Thursday, May 24, 2018

Free Speech in the Time of Trump

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Acceptable speech in Donald Trump's America falls generally into one category:  speech that glorifies him and promotes his unique value system.  Anything else is problematic - and often unpatriotic.

There have been several stories in the press within the past few days that illuminate the Trump administration's disdain of other Americans having the right to express themselves freely - as well as to have unfettered access to news regarding their government.  These stories, taken together, provide a frightening look at the evolution of a fascist state developing under the heel of a tyrannical despot.

Donald Trump has a Twitter account, one which he uses regularly and often to spew not only his personal thoughts on things, but also to announce priorities and policies that he intends to enact on behalf of the people of the United States.  And while Trump's Twitter account has millions of followers, it is also, like all Twitter accounts, open to feedback on his tweets.  Donald Trump is not a fan of feedback, especially feedback from those whom he regards as irrelevant or who fail to agree with him, so he has routinely "blocked" those problem people from following him.  This week a federal judge ruled that Trump may not block people from following his account, an account that he has been using as an extension of government.

Trump has also stirred his base with complaints about NFL players "taking a knee" during the national anthem to protest social inequalities and police abuse of black suspects.  He paints those protests as unpatriotic.  Vice President Pence recently used a wad of taxpayer cash to fly to Indianapolis for an NFL game solely so that he could rise and walk out following one of those protests.  This week NFL owners agreed to levy fines against teams whose players knelt during the national anthem at games.  Players would instead have the option of remaining in the locker room until after the playing of the national anthem had been completed.  Trump praised that decision and said that players who felt compelled to kneel should perhaps consider leaving the country.

Yesterday there was a meeting on the topic of water pollution at the Environmental Protection Agency.  Representatives of several companies with histories of water pollution were in attendance, but when reporters tried to gain admittance they were denied entry.  One reporter was even shoved out of the room by an EPA security guard.

And then there was the much ballyhooed meeting to share information with select members of Congress about Trump's outrageous claims that the FBI had a mole in his 2016 campaign.  The "select" members of Congress were Republicans - no Democrats allowed.   Even Donald Trump had trouble justifying that egregious setup, and his people finally relented and invited members of the Democratic leadership to attend as well.

Each of those incidents is concerning when viewed through a lens of free speech.  The Trump administration is working to create a situation in which its narrative represents what is real in the world, and everything else is fake news.  The truth is that which emanates from the White House, and everything else is just noise -  and often it is seditious noise.

When the flow of public information is controlled to the point where the public is denied knowledge about much of what its government is doing, "news" becomes little more than propaganda.   As this administration struggles to control what we know and how we think, true American values are circling the drain and heading for the sewer.

America was built around a package of rights, and when the right of free speech is gone, our demise as a democracy will be imminent.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Big Bad Galahad

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Spring

Rock's Roost, my little ten acres of paradise in southern Missouri is actually my second attempt as setting up a secluded retreat where I could enjoy solitude laced with the wonders of nature.  The first Rock's Roost was a smaller farm on a hillside in McDonald County, Missouri.  Both versions were home to dogs, chickens, guineas, and a goose or two.  The little farm in McDonald County also had several goats, some pot-bellied pigs, a few emus, and a large ostrich.

Normally I have had good experiences in managing and caring for the farm animals.  Predators ocasionally kill some of the livestock, particularly chickens, but, by and large, most of my experience in raising domesticated farm animals has been successful.  I have given shots, slung feed, broken ice in water bowls, cleaned nesting boxes, shoveled out coops, and even delivered a few baby goats.  My dealings with the farm animals have generally been successful with both them and me taking care to respect each other and resolve conflicts amicably.

However, there have been a couple of rough patches along the way.  The ostrich at the first Rock's Roost decided one day that he was the dominant presence on the farm, and that he was also in charge of the farmer.  He surprised me quite unexpectedly by raising his large two-toed foot to my chest and ripping my shirt off with one swift strike.  Fortunately, he did not snag any skin in that quick maneuver.  From that day on when I faced him I had a garbage pail lid in-hand which I carried and used like a Roman shield.

Now I have a peacock who also feels like everything of the farm, including the farmer, should kneel before him.  I released the peacocks last fall hoping they would adapt to being free on the farm, and for the most part that worked fine.  The birds worked the yard during the day and roosted in the trees at night.  But this one male started becoming aggressive as spring approached, and when I entered what he regarded as his territory, the big bird would lunge at me with his clawed feet in an attack position.  Eventually he began chasing me, a habit that led to his downfall when he chased me into the aviary one day and I quickly got out and locked him in.  Now he and one peahen live in captivity, while the other peacock and two peahens still roam the farm at will.

I named the caged peacock "Galahad" because the name rhymed with "bad" and I felt a limerick coming on.  He was initially fine in his resumed imprisonment - the aviary is large and opens into a big barn - but lately he has taken to raging in there whenever I am around.  A couple of days ago I took two plastic jugs of water into the barn to fill the water bowls, but before I could complete that task, Galahad rushed in and flew at me.  He managed to slice open both water jugs with his spurs, but I made an escape.  Now, whenever I have to enter the barn or the aviary, I take along my trusty Roman shield.

Galahad is a cunning opponent.  When I am in his domain he constantly circles trying to get behind me, or he leaps to a high perch so that he can plan an airborne assault.  He and I are both determined to prevail as the boss of the farm.

I am hopeful that Galahad's insurgency is hormone based and that he will calm down once mating season is over - but, should he continue his wicked, wicked ways, he may find a new home - on a holiday platter!

I hope it doesn't come to that.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Controlling Behavior Across Generations

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Today is he day that Texans go to the polls to finish their selection of candidates who will stand for their parties in the November elections.  The process began in March with "primary" elections, and today voters participate in a "runoff" process which determines each party's ultimate candidate for each office.

One race that has drawn national attention is the battle for the Republican nomination for Precinct 2 of the Dallas County Commissioners Court.   The city's major newspaper, The Dallas Morning News, had endorsed former criminal judge and health care executive Vickers "Vic" Cunningham for the post because the newspaper felt that his opponent, lawyer and businessman J. J. Koch, was "too combative and dismissive" when discussing current members of the court.  But now new information has come to light, and The Dallas Morning News has felt compelled to withdraw its endorsement of Vic Cunningham as well.

Some had accused Cunningham, the former criminal judge, of harboring racial biases, a charge which he denies - although his own mother admitted that he often used the "n-word" freely.  This week, however, the charges of racial bias were again thrust forward when it was revealed that Vic Cunningham had set up trust funds for his children, but they would only be eligible to receive disbursements from those trust funds if they married white, heterosexual Christians. 

According to The Dallas Morning News:

"Vickers “Vic” Cunningham acknowledged Friday that he set up a living trust with a clause rewarding his children if they marry a white person.
"Cunningham denied harboring racial bigotry but did confirm that his trust includes a stipulation intended to discourage a child from marrying a person of another race or of the same sex.
“'I strongly support traditional family values,' Cunningham said. 'If you marry a person of the opposite sex that’s Caucasian, that’s Christian, they will get a distribution.'"

Vic Cunningham's brother, Bill, is a gay man who is married to a black gay man.  Bill told the Dallas newspaper that his brother's "views and actions are disqualifying for anyone to hold public office in 2018.  It frightens me to death to think of people in power who could hurt people."  According to Bill Cunningham, Vic often refers to Bill's husband as "your boy."

As a former criminal judge, Vic Cunningham was responsible for sending people to prison, many of them black or Hispanic - although he adamantly denies that racial bias ever played a role in any of those sentencing decisions.    The precinct that Cunningham is running to represent is largely black and Hispanic.  Whoever wins today's Republican runoff, Mr. Cunningham or Mr. Koch, will face Democrat Wini Cannon in November, a black, female attorney.

