Friday, December 15, 2017

USA Today Stands Up for America

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

When ti comes to dealing with women, Donald Trump usually assigns them to one of two piles:  those with irreversible character flaws - sluts, whores, and liars - and those who are so unattractive as to not merit any of his valuable attention.  Well to be totally honest, there is a third group - those he uses and then throws on one of the two piles.

Women are resources to be used and then thrown away in Trump's world.

Trump has a particular hostility toward women in positions of power.  It's been almost a year since a Constitutional quirk denied the presidency to Hillary Clinton, yet Trump, never magnanimous, cannot let go and never misses an opportunity to take a cheap shot at the former First Lady, Senator, and U.S. Secretary of State.  He also seems to have an irrational fear of the superior intellect of Senator Elizabeth Warren and regularly attacks her with name-calling, most notably "Pocahantas" as a way of demeaning her Native American heritage.

Women in positions of power are especially maddening to Donald John Trump.  He never lets up on the Hillary's and Elizabeth Warren's of the world, and when a new female threat begins to show signs of rising, she must be dealt with quickly and forcefully.

This past Monday Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, a woman with a powerful political base already in place and functional, dared to speak out against Trump and said that he should be investigated and resign over sexual abuse allegations - currently numbering at least seventeen.  Trump fired back a now infamous tweet in which he suggested that Senator Gillibrand was a "lightweight" who frequented his office seeking political donations - and would do "anything" for those donations - or in Trump-speak - he called her a whore.

Senator Warren tweeted into the conversation with her own appraisal that Trump had "slut-shamed" Senator Gillibrand.

But Senator Gillibrand probably did not need the assist from Warren.  She appeared to be ready to spar with the pompous ex-reality television personality the following day when she went on the Today Show and had this to say:

"It was certainly just a sexist smear intended to silence me.  And I'm not going to be silenced on this issue. I have heard the testimony of many women, numerous accusers. I believe them and he should resign for that."

As the war of words escalated, the editorial board of USA Today decided that it also had an opinion worthy of sharing.   That national publication which had encouraged its readers to "resist the siren song of a dangerous demagogue" (Trump) last fall and vote for someone else - but did not directly endorse Hillary - wrote a scathing editorial on Wednesday in which if flatly stated that Donald Trump was not fit to "clean the restrooms in Obama's presidential library - or shine the shoes of George W. Bush."

(Those lines have been repeated and chuckled over - and no doubt raged over - ad nauseam the past couple of days.  But damn it, I wanted them to be part of the historical record of this blog as well, and this is the first chance I've had to include them.) 

That editorial also included this note on what does not make America great:

"A president who shows such disrespect for the truth, for ethics, for the basic duties of the job and for decency toward others fails at the very essence of what has always made America great."

I was a subscriber to USA Today back during the 1990's before the internet began bringing the news of the world to my work space.  It was a respected source of news and opinion back then, and obviously still is.  It may be time to look at renewing the subscription.

Thank you, USA Today, for continuing to stand up for America!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Newtown Horror, Five Years On

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Today is the fifth anniversary of one of the most horrific mass shootings in the history of the United States.  The shooting was not the most deadly in our country's bloody history, but, because of who the victims were, it was one of the most awful incidents in the annals of American crime.

Adam Lanza, a twenty-year-old disturbed individual with easy access to guns. began the morning by shooting and killing his mother, the woman who had taken him to the local gun range on numerous occasions and taught him how to shoot.  Then he took her automatic rifle and a pistol - and several magazines of ammunition, and headed to the local elementary school five miles way in Newtown, Connecticut.  Once at Sandy Hook Elementary, Lanza shot the protective glass out of the school's door and forced his way inside where he began systematically murdering students and faculty members.

Adam Lanza fired one-hundred-and-fifty-six rounds during his murderous spree.  In his rampage he killed twenty first graders, all between the ages of six and seven, and six faculty members before turning the pistol on himself.

It was a crime that brought moral America to tears.   The nation and the world thought that Congress would now be forced to tackle the issues surrounding easy access to guns in America.  But Congress stood firm in its denial of the obvious causes of mass shootings and continued working toward easier access for guns so that Americans could "protect" themselves, a false narrative that wears more thin and meaningless with each murderous rampage.

The insanity continued in places like Charleston, Roseberg, San Bernadino, Orlando, and Las Vegas - and who-knows-where tomorrow.  Each time Congress reacted with a "minute of silence" and a sincere effort to get even more guns onto the streets so that we will all be safer.

The irony is as rich and red and thick as the blood in the streets - or in the hallways of our local schools.

Congress owns that blood, and the institution and its gun-culture-enablers must be held accountable.  Sooner or later gun violence will impact us all.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Bannon and Trump Fail to Elect a Bigot in Alabama

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

When a pair of prominent white supremacists like Steve Bannon and his flunky, Donald John Trump, can't muster enough political muscle to win a Senate race for a well known bigot in Alabama, of all places, well, that's big news - a story made all the more delicious by the fact that the once honorable Republican National Committee also weighed in with support and money for the homophobic, anti-Semitic, and alleged child abuser, Roy Moore.

Moore lost bigly to Democrat Doug Jones yesterday.  The Jones' victory will decrease the Republican majority in the United States Senate from 52-48 to a razor-thin 51-49, and it couldn't happen to a sweeter bunch of guys.

Trump, in fact, has been on the losing end of the stick in Alabama twice now.  He backed Alabama's appointed incumbent senator, Luther Strange, in the primary - an election that Strange lost to Roy Moore- and then became an enthusiastic supporter of Roy Moore in the general election.  Two losses in Alabama is an odd  position for a politician who fancies himself to be God's gift to backwoods white America.

The Republican National Committee is now also a two-time loser in Alabama, as is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Congressman Bradley Byrne of Alabama's 1st congressional district, was a guest on National Public Radio (NPR) this morning where he spoke about yesterday's Senate election in his state.  Byrne, a Republican, said that although he is a personal friend on Senator-elect Doug Jones, he had voted a straight Republican ticket.  He blamed yesterday's results on a series of party errors beginning with Governor Bently's problematic appointment of Attorney General Luther Strange to Jeff Sessions' vacant Senate seat last spring.  Strange was in the process of investigating Bently, an investigation which he dropped when the governor elevated him to the Senate.

The next error, according to Congressman Bradley, came when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell endorsed Luther Strange in the primary against Roy Moore, giving the impression that the national party was trying to impose its will on Alabama.  Then, after Roy Moore became the official Republican nominee, the national party and McConnell initially distanced themselves from him and, in fact, looked for alternatives to supporting him.

Congressman  Byrne seemed to think that his Alabama would recover and he predicted confidently that Doug Jones would lose his re-election bid in November of 2020 - or in Jeff Sessions-speak, "The South will rise again!"

Or, another way of looking at yesterday's results is that the Democratic Party is once again realizing the importance of campaigning everywhere (Howard Dean's fifty-state strategy), and the absolute need to organize, organize, organize!

Wouldn't it be great if we lived in a land where every adult was allowed and encouraged to vote?  What a wonderful world this could be!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Gillibrand Twists the Pig's Tail

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The tail of a pig is usually a small, curley-que affair that is far from its most prominent feature - much less noticeable than its piggish snout and true cloven hooves, for example.  But, minuscule size aside, New York's Senator Kirsten Gillibrand somehow managed to grab Donald Trump's itty-bitty tail and give it a mighty twist . . . and, oh boy, did that pig squeal!

Trump was no doubt tanked on Diet Coke and basking in the warm glow of hour number seven or eight of Fox News yesterday when the story broke that Gillibrand had called for his resignation over a dozen-plus allegations of sexual abuse.  Trump, who has publicly admitted to the sexual abuse of women based on his "star" status, was not amused.

Gillibrand's call for Trump's resignation came on the same day that several of his accusers were banding together to give interviews and generate public interest in their stories of sexual abuse at the hands of a man who has openly bragged about grabbing women by the genitals and kissing them without their consent.

Trump, predictably, could not let the senator's affront go unanswered.  He grabbed his iPhone and banged out this hasty Tweet:

"Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Chuck Schumer and someone who would come to my office “begging” for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump. Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!"

("Lightweight?"  Really, Pork Chop?  Is that the best you've got?  Compared to you, most of the world is "lightweight!")

Besides being a powerful argument for Twitter going back to its old character limit on 140, Trump managed  to spew his anger not only on Gillibrand, a Democratic presidential possibility in 2020, but onto other New York "enemies" as well including Senator Schumer and Bill and Hillary Clinton.  The most stinging part of the rebuke was undoubtedly intended to be the statement that Gillibrand had been to see Trump "begging" for contributions and would do "anything" for them.

How did that grab you, Kirsten?

That was Trump squealing pure pig.  If he's down to name-calling, the smell of frying bacon will soon be wafting in on the breeze.

