Saturday, February 24, 2018

Congressman Jason Smith Honored by Hate Group

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Saturday is the day when I receive a weekly email from my congressman, Jason Smith (R, MO-8).  I depend on that email to know what he is up to.   I have to depend on the weekly email because Congressman Smith seems to have an active aversion to holding town halls or public events where he can interact with the public on an unscripted basis.

A few months ago Smith and the FCC director, Ajit Pai, held a public forum here in West Plains, a meeting that I would have loved to have attended.  Unfortunately, the congressman's office did not release word of the event until late on the evening prior, and by the time my local newspaper reached my house, the meeting was over.  I called the local newspaper office to air my concerns about the timing of the event, and a representative there told me that was a usual tactic of Congressman Smith.  One would almost think he did not want to interact with the public.

One item in today's newsletter was a photo of Congressman Smith standing with Donald Trump and a group of people.  (Interestingly, one person in the small group appeared to be texting.)  Smith never misses an opportunity to brag on Trump and his "achievements," and he ardently strives to link his own career to the Trump family.

But, a Republican congressman trying to ride on the coattails of a Republican president, even one as erratic as Donald Trump, is not all that surprising - particularly in a district that is as red as Missouri's 8th.

What did surprise me in this week's email was this blurb placed below a photo of the congressman receiving a small award:

"Finally, I was honored to receive the "True Blue" award from the Family Research Council. I am proud to be a pro-life Member of Congress and defend Missourians' family values with my vote in the House of Representatives."
The Family Research Council, a political organization founded and run by Tony Perkins, has been recognized by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a "Hate Group."  A primary purpose of the FRC is the denigration of gay and lesbian individuals and groups

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, "the FRC often makes false claims about the LBGT community based on discredited research and junk science."  The FRC is known for being anti-same-sex marriage, anti-hate crime laws, and opposing anti-bullying programs in the schools.

The Family Research Council stated this succinct view on homosexuality on its website in 2016:

“Family Research Council believes that homosexual conduct is harmful to the persons who engage in it and to society at large, and can never be affirmed. It is by definition unnatural, and as such is associated with negative physical and psychological health effects.”

Congressman Smith was careful to cage his award as some sort of recognition for his anti-abortion positions.  What he neglected to say was that an organization which advocates for harmful outcomes for gay people thinks enough of him and his voting record to give him an award.

The Family Research Council is shameless in its pursuit of hateful treatment of LGBT groups and individuals, and "True Blue" Jason Smith is no better - and if he ever dared to appear in an announced public forum, people would tell him so!

Sadly, like most members of Congress, Jason Smith only hears what he wants to hear.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Governor Greitens and Family Values

by Pa Rock
Missouri Citizen Journalist

The GOP, America's party of 'family values," has just taken it on the shins again, this time in Missouri.

A couple of years ago when Eric Greitens announced that he planned to run for governor of Missouri as a Republican, the young and dynamic candidate who had never held public office before coughed up three qualifications.  Greitens stated that he was "a Navy SEAL, a native Missourian, and, most importantly, a proud husband and father."  Indeed, Greitens was so proud of his status as a family man that he dispensed with the standard "head shot" that Missouri governors traditionally place in state office buildings, and instead went with an outdoor photo of himself, his wife, and their two young sons - a toddler and an infant.

Should Governor Greitens be around long enough to tire of that official family photo, he can now replace it with a new one - his mug shot that was officially snapped yesterday afternoon as the governor was being booked into custody at the Justice Center in St. Louis.

Greitens was indicted by a grand jury yesterday on a felony invasion of privacy charge, the alleged result of his taping a naked woman to a piece of exercise equipment, blindfolding her, and then taking a photograph of his victim.  According to the woman's husband, Greitens then threatened to make the photo public if the woman ever told anyone about their affair.

The lady who was the victim of Greitens' bizarre behavior was his former hairdresser.

Greitens and his wife, University of Missouri professor Dr. Sheena Geritens, both acknowledged the governor's extra-marital affair last month after it was reported in the press, and they said they were working through their marital issues.  The affair occurred in 2015, the year before Greitens was elected governor of the show-me state.

Governor Greitens, who looked contrite in his mug shot, did manage to get his mad on and channel his inner-Donald Trump in a statement to the press after he was released on his own recognizance.   Greitens snarled that Kim Gardner, the prosecutor who brought the case before the grand jury, was a "reckless liberal."  In parts of Missouri, particularly the rural sections, being called a "liberal" is somewhat akin to being labeled a child molester.

The embattled governor is also reported to be the subject of an FBI investigation related to the financing of his campaign, and the Missouri House of Representatives is beginning its own investigation into the hairdresser scandal - an investigation that could ultimately lead to his impeachment and removal from office.   The Missouri legislature is solidly controlled by the Republican Party, but Greitens, himself a Republican, has offended several members of the legislature and his party as he sought to position himself as a reformer.   There appear to be many in the legislature on both sides of the aisle who would like to see him go.

Lt. Governor Mike Parson, a Republican and former law enforcement officer, seems to be more aligned with the conservative interests of the state's more traditional Republican lawmakers.

Greitens apparently thought of himself as a potential presidential candidate before this scandal dashed those hopes.  He had purchased a web domain that promoted "Eric Greitens for President."

For Governor Eric Greitens of Missouri there appear to be no good options.  He can doggedly hold onto his seat and try to work with a legislature and press that are no longer his fanboys - and then likely face impeachment - or he can resign in disgrace.  He can also fight it out in court and pin his hopes for political survival on a favorable outcome.  The downside of a trial is, of course, that it reminds the public daily of the allegations.

As we say out here in the Missouri backwoods, this governor is sitting squarely "between a rock and a hard place," and his situation is unlikely to improve any time soon. 

Hypocrisy looms large in the party of "family values."

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Bill Pullman Gets His Trump On

by Pa Rock

A few months down the road after Donald Trump and his adult spawn are all safely behind bars - and Mike Pence has been washed out of politics in a torrent of gay sex scandals - and Paul Ryan has lost his seat in Congress to a public school teacher or a retired person on a fixed income - that will be when some ambitious movie mogul - perhaps one of the Weinsteins - will attempt to capture the essence of Donald Trump in a made-for-television movie.  In anticipation of that further stain on American life and culture, I have a casting suggestion:

Donald Trump should be played by actor Bill Pullman.   Mr. Pullman, who already played a President of the United States in the movie Independence Day, might seem an odd choice to play the bloated blowhard Trump, except for the fact that he has already done it - and done it well!

Torchwood was a British television (BBC) series that ran from 2006-2011.  It focused on a group of paranormal investigators working for the British government in Cardiff, Wales.  The first two seasons were very clever individual episodes featuring the Torchwood team of five members.  They bounced around in time and dealt with aliens in situations that were closely aligned with the BBC's longest running sci-fi program, Doctor Who, and some of the cast members appeared in both shows.

The third season was a six-episode mini-series with three of the original cast members.  It was called "Children of Earth," and had a plot built around an alien culture's plan to acquire a quarter of the earth's children to feed an addiction of the alien creatures.

The final season, a ten-episode mini-series titled "Miracle Day" took place primarily in the United States and featured a couple of CIA agents working with the two remaining Torchwood agents to wrest the world from its newest disaster - a booming population which resulted when people all over the world suddenly quit dying.

One of the primary characters in season four was a fellow named Oswald Danes, a pedophile who was being put to death for the brutal rape and murder of a young girl.  Danes was injected with his well-earned dose of legal drugs just as people stopped dying around the globe.  He was subsequently released from prison and went on to become a spokesman for a pharmaceutical company that was amassing an obscene fortune selling pain medications to people who should have already been dead but now could not die.  Oswald Danes was played by veteran actor, Bill Pullman.

That show, "Miracle Day," Torchwood's last, was filmed in 2011.  Like all of the Torchwood episodes, it was clever and thought-provoking, but what really stood out to me was Pullman's portrayal of Oswald Danes.  He not only nailed the repulsive nature of the fictional character he was playing, he also seemed to be channeling the physical characteristics of Donald Trump into the role.  Pullman looked like Trump, and his egotistical manifestations sounded as though they were coming straight from the mouth of Trump himself.  Pullman was Donald Trump stepping into the role of a murderer who felt no compassion at all for his victims.  He was creepy good.

True, Bill Pullman would have to put on a couple of hundred pounds in order to waddle around in Trump style, but I suspect he would be willing to do it for his art.  And while portraying Donald Trump would be about as icky as being Oswald Danes, Pullman could undoubtedly muster the inner-slime necessary to bring his rendition of the petulant man-child to the big screen - or at least to video.

Go for it, Bill - show us your Trump!

(Note:  Torchwood streams on Amazon Prime.)