Vic Cunningham has shown his values through a trust fund designed to control the lives and choices of his children.  Now the residents of Dallas will have the opportunity to show their values at the ballot box.

May they choose wisely.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Monday's Poetry: "Still I Rise"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Schools in America are preparing for their summer respite, the time when most classes cease and students and teachers take a break from the books for a couple of months to recoup their energies for the next year of classes.  A little down time is often a good thing, and with the continuing carnage being wrought on our country by school shootings, it is undoubtedly a psychological necessity that everyone involved in the American educational system be given time away from the center of the storm - time to take a few breaths and perhaps firm their resolve to not let this terror defeat them and destroy their hopes for the future.

In "Still I Rise" poet Maya Angelou was writing about the struggle to lift the burden or racism, but her words could also apply to the resolve that many are mustering to face down the terrors of school shootings and the inadequacies of politicians who struggle to do nothing of consequence to address the murderous violence. 

This year the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, rose up in protest after a classmate opened fire in their educational sanctuary.  Those kids, and their teachers, and their parents, lit a backfire of rage that is posing a real threat to America's gun lobby and the cadre of politicians that it has so blatantly owned for such a very long time.  May the protesters rise - and keep rising - and inspire others to rise with them until their voices become so thunderous that lawmakers will be forced to listen to the rage of the people - for a change - and place the needs of the people above those of gun manufacturers and arms dealers.


Still I Rise
by Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Accessing Civilization with Two Clicks

by Pa Rock
TV Junkie

Several months ago I tried subscribing to the channel, Brit Box, on my Roku streaming device, and the service was less than satisfactory.  The channel promised an almost unlimited supply of my two favorite television genres:  British comedy (Britcoms) and British mystery dramas.  I believe that the cost was ten dollars a month with the first week free.  It didn't take much beyond that first week for me to determine that the ten dollars could be better spent elsewhere. 

The Roku is dependent on the internet for service, and my internet signal is weak.  The two main channels that I rely on are Netflix and Prime (Amazon).  Some days those two run smoothly and at other times they are problematic.  Brit Box, however, proved to always be a challenge, with it taking up to two or three hours to successfully view a one-hour program.   After a couple of frustrating weeks of trying to view the channel, I gave up and cancelled the subscription.

Recently I discovered that Prime is now carrying Brit Box within its programming services.  The cost is seven dollars a month - with the first week free.    I decided to try it again and was able to access the service with only two clicks.  Much to my delight, the service is flawless - and I now have a backlog of entertainment that will more than likely outlast my viewing needs.

Last night after completing the first season of The Inspector Lynley Mysteries, I spent some time sorting through the other offerings - and came across another jewel.  Last of the Summer Wine is a British comedy that ran an astounding thirty-seven years (1973-2010), the longest running television comedy in histtory - in any country!  The characters are a group of rascally senior citizens who have a series of unending oddball adventures in a quaint village in Yorkshire.  I became acquainted with this posse of aging delinquents when I was living in Phoenix and would watch their adventures every Saturday night on PBS, but their humor apparently did not translate well in the Ozarks where the local PBS station failed to carry the show.

In fact, none of the streaming channels carried Last of the Summer Wine - or at least that is what I thought until I found one offering through Brit Box.  It has a collection of twenty-seven Last of the Summer Wine Christmas episodes.  I watched the first one last night, and it felt as though I was spending an evening wrapped in the warmth and comfort of old friends - very funny old friends!

After a day of digging rocks out of the ground with a pick-axe, it was a wonderful way to unwind and relax in such good company.  Civilization, it would seem, is now as close as the remote control.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

NRA Political All Stars Respond to Texas School Shooting

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Yesterday was another sad day in America as nine students and one substitute teacher were killed in a high school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas.  Ten other students were wounded in the attack.  A student shooter was arrested and is being held without bail.  This was the second mass shooting in Texas since last November when twenty-seven individuals were killed at a church service in Sutherland Springs.

The shooting at Santa Fe High School brought quick responses from national leaders with Donald Trump having this to say:

"We grieve for the terrible loss of life, and send our support and love to everyone affected by this horrible attack in Texas. To the students, families, teachers and personnel at Santa Fe High School – we are with you in this tragic hour, and we will be with you forever..."

And Mike Pence adding this:

"This is another heartbreaking day for students and parents in Santa Fe and all across the Nation. I promise you this: We will not rest, we will not relent until we end this evil in our time and we make our schools safe again."

Texas Senator Ted Cruz checked in with this bit of Lone Star fluffery:

To the people of Santa Fe: "You are, right now, being lifted up at this instant in prayers by millions of people across Texas, across the country and across the world." 

And the other U.S. Senator from Texas, the one who doesn't showboat twenty-seven, John Cornyn, added this to the conversation:

"Briefed by law enforcement in Santa Fe this afternoon on the ongoing investigation of today’s tragic shooting. Grateful to local, state, and federal officials for their work. Ready to assist in any way we can."

Texas Governor Greg Abbott immediately sprang into action with this bold announcement:

"Texas flags across the state are being lowered to half-staff in memory of those who lost their lives in the school shooting at Santa Fe High School today."

Governor Abbott also announced that he would be calling a "round table" of stakeholders to convene in Austin on Monday to begin discussing ways to prevent future school shootings in his state.  His stakeholders will include students, teachers, school administrators, parents, law enforcement officials, and representatives of the gun industry.  Abbott's haste to begin addressing the matter was seen by some as a way to get out in front of possible student protests such as those that arose after the shooting in February at the high school in Parkland, Florida.

Five important Republican politicians rushed to tweet their rage and sorrow yesterday - and to make vague promises of addressing the situation with some nebulous and undefined future action on their parts, presumably actions that would in no way impair their constituents' god-given right to keep and bear arms.

And it's good they are talking, even if it is obvious that they won't be saying much of consequence - especially with the gun industry looking over their shoulders and keeping its trigger finger on their political purse strings.

But there will be talk - and talk is important.  Perhaps if those same five individuals would have begun that conversation two weeks ago (to the day) when they were all gathered in Dallas, Texas, to speak at the National Rifle Association convention, they could have come up with some grand idea then that would have averted yesterday's disaster - but that convention wasn't about saving lives - it was about selling guns.

Governor Greg Abbott, the outraged Texan who is calling a stakeholders' meeting to address the topic of school shootings, is also a ferocious proponent of gun sales  In October of 2015 he tweeted this gem:

"I'm EMBARRASSED: Texas #2 in nation for new gun purchases, behind CALIFORNIA. Let's pick up the pace Texans."

Yeehaw, good buddy!  I'm sure with that in-depth understanding and response to the problem, Texas will be able to end the plague of mass shootings in no time.  Keep those flags flying, Governor - you're going to need them!

Friday, May 18, 2018

Alternatives to Trump's Folly

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Donald Trump was in France last year and had the opportunity to view that country's famous Bastille Day parade, and he was so impressed with the show of military might that he came home whining that he wanted his own military parade.  And if Daddy Warbucks wanted a parade, the Pentagon was damned sure going to give him one.

Plans were developed to have a massive military parade in Washington, DC, on Veteran's Day - November 11, 1918 - a date which also happens to be the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I - the "war to end wars."  So, in one fell swoop, members of our military and much of their equipment would be marshaled into a show of strength to honor our armed forces, past and present, commemorate the end of the First World War, and glorify a political leader who never served in the military.

It was all good!

The cost for this big show has progressed through various rising estimations to a price tag that is currently somewhere north of fifty million dollars.  The colossal cost of the endeavor has encouraged a few quarrelsome individuals to begin suggesting better ways that money could be spent.

Two particular areas where the government has fallen short in responding to the needs of American citizens have been receiving attention of late, particularly when presented in contrast to the proposed costs of the parade.  One critical need is the dangerous drinking water situation in Flint, Michigan,  a travesty that has already impacted the health and lives of thousands and will require countless millions to fix.    Another is the continuing harmful impact of last year's deadly hurricane in Puerto Rico.  Parts of that United States territory have been without power for the entire past year, and many homes, buildings, and segments of critical infrastructure are still in need of rebuilding or repair.

