Thursday, August 17, 2017

Trump Heads West for Ego Massage

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

When Sally Field's character - an aging soap opera actress - in the movie Soapdish needed an emotional uplift, her friend - and the soap opera's head writer - Whoopi Goldberg, would take her out to a shopping center in New Jersey, arrange to have her suddenly recognized by shopping housewives, and then stand back as Sally's fans swarmed her in praise and adulation.  It was a world-class ego massage designed to bring the actress out of her funk.

Donald Trump is coming off of a very, very bad week, one in which he equivocated and tripped all over himself as he attempted to respond to racial violence in Virginia in a presidential manner without offending the rabid racist elements of his political base.    The Donald was having trouble feeling the love.

The time for an ego massage was definitely at hand - and what venue could be more fitting than a road trip to Arizona, the place where Candidate Trump held seven rallies during the campaign.  The Trump circus would head to Phoenix so the boss could feel the love of the desert dwellers and perhaps even make some major news while he was there.

While Donald Trump may have virtually lived in Arizona during the campaign, he has not been back to the Scorpion State since his inauguration - and he's ready to get out there and soak up some love.  Next Tuesday he will be speaking at the Phoenix Convention Center which is downtown and not too far from Sky Harbor Airport where Air Force One will land.

Many of the state's Republican office holders are expected to be on stage with Trump at the campaign-style rally - with the notable exception of two.  Both Republican United States senators from Arizona,,John McCain and Jeff Flake, are likely to be targets of Trump's infamous ire.  There is even a rumor floating about that Trump will use the rally to endorse a primary opponent of Flake - most likely State Treasurer  Jeff DeWit.

It is also very likely that a convicted felon, former Maricopa County sheriff, Joe Arpaio, will join Trump at the rally.  Trump has strongly hinted over the past few days that he may give Arpaio a presidential pardon for his crimes.  With both Trump and Arpaio's love of the spotlight, the Phoenix rally would seem to be the perfect place to make that big announcement.

And Trump, ever the showman, has promised that he will be making a big announcement next week in Phoenix.

But not everybody loves The Donald, not even in Phoenix.  The city's mayor, Greg Stanton, is encouraging Trump to cancel because "our nation is still healing from the tragic events in Charlottesville."

Trump has other ideas, however.  He is going to Phoenix to forget about Charlottesville and change the subject.   One of the problems with that is that Trump always slides back into his comfort zone of bigotry and snarling hatred.  At his core, Donald Trump is Donald Trump, and a road trip isn't going to change that.

Stay strong, Phoenix!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Walmart Begins Pulling Away from Trump

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Donald Trump and people of his ilk, those who prefer their drinking water to come from golden faucets, have special places where they can retreat to avoid rubbing elbows with common folk.  In the rarefied air of places like Bedminster and Mar-a-Lago Trump can relax and enjoy life among people who, though not his equals, are nevertheless head-and-shoulders above the unwashed masses who elected him to the highest office in the land.  Those dumb asses ain't getting on a Trump property - unless they come to clean rooms!

But Bill Joe Bob and Wanda Jolene have their own sanctuaries, too, places where they can congregate with their friends and neighbors to show off their MAGA ball caps and ill-fitting tee shirts.  The social clubs where Trump supporters meet and regale themselves with stories about how much better America is today than it was when the Muslim Negro was in the White House are called Walmarts - and the high-falutin' ones are called Supercenters.

And they truly are social centers.

Recently I read an article regarding research in some rural areas where the local Walmarts had been closed for business reasons.  A closed Walmart represents not only a significant loss in local taxes, jobs, and commercial activities, a closed Walmart also deprives a community of its meeting place - the place where people go to push around a cart while they look for old friends and acquaintances to visit with.

But besides being a nice place to stop and chat, Walmart is where much of America goes to buy its guns, ammo, Viagra, birth control, liquor,  tobacco,  groceries, pet food, sweat shop clothing, and tiki torches.

Obviously not every Walmart shopper is a Trump supporter, but it would be naive  not to think that a Trump sighting in the parking lot would all but empty many a Supercenter, particularly here in the Midwest.  He is their guy because he is just like them - from the ridiculous hair to the expansive gut and broad butt - to internals like a big streak of meanness and bigotry cloaked in "cultural pride."  The only thing missing is the money, and the lottery is going to fix that someday.

With all of that Trump love flowing up and down the aisles of Walmart, and with the store being controlled by one of the least charitable coven of billionaires in the world, it was quite a surprise when the CEO of Walmart, Doug McMillion, yesterday sent out a letter to store employees (2.3 million worldwide) that was critical of Trump's latest flipflop on the racist-fueled atrocity that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend.  In his letter McMillion said Trump has "missed a critical opportunity to help bring our country together by unequivocally rejecting the appalling actions of white supremacists."

That had to hurt.  Trump had personally attacked several of the other CEO's who had left some of his boards and commissions as a result of his soft-pedaling the actions of the fascist groups who converged in Charlottesville,  but with the rebuke from the Walmart CEO, Trump just brushed it off saying McMillion was making a "political statement."  Walmart, after all, is almost family.  The corporation, which once had a young Hillary Clinton as the only female member of its board of directors,  openly supported Trump's candidacy, and even sponsored a ball for the inauguration.

And McMillion, too, showed some restraint.  He did not vacate his position on Trump's economic and advisory council, a group officially known as the Strategy and Policy Forum - apparently feeling that there was more to be gained by working from the inside.  (If McMillion was waiting for a more dramatic moment to jump from that particular ship, however, he has missed his opportunity because the ever-petulant Trump disbanded the group today.)

But make no mistake, Doug McMillion has thrown down a marker, and the man whom Walmart - and its "shoppers" - helped propel to the White House would be well advised not to ignore the warning.

Minorities work at Walmart, and minorities shop there, too.  And they vote.  Donald Trump would do well to listen to Doug McMillion and to the Americans who still care about real American values - values that have truly made America great.

And bigotry is not one of those values.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Trump Threatens to Pardon Arpaio

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Donald Trump is coming off of a very hard couple of days as a result of his botched comments on the extreme racial violence that wracked Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend.   His initial response was to blame all sides in the conflict, and to not call out by name the racist and fascist groups whose members showed up in the streets to protest the removal of a Confederate statue.  News reports indicated that many of the protesters were from outside of the area - and were armed and shouting obscenities about racial minorities and Jews.

Trump blamed "all sides," and tried to equate the current strife and violence with things that happened during the presidency of Barack Obama as well - a vague and half-hearted response that seemed to be giving cover to the extremists whose actions had precipitated the day's events.  Two days later he regrouped and mumbled a soft condemnation of the KKK and neo-Nazis.  By then nobody was taking him seriously, not even the groups he had finally chosen to criticize.

Donald Trump had placed himself in a public relations box, and to extricate himself from that box he had to go on record and speak critically about groups made up of individuals who had been at the core of his campaign.  When that wash is finally hung out on the line to dry, it won't have changed much.  People who never liked Trump to begin with will be a bit more steadfast in their disgust of the man and his actions - and people who always fed at his trough of hatred will still be happily gobbling up his swill.

But Trump had been called out for his thinly-veiled racist ardor - and he had been forced to mouth words that weren't part of his actual belief system.  Not only had Democrats and their left-wing "fake news" press singled him out for criticism, but some Republican politicians and a few national businessmen had turned on him as well.  He had been gut-punched, and he was damned well going to punch back.

Yesterday Donald Trump floated a trial balloon.  In an attempt to shift the focus away from racism against blacks and back toward his comfort zone of racism against Latinos, Trump told Fox News (of course) that he would likely be pardoning former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio.  Arpaio, who was recently convicted of criminal contempt of court because he blatantly ignored a court order to stop targeting the state's Latino residents in his notorious traffic checks and investigations.   Now Arpaio is awaiting sentencing, a process that could land him behind bars for up to six months.

So Donald Trump lost a big public relations battle in Virginia through his own ineptitude, and now he is trying to balance his racist ledger by using the powers of his office to showcase and forgive another bigot.

Trump pardoning Joe Arpaio would be a case of two flabby old white guys massaging each other's egos.  It would be another of Trump's grand distractions as he continues his failure to govern.  And a Trump pardon of Joe Arpaio would be an insult to thoughtful and caring Americans everywhere - not just those with brown skin.

It would also be a valentine to his fascist base.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Monday's Poetry: "Gentle on My Mind"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Music superstar Glen Campbell passed away this past week.   Campbell, the son of an Arkansas sharecropper, had a distinctive voice that weaved its way though country and pop music for several decades.  The day after Campbell's passing, I asked Alexa to play some of his music - and I was literally entertained for hours with many wonderful songs recorded by Glen Campbell.

One of the songs that I liked best was the iconic "Gentle on My Mind," a beautiful work that was written by John Hartford.   (Hartford, himself a distinctive singer and musician, said that he wrote the piece in about fifteen minutes shortly after watching the movie, Dr. Zhivago.)  Many artists went on to record "Gentle on My Mind," but it was the version by Glen Campbell that most of us remember and love.

