Thursday, December 8, 2016

A Threat of Snow

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Late Fall

It's cold here in the Ozarks, danged cold, and the farmer is hunting for his seed catalogues so he can start dreaming of spring.

There has also been a threat of snow.

The routines on the farm change with the seasons.  A month ago I was worried about finishing up the mowing and getting the daffodil and tulip bulbs into the ground.  Now my thoughts are more focused on helping the farm fowl survive the winter and keeping the house warm.  The dogs and I are hunkered down, and the chickens are out working the cold, cold ground.

A big chore in winter is just keeping water available for all of the animals.  The outdoor water bowls freeze over every night, and in the morning I have to bust the ice so that the birds can drink.  Sometimes, on days like today, the water in the bowls even refreezes during the daylight hours.  From where I sit right now, I can see that the birdbath is frozen over and in need of my attentions.

One of the peacock hens was injured yesterday, though I don't know how.  During the afternoon feeding I noticed the straw under one of their outdoor perches was blood red.  My first thought was that PeeWee, the young hen who was born this spring, had perhaps been injured by one of the adult birds.  All of the big birds except her mother seem to resent PeeWee and never miss a chance to chase or peck her.  But it wasn't PeeWee who was injured.  Later I noticed one of the adult hens sitting alone on a perch and looking subdued.  A closer examination revealed that she had a gash just above her wing - a shoulder injury.   I was careful to give her a separate supply of food so that she did not have to mingle with the others, and this morning she looks to be somewhat better.

Hector, the farm's lone duck, has been doing a bit of showing out.  Hector was born in the incubator last July along with fifteen baby chicks.  Those chicks now number twelve, and they are all Hector's adopted brothers and sisters.  Hector eats grass and grains scattered on the ground, just as the chickens do.  Once a day I feed bread bits, but the chickens just about always beat him to that.  While the chickens scurry about grabbing bread off of the ground, Hector looks skyward wondering what all the fuss is about.

But that changed this week when I scattered some dry dog food for the birds.  The chickens, preferring sunflower seeds that were also being offered, were only mildly interested in the dog food, but Hector went nuts for it - scooping up most of what was scattered about.  (My son told me later that ducks at one of the local parks eat dog food as their primary nourishment.)  That same evening, after he gorged on the new food, Hector scandalized the barnyard by making amorous advances toward one of the hens.  The next day after eating dog food, he jumped in his kiddie pool (which was almost frozen) and bathed and quacked with glee.

I think I may have created a monster.  Maybe a good snowfall will calm him down!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Macy Who Died in the Pearl Harbor Attack

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Seventy-five years ago today, on what President Franklin D. Roosevelt would describe as a "day that will live in infamy," more than a hundred and fifty warplanes of the Japanese military attacked and decimated Battleship Row at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Actually, in the interest of historical accuracy, the Japanese attacked military installations across the island of Oahu and the sprawling city of Honolulu - including Ford Island, Hickam Field, Wheeler Field, and several other targets.  Additionally, scattered homes across the island were set ablaze by errant bombs.

The Fire Department of Honolulu was mobilized and became some of the first responders to the mayhem that ensued.  Their job was complicated when a Japanese bomb took out the water main that supplied the hydrants on Hickam Field, thereby leaving those important hydrants inoperable.  Firefighters turned to siphoning water from a bomb crater to use in fighting the fires.  The Fire Department suffered nine casualties on that bloody and awful Sunday morning - six wounded and three dead.

The six wounded firemen were recognized three years later by the U.S. military when they were awarded the Order of the Purple Heart, the only time that award had been given to civilian firemen.  It wasn't until forty-three years after the attack that the three firemen who died in the attack were also recognized in the same manner.

The three Honolulu firemen who died in the attack were Hoseman Harry Tuck Lee Pang who was killed by a machine gun burst from a Japanese fighter plane, Captain John Carreira (of Engine 1), and Captain Thomas S. Macy (of Engine 4).  Carriera and Macy were fighting a blaze inside of a hangar at Hickam Field when a Japanese bomb came through the roof and killed them.

Captain Thomas Samuel Macy, a married father of at least one adult child, was fifty-nine at the time of his death.  He had been born in Hawaii on January 13, 1883, to Samuel Archibald Macy, a native of Nantucket, and Elizabeth Kamiki Macy, of Hawaii.  Samuel Macy  was, in all probability, a whaler out of Nantucket who chose to stay in Hawaii and adopt it as his home.

Samuel and Thomas Macy, like this writer, were descendants of Thomas Macy, one of the original white purchasers of Nantucket Island in the 1630's.

On a balmy Sunday morning when Thomas Samuel Macy was undoubtedly thinking in terms of retirement, his world was suddenly upended as he grabbed his firefighting gear, hurried out of the house, and went to war.  And like so many others who fought in that horrendous global conflict, he never came back.