There is a growing demand that the money being budgeted for Trump's military parade be redirected to help Americans in critical need, particularly the citizens of Flint, Michigan, and Puerto Rico.  And if the intent of the parade truly was to honor veterans and active-duty service members - rather than just to massage Donald Trump's ego - wouldn't it be wonderful if members o those groups could be sent in to help restore safe drinking water to Flint and to assist in the recovery of Puerto Rico?    Wouldn't that say more about American greatness than a couple of miles of rolling hardware and service men and women marching in formation?

America doesn't need a parade - it needs a work day!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Trump's Animals

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Donald Trump was wallowing in his element yesterday as he hosted a meeting of California office-holders and officials who were unhappy with their state's policies and laws that give sanctuary to undocumented workers.   Trump, who has a long history of inciting low-information American voters with racist attacks on immigrants, roared his disgust at the desperate peoples who cross into the United States from Mexico:

"You wouldn't believe how bad these people are.   These aren't people.  These are animals!"

That abhorrent remark came from the mouth of the same Donald Trump who paid a million dollar labor fine for using undocumented Polish workers in 1980 to tear down the building where his golden Trump Tower now stands in New York City.  He didn't provide those workers with basic safety equipment, and, in many cases, paid them less than half of what union workers would have been paid.  At other times he blatantly benefited off of the labors of undocumented workers while hiding behind the ruse of "sub-contractors," or third-parties who hired the undocumented workers for Trump.

They're "animals" and they are coming from "shithole" countries, and if Donald John Trump can make money or votes off of them, he will.  Trump loves his animals - he even married a couple of them.


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

America Buckles Under Trump

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Donald Trump marched into office sixteen months ago with promises to make America great again, despite the assurances of many that the country he sought to uplift was already great.  They argued that many of the things he sought to change were what made America great in the first place.  But resistance be damned.  Trump and his toadies in Congress were going to make monumental changes in America, whether Americans wanted them or not.

Trump rolled into Washington vowing to give more money and resources to the military.  He would increase the pay of service members, falsely claiming that that they had not received salary increases in years, and provide the latest in technology and weaponry.   The "military-industrial complex" that Eisenhower had warned us about, would flourish under Trump.  In fact, the United States military would become so grand that Trump would command a $30 million parade to show it and himself off to the envious world.

And Trump would take care of the wealthy benefactors who fed his ego and owned Congress.  At his urging Congress would pass a tax bill that would provide permanent tax relief to America's wealthiest individuals and their corporations - and a pittance of temporary tax relief to those of more modest means.

But those military expenditures and giant tax cuts promised to drive the deficits into the stratosphere - and Republicans don't like deficits.  After filling their goody baskets, Trump and his sycophants in Congress turned to finding ways to "claw back" spending - and, in the process, change some social priorities. 

Things like health insurance became an issue.  Republicans are not opposed to the idea of health insurance, and many of them are quite well insured - thank you very much.  What they are opposed to is the idea of tax dollars being used for health insurance - particularly insurance that does not benefit them directly.   Obamacare was a target, and the partisan knives came out to whittle down or eliminate the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in which the federal government gives grants to the states to help insure children who were born into families of modest means.  What was once seen as Christian benevolence was now being interpreted as ungrateful beggars taking advantage of god-fearing taxpayers.

Medicare was also maligned by the new administration, but it has had fifty years to take root into the social fabric of America and was seen as a much tougher target to eliminate.  Many members of Congress had parents and grandparents who were dependent of the services of Medicare and the income of Social Security.

While the elderly posed a formidable constituency for the protection of Medicare and Social Security, programs designed primarily to benefit the poor lacked the same legions of voting supporters.  CHIP was a viable target, as was school meals, food stamps, and even Medicaid.  Great savings could be had with little or no political risk.

And then there was "greatness" to be achieved by cutting programs that were seen as primarily benefiting elite (or at least "small') groups - things like public radio and public television and AmTrak, the nation's passenger rail system.  There were also those in the new government who considered the National Park System to be a luxury that the government could not afford.  Admissions to the parks began to rise, and some public lands and monuments were being cut back in size and opened to exploitation by corporate interests.

Free public education had always been seen as a problem to some elements of American society - particularly those who spent extra to send their children to private schools in the hope that would keep them separate from and socially above the masses.  Some regarded the nineteenth and twentieth century moves toward compulsory public education as little more than a strategy to remove child workers from the factories and give a leg up to the union movement.  The new administration brought in a Secretary of Education who had an agenda for moving tax dollars away from public schools and into the more exclusive world of private and charter schools.  Public schools were to be starved into submission, and sooner or later America's impoverished children could find their way back into the workforce - and labor unions could sink into the tar pits of history.   

Trump's vision of American greatness also included demonizing immigrants and racial, ethnic, and religious minorities - as well as giving cover to white nationalist and nativist movements, promoting a well-armed society, and appointing a cadre of federal judges who would keep the country looking backward for at least another full generation.

And infrastructure?   There may be no new roads and bridges, but our government will be filling potholes with a vengeance!  How great is that!

If Trump and the GOP Congress pile much more "greatness" on America, our tired old bridges won't be the only things in danger of collapsing - and Mexico may indeed pay for the damned wall - to keep us out!

All of this  "greatness" is going to come with a price.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Minor Victory for Greitens

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Missouri Governor Eric Greitens, a Republican, has finally had some good news.  The young political dynamo who once harbored presidential ambitions has been in the news, and not in a good way, since January when it was revealed that he had had an affair with his hairdresser, and an allegation was made that he had duct-taped the woman, semi-nude, to some exercise equipment in  his basement and took a photograph of her.  Then the aspiring politician supposedly threatened to make the photo public if she ever revealed their affair.

Today prosecutors in St. Louis dropped one of two felony charges against Greitens, the one related to the photo - a charge of invasion of privacy - apparently because the prosecution team was never able to acquire the photograph in question.   Greitens gushed to the press that he had been "vindicated."

The other felony count still pending for Greitens involves his alleged personal use of a donor list to a veteran's charity that he founded.  It remains.  Also, there is a chance that the dropped charge could be refiled in the future.

This Friday the Missouri Legislature will begin a thirty-day session to study the questionable conduct of the state's governor, a process that could result in his impeachment and ultimate removal from office. 

Many in the state's Republican political leadership regard Greitens as a liability and a distraction - and many also feel that his continued presence in office will negatively impact the campaign of the state's new attorney general, Josh Hawley, as he struggles to defeat Claire McCaskill for her Senate seat.  McCaskill had been thought to be very vulnerable this election cycle, but the most recent polling shows her maintaining a four-point lead over Hawley. 

While few doubt that Eric Greitens is already political toast, the tenacity with which he clings to the governorship may be key to keeping McCaskill in the Senate - and that makes Republicans, both state and national, all the more anxious to see him go.

Even with the minor court victory in St. Louis, life for Eric Greitens can't be much fun - especially without his duct tape!

Monday, May 14, 2018

"Great Day" for Israel as Dozens are Killed and Hundreds Wounded

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Today marks the end of the long-standing effort by the United States and other nations to find a two-state solution to Israel's continuing conflict with its Palestinian neighbors.  The Trump administration, by moving the official U.S. Israeli embassy to Jerusalem, a city which both Israelis and the Palestinians claim as their capital, has officially and very publicly sided with Israel in the decades-old debate.

The Palestinians obviously are not happy with this turn of events, and today many have joined in protests as they tried to broach the fence and barriers that Israel has erected in an attempt to control their lives and activities.   Israel, never a country to take the insubordination of their subordinate neighbors lightly, opened fire on the protesters.  At latest count, forty-six Palestinians have been killed and more than 1,700 have been wounded. 