Keep twisting, Senator.  Keep twisting!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Monday's Poetry: "Christmas Shopping"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Walmart is a commercial cancer that developed in Arkansas and began spreading across America and the world nearly fifty years ago.  During its ascendancy the mega-retailer has sucked the life out of Main Street America, effectively turning a picturesque assemblage of once grand old stores into block-after-block of flea markets and vacant buildings.   By-and-large, Mom and Pop no longer run their own small businesses, and salaried retail sales people no longer make enough to support themselves, let alone their families.

And as for Christmas shopping . . . well, fighting the mob in a Walmart ain't exactly the stuff of a Norman Rockwell painting.

But now the tide is turning and even the billionaires who own Walmart are feeling the pinch as America's shopping public rushes to embrace a new paradigm for acquiring goods and services.  Purchases which once required bundling up and heading out into the cold are now being made from the comfort of home - on-line.

Walmart was late getting into the on-line sales game, but it is rushing to establish a strong presence in a marketplace where competition once again rules the shopping season.  True, Amazon is now the big dog in e-sales, but the internet offers thousands-upon-thousands of retail outlets from every corner of the world.  Suddenly the world is awash in choices that far exceed what is offered by Walmart - or even Amazon for that matter.

Yesterday I spent a couple of hours holiday shopping - most of it through Amazon and none through Walmart - and all from the warm convenience of my own home.  My gifts are all being sent (free) directly to the recipients, and I will receive notices when they arrive.  Easy-damned-peazy!

Today's poetry selection, "Christmas Shopping," is by Kay Roberts.  It takes a holistic view of the process from buying in stores to shopping on-line, and seems to graciously gravitate toward the more modern approach.

Let it snow - and break out the Mulled Wine.  There's shopping to do!

Christmas Shopping
by Kay Roberts

Wrapping paper,
Some gift tags,
Bows and ribbon,
Stuffed in Bags.
Baubles, tinsel,
Christmas cards,
Rushing around,
This shopping’s hard.
Grandpa’s hankies,
Granny’s shawl,
Uncle Albert’s socks,
I want to bawl.
Bruised and battered,
Bumped and shoved,
Just back off,
I won’t be rushed.
Parents panicking,
Yells and screams,
Fighting to buy the toy,
Of their child’s dreams.
I’m off home,
To do my shopping on line,
Sit in comfort,
With a glass of Mulled Wine.
I don’t care,
If you think I’m lazy,
I’m not doing that again,
I’m not crazy.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

A Five Million Dollar Roll in the Hay

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The unfolding saga of the unraveling political career of former Congressman Trent Franks of Arizona continues to get kinkier and stinkier.

Late last week Franks announced that he would be leaving Congress at the end of January due to statements that he had made regarding "surrogacy" to a couple of female staff members, remarks which, according to Franks, were seen as insensitive by the women.  The morally rigid Franks lamented that he and his wife desperately wanted another child but were plagued with infertility problems.  He approached the female staffers with regard to the issue, and at least one of the two made a report which reached the House Ethics Committee - and an investigation was begun.

So Trent Franks decided to bail at a point about seven weeks in the future, a delay that would give him time to faithfully carry some additional water for House Speaker Paul Ryan and insure that America's wealthiest had his vote on the tax bill that would stuff more of America's money into their pockets.

And in helping get the tax bill through, Franks would stuff more money into his own pocket as well.

(Trent Franks was a wealthy individual when he was first elected to Congress in 2003.  He and his brothers were investors in a couple of petroleum companies which had made Trent a single-digit millionaire.  But, according to data analyzed by Ballotpedia, his net worth has increased by a staggering $25 million since he left the dust of West Phoenix for the marbled halls of Congress.) 

But then more details of Franks' surrogacy began to become public, his wife was hospitalized, and Trent regrouped.  Trent Franks decided to resign this past Friday instead of at the end of January.  While the pious Arizona millionaire hustled to protect his good name and avoid a "trial by media," Paul Ryan could be carrying his own damned water.

Trent and Josephine Franks wanted another child to be a younger sibling to their twins, a boy and girl who were born through a surrogacy procedure.  He discussed his family situation and desire to find a suitable surrogate with the female staffers, and reportedly went so far as to suggest a cash payment of $5 million with one of the women.  Both ladies said that they felt pressured by Franks and thought he was proposing a situation in which he would personally impregnate one of them through sexual intercourse rather than a laboratory procedure.

A man starts talking to women at the office about his desire to father another child.  The man proposes a scheme in which one of the women would become pregnant with his child.  The man offers to make one of the women an instant millionaire for carrying his child.  That man is the boss.

Yeah, that sounds like sexual harassment.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Congress, Show Us Your Rodents!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Way back in 1995 the United States Congress passed the Congressional Accountability Act, a law which set up a system for dealing with allegations of sexual abuse toward members of Congress, a piece of legislation which some now say traumatizes victims more than the sexual abuse they initially suffered at the hands of our elected leaders.  The act forces victims into counseling and mediation before they can sue their attackers, and then, if they sue and win, payoffs are made through a secret hush fund of public money.

According to a recent account by Fox News, over 200 secret payments totaling more that $17 million have been paid out since the law to protect the reputations of members of Congress went into effect twenty-two years ago.  The Washington Post puts the number of payoffs at two hundred and sixty-seven.  Representative John Conyers of Michigan reportedly tapped the secret fund for $27,000 to pay off an accuser, and Representative Blake Farenthold of Texas made news this week when he promised to reimburse the government $80,000 that was used to pay off his accuser.

Victims who receive payouts through the congressional hush fund sign a confidentiality agreement to keep their settlement secret.  Now, of course, there is a movement underway to roll back the secrecy and let Americans see which of their esteemed leaders have benefited from taxpayer-funded payoffs.

Again according to  Fox:

"A nonpartisan ethics watchdog, the Foundation for Accountability and Civil Trust (FACT), has called for the immediate release of the names of all lawmakers connected to the taxpayer payouts by the Office of Compliance to settle harassment suits over the past two decades." 
FACT Executive Director Kendra Arnold was quoted as saying:

"That is an egregious affront to all the victims, as well as taxpayers.   We don't need speeches and public posturing - we need the internal policy to change and immediate transparency."
Lift the veil of secrecy, Congress.  Show us your rodents!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Silence Breakers Bring Down Two More in Congress

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Yesterday proved  to be an especially hard one for sexual abusers and harassers in Congress.  Early in the day Senator Al Franken of Minnesota succumbed to an effort by several of his female colleagues - and a couple of males - in the Senate to force his resignation and announced that he would give up his senate seat in the "near future."  Franken, a man who has been an unrelenting advocate for advancing the rights of women, denied some of the allegations against him, but presumably saw the need to remove himself from the headlines so that Democrats could retain the high ground in the growing tide of sexual abuse revelations.  Some of the senators who had called on him to resign reportedly cried as he did so.

The other resignation came from a man who is not nearly as revered as Franken.  Arizona Congressman Trent Franks, my former representative in Congress, announced that he would resign at the end of January over allegations made by a pair of his former staffers.  Franks admitted that he was being investigated by the House Ethics Committee over comments regarding "surrogacy" that he had made to two female staff members.    It turns out that the highly sanctimonious congressman had essentially asked the women to consider having his baby.  He said that he and Mrs. Franks desperately wanted a child but were unable to conceive.

Trent Franks is a one-trick-pony as a congressman, only springing to attention whenever the subject of abortion is being discussed.  He built his career on being a ferocious advocate of fetuses, and a constant thorn in the side of the pro-choice movement.  Franks' total focus on sexual reproduction and limiting health care options of women provided an ironic backdrop to the allegations that he tried to talk a pair of women in a subservient position to him into carrying his child.  That dog didn't hunt well at all!

Time Magazine has announced that the "silence breakers," the women who have started coming forth to illuminate America's long, shabby history of sexual abuse leveled against women by men in positions of power, will be this year's collective "person of the year."   Their brave efforts represent a cathartic moment in American history, one that is beginning to unwind a long and complicated history of repugnant and illegal behavior.  As these women bravely step forward, hopefully they will kick down barriers and allow all women to enjoy a life of fairness and respect that their mothers and grandmothers were denied under the hard shell of the patriarchy.

And good riddance to vagina-monitor Trent Franks!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Family Night at the Movies

by Pa Rock
Proud Patriarch

Last night was one of those welcome, yet rare, times when a significant portion of my family managed to collect in one spot.   The gathering was for the West Plains premier of Tim's second movie, Tatterdemalion, which was filmed in and around West Plains in the summer of 2015.  The event was a big success with the local cine-plex, The Glass Sword Theatre, opening four screens for simultaneous viewing.  Last night's premier was by invitation only, but the movie will run for general admission for the coming week - and possibly two weeks.

A "red carpet" reception was held at the threatre preceding the showing which featured snacks provided by El Charro, a local Mexican eatery.  Ramaa Mosley, the film's director introduced the movie, and a question-and-answer session hosted by Mosley, screenwriter Tim Macy, and several cast members took place after the show.