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Fire and Fury: A Review

by Pa Rock

I have recently finished reading Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury, an account of the Trump administration which spans a period of time from before the election of 2016 up through early October of 2017.   It is a comprehensive look into a presidential administration torn apart by in-fighting and a constant struggle to just survive, much less accomplish anything of great import.  At the center of this swirling mess is a petulant man-child who is deliberately under-informed, easily bored, and prone to sudden tantrums.

Wolff’s accounting of life in the Trump administration is so heavy with details and facts, that it has to be the product of someone who was very close to the center of the storm.    His vignettes are so specific that one must suppose much of what he witnessed was actually recorded.  Perhaps that is why he has yet to be sued over the content of his book.

Fire and Fury gives an overlay of the functioning of the Executive Branch of our government under Trump..  Wolff describes three distinct camps within the White House that fought for Trump’s ear and control of the agenda.  One of those factions was headed by the odious Steve Bannon, a man whose personal agenda was  to forge a path of destruction across the federal landscape by eliminating agencies and programs and using executive orders to erase much of the legacy of the Obama administration. 

A second faction was the standard political types as represented by Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.  Priebus was Trump's connection with the leaders of Congress, and he functioned as the GOP's point man in the Trump White House.

The third faction was what has come to be called “Jarvanka” by the popular press – and it refers to Trump’s daughter and son-in-law, Ivanka and Jared Kushner,  who literally moved into the White House on inauguration day.  Both functioned as representatives of more progressive ideas – and Bannon snidely referred to them as “New York Democrats” and “the geniuses.”  Wolff acknowledges Ivanka as the “defacto” First Lady.

Leaks are not uncommon in porous institutions, such as the White House, and every administration has had to ferret out leakers and deal with them.  The leaks that occurred in the early months of the Trump presidency appeared to be far more numerous than those that Trump’s predecessor had to endure, and they often served to fuel Trump’s rages and erratic behaviors.  Wolff credits most of the leaks to Bannon and Jarvanka, as each jockeyed to make the other look incompetent.  Priebus, who was steadfastly trying to advance the Republican wish list, did not  seem to engage in the same level of subterfuge as the other two factions within the White House.,

Eventually Priebus aligned more-or-less with Bannon, and eventually both of those players lost their positions of influence in the White House.  Priebus was replaced by General John Kelly who came in with three goals:  to oust Bannon (which he did), to  oust, or at least limit the influence of Jarvanka  (a task at which he had only limited success - but is still pursuing), and to reign –in  Trump (a task at which he failed miserably).

The value of this book to me is that it gives a framework which seems to explain Trump’s behavior - even up through the present.    Something bites him in the butt or just irritates him, and he heads to Twitter.  Then, as often as not, the reader can refer back to Wolff’s book and see the genesis of the latest outrage.    Fire and Fury is not a comprehensive atlas of Trump’s mind, but the book does serve as a quick-reference travel guide to anyone wondering what in Trump’s history or character led to the latest outburst.

As a former history teacher and as a concerned citizen, I heartily recommend this book to anyone seeking to have a clearer understanding of what motivates Donald Trump and where his erratic behaviors are likely going to lead.  It is a spell-binding read.

(One caution:  I kept my copy by my bed for evening reading.  The paper cover, featuring a red-faced portrait of an angry Trump, is most unsettling, and I finally removed it.  That made for a better night’s sleep!)

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Neosho Slides into Ignominy

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

American artist Thomas Hart Benton was a native of Neosho, Missouri.  Back during the Second World War that same small southwest Missouri town was home to Ft. Crowder, the largest inland military base in America.  In 1957 it was one of ten communities in America to receive the coveted "All-America City Award," an honor that led to the town being featured in Life Magazine.  Also in the 1950's the rocket engine manufacturer, Rocketdyne, built a large new plant in Neosho, ensuring that many young professionals moved to that community.

That was Neosho's heyday.  Now Rocketdyne has closed, the Walmart cancer that has shuttered  small communities throughout America has brought about the demise of many Neosho family businesses, and the town's once progressive nature has faded into little more than an historical footnote.

I have ties to Neosho and the surrounding area that go back to before the Civil War.  My g-g-g-grandfather was the town's constable, and many of my ancestors and relatives farmed and helped to build the community - including my great-grandfather who literally helped to construct the courthouse that stands in the city's public square.  I was born in Neosho and lived and worked there at various times, and my father, son, and grandson all graduated from Neosho High School.

I have a long and personal history with Neosho, Missouri, and that is why I was so saddened (sickened, really) when I read yesterday evening that nine-year-olds (third graders) in Neosho are selling raffle tickets for the benefit of their sports team.  The grand prize:  an AR-15 automatic rifle - the same type of gun that was used in the massacres at Las Vegas (58 dead), Orlando (49), Sutherland Springs, Texas (26), San Bernardino (14), Aurora (12) - and of course this week's mass murder at the high school in Parkland, Florida (17).  Nine-year-olds are selling chances to win a weapon that is primarily known for mass killings!

The prize was apparently a gift from a team-member father who is in the business of manufacturing guns.  The coach running the team and the raffle mouthed words about being saddened by this week's tragedy in Florida, but said that the raffle would continue.  Members of his team would not have to sell tickets if they were uncomfortable doing so, the coach added in an interview with the Kansas City Star.

While brave young people in Florida are hard at work trying to change an American mindset and make our schools safer, nine-year-olds in rural Missouri are going door-to-door selling chances to win a weapon whose primary purpose is killing human beings.  The message that those kids are receiving is awful - on so many levels - and if that particular gun should happen to go on to become 'famous," it will scar those children in ways that can never be healed.

This is a tragedy, and Nesoho's children are already victims.

Neosho, you are on the skids.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Monday's Poetry: "On Aging"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Nearly three years ago in this space I wrote a quick review of a new Netflix show called "Grace and Frankie," a situation comedy featuring four big Hollywood stars:  Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Martin Sheen, and Sam Waterston.  The premise is that the two ladies are shocked when their husbands, who are law partners, announce that they are divorcing the wives so that they can marry each other.  The devastated wives, Fonda and Tomlin, decide independently of each other to move into a beach house in La Jolla that the couples owned together - where they became reluctant roommates and eventually good friends.

I titled that piece "Lucy and Ethel Move to the Beach" because the resulting series quickly began feeling more like a standard sitcom than a serious delving into issues like the effects that an emerging gay relationship might have on established family routines and functioning - as well as an honest look at the impact of aging on individuals and families.  The show seemed more concerned with mining laughs than it was in giving an honest look at aging or gay relationships.

There were a couple of good moments in the first season, and I had hopes that it would eventually clarify its focus and deliver a quality program.  The next two seasons did little to move the needle beyond the standard sitcom range.  The girls (and it did feel as though they were focused on being "girls") showed their modernity by smoking pot and dating, but beyond that they seemed to be limited to paths forged by Lucy and Ethel.

Then came season four, and now it begins to get real.

In the series Jane Fonda (Grace) and Lily Tomlin (Frankie) play a pair of women who are just entering their seventies.  Tomlin's Frankie is an aging hippie who is basically comfortable with her age and life.  Fonda's Grace, on the other hand, struggles to appear younger, say a couple of decades or so.  In "real" life Tomlin is 78, and Fonda is eighty  The men are each seventy-seven.

Season four takes a strong look at aging, particularly as it impacts the two women.  Frankie, who is often only semi-coherent, even when she isn't stoned, gets lost while taking her infant granddaughter for a drive, and Grace, who is dating a much younger man and struggling to hide signs of aging from him, has a bad knee and is taking a raft of different medications.  At one point, while obviously impaired by her prescription meds, Grace rams her motorized shopping cart into a police car - and the responding officer smells alcohol and spots a flask in Grace's purse.  The social outings in season four are generally for the funerals of friends.

Suddenly these old people, particularly the women, are beginning to look like people we all know.  Suddenly they are relevant.  Suddenly they are acting their age.

Thank you Jane, Lily, Sam, and Martin for struggling to make it real. 

The following is dedicated to those of us who realize we are growing older.

On Aging
by Maya Angelou

When you see me sitting quietly,
Like a sack left on the shelf,
Don’t think I need your chattering.
I’m listening to myself.
Hold! Stop! Don’t pity me!
Hold! Stop your sympathy!
Understanding if you got it,
Otherwise I’ll do without it!
When my bones are stiff and aching,
And my feet won’t climb the stair,
I will only ask one favor:
Don’t bring me no rocking chair.
When you see me walking, stumbling,
Don’t study and get it wrong.
‘Cause tired don’t mean lazy
And every goodbye ain’t gone.
I’m the same person I was back then,
A little less hair, a little less chin,
A lot less lungs and much less wind.
But ain’t I lucky I can still breathe in.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Trump Forgoes Regular Saturday Golf Out of Respect for Murdered Students

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

A White House spokesman announced yesterday that Donald Trump would be skipping his planned Saturday of golf at his resort in Florida out of respect for the dead - and those mourning the dead - from the massacre at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.  Parkland is about a thirty-minute drive north of Trump's lush private club where he spends many of his weekends.