Donald Trump has tweeted that its a "great day" for Israel, and he has encouraged his fellow Americans to watch the festivities surrounding the embassy opening live on Fox News.  It's a really big deal - Ivanka is there!

Here is Trump's taunt tweet:

"U.S. Embassy opening in Jerusalem will be covered live on @FoxNews & @FoxBusiness. Lead up to 9:00 A.M. (eastern) event has already begun. A great day for Israel!"

Some commentators on fair and balanced Fox News have been referring to this embassy move as a "fulfillment of Biblical prophecy."

So it's a great day for Israel, one ordained by God and Donald John Trump.  Palestinians, of course, are likely to have a different perspective.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Mother's Day at River Bend

by Pa Rock
Admirer of Moms

My sister, Gail, called Friday evening and announced that she would be paying me a visit the following afternoon.  Gail's visits are few and far between, so her sudden announcement stirred Rosie and I to clean the house - kinda, sorta.  Last night we had dinner at one of my favorite restaurants in West Plains, and today we hit a few flea markets in Hardy, Arkansas.  Then, on the way back home we stopped at the beautiful River Bend Restaurant in Mammoth Spring, Arkansas.  Having forgotten that it was Mother's Day, we were quite surprised by the size of the crowd waiting to be served.  We were seated quickly, considering the size of the crowd, but the wait for the food was over an hour.  Needless to say, we were good and hungry by the time the grub arrived.

I'm not sure why Gail managed to grace me with a Mother's Day visit, but I am glad that she did.  Gail is my only sibling, nearly three years younger than myself.  She has four grown kids and a passel of grandchildren, and I have three adult children and my own passel of grandkids.

Happy Mother's Day to moms everywhere - particularly my sister, Gail, my daughter, Molly, and my daughter-in-law, Erin.    There is no harder work anywhere - and the pay sucks - but the love and happiness generated by caring mothers lasts a lifetime - and beyond!   You ladies, as well as the millions of other moms who work tirelessly to insure the future of our civilization, are truly angels.  May your energy and love stretch across countless generations!

Saturday, May 12, 2018

TSA and Turbans

by Pa rock
Citizen Journalist

Navdeep Bains is a Sikh Canadian who serves as his country's Minister of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development - and, as a devout adherent to his religion, he wears a turban.   The turban is a sign of his faith.  This week Mr. Bains related to a Canadian newspaper the story of how he had been harassed at the Detroit, Michigan, airport last year as he was trying to return to Canada following a meeting with some American politicians.  

TSA officials were insistent that Mr. Bains remove his turban as a part of their passenger screening process, something he declined to do.  Finally, and reluctantly, Mr. Bains used his diplomatic passport to leverage his entry onto the plane.  The Canadian diplomat felt that he should not have had to play the diplomatic card, and that he should have been shown a basic courtesy related to his religious beliefs and not because of who he was. 

Some might argue that tolerance of ethnic, cultural, and even religious differences is diminishing under the current administration - and some would be right.  I have told this story here before, but it deserves repeating.  Several years ago, during the height of the Obama administration, I was traveling through Portland, Oregon, and had an interesting encounter at the Portland Airport (PDX).   One of the TSA officials that I encountered was wearing a turban.  I remember the fellow as being expedient and very pleasant - far above the standard for TSA even at that time.

When tolerance is alive and well in the White House, it is more likely to filter down to every level of government, but when the White House is a bastion of intolerance, petty bureaucrats and fiefdoms flourish and we are all more likely to treated like problem children as we try to go about our daily lives.

Diversity makes us stronger - and better.

Friday, May 11, 2018

RWNJs and Performative Cruelty

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Arizona's volcanic senator, John McCain, may not be long for this world, but that doesn't mean he is done erupting.  He made news earlier this week when his new book noted that the senator considered his choice of Sarah Palin to be his 2008 running mate to have been a "mistake" - a remark that Palin conceded was a "gut-punch" - and those fighting Palin's obviously know their "gut-punches!"  Then McCain turned his ire on Donald Trump and had his family announce that Trump would not be welcome at his funeral, although George W. Bush and Barack Obama would be.

And finally McCain grabbed a few more headlines when he commented on Trump's nominee to head the CIA, Gina Haspel, and noted that her refusal to label torture of prisoners as "immoral" disqualified her  to run the spy agency.  McCain, a former long-term prisoner of war who was tortured on numerous occasions by the North Vietnamese, is an expert witness when it comes to torture.  The poor man knows what he is talking about.  (Torture often provides false or inaccurate information because the person being abused is so anxious for the pain to end that he will say what he believes his captors want to hear - whether it is true or not.  And when a country utilizes torture, it has ceded the moral high ground and created a situation where enemies will feel justified in using it as well.  Using torture on our foes makes it inevitable that they will use it on our own people as well.)

So John McCain is against the use of torture - and he is against Gina Haspbel heading the Central Intelligence Agency because of her refusal to call the practice out as immoral.   And in normal times Americans would respect the rights of a dying man to get a few things off of his chest.

But these are not normal times.  Today we are living in a world where rage, intolerance, and even ridicule seem to be the standards through which discourse is filtered.  When the President of the United States rants and raves, sometimes in almost total incoherence, and even stoops to mocking people with disabilities, is it any wonder that civility so quickly lands in the crapper.

There have been a couple of outrageous responses to McCain's opposition to the Haspel nomination, both modeled on what a writer at Daily Kos referred to as Trump's "performative cruelty."  First, in a nod to Trump's penchant for name-calling and lying, retired Air Force Lt. General (and birther) Thomas McInerney said on Fox Business yesterday that torture works - "It worked on John McCain.  That's why they call him 'Songbird John'."  A claim that is as preposterous as it is false.  Fox announced after the interview that the network will no longer be using the analytic services of McInerney.

And then a relatively unknown White House aide, Kelly Sadler, grabbed her piece of the limelight when she announced in a staff meeting that McCain's opposition to the Haspel nomination didn't matter because he's "dying anyway."  Sadler's remark pissed off McCain's wife Cindy to a point that she felt compelled to respond on Twitter reminding the crude Sadler that McCain has a family - seven kids and five grandchildren - apparently none of whom were amused by Sadler's ugly remark.  So far there has been no word of any official reprimand of Kelly Sadler.

But the McCain family should not take any of this disparagement personally.  It is all just "performative cruelty" in the style and manner of the world's greatest showman - Donald John Trump.  And even after Johnny Mac has left the stage, the show will go on!

God help us all.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Grassley Wants to See Some Supreme Court Retirements

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Franklin D. Roosevelt had been President less than six months when the skies opened over New Hartford, Iowa, on September 17th, 1933, and a bawling baby boy, Charles Grassley, descended upon the world.  Today Grassley, who will soon be celebrating his eighty-fifth birthday, is a United States Senator from his home state.  When Orrin Hatch leaves office in January, Grassley will become the senior Republican member of that cringe-worthy body and will become President Pro Tempore of the Senate - and thus third in line to the Presidency.   He is also the chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, a post that gives Grassley great sway in the selection of federal judges.

It is in Grassley's role as Judiciary chairman where he has been making news this week.  The still-bawling senator passes every litmus test established by his party.  He is pro-guns, anti-abortion, anti-free health care, anti-marijuana, anti-gay rights - all great positions to help him with the selection of candidates to serve life-time terms on the federal bench.

But if the Senate falls into Democratic hands, as it possibly could do this fall, Grasssley would become the ranking minority member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, a lower perch with much less influence.

Anticipating this possible pending demotion in stature and political power, Charles Grassley has begun a campaign to nudge any Supreme Court Justices who might be even remotely considering retirement to step down now so that the Republican Senate can have time to secure their replacements.  Grassley, who sat by grinning as a Republican Senate kept President Obama from filling Antonin Scalia's spot on the Supreme Court, knows full well how easily the Senate can thwart the will of the President.