Please enjoy its message of undying love one more time.


Gentle on My Mind
by John Hartford

It's knowin' that your door is always open
And your path is free to walk
That makes me tend to leave my sleepin' bag rolled up
And stashed behind your couch

And it's knowin' I'm not shackled by forgotten words and bonds
And the ink stains that have dried upon some lines
That keeps you in the back roads
By the rivers of my memory and keeps you ever gentle on my mind

It's not clingin' to the rocks and ivy
Planted on their columns now that bind me
Or somethin' that somebody said because
They thought we fit together walkin'

It's just knowin' that the world will not be cursin' or forgivin'
When I walk along some railroad track and find
That you're movin' on the back roads
By the rivers of my memory and for hours you're just gentle on my mind

Though the wheat fields and the coal mines and the junkyards
And the highways come between us
And some other woman's cryin' to her mother
'Cause she turned and I was gone

I still might run in silence tears of joy might stain my face
And the summer sun might burn me till I'm blind
But not to where I cannot see
You walkin' on the back roads by the rivers flowin' gentle on my mind

I dip my cup of soup
Back from some gurglin', cracklin' cauldron in some train yard
My beard a roughenin' coal pile
And a dirty hat pulled low across my face

Through cupped hands 'round a tin can
I pretend to hold you to my breast and find
That you're wavin' from the back roads
By the rivers of my memory ever smilin', ever gentle on my mind

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Heather Heyer, a Casualty of Trump's America

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Heather Heyer was just thirty-two-years-old when she was run down by a maniac with delusions of Third Reich grandeur.   Heather grew up in Charlottesville, Virginia, she worked there as a paralegal, and yesterday she died in Charlottesville.  She was peacefully protesting an assortment of Klansmen, Neo-Nazis' and other fascist interlopers who had descended on her fair city to express their outrage at the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

Heather had a right to be in Charlottesville, and she certainly had a right to peacefully protest the presence of the fascists.

The fascists, of course, also had a right to come to Charlottesville and make their own views heard.

But then something awful happened, something which permanently removed Heather Heyer's right to peacefully assemble and protest.  As Heather and an group of quiet but determined anti-fascists gathered on a side street, a steel-gray Dodge Challenger came roaring down that street and plowed into them.   Heather was killed and more than thirty others were injured.  The driver, twenty-year-old James Fields, Jr., managed to turn his vehicle around and flee.  He was later captured and has been charged with second-degree murder.

Fields, who is a resident of Ohio, had been photographed earlier in the day posing with a group of individuals holding shields bearing the logo of a hate group called Vanguard America.  He was dressed the same as the other members of the group in the photo (white polo shirt and tan slacks), yet by the time of his arrest, Vanguard America was denying that he was a member of their organization.  Sometime later in the day Fields made the decision to move beyond just posing for pictures.  Fields got behind the wheel of what one news outlet dubbed his "beloved" Dodge Challenger, stepped on the gas, and tore into a group of counter-protesters - sending bodies flying.

Donald Trump, a man with at least three fascist sympathizers in his inner-circle - Bannon, Miller, and Gorka - issued a statement on the incident which seemed to cast blame on all parties involved in the day's events:

"We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides. It's been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama, it's been going on for a long, long time."
Translated into English, that gibberish might mean "everybody's guilty, shame on them, and that's the way it's always been."   But Trump said it, so who knows what he meant.

Today some of Trump's flacks went on the Sunday morning talk shows and tried to walk back his garbled comment - and Attorney General Sessions has indicated that the Justice Department will be looking at the incident as a "civil rights" matter.  Sadly, with Jefferson Beauregard Sessions at the helm of the Justice Department, a civil rights abuse might not generate the same sense of moral outrage and assured justice as it would have in previous administrations.

Racism and intolerance are on the rise in America.   Charlottesville has shown us that feelings and emotions which people once had the common decency to keep to themselves, are now being proudly displayed for the whole world to witness.  Ignorance not only lives, it is standing tall - and often waving a Confederate flag , or giving a Nazi salute, or throwing a white power sign.   Shame has all but evaporated, and what we are now seeing is the American underbelly - the miscreants who are emboldened by Trump's ugly rhetoric and offenses against common decency.

Donald Trump is reshaping American norms and values.   He is, through his personal guidance of words and deeds, creating a new America that fosters hatred and divisiveness, an America where dangerous people feel empowered to exercise their rights of free speech through acts of violence.

Heather Heyes died in the streets trying to defend another America - the one she knew and loved - an America where everyone could have their say without trembling in fear for their very lives.

May Heather's death become a turning point in our national descent into madness.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Horseman Pass By

by Pa Rock
Proud Nephew

My uncle, Floyd Edgar Sreaves, was born on September 5th, 1930, the youngest child of Dan and Siss Sreaves of rural Newton County, Missouri.  He spent his entire life within a few miles of his birthplace and, at the time of his death this past Wednesday he owned and was living on a property across the road from the place where he had grown up.  He had been the last surviving child of Dan and Siss.

(Uncle Floyd told me once of how he had been at home alone with his mother when he was young, and her dress had caught fire from the wood stove.  He said that he had stayed calm and led her outside and rolled her on the yard to put the fire out.  I am retelling that story here because I don't want it to be lost to history.)

Uncle Floyd was my mother's baby brother.  He was seventeen when I was born in 1948, and Mom told the story of his coming to the hospital to meet me.   Somebody handed me off to Floyd, and after a few minutes of examining his new nephew, he threw my mother into a state of panic when he loudly announced, "Why Florine, he's only got nine toes!"  A hurried recount by Mom revealed that her brother was just being funny - though she was not amused!

Many parents, especially those with several children, "call the roll" when they are angry or upset, snapping children's names at random until they land on the right one.  I was the only boy in our family, and when Mom was angry with me she would often revert back to her birth family and call me"Floyd."

Uncle Floyd's funeral was held today at the Swars Prairie Baptist Church in Newton County, and the burial was in the church's lovely old cemetery - the place where his parents and all four of his grandparents are interred.   Floyd,  a farmer and horseman, was delivered to the church this morning on a beautiful and ornate wooden wagon pulled by two horses, and after the funeral service, his casket was taken out into the cemetery by the same contrivance.

Apparently one of the most affected mourners was Floyd's old mule, Pete.  Pete wasn't at the service, but the minister did discuss him at length in the eulogy.   There was also a color photo of Uncle Floyd sitting astride Pete which was displayed on the front of the funeral program.  They were standing in front of the church's sign out next to the road.

The music for the service was exceptional.  Sheet music was handed out at the door so the mourners could all join in on "I'll Fly Away," a song originally penned by Albert Brumley in McDonald County, Missouri- the county just south of Newton County.  The final selection that played during the viewing of the body was a recording of "Happy Trails" by Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.   The song was looped so that it played throughout the entire viewing.

When the time comes, Pa Rock would like to have both of those tunes played at his funeral service.

The service was a relaxed affair.  I probably stuck out for being in a jacket and tie, but most of the men were dressed far more casually.  The organist, in fact, a friend of Uncle Floyd's who appeared to be in his eighties, was clad in bib overalls.  If I could have shucked my jacket and tie without creating a disturbance, I would have.

Cousins were everywhere.  I visited with one whom I had not seen since I was a little boy in the mid-1950's - and another that I had last encountered at our grandfather's funeral in the same church in 1970.  Most of us were able to figure out who each other was - and one cousin and I had a serious discussion about how all of the others had aged significantly more than we had!

Today was a farewell to Uncle Floyd and it was a good one.  Floyd Sreaves was a nice guy and a good person.  I will miss him.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Trump Sucks - and So Does Your Mother

by Pa Rock
Road Warrior

Rosie and I hit the road this afternoon and drove to northwest Arkansas so that I would be within driving range of a family funeral that will be held in southwest Missouri in the morning.  The trip was fairly uneventful - until we got to Springdale.

When I was a youngster in rural Missouri a half a century ago, northwest Arkansas was little more than a handful of small communities surrounded by pastureland.  Today the area is basically a fifty-mile-long city stretching from the Missouri border to the south side of Fayetteville.  The four-lane highway that traverses the north-south axis is currently being expanded to six lanes, and it will surely be eight by the time my grand-nieces and nephews are driving.  It is fast-becoming what the Trumpers would contemptuously call "cosmopolitan."

Despite the fact that this area of Arkansas is home to Walmart and the mega-greedy Walton family, it still exhibits progressive leanings and has cultural opportunities that are rare in other parts of Arkansas.   But, it is still Arkansas, and some knuckleheads still persist in thinking that things here are like they were when Orval Faubus was governor.  The Springdale section of the metroplex, in particular, seems to harbor more than its fair share of tobacco-spitting rednecks driving big pick-up trucks.