No golf on a beautiful Saturday.  Thank you, Donald John, for your sacrifice.  Perhaps the nation should honor you with a parade.

Earlier in his Florida trip, Trump (never one to let attention rest on others for too long) demonstrated his astounding degree of tone-deafness by flashing a "thumbs-up" sign and a big, toothy smile while posing with members of the Broward County Sheriff''s Department (the county where the school shooting occurred), and then by attending a Studio 54-themed "disco" party in the big ballroom at Mar-a-Largo.

Obama cried with the devastated parents at Sandy Hook Elementary.  Trump beamed for the cameras and then went to a party - and undoubtedly felt content that he sacrificed more than his share by giving up that round of golf.

God speed to the students in Florida who appear ready and willing to take on the National Rifle Association and its entrenched politicians.  Now is the time for America to rise up and join these valiant young people in their noble fight for sanity and self-preservation.  This gun madness has to stop!

Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Move to Fire Christopher Wray

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Someone with an intimate personal knowledge of Florida high school shooter Nikolas Cruz called an FBI tip line on January 5th of this year and stated a list of concerns about the young man.  According to a statement released by the FBI after the deadly shooting:

"The caller provided information about Cruz's gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting."
And that warning somehow fell through the cracks.

Now Florida's indignant governor, Rick Scott, is calling for Christopher Wray, the Director of the FBI, to be fired.  Perhaps Wray should be fired, but before the governor lands on his back from jerking his knee, it might serve the discourse well to look at a few other facts:

  • The FBI, once the nation's premier law enforcement agency, has been operating from a defensive political mode ever since Donald Trump, with no advance warning or notice, fired its former director, James Comey, last April.  While the agents need to be focused on ferreting out criminals and preventing crime, many are also focused on looking over their shoulders in anticipation of more political shenanigans threatening their law enforcement careers.
  • Christoper Wray, a Trump appointee, is struggling to run his agency in an independent and professional manner, even while political pressure mounts for him to help in aborting the investigation currently being conducted by former FBI Director Robert Mueller.  Wray has a lot to manage, including earning the loyalty of thousands of employees who have reason to be distrustful of political leaders.
  • Some of the noise being directed at the FBI is coming people who have agendas that are not driven by school safety.  NRA whores populate Florida politics, and their interest is in keeping the conversation away from the subjects of guns and the ready availability of guns.
  • Focusing on the FBI also provides a breach in the protection surrounding Robert Mueller and his independent investigation of the Russian connections to the 2016 election and to the Trump campaign.
Governor Rick Scott wants to fire Christopher Wray, but the motives of the governor, a man who has an A+ rating with the National Rifle Association, may have a lot more with protecting the NRA and its free-flowing campaign cash (and his own political skin) than it does the safety of America's children.  (An article in this week's Time noted that the NRA acknowledged Scott in 2014 for signing "more pro-gun bills into law - in one term - than any other governor in Florida history.")  It sounds like Rick earned that A+!

(The Giffords Laws Center to Prevent Gun Violence gives the state of Florida an "F" on the stringency of its gun laws.)

Trump has an opening.  An important person like the governor of Florida wants Wray fired.  He can dress it up as a move for school safety - a move that won't take guns away from anyone, and he, Trump, will choose Wray's replacement.

Maybe Roy Moore is still available.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Mueller Closes In

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

As a taxpayer of too many years to count, I often find myself disappointed in how our government has chosen to spend my cash contributions to the furtherance of civilization, particularly since the Trump cockroaches have swarmed through our national treasury.  But occasionally (rarely in the time of Trump) some good does seem to come from our hard earned tax dollars.  One such case of the public getting its money’s worth is evident with the work of our esteemed special prosecutor, Robert S. Mueller.

Mr. Mueller was appointed last May by Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to investigate alleged Russian influence on the 2016 presidential election.  His charge was widely worded, giving Mueller, the former Director of the FBI, a fairly carte blanch latitude to look into a wide range of Russian activities on the periphery of American government.  Mueller’s appointment came less than two weeks after Trump had fired FBI Director James Comey in what many people felt was retribution by Trump for Comey investigating the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.

The bellicose Donald Trump has, since Mueller’s appointment, brayed on and on that the investigation was a partisan ”witch hunt” and that he and his campaign had done nothing wrong.  Trump blathered that there was no collusion with Russia, and he pouted aloud that Mueller was wasting the government’s money.   Trump has also been quick to point out that Mueller’s investigation has produced only “smoke” and no “fire” – because there is nothing to the “fake news” stories about Russia and its alleged election-meddling.

Nothing to see here, folks.  Just a big old teddy bear being picked on by a scurrilous lawyer.

Poor, poor Donald!

But, like everything else that blows out of Donald Trump’s mouth, his assessment of Robert Mueller’s work seems to be more wishful thinking on Trump’s part than fact-based reality.

Today it was announced that Mueller’s crack legal and investigative team has indicted thirteen Russian individuals and three Russian “entities” in connection with activities related to U.S. elections.  In addition indictments of four previous Trump administration officials had been made public over the past three months.

And former presidential chief advisor, Steve Bannon, a man who was once so close to Trump that he often referred to himself as “President Bannon,” was interviewed by the Mueller’s team this week for more than twenty hours. 

Pay attention, Donald John, because all of that smoke is fixing to burn down your house!  The Pillsbury doughboy is about to get baked!

Damn, it feels good knowing that my tax dollars are finally going toward something worthwhile!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Donald Trump Owns the Blood in Florida

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Seventeen individuals who showed up for school yesterday at the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, won't ever have to worry about being late for class again.  This morning they are lying dead in cooling units at a local morgue - the victims of the eighth school shooting in the United States since January 1st.

It's just another day in America.

Donald Trump took to Twitter this morning to berate the shooter, a 19-year-old former student at the school by the name of Nikolas Cruz who had posted on social media of his interest in becoming a school shooter.  Cruz's disturbing social media posts had been reported to law enforcement.  Trump has this to say:

"So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!"

Translation:  This was a mental health problem, not a gun issue.  There is also an implication that the public bears some responsibility for not being persistent enough in their alarm regarding the instability of the man who eventually opened fire at the school.

Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General of the United States, now says he wants to "study" the mental health aspects of school shootings.

Translation:   Savagely flog that mental health horse in an attempt to keep the onus off of guns and God's NRA.

Guns don't kill people, crazy people kill people!

If that is really and truly the case, perhaps the country should be looking at limiting crazy people's access to guns.  No, wait, we did that already.  President Obama, who couldn't get Congress to act on limiting the rights of persons with mental health issues to buy guns even after the Sandy Hook massacre of 2012, enacted a regulation in 2013 that placed people who received social security disability payments for mental health issues and were deemed unfit to handle their own financial affairs on the national background check database - an imposition that should have kept them from being able to buy guns.

If they were crazy enough to qualify for disability and could not even legally manage their own money, then they probably had no business owning guns.

Guess who was opposed to that bit of commonsense?  The National Rifle Association, that's who.  In February of 2017, almost exactly one year ago, the NRA pushed a repeal of the Obama rule through Congress and it was quickly signed by Donald John Trump, a law which said, in effect, that people with serious mental illnesses have Second Amendment rights, too - thank you very much!

Trump flogs "mental health" after every mass shooting.  Today, he and his stooge attorney general are both wailing about "mental health" while promoting social welfare budgets that take the knives to programs aimed at improving mental heath outcomes for Americans.  And today, Trump's signature is on the bill that officially rolled back the Obama era rule that was designed to keep seriously mentally ill individuals from being able to purchase guns.

Donald Trump owns this bloody, bloody mess in Florida - and the NRA owns him!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Back in the Day with TWA

by Pa Rock
Nostalgia Buff

My oldest son, Nick, is forty-four-years-old.  I sometimes become confused at his age by a year or so in either direction, probably because he has been around so long, but today I know his age for a fact.  He is forty-four.

Nick was born at Camp Kue Hospital, a U.S. Army facility on the island of Okinawa way back in July of 1973.  He lived there for a little less than two months when he boarded a plane with his parents and flew back to what would become his permanent home in Missouri - by way of Guam, Honolulu, and Los Angeles.  By the time he finally arrived in Missouri he had left his mark and DNA, via dirty diapers, across much of the globe.

Nick took his first plane ride, the one that lifted him off of Okinawa, on the evening of September 17th, 1973.  I am positive about that date because I recently came across the boarding passes that his mother and I used to get on that plane that night.