It's time to drive some of those old gray dinosaurs off of the Supreme Court - and who better to do it than Tyrannosaurus Chuckie!

Enjoy your power while you still have it Senator Grassley.  Sooner or later everyone's ticket get pulled.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Trash

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Spring

The trash man comes to The Roost once a week, early on Monday mornings.  His company has a policy that sets my weekly limit at four large trash bags, but the fellow who picks mine up is an agreeable sort who always hauls off whatever I have set out.

Last week I made a project of cleaning out the hen house, the place where most of the poultry spend each night and also lounge about on hot summer days.  The coop hadn't had a good cleaning in a couple of years and was ready for a major effort on my part.  In addition to being the home for the farm fowl, I also use the hen house as a place to store stuff.   Last week's cleaning involved a fair bit of shoveling as well as some heavy lifting.


I spread the feed and litter that I scraped off of the cement floor across various parts of the yard that could use the fertilizer and a re-seeding, and some of the storage items I moved outside while I cleaned and moved them back in later.  There were, however, also some items that I needed to get rid of.  Among the treasure that hit the discard pile was some old plastic lattice board that was in good shape (once the dried chicken poop was knocked off), a small hand-built poultry cage that looked like something Snuffy Smith might use to steal chickens, and an odd lot of old electrical wire.  They were all things that I didn't want, but might be of use to someone else.

The most common way to get rid of excess "good" stuff here in the Ozarks is to have a yard sale.  People in his area love yard sales.  They love parking their cars on someone else's yard or blocking public streets while they haggle the price of a used tee-shirt down from a quarter to fifteen cents.  Not wanting to host a circus for pocket change, I opted instead for Plan B.

I've written about this method of getting rid of stuff before.  I set all of my excess goods out by the road in an artistic pile, and put up a sign that says "Free."  If there's one thing that my neighbors like better than bragging about Trump or putting cars up on blocks in their front yards, it's getting "free" stuff.  In no time at all my trash became somebody else's treasure.   Somebody even took the sign, figuring, I suppose, that it said "free" so why not?

A few years ago I put some aluminum windows that were designed to go in a trailer house out by the road with a "free" sign.  I found them stored in the barn along with lots of other "stuff" that the previous owner had decided not to take with him.  (It had value until he actually had to put some sweat into moving the mess.)  Those windows caused a confrontation when two guys stopped at nearly the same time.  The first arrival didn't need them, but said that he had a field where he kept stuff just in case he ever did need it.  The second said that he needed them right then.  Pa Rock, the only winner in the deal, stayed out of disagreement and let the claimants sort it out.

There are times I wonder why I even pay the trash service.  I suspect that if I just put the bags out by the road with a big sign that said "free," somebody would haul them off.  Heck, I could probably even charge, say fifty cents a bag, but then I would have to stand out by the road and haggle!

Trash is not a problem - as long as you don't call it trash!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Persona Non Grata

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

As Senator John McCain prepares to meet his Maker, he seems to be getting some things off of his chest.  Johnny Mac is apparently lamenting in a new book that he wishes he had not chosen Sarah Palin as his running mate back in 2008, and had gone with one-time Democratic vice-presidential nominee Joe Lieberman instead.  Lieberman, who slowly morphed into a total Republican before he finally left his cobwebbed perch in the Senate, would have, one supposes, not been the complete distraction that Palin and her colorful family circus turned out to be for the McCain campaign.

But Sarah Palin was not the only burr under McCain's well worn horse blanket.  He is also managing to get the word out about his contempt for Donald Trump.  In particular, the crusty old Arizona senator is unhappy with Trump's demonizing of immigrants.   And he thinks that The Donald's continued braying about "fake news" is a blatant attempt to control reporters that is cast in the mode historically used by dictators and those whose power rests with the control of the press.

Johnny Mac is so offended by Trump, in fact, that he has put out the word that he does not want the golfer-in-chief to attend his funeral.   Presidential oratory will be welcome from George W. Bush (the man whose campaign once accused McCain of fathering an illegitimate black child) and Barack Obama (the man who defeated McCain in the election for President in 2008) - but Donald John Trump need not apply.  Trump is officially persona non grata at the upcoming McCain funeral - at the specific request of the corpse.

McCain has suggested that Mike Pence be sent to represent the current administration, and, one must suppose, Trump could possibly send Melania as well.    Melania attended the recent funeral for Barbara Bush, another solemn affair to which Donald Trump was also not invited.  While there, she seemed to be right at home in the company of real United States Presidents and their wives.

And while we are crafting a list of events to which Donald Trump is not welcome, let's not forget the royal wedding later this month in Great Britain.    Prince Harry, a close friend of the Obamas, invited them, but refused his government's urging to invite Trump.  The latest word is that the Obamas won't be attending either, but they, at least, were welcome at Harry and Meghan's big day - and Trump wasn't.

What a strange world we are experiencing.  It used to be that people were eager to rub elbows with the President of the United States, but today that luster seems to have turned to tarnish.  Once the presidency was symbolic of American greatness, but today it is little more than the tawdry dregs of a television reality show.

John McCain, ever the maverick, is marching into the sunset unbent - and he is right.  I wouldn't want Trump at my funeral either.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Monday's Poetry: "Water"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Early this morning a very large man on a very small backhoe showed up and began the process of connecting me to the local rural water system.  His boss, the man who owns the very small backhoe, assured me that the entire process would take "about a week," an estimate that could lengthen considerably once Ozark exaggeration is factored out of the equation.  But, I grew up in southern Missouri, and I understand the nuances of the dialect.

I currently receive my water supply from a well.   I don't trust well water for drinking, although my neighbor who grew up on my little farm swears the water is the best around.   Wells are problematic also in that they generally require maintenance at the most inopportune times.  By hooking onto rural water, my primary concern will be paying the monthly bill - with water testing and maintenance being problems that others will have to deal with.

So the big man cometh, and he diggeth.

It is likely that water may become the defining story of our current century.  As the ice caps and glaciers melt as a result of the activities of mankind, sea levels are rising and low-lying areas, places like Florida and the Louisiana bayous, face the very real threat of becoming submerged - perhaps not in my lifetime, but definitely in the days when my children and their children rule the planet.   (Note:  Washington, DC, should not be affected because it is a "high-lying" area!)  At the same time, and quite conversely, as seawater pours across the lowlands, clean drinking water is becoming harder and harder to access in some areas of the world - and, in a world economy fueled by greed, private corporations are busy buying up small and independent water companies, a reality that could prove deadly for the world's poorer populations. 

The future looks both wet and thirsty - and its coming faster than most of us realize.

With water on the brain, I chose a poem about water for this week's poetry selection.  The title, in fact, is "Water," and the poem was originally penned by 19th century philosopher and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson.  It's just a few lines that sing the praises of water -  and also warn of its destructive nature, both in the short term as well as over time.  Water may cleanse our bodies and refresh our souls, but a few drops of rain also started the trickle that eventually carved out the Grand Canyon.  It is a defining element of our lives.


Water
by Ralph Waldo Emerson


The water understands
Civilization well;
It wets my foot, but prettily,
It chills my life, but wittily,
It is not disconcerted,
It is not broken-hearted:
Well used, it decketh joy,
Adorneth, doubleth joy:
Ill used, it will destroy,
In perfect time and measure
With a face of golden pleasure
Elegantly destroy.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Nineteen

by Pa Rock
Twilight Typist

My oldest grandchild, Boone, is nineteen today.  He is finishing his freshman year of college and appears to be focused on the upcoming challenges of being a sophomore.  He also has a job, and a car, and a girlfriend - all very necessary parts of being nineteen.

When I turned nineteen way back in 1967, I was also finishing my first year of college.  My grades weren't as good as Boone's, though my social life was possibly better.  I didn't have a car, but did possess a little Honda 50 motorbike that I used to tool around Springfield and get back and forth to my job - which was at a movie theatre.  There was no girlfriend - Boone's grandfather was a late-bloomer.