I pulled in behind one of them at a McDonalds in Springdale this afternoon.  The fellow, a big brute driving a big truck, had a bumper sticker that trumpeted his contempt for the more progressive elements who are now populating his Arkansas.  It was a plain yellow sticker with black stenciled lettering that declared "Obama Sucks."

Point made and taken.

The imposing Neanderthal looked as though he would brook no challenge to his god-given opinion.

What, I wondered, would happen to the free speech advocate who felt compelled to put a bumper sticker on his Audi or Lexus or Land Rover (or 2005 Saturn Vue) which said "Trump Sucks"?  Would freedom of speech be a valued commodity then, or would that poor progressive get his ass kicked by a baboon in a baseball cap?  My guess is that confrontations would abound.

Last week I read an account from a friend in Indiana who chronicled a angry encounter that a Trump supporter initiated when he saw a woman getting out of a car that had a "Resist" bumper sticker.  The guy apparently became loud and obnoxious as he lectured the woman who dared to have an opinion other than the one he held.   He preached loudly and rudely on the importance of giving Trump a chance.

Trump has been in office more than two hudnred days now, more than a quarter of which he has spent playing golf, and it should be obvious to anyone with half-a-brain and opposable thumbs that he has had his chance - and yet he persists in sucking.  That is a fact, whether its proclaimed on a bumper sticker or just a generally known (and very sad) fact of life.

Donald Trump has, in fact spent much of his time in office name-calling and criticizing others - and it's high time that those of us who are less than enamored of him say so.

In fact, there's probably an "ap" for that!

Trump's Beautiful Russian Laundrette

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Money laundering is a process whereby money gained illegally is mixed into reputable businesses to the point that it begins taking on the appearance of legitimate cash.  I am currently streaming a show on Netflix called "Ozark" which tells the tale of a financial planner in Chicago who gets caught up in money laundering for the Mexican drug cartels.  After the financial planner's partner is killed for skimming profits from the cartel's funds, the planner is forced to flee to the Missouri Ozarks (in the vicinity around the Lake of the Ozarks) and set up a vast business enterprise to continue laundering the cartel's cash.

"Ozark" is phony in that it is almost entirely filmed in Georgia, but the story is interesting - and a careful viewer can come away with quite a bit of knowledge on the problems and profits associated with the process of money laundering.   A business that is shown favor by people laundering money can expect big cash infusions and significant growth.  When a money launderer comes to town, good times follow.

The New Republic magazine had an excellent investigative article last month entitled "Trump's Russian Laundromat.'  The piece's author, Craig Unger, presents a fairly comprehensive look at Donald Trump's business dealings with Russia, a connection that goes back thirty years to 1987 - just before the fall of the Soviet Union.  Unger's narrative suggests that Trump developed ties early on with the emerging Russian oligarchs as they were swooping in and taking over the state-run businesses, and then as those new millionaires and billionaires needed ways to conceal their sudden piles of profit, the Trump organization stood ready to help them invest their cash in glamorous properties.

After detailing some of the early Trump-Russia business dealings, Unger admits that as of yet there is no smoking gun showing that Trump or his organization was knowingly involved in Russian criminal activity, but that he (Trump) might have been a "convenient patsy" in the process with his condos and casinos.  But, "patsy" or not, according to Unger Trump benefited from his strong ties to Russia.

"But even without an investigation by Congress or a special prosecutor, there is much we already know about the president’s debt to Russia. A review of the public record reveals a clear and disturbing pattern: Trump owes much of his business success, and by extension his presidency, to a flow of highly suspicious money from Russia. Over the past three decades, at least 13 people with known or alleged links to Russian mobsters or oligarchs have owned, lived in, and even run criminal activities out of Trump Tower and other Trump properties. Many used his apartments and casinos to launder untold millions in dirty money. Some ran a worldwide high-stakes gambling ring out of Trump Tower—in a unit directly below one owned by Trump. Others provided Trump with lucrative branding deals that required no investment on his part. Taken together, the flow of money from Russia provided Trump with a crucial infusion of financing that helped rescue his empire from ruin, burnish his image, and launch his career in television and politics."

And now Donald Trump is being faced with an aggressive Special Prosecutor who is investigating not only Russian involvement in the 2016 election, the one that elevated the once-struggling businessman to the White House, but that same prosecutor is issuing subpoenas and conducting "no knock" raids apparently looking into business connections that Trump and his family and underlings had with Russia.

One school of thought is that the ultimate focus of the Mueller investigation is money laundering, and that many of the almost bizarre pronouncements and tweets by Donald Trump are launched specifically to keep the public's focus off of Mueller's digging.   Trump's tweets are meant to be distractions.

Russia appears to have been the key to Donald Trump's political success, and, quite fittingly, it also seems to be his Achilles Heel.    Mueller needs to keep following the money - and it's fairly obvious where that is leading.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

A Bit About Guam

by Pa Rock
World Traveler

Guam is an official "territory" of the United States that was acquired as a result of the Spanish American War more than a century ago.  Both Guam and its sister territory of Puerto Rico are occasionally discussed in terms of becoming future American states.

And both are beautiful almost beyond description.

I have been to Guam three times, and would hop on a plane and head there again tomorrow if the opportunity presented itself.  My first trip there was in 1973 as we were leaving Okinawa.  Our plane landed on Guam late at night for a quick refill of fuel, but I was helping to care for an upset infant and did not have the energy to even step off of the plane to look around.  Today Guam still functions as a gas station for international flights.  Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had been hopping around Asia when his boss made the controversial "fire and fury" statement.  Coincidentally, when Tillerson was finally able to stand before the press and address Trump's absurd remark, he did so on an airstrip in Guam where his plane had stopped to refuel.

My next two visits to the small island of Guam occurred nearly forty years after that initial pit stop of 1973.  While I was working on Okinawa in 2011, one of the airlines began a direct flight to Guam, and my co-worker, Valerie, and I decided to check it out.  We spent three or four days at a hotel on the beach in the capital of Agana, and rented a car to tour the island.  Guam is barely a speck in the big Pacific Ocean.   It totals a mere 210 square miles and has a population of less than 200,000.  Many of the island's residents are descendants of the Chamorro people who first settled the island thousands of years ago.

Touring Guam in a rental car was not a difficult process.  The island is so small that it is easy to drive the circumference in about two hours.  Valerie and I took the better part of a day on our drive about, stopping to shop and swim and view the old Spanish fortifications along the way.  Guam is one of those places where postcard views abound.

Guam also has many stores from the mainland United States that draw American visitors.  The island has a K-Mart, a Ross's, and even a Macy's - as well as a nice American Cineplex that shows current U.S. movies.

The following year, 2012, Valerie and I visited Guam once more.  During that trip we again circumvented the island and met and visited with many of the locals.  We rode a water buffalo, and hiked out to a spot in the jungle where two Japanese soldiers had been discovered in 1972 still hiding from the allied forces who had captured the island twenty-seven years earlier.  I especially enjoyed fresh mangoes that I picked myself.  We also visited the PX at Andersen Air Force Base and drove across the U.S. Naval Base on Guam.  More that 6,000 American troops are stationed on the island.

Today North Korea seems to be backing off of its threat to annihilate Guam and is now talking about simply lobbing four missiles into the ocean close to Guam.  And Donald Trump, never one to be out-talked by anyone, is now lamenting that his off-the-cuff threat to unleash "fire and fury" on North Korea may have not been tough enough.

Perhaps if both sides were to involve some adults in their discussions, we could move beyond this dangerous name-calling phase of statesmanship.  The world deserves the leadership of cooler (and smarter) heads than those of Kim Jong Un and Donald J. Trump.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Playing with Fire and Fury

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Playing endless golf would seem to be an emboldening experience for America's Golfer-in-Chief.  Yesterday he climbed out of his golf cart long enough to make his rashest and brashest statement yet against the government of North Korea.  Trump, never the diplomat, threatened the North Koreans with a schoolyard taunt that could have catastrophic consequences.  Our bellicose leader warned:

"North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen."

Fire and fury.  That left no room for misunderstanding.  Our temperamental and tyrannical leader was threatening their temperamental and tyrannical leader with a nuclear holocaust.  It didn't take long for Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, to fire back his own threat with a suggestion that his country would retaliate by hurling a nuke at the U.S. Territory of Guam, a small island in the Pacific that houses two American bases and over 6,000 United States troops.

John McCain, a senator from Trump's own Republican Party who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, warned that Trump needs to hold off on threats unless he is "ready to act."  McCain labeled Trump's "fire and fury" comment as "mostly bluster."

McCain is right.  Trump is mostly hot air and bluster, but, with the nuclear codes close at hand, he is by no means impotent.  And when two bullies go toe-to-toe, sooner or later someone will throw a punch.