Unfortunately the show's two central characters were unable to be in attendance.  Leven Rambin, who played Fern Sreaves, an army veteran who returned home to the Ozarks for the funeral of her father and to locate her troubled brother, was in Paris promoting her new series for NBC called "Gone."  Landon Edwards, who played Cecil, the tatterdemalion living alone in the woods, was at home in Arkansas taking his middle school finals and could not attend last night's showing - but his little sister was on hand.  Tatterdemalion was Landon's first film, but he has since had the lead in another movie entitled Snow.

The director, Ramaa Mosely, stressed how much she and the film crew had enjoyed working in West Plains and getting to know the community.  She shared many anecdotes about things that she had experienced while filming in the Ozarks.  Mosley was on the ground in Missouri for just a few hours yesterday.  She flew in from her home in Los Angeles, and late in the evening she had to fly out to Vancouver, British Columbia, where she is filming a commercial today.  She and screenwriter Tim Macy have one previous film together, The Brass teapot (2012), and she indicated last night that the duo my have a third production in the planning stages.

Mosley said that Tatterdemalion is being sold to a distributor who will give it a limited run in a dozen or so movie houses, and that the film will eventually be available through streaming venues such as Netflix.

After the big evening at the theatre concluded, the Macy clan headed over to the after-party at Roper's Saloon on the square in West Plains.  Our group included Tim and his wife, Erin, and their two children, Olive and Sully, Erin's sister, Bree and her husband, Ricardo and their son, Niko (all from the Kansas City area), Miss Patti from Noel, and Tim's proud father.  Tim's older brother Nick, had been at the movie premier but skipped the after-party.  (The "saloon" is actually a nice family restaurant that happens to serve alcohol.)  This morning the group reassembled at Pa Rock's farm where the kids chased geese and peacocks and the parents bundled in coats and blankets, trudged after them.  Olive and Niko both left with peacock feathers - and Niko planned to take his to show-and-tell at his school.

And all of this has been Pa Rock's show-and-tell.  He had a wonderful time visiting with family and reveling in his son's accomplishment.  It just doesn't get much better than this!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

"Tatterdemalion" Opens Tonight in West Plains

by Pa Rock
Proud Papa

"Tatterdemalion," a feature-length motion picture that was filmed in and around West Plains, Missouri, in the summer of 2015, is coming home.  The movie, which had its world premiere at the Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis this past October, will debut in West Plains this evening in a "Red Carpet" premier at the town's local multi-plex, The Glass Sword Cinema.  Tonight's first showing is by invitation only, with the cast and crew using the opportunity to bring in their relatives and friends to see the finished product that consumed so much of their lives back in the summer of 2015.

Early reports indicate that the number of "invitees" totals in excess of six-hundred and will require three screens for the showing.  In addition to the invitees, a Facebook page created to support the movie gave away sixty-seven pairs of tickets to lucky individuals.

Tonight's initial showing will be followed by a question-and answer session.  The evening will culminate with an open gathering at Roper's Saloon on the West Plains Square with everyone welcome.  The local premier is being sponsored by the Glass Sword Cinema and the West Plains Downtown Revitalization Committee.

For those who failed to score an invitation to the premier or win free tickets, the movie will run through next week at the Glass Sword, open to the general public - and, if demand exists, the theatre has agreed to run it a second week.

The film's director, Ramaa Mosely, will be on hand for the big event, along with the movie's writer, Tim Macy - as well as most of the cast and crew.  Mosely is from Los Angeles, and Macy, a native of Howell County, lives in the Kansas City area.  Both have developed strong ties to this area.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The John Conyers' Estate

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

John Conyers first went to Congress in 1965, and he was, until this morning, the senior member of that legislative body.  In the more than fifty years that John Conyers has represented the 13th district of Michigan, he has made a name for himself as a leading progressive who was not afraid to challenge the status quo and go up against formidable political opposition.  He was the immediate past chairman of the powerful House Judiciary Committee, as well as a past chairman of the House Oversight Committee.  Conyers was also a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

This morning John Conyers resigned from the House of Representatives from his hospital bed in Michigan where he is currently recovering from media-induced stress brought on by news stories regarding a $27,000 government payoff to a woman who had accused Conyers, her former boss, of sexual harassment.   Conyers denied the allegation and the charge is currently being investigated by the House Ethics Committee.  Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, a former Speaker of the House, initially referred to Conyers as an "icon" and a champion of women's rights and insisted that he have an opportunity to rebut the charges.  Pelosi, however, later modified her position and stated that the charges were believable and Conyers should resign.

And resign he did.

But even with his resignation from Congress, John Conyers continues to stir controversy.  As he announced his resignation on a Detroit radio program this morning, he added a postscript by endorsing his son, John Conyers III, to fill the newly vacant seat.  And while John III may expect to receive his rightful inheritance in due course, his path to grabbing it will include dealing with a claim by another grasping relative.  The Congressman's grand-nephew, Ian Conyers, is indicating that he will run for the family seat at the government trough.

A seat in Congress is a terrible thing to waste!

The Republican Party, which, according to its latest tax scam, believes strongly in the right to inherit without government encumbrances, so perhaps it will not object to the Conyers' family continuing to claim sole ownership of Michigan's 13th.

The Detroit-area seat is likely to remain in Democratic hands, even if it slips outside of the powerful reach of the Conyers' family.   Some are beginning to give voice to the notion that it might be fitting if the new representative from Michigan's 13th was a woman.  That outcome would be ironic, with just a touch of the poetic.

Best to you in your golden years of retirement Congressman Conyers.  Happy trails!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Monday's Poetry: "Letter to a Tyrant"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Donald Trump is on another Twitter tear, this morning waging an all-out attack on the FBI.  That, of course, is an old and continuing tactic in Trump's playbook.  Any time he is criticized or senses danger, he lashes out with a barrage of accusations intended to de-legitimize his potential accusers.  As David Leonhardt pointed out in the editorial pages of today's New York Times: 

(Trump) "has previously done (the same thing) with C.I.A. agents, federal judges, scientists, Congress Budget Office analysts and journalists, among others.  The president wants to undercut just about anybody who is an independent source of information."
Trump wants the focus to be on him, and not his wide array of critics and accusers.   He is a constant victim and he suffers well in the bright lights of public attention.  His cunning and guile are limitless, and he literally knows no shame.

Donald Trump is, in the true spirit of a third-world dictator, a despot who has no intention of ever becoming enlightened.

Today's selection, "Letter to a Tyrant," is by Nigerian poet Ephraim Nnawihe, a relatively unknown man of letters who nevertheless managed to capture the character of a despotic individual in just a few lines.   Nnawihe's tyrant bears an uncanny resemblance to our own - and his last line offers a glimmer of hope in our long struggle to resist the craziness emanating from the executive branch.

Letter to a Tyrant
by Ephraim Nnawhie

You claim to be a boss to me
And forcefully have your way in me
I may be your assistant
But please keep your distance
I cant stand your uncivilized manner
With all due respect sir ''you are mad."

You gain your way to the top
But take away water from our cup
Rendering people homeless gives you joy
You can break or amend as though we are your toy
With all due respect sir ''you are wicked."

You know much well you cant earn our votes
So you rig the polls and make us scapegoats
You turn female graduates to prostitute
You are a goodman that kills the truth
With all due respect sir ''you are a fraud."

I will bring transformation to our nation
No nepotism, no discrimination
But you loot our nation's treasures
To satisfy your endless pleasures
With all due respect sir ''you are a thief."

You claim to be a man of peace
But kill our children, tear them piece by piece
You spill our father's blood
To are a lord
With all due respect sir ''you are an animal."

Time shall come when the earth shall speak
Kill all those things that make you tick
And then the trees shall ring the bells
And birds of the earth your tale shall tell
And the most feeble creature shall say to thee
With all due respect sir ''you are under arrest."

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Judah Is Eight and Doing Great!

by Pa Rock
Proud Grandpa

My grandson, Judah Files, turns eight-years-old today.  He lives in Oregon with his big brother, Sebastian, and his younger sister, Willow - and his parents, Scott and Molly.  I know that Judah's Grandfather and Grandmother Files are visiting this week to be on hand for his and his sister's birthdays, and hopefully they are all having a wonderful time.

Judah likes animals and knows how to ride a horse.  This past summer when he visited me on the farm he enjoyed being around the animals and especially had fun chasing the geese. 

Judah is also a big fan of cars and has quite a collection of toy cars and trucks.  His favorite movies are the three Pixar "Cars" films, each of which he has seen multiple times.  I didn't know much about the gang at Radiator Springs until I spent an afternoon watching the first "Cars" movie one afternoon with Judah.  I understand that his birthday party will have a "Cars 3" theme.

Happy birthday, Judah.  I heard that you got a new racetrack for your cars today.  Enjoy it!

I will see you in January!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Godspeed, Robert Mueller!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

To say that Donald John Trump has trouble speaking the truth would be among the grossest of understatements.   He lies with ease and abandon, often when it is not even necessary.  Lying is a habit to Trump - like grabbing any woman within reach and shoveling fast food into his expansive pie-hole.