Life was different back in 1967.  For one thing the war in Vietnam was literally eating its way through American male youth, and those who didn't make the grade in college all to often became fodder for a "conflict" that was a world away and seemed to have no relevance to life in America.  It wasn't the glorious global crusade that our fathers had rushed forward to enjoin.

Staying in college was a survival strategy in 1967.

Today Boone has lots of options, but I hope that he will focus on staying in school until he qualifies for a profession.   Finding and holding a job today is much more difficult than it was back in my day.

The last time I heard from Boone he mentioned a possible educational venture to China this summer.  I hope that he is able to follow through on that, or at least that he remains open to traveling and experiencing what the world has to offer.   Soon after our nineteenth year responsibilities start to creep into our lives, and the opportunities that were once abundant begin disappearing.

And before you know what has happened, you're seventy and focused on blogging and mowing!

Grab life now, Boone - and enjoy it!

Much love - and a very happy nineteenth!



Saturday, May 5, 2018

God One, Ryan Zero

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

One of the most heartwarming stories of the past week occurred when House Speaker Paul Ryan, himself a Catholic, got his butt whipped and handed to him by a Jesuit priest. 

The tale began a couple of weeks ago when Paul Ryan's chief of staff, Jonathan Burks, reportedly told House Chaplain Father Patrick J. Conroy that Speaker Ryan wanted him to submit his letter of resignation.  When Father Conroy asked Ryan's step-and-fetch-it if he was being fired for cause, the errand boy replied that it was probably time the House had a chaplain who wasn't a Catholic.

Others opined that may have been the result of a prayer that Father Conroy gave to the House last November when he encouraged the members to try and ensure that all people were winners in the GOP's tax bill, a plea for charity and compassion that was not universally welcome in the House.

The priest's reluctant resignation brought about a minor revolt when some of the Catholic members of the House felt that they were being unfairly put upon by the chamber's Protestant's.  One member, himself a Southern Baptist minister, added fuel to that particular fire when he suggested that the next House Chaplain should be a "family" man - which some took as Pig Latin for "Catholics Need Not Apply."  The situation quickly got very messy.

As Father Conroy began feeling the love of some members of Congress, he decided to hire an attorney.  That move was quickly followed by a second letter from the pissed-off priest to Speaker Ryan, this one rescinding his resignation.  Ryan mulled the matter over briefly and then relented - and Father Conroy is back in charge of his House flock.

It was a well deserved win for the good guys, and one that Paul Ryan is not likely to forget any time soon.

And now that Congress is back under control, maybe God will be free to turn Her attention to the White House.

Friday, May 4, 2018

In Defense of Governor Scumbag

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The on-line publication Daily Kos crossed a line this morning when it called my governor, Eric Greitens, a "scumbag."  Just who the hell do those left-wing typists at Daily Kos think they are anyway - H.L. Mencken and Ida Tarbell?

Okay, so Governor Scumbag Greitens may have hit a rough patch politically, but that is no reason to pile onto a man when he is down.

Missouri's esteemed Republican governor may have been indicted on two serious criminal charges, but he claims he is innocent of both taking pictures of a mostly naked woman that he had bound and blindfolded in his basement gym - or of stealing the donor list from a veterans' charity that he founded, a list that he subsequently used to fund his campaign for governor.    He is innocent until proven guilty folks.  Leave the thieving perv alone!

Greitenss legal battles over his various criminal accusations are set to begin next week in St. Louis and may drag on for an extended period of time, but the Republican-controlled Missouri Legislature has taken it upon itself to jump the judicial gun and call a special 30-day legislative session beginning on the evening of May 18th to look at impeaching poor Eric.  Some say that certain members of the legislature want to get rid of Greitens because he entered office posing as a reformer and was critical of some elected members of his own party.  Others allege that the legislature is in a hurry to shove Greitens off of the state stage so that he will not cast a pall over the U.S. Senate campaign of fellow Republican and state attorney general Josh Hawley.

Governor Scumbag Greitens deserves his day in court - a real court and not the kangaroo variety that the legislature is trying to rope him into.  Chances are excellent that he can explain away all of the charges that are being leveled against him.  The gym in his basement, for instance, undoubtedly posed dangers to someone who did not have Greitens extensive Navy Seal physical training, and he probably duct taped the semi-naked hairdresser to exercise equipment for her own safety - and then he blindfolded her so that she would not harm herself trying to break her restraints as she lusted after his ripped commando body.  His only real concern was for the poor woman's welfare.  Then, while she was bound and blindfolded, he even took a commemorative photo to remind her of her exciting day in his gym!

And as for stealing the list of donors to his veterans' charity, The Mission Continues, well . . . Christmas was coming and he had to get those cards in the mail!

It can all  be explained logically, but is that good enough for Daily Kos or the Missouri Legislature.  Hell, no!  Those folks want to hang poor Eric for political expediency.

There are 161 members of the Missouri House, and 138 of them signed the petition calling for the special impeachment session.  It will only take 82 to vote out articles of impeachment and send the whole matter to the state senate - where 29 of 33 state senators also signed the petition calling for the special session.  If the House votes to impeach, the senate will select a panel of seven circuit or appeals court judges to hear the case against Greitens.  Those seven would then vote on whether to remove him from office or not, with five votes being necessary for removal.

In the event Geritens is impeached by the House, Lt. Governor  Mike Parson would take over as acting governor during the senate trial.  If the panel established by the senate voted to remove him from office, Mike Parson, also a Republican, would be crowned governor.

(This is the first time that the Missouri Legislature has ever taken it upon itself to call a special session, and if Greitens is impeached and removed from office, that would also be a state first.)

It's all so very unfair.  Eric Greitens is the epitome of a Missouri Republican.  He was duly elected and he deserves to spend four full years as our governor.  He belongs to us, and we deserve him - and Daily Kos needs to shut the hell up!

Governor Scumbag, indeed!



Thursday, May 3, 2018

One Reason Democratic Momentum May Stall

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

There is a headline in this morning's on-line news publication HuffPost in which a "top party" pollster declares that "Democratic Midterm Momentum Has Stalled."   The story, based on a report prepared exclusively for HuffPost by Women's Voices Women Vote Action Fund, Greenberg Research, and Democracy Corps warned that unless Democrats stick to their bread-and-butter issues - like jobs and health care - they could lose their messaging in the rosy macro picture that Republicans are trying to paint of an economy surging because of tax cuts.

The economy is doing quite well for some, but those aren't the people that Democrats need to be targeting.  The authors of the HuffPost memo argue that Democrats need to be going after the "Rising American Electorate," a group they see as being comprised of minority voters, millennials, and single women.

“Democrats sit at the edge of a landslide repudiation of President Trump and Republicans ― in the Congress and states where they govern -– in November.   Democrats have huge opportunities with minorities, millennials, and unmarried women, and even white working-class women, that will allow them to dominate across battlegrounds in 2018.”
The message, one of focusing on individual struggles in society rather than some landscape mural of an economy measured by corporate profits and stock prices, is right on target.  When Democrats stick to democratic values, they win.

But there was a bit more to the message than just the dire warning of a pollster.  Directly above the story was a photograph of Democratic Antiquarian and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.  Firing up minorities, millennials, and single women might be easier to do if the Democratic Party was led by people who looked and acted more like the voters it so desperately seeks to attract.

Just sayin' . . .




Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Republican Idolatry in Action

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Last year a family who lives down the road went on their idea of a "vacation of a lifetime."  They declared a home school holiday, packed a few bags, and headed east to New York City.  The purpose of their trip wasn't to see the Statue of Liberty or the United Nations, and they weren't interested in catching a Broadway play  or viewing the Big Apple from the observation deck of the Empire State Building.  My neighbors had one goal, and one goal only.  They were traveling, by car, to New York City so that they could look up in total awe at Trump Tower!