Today we honor the selfless courage of all of those brave individuals who met the on-coming Japanese storm with grit, determination, and valor - the sailors, soldiers, airmen, firemen, and ordinary citizens of Hawaii.  Seventy-five years ago today those unsuspecting and brave souls looked up from their breakfast tables and Sunday newspapers and saw war hurling into their quiet lives.   The world would never be the same again.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Free Chelsea Manning

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

As granted by the Constitution, "executive clemency may take several forms, including pardon, commutation of sentence, remission of fine or restitution, and reprieve."
President Obama has been on a tear recently commuting the sentences of prisoners before he leaves office next month.  Time Magazine reported that the President has now commuted the sentences of more prisoners than the past eleven Presidents combined.  Many of the prisoners that he has freed from incarceration were behind bars for lesser drug offenses that were basically crimes against themselves.  President Obama is using clemency to give those who made mistakes in their youth another chance at life on the outside.

Those are the lesser-knowns - and good for Obama because they represent a strata of American life that politicians traditionally overlook or ignore.  But there are a handful of American prisoners whose crimes were more a matter of conscience, and as such, also deserve to be considered for clemency.  I plan to add my voice to three of their cases over the next couple of weeks.

First up:  Chelsea Manning.

Although born male as Bradley Edward Manning nearly twenty-nine-years-ago, she now identifies as female and is known to the world as Chelsea Elizabeth Manning.  Chelsea is a long-term prisoner at the military's Disciplinary Barracks in Leavenworth, Kansas, a facility built and maintained for housing dangerous males.  Ms. Manning was allowed to begin hormone replacement therapy last year, and this year the base commander at Leavenworth approved her request of gender reassignment surgery.

Manning was arrested in Iraq in 2010 while serving as a Private First Class with the Army.   She was accused of thirty-five crimes all related to copying military materials and state department cables and giving that material to Wikileaks, where much of it was subsequently published.  Manning pleaded guilty to ten of the charges, but denied the more serious ones such as giving aid to the enemy - a charge that could have resulted in the death penalty.   She was acquitted of the more serious charges.

What Chelsea Manning was guilty of was embarrassing a bunch of over-stuffed generals who thought they were running a secure computer network - as well as the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton's State Department.   While the generals slept secure in the knowledge that their computer networks were safe behind fourteen-character passwords that were changed every ninety days, young Private Manning kicked back at her desk listening to music while she downloaded reams of secret correspondence onto plug-in devices that could be bought at any Walmart.

The military painted Chelsea Manning as a traitor, but the young private was, in reality, a whistle-blower - and people in power don't like whistle-blowers.  She is serving a thirty-five-year sentence and will be eligible for parole at the end of eight years.

Chelsea Manning has already been incarcerated longer than any other person who committed similar crimes.  Of her more than six years in prison, nearly all of one was in solitary confinement, a situation that Barack Obama is on record opposing.  Ms. Manning recently tried to commit suicide, and she was rewarded for that unsuccessful attempt on her own life with yet another stint in solitary.

Chelsea Manning's appeal to President Obama for commutation of her sentence to time-served has the support of a string of dignitaries including the likes of Daniel Ellsberg, Morris Dees, and His Holiness, the Dalai Lama.

Show some mercy, Mr. President.  Chelsea admits her guilt and she has already served more than enough time behind bars to atone for her behavior.  Commute her sentence to time-served and let this young person get on with her life.   With her unique set of circumstances, life on the outside will be no bed of roses, but at least there she has a chance of survival.  Chelsea's life is at risk every day she remains behind bars.

Show your compassion, Sir, and your common decency.

Free Chelsea Manning!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Monday's Poetry: "The Death of Santa Claus"

by Pa Rock
Santa's Crotchety Helper

Thanksgiving has come and gone, leaving in its wake that moral obligation of Christmas shopping.  The Salvation Army volunteers are out ringing their bells, and I throw a dollar into their buckets every time I encounter one - because that group does good work.  Christmas carols are playing on the radio and in the stores, and though the weather remains unnecessarily warm, the feeling and joy of the holidays are starting to permeate the air.

My niece, a beautiful young woman who will be forty this summer, asked me over the weekend if I knew what age kids quit believing in Santa Claus, a curious query that might lead a person to believe that she, herself, is questioning the existence of the jolly, bearded one.   It seems some schoolyard bullies had been telling one of her kids that Santa was not real.  I felt this Christmas betrayal probably started in lower elementary school, perhaps as soon as a child's first Christmas as a student.

My sister piped in at about this point and said that she always told her kids, "He who does not believe, will not receive."

And if the mere existence of Santa Claus was not controversial enough, this year Fox News is stirring up it's legions of old white racists with stories decrying the Mall of America in Minnesota for hosting a black Santa Claus.

Santa Claus used to be about fun, not race-baiting.

Today I stumbled across a poem, "The Death of Santa Claus" by Charles Harper Webb, which sort of takes that metaphorical "death" of Santa and turns it into a more literal death, one in which the old boy suffers a heart attack while tending to his beloved deer.  The poem tells us that whatever form the news takes, the death of Santa is very real and it is a time for grieving.