I take exception to Donald Trump's threats to the peace and order of the world. It doesn't seem right that someone who barely has the approval of a third of his countrymen should avail himself of our national megaphone without benefit of sound diplomatic advice or the counsel of individuals steeped in history.   Dealing with a dangerous nuclear adversary should involve multi-level discussions covering a wide spectrum of issues vital to both nations - and not be relegated to off-the-cuff threats and braggadocio.

Some of Trump's advisers need to make an effort to explain to him what the world would look like after the first nuclear bomb is unleashed.   North Korea only has shared borders with two other countries, South Korea and China.  Seoul, the important industrial city that is the capital of South Korea, is only thirty-five miles south of the border with North Korea.  A nuclear strike on North Korea would destabilize South Korea, one of our most important allies in the region, and it would be tantamount to an attack on China - a nation capable of a significant nuclear response.

And then there is that retaliation thing.  Yes, Kim Jong Un might lob a missile with a miniaturized nuclear warhead toward Guam, and he might just hit the very small target.   But he could also change his mind at the last minute and go for a closer and bigger prize - such as Tokyo - where millions could be maimed and killed in the carnage.

If Trump thinks he has had immigration issues before, just wait until he sees the floods of people rushing about seeking safety once a nuclear device has been exploded on humanity.  One nuclear explosion would kill thousands, imperil millions, disrupt economies, and throw the world in chaos for decades.  A second nuclear explosion would bring down civilizations.

And when the world begins to crumble,  the towers of megalomaniacs will be little more than hoary curiosities of a bygone era - and entertainments such as golf will disappear beneath mankind's struggle for basic survival.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Dems Propose 'A Better Deal' (Yawn)

by Pa RockCitizen Journalist

Last week our Democratic Party betters, personified by the over-the-hill duo of Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer  and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, announced a bold new effort to bring party members who have strayed over the years back into the herd.  In particular this effort seems to be aimed at reclaiming the love of white, working class individuals whose parents and grandparents were once stalwarts of  the political party built and fashioned by the likes of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Lyndon Baines Johnson.

Schumer and Pelosi and their ragtag assemblage of second-string political players are calling their Hail Mary effort "A Better Deal," a lackluster and insipid moniker that has so far inspired more derision than it has brand enthusiasm.   Some acknowledge that it echoes progressive slogans of the past - Teddy Roosevelt's "Square Deal" and FDR's "New Deal," while others go farther afield by noting its similarities to Papa John's "Better Ingredients, Better Pizza" slogan.

The name, "A Better Deal," is, quite frankly, a big yawn.  The saddest aspect of the Democratic Party's latest effort to unify and ignite its base is that it undoubtedly put a wad of cash in the pocket of some political consultant, money that could have gone toward providing actual jobs or alleviating some real poverty of individuals in need.

But I guess political consultants have to eat, too.

The new slogan has a three-point plan to back it up.  "A Better Deal" calls for an increase in the pay of individuals, a reduction in the cost of living - so wages will go farther, and providing workers with the training and skills they need to work in the 21st century.  And while those program points are all forward-looking, they fail to capture the fire of the leaders of the Democratic left flank - people like Bernie Sanders (actually an Independent),Senator Elizabeth Warren, and Senator Kamala Harris.  While the party regulars are mumbling self-righteously about raising pay, others are out setting fires with talk of a $15.00 an hour minimum wage, real consumer protections, and single-payer health insurance for everyone.

The time for trying to out-Republican the Republicans has passed - that train has left the station.  The GOP owns all of the talking points that benefit the rich and big business, and running along the track frantically screaming "Us, too!  Us, too!" benefits no one and captures no voting blocks.

America doesn't need "A Better Deal."  The status quo is a failed experience for many in this country, and they have nothing to gain by supporting Democratic party elders as they add more spit and polish to worn out approaches and yesterday's answers.   Yes, our workers need to be prepared to face the realities of the 21st century - and so do our voters.

The Democratic Party is struggling to strike a match in the dark - when what it needs is to draw down a lightening bolt.  America needs  big ideas, bold strokes, an unbridled determination to reach into our very souls and pull forth those values that made our country truly great in the first place.  The other party promotes a return to "greatness" in the guise of greed and hatred.   Democrats need to grab the term back and define it in terms of people, all people.

America will never achieve its full potential if we are forced to stand on the backs of our brothers and sisters in order to reach it.  A "great" America will be one in which everyone enjoys a share of her bounty - and not just the privileged few.  "A Better Deal" sounds like too little, too late - and it is definitely too lame.  The time fast approaches for  "A Bulldozer Deal"  to come in and topple some of America's prize pigs and tip a few of our big bulls.  The leadership of the Democratic Party needs to figure that out before their relevance completely evaporates.

And the heat is rising.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Monday's Poetry: "The New Colossus"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

One of the many stinks generated by the Trump administration over just the past few days centered on a poem - and not just any poem, but lines of such national import that they have served as a welcome statement for immigrants arriving on our eastern seaboard for more than a century.

It's not that Donald Trump has a personal issue with immigrants.  Indeed, he has profited off of the backs of immigrant labor throughout his entire business career.  But Donald Trump is also a politician, and as a politician he has an established constituency of voters with whom he has to show allegiance - and Trump's constituency is a broad swath of know-nothings who are steeped in a belief that their lives are in the crapper because immigrants have taken all of the good jobs and advantages that should have gone to people were born here - especially white people.  Trump's constituency is angry, and Trump constantly strives to fan that anger and keep it raging.

This week a Trump senior aide by the name of Stephen Miller answered questions from the press regarding immigration, a favorite bogeyman of the Trump administration.  During that session Miller got into verbal combat with Jim Acosta, a reporter from CNN, a news network routinely vilified by Trump and his minions.  After Acosta brought up the poem, "The New Colossus," by Emma Lazarus along with the notion that the Trump anti-immigration stance was going against the spirit of that verse, Miller bit back and declared that the poem was added later and was not a part of the Statue of Liberty as it was designed.

Stephen Miller, in minimizing the words of Emma Lazarus, was restating an old argument of far right critics of immigration.  One white supremacist, Richard Spencer, has been outspoken in his disgust over the imagery of "ugliness, weakness, and deformity" that the Lazarus poem brought to the Statue of Liberty, and he was especially bent out of shape over the terms "wretched refuse" and "teeming shore."  Klansman David Duke has also been outspoken in his belief that Emma Lazarus was speaking for Jewish immigrants, and he sought to emphasize that Lazarus herself was a Jew.  In their view, the words of Emma Lazarus had not enhanced the meaning of the Statue of Liberty, they had defiled it.

I have highlighted "The New Colossus" in this space previously (April 26, 2010), and it's obviously time to run it again.   Hatred and racism are cancers that weaken society, but a healthy flow of immigration has always made us stronger.

The New Colossus
by Emma Lazarus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Summer Takes a Break

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Summer

The hot, arid days that scorched the Ozarks in late July have been replaced with unseasonably mild weather. 

It was so nice here last week that I was able to finish the latest round of mowing in relative comfort, and then spend some time working on the farm pond which retains only a small amount of water at its very center.  Because it is usually near empty, I amuse myself by keeping the bowl (that would be a pond if it had water) mowed.  But there is one large hole in the side of the bowl and a couple of erosion trenches that block the mower - so this week I have been filling them with rocks and then cementing over those rock-filled areas.  Now the mower can reach much more of the dry pond.  If I keep up the patchwork I will eventually have a cement pond like the one the Clampett's had at their California home - the cement pond in which Elly Mae taught her cat to swim.

Sadly the geese have not taken to the water that is in the pond.  They much prefer for me to fill a plastic kiddie pool for them to bath and play in.  The five geese will walk right up to the edge of the small amount of water that is in the pond, but they won't splash on in.  They do like eating the tall grasses around the pond, but prefer their water to come from a tap.

If anyone ever compares you to a goose, be very offended.  Geese are as curious as cats, but have only a fraction of the intelligence of felines.  Last week I was in the house when I heard an awful commotion out in the backyard.  It sounded as through some varmint was killing one of the geese.  I rushed outside and discovered a goose dragging a pair of tomato cages across the yard, trying to free himself of the clanging wire devices - and the four other geese were close by honking wild support for their friend!  The goose finally broke free, and I gathered up the tomato cages and put them back next to the house where they had been stacked out of the way - or so I thought.

The tomato cages are next to the house and not out giving support to tomato plants laden with heavy summer fruit because of . . . well, the geese.  The first rule of farming is that a person may raise geese - or tomatoes - but not both.  This spring as I planted tomatoes and peppers, the young geese almost knocked me down as they rushed to devour the green delicacies!  Someone told me that placing rubber snakes in a tomato patch would keep the geese away, and I tried that - only to learn that the geese were delighted with the snakes and would carry them all over the farm in their beaks.  My geese are very fortunate - not every farmer would have bought them toys!