And sadly, folks, that is a true story.

To a certain segment of America Donald Trump is more than just a successful politician - he is a God - one who hurls threats and insults as he shuffles from one opulent palace to another.  He is who they would aspire to be if they could ever win that danged old Powerball.  Trump is cloaked in money and privilege.  He is their Golden Calf, and catching a glimpse of his Golden Tower is something akin to seeing Heaven itself.

The only thing that could make their trip more memorable would a an Ivanka sighting!

This morning National Public Radio ran a story about the Republican National Committee's spring retreat, an event that NPR described once during the story as being in "Florida," and twice as being in "south Florida."    The actual radio report sounded pained and stilted, as though the reporter was struggling not to say exactly where the event was being held.  It was obvious that some bit of "news" was being withheld.

The Republican National Committee's  current spring retreat is being held at Trump National Doral Miami, a hotel and golf resort in "south Florida" owned by the Donald Trump crime family.  Normal room rates begin at $282.50 per night, but the RNC has talked the Trumps into offering a special group rate of $189.   Golf packages range from $130 to $330 per person.

The Republican National Committee, being sensitive to the desires of the masses to get close to Trump, held a raffle for one lucky person (an adult citizen or permanent legal resident) to win a free trip to the spring retreat where the winner would have dinner with Trump and pose for a photo with the Orange One.  The total value of the trip was estimated to be $3,000.  Contest entrants were encouraged to make a donation to the RNC.

Last year the Republican Governor's Conference also held its spring gathering at the Trump National Doral Miami - and managed to drop more that $400,000 on that venue.

It's more than just a politician holding a position of public trust.  It's about getting close enough to Heaven or Valhalla to get an actual glimpse, or at least a whiff, of what life is like beyond the golden gates of privilege.  Donald Trump may be more bull than calf, but he is still golden, all two-hundred-and eighty-nine pounds of him, and his loyal followers want to stand in his big golden shadow as they gulp their kool-aid.

Perhaps it's just as well that my neighbors skipped the Statue of Liberty.   Its message of welcome and inclusion would have put a damper on their entire trip.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Meathead Nails It

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Rob Reiner has just decimated blowhard Donald Trump on Twitter.   He did it succinctly and savagely in one standard tweet, a short string of words that will live in infamy as thousands-upon-thousands of Twitter enthusiasts gleefully share Reiner's killer barb with thousands-upon-thousands of their followers.

When it comes to venting his spleen on tyrannical political hacks, like Trump, this isn't Reiner's first rodeo.  As a young man he earned his liberal chops portraying Archie Bunker's  erstwhile left-wing son-in-law, Michael Stivic, a radical college instructor who was always harpooning Bunker's political hero, Richard Nixon.  Archie routinely referred to Reiner's character as "Meathead."  Meathead went on to represent the resentment and repulsion that much of America felt toward Nixon.

And now, forty years later, Meathead has re-emerged, this time railing against the ridiculous demeanor and petty vindictiveness of Donald John Trump.

The thing that stirred the latest salvo from Meathead (Reiner) is the Trumpestian flap which ensued after the latest White House Correspondent's Dinner, an affair which Trump skipped and Reiner attended.   The headliner at the charity event was comedian Michelle Wolfe, and one of the other attendees was Trump's press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders.  A portion of Wolfe's routine focused on Sanders, and many on the right took great offense at what they deemed the crudeness of her remarks.

Donald John Trump, although he wasn't there, was one of the sanctimonious  taking great offense.   Trump spewed his wrath by calling Michelle Wolfe "filthy." 

One may be led to assume that being called "filthy" by a man who bragged about "grabbing pussy" and referred to Miss Universe as "Miss Piggy" and "Miss Housekeeping," must be little more than the way he normally speaks and relates to people - especially women - and one would be right.  Trump is, after all, also the same person who tried to paint all Mexicans as "rapists," got off on doing impersonations of a physically disabled reporter, yelled for his supporters to remove hecklers from campaign events, coined the term "Crooked Hillary," and routinely called Senator Elizabeth Warren "Pocahontas" to disparage her Native American heritage.  He stirred up low-information voters on the campaign trail with derogatory and incendiary remarks about Muslims and immigrants, and he has given tacit support to dangerous white nationalists.    Since being elected he has spent most of his time watching television, playing golf, and doing his best to insure that his base remains dangerously angry and volatile.

And he lies - my God does he lie!

Someone is filthy, alright - but it's not Michelle Wolfe.

Here is what Meathead had to say on the matter:

"I attended the WHCD last night. Donald Trump has so poisoned the atmosphere by attacking the disabled, gold star parents, Muslims, Mexicans, Blacks, women, the press, the rule of law that a comedian who simply tells the truth is offensive? She’s joking. He’s not."

Donald Trump is a stain on America - one that would probably even embarrass Archie Bunker.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Monday's Poetry: "Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

American music legend Willie Nelson turned eighty-five yesterday, and, by most accounts, is going as strong as ever.  Nelson, a seminal figure in American music, was a salaried songwriter in Nashville working for fifty dollars a week when he penned "Crazy," a song that became an instant hit for singer Patsy Cline.  In the intervening years he has written more than three hundred songs and recorded many of them himself.  In addition to "Crazy," Willie is known for writing hits like "Shotgun Willie," "On the Road Again," "Hello Walls," "Matador," "Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground," and "Funny How Time Slips Away."

A few decades ago Willie Nelson got caught up in a tax mess that left him owing millions to Uncle Sam.  As penance, and as a way of getting that debt paid, he booked a threatre in Branson, Missouri, and performed nightly in front of live crowds for a couple of seasons.  Each night he played music for two solid hours, without a break, and then left the stage sweating and hosted a receiving line where he shook hands with the starstruck tourists, posed for photos, and signed autographs.  I know that because myself and two of my children (Molly and Tim) stood in one of those lines one night and had a few moments of conversation with the country superstar.

The song which follows as today's poetry selection is by Willie the outlaw, and it serves as sort of a rowdy capstone to a long and boisterous career.  (The actual recording features Willie along with Snoop Dog, Kris Kristofferson, and Jamey Johnson.)  Please enjoy this fresh breeze emanating from an old soul.

Happy birthday, Willie.  May you be around to enjoy many many more!


Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die
by Willie Nelson

Roll me up and smoke me when I die
And if anyone don't like it, just look 'em in the eye
I didn't come here, and I ain't leavin'
So don't sit around and cry
Just roll me up and smoke me when I die.


Now, you won't see no sad and teary eyes
When I get my wings and it's my time to fly
Call my friends and tell 'em
There's a party, come on by
Now just roll me up and smoke me when I die.


Roll me up and smoke me when I die
And if anyone don't like it, just look 'em in the eye
I didn't come here, and I ain't leavin'
So don't sit around and cry
Just roll me up and smoke me when I die.


When I'd go I've been here long enough
So you'll sing and tell more jokes and dance and stuff
Just keep the music playin',
That'll be a good goodbye
Roll me up and smoke me when I die.


Roll me up and smoke me when I die
And if anyone don't like it, just look 'em in the eye
I didn't come here, and I ain't leavin'
So don't sit around and cry
Just roll me up and smoke me when I die.


Hey, take me out and build a roaring fire
Roll me in the flames for about an hour
Then take me out and twist me up
And point me towards the sky
And roll me up and smoke me when I die.


Roll me up and smoke me when I die
And if anyone don't like it, just look 'em in the eye
I didn't come here, and I ain't leavin'
So don't sit around and cry
Just roll me up and smoke me when I die.
Just roll me up and smoke me when I die.
 

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Trump Dumps a Load of Manure on Farmers

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Donald Trump appeared at a "campaign style" rally in Michigan last night where he roared at the friendly crowd about whatever happened to flit across his mind, and the crowd roared back its orgasmic delight at getting to bask in the fiery glow of its revered leader.  Trump likes to appear before large crowds who stomp and chant their approval as he rambles spasmodically and sometimes in near incoherence.