Please enjoy the following - if you are able:

The Death of Santa Claus
by Charles Harper Webb

He's had the chest pains for weeks,
but doctors don't make house
calls to the North Pole,

he's let his Blue Cross lapse,
blood tests make him faint,
hospital gown always flap

open, waiting rooms upset
his stomach, and it's only
indigestion anyway, he thinks,

until, feeding the reindeer,
he feels as if a monster fist
has grabbed his heart and won't

stop squeezing. He can't
breathe, and the beautiful white
world he loves goes black,

and he drops on his jelly belly
in the snow and Mrs. Claus
tears out of the toy factory

wailing, and the elves wring
their little hands, and Rudolph's
nose blinks like a sad ambulance

light, and in a tract house
in Houston, Texas, I'm 8,
telling my mom that stupid

kids at school say Santa's a big
fake, and she sits with me
on our purple-flowered couch,

and takes my hand, tears
in her throat, the terrible
news rising in her eyes.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Standing Rock Protest Comes to Arkansas

by Pa Rock
Road Warrior

I spent the last two evenings at my sister's home in Fayetteville, Arkansas, as a convenience for attending the memorial service across the line in Missouri for my good friend who passed away last week.  The memorial service, held yesterday morning, was a beautiful and touching affair.  I rode there with my sister and her daughter, Tiffany, and my son, Tim, drove down from Kansas City and joined us in Noel for the service.

While at the church where the service was held, I was able to visit with former students and old friends - some of whom I hadn't seen in the past three decades.  It was a nice crowd, and I was pleased to see that so many people cared about James Carroll and came out to share their memories of him.   His life was celebrated and his passing was mourned.  James touched many people in his brief time on earth.

James and I were remarkably similar when it came to our political views, and I saw something later yesterday afternoon that I knew would have pleased him.   Gail and I were driving along one of the busier streets in Fayetteville (home of the University of Arkansas) when we came upon an unusual site - especially out in the Ozarks.  A large group of people, fifty or seventy-five, were lining the street with placards in support of the Standing Rock protesters who are currently demonstrating against local drilling by Big Oil companies in North Dakota.  A major concern of the Standing Rock protesters, a group with many Native Americans and U.S. veterans, is that the drilling will ruin the drinking water on North Dakota Indian reservations.  It was raining in Fayetteville as the Arkansas protesters stood in solidarity with the ones in North Dakota, so these local folks were firmly committed to their cause.

Pa Rock is with you guys - in spirit, if not in rain gear!  Stand strong and make some noise - your cause is important!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Harrison, Arkansas, Ain't Completely Steeped in Stupid

by Pa Rock
Road Warrior

This past May I commented in this space on a billboard that I noticed on the southern edge of Harrison, Arkansas.   The large roadside sign featured a little white girl holding a puppy with a caption saying that:  "It's not RACIST to (heart) Your People."  Below that was a note encouraging travelers to tune into "White Pride Radio" along with the station's call sign.

Yesterday I drove that same road again where I saw a couple of more interesting billboards.  The first, obviously erected by the region's racist elements, said:  "Diversity is a Codeword for #Whitegenocide."  That made me wonder if someone had offed the little white girl with the puppy. Arkansas is, after all, one of those states where almost everybody and their granny carries a gun.

Then, a little further into town, there was a second billboard whose function seemed to be to negate the hate expressed in the first sign.  The second billboard read:  "Diversity is a Codeword for Salvation."

It's good to know that there are some real Christians living around Harrison - at least enough to erect a billboard and to stand in opposition to the racist scum who seem to be so pervasive in that scenic, rural Arkansas area.   May the good guys remain strong and unwavering in their attempts to keep the racist haters in check!

Friday, December 2, 2016

James Steven Carroll, A Friend Remembered

by Rocky Macy

James Steven Carroll

18 December 1950 – 27 November 2016

My friend, James Steven Carroll, passed away last Sunday evening at Freeman Hospital in Joplin, Missouri.  He had been comatose since suffering a stroke at his home in Noel, Missouri, on November 16th.  James was sixty-five-years-old at the time of his death.

James is survived by his wife, Patti Gough Carroll, and two grown sons, Anthony and Ryan.  He was a retired U.S. Mail carrier, former businessman, and had served a couple of terms as mayor of Noel.

James was unique in that he was known by each of his two given names, with relatives always calling him Steven – never Steve – and friends and acquaintances referring to him as James – never Jim or Jimmy.   It could get a bit confusing at times when a mixed group of relatives and friends were present, but James never seemed to struggle in maintaining the dual identity.

James Carroll and I became friends sometime in the early 1960’s when I was starting high school and had just been employed to run the projectors at the old Ozark Theatre in Noel.    James was probably in junior high then, though at the old Noel School the grades 1-12 just sort of flowed together.  He lived with his family in a big house next door to the theatre and gradually started hanging out in the projection booth when I was there, learning to operate the machines.