There is a birdbath out in front of my living room window that has always drawn the passing interest of the local birds.  There are, however, so many watering dishes strewn about The Roost, that birds have an abundance of places at which to bathe - so the official birdbath is nothing special - or at least it wasn't until recently.  A young male robin has taken to bathing there on a daily basis - usually in the mornings - and by bathing, I mean scouring.  The little fellow soaks himself from head to toe and vigorously scrubs and shakes.  His regular routine takes five minutes or more, and when he is finished he has to be the cleanest bird for miles around.  Making sure that birdbath is cleaned out and full of fresh water each morning has become one of my priorities!

It's raining this morning, a slow soaking rain that will help the grass grow and soon have me back out on the mower.   The guineas and geese are all out in the rain, but most of the poultry has better sense and is gathered in the chicken coop - probably playing pinochle.  I have an early variation of something in the crock pot that I am calling "Pa Rock's Hillbilly Jambalaya."   I can already tell that it will take a couple of more tries to perfect, but today's version appears both passable and edible.

Maybe I'll make some cornbread, and read a bit, and enjoy the peacefulness of this rainy day.  Summer will return soon enough.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Trump Flees Dump

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Donald Trump, who, for the record, has denied a report in Sports Illustrated and confirmed by multiple witnesses that he described the White House as "a real dump" to golfing buddies, has abandoned his free public housing for most of the month of August so that he can enjoy a "working" vacation at his private golf club in New Jersey.  Now all that remains to be seen is whether he will be working nine, eighteen, or thirty-six-hole days.

I'll admit to being somewhat pleased when I learned that Trump would be heading off on yet another vacation.  His absence would give the caretakers of our White House an opportunity get things in order - and maybe even fumigate.  But I was just being snarky.  Little did I know that crews would rush into the West Wing to begin serious renovations during the time that Trump was out working the links.  One of the problems that the workers would be tackling is an infestation of common house flies in the Oval Office.

There are no flies in Trump-owned properties, especially "common" flies.

Several structural repairs are also being made to the historic building during Trump's absence.  The White House was essentially gutted and rebuilt from the inside out during the Truman administration seventy years ago, but little has been done in the way of major repairs since that time.

There is no word yet on whether the domestic staff will have to follow the lead of that poor hotel in Moscow and change the mattresses in the master suite while the boss is out of town working.

Friday, August 4, 2017

It's Mueller Time!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Yesterday the word got out that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has impaneled a grand jury to assist in his investigation of Russia's alleged meddling in the 2016 election and ties that Russia may have had with the Trump campaign.   It also became known that Mueller is issuing subpoenas with regard to Trump Junior's meeting with a Russian lawyer who had promised to provide dirt on Hillary Clinton.  And while having an assist from a grand jury is apparently fairly standard procedure in an investigation of this magnitude, the announcement of its existence nevertheless served to twist the tail of the pig.

Trump went on a major verbal rampage in West Virginia last night with an all-out attack on the Mueller investigation, implying that it was an attempt to derail democracy.  Here is a snippet of his spew:

"They can’t beat us at the voting booths, so they’re trying to cheat you out of the future and the future that you want. They’re trying to cheat you out of the leadership that you want with a fake story that is demeaning to all of us, and most importantly demeaning to our country and demeaning to our Constitution.”
Poor me, poor me, witch hunt, poor me, poor me.

Trump may be the future that West Virginia wants - no argument there - but he is not the future that a majority of American's wanted when they went to the polls last November.   Robert Mueller has been charged with looking into that election and figuring out what impact a foreign nation had on the process - and if that foreign nation colluded with the Trump campaign in engineering the outcome.  It is a matter that needs to be thoroughly aired and investigated - regardless of how loudly Donald John Trump squeals.

Also yesterday I saw a picture on Twitter that snagged my interest.  It was of a smiling man who was wearing a tee-shirt that with a logo that stated:  "It's Mueller Time!"  I smiled back and thought, "I'll drink to that!"  Later in the day I visited Amazon.com to determine if those shirts were readily available for purchase, and I found them listed with multiple vendors.  The one I bought was black with white lettering and is large enough to fit me comfortably - and it was priced under fifteen dollars!

It's good to know that Donald Trump and his relatives aren't the only one profiting off of his new job.  Gotta love that First Amendment!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Psychopaths on Parade

by Pa Rock
TV Junkie

First of all allow me to apologize to regular readers of this blog, some days numbering in the dozens, for the misleading title of today's entry.  No, this piece is not about Donald Trump's inner circle or his cabinet, nor is it even about the concentration of Nazis who make up the Justice Department of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, III.  Today I am taking a break from the Trump Circus of Crime and Carnage, and opting instead to write about a television show, one which features almost as many psychopathic characters as those who dine daily at the White House.

Mr. Robot is an original series of the USA Network, and the first two seasons (22 episodes in all) are currently streaming on Amazon Prime.  The third season is in production at this time.

The story line of this engrossing program revolves around a group of young people, computer hackers with the goal of bringing down the biggest corporation in America and throwing world financial markets into chaos.  (It is apparent, even to someone with limited computer skills like me, that lots of careful research has gone into the making of Mr. Robot, particularly with regard to the methodology of hacking.)  The corporation that the hackers are hoping to topple is a massive conglomerate with tentacles reaching into many businesses and industries stretching across America and around the globe.  It is known as "Evil Corp."

The main character in this fast-paced television drama is Elliot Alderson.  He is portrayed by a mesmerizing young actor named Rami Malek.  Malek's acting skills in the series were recognized in 2016 when he received an Emmy for Best Actor in a Drama for his role in Mr. Robot.

Elliot (Malek) is the leader of the hackers, but his life and mission are complicated by the fact that he is a diagnosed schizophrenic who won't take his meds - but he does have a dependency on crushed morphine tablets which he snorts.  Elliot's friends and co-conspirators, at least one of whom is imaginary, sustain him.  Elliot is motivated to bring down Evil Corp because its wanton disregard for environmental regulations led to the cancer that killed his father.  Elliot also has a mixed legacy of feelings toward his father which color his actions throughout this cyber drama.  (In fact, if the show's creator and writer, Sam Esmail, had sought my opinion on the matter, which he did not, I would have suggested naming this primary character Bud Anderson, as a counter-punch to a television son whose father always knew best.)

Christian Slater plays the title role of Mr. Robot.  He serves as a motivator and enabler for the group of young hackers, and he is often pitted against Elliot who does not want to injure or kill anyone with the group's otherwise illegal pursuits.  Mr. Robot, who once pushed his young son out of a second-story window, has no qualms at all when it comes to violence.

Angela Moss (Portia Doubleday) is a fringe player with the hackers who is also an executive with Evil Corp working to bring it down from the inside.  Angela, like Elliot, is motivated for revenge because Evil Corp also caused her mother to develop cancer and die.

Darlene (Carly Chaikin) plays Elliot's sister, Darlene, who steps in to manage the hackers during her brother's occasional mental breaks.   Darlene is one of the more ruthless characters in this drama, and will not hesitate to murder when the need arises.

B.D. Wong, of Law and Order SVU,  has a dual role in Mr. Robot in which he plays both a male Chinese diplomat as well as a female Chinese revolutionary/anarchist by the name of "White Rose."  Wong is very cunning and believable as he drifts effortlessly between genders.

Swedish actor Martin Wallstrom gives an edgy performance as Tyrell Wellick, a Wall Street executive who is passed over for an important promotion at Evil Corp.   Wellick, too, is brilliant with computers, but he has a dark side that smolders with depravity and violence.  Wellick satiates himself by roughing up his pregnant wife (Danish actress Stephanie Corneliussen) at her insistence and careful direction.  Wellick, in fact, enjoys aggressive sex with other women - and men -  and is also capable of murder.  There is enough psychopathy between him and his wife to sustain a boatload of bloodthirsty Vikings.

Law enforcement is represented in part by FBI Special Agent Dominique DiPierro (Grace Gummer), appropriately known as "Dom."  Her focus on the hackers in all-consuming, a situation which leaves her as emotionally flawed at the individuals she is pursuing.

And those are just a few of the main characters who populate this tightly-wound psychodrama.  There is also a second tier of players who are just as vile and brutal - like the drug dealer who had  his own brother killed, a porn ring,  and a serial philanderer who, even though he is married, works hard at maintaining relationships with several other women.


Mr. Robot ain't the Trump White House, but it ain't bad.   Those who devote the time to watching it will come away with a more realistic view of the actual threats to personal security and world order that computer hackers pose.   It is a gripping and extremely enthralling look into a future that is likely not too far distant.

I highly recommend Mr. Robot.  It will definitely rattle your security cage.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

America's House, a Real Dump

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The White House, the historic residence in Washington, D.C. where the President traditionally lives and works, is emblematic of America.  It is, in every sense of the word, America's House.  To disparage the White House is nothing less than insulting the United States of America and all of the opportunities, freedoms, and liberties that she represents.