Lying is an integral part of Donald Trump's existence, such a pervasive part of his being that the news media seems to tire of fact-checking and correcting him - perhaps out of the realization that everyone capable of rational thought already knows he is lying.  Why restate the obvious?

But today Donald Trump spit up a Twitter hairball that is worth repeating - and while it was obviously a lie, it would be a fun one to believe because it would likely be an admission that Trump had obstructed justice.

Yesterday Trump's former National Security Adviser, Mike Flynn, admitted that he had lied to the FBI in the Russia probe.  Today Trump, who is in obvious panic mode over what Flynn is likely swapping for fewer charges and a lighter sentence, went after him on Twitter:

"I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!"
Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, the former director of the FBI and who was appointed to his current legal perch by the current assistant director of the FBI, undoubtedly has full access to FBI records.  If Trump's bizarre - and belated - claim that he fired Flynn for lying to the FBI would happen to be true, and if Trump dutifully reported Flynn's lying to the FBI, then those facts are undoubtedly noted somewhere in the agency's record.  But if Trump fired Flynn for lying to the FBI (as he now states via Twitter), and then failed to notify the FBI that Flynn had lied to that agency, then it would seem to this grinning observer that Donald John Trump has willfully obstructed justice.  And if that is the case, then it's definitely Mueller time!

If Donald John Trump obstructed justice, then . . .

Lock him up - and impeach the sorry piece of bloated humanity! 

In that order.

Godspeed, Robert Mueller!

Friday, December 1, 2017

A Macy Holiday Tradition

by Pa Rock
Festivities Director

A year ago this month Tim and Erin and I took little Olive, who had just turned five, to see her first live theatre production.  We attended the Kansas City Repertory Theatre's 36th annual production of "A Christmas Carol."  Somehow we had managed to get front row seats, and Olive sat mesmerized throughout the entire performance.

Last night we again went to see "A Christmas Carol" at the KC Rep, and again Olive appeared to be enraptured by what was occurring on stage.  The play, which undergoes changes each year, was a delightful conglomeration of the Charles Dickens' famous story told among Victorian carolers who were strolling the stage and singing holiday music as the tale unfolded.

2017 is the 150th anniversary of Dickens' second trip to America, one in which he did public readings from "A Christmas Carol" both for his own financial benefit as well as to meet the needs of several charities.  This year's KC Rep presentation featured the character of Charles Dickens narrating portions of the play, much as he did with the text of his book a century-and-a-half ago.

This time Patti was a member of our happy group, and again we managed to score front row seats.

It would seem we are on the verge of starting a holiday tradition!

God bless us - and you - everyone!

Willow Is Six!

by Pa Rock
Proud Grandpa

My youngest granddaughter, Willow Files, turned six-years-old yesterday.   She celebrated her birthday at home with her older brothers, Sebastian and Judah.

Willow is in kindergarten and likes school.

I spoke with Willow on the phone yesterday evening and learned that she was having a good birthday.  We talked about movies, and she told that she had recently been to see "Trolls," which she liked.  Later Willow's mother texted a picture of Willow with her favorite birthday gift.  It was a box of "hair chalk" that I had sent to her.

Willow, I will be out to see you in January.  Maybe then you can figure out what color of chalk to use on Pa Rock's white hair!  While I am there we can go see a movie - pick out a good one!

Happy birthday, Sweetie!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Et Tu, Garrison?

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The patriarchy which has dominated American life and culture since the nation's founding suddenly seems to be teetering on complete collapse.  Yesterday while Congressman John Conyers was busy checking himself into a hospital to be treated for media-induced stress and Matt Lauer struggled to clear out his desk at NBC after being fired, Minnesota Public Radio announced that Garrison Keillor, the leading citizen of Lake Woebegone, Minnesota, had been fired over a couple of allegations of sexual misconduct.  The firing effectively ends several long-standing business ventures that Keillor had with MPR.

And, as if knocking one of the most prominent figures in public radio off of his celebrity perch wasn't enough in the way of retribution, Minnesota Public Radio also said that it would be changing the name of A Prairie Home Companion, the beloved radio program that Keillor created and hosted for decades.

Garrison Keillor, for his part, minimized at least one of the allegations, and appeared to take some pride in being fired.    He noted, perhaps a bit tongue-in-cheek:

"I'm doing fine. Getting fired is a real distinction in broadcasting and I've waited 50 years for the honor. All of my heroes got fired.   I only wish it could've been for something more heroic,"

He also said that getting fired was "poetic irony of a high order."

Just this past week Garrison Keillor had spoken out on the sexual abuse controversy surrounding fellow Minnesotan, Senator Al Franken.  He encouraged Franken not to resign from the Senate, and labeled his alleged groping of women as "humor of a low order."

Perhaps they both see it as being less humorous today.

A couple of days ago I referred to this "moment" in American history as a "tsunami of truth."   The big wave is sweeping across the landscape and washing away shame and humiliation of countless women as it carries a generation of men who abused power and privilege off to the sidelines of society.  Women are speaking up, forcefully, and the world is changing for the better.

If Garrison Keillor can be caught up in the moment and washed aside, it can happen to any man, anywhere - except perhaps in cultural backwaters like Alabama and the Trump White House.

But . . . never say never.

The moment continues.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Another One Bites the Dust

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Matt Lauer, the longtime host of The Today Show, has been fired by NBC following an allegation of sexual harassment of a female.  What's perhaps the most notable aspect of Lauer's dismissal is how quickly it happened.  The allegation was not given time to percolate in public for a few days while NBC and Lauer stumbled around trying to come up with a rationale to save the individual whom one NBC commentator just referred to as "the most powerful newsman at NBC."  The story was that Lauer had been accused - and he had been fired.  Fiat accompli.

The news networks are in a particularly tough spot with regard to sexual abuse allegations.  With the visceral image of Donald Trump hanging over them like a vulture at feeding time and wearing a ball cap proclaiming "Fake News," they have no room for any moves that could possibly be interpreted as being soft on harassers - not after shining the bright light of public scrutiny on odious visages like Roy Moore and Donald Trump himself.  There is zero room for appearing to harbor a double standard.

The timing of this allegation and response is particularly egregious in that Trump has recently chosen to challenge the infamous "pussy-grabbing" Access Hollywood tape that is a property of NBC.   Trump, who basically ignored the tape for over a year and dismissed it as "locker room talk," is now alleging that it is a phony - and he never uttered that statement.  Lying apparently comes as easily to Trump as breathing.

A friend and I attended The Today Show on a bitterly cold morning back in January of 2009.  Al Roker wasn't working that morning because he was on an out-of-town assignment (and, in fact, we had seen him leaving at the airport on the day we arrived), but the rest of the gang was there and on duty.  Meredith Vieira and Ann Curry came outside, into the cold, every time there was a break - and smoozed with the crazy tourists who were braving the cold.  Matt Lauer rushed out one time, bundled to the teeth, didn't speak to anyone, and quickly rushed back into the building at 30 Rock.  He came off as a bit of a prima dona. 

Four years later Lauer, who had a history of not getting along with Ann Curry, had her "promoted" off of the show, ripping a hole in the once "happy family" image of the show.

Somewhere today Ann is probably doing back-flips!

If Matt Lauer is innocent, may he have his day in court and achieve his vindication.  If he is guilty, may he man-up, own his actions, and work to make the world a safer and better place for those who have suffered in silence for far too long. 

The moment continues.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Granny Pelosi Misses the Moment

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

America was in the midst of a moment - and Nancy Pelosi missed it.    Perhaps her hearing aids were on the fritz, or maybe she was enjoying a well deserved nap.

A wave of moral indignation was sweeping across the country, taking down men of privilege who had wantonly used their wealth and positions of power to sexually harass and abuse females. – women who, until recently, had felt forced to remain quiet and compliant out of fear of  workplace reprisals or simply not being believed.   The dam, which had been cracked many times in the past with allegations of abuse leveled at prominent figures like Bill Clinton and Clarence Thomas, had finally broken, and women were suddenly empowered to step forward and tell their tales of being harassed, abused, and assaulted by men in power.

It was a wave, a tsunami of truth that was taking down executives, entertainers, and politicians of every stripe – and party.   But former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi  could not wrap her partisan head around the fact that  allegations of sexual abuse could cross party lines.

When asked on Meet the Press this past Sunday about charges leveled against John Conyers, a Democrat who is also the senior member of the House of Representatives, Pelosi immediately swung into the “fairness” mode noting that Conyers deserved a “fair hearing” on the matter, a position which could be defended as long as it is applied equally to members of both political parties.  But then she went into overreach with this gem:

“Just because someone is accused — was it one accusation? Was it two? John Conyers is an icon in our country. He's done a great deal to protect women.”

An “icon,” is it, Nancy?  Are we creating a special category for abusers, one where a past history of idealism negates the seriousness of sex crimes?

Some might argue that John Conyers has already had his “fair hearing” when he responded to an allegation of abuse by paying off his accuser with government funds.  Of course he should resign – and so should Donald Trump and (sadly) Al Franken - and the entire state of Alabama should undergo a massive lobotomy if it sends Roy Moore to the Senate!