Besides reminding of the exact date of that flight from Naha, Okinawa to Honolulu with a gas stop on Guam, those boarding passes also offer a unique view into the issue of what commercial flight was like four decades ago.

Our airline was TWA (Trans-World Airline) a major carrier of the times that had once been owned by real billionaire, Howard Hughes.  (TWA went our of service in 2001, hence many young people may not have even heard of it.)   Our flight number (742), the passes also had stickers with our seat numbers (17 A and 17 B).  We were in the coach or economy section.

In addition to all of that factual information on the front of each boarding pass, there was also a statement on the back of the passes which gave a lot of insight into the flying culture of the times.  It read:

Where Would You Like to Sit?

Will you be settling back with a cigarette?  Or do you prefer to sit in the section for non-smokers?  TWA lets you pick the seat that suits your style of flying.  We're the first airline to offer this choice on every flight.

If its a movie flight, the film you choose at check-in time determines where you sit.  The mature movie is in the smoking section, the general movie in the area for non-smokers.  Check the airport marquees for the announcement of films of your flight - also for the sections they're shown in.

Where the flight has no reserved seats, the front rows of both First Class and Coach/Economy are for non-smokers.  Look for the signs on board.

Our tickets were purchased by the military and we had no choice in seat assignments.  I don't have a memory of any of our fellow passengers, but I suspect that most were lighting up and blowing smoke toward our baby. It's the way things were back then.  The adults "settled back" with cigarettes and watched adult-oriented movies while the goody-two-shoes got their smoke secondhand and were stuck with Disney!

And that's the way it was - back in the day with TWA!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Dark Side of Winning the Lottery

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

On January 6th a lady who lives in New Hampshire woke up to learn that she had won the grand prize of $560 million in the Powerball Lottery.  Not knowing what to do, she did what she felt was logical and prudent - the lady called the New Hampshire Lottery Commission and asked them.  An official at the commission told her that step number one was to sign the back of the ticket - which she then did.

The lady did not identify herself at that time and opted instead to give the matter some more thought.  She knew that lottery winners were often targets of criminals, con-artists, family beggars, and all manner of miscreants and nuisances. One big lottery winner in Florida had even been murdered for his winnings.  As a matter of commonsense and safety, she quickly reasoned that she would have to remain anonymous.

But sadly for this woman, who is now going by the legal moniker of "Jane Doe," she can't remain anonymous.  Well, she could have if she had not listened to the person at the lottery commission who told her to sign the back of the ticket.

Jane learned later that she gave up her right to privacy when she signed the back of the ticket, an act she now calls a "huge" mistake.

There are seven states in the nation where lottery winners may keep their identities secret, and six more, including New Hampshire, where the winnings may be claimed by a trust.  But in New Hampshire the trust must put the names of its members on the back of the winning ticket.  "Okay," Jane thought, after consulting with her new crack legal team, "I'll form a trust."  But it was too late.  Her name was already signed to the ticket.  She asked about whiting it out, but that wasn't allowed - for obvious reasons.

Now Jane and her team are in court asking that she be allowed to be an anonymous winner, a court case that many predict she will lose - just as she is losing $14,000 a day interest on her as yet unclaimed winnings.  Some are even suggesting that she is hurting her cause with the court case, because now people will be more curious than ever to learn who the winner is.

A New Hampshire state senator who is sympathetic to Jane's cause has introduced legislation that would allow state lottery winners to remain anonymous, but even if his bill passes, it would have no impact on Jane.

What is currently known about Jane Doe of Merrimack, New Hampshire, is that she is a concerned citizen who has a record of civic involvement in her community.   She has stated plans to help local charities and organizations with her new found wealth.  Now, however, she may be heading into life as a recluse,  constantly on-guard against that legions of crooks, politicians, preachers, distant relatives, friends of friends, investment strategists, and other assorted leaches and grifters and  who are sure to be scouring the hills looking for her.

Congratulations, Jane.  You won the Powerball!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Monday's Poetry: "To My Valentine"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Valentine's Day, a commercial enterprise whose central purpose is sales of cards, flowers, and candy, is this Wednesday, February 14th.  That also happens to be the birthday of Valerie, my friend in Hawaii, whose mother chose her name to honor the holiday on which she was born.

I recently came across the following poem, "To My Valentine" by the late (and very great) Ogden Nash, and like much of Nash's witty poetry, this one takes a bit of a sideways view of his subject.  Still it is clever, and funny, and somehow manages to convey in non-traditional terms just how much the "poet" loves his Valentine.

Ogden Nash, a denizen of New York City, wrote this poem in 1941, hence the reference to the "Axis."

Prepare to smile.

To My Valentine
by Ogden Nash

More than a catbird hates a cat,
Or a criminal hates a clue,
Or the Axis hates the United States,
That's how much I love you.

I love you more than a duck can swim,
And more than a grapefruit squirts,
I love you more than a gin rummy is a bore,
And more than a toothache hurts.

As a shipwrecked sailor hates the sea,
Or a juggler hates a shove,
As a hostess detests unexpected guests,
That's how much you I love.

I love you more than a wasp can sting,
And more than the subway jerks,
I love you as much as a beggar needs a crutch,
And more than a hangnail irks.

I swear to you by the stars above,
And below, if such there be,
As the High Court loathes perjurious oathes,
That's how you're loved by me.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Trump Worries about Due Process

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The people who drafted and then updated the Constitution of the United States regarded the concept of "due process" as so important that it became the only constitutional directive to be mentioned twice in that hallowed old document.  The clause first appears in the Fifth Amendment, part of the Bill of Rights, with an admonition that no person shall be "deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law." Then, eighty years or so later after America's great war with itself, new Amendments were added to help with the assimilation of former slaves into society.  That same clause became part of the Fourteenth Amendment - the same eleven words, verbatim.

But sometimes "due process" is a hard bar to master.  As a child abuse investigator for several years I quickly learned the need to believe children who summoned the courage to come forward and tell their tales of abuse, often unimaginable abuse.  If the alleged perpetrator was a person of means, he or she would quickly lawyer-up with a attorney whose sole focus quickly turned to demonizing child witnesses and making them seem as though they literally wrecked their home lives in order to promote some evil crusade against a parent, guardian, sibling, neighbor, or other child care provider.  Child centers were set up which allowed for victim children to go through a single interview in which all parties were allowed to ask their questions in a setting that was safe for the child - and statements were videotaped for presentation in court - as another safety measure for the child.   (It's hard for a lawyer to badger and trip-up a tape.)

And it works much the same with adult victims and witnesses.   Lawyers who attack children in open court are also the same types of individuals who try to make the victims of rape look as though they were "asking for it" and try to discount the stories of victims of domestic abuse.  Maintaining "due process" and "fairness" becomes a bit like juggling eggs in a hurricane.

Somebody briefed Donald Trump on "due process" recently, and since acquiring this fresh bit of legalese, he decided to make it his own.  This weekend after White House staff secretary Rob Porter was fired, or allowed to resign,  Trump has been on an emotional bender lamenting how unfair that action was because Porter says he is innocent - and shouldn't he have some of that "due process" stuff.  It now appears that members of the White House staff, including Chief of Staff John Kelly, knew about allegations from two ex-wives and a former girlfriend for months, but continued to let him serve.    It was the good-old-boy network functioning at its finest.

But now somebody has told Donald Trump about "due process" and Trump, who has himself been accused of domestic and sexual abuse by several women, is righteously pissed off.  Porter says he is innocent, so there should be a process to determine his guilt or innocence - just as there should also be a process to determine Donald Trump's guilt or innocence - like that's ever going to happen!

One has to wonder if Mr. Trump's out-of-control Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers would look with equal fervor on giving due process to the employed parents and taxpayers, some of whom served in our military, as they are grabbed off of American streets and quickly shipped to shithole countries without any regard for their lives, liberty, or property.

Yeah Donald, let's talk "due process,'' but not until you are ready to share the concept with all of our friends and neighbors - and not just the white ones who work for you!

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Pa Rock Gets Clobbered by the Flu

by Pa Rock
Sickly Typist

Up until yesterday afternoon I felt fairly certain that this year's flu epidemic would pass me by.  I get the shot each year, and I haven't had the flu in many years.  Over the past three weeks I had two very close encounters with the noxious bug, and seemed to have survived both unscathed.  I was apparently leading a charmed life.

Miss Patti had such a serious (and sudden) case of the flu in Hawaii that she had to be taken to a local hospital in an ambulance.   There she was officially diagnosed with influenza.  While we were at the hospital I talked to the doctor about the advisability of flu shots.  I had mine in November and wanted to know just how "protected" I was from the dreaded malady.   The doctor told me that at best flu shots were a crap shoot, and that the particular one being issued this year might give me a protection level of 15 to 20 percent.