I had the opportunity to visit the White House in the spring of 1999 with a group of graduate social work students from the University of Missouri.  One member of our group had a relative who was a pilot aboard Air Force Two (Al Gore's plane at that time), and was able to get us special tickets for an evening tour of the White House through her special connection.

Evening tours were better than those offered during working hours because we were allowed to go places that were off-limits when the building was a fully-functioning work environment.   We stood in the doorway of the Oval Office, for instance, and looked across the room where decisions affecting the well-being of the world were made on a daily basis, something that would have been impossible during a daylight tour when Bill Clinton would have likely been sitting at his desk working.  We also visited the White House kitchen in the basement where we were able to see the actual scorched walls from where the British burned the original building during the War of 1812.

And we saw beautiful art, stylish furniture, and profuse floral arrangements -  a truly elegant expression of the very best of America.

The White House in 1999 was not a dump - yet now Donald John Trump has told his rich and privileged friends at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, that the reason he spends his weekends away from the White House is that it is a "real dump."  Or, to quote him verbatim:  "That White House is a real dump."

Is it a "real dump," Donald, because it doesn't have a grand escalator and you actually have to pick up your tiny feet and walk up and down stairs?  Or is it a "real dump" because the bathrooms don't have golden fixtures?   Perhaps it is a "real dump" because tour groups filled with ordinary (ick!) people roam the halls during the days - and even a few in the evenings.

The place probably began looking like a dump when the trash arrived last January.

Chelsea Clinton, who was a young adult living in the White House back when I was privileged to visit, acknowledged in a tweet earlier today that the White House is more than just a home
"Thank you to all the White House ushers, butlers, maids, chefs, florists, gardeners, plumbers, engineers & curators for all you do every day."

Donald Trump's callous depiction of America's House is more than just sad, it is deplorable.  A person who has no sense of pride in the building that has housed every President and his family since John Adams doesn't deserve to live there.  There is a vulgarity that passes for a hotel just down the street in the Old Post Office.  Perhaps Mr. Trump should pack up his baubles and move there.

Donald Trump has insulted the White House, and in so doing he has belittled America.  The legendary Merle Haggard was focused on hippies and war protesters when he sang the following famous lines, but he could have just as easily been talking about Trump:

"When they're runnin' down my country, man,
They're walkin' on the fightin' side of me."

Merle Haggard would have appreciated the privilege of living in America's House.   Donald John Trump clearly does not.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Mooch: Life in the Fast Lane

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Stephen Colbert must be in mourning.

Anthony Scaramucci, the 53-year-old "wonder kid," was relieved of his duties as the White House Communications Director yesterday and escorted off the grounds.  He was on his eleventh day in that job when he was shown the door. 

And while the tenure of "The Mooch" may have been brief, it was certainly one marked by numerous achievements.  During the 250 hours in which Anthony Scaramucci served his golden idol, Donald Trump, he underwent some remarkable professional and personal achievements.

During the time that "The Mooch" groveled before his glorious master he gave an unforgettable interview to Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker, one in which he unloaded on other White House staff with a barrage of threats and expletives so intensely colorful that it made multiple news cycles.  He also dined at the White House with Sean Hannity and other unbiased and "fair and balanced" personalities from Fox News, and was on hand to cheer his boss on as he gave a completely inappropriate political speech to the Boy Scouts' National Jamboree.

Also during those ten-plus days in July Scaramucci became a free man, of sorts, when his wife, Deidre Ball, filed for divorce.   The aggrieved spouse was so outspoken in her displeasure with Anthony's salivating eagerness to work for Trump that she practically tagged The Donald as a co-respondent in the matter.  Then, a day or two later, Ms. Ball gave birth to a son, her second child with Scaramucci.

Hired for his dream job, dining with Hannity, demonstrating his communication skills to Ryan Lizza, flying on Air Force One, getting rid of the old ball-and-chain, having a son, and getting fired.  Anthony Scaramucci truly was living life in the fast lane.

But all  of that was just the cake.  The frosting arrived when The Mooch checked out his listing in the latest Harvard Alumni Directory and discovered that he was dead.  That really had to hurt!

Where does Trump find these people?

Monday, July 31, 2017

Monday's Poetry: "On Aging"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

This has been a birthday week for some of my "oldest" and dearest friends.  I mentioned in yesterday's post that Aunt Mary turned ninety-two last week.  Aunt Mary is an artist and former model who has been an active presence in the San Diego area since the early days of World War II when camouflage netting was strung above much of the city to keep it hidden from Japanese bombers.  She still drives - and goes where she wants when she wants!

My other good friend, Mertie H., turns ninety today.  Mert is the mother of one of my friends from elementary and high school, a woman I have known and appreciated for nearly sixty of her ninety years - and a very, very good friend.  She suffered a serious stroke a couple of weeks ago and is now undergoing intensive rehab in a residential setting.  The good news is that she appears to be making tremendous strides in her recovery and will hopefully soon be back home taking care of her cats and her older sister, Ruthie.

To acknowledge the endurance and lives of these two strong women, I have chosen a poem by another forceful female, the late Maya Angelou, entitled simply "On Aging."  I particularly like the final four lines.

Happy birthday Aunt Mary and Mertie.  Be well and stay well.  You both are inspirations to us all!


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, July 30, 2017

Aunt Mary Unloads

by Pa Rock
Proud Nephew

I have written about my wonderful Aunt Mary in this space on several occasions over the years.  Yesterday we had a wide-ranging telephone conversation that, as always, left me smiling.  Aunt Mary turned ninety-two earlier this week, and she will soon celebrate the birth of twin great-great-granddaughters.

Aunt Mary was born in the Midwest during the Coolidge administration, but by the time Truman was in the White House she was a resident of San Diego and having babies of her own.  She has been a resident of that beautiful seaside city ever since.

Almost all of my relatives who were in Aunt Mary's generation are gone now - and almost all of them were Republicans.  Aunt Mary was the happy exception.  During our conversation yesterday I resisted the temptation to bring up politics, so she eventually did it for me.  Aunt Mary, I quickly learned, is not a happy camper when it comes to Donald John Trump.

Her primary concern with America's new leader is his crudeness.  She feels that he goes out of his way to be impolite and to bully.  Then she turned to talk about Trump's new Communication's Director (Anthony Scaramucci) whose name she could not remember.  What she did remember, however, were the highlights of The Mooch's interview with Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker, and the stream of vulgarities and obscenities that he used in that conversation.  "Why Rocky," she lamented, "he used language that the media won't even print!"  She then went on to suggest that a good spanking might be in order, and I resisted the urge to explain to her that Scaramucci might just enjoy it!

Instead I went with, "Yes, the White House seems to be filling up with trash."

"Yes, trash.  That's exactly right!"  She agreed.

A few minutes later we were talking about Florida.  Aunt Mary told me that she had driven through the state years ago and found that it was too sultry.  I threw in my two cents worth that the state would soon be slipping underwater anyway, and Aunt Mary got fired up again.    "Yes," she declared.  "That's exactly right, but they (the Trump people) refuse to admit it."

And she is right about that - and about everything.  The office of President should maintain a certain level of dignity, regardless of the political agenda of the occupant of that office.  America should expect proper discourse from its leaders, and not a constant stream of locker room obscenities.  Science also should be recognized and accepted as a crucial part of life in the modern world.  Climate change is every bit as real as Twitter, and a far more crucial element in the survival of mankind than 140-character taunts will ever be.

Time is rushing forward, and it is well past time to quit worrying about our immediate comfort and start focusing instead on the needs of those great-great-granddaughters of Aunt Mary who are about to be born.  This world will be theirs in mere moments.

Aunt Mary realizes the fluidity of time.  She is a bright point of sanity in an ever-increasingly crazy world.  I treasure our friendship - and her wisdom.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Murkowski Is the Real Maverick

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

According to most of the national news outlets, Arizona's crusty old Senator John McCain was the deciding vote in stopping Trumpcare dead in its tracks this past Thursday night, but one Republican defection, even one by as formidable a player as John McCain, was not enough to kill the GOP assault on American health care.  There are fifty-two Republican senators out of a total of one hundred.  One defection alone would have still given them a victory.  Two defections would have left the vote at fifty-fifty and allowed Vice President Pence to cast the deciding vote - another victory.  The only way the Republicans could have lost was with three or more defections, and that is just what happened.

Yes, Johnny Mac voted no, and he did so at the last minute in a move he pre-billed as being "the show."  But McCain's principled stance against his party would have been just so much pissing up a rope if he hadn't been joined in his effort by two other senators:  Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Treachery in politics always comes with a cost, but McCain is the least likely of the three defectors to pay a much of a price.   He was re-elected last fall and does not have to face voters again until 2022.  Add to that math the fact that he has recently been diagnosed with a terminal medical condition, and McCain's actual concerns over re-election are probably nil.  His position is also strengthened by the fact that he is almost a constant presence on the Sunday morning national television news shows, a perch from which he can speak directly to millions of American households.  John McCain may very well be the senator who is most insulated from Trump reprisals.