And Nancy, while we are on the subject of resignations, perhaps you should consider submitting yours as well.  You could spend more time with your grandchildren, and let someone who is in-tune with the current century take your place in Congress.

America is having a moment with regard to sexual abuse, and those who interfere with the moment are dragging us backward.   History is on the march, Nancy, and you can best serve it by getting out of the way!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Monday's Poetry: "Feeding the Birds"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Though hard winters here in the Ozarks are pretty much a thing of the past, the season of we still call "winter" is rapidly approaching - and with it comes shorter days at cooler temperatures.   It is a time when nature's wildlife instinctively turns into its survival mode, finding food and building up body fat in an effort to make it until the warmth and green of spring breaks through the cold shell of winter.

I don't feed the birds and squirrels when the weather is warm because I believe they have a role to play in the natural order of things that involves being a check in the life cycle of bugs and other small creatures.  But food options decrease in winter and I try to step in and balance things out a little. 

I have a bird feeder hanging in the tree outside of the window where I write, and three squirrel feeders are also within the same view.   I began filling the bird feeder a couple of weeks ago, and yesterday I placed ears of corn in each of the squirrel feeders.  The smaller birds have already found their feeder and the larger birds and squirrels will not be far behind.  Watching the wildlife socializing and eating keeps me feeling warm and happy in the chilly season.

The geese and peacocks who live here at The Roost have also discovered the bird feeder and make several trips a day to feast on whatever has fallen from its hanging bounty.  It is an outdoor dining room that accommodates all visitors.

Today's selection, "Feeding the Birds" is a simple poem by a Brit who writes under the name "Teddybard."  Teddybard describes himself thusly:

"I am an old man English by birth. English by marriage. English by inclination.  The fact that no one understands you; does not mean you are a poet for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.   'Alcohol ' because no great story ever started with one eating salad or tomato."
So much for salads!

Feeding the Birds
by Teddybard

Of course my heart is open to the birds
whose song may lift my soul both night and day.
Cheering better with their song than words
could ever bring  happiness into play.
In feeding the birds I hope to attract
the small ones that twitter and tweet in tune.
I'm hoping the kindness in this small act
may cause my little feathered friends to croon.
My plan worked as well as any plan does
the garden is now full of pretty birds
but also attracts some far larger crows
and from our neighbours  some rather harsh words.
Into my feeders I fit a large scoop
and clean the car daily, it takes off the poop.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Wrong Mans

by Pa Rock

I had the opportunity to view a remarkably good action/comedy television series in its entirety over the holiday weekend.  The show, a British production called The Wrong Mans, stars comic actors Mathew Baynton and James Corden.  Baynton and Corden were also the creators of the series and were responsible for much of the writing.    Their creation ran for two seasons and a total of ten episodes of about thirty minutes each.  It is available on Hulu.

The premise has two somewhat goofy low-level government functionaries getting inadvertently swept up into global espionage.   Baynton's character witnesses a car wreck one morning while walking to work along a country lane.  After the police and ambulance arrive and leave, Baynton prepares to continue his walk when he hears a telephone ringing along beside the road.  A voice on the phone tells him that he has a limited time deliver the money or his wife would be killed.  Baynton, assuming the phone and the message belong to the injured driver of the car, takes the phone to work where he mentions the incident to his friend - Corden.  Corden's character decides this is their big moment, a time to break loose from their mundane lives and experience adventure.

Needless to say, they encounter adventure and experience life to a degree that neither had ever thought possible.  As their lives begin to seemingly unravel, the pair are confronted by gun-toting gangsters, framed for murder, taken into witness protection, busted for drug smuggling, sent to prison, mistaken for bomb-makers, and go through a raft of other life-altering experiences.

British comedy legend Dawn French stars in the series as Corden's mother.  

The Wrong Mans is an engrossing show that grabs viewers in the early scenes of the first episode and never lets go.  It is extremely well written, seldom predictable, and moves at a fast pace.  The main characters are a couple of everyday guys (mans) who climb aboard a wild ride and somehow manage to hang on.  Their ultimate success is a victory not only for themselves, but a win for every forgotten person who toils at the base of society and along the edges of the dream.

This is a good one.  Prepare to be entertained!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

The Big Winer!

by Pa Rock
Champeen Speller

A couple of years ago an Hispanic gentleman who worked at the Tyson Foods Poultry Processing Plant in my hometown of Noel, Missouri, stepped into the Rio Alce (Elk River) Gas Station and Package Store which is located on highway frontage adjacent to Tyson's.  While in the package store he purchased at least one Mega Millions ticket (back in the good old days when they were just a dollar each).  When he checked his numbers against the winning numbers, he was shocked to learn that he had won $25 thousand.  He was even more shocked when he and a friend rushed to Springfield to collect the winnings and he learned that he had either misread his numbers or had a poor understanding of decimals or commas - and had in fact won the grand prize of $25 MILLION!

This morning, on my way out of Noel, I stopped by the Rio Alce store to buy - what else - lottery tickets!  After making my purchase and getting back in the car, I happened to notice the flashing sign directly in from of my vehicle.  It announced that the store had a $25 million Mega Millions "winer."  I hadn't noticed the sign before during my very infrequent trips to that establishment, but I'm guessing that it has flashed the same message for a couple of years now.

Not being a trouble maker, I didn't rush back in the store and inform the workers on duty of their spelling error, and, in retrospect, it may have not been a mistake at all.  Perhaps it was a direct appeal to the local winos!

Everybody deserves a chance to be a big winer winner, even lovers of the grape!

Friday, November 24, 2017

The Old Gray Line

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

There was an article in the on-line blog, The Hill, today which said that the Democrats have upwards of thirty people just itching to get into the 2020 presidential race.   It went on to name six, presumably ones who are all at the front of the pack.  The first name up was Bernie Sanders whom the publication seemed to feel was a likely contender.  The article posited that Sanders supporters from 2016 feel that if he had been the party's ultimate nominee - he would have won, and it further presupposed that Sanders' supporters from the last election would line up to back him in the next one.

As a supporter of Bernie for the 2016 election, I would agree with part of that summary.  I think he would have run a stronger race than Hillary, and I think he was denied the nomination through a long and sustained attack by the Democratic National Committee and their especially odious leader, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.  It also didn't help that Sanders was pitted against one of the best-oiled political machines in recent American history.  Thank you, Donna Brazille, for drawing back the curtain on the black ops and evil machinations of the DNC - and may we learn from that ugly episode.

I would question the other part of The Hill's assertion about Sanders' supporters.  True, Bernie's supporters were committed and enthusiastic, and are likely to keep pulling the Democratic Party leftward for the forseeable future - but that will not necessarily be with Bernie at the point.  Bernie Sanders will be seventy-nine years-old by the time the next inauguration day rolls around, and that is too damned old to face the rigors of the presidency.

The second person on The Hill's list was former vice-president Joe Biden - and while everybody loves Joe, he is also far too old to be President.  Biden will turn seventy-eight a few days after the 2020 election.

The third name on the list was Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.  Warren, who is Rachel Maddow-brilliant, could handle the task, and her election would undoubtedly make Republican heads explode at every level of government - but she too is graying and will be seventy-one at the time of the next inauguration - the age Trump is now.

The fourth name was Senator Kamala Harris of California.  Harris has proven her chops in the Senate by standing up to Republican efforts to keep her quiet in committee hearings.  She is outspoken and very smart - and will be a mere child of fifty-six on the next inauguration day.

Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio and former Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts placed fifth and sixth, respectively, on The Hill's list of likely Democratic presidential contenders.  Brown, who is fast becoming the Senate's Democratic point person fighting the Trump middle class tax increase, will be sixty-eight at the time of the next inauguration - and Patrick, a reputed favorite of the Obama organization will be sixty-four.

One point that the article in The Hill bought up is that 2020 may be a difficult election cycle for males following the deluge of sexual abuse allegations across all political strata.  It suggested that because everyone is gun shy about the possibility of more allegations, a practical solution would be to have a female nominee.

Not mentioned in the listing in The Hill was the obvious elephant in the room - Hillary Rodham Clinton.  Those of us who have watched the Clintons for decades know how unlikely it is that one would simply choose to walk away from politics - even one who will be seventy-three-years-old when the next inauguration rolls around.

Business Insider has also recently published its own list of top Democratic presidential contenders.  Like The Hill,  its first two names were Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden.  Third on the list was New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, the woman who took Hillary Clinton's seat in the Senate.  The experienced Gillibrand who has already served one term in the House and two in the Senate would be fifty-five on January 20, 2021.  Other names suggested by Business Insider include, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Sherrod Brown, New Jersey Senator Corey Booker, former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy, and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Clearly the country is in need of serious change, and some, including myself, would argue that the Democratic Party could stand a good shakeup as well.  It's time to pin a couple of service ribbons on Sanders, and Hillary, and Nancy Pelosi and others of their generation - and turn them out for a well deserved romp in the retirement pasture.