Trump went to Michigan last night in part to avoid the White House Correspondent's Dinner, an annual event in which national journalists raise money for charity through a roast-type of entertainment in which the press and White House officials lampoon each other.  The notoriously thin-skinned Trump can't seem to take the heat, so he stays far away from the kitchen.  He skipped last year's WHCD as well, even though his predecessors in the Oval Office nearly always attended and seemed to take great enjoyment in sparring with the Fourth Estate.

One of the reasons that Trump traveled to Michigan in his rolling snub of the White House correspondents was to shore up support in a state that he carried in 2016.   His recent threat of tariffs and the subsequent probability of a trade war with China had factory owners and workers - as well as soybean farmers - in Michigan on  edge.  Trump moved to assure the crowd that while they might feel some economic pain for awhile, things would soon get better - and he tipped his hat to the farmers by saying "I love my farmers!"

Trump's love for "his" farmers was reminiscent of the time back in 2016 when he was bragging about all of the different voting blocks that he had won in the Nevada primary, a list that included - his words here - the "poorly educated."   He went on to blather that he "loved" the poorly educated.  Perhaps Trump's farmers should note that when their bellicose leader won the presidency, one of his early acts was to appoint Betsy DeVos to the post of Secretary of Education, a move which almost guaranteed that America will have an abundant supply of "poorly educated" voters for decades to come.

Donald Trump wouldn't know a soybean from a jelly bean, and he is walking proof that the poorly educated can do just fine in life - if they are born rich.

If America's farmers want to benefit from Trump's love, they need to bag it and use it on their fields for fertilizer.   Beyond that, they are on their own.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Another Villain Seeks to Harvest DNA Results

by Pa Rock
Amateur Genealogist

Yesterday's posting was about the recent capture of the once-notorious "Golden State Killer" in California, a man who was brought down through a DNA match to crimes he committed nearly forty years ago.   Police investigators were able to develop a list of suspects by submitting crime scene DNA to at least one genealogy web site that had a cache of DNA results on some of its members.  They found one or more people who shared some of the killer rapist's DNA, and from there began a search of family trees of those with close DNA matches and came up with a probable contender.  The investigators then (most likely) went through his trash and secured samples of their prime suspect's DNA -  and a comprehensive match was made.

And Joseph James DeAngelo is in the jailhouse now - having been charged with eight murders - so far.

The two largest web site DNA collectors - Twenty-three and Me and Ancestry.com - have both denied any involvement in this particular case, and it looks as though this felon was felled with evidence gathered at a free genealogy site that stores DNA information that their clients have obtained from other sources.

Ancestry.com is the world's largest genealogy web site, having reached a point where it is so comprehensive in what it has to offer in the way of research that it constantly draws in more new members, and each new member adds to its information base with their own genealogy research.  It is now growing exponentially.

One of the ways that Ancestry.com has been pushing its frontier of research is through DNA testing.  Ancestry is not a charitable organization.  It charges for its testing and will not allow users to submit DNA results from other sources.  Ancestry.com appears to be on a quest to genetically map the world,  A few months ago a DNA test through them was almost a hundred dollars.  Then the company had a sale and reduced the price to eighty dollars, and now it is at sixty.  The more people who get tested, the greater the Ancestry.com DNA database is, and the more valuable it becomes to genealogists - and thus more rush to join Ancestry as well as have their DNA tested.  It's a vicious cycle of unending profitability.

The Anceestry.com privacy statement is about as complex and byzantine as a Donald Trump pre-nup, with the company swearing to maintain a user's privacy, even if the company is subsequently sold.  The company will allow the use of aggregate DNA data for research while not disclosing the names of individual donors.  Those who so stipulate may receive the names and Ancestry contact information for persons whose DNA offers connections to their own.  (As an example, I have been notified of likely first and second-cousin connections - and some as distant as fifth cousins.)  From there, correspondence begins and trees are compared.

While not involved in the case against the Golden State Killer, Ancestry.com does have a stated policy of cooperating with court orders - so if the company is approached by police investigators with a proper warrant, one must assume that it will comply.

But law enforcement is not the only outside group with an interest in combing through DNA samples.  A nurse told me a few years ago that the real danger with having your DNA tested lies with the villainous insurance companies.  A critical health marker discovered in one's DNA could lead health insurers to either raise rates for that individual or deny coverage altogether.   The last presidential administration moved to end the predatory practice of denying coverage or raising rates on pre-existing conditions, but the current administration sits comfortably in the pocket of the insurance industry and views it as the wronged party.

Ancestry.com's privacy policy states clearly that it will not provide DNA information to insurance companies.  In this current rising tide of corporate criminality, let us hope that the genealogy giant sticks to its guns on that one.   Going to prison for crimes you knowingly commit is one thing, but suffering pecuniary penalties and medical neglect because of who you were at birth is quite another.

The bottom line is that with your DNA seeping its way through cyber space, and Alexa listening to every conversation in your home, you - and I - have damned few secrets.  Proceed with caution.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Killer Rapist Gets Snagged with Tight-Fitting Genes

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Joseph James DeAngelo was arrested this week in connection with twelve murders, at least forty-five rapes, and more than a hundred house ransackings and burglaries that occurred in Sacramento, San Francisco, and across central and southern California between 1976 and 1986.   DNA found at some of the crime scenes has apparently been matched to that of DeAngelo.

The series of crimes had received extensive coverage in the press over the past forty years with the perpetrator being labeled with various nom de plumes such as the "East Area Rapist," the "Original Night Stalker," the "Diamond Knot Killer," the "Visalia Ransacker," and, most often, the "Golden State Killer."

DeAngelo, who is seventy-two now, was a policeman at the time the crime spree began, but he was fired in 1979 after stealing a hammer and a can of dog repellent from a store.  He had spent most of the past three decades working at a distribution center for a large grocery chain.

The series of crimes had become one of the coldest cases in the country, but in 2016, forty years after the spree began and thirty years after it ended, authorities reopened the case and took a fresh look.  At that time they posted a $50,000 reward for new information that would lead to an arrest and conviction of the murderous culprit.  They were also able to come up with some DNA off of old evidence, DNA which they hoped was linked to the perpetrator.

Then the renewed investigation took a creative turn.  Officials submitted the DNA that they had collected to one (or possibly more) genealogy web sites that test DNA to make family connections.  They received enough information from hits to form a list of potential relatives to the killer. 

(One does not have to submit DNA to a genealogy web site in order to be caught up in an investigation.  Aunt Betty in Flagstaff could have submitted hers, and it could have matched the evidence to such a degree that it became worthwhile to take a look at her close blood relatives.)

Joseph James DeAngelo was a former policeman living in an area where the first crimes had been reported.  He had been married and divorced during the time of the crime spree, and he had been arrested for stealing a hammer and dog repellent, both items that could have figured into the criminal activity. 

Authorities them collected some DNA that Mr. DeAngelo had unwittingly discarded - or, in other words, they went through his trash and found personal items with his DNA - hair from a comb, toenail clippings, an old snot rag, etc - and after a close examination of the purloined samples, they knew they had their man.

Ain't science grand!

Most of the major genealogy web sites that do DNA analysis for their subscribers stress that their results are strictly confidential.    The results are used to show people migration routes that their ancestors followed, as well as to connect likely relatives who desire to be connected.   Most of the sites also advise their clients that they will roll over on them in the event they are served with a court order to do so.   DNA samples from some unwitting cousin (or cousins) put the police onto Joseph James DeAngelo - and that DNA wound up revealing a family story that will make a very interesting ornament on someone's family tree.

So far DeAngelo has been charged with eight counts of murder, and more charges are likely.  The family genes are apparently a tight fit!