Susan Collins of Maine is more open to the vengeance of Trump, but she comes across as someone unlikely to be bullied.  Collins, in fact, announced last August that she would not be voting for Trump in the general election "based on his disregard for the precept of treating others with respect, an idea that should transcend politics."  Senator Collins shouldn't expect any favors from the Trump White House, nor is she likely to receive any.  She drew her line in the sand early and seems content to sit back and poke the pig as the need arises.

Of the three "no" votes on the "skinny" Obamacare repeal vote, it is is Lisa Murkowski who opened herself up to real political risk, and both she and Trump know it.  Trump attacked her multiple times on Twitter this week, with his best shot coming after Thursday night's vote that appears to have disabled the Trumpcare measure for the time being:

Senator @lisamurkowski of the Great State of Alaska really let the Republicans, and our country, down yesterday. Too bad!

Trump's tacky tweet was followed by a phone call from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to both of Alaska's senators stating Trump's displeasure over how the vote had gone - with a clear implication that Alaska's energy interests could suffer because of Murkowski's stand on the issue of health care..

Trump was in his full bully mode and the target was one of his favorites - a woman.

Of course, this particular woman in one of the most powerful members of the United States Senate and will damned hard to cower.  She is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and is the ranking member of the Interior-Environment Subcommittee.  In both roles she has oversight and budgetary power over Zinke's Interior Department.  As one news commentator said today, "Anyone who takes a shot at Murkowski better make sure they get her the first time."

Taking on Donald Trump is a dangerous proposition, but Lisa Murkowski may just well be the right woman for the job.  She is the real maverick in this Trump-inspired psychodrama.

Friday, July 28, 2017

What We've Got Here Is Failure to Communicate

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Supposedly one definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, and that seems to be the case with Donald Trump as he keeps packing his inner circle with incompetents and then staring on in bafflement as his administration continues to lurch and stumble like a jalopy with three flat tires.

Trump, a classic narcissist, is notoriously stingy with praise because, like most narcissists, he knows that good outcomes are invariably the results of his actions and decisions - and not those of underlings.  It's always about him.  And conversely, anytime an outcome falls short, it is the fault of someone else.

It's a bit like bad reality television.  When something goes wrong, heads roll, and then new people are rushed in to fix the situation.  The problem with that approach is that Trump keeps fishing from the same pool of incompetents.

This week Donald Trump has been at war with Jeff Sessions, his own attorney general.  While it appears obvious to most of the country that Trump is trying to force Sessions into resigning so that he can appoint a replacement who will then fire Special Investigator Robert Mueller, Session's former Republican colleagues in the Senate are openly pressuring Trump to leave Sessions at his post.  So far Jeff Sessions has been permitted to remain in charge of the Justice Department, but with Trump's explosive personality, he will certainly fire the attorney general at some point in the not-to-distant future.

Trump has also battled "leakers" this week, individuals who  provide journalists with inside information on the administration, inconvenient truths that the Trump officials would rather keep secret.  To that end he brought in a new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, apparently to clean house and plug the leaks.

The house-cleaning began immediately with the expected resignation of Trump's fumbling and inept press secretary, Sean Spicer, who said that he could not work with Scaramucci.  But Spicer's was not the only head Scaramucci intended to mount on his office wall.  He also had his sights set on White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon - both important players in the first six months of the Trump administration.  Scaramucci (a.k.a. "The Mooch") would "communicate" his displeasure with both of these sycophants, and he would clean house.

Yesterday "The Mooch" met with Ryan Lizza, a reporter with The New Yorker magazine, for a relaxed "on-the-record" interview.  During that conversation, Moochie not only disparaged Priebus and Bannon, he did so with a level of intensity and vulgarity seldom witnessed from a public official.  He called Reince Priebus a "f--king paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoic," and he said Bannon was trying to suck a part of his own anatomy.  He also said that he was going to clean house in the Communications Department and "fire them all."  And there was much, much more.

After The Mooch's colorful statements began popping up in the press, the new communications director regrouped and tried to blame the press.  He said that he did not understand that the interview with Lizza was "on-the-record."

Probably someone with the duties of a White House Communications Director should be expected to clarify up front in an interview what is on-the-record and what is not - but The Mooch failed that basic test of communication skills. Then, in a show of pure petulance, he vowed that he would never trust another reporter again.

A communications director who vows to never trust reporters.

Yup.  It sounds like The Donald has reeled in another incompetent.

And don't think Stephen Colbert doesn't appreciate Trump's bold choice, because he most certainly does!


Thursday, July 27, 2017

Good News for Kansas

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

In a move that almost smacks of divine intervention, Sam Brownback, the failed governor of Kansas, has found a way to exit his state that doesn't involve tar and feathers - or being tied to a rail.  The Trump administration is offering him the position of Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, a position that, under the conservative Christian leadership of Brownback, is unlikely to promote freedom for many beyond the bounds of Christendom.

Brownback has always harbored aspirations to be President, and, in fact, he briefly ran for the Republican nomination in 2008.  He left the United States Senate after two terms in 2011 to become governor of Kansas, a perch from where he hoped to show his executive skills and take another shot at the White House.  As governor, Brownback aspired to instill some economic growth through the old conservative belief in "trickle down" economics.  He instituted a massive tax cut for businesses, one which failed to generate the growth he anticipated and which left the state in dire economic straits which persist to this day.  He will leave the state with a budget deficit in the range of a billion dollars.

But, free at last, free at last, and all that jazz!  Brownback will be able to leave Kansas under the pretense of being needed elsewhere to do important work in the grand scheme of things.  He can leave that billion dollar budget shortfall for others to worry about.

Over the past few years "religious freedom" has become conservative shorthand for intolerance and hate.   Don't want to bake a cake for a gay wedding - claim "religious freedom."   Don't want to provide your employees with an insurance plan that offers birth control coverage, again "religious freedom."   Somewhere there is a religious tenet just waiting to challenge any basic liberty.  Sam Brownback will now be in a position to help religious fanaticism conquer common sense and moral goodness.

True, Sam Brownback did not secure a major appointment from the Trump administration, but at least he found an exit - and, at long last, Kansas will be rid of him!

Free at last, free at last, and all that jazz!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Government by Twit

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

It hasn't been that long ago when the Republicans had such tight control over Congress that the only available channel President Obama had for advancing his program was through executive orders, a situation which angered the GOP do-nothings in Congress to the point that they accused the President of governing by fiat.

Now, several months later, Congress is still Republican and a member of their party also sits in the White House.  It ought to be a perfect situation for the Grand Old Party, one in which both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue could work together to destroy every advancement secured by ordinary Americans during the Obama era.  Militarism, greed, and hate should be reigning supreme.

But we are barely six months into the Trump administration, and the good times seem to already be over.  Trump's political clout is weakening to the point where many of the right-winged creatures in Congress no longer fear the impact that he could have on their re-election bids, and some are daring to assert independence from their party's leadership.

Trump, too, is no slave to political orthodoxy.  This week he has angered many in his party through his disparaging remarks about the "weakness" of Jeff Sessions, the man Trump himself appointed United States Attorney General earlier this year.  Trump initially attacked Sessions a couple of weeks ago in an interview with the New York Times with remarks some felt were intended to goad Sessions into resigning - ostensibly as a prelude to Donald John being able to appoint a new AG who would fire Trump's nemesis, Robert Mueller, that man leading the independent investigation into the Trump-Russia affair.

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, III, however did not take the bait and remained at his post - so Trump upped the ante.  Yesterday he issued a series of tweets blasting Sessions as being weak.  His tweets, in fact, were so in-your-face as to be tantamount to a request for Sessions to resign.  But the disparaged attorney general appears loathe to take the hint.

Sooner or later Jeff Sessions will succumb to the presidential pressure and quit - or he will be fired - most likely by tweet, because that is how Trump rolls.

(Will this all come to a head on a Saturday night?)

Today in a series of three tweets, Donald John Trump, after noting that he had been in consultation with "his" generals, announced that transgender individuals would no longer be allowed in the Untied States military - some of that government by executive fiat stuff that Republicans used to hate.

Donald Trump has abbreviated the "executive order" process and transformed it into executive tweets.  Is that what passes for leadership in America in 2017 - an angry old man sitting on the can at four in the morning and venting his gastric distress in one-hundred-and-forty-characters or less?

America is overdue for a good flush.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Another Day, Another GOP Attempt to Destroy Health Care in America

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

There will be another vote in the United States Senate today on a Republican attempt to take health care away from millions of Americans.    Today's vote is "procedural," one that clears the way for the Senate to proceed on the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, a law popularly known as "Obamacare." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is using this vote to engage wayward senators in the process that he hopes will ultimately lead to the end of the Obamacare.  McConnell's argument to his reticent colleagues is that they should support today's vote because it doesn't actually do anything other than let the legislative process proceed.  They can always vote against repeal later if Mitch and the boys fail to convince them to drink the kool-aid.

