negotiate payments.

That’s how I think it works.

Here is something else that I have learned.

I became eligible for Medicare seventeen days before my surgery.  I applied for and received Medicare Part A which covers hospital stays – unless the patient is still working.  And that is a big “unless.”  If I wasn’t working, Medicare would have covered 100 % of my medical expenses – but my insurance has deductibles.  I have been told that Medicare will jump in and serve as a secondary insurance, but I’ll believe that when the bills quit coming.

Meanwhile, I feel as though there is blood in the mailbox  – with fins to the left, fins to the right – and I’m the only bait in town.

With apologies to Jimmy Buffett.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Putting Faces to Victims

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The terrifying reality of the bombings at the Boston Marathon becomes even more horrific as we begin to hear the individual stories of the victims, people who were out doing nothing more than enjoying an afternoon in the sun and celebrating Patriot's Day and the end of a great race.

My grandson, Sebastian, attends the Buttercup Pre-School in Salem, Oregon.  One of the staff members at that school had a "niece and nephew" who were at the finish line in Boston when the first bomb went off, and yesterday that teacher sent home an update.  Her relatives, Adam and Adrianne Davis, both received serious injuries.  Adam, an Air Force Captain, had just returned safely from a tour in Afghanistan, and received shrapnel wounds to his leg from the Boston bomb.   Adrianne, a dance instructor with Arthur Murray studios, lost part of her foot in the blast and her foot had to be amputated.

Actually, that is more information than was contained in yesterday's memo to Buttercup parents.  I learned the rest in a long and emotional interview with the two victims on National Public Radio this afternoon.  It's a tale steeped in irony and sadness.  A military man who managed to avoid IEDs for months in a war zone comes home and is injured in a roadside blast - and a woman who taught others how to glide across a ballroom floor will now have to re-learn how to walk on her own.


That question needs to be answered.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Alone Again, Naturally

by Pa Rock
Solitary Being

This morning I took my daughter, Molly, and her daughter, Willow, to Sky Harbor Airport here in Phoenix for their flight back to Oregon - thus ending my longest continuous visit with other humans in many years.   Company began arriving on March 17th in preparation for my heart surgery on March 19th, and from that day to this someone has been here with me on a continuous basis.  It has been a reassurance and a blessing to know that so many cared enough to give up time with their own families to come out to Arizona and look after me.

Tim actually started the process when he travelled to Arizona in late February to be with me during the angiogram - the event that foretold the surgery.  Molly came out on March 17th to be here the week of the surgery.  My sister, Gail, surprised us by showing up the night before the surgery.  I know that she was good company for Molly while I was out of it.  Gail had to leave two days later.  Nick came out on my birthday (March 23rd) and joined Molly and me at the hospital.  Molly left the next day - and Nick stayed a week.  He was the one who drove me home.  Gail followed Nick out for two weeks, and Molly and Willow were here for a week after her.

And now they are all gone.

I am back at work, driving, and feeling much healthier in many respects.  I don't recommend heart surgery to anyone, but if you have to undergo it, try to make sure that you have a good support team in place.  It makes all the difference in the world!

Thank you, Team Macy.  I love you all!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Bambi May Get the Last Laugh

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I'm not a big fan of celebrity news or infotainment, but I'll make an exception to that policy when it comes to all of the drama that is swirling around the Today Show.    Last summer fifteen-year veteran Ann Curry was "promoted" off of the show (fired), while her prissy co-host, Matt Lauer, was not only retained, but given a $25 million per year contract.  The show's executive producer reportedly  referred to his effort to usher Curry off of the program as "Operation Bambi" because he was told that firing her would be akin to "killing Bambi."

My friend Carla and I visited the Today Show on a bitterly cold morning in January of 2009.  We were part of the audience standing outside waving at the cameras, waiting patiently for the staff to come out and visit with us.  Ann came out and was quite charming - talking to everyone.  Meredith Vieira also visited with each member of the crowd.  Someone asked her about her shoes, and she kicked her heel up above her head to give the crowd a good view of the foot gear in question.  Then Matt Lauer came out, tightly wrapped head-to-toe, grunted a couple of times to one of the cameramen, and hurried back inside.  Lauer did not speak to any of the mere mortals.  He was a real prima donna.

News out this week is that NBC is looking at perhaps "promoting" Matt Lauer off of the Today Show and replacing him with Anderson Cooper.  In my opinion, it couldn't happen to a nicer guy.  Apparently Lauer's fallback position may be to host Jeopardy when Alex Trebek retires.

Matt, I'll take Effete Intellectual Snobs for fifty.

Score one for Bambi.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Boston Terrorists Are Taken Down

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The nation has been transfixed today watching events unfold in Boston as federal, state, and local police brought highly effective combined efforts to bear in killing one of the two Boston Marathon bombers and capturing the other.  Superior police work brought resolution of the catastrophic terrorist bombing in a mere five days.  It was amazing!

The bombers were apparently two young Chechen brothers who have been residing in the United States for the past decade.  While their motives are not yet clear, the capture of the younger brother, aged nineteen, leaves open the probability that much will soon be known as to why the brothers unleashed hell on the runners and spectators in Boston last Monday.

Chechnya is a Russian Republic that has seen been the source of some horrendous terrorism in Russia over the past decade.  There is nothing as of yet to indicate that the massacre in Boston was rooted in ethnic or religious strife in Chechnya.