Several years later while James Carroll and I were both attending Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri, we roomed together at the iconic Kingsbarde Apartments just off of campus (now the site of the large fountain in front of the university’s main library).   Our apartment was on the ground floor and his sister, Mollie, lived upstairs.  When we moved in we asked the landlord, Willis Jones, if we could paint.  Because he planned on selling the apartment building to the college and knew that it would eventually be torn down, Mr. Jones didn’t actually care – so he told us to have at it.  We painted the main room of the small apartment dark blue with bright white trim, and covered the floor with a patchwork affair that we made by gluing carpet samples to bed sheets.   The project was planned by James, one of the early examples of his emerging creativity.

Our apartment was always open to friends, and some of the most interesting people at the university could be found visiting there from time to time.  Once a photographer from the school's newspaper, The Southwest Standard, stopped by and snapped a few shots.  One of the pictures he took was of James reading a book in the light of an old floor lamp - and that photo went on to be the entire front page of that week's Standard, an issue which promoted studying for finals' week.

During that time that James and I roomed together, we were also co-workers at the Tower Theatre in Springfield where we each pulled shifts running the projectors.  One difference we quickly discovered between small town movie theatres and those in the bigger cities – like Springfield – was that while little show houses changed movies every weekend, the large single-screen theatres of the city usually played movies until people quit coming to see them.  One of our running jokes was to suddenly quote long segments of dialogue from The Sterile Cuckoo, a Liza Minnelli film that ran for more than thirty showings at the Tower.  Watching movies over, and over, and over did get monotonous, and it could be more tortuous than water-boarding!

James and Patti returned to Noel after college where they eventually purchased the Ozark Theatre and operated it for several years.  They had employed my oldest son, Nick, then a young teen, to sell concessions at the Ozark the night before the landmark building burned to the ground due to its old, worn wiring.  It was sort of fitting that on its last night of existence, the Ozark Theatre was being staffed by the Carroll family as well as a Macy.

Living in a river community like Noel helped James to develop a true appreciation of the outdoors.  Many of my best memories of him were from times that we floated sections of the Elk River or went on camping trips.  One of those canoe trips occurred on Saturday, June 10, 1967, when we floated from just below the damn in Noel to Highway 43 Bridge in northeastern Oklahoma.  I know the exact date because it was the Saturday  (the  final day) of what has come to be known as the  “Six-Day War” – a time when it looked as though the young state of Israel might be stirring things up in the Middle East to where the region would be beyond repair.  Much of our talk that Saturday as we floated the peaceful and clear waters of the Elk River centered on global politics and the ever-present threat of war.

James Carroll was a well-read and well-traveled individual who could speak with relative ease on many topics.    Though not an overtly religious person, he was quick to invoke the Christian principles of love, charity, and tolerance of others.

In trying to focus on what I want to say about the life of James Carroll, three areas seem to rise above all others:  his creative nature, his involvement in the community, and his dedication to others – particularly family members.

James Carroll had a broad creative streak.  He was an art major in college, and paintings that he did during that period of his life were always on display in the Carroll home.  When he and Patti relocated to Noel after college, his first foray into business was to set up a photography studio, an enterprise that they ran for several years, and one that gave James constant opportunities to showcase his creative abilities.  One of his projects as a commercial photographer one year at Christmas time was to set up a Santa display at the local grocery store and then take pictures of the little kids visiting with Santa Claus.  Somehow I let him talk me into playing Santa, and my son, Nick, who was about two at the time got on my lap and started telling me what he wanted for Christmas - never realizing who Santa actually was!

James and Patti had an older home situated close to the river in Noel – a home that his parents had once owned.  James was constantly remodeling that old house.  It eventually contained an indoor swimming pool – the only one that I know of in Noel – and had a brick exterior that James did himself over the course of several years.

Another area in which James expressed his creativity was in writing.   He penned two fantasy novels which he self-published – and both  Sarren  and Sarren Beryond Sarus were quite good.  Patti served as his proofreader on those projects.   (Sarren was reviewed in this blog several years ago.)

James also did some work in producing short informational films.  I stopped by his house a few years ago just as he and Anthony were working on a short film about the hydrologic (water) cycle, which promotes the idea that the amount of water on earth remains relatively constant through the natural processes of rainfall and evaporation.   James regarded that notion as flawed because, he explained, water used in making concrete was lost forever.  He contended that large cement projects like dams, buildings, and expansive parking lots drain significant amounts of water out of the hydrologic cycle – permanently.  It was something that I had never considered, but it was important to James.

James, the father of Chef Anthony Carroll, also expressed himself creatively through cooking.  While we were rooming together during college, his signature dishes were chili (the hellfire variety) and lasagna – and both were delicious!   Years later when I was principal of the Noel School (then a K-8), James was one of our more involved school parents.  At a PTA meeting he suggested that we have a chili supper fundraiser – and then he volunteered himself and me to make the chili – which we prepared and served to literally hundreds of local school friends and patrons.  As I remember it, we had two varieties that night, “regular” and “industrial strength,” and both proved to be quite popular!

Cooking for that chili supper was also an example of James’ penchant for serving his community.  Any time the school had a need, James was one of the “steady Eddies” whom we knew we could rely on.  When a job needed doing, such as the rebuilding of the school’s playground, James Carroll was there, equipment-in-hand, ready to get to work. 