I would hate to take those odds to Vegas!

Patti got better quickly and a week later we were home.  Then, soon after my arrival back at The Roost, my son, who lives with me, got extremely sick was was down for about a week.  He self-diagnosed his ailment as the flu.  By Thursday, after five or six days of being very ill, he appeared to be on the mend, and then yesterday he was much better.

And at almost the very moment tat Nick began showing signs of recovery, the damn thing sneaked up and grabbed me.  I spent last night dealing with being stopped-up and having a fever.  This morning I am somewhat better, but still thinking about seeing a doctor anyway to try and score some anti-biotics.

Yes, West Plains is a small town by almost anyone's standards, but the town has a nice, modern hospital with an emergency room - and the clinic that I go to advertises that it has a doctor on duty 24/7 for emergency visits.  I guess this morning - Saturday - I will find out if that's true or not.

(Many of the Japanese that I knew while living overseas were quick to put on hospital masks when going out in public.  That sounds like a sensible precaution - with a likely higher success rate than this year's flu shots.     Stay safe - being sick is no fun!)

Friday, February 9, 2018

Military Gets "Everything - and More" in New Spending Bill

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The federal government shut down for a few hours last night, though it was back open for business by the time most of bureaucrats made it to work this morning.  Senator Rand Paul, a man who has always enjoyed listening to himself, held the floor of the Senate until after midnight.  When he finally shut up, the Senate quickly voted to pass the compromise spending bill, a measure that troubled Senator Paul because it spent too much.  The House followed suit shortly before daybreak and sent the completed bill to Donald Trump for his signature.

Trump signed the new spending bill and then immediately got on Twitter:

Just signed Bill. Our Military will now be stronger than ever before. We love and need our Military and gave them everything — and more. First time this has happened in a long time. Also means JOBS, JOBS, JOBS!

Trump's fluffing of the military in that tweet probably has more to do with his desire for an ego-stroking military parade than it does for actual concern about an institution that was well beneath his aspirations and interests when he was of an age to serve in uniform.  Back then he would have rather been clubbing in New York City with his rich peers, but now that he sits on his golden perch as commander-in-chief and is safely out of harm's way, he is all about our glorious military.

Some who have followed and chronicled Donald Trump for years are quick to caution that Trump's main focus is always Trump, and that would seem to be the case here.  He appears to be caught up in a recurring wet dream where he is standing in a reviewing stand beaming proudly as mile after mile of military equipment and troops marching in formation go passing by - all saluting or genuflecting to him and his greatness.  That's the reality that Donald Trump wants to put before America and the world, a show that the ex-Navy Seal who killed bin-Laden referred to as "third world bullshit."

Trump's tweet said that the new spending limits would make the military "stronger than ever before."  He added that  "We love and need our military and gave them everything - and more."  And while the notion of "more" than everything might seem to defy logic, it does fit with the long established congressional practice of including money for items in appropriations that the military specifically did not want.  Defense contractors traditionally get their wares included in appropriations bills by making donations to the right political officials and by having those items manufactured in plants in the districts of pivotal politicians.  Even if the military does not want a particular plane, or gun, or uniform, it's hard to stop Congress from investing in those items if their manufacture means more JOBS, JOBS, JOBS! in their districts or more campaign contributions in their pockets.

Some might argue that the military should be the best judge of what it needs to function properly, but Congress obviously knows better.    It's the best Congress that money can buy, especially for the defense industry, and Donald John Trump is the defense industry's most faithful lap dog.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Back Off Lawyers, Let the Stable Genius Testify!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Donald Trump has said that not only is he willing to talk to Robert Mueller's investigative team - under oath - but that he is "looking forward to it" as well.   The Donald, a man who has spent much of his life in court on one side or the other of more than 1,300 lawsuits, knows his way around a courtroom.   A stable genius like Trump could tie Mueller's team in knots - you betcha he could!

But then those damned lawyers - Trump's lawyers - had to get involved.  They don't want him to testify under oath, apparently believing that their client has difficulty in telling the truth and maintaining a logical train of thought.  Don't they realize that Donald Trump is the truth?

Last night on The Late Show host Stephen Colbert and his guest, John Oliver, got into a discussion about whether Trump should testify before Mueller's team or not.  Oliver said:

"I don't doubt that he wants to talk, but he's going to have to physically get through his lawyers first.  He's going to have to eat his way through their hands over his mouth. ... He would perjure himself before he finished his name."

Colbert, however, posited the opposite point of view and said (perhaps a bit tongue-in-cheek) that he felt Trump should be allowed to testify - and Oliver quickly agreed.

If Dear Leader wants to prattle on to investigators, under oath, then by all means let him.

And America agrees.  A recent poll by Monmouth University found that more than 70% of Americans feel that Trump should testify before the Mueller team, and, if he does testify, more than 80% feel that it should be under oath.

Let the stable genius testify!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Generalissimo Trump Demands a Parade

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Donald Trump apparently witnessed a military parade last summer while visiting France during its Bastille Day (July 14th) celebration, and now he is pining for a military parade of his own.  Well, he actually seems to be demanding it.   As Congress struggles almost daily to find clever ways to fund the government and the military, Trump is focused on another of his harebrained schemes to waste the public's money.  He wants to show his glory and might to the world with a Great Wall to keep Mexicans out, and now he needs a parade to showcase his personal military muscle.  And while the military has yet to admit that it is engaged in this presidential whimsy, several news agencies are reporting that plans for a military parade in Washington, DC, are quickly taking shape within the bowels of the Pentagon.

The Soviets used to showcase their military might with an immense parade through Red Square every May 1st, with the country's leaders watching proudly from their seating atop Lenin's Tomb.   The Soviet parade featured its military marching in formation along with tanks, trucks and trailers hauling huge missiles, and any other military hardware and notions that they wanted the world to see.  It was an exercise in pride, but more importantly it was a reminder to the West that the Soviet Union was a powerful adversary.  The May Day parade was unbridled propaganda designed to show the rest of the world just how powerful the government was.

Donald Trump wants some of that action.  A parade might enhance the nation's military image, but it would also make Trump, the constant narcissist, look more powerful.  And those missiles on flatbed trailers would just wreak of phallic superiority!

Rumors are that Trump's parade will be in Washington, DC, along Pennsylvania Avenue.  But the last time Trump had a big event on Pennsylvania Avenue - his inaugural parade - it was sparsely attended.  In order to avoid a repeat of that embarrassment perhaps he could ask Pooty about using Red Square.  The Russian leader, a man whom Trump openly admires and seeks to emulate, could even order-up massive fawning crowds to stoke Trump's ego to a point to where it could stop up the holes in the ozone.

Maybe Trump could even have one truck and trailer to haul around his big-boy nuclear button!

And what about a snazzy uniform, something with plenty of ribbons and medals to showcase his position as commander-in-chief?   Kim Jong Un has a uniform, so why can't Donald?

Oh the glories of Trump!

(Is it any wonder that millions of American go to sleep hungry each night, or that so many can't get access to basic health care - when the government is completely sucked into meeting the emotional needs of a petulant man-child?)

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Tesla Roadster Set to Roar into Space

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Two weeks ago yesterday I took a solitary stroll down a busy street in the Waikiki district of Honolulu.  One of the first places I encountered, and stepped into, was the famous International Marketplace.  When I had been in Honolulu forty-some years earlier the International Marketplace was similar to a large flea market with tourist paraphernalia like tee-shirts, wood carvings, and all sorts of other locally-produced doodads and gee-haws stacked and shelved for quick consumption by visitors to the islands.

Honolulu's International Marketplace has changed considerably over the past four decades.  Now it is a multi-story complex that houses several high-end retailers (like Saks Fifth Avenue), nice restaurants, and one car dealership:  Tesla.  The Tesla dealership, which occupied spaces on two floors, contained a total of four shiny new Tesla sedans of different colors - one of which was cherry red.  Being a tourist, and a hillbilly, I carefully took pictures of each and every one!

A few days later I found myself on the same street and stopped in to check on my Teslas.  Only one of the four was gone - the red one.  Devastated, I walked on.

Later today SpaceX, a private space venture owned by Elon Musk, the entrepreneur who also owns the Tesla company, will shoot its "Falcon Heavy" rocket into space along with a most unique payload.  The rocket will be carrying Musk's personal 2010 midnight cherry red Tesla Roadster Sport into deep space where no car has gone before.

Elon Musk's original plan had been to send the little roadster into an orbit around Mars, but that goal was upended by an international treaty designed to protect planets from human contamination, so instead the vehicle will be sent to a distance from the sun that is roughly equal to the Mars orbit,  That plan, which will set the car on its own elliptic orbit of the sun, passed muster with the treaty. 