It's time for the old gray line of the Democratic Party to pass the torch of leadership to our energetic and idealistic youth.  We've had our turn, and now it is theirs.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

A Generation Fades

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Three disparate characters have passed away during the past couple of weeks, and while bearing no connections to each other, each left a large imprint on American culture and society. 

American political operative Bobby Baker died on November 12th, his 89th birthday, in St. Augustine, Florida.  Baker was a twenty-year-old experienced Senate page when Lyndon Johnson arrived in the chamber in 1948.  LBJ quickly latched on to the youth who had a commanding knowledge of the interests and proclivities of the other members of that august body, and he used Baker's political acumen to build a power base that eventually led to his selection as the Majority Leader of the Senate.   Baker was involved in an influence-peddling scandal during the Johnson presidency that commanded headlines and ended his powerful dominance on Capitol Hill - and tainted LBJ's political image.

Charles Manson, the charismatic leader of the Manson Family cult, died in California on November 17th at the age of eighty-three.  The diminutive Manson became a father figure to several disaffected youth and eventually led the his group of followers in a couple of murder sprees of rich and famous people, crimes which generated sensationalized headlines and captured the focus of the nation.  The members of the Manson Family were originally sentenced to death, but when the Supreme Court ended the death penalty, their sentences were commuted to life-in-prison.  At the time of his death, Charles Manson had been incarcerated nearly fifty years.

Pop singer David Cassidy died November 21st in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.  The former teen idol was the son of actor Jack Cassidy and the step-son of actress Shirley Jones.  In 1970 he began a four-year run with his famous step-mother on the television show, The Partridge Family, a sitcom about a family of singers.  Some of the songs recorded by the show's cast went on to be pop favorites, and Cassidy had his own career as a solo singer.  He was still touring and performing up until a few months before his death.

It was a period of rapid change in America, and the baby-boomers were confronted with a smorgasbord of sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll served up with a rich sauce of politics and war.  But the hedonistic feast which rocked and changed the world has ended, and the table is slowly being cleared.

Headlines are becoming footnotes.

A generation is fading.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Traveling for Turkey

by Pa Rock
Road Warrior

Rosie and I hit the road early this morning and are now at Patti's home in Noel, Missouri, where we will celebrate Thanksgiving with her family tomorrow.  Our meal will be prepared by Patti's oldest son, Anthony, an honest-to-God chef who received some of his culinary training in Italy.  Pa Rock plans on eating way too much!

Today is supposedly one of the busiest traveling days of the year, and traffic was heavy throughout the 210-mile sojourn.  I encountered four highway patrol cars with lights flashing as they spread holiday greetings and terror.

The state of Missouri has a system of large electronic traffic signs that post road conditions and give drivers pithy little reminders about the need to be careful.  Today the signs were focused on the holiday weekend.   One state traffic sign the I encountered said "Mash potatoes - not your head!"  Clever, huh?  Another warned that a crash could cause you to "lose your giblets."   Still another read "Thanks - for buckling t children in car seats," and obvious nod to "Thanks" giving.

I suspect our new governor, Republican "Former Navy Seal" Eric Greitens is responsible for the clever signage.  Most Republicans have gotten to where they communicate in tweets these days - and Greitens doesn't seem to have much else to do.  (Friends who know the governor assure me that he is smarter than he acts, but so far that assertion is not supported by hard evidence.)

But I hope his Thanksgiving is a good one, nonetheless.  I know mine will be!

Bring on the turkey!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Toast Party

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Traveling must not agree with Donald Trump because he returned from his recent foray around Asia spitting even more venom than usual.  Trump's tweets since returning from Asia have been so deranged that they have even been criticized on Fox News, of all places.  Fox host Neil Cavuto took Trump to task over his vitriolic remarks about the father of one of the UCLA basketball players who had been arrested in China for shoplifting - and also for an unseemly attack on Arizona Senator Jeff Flake.

When the father of one of the UCLA players declined to thank Trump for assisting in his son's release, Trump exploded on Twitter over the man's ingratitude and said he "should have left them in jail."  How dare that black man not bend before the Great Orange Potentate!  Cavuto wasn't having it, and noted that Trump seemed to expect "gratitude bordering on groveling."

Donald Trump is a narcissist, and he does expect people to grovel before his magnificent self.

Cavuto also took note of Trump's most recent attack on Jeff Flake.  Flake had been caught on a "hot" microphone back home in Arizona telling a local politician that the Republican Party was going to become "toast" if it stood by people like Donald Trump and Roy Moore.  He didn't tweet his remark for the whole world to see, but it was overheard and eventually reached the ear of Trump.

But again, Trump is a narcissist and does not take criticism well.  He fired back a tweet at "Senator Jeff Flake(y)" saying that Flake had "purposely" spoken on a hot mike "saying bad things about your favorite president" - and predicting that Flake would be a "NO" vote on "tax cuts."  Trump then predicted that it was Flake's career that was toast.

Cavuto, after hammering on Trump's tendency toward overkill, informed Trump that he was running out of friends, and then suggested, "You are the president of the United States.  Why don't you act like it?"

Why indeed.

But meanwhile lets all sit back and enjoy the ever increasing piles of Republican toast.  Would somebody please pass the marmalade?

Monday, November 20, 2017

Monday's Poetry: "Thanksgiving Day"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Today's selection, "Thanksgiving Day" by Lydia Maria Child, is an old-fashioned verse that captures a Currier and Ives image of an ideal holiday that we would all liked to have experienced.  I particularly appreciated the notion of snow at Thanksgiving which did remind me of two consecutive Thanksgivings when I was a child here in the Ozarks and each was marked with the first snowfall of the season.  Now, thanks to the continual neglect of mankind, the climate has changed to the point that snow in the Ozarks is a rarity.

Like the narrator of this poem, the Thanksgivings that I best remember are those that took place at my grandparent's house - a rural setting with a table heaped high and cousins aplenty!  When it did snow, that just made it better.

Here is a quick glimpse of the prelude to an old-time Thanksgiving.

Drive safely, behave responsibly, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving with people you love - or in the service of others.

Thanksgiving Day
by Lydia Maria Child

Over the river, and through the wood,
  To grandfather’s house we go;
       The horse knows the way 
       To carry the sleigh
  Through the white and drifted snow.

Over the river, and through the wood—
  Oh, how the wind does blow!
       It stings the toes 
       And bites the nose
  As over the ground we go.

Over the river, and through the wood,
  To have a first-rate play.
       Hear the bells ring 
  Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day!

Over the river, and through the wood
  Trot fast, my dapple-gray!
       Spring over the ground, 
       Like a hunting-hound!
  For this is Thanksgiving Day.

Over the river, and through the wood,
  And straight through the barn-yard gate.
       We seem to go 
       Extremely slow,—
  It is so hard to wait!

Over the river and through the wood—
  Now grandmother’s cap I spy!
       Hurrah for the fun! 
       Is the pudding done?
  Hurrah for the pumpkin-pie!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Senator Gillibrand Is Right

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

This week New York Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, the person who was appointed to replace Hillary Clinton in the Senate when she moved over to run the State Department, grabbed some headlines when she told a reporter that Bill Clinton should have resigned the presidency as a result of the Monica Lewinsky scandal.   Gillibrand, whom some see as a potential Democratic presidential candidate in 2020, rattled the cages of more than a few party lions with that unexpected remark.

Bill Clinton, who came to Washington, DC, in the early 1990's with a reputation for extra-marital affairs following him from his time as Governor of Arkansas, was supposedly a fanboy of JFK's sexual exploits in the White House.  Regardless of his motivations, Clinton could not overcome his reckless passions, and his lustful pursuits of a young female intern became the consuming news story in the nation's capital for many months at the end of that decade.

On one level, the one cited by die-hard Clinton supporters, all the poor man did was engage in a sexual act with a consenting adult.  One the other hand, however, Clinton broke his marriage vows and he did so in a place that is sacrosanct in American history, the White House.  And while Clinton's partner in this sex act may have been of consenting age, she was just 22-years-old when she was brought to her knees by the 49-year-old leader of the free world - a barely legal young woman meeting the needs of creep bearing enormous stature and power.   It might as well have been rape.

And Gillibrand is right.  Bill Clinton should have resigned the presidency out of shame - even if he committed no "crime" and the impeachment process was little more than political overreach by the Republican Party.  He should have manned-up and said, "By God I was wrong, and I am ashamed."  But Bill Clinton blamed everyone but Bill.

He was no better than Judge Roy Moore.

He was no better than Donald John Trump.

And he should have resigned.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Steve and Louise Shop for Wallpaper

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

In what was perhaps one of the most tone-deaf moments of the Trump regime so far, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and his wife, an actress named Louise Linton, posed this week with newly engraved sheets of dollar bills - the new ones which bear Mnuchin's signature.  A pair of clueless newlyweds posing with the nation's money supply, with the connotation being that it was theirs to do with as they pleased.  Clearly Steve and Louise don't face the every day pressures that affect most of their countrymen because they print their own money!