James painted theatrical flats and set them up for school programs as well as for amateur productions of our local Elk River Little Theatre.   James, who had experience in running the lights in an off-Broadway production that his sister, Mollie Carroll, put on in New York City, was also quick to design and arrange sets for our local needs as well as to operate the lighting.  The one area where he was not comfortable, however, was in appearing on stage.  He could never be coaxed into a performing role.

James Carroll was a literal pillar of his community.  In addition to the aforementioned work with the school and the local little theatre, James was a formidable presence in city government.   As the mayor of Noel, he struggled to represent all elements of the community and not just the moneyed interests and the people whose families had been there for generations.  As the nature of the town began changing with the rapid influx of Hispanics, and then Somalis, into the community,  Mayor Carroll sought to understand the culture and the needs of Noel’s newest citizens.  

I happened to be with James one time when an irate Hispanic family aired their grievances to him regarding bullies at the county high school – a subject over which the mayor had no control – but he listened patiently and offered both support and suggestions for action.  He also recognized the resentment from some corners of the community toward the Somali immigrants who were of a different skin color and many of whom practiced a religion that was reviled by some elements of society.  In trying to establish some common ground with the Muslim Somalis, James set and accomplished a personal goal of reading their religious text, The Koran, cover-to-cover, so that he would have a better understanding of this significant segment on Noel's population.   He took his position as the town’s elected leader very seriously.

Finally, I would like to stress the commitment that James Carroll had for others, particularly members of his family.   He and Patti took their boys on some wonderful vacations as they were growing up.  A couple of sojourns in recent years included a trip that James and Patti and Anthony took to China to visit Ryan who spent several years living and working there – as well as a family trip last year in which James, Patti, and Ryan (and Blue – the family dog), drove cross-country in a rented van to visit Anthony who was living and working on the Massachusetts seacoast.

James Carroll was the youngest child in a family with five kids.  He also became the one who was nearby to comfort and take care of his parents, a nurse and a mechanic, as they made their exits from this world, and he acted in a caretaker role for two of his siblings as they were passing out of this life and into the next.  He and Patti were also on hand and involved in the last days of her parents and one of her sisters.

James Carroll was a man who was always there for others.   He demonstrated how to be a good person through example and deed, and his many kindnesses are a legacy that will outlast and outshine the edifices of stone and metal that lesser men have built to themselves.  When it came to being a good human being, James was the real thing.

James Steven Carroll was the friend of a lifetime – my very best friend.   I will always feel fortunate that our paths crossed as early as they did, and that I had the better part of a lifetime to enjoy the friendship and wisdom that James provided.  Rest in peace, Old Friend – God knows you’ve earned it.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Dolly Delivers

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

As we enter a new political age in America, one that looks as though it will be characterized by bigotry and greed, it is a delight beyond description when stories surface which highlight people who are doing good works and caring for others.

This week drought-stricken Sevier County, Tennessee, has been burning as a series of wildfires swept across one of the most naturally beautiful areas of America.  The fires have destroyed hundreds of homes in the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge areas, and also burned part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park - and threatened the "Dollywood" entertainment park and complex.  Thousands of people were evacuated from their homes, and at least seven deaths have been reported.

Enter Dolly Parton.

The irrepressible Ms. Parton, a country star of the first order, grew up in the hills where the fires did their worst.  As someone with a long history of charitable works to her credit, Dolly did not hesitate to act when told of the enormous devastation caused by the wildfires.  In addition to much immediate aid to the victims, she also said that the Dollywood Foundation would begin issuing $1,000 monthly checks to the families who have been left homeless by the blaze.  The money will continue flowing until those families are back on their feet.

If the dawning Age of Trump leaves you cold, take a bit of heart in knowing that some people with means still have a conscience and a connection to humanity.

Thank you, Dolly Parton, for being a good person and a great American.

(Donations may be made to Dolly Parton's "My People Fund" by visiting her website.)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Three Trump Lies

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

It's an old joke.  One person asks how do you know a man is lying, and the response is "His lips are moving."  Sadly, with regard to our new President-Elect, that old joke is becoming a truism.  Here are three Trump whoppers from just the last couple of days:

Lie Number 1:  One of my favorite Trump lies is that he is actively considering Mitt Romney for Secretary of State.  Romney, a well known Trump adversary, has been summoned to the Trump Tower in New York City at least twice for interviews with the Great Man.  One measure of the non-seriousness of this process is that Trump's whole team of demonic advisers is speaking out against the possibility of a Romney nomination to the post.  The crazies are out in full force whipping up the lesser crazies - the ones out in Montana constantly cleaning their rifles.  When the job is ultimately given to someone else, some gifted statesman like Rudy Giuliani, for instance, the lunatics will feel they still have control of their man, and the Grand Lunatic will have shellacked another coat of humiliation onto a man who once openly looked down on him.

Trump's discussions with Romney are all a show designed to make Trump look open-minded and magnanimous, and to paint Romney as a groveling sycophant and a loser.