And Musk has added one more fun quirk to this highly distinctive and personal project.  A copy of Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy will be placed in the glove box along with a towel and a sign reading "Don't Panic."

Elon Musk shared his project on Instagram in December with the following post and a photo of his roadster.:

“A Red Car for the Red Planet"
“Test flights of new rockets usually contain mass simulators in the form of concrete or steel blocks. That seemed extremely boring. Of course, anything boring is terrible, especially companies, so we decided to send something unusual, something that made us feel. The payload will be an original Tesla Roadster, playing Space Oddity, on a billion year elliptic Mars orbit.”

Sometime in the distant future a space traveler will discover the little red roadster drifting through the endless dark, undoubtedly the work of a God, and a new mythos will be born.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Monday's Poetry: "Winter's Song"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

This past week brought us Ground Hog's Day, the actual event and not the wonderful movie, and the sun shone brightly across most of the land causing many, if not all, ground hogs to see their shadows and flee back underground.  It was a sure sign that we are in for six more weeks of winter.  As if to amplify the conclusion of that bit of folkloric science, yesterday afternoon it snowed across much of the Ozarks, not a lot, but enough to remind us seasoned ground hog watchers not to completely disregard the wisdom of large rodents.

So this morning finds me in front of the picture window watching red birds, woodpeckers, and sparrows bicker over birdseed above a thin quilt of snow.  Winter still reigns somberly, or perhaps "ponderously" as today's featured poet suggests.   There is snow on the ground and a promise of more to follow, and it is bone-chillingly cold outside.

Please enjoy "Winter's Song" by Abdullah Khalid as the lingering winter, at least here in the Midwest, reminds us of the regularity and beauty of the individual seasons.  Long may they endure.

Winter's Song
by Abdullah Khalid

Sunlight dims

While the nights grow longer
North winds rage
While the sunlight falters
Snow falls deep
While the winds whip faster
This is winter's song
A melancholy melody
Harsh and crisp, the notes ring clear
A frenzied, frantic symphony
Unbridled, feral, and severe
This is winter's song

Ponderous snow
Pond in ice
Pondering thoughts
Despondent life
A breath of spring
Only but a dream
Yet, here the flowers bloom
And the snow leaves
but whispers in memories
To an end has come winter's song
Only to return at autumn's call
An everlasting cycle, lifelong
Winter's song returns after fall

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Ramapging GOP Hogs Pose Dire Threat to FBI

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Last May Donald Trump sent shock waves through the national political scene when he unexpectedly fired James Comey, the Director of the FBI and the man who arguably threw the 2016 presidential election to Trump  by announcing a renewed interest in Hillary Clinton's emails just days before the fateful election.  So much for gratitude.

In commenting on his sudden dismissal of the FBI Director Trump called him a "showboat" and a "grandstander."  A more substantive reason for the firing was likely Comey's relentless digging into the affairs of former Trump National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, because an endangered Flynn could place the entire Trump administration in peril.

The normal term of an FBI Director is ten years, an amount of time deliberately determined to limit each president to no more that one FBI Director appointment - and, up until the time of Trump it has been seen as a stable and durable appointment.  Many Americans, in fact, did not realize that in the era following Nixon that presidents even had the authority and power to fire an FBI Director.

But that power existed and Donald J. Trump chose to use it, regardless of how blatantly self-serving his actions appeared to the rest of the world.

By firing Comey Trump was able to appoint his own head of the FBI, a man more likely to bend to Trump's wishes.  He chose Christopher A.Wray, a private attorney who had been a part of the Justice Department during the tenure of President George W. Bush.  With his own brand stamped securely onto the FBI, Trump reasoned that he could sit back, relax, and play some golf.  But he reasoned wrong.

Trump's ties to the Russian government of Vladimir Putin began drawing national interest and concern even before he was inaugurated, and during the first weeks of his presidency it became obvious that the Trump-Russia story was one that was going to grow.  The FBI, which would have a natural role in investigating foreign interference in a United States election, operated under the U.S. Department of Justice, a branch of government that was headed by Jefferson B. Sessions, the U.S. Attorney General and a Trump appointee and close confidant.  Trump undoubtedly saw Sessions as one more personal circuit-breaker in any investigation of Russian election meddling and Trump ties to Russia.

But that didn't play out as Trump expected.  On March 2nd the overly-cautious Sessions recused himself from involvement in the Russia investigation and turned the matter over to the assistant attorney general, Rod Rosenstein.  Trump took Sessions' recusal as an act of betrayal and soon seemed to be headed toward firing his attorney general.

But on May 9th Trump took a different tact and fired FBI Director Comey instead.   A week and a day later Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, a man who had been asked by Trump at a December meeting at the White House if he was on Trump's team, took control of the ball and appointed an independent prosecutor to investigate the Russia matters.  Rosenstein's choice was Robert Mueller, a man who had served an extended term as FBI Director (12 years) and was highly regarded as a person of integrity who had the intellect and ability to get to the bottom of the byzantine set of connections between Russia and the Trump organization.

A few weeks after the Mueller appointment Trump announced his selection of Christopher A. Wray to head the FBI.  It was a desperate attempt to get the game back under his team's control.

Now, as everyone knows, the Mueller investigation is forging onward and indictments are beginning to be issued.  As the noose tightens, Trump is becoming angrier in his denials of pre-election involvement with officials of the Russian government, and more desperate to bring Mueller's work to a close.  If Mueller can't be bullied into quitting, then the only way to get rid of him is to fire him.  Trump's pawn at the Justice Department, Jeff Sessions, can't fire Mueller because he did not appoint him.   Rosenstein, the man who appointed Mueller, can fire him, but doesn't seem inclined to do so.  So now the question becomes will Trump, or Sessions, fire Rosenstein, so that Trump can appoint a replacement who will do his partisan bidding.

If all of this is starting to smell like a constipated version of Nixon's Saturday Night Massacre, well, that's because it is.   Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it - and Trump seems to ignore almost everything except his golf game.

Fast forward to the present:   Two days ago Republicans released a memo prepared by Congressman Devin Nunes, the Republican head of the House Intelligence Committee, with a likely assist from White House staffers.  The memo was not the political bombshell that Republicans and Sean Hannity had promised it would be.  The memo alleged that the FBI had targeted one official in the Trump organization in connection with an investigation of Russian meddling in U.S. politics, and it further alleged that information the FBI used to get the warrant to track the individual, Carter Page, was based on research that had partisan roots.  The memo was described by one politician as being a "nothing burger."  Then, as proof that the release itself was indeed a partisan stratagem, the House Intelligence Committee, controlled by Republicans, refused to allow the release of a Democratic counter-memo prepared by the committee's Democratic minority.

Trump, being Trump, got on his Twitter account and claimed the Republican memo totally vindicated him.  He also claimed that the FBI's reputation was in "tatters."

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is understandably distraught over being politicized and demonized by the Trump administration.  The law enforcement agency, which has a history of leaning toward the conservative end of the political spectrum, is viewing the Trump and GOP attacks as the duplicitous and self-serving measures that they are, yet many feel that the current political assault will cause harm to the nation's law enforcement establishment that will last for decades.

But destroying the once mighty FBI seems to be a small price to pay in order to maintain a self-obsessed reality television personality in the White House - particularly for today's Republican Party.  It's no longer about national pride and democracy.   Today's Republicans are focused on power and privilege and greed.  They are rampaging hogs out to consume all that they can while Trump clings to the presidency.

Here's hoping that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is able to muster and maintain its resolve and stop the onslaught of these crazed swine.  The future of the republic is at stake!

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Trump Puts His Mark on the Stock Market

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Donald Trump has spent most of his first year in office primarily doing three things:  systematically dismantling programs that benefit Americans and protect the environment, banging out preposterous lies and hate-fueled mini-rages as tweets, and taking credit for any economic good news, most of which was rooted in the actions and policies of his predecessor, Barack Obama.  One of the economic successes that Trump has been relentless in claiming credit for is the continuing rise of the stock market, a rise that economists have been quick to point out is actually less impressive than a similar rise that occurred during Obama's first year in office.

But, it's Trump, and from Trump's perspective his "anything" is always bigger than the other guy's.

The stock market has been steadily rising, and Trump knows that is all his doing.  But now, that worm seems to have turned and the stock market is showing signs of slipping.  Yesterday, in fact, the Dow took its biggest dive in two years, falling 666 points.  After claiming every day of the stock market success as his own, Trump may now have difficulty if he tries to blame this week's slide on Obama, or Hillary, or even the media.

Trump has owned the good times, and the bad times must necessarily be his as well.  If the stock market has taken its inevitable turn from "bull" to "bear," the economic hard times which are sure to follow will sport Trump's unique brand.  In fact, some would argue that yesterday's Dow drop of exactly 666 points is a sure "sign" that Trump owns what is about to happen.