Steve and Louise both made their money the old fashioned way.  Steve went to good schools and entered the banking business as an executive and quickly rose even higher.   He was a bigwig with Goldman Sachs for several years, and then joined in a group with other wealthy bankers and formed banking giant One West, an organization which grew enormously and immorally fat on home loan foreclosures.  Then Trump happened and Mnuchin's scandalous banking resume fit right in with what the billionaire tax dodger and his entourage had in mind for Treasury.

Louise, on the other hand, took a more direct route to Easy Street.  The Scottish born actress who had a minimal screen career - mostly as someone preparing to be a victim in fright movies where she earned the appellation "the scream queen," found a sugar daddy and married him shortly after he began signing the nation's currency.  Her eagle had landed - at the damned mint!

As all of the awful photos of Steve and Louise posing with the newly printed sheets of dollar bills began circulating on the web, various sights challenged readers to come up with appropriate captions.    One of mine was Louise saying, "Look Ma, I got me a feller who prints his own money!"  Another thought that flitted through my mind was that the giddy-happy couple looked like they might be shopping for wallpaper.  The sheet they were examining was one-dollar bills, which Louise might feel would be appropriate for the maid's bathroom, and I'm sure Steve had in mind running off some Woodrow Wilson $100,000 bills for the ceiling in the master bedroom - something to encourage heroic efforts in bed.

Whatever their personal agendas, it's good to see a couple of Trump tools fondling small bills - for a change.  Keep it up, you crazy lovebirds!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Feeding and Harvesting Deer

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Fall

Missouri has several different types of seasons for hunting deer, but the big one, the one where orange-clad "sportsmen" with big rifles get to stalk the beautiful and fairly docile creatures, has only recently begun.  In fact, last Saturday was the opening day of gun deer season in Missouri, and hunters managed to "harvest" over a hundred thousand deer in the first two days of the murderous frenzy.  My own county, Howell (Howl) led the state in deer kills with over 2,000 being reported over the bloody weekend.  After brief stops by the newspaper office to pose for trophy pictures, the carcasses are quickly carted off to meat processors and taxidermists where the once proud animals are ground into summer sausage and have their heads preserved to hang on trailer house walls where they will frighten small children and be used as coat racks throughout the coming year.

If it sounds like I take this annual outrage a bit too seriously, it is undoubtedly because I do.  Yes, there are too many deer in our state, and they do require thinning, but to just throw open the woods to a stampede of hunters, many of them drunks and some of them children, seems like madness.  There will be human deaths as a result of the rifle deer season - there always are, but those deaths will be downplayed and minimized.  The important number is always the total of deer killed.

I feed the deer at my little farm.   Actually I feed lots of creatures, and three deer yearlings come by most mornings, before daylight, to share in the grain that is strewn  on the ground.  They are tame, so unafraid that I am often within ten feet of them when we first notice each other.  They scamper away until I finish tossing out the grain, and then slip back up to finish their breakfast.

This week we have all been more on edge as gunshots rip through the sylvan serenity of the countryside during most waking hours.  The young deer normally stay hidden during the daylight hours, but Wednesday one appeared in my front yard in the middle of the day.  He acted disoriented and eventually headed back toward the barn and away from the road - but not before several motorists had slowed and took his measure, and presumably weighed the risks of shooting a deer in their neighbor's yard.

I will be glad when the season for this bloody "sport" comes to a close so me and my friends can get back to the peace and quiet that we cherish.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Is Your Bible Autographed?

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The other day I came across a news tidbit on the Internet which claimed that God's man in the backwoods of Alabama, Judge Roy Moore, occasionally autographs Bibles for his fan-billies.  That was a bit on the presumptive side, I thought, but wanting to be fair to a jurist who has been known for being fair to so many others,  I sought out confirmation of this odd activity - a behavior that some might consider blasphemous.  Unfortunately, the only corroboration I could come up with were a couple of tweets that made the same allegation.

So forget I said anything about it at all.

But tweets are often news themselves. Take for example the tweets of Donald Trump, many of which are total rubbish - yet reputable news outlets tend to repeat them as though they had just come down the mountain with Moses.

So forget that part about forgetting I said anything at all.  I believe the women who have accused Roy Moore of being a child-molesting pervert, so I guess I can also believe that he signs books for God.  It's not that much of a stretch.  Mitch McConnell believes the women, too - and so apparently does Sean Hannity now that he has seen the light - the one shining through his lack of advertisers.

Roy Moore has a long and complicated relationship with God, so perhaps it is possible that the deity wants Roy signing his Big Book.  Moore, a theocrat, believes the United States Constitution is an inferior document to the word of God as presented in the Bible and interpreted by Roy Moore.  In the spirit of the country's best evangelical hucksters, he established a foundation - the Foundation for Moral Law - to promote his views and accept love offerings of cash donations.   Moore has paid himself a hefty salary of $180,000 a year for five years from the money that the group takes in from the rubes.  Moore's wife, Kayla, (fourteen years his junior) is the president of the Foundation for Moral Law.  It is currently unclear just how well Roy Moore and his family are living off of the Foundation for Moral Law because the group is a couple of years behind on filing its taxes - and taxes are a clear example of Man's Law interfering with the Law of God.  Senator Roy Moore could help fix that.

One thing that I did learn through my Bible-signing research is that former Arkansas Governor and Baptist minister, Mike Huckabee, does have a history of autographing Bibles - and there are photographs on the Internet of him doing it!  That might be the basis of a good question for Sarah Huckabee Sanders at the next Presidential press briefing.  Heck, her boss might even want to get in on the act, especially if he could turn a few bucks by doing it.

Autographed Bibles.  I sense an emerging racket!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Al Franken: Giant of the Senate

by Pa Rock

Al Franken rose to prominence as a funny man, experiencing success as both a comedy writer and a comedian.  But Franken also has other passions.   Unlike many in show business, he is still happily married his first wife,  Franni, a union that has lasted more than forty years and produced two fine children and several grandchildren.   He is also an idealist who has an uncommon interest in the survival and well-being of the little people of the world, those who are enjoined in the daily struggle of just getting by.  His concerns for the welfare of the common man are what led him away from comedy and into the realm of public service.

Franken, the junior United States Senator from Minnesota, is the author of six previous books, all with a liberal political bent, and a couple of which launch verbal harpoons at Republican gasbags like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly.  He is now out with book number seven, a modest tome entitled:  "Al Franken:  Giant of the Senate."

The new book is an autobiography that is mainly comprised of sketches of the author's life from his childhood in Minnesota, through his evolution as a comedian - with particular emphasis on the fifteen years in which he wrote for and was featured on Saturday Night Live, to his entry into the political orbit of Minnesota's revered Senator Paul Wellstone, and finally to his own life in politics.  Quite a bit of the book is focused on Franken's experiences in learning to be an effective senator and his constant struggle to work within the arcane senate system while always staying focused on the needs of his constituents back home in Minnesota. 

In many ways this book is a primer on both how to be an effective senator as well as a functioning human being.  It should be read and pondered by anyone who is considering running for office.

The author goes into much detail about the importance of being prepared for the job, citing the extensive reading that he has to do in order to be ready for committee hearings on a wide range of issues - and his sheer delight when his thorough preparations enable him expose fallacies being presented as facts.  Franken also hits, time and again, on the importance of playing well with others.  Not every sitting United Stats Senator is someone that we might want as a next door neighbor - just ask the guy who lives next door to Rand Paul - but if a senator is going to be able to advocate successfully for the folks back home, he will eventually need the support of most of his colleagues, even the odious ones.

The one exception to Senator Franken's tireless efforts to find something to like about each of his colleagues is Ted Cruz.  His disdain for Cruz is noted on the book's jacket and has been repeated on talk shows and almost every published review of the book.  The junior senator from Minnesota famously said about the junior senator from Texas:

"Here's the thing you have to understand about Ted Cruz.  I like Ted Cruz more than most of my other colleagues like Ted Cruz.  And I hate Ted Cruz."
One has to wonder how America's most humorous senator would characterize Senator Roy Moore!

But Roy Moore or not, and Donald Trump or not, Al Franken still views the world in positive terms and beats the drum for hope and change.  Yesterday Senator Franken posted the following "alert" on Twitter.  His importance as a voice for a caring and concerned America is reflected in the fact that it has been retweeted nearly 60,000 times in less than a day:

"RED ALERT: Senate GOP just added provision to their tax plan that would gut ACA & kick 13M ppl off insurance. Yes, it's same tax plan that would add $1 trillion+ to deficit while giving majority of benefits to corporations & the rich. We need you to make your voices heard again."
 We are being called to action by someone who truly cares.

 "Al Franken:  Giant of the Senate" is inspiring - and so is the man who wrote it!  He is the example that everyone who enters public service should strive to emulate.   