Lie Number 2:  Today Trump announced in a series of tweets that he would be stepping away from his businesses and letting his children run them while he is stuck leading the country.  The notion that a man with an ego the size of Donald Trump's could give up the raw pleasures of building monuments to himself while cheating investors, contractors, vendors, and maids is just too absurd.  The rotund man with the bad comb-over will still be pulling the strings, regardless of whose names are painted on which doors.  Trying to keep his presidential duties free and clear of his obligations to his businesses will result in Humpty Trumpty's great fall.  The sweet irony is that it will be a Republican Congress that is ultimately tasked with removing him from office.

Lie Number 3:  The popular vote in the recent election has really become a point of contention as Hillary's numbers continue to increase over those of Trump.  The latest figures show her with a lead of 2.3 million votes - and that number is still rising.  Trump likes to speak of his "overwhelming" victory in the Electoral College (and that, too, is a lie), but the actual numbers, the votes cast by real voters, have to be a thorn in the braying ass's side.

So to de-legitimize Hillary's win in the popular vote, Donald Trump took a page from Adolf Hitler's playbook and hit her with a BIG LIE.  He said her margin of victory was actually just the illegal votes that were cast.  Trump is saying that at least 2.3 million illegal votes were cast!  So far the only one that has been reported was a Trump voter who was caught voting a second time.  But by God, Donald Trump says millions of illegal votes were cast - all for Hillary - and morons everywhere line up to buy into his crap.

If millions of illegal votes were cast, none of us have any way of knowing who ultimately received or benefited from those votes.  If Donald Trump has any proof that this election fraud occurred, he needs to produce it.  Show the evidence, Donald - not just some 3:00 a.m. tweet from a drunk.  If fraud of that magnitude has been committed, then the election needs to be held again.  It's the only fair way to handle it.

But fairness is not addressed in the Trump playbook.  He just wants the good old boys up in Montana and down in Alabama to know that Hillary really didn't get more votes that him.  She couldn't have - so it must have been those danged Mexicans!

It's time to give it a rest, Donald.  Maybe instead of moving your lips so much, you should focus on building your wall - or was that a lie, too?

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Farmer's Dream

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Autumn

The farmer doesn't sleep well, or at least he doesn't sleep as he imagines other people do.  Instead of enjoying one or two long periods of comfortable sleep each night, the farmer usually gets his rest in smaller segments of an hour or less.  Each time he awakens he looks at the bedside clock and notes the time.  He then figures out how many minutes he has slept since his last glance at the clock.  It's a game the farmer enjoys playing, and a bit of a mathematical challenge in the dark depths of nighttime.

The farmer has been to college, so he is aware of the frustrating dream that most former college students have - the one where they suddenly realize that they are late for an exam - the most important exam they will ever have to take.  As the student rushes across campus, he runs into all sorts of obstacles to impede his progress - things get in the way, the lack of a blue book or a pen, a locked door.  And just as the student is about to make it into the classroom where the exam is to take place, he faces one final hurdle when he realizes that he is naked!

The farmer is old now, and it's been quite a while since he has had the "exam" dream.  But a couple of nights ago he had a similar dream that was updated to fit his present circumstances.    In that dream the farmer, who had already woken up several times that night, dreamt that he awoke again.  This time the farmer looked at his bedside clock and saw that it was 2:00 a.m.  He also noticed that a bit of light was beginning to come through the bedroom window and the farm roosters were already crowing.  2:00 a.m. or not, the farmer knew that he had to get outside and check on his poultry.

Normally the farmer secures the poultry in their coops each evening.  The older hens and roosters go into an enclosed building just before dark and the farmer follows along behind and closes the door - securing them from the ravages of predators for the evening.  The younger chickens and Hector, the lone duck,  march into an enclosed pen, and the farmer shuts them into their area as well.

This particular night as the farmer rushes from the house to see what all the racket is about, he discovers to his horror that all of the chickens are still out, and the doors to their enclosures have been shut.  Predators are rushing from bush to bush as they greedily try to capture the fat hens.  The farmer lunges about trying to open the doors to the coop and the pen, but they are stuck and won't budge.  He is in a panic, and so are the chickens!

This, the farmer realizes, feels like that time back in college when he was late for the important exam!

The farmer stops in his tracks, catches his breath, and slowly looks down at himself where he discovers that he is fully dressed.

It is then that the farmer realizes he is getting old!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Monday's Poetry: "If"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Last week in this space I highlighted the song Yesterday, When I Was Young, a beautiful ballad made famous by country artist Roy Clark back in the 1960's.  I heard that oldie on a local radio station as I was driving home from spending time with the family of a friend who was lying comatose in the hospital -  a friend from my youth, many yesterdays ago when I was young.

One day during one of those hospital visits I went out to lunch with my friend's family and another couple who were visiting.  Wanting something quick and good, we stopped at Jimmy John's for sandwiches.  That particular chain of sandwich shops  has quirky inspirational slogans plastered about the place, many encouraging the eating of sandwiches.  Posted at our booth that day was the following poem by Rudyard Kipling, simply titled If.   My friend's wife and I each read it and commented on the poem's simple beauty.