Author Stephen King said it this way in a tweet yesterday:

"How much did the Dow drop today?  666 points. Let me say it again:  666. Coincidence? I think not."

Trump must own yesterday's stock market results.  He literally put his mark on it!

Stephen King would know!

Friday, February 2, 2018

Cracker Jacks Ain't What They Used to Be

by Pa Rock
Junk Food Junkie

Time flies and things change.

This past weekend I got a firsthand look at just how much one of the iconic snacks of my youth has changed - and it was not a comforting experience.

I remember quite well the absolute ecstasy of tearing into a box of Cracker Jacks, a caramelized popcorn and peanut confection, when I was but a mere boy.  The product was delicious and not too messy, and somewhere, at one end of the box or the other, was a toy surprise.  A lot of the fun was deciding which end of the box to open so as to reach the toy quickest.  When the box was emptied, it could be used as a fort, a garage, a castle, or any other prop to aid in playtime with the Cracker Jack toys.

Sometime several years ago the company quit placing toys in the boxes, probably as a result of a few careless children putting the toys in their mouths and choking to death on little plastic soldiers, cowboys, Indians, or cars.  The Cracker Jack company persisted, however, in luring youngsters to their product with the promise of a "prize" in each and every box.    The prizes in recent years have  been messages, or quizzes, or puzzles encased in paper that offer a brief intellectual diversion to youngsters as they munch through the popcorn and peanuts.

The little paper diversions were a sad substitute for the toys of yesteryear, seemingly the bottom of the prize barrel - or so I thought until last Saturday.   I bought a bag (no longer a box) of Cracker Jacks at a local convenience store while visiting my grandchildren in Oregon.  At some point I fished out the paper-clad prize and gave it to my ten-year-old grandson, figuring that it would contain something that he would find interesting for a minute or so.  What the "prize" amounted to, however, was an invitation for him to download an "ap" so that he could enjoy whatever the folks at Cracker Jack wanted to share with him.  Sebastian, who does not have his own phone, was even more disappointed than I was over the crappy "prize."

I was also disappointed at the ratio of popcorn to peanuts.  As I dug through the popcorn anxiously awaiting the appearance of the peanuts, the best part, I was grief-stricken to find the entire bag contained only three peanuts!

To recap:  the once-fun Cracker Jack boxes have morphed into resealable bags, the toys and prizes have withered into advertisements and come-ons for computer and telephone aps, and the peanuts have all but disappeared.  All the while the cost has doubled, and doubled, and doubled again.

The Cracker Jack experience of my youth is gone forever, and that is just a damned shame!

Eat more Crunch 'n Munch!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

In Support of Support Animals

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Anyone who knows anything more than likely knows that pets are a comfort, particularly to the old and infirm.   One of the things that I missed most during my recent travels was little Rosie, and she was beside herself with joy when I finally returned home - as was I.  Pets are an important source of emotional support, a fact that more and more government agencies and businesses are finally coming to recognize and accept.

Rosie makes friends wherever she goes, and one of those friends is a lady who works at our local state office building.  The first time I took Rosie to that building, she was only a couple of months old and she rode into the drab and dreary facility in my pocket.  There she met a lady working in one of the offices who had a Chihuahua of her own.  They became fast friends, and I take Rosie back regularly to visit with her and her co-workers.  Business literally stops when Rosie shows up, and those bored and depressed government workers experience a few moments of uplift while talking to a tail-wagging cheerleader for good mental health.

There is a sign on the main office door of that building warning that "Animals are not permitted - except for service animals."  Pa Rock, being a sworn enemy of petty bureaucrats, routinely ignores that fascist dictate and steps bravely into the bowels of the bureaucracy with Rosie in full view - just daring anyone to try and stop him - or her!

Rosie is an important support to me - as well as to several attention-starved state workers.

This past weekend I got another lesson in how important pets are to their owners.  We had weekend reservations at an upscale chain motel in Salem, Oregon, and, upon arrival, began noticing that many of the guests were accompanied by their pets - mostly dogs.  It turns out that we had inadvertently booked into a "dog" motel, a hostelry that caters to guests with pets.  And it was doing a booming business!

In a further show of human/pet solidarity, a woman showed up at the Newark, New Jersey, airport this past weekend with Dexter, her support peacock.  She claimed to have purchased a ticket for her big bird, and was demanding a seat for the feathered fowl.  Airline officials said that the bird was too large, and cited several other concerns as they denied the India Blue peacock access to the plane.

One of the concerns they probably had would have been the peacock's ability and propensity to yell.  A full-grown peacock, like Dexter, has a yell or a scream that could easily cut through the noise of a large, sprawling airport - and would seem explosive in a tinny little Boeing 747.

Of course, even multiple peacocks on a plane would not likely be as annoying as the screams and wails of those five or so infants and toddlers who were sitting around me and exercising their lungs all the way from Honolulu to Portland last Friday.

I guess it's all in the ear of the beholder!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Dueling Memos: Just Another Day at the Sausage Factory

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Congressman Devin Nunes, the Republican Chair of the (oxymoron alert!) House Intelligence Committee, has apparently penned a memo that castigates the FBI for allegedly targeting the Trump circus during the 2016 presidential campaign.  The memo, which has not been released to the public as of yet, supposedly lambastes the FBI for targeting Carter Page, a Trump foreign policy advisor, as a person who was subject to manipulation by Russian spy agencies.

This week the House Intelligence Committee voted to send the four-page memo to Trump with the ultimate aim of him making it public as a part of his on-going war with the FBI.  Trump is reportedly eager to release the document, and has even told some members of Congress that it will be released, but he is currently having it reviewed to insure that the document's release poses no security threats to the country.  Some see this procedural delay as little more than a suspense-building drum roll for the memo's ultimate dissemination.

Democrats on the committee who voted to oppose the memo's release were quick to note that the memo is based on documents that Devin Nunes, the author, reportedly did not even bother to read.   One Democratic congressman on the committee asked Nunes during a stormy closed-door hearing if he had worked with the White House on drafting the memo, and Nunes refused to answer.

So, to recap, for the past ten days or so House Republicans have been touting an "explosive" secret memo which they wrote, one which will reportedly make the FBI look like it is pursuing an on-going vendetta against Donald Trump, and a memo which the Trump White House more than likely helped to draft.

And we are supposed to be impressed?  America must now hold its collective breath in silent anticipation of this revelation that will reset the Trump presidency and paint it with the soft pastels of victimhood?   The Russian subornation of our democratic electoral process will cease to be relevant, or even real, because Nunes and the Trump White House managed to bang out a four-page document aimed at proving the FBI targeted one Trump advisor as a possible spy - at a time when Trump surrogates were flitting around Russia like so many fleas on a bear?

Who is the enemy here - the FBI or the Russian government of Valdimir Putin?

(The Trump administration gave its own answer to that question this week when Trump declined to impose sanctions against Russia, sanctions which were passed almost unanimously by Congress last year - while at almost the same instant floating a suggestion that the Justice Department should prosecute Robert Mueller.)

Now, Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic Vice Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has authored a rebuttal memo to the one prepared by Nunes.  Schiff's memo, a ten-page retort, lays down challenges to the material hammered together by Nunes and the White House.

The House Intelligence Committee voted along partisan lines not to release Schiff's memo.

That's seems fair, now doesn't it?

At the end of the day it's all sausage and counter-sausage.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Happy at Home!

by Pa Rock
Weary Traveler

I made is safely back to The Roost early this afternoon.  Rosie was so happy to see me that she did a triple back-flip and then curtsied!  Riley also appeared happy to have his household back to full strength.  The cats rushed forward to convey their greetings, and the geese gathered at the car door to join in the excitement.  One of the geese bit the back of my leg as I was dragging stuff to the house, and while geese are known for their ill tempers, this was the first time that one has ever bitten me.  I suppose he just got carried away in all of the excitement!

It took the rest of the afternoon to sort and unpack, and the next task on the list is laundry.  We did laundry at Valerie's in Honolulu, so I actually wound up taking more clothes than I needed.

This week I saw five of my six grandchildren within a two-day span.  Life doesn't get much better than that!  They all seemed to enjoy the presents that Pa Rock brought from Hawaii.

The trip was fun, but Dorothy was right:  "There's no place like home!"

Monday, January 29, 2018

The Personalities of Airports

by Pa Rock
Flying Brontosaurus

Frequent flyers know that there are some airports where they will be hassled.   TSA at Kansas City International, for instance, always goes out of its way to complicate the process of boarding a plane.  More personal items get thrown away at the Kansas City airport than perhaps at any other airport in America.  Sky Harbor at Phoenix is another where the boarding experience is often frightful.  Sky Harbor has tried to rebrand itself as  the "world's friendliest" airport, but that effort is all stuff and nonsense.  The Phoenix airport is one place where you can expect to have to kick off your shoes and walk across carpet that is older than John McCain and stickier than the front row at a Gallagher performance.  