Republican senators who have some actual concern for the medical plight of their constituents - people like Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Dean Heller of Nevada, and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia - won't actually be bringing physical harm to anyone with today's vote.

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), an organization representing over thirty-eight million old farts in this country, myself included, is calling bullshit on McConnell's sleazeball tactic and encouraging senators to vote against today's "procedural" vote - and to vote against the ultimate effort to repeal Obamacare as well.

The AARP is right to oppose McConnell's effort to bring his entire caucus into the process of repeal through supporting this seemingly harmless and innocuous maneuver.  If Mitch can win this vote, he will be emboldened to begin bribing and arm-twisting with unbridled ferocity - and eventually some version of zombie Trumpcare will stumble across the legislative finish line and be signed into law by a president who has absolutely no concern for the health and welfare of his fellow citizens.

I telephoned Senator Roy Blunt's Springfield office yesterday regarding today's vote and spoke with a very pleasant lady who assured me that my concerns would be relayed to the senator's Washington, DC, office.  I told her who I was and that I am a member of the AARP.  I also explained that defunding Medicaid, something that seems to be central to all of the GOP "replacement" plans, would cause clinics and hospitals in rural areas to close because much of their revenue streams come from Medicaid.  Then I closed with this:  "If clinics and hospitals in my area close, Roy Blunt is going to own that situation."

And Congressman Jason Smith will own it also!

When clinics and hospitals close health issues will go unchecked and worsen, emergency rooms which are able to remain open will see increases in walk-in clients with non-life-threatening medical issues, more potential revenue for hospitals will be siphoned off by collection agencies trying to collect on those ER bills, and lots and lots of good people - medical professionals, technicians, office staff, and housekeeping personnel - with be unemployed.

Taking affordable health care away from millions of Americans is going to have catastrophic effects.  It's going to be a colossal mess - and Roy Blunt, and Jason Smith, and their hard-headed and hard-hearted colleagues are going to own that mess and all of the suffering it generates.

If ever there was a time to put your senators and members of Congress on speed dial, this is it!

Call Congress today - and keep calling!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Another Year Begins for Nick Macy

by Pa Rock
Proud Father

My oldest, Nick, turns forty-four today.  He was born on a Tuesday afternoon at the Camp Kue  U.S. Army Hospital on Okinawa in 1973.  I remember that Nick had trouble sleeping during his brief stay on Okinawa, but as soon as he got to the United States two months later, where the days and nights were reversed from those of the Orient, he did just fine and slept like . . . well . . . a baby!

I had the opportunity to visit that hospital again in 2011.  It was then a Naval Hospital and has very recently been replaced by a new facility located nearby.  When I stepped off of the elevator and into the visitor's room next to the room where Nick was delivered, I was amazed that it looked exactly like it had nearly forty years before.   In fact, the only difference was that the old television had been replaced with a flat-screen model.

Of my three children, Nick is the one most at home in the outdoors.  He has always lived in rural Missouri and enjoys the things that the country has to offer - particularly hunting and fishing.

One of Nick's biggest successes in life has been his son, Boone, who also enjoys the outdoors.  Boone is now eighteen and preparing to start college in the fall.

Happy birthday, Nick.  May you enjoy many, many more!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Mystery of the Disappearing Fudgesicles

by Pa Rock
Frozen Treat Connoisseur

I have a fistful of college degrees, but that doesn't mean I'm smart,  In fact, I will be the first to admit my inexhaustible supply of stupidity on most subjects.    There are however, a few areas in which I am surprisingly well versed, and one of those involves frozen treats, the kind that help weary yard apes, like me, make it through the long, hot, grueling days of summer

I grew up trusting commercials and figured that if a company had enough money to buy ads on radio and television, then it's products must be superior to the no-name store brands.  Over the past few years, however, as prices have gone up and my income hasn't, I've taken to sampling store brands and have found a few that I really like.

One of the hidden grocery gems that I have discovered is the "Best Choice" brand of fudgesicles - by far the best on the market - and I know because I have tried them all.  Best Choice calls their product "fudge bars," but those of us of a certain age know the frozen, chocolatey treats as fudgesicles.  The ones made by Best Choice are simple.  They taste like a good brand of chocolate milk that has been frozen onto sticks.  That's all, just frozen chocolate milk with nothing added to the mixture to detract from its perfection.

Several months ago I was digging through the freezer at my sister's house when I discovered that she, too, had a couple of boxes of Best Choice Fudge Bars.  I commented to her about the fact that those were my favorites, and she said, "They're the best, aren't they?"  Yes, they are, and they are also among the least expensive.  Since then I have run into a couple of other people who have also gravitated to that brand of fudgesicle.

With that background, imagine my horror a few weeks ago when the local grocery was suddenly out of this delicious treat.  My hopes that the situation was only temporary were crushed when several days went by and still no Best Choice Fudge Bars.  Finally, I became assertive and asked one of the stockers about the issue, and she told me that the store had been unable to get them from "the factory," and that other customers were complaining also.

Egads!

This past weekend I was back at my sister's in northwestern Arkansas, and I asked her if she was still able to get her fix of the good fudgesicles.    She became very agitated and told me that her store had quit carrying them, so she tried several other stores in Fayetteville, and none of them had Best Choice Fudge Bars either.

It's the height of summer and there isn't a decent fudgesicle to be found anywhere in the Ozarks!  It's outrageous!  It's insufferable!  It's diabolical! 

I blame Trump.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Art of the Pardon

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

As former FBI Director Robert Mueller begins his careful and methodical investigation into the Russian intrigues of Donald John Trump, his political associates, and his family, the level of paranoia in and around the White House seems to be skyrocketing.  Not only have reports surfaced over the past two days indicating that Trump's people are actively investigating the investigators by looking for conflicts of interest and any embarrassments that might stick to the Mueller team,  but stories are also circulating which suggest that Trump's lawyers are researching the notion of presidential pardons.

One thought is that if an individual associated with the Trump-Russia scandals was preemptively pardoned, that person could no longer be the subject of an investigation.  By that same logic, however, the pardoned person could still serve as a witness and provide information, and by being pardoned he (or she) should no longer be able to (or have a need to) plead the Fifth.  A person who has been pardoned should have no legal fear of self-incrimination.

But, I am not a lawyer - nor do I play one on television.

The other intriguing question that has been kicked around this week is this:  Does the President have the ability to pardon himself?

The idea of a mere mortal, even one who was elected president by the mighty Electoral College, pardoning himself for any and all crimes and misdemeanors that he may have committed against federal law is so outrageous that even America's slimiest president, before Trump, Richard Nixon, did not go there.  (Nixon had the successor that he selected, Gerald Ford, pardon him after he resigned in disgrace.)

But Donald John is at least mulling over the notion of cutting out the middle man and pardoning himself.  What the hell's the point of being president if a guy can't take full advantage of the perks that come with the office?

So as Russiagate continues to unfold and back the Trump administration further and further into a corner, don't expect them not to fight back with every weapon they can muster.  Their narcissistic generalissimo will not go gently into that dark night.  He will bully the Mueller team and try to discredit those good public servants with all of the trash his people can unearth or manufacture, and if he cannot beat the Mueller team into submission, Trump will try to kill it by cutting off its head - firing Mueller.  Donald John will pass out pardons like cake at a birthday party, and at some point he will even pardon himself - in fact, he might make it a weekly event just to keep up with his rampant crimes and misdemeanors.

Don the Con is not about playing fair, playing fair is for losers.

The courts are about to get overwhelmed with cases so important that they will shape the future of our country for generations to come.

We live in interesting times.



Friday, July 21, 2017

Blazing Trails Across the Ozarks

by Pa Rock
Road Warrior

Today I have been on the road driving across southern Missouri and down into northern Arkansas.  It's been a long day - with some interesting stops to see friends along the way - and it has also been one helluva a hot day.  But even in this killer heat - near 100 degrees - I persist, cool in the knowledge that my friends in Phoenix are stumbling around in their oven which is twenty percent hotter than mine.

I left Rosie at home today, and she was very unhappy about that, but she is safe, and well cared for, and in a cool, cool house!

Tonight I am at my sister's home in Fayetteville, Arkansas, from where she and I will venture out later this evening to a social soiree at the home of my nephew, Reed Smith.  Tomorrow evenig the family is gathering at a local church to attend a ceremony as my niece Tiffany and her husband celebrate their first year of marriage by retaking their vows, this time before friends and family.  Tomorrow will also be the eighth birthday of my grandniece Ruby.  Little Ruby was born in England, resides in Chicago, and occasionally travels to third-world countries like Arkansas - and Uncle Rocky is always happy to get the chance to see her and her sister, Lauren!

Did I mention that it's hotter than blazes today?