My close friend since childhood, James Steven Carroll, passed away yesterday evening at the young age of sixty-five.  That tremendous loss will be addressed in a future Ramble posting, but for the time being, today's poetry selection is dedicated to him.  It is, on multiple levels, descriptive of the man that I knew so well and for so long.

Rest with Angels, Mayor Carroll.

by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The "Hammering" of Justin Trudeau

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The Huffington Post is an Internet news gathering site that primarily gets its news from other sources.  The site reprints stories developed and carried by the major news organizations as well as tidbits that it gets by scouring the Internet.  Sites like The Huffington Post gather and assemble news for their readers.

The Huffington Post has long been criticized for its use of sensationalized headlines, bold grabbers that draw readers in.   After news junkies get pulled into a story by its titillating headline, disappointment often follows.  The story was far less provocative than the headline implied it would be.

As an example of this type of aggressive baiting of potential readers, one of the headlines in yesterday's Huffington Post was this:  "Justin Trudeau Hammered for Praising Fidel Castro."  OMG!  Hammered, was he?  That's an awfully powerful verb, one that leads readers to believe that the young Canadian prime minister must have been nearly destroyed.  Who could have possibly wreaked than much havoc on poor Justin?  Why, at the very least, it must have been a significant portion of the Canadian electorate.

After being "hammered," could the young man even hope to survive - politically or perhaps even physically?

A careful read of this crucial news story was obviously in order.

So I bought into the headline and read the story - and really wasn't surprised to learn that Trudeau had not been "hammered" by anybody.  He was just "tweeted" by a couple of twits.  Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, both of whose families lived in Cuba in the days prior to the Revolution, were indignant that any politician anywhere would have decent things to say about Fidel Castro.  The pious Cruz even went so far as to label Justin Trudeau  a "socialist."    Bad, Trudeau, bad, bad, bad!

According to The Huffington Post, Justin Trudeau had praised Fidel Castro as "a legendary revolutionary and orator" while acknowledging that he was "a controversial figure."  Trudeau then went on to say that "both Mr. Castro's supporters and detractors recognized his tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people who had a deep and lasting affection for 'el Comandante.'"

Ted Cruz, whose very pious father, Rafael Cruz, actually fought for the Revolution in its early stages before he fled to the United States, had this to tweet:

"Disgraceful. Why do young socialists idolize totalitarian tyrants? Castro, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot -- all evil, torturing murderers."

And Marco Rubio, whose family left Cuba for the United States prior to the Cuban Revolution - but who nevertheless liked to campaign on the notion that they had been forced out by the awful Fidel, spit out this wad of snot over Twitter:

"Is this a real statement or a parody? Because if this is a real statement from the PM of Canada it is shameful & embarrassing."

No, Little Marco, you are the one who is shameful and embarrassing - and so is your Senate buddy Ted Cruz.  Before either of you two malicious morons get too absorbed in your own self-importance, you might want to look long and hard at the glittering pile of excrement who handed you your butts in the presidential primaries.  You both are losers, as I'm sure the President-Elect has pointed out to you on multiple occasions.

You are losers, and Justin Trudeau, the elected leader of Canada, is a winner.   When it comes to understanding and evaluating world leaders, I'll take my cue from him over the opinions of two political hacks who couldn't even take down the village idiot of Manhattan.

And the only person in all of this who was likely to have been "hammered" was the headline writer for The Huffington Post!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

El Jefe Esta Muerto

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Fidel Castro has died.  The man known to his Cuban countrymen and admirers worldwide as "El Jefe" passed away peacefully in Havana yesterday evening.  He was ninety-years-old.

Somewhat ironically, Castro's departure from this life came sixty years to the day after he and eighty-one other young revolutionaries set sail from Mexico to Cuba in what would eventually become the successful Cuban Revolution.

Fidel and his younger brother, Raul (the current President of Cuba), left Tuxpan, Veracruz, Mexico on November 25, 1956.  Also present in their invasion party was Argentinian Dr. Ernesto "Che" Guevara who served at the small army's physician.

The vessel that took the revolutionaries to Cuba was a small pleasure yacht called The Granma, a craft designed to house twelve travelers comfortably.  In addition to the eighty-two brave and determined freedom fighters, the boat also carried a great deal of weapons and ammunition, subsistence supplies, and two thousand gallons of extra fuel that had to be stored on deck.    

The Granta, not in the best of shape to begin with, struggled across the Caribbean and did not arrive on the southeastern edge of Cuba until December 2nd - at which time it was spotted by a government helicopter and had to discharge the ragtag army into a swampy area.  Much of the weaponry could not be brought ashore through the mud and was lost to the revolution.  After a savage attack by the Cuban government, the few survivors of the assault rushed into the Sierra Maestra mountains where the resistance to the Baptista government slowly took shape over the ensuing months.

The surviving members of the group, which included both Castro brothers, Che Guevara, and Camilo Cienfuegos, took their revolution from village to village and across the island.  On January 1st, 1959, the dictator, Flugencio Baptista, a man supported by both the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and the American Mob, was driven from power and fled the island.  Less than twenty-four hours later the Cuban citizenry had closed all of the American Mob-owned casinos and and piled the gambling equipment in the streets where it was burned.