Kansas City and Phoenix both pale, however, with the mistreatment and abuse that we had to endure to board a flying cattle car in Honolulu.  That airport is in a league of its own.  I expect we would have received more courteous treatment checking into a prison.

This morning things are markedly better. We are at the airport in Portland, Oregon (PDX) awaiting a flight to Kansas City.  I have always liked this airport ever since the time several years ago when I encountered a TSA official wearing a turban.  Portland is a bit weird - and proud of it!  As we arrived today we were ushered through with ease and convenience.  There was no removing of shoes - or belts.  We did not have to empty our pockets or remove computers from their cases.  There weren't even any dogs sniffing luggage and butts.  The only concession that I had to make to the system was to take my cellphone out of my pocket and put it in my briefcase for the screening.  The process could not have been more simple.

I grew up in small towns where the local cops were often "grown-up" school bullies who were unable to find success in the real world, or perhaps unwilling to give up the pleasures of petty power.  Sadly, many TSA officials seem to be of the same mindset.  It's not about keeping anyone safe, its about following rules and stroking a sad person's power complex.   But in Portland it is more about courteous interactions and getting people onto airplanes in an orderly manner.

It's nice to be able to end this excursion on a positive note.  Thanks for that, PDX.  You rock!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Oh, the Things That I've Seen!

by Pa Rock

I am spending the second day with my Oregon grandchildren, and as I look around their child-centric home, I am amazed at the wide array of clever electronic gizmos and intelligent toys that grab their attention and spur their creativity.  The world is speeding well beyond my grasp.

My own grandfather, Dan Sreaves, was just a boy when he rode into Missouri in a wagon at the beginning of the twentieth century.  His final trip out of the state was on a jet plane seven decades later when he and his wife flew to California and fulfilled a life-long dream of wading into the Pacific Ocean.  During Granddad's lifetime he witnessed two world wars, a great depression, and the Korean and Vietnam wars, all while scratching a living out of the hard Missouri land and raising seven children.  He moved into Missouri before radio was even invented, and by the time he passed away he was the proud owner of a color television set!

I was fortunate to know my grandfather for twenty-two years before he died.   He was one of the best people that I have ever encountered.

Although my family acquired its own television at about the time I started school, I can remember the evenings when my mother and I sat and listened to programs on the radio while waiting for my dad to come home from work.  Color television was becoming common by the time I left home and headed to college, and a year or two after that I took my first ride on an airplane.

We brought home our first computer, a Commodore 64, while my kids were in grade school.  and by the time they graduated it was not uncommon for homework to be completed with the aid of computers and hand-held calculators.  As the kids moved off and started their own lives, email was coming into fashion and proved to be the easiest way to keep the lines of communication open.  Cell phones rode in on the electronic wave and everyone suddenly had a personal means of communication that they could carry around with them.

Today I am driving a car that locks and unlocks electronically - at the push of a button - and starts and stops without a key.  I fly from city-to-city and across oceans on jets that carry hundreds of people (albeit uncomfortably), and move across airports on conveyor belts and escalators.   I have a device in my house that hears everything I say and responds to requests for information and music, and my television is streamed in over the internet allowing me to watch entire seasons of a particular show in just a couple of sittings.   Many of my meals go from frozen to piping hot in just a couple of minutes in a machine that sends "microwaves" of energy through the food.  My telephone, which I carry in my pocket, allows instant communication with friends as far away as Japan - and it also warns me of impending natural and man-made emergencies.

And in my spare time I sit down and preserve my thoughts in a blog.

God only knows what my grandchildren will see and do in their next several decades!  As my adventure winds down, theirs is only beginning.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

The Horrors of Flight

by Pa Rock
Weary Traveler

We are in Salem, Oregon, and preparing to head out for a quick breakfast before visiting my grandchildren who live here:  Sebastian, Judah, and Willow.  Sebastian has already emailed wanting to know what time we would be at his house.

Getting out of Honolulu was a fiasco.  Patti and I were each singled out by the TSA's sniffing dog and had to go through a special check and pat-down that took quite a bit of time.  We weren't carrying any contraband, a reality that seemed to disappoint the TSA gropers, and eventually we were sent on our way - without apologies.  When I write my letter of complaint to TSA later today, I will dwell on two outrages.  First, the poor dog has not been properly trained.  One bully in uniform told me that he goes off on people for all kinds of reasons other than finding whatever it is that he is looking for.  If the dog can't do his job, then the dog needs to go to retire and go to the farm.  Second, my wallet, which contained all of my vacation cash, was removed from my line of sight on numerous occasions.  I used to work for the federal government, and I know those guys are underpaid.  Tourist victims need to have visual contact with their belongings at all times - particularly their money.

The flight itself was more god-awful than even I could have anticipated.  We were stuffed into the back of the plane within a tight circle of crying babies and screaming kids.  A nanny sitting in front of my middle seat decided that she should be able to lean her seat back and put her head in my lap - a situation which I quickly remedied.  As I was exiting the plane she gave one of her young wards a speech about how she didn't want him to grow up and be rude, "like some people."  While I admired her dramatic effect, I declined to applaud. 

But, I will soon be playing with my grandchildren, so things will be better!

Friday, January 26, 2018

The Homeless of Honolulu

by Pa Rock

I wrote about seeing the homeless encampments along the beaches on our first day in Honolulu, and now, as the trip draws to a close this morning, I thought the subject might be worth one more mention.  (I am a social worker, after all!)  There are many pervasive descriptors of this energetic city - with natural beauty and laid-back attitude ranking high on the list.  But Honolulu is also a city where homelessness seems to constantly rub up against affluence.

The governor of this great state, David Ige, received some criticism this week because he addressed Hawaii's citizens and kept his focus on the recent ballistic missile scare - when many residents felt that he should be focusing his attentions on the situation of the street people who lack permanent housing.  The homeless are everywhere on the island of Oahu, but they seem to gather in particular proximity to the public beaches where they can lay down and relax and try to blend in with the tourists.  Most beaches also offer showers, a health and welfare necessity.  Food is brought in by numerous relief agencies and churches.

I remember hearing a few years ago that Hawaii had chartered a cruise ship and sent a boatload of homeless individuals to California.  That is a practice that social workers refer to as "Greyhound therapy."  That cruise to California may have helped temporarily, though it certainly did not help California, but mostmof those who were relocated have probably drifted back by now.  People who appear to have little to nothing in the way of real assets still manage to make their way to the warm climate and ocean breezes of beautiful Hawaii.

(And if a person does not have a dwelling to call home, it just makes sense to live somewhere with good weather.)

I had two up-close-and-personal encounters with homeless individuals here in Hawaii that both occurred at the McDonalds just down the street from our hotel.   That business establishment has no restrooms, probably an attempt to keep the homeless at bay (there are public restrooms across the street on Waikiki Beach), and there are signs posted telling people that they can only refill their drinks if they remain inside the building to eat.  You cannot bring a drink cup in from off of the street and fill it - even if the cup is from McDonalds.

A couple of nights ago I stepped into that local McDonalds to get a cup of iced tea.  A homeless man was inside filling his McDonalds' coffee cup with water.  The cup was a bit on the grungy side and was obviously one that he had carried around for awhile.  However, the homeless man was not the problem.  There was a loud and obnoxious fellow yelling at the homeless man.  "Hey, you can't do that!  That's against the rules!"  And then as the poor man, who remained quiet throughout the ordeal, got his drink and headed to the door, the tourist bully continued, "You're spreading germs in here, that's what you're doing!"  Pa Rock, never one to mind his own business, stepped up to loudmouth and remarked, "You are pretty rude, aren't you?"  He responded, so loudly that I figured he was in the process of blowing a gasket, "That's right!  I am pretty rude!"  We weren't in Missouri, so no guns were pulled.

This morning I was at the same McDonalds getting breakfast when, as I was leaving, I encountered a homeless lady walking down the sidewalk pushing her cart.  She was screaming, "Get away from me, evil doers!  Get away from me, evil doers!"  Of course most of the "evil doers" were laughing at her.  Why is it that in the richest country in the world we often look to the hardship of others for our entertainment?

All of which leads me to ponder if it is the homeless who are the problem - or the rest of us?

Homelessness in America is a very real problem, one that impacts and defines us all.  It is something a Christian nation would address with compassionate solutions.   It is on our street corners, our beaches, and scuttling along in the cold shadows of our wealth.  It is here, it is now - and it is not fake news.