(I was in Russia fourteen years ago this month.  One of the scariest moments of that trip occurred as a group of us were getting on our hotel elevator in Moscow after dinner one evening.  As the elevator door was preparing to close, a nicely dressed young man got on.  He was immediately followed on to the elevator and confronted by another nicely dressed young man.  They held the doors open as they began yelling at one another.  Both were angry enough that we expected weapons to be drawn.  The encounter continued for a couple of minutes before one of the men exited.    Our Russian guide who was also on the elevator told us later that the two young men were "Chechen gangsters.")

But that was fourteen years ago - and Boston is now.

Good work, Boston - and God Bless!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Gun Lobby Bullies Another Win

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Ninety percent of Americans favor stronger background checks for persons purchasing guns, yet the United States Senate continues to ignore the pronounced will of the majority.  Yesterday most Democrats and even a few Republicans in the Senate voted for stronger background checks, but sponsors of the bill were unable to garner the sixty votes necessary to move the legislation forward.

The American gun lobby flexed its muscle and its money, and the will of the people was thwarted.

Kudos to Arizona Republican Senator John McCain who bucked his party and the gun lobby to vote for the better background checks.  McCain, who often folds on hot-button issues, stood tall on this one. Three other Republicans joined him in the sudden burst of moral fortitude:  Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Mark Kirk of Illinois, and Susan Collins of Maine.

Unfortunately, four cowardly Democrats voted with the remaining Republicans to keep it easy for criminals and insane people to purchase firearms.  Those sniveling Democrats were Max Baucus of Montana, Mark Begich of Alaska, Mark Pryor or Arkansas, and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.  Harry Reid of Nevada also voted with the Republicans as a matter of political necessity so that he would be able to bring the bill up again later.

So Wayne LaPierre wins another one and America loses - and the body count continues unabated.  How many more massacres will it take before Congress summons the strength to listen to America?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On

by Pa Rock

I have had a troublesome physical condition for twenty years or so that, while not harmful, is generally annoying.  My hands shake and tremble, particularly when I am anxious or under stress.  Several doctors have told me that it isn't Parkinson's - just a general tremor condition that affects some people for no particular reason.

The condition started becoming worse over the past couple of years, to the point that I would have to ask friends to assist me with fine motor things like addressing envelopes or handling glassware.   Last fall I was at a nice luncheon and managed to flip a tray full of food out of my hands and onto the carpet.

Grace under pressure.

I asked my doctor to refer me to a specialist in the hopes of finding some way to keep the condition under control.   He sent me to a neurologist who, although he was served by one of the worst run medical offices in the Phoenix metro area, did come up with pharmacological answer that completely did away with my symptoms.

It was magic.  Problem solved.

But then I had my heart surgery and came home with a bunch of new drugs - one of which was known to interact badly with my miracle-cure tremble drug.  The cardiologist told me that I would have to abandon the pill that did such a wonderful job of calming my shakes.

And guess what?  The shakes came back - with a vengeance!

This afternoon I had to visit one of the most stressful places in any community - the Department of Motor Vehicles.  My driver's license had expired while I was in the hospital, and I had to go in, take an eye test, fill out a form, pose for a picture, pay some money, and regain my legality.  The hardest part for me was, of course, filling out the form.  I took it to a tall table in the middle of a room swarming with people speaking eighteen or so different languages, most of them loudly.  I was shaking so badly that my main concern wasn't filling out the form - it was just trying to not knock the table over.

After about five minutes of printing one painful letter at a time, a good Samaritan stepped forward, took my pen, and began filling out the form for me.  The man, who appeared to be in his forties or fifties, told me that his father had a similar condition.  He asked me each question on the form and then carefully printed my answers.

I never even got the fellow's name - but I won't forget him.  That small act of kindness will stay with me and will hopefully be paid forward again and again.

Thanks, buddy.  You made my day!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Can People be Born Evil?

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

There was an interesting response today to an old posting that I made regarding spree killer Levi King.  Levi was convicted of killing a total of five people in Missouri and Texas, and both states sentenced him to life in prison.  I argued that Levi received an appropriate sentence because the death penalty is a flawed concept, and much of who Levi is today is the result of his environment while growing up.  In many respects, he was channeled into who he ultimately became by forces that were largely beyond his control.

The person responding to my post said, in part:  "People CAN be born evil, and he (Levi) and his father are examples of that"

Levi's crimes were heinous.   He committed five murders calmly, in cold blood, and showed little remorse.    Yes, he is a killer, and his crimes were awful beyond measure.  And no, I wouldn't want to see him set free and living next door to one of my grandkids.   But I believe that given a different set of circumstances growing up, Levi King could have been a positive and productive member of society.

No one is born evil - regardless of how comfortable it makes one feel to think so.

I also believe that capital punishment does nothing but soothe the bloodlust of vengeful people.  There is absolutely no reputable research to show that it deters crime.  The only thing the death penalty does is make angry people feel better.  Right now the United States and Japan are the only two modern industrial nations in the world that use capital punishment, and Japan is quickly backing away from the practice.

In America we value our guns and our vengeance - and seem eager to conflate both with religion.  But vengeance isn't ours.   God needs to handle vengeance, and the rest of us should concentrate on helping each other.  If a few more people had stepped forward to help Levi King as he was growing up, he wouldn't be where he is today.

Babies are born innocent.  Society imparts the evil.