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Mnuchin Speaks for Nobody - and Fails

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Last year Donald Trump showed America just how he planned to "drain the swamp" as he appointed a raft of incompetents and people of power and privilege to his inner circle.  One of Trump's more interesting selections was Steven Mnuchin, the man whom he nominated to become the 77th Secretary of the Treasury of the United States.  Mnuchin, a long-time executive with Goldman Sachs who went on to lead a group in the formation of banking giant One West - a foreclosure beast - also headed a Hollywood production company before coming to Washington.  As a new Trump cabinet member he has proven to be one of the more colorful clowns at the circus.

This past summer Mnuchin married his third wife, an actress named Louise Linton, and made headlines when it was learned that he had tried unsuccessfully to commandeer a government plane for their honeymoon - ostensibly so he would have access to good communications equipment.  Later he made headlines when the new wife tweeted about all of her shopping successes while accompanying hubby on some on his government business flights - aboard private chartered jets.

Steve and Louise - just a couple of crazy kids out enjoying life and love - on the public dime.

Steven Mnuchin grabbed a few more headlines this week when he made an odd statement on one of the Sunday news shows.  Mnuchin informed the interviewer that "nobody" thinks Russia influenced the U.S. elections and it was time to move on.  He had this to say on Face the Nation:

“Let me be clear, nobody thinks this has had any impact on the election. So whatever occurred, there was no impact.  So I think the American public is ready to move on to more important issues: tax reform and foreign policy and national security.”
I guess that makes me "nobody" because I damned sure believe that Russia influenced the 2016 U.S. Presidential election - and it did so to such an extent that it was able to install a total incompetent into the Oval Office - one that would appoint somebody like Steven Mnuchin to be the Secretary of the Treasury.

So much for draining the swamp!

That's my two cents worth.  "Nobody" has spoken!

No wait, there's more.  Steven, to paraphrase American master-poet James Carville, "Screw you and the horse you rode in on!"  You may speak for a certain class of individuals, but you will never speak for us - the "nobodies" of the the world.  So just shut up and count your money.

Okay, now I'm finished!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Monday's Poetry: "Return to the House at Pooh Corner"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Yesterday morning as I was enjoying a leisurely drive through the colorful fall foliage of the Arkansas Ozarks - and observing occasional mailboxes that are already decorated for the holidays - a bit of nostalgia came drifting across the radio airwaves.  The song which brought back a rush of sweet memories of when my children were toddlers was "Return to the House at Pooh Corner,"  Kenny Loggins' primer on life in the Hundred Acre Wood as told through Winnie the Pooh and his boy, Christopher Robin - with a comforting conclusion by Christopher's father.

Loggins' tribute to Pooh and his friends was first recorded by by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in 1970 and a year later by Loggins and Messina.  In the 1990's Kenny Loggins added another verse to the original House at Pooh Corner, and it became Return to the House at Pooh Corner - the version which follows.

The composer is so tightly identified with this song that he continues to perform it in his concerts today.

For anyone who has ever enjoyed the Pooh stories of A.A. Milne, this song by Kenny Loggins is a pleasant stroll down memory lane.  He perfectly captures the essence of a troupe of characters who were endearing friends to many of us.

Please enjoy another stroll through the Hundred Acre Wood, this one courtesy of Kenny loggins:

Return to the House at Pooh Corner
by Kenny Loggins

Christopher Robin and I walked along
Under branches lit up by the moon
Posing our questions to Owl and Eeyore
As our days disappeared all too soon
But I've wandered much further today than I should
And I can't seem to find my way back to the Wood

So help me if you can
I've got to get back
To the House at Pooh Corner by one
You'd be surprised
There's so much to be done
Count all the bees in the hive
Chase all the clouds from the sky
Back to the days of Christopher Robin and Pooh

Winnie the Pooh doesn't know what to do
Got a honey jar stuck on his nose
He came to me asking help and advice
From here no one knows where he goes
So I sent him to ask of the Owl if he's there
How to loosen a jar from the nose of a bear

Help me if you can
I've got to get back
To the House at Pooh Corner by one
You'd be surprised
There's so much to be done
Count all the bees in the hive
Chase all the clouds from the sky
Back to the days of Christopher Robin and Pooh

It's hard to explain how a few precious things
Seem to follow throughout all our lives
After all's said and done I was watching my son
Sleeping there with my bear by his side
So I tucked him in, I kissed him and as I was going
I swear that the old bear whispered "Boy welcome home"

Believe me if you can
I've finally come back
To the House at Pooh Corner by one
What do you know
There's so much to be done
Count all the bees in the hive
Chase all the clouds from the sky
Back to the days of Christopher Robin
Back to the ways of Christopher Robin
Back to the days of Pooh

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Eureka Springs, Highs and Lows

by Pa Rock

Our weekend getaway in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, has concluded and Patti and I are back at our respective homes.    To say that Rosie was very glad to see me walk through the kitchen door earlier today would be serious understatement!

Sitting down at the keyboard this afternoon, I faced a challenge:  should I return to the drudgery of wading through the political trash blowing across the landscape, almost all of it Republican, or should I spend my time more pleasantly recapping the trip to Eureka Springs, my first visit there in over twenty years?  I am opting to say a bit more about "the Switzerland of the Ozarks" and save the political bellyaching for later in the week - although I have enough righteous anger percolating in my aging brain over a couple of Trump and Roy Moore offenses against decency that the resulting rants will literally write themselves - when the time comes.

The ultimate "high" point of the trip to Eureka Springs was obviously the lady who chose to accompany me there.  It's always fun to have someone with whom to share a travel experience - or any experience, for that matter.

A big highlight was the people who gathered in town to celebrate Veteran's Day.  One of the restaurants provided a free meal to veterans on Friday evening, and on Saturday morning as we drove down the hill and into the older part of town we encountered a large group of individuals standing in a park who seemed to be gathered for a Veteran's Day observance.    Many in that group appeared to be biker's and their "old ladies" - and most were clad in black leather and plastic biker apparel, much of it emblazoned with the "Harley" name and logo - and almost all were in my age range and dealing with weight challenges.  But they were a fun group and we encountered many of them as we strolled the streets and gawked and shopped.

Another event that unfolded in Eureka while we were there was a Porsche rally.   Patti was on one side of a narrow street and I was on the other when the first shiny roadster with a Porsche flag flying out of the window came roaring past.  It was followed by (and I am guesstimating here based on the amount of time it took all to pass) three-to-four-hundred others of all makes and models in a vibrant array of colors - all flying their distinctive Porsche flags.   (The last time I had stumbled upon a rally that enthusiastic and with as many participants was years ago in Idaho or Montana while on a family vacation.  That time it was miles and miles of Airstream trailers making their way down the highway -  exactly like the ones depicted in the film "What's Eating Gilbert Grape.")

One store that we visited had a rabbit assisting at the cash register.  Before I paid for an item, the fellow behind the counter told me to get my camera ready.  He had a very large spotted "rescue" rabbit named "Gumbo"  dozing on the counter.  When the fellow was giving change for my purchase he would hand each dollar bill to Gumbo who would take it in his mouth, and then turn his head toward me and drop the bill in front of me.  When he got to the receipt, the rabbit bit off a piece to chew on and gave the rest to me.  Gumbo also gave me the merchandise which I had just paid for.  Later I returned to make another purchase, one that I paid for with a credit card.  Gumbo took my card and gave it to his boss - and then returned it to me.  Again, he took a bite of the receipt for himself!

Gumbo was, according to his business partner, a mixed breed rabbit who was probably a majority "Flemish Giant."  He was a very sweet and docile bunny!

The "low" points were few in number, though memorable nonetheless.   One involved a search yesterday morning for something resembling a standard breakfast - eggs, meat, toast, and maybe a side of hash-browns or grits.  Real food for real people.  We finally settled on a small cafe that had a large sign proclaiming "Brunch" out front on the sidewalk.  The two breakfasty choices were a fried egg sandwich with all sorts of odd ingredients including spinach (Patti had that) - and Fettucini Alfredo with fried egg, which I tried.  My choice proved to be even worse than it sounded, and I suffered the consequences well into the evening.

Another low point was our accommodations.   The first evening I realized that I didn't have the wifi code to get on the internet.  I started to call the motel office to get the log-in information - only to discover that the room had no telephone.   It took a walk to the office to get the code.  While I there I asked the manager about the missing room phone.  The sweet old thing who insisted on calling me "honey" replied that she had recently bought the place and had gotten tired of cleaning the phones - and besides they ran $25 per room, an expense she felt was unnecessary since everyone has their own phones now.

After walking back to the room and trying the wifi code - only to learn that I still could not access the internet - I made another trip to the office.  This time the manager told "honey" that the wifi didn't always reach every room - but she was happy to have me sit in the lobby and type my blog there - which I did.  Always assume that "wifi available" might not actually be available in the room - just somewhere on the premises - like when Eddie Albert had to climb the telephone pole on "Green Acres" in order to make a call!

But heck, tourist town or not, it's still Arkansas.

Rosie calls it "Barkansas!"

Rosie isn't going to like it when I start trying to teach her to make change!