The revolution had taken Cuba, and for the next fifty years that reality was embodied in basically one individual:  Fidel Castro.   Castro gave up the Presidency of Cuba in 2008 due to illness, and was replaced in that role by his brother, Raul.  Fidel's last prolonged public appearance was this past April at the Communist Party Congress in Havana.  

Fidel Castro was a very important part of the twentieth century.  He took a small island nation that was once ridiculed as the "whorehouse of the Caribbean," rescued it from its oppressors, and brought about a socialist society that offered things like education, jobs, decent housing, and health care to the masses who had once been forced to live in the shadows of poverty and degradation.

Love him or hate him, Fidel Castro was a man who made a difference.  He brought his insignificant island to the forefront of world events, and he showed millions that revolution and the disruption of the status quo was something that could still be achieved.  It was a sad irony that Cuba's primary adversary over the Castro years turned out to be the United States, a country that was itself founded in the fires of popular revolt.

El Jefe was a truly remarkable figure who significantly impacted history.   His passing leaves an immense void in the world around us.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Another Mother Bites the Dust

by Pa Rock
Child of Television

Florence Henderson died yesterday in Los Angeles, and with her passing we also lost Carol Brady, a great television mom.

Back in my day, the era just after World War II and Korea, most American moms were getting out of the house and going to work.   As wages began their steady decline and it became apparent that households which had been supported by just one working parent were fast becoming a thing of the past, more and more American women, many of them young mothers, rolled up their sleeves and joined the job market.

Television became the caretaker of the kids who were old enough to stay at home without constant parental supervision - and the result of that could serve as fodder for a whole series of blog postings.  But the immediate effect that constant immersion in television had on America's youth of that particular time was to show them "ideal" families.  The notion of correct and proper motherhood, in particular, was fashioned during that period.

True, there were some less than ideal mothers being presented on television back then.  Lucy Ricardo, the scatter-brained mother of one television youngster, was too busy getting into wild situations with her friend, Ethel Mertz, to ever focus much on the issues involved with raising Little Ricky.

But other television moms took their parental roles more seriously.

Margaret Anderson (Jane Wyatt) was my personal favorite.  The mother of two teens and one pre-teen on the television show, Father Knows Best, she was able to solve all of the problems besetting her children each week, usually before Father even got home from work.  Mrs. Anderson kept a very neat home, and she was always dressed as if she just stepped out of an upscale catalogue.  If she ever put her hair up in curlers, it was very late at night with the curtains drawn.

Another great mother of that era was June Cleaver (Barbara Billingsley), the woman who raised American charmer, Beaver Cleaver.  June's boys were a bit more realistic than the Anderson children, but June herself was cut from the same pure linen that produced Margaret Anderson.  June, like Margaret, was an immaculate dresser, especially for a woman who never left the house, and she was known for always wearing her trademark strand of pearls - obviously a fashion essential for dusting and putting away groceries.

Margaret Anderson and June Cleaver showed kids of the 1950's and 1960's what they were missing by not having Mom at home.  By the end of the 1960's, however, as the world was undergoing social upheaval, changes were also beginning to occur in television families.

Enter Carol Brady.

Florence Henderson, as Carol Brady, ushered in the age of blended families on television.  She was the mother of three pre-teen and teen daughters who married a young architect - the father of three pre-teen and teen boys.  The possibilities for funny situations to develop within the  Brady Bunch household were almost limitless - and they had a wise-cracking maid to boot.  Not only did this television comedy introduce the ideas of blended families to a nation that was already awash in them, it also was the first television sitcom in which the mother and father slept in the same bed.  America was maturing.

But the Bradys, as cute as they were, still came up short on mirroring real America.  That task fell to Roseanne Barr who in the early 1990's presented us with the blue collar Conner family.  Dan and Roseanne's kids drank, had sex, lied to their parents, and even smoked the occasional joint as they traversed life in a chaotic household that was steeped in relatives and in-laws, good times and hard times, and a steady undercurrent of parental tolerance and even love.  There were no pearls hanging around Roseanne's neck, and her outfits could have come from Good Will.

And the very realistic mother portrayed by Roseanne Barr begat, a decade later, Jane Kaczmarek who played Lois Wilkerson, the crafty, conniving, and very hard-working mother of (eventually) five boys in the hit television series Malcolm in the Middle.  By the time Lois added her input to television parenting, moms were no longer above the fray of life, they were knee-deep into it.  Lois was a person who could have been right at home stomping grapes or wrapping chocolates with Lucy Ricardo.

Goodbye Florence Henderson.  Thanks for helping us grow up.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving Morning 2016

by Pa Rock

This holiday finds me at the hospital in Joplin where I have spent the night at the bedside of an old and dear friend.  My friend's wife has been here every night at his bedside since he was admitted a week ago yesterday.  Last night she went home to refresh and sleep in her own bed while I stayed the vigil.

My friend is still in a coma and the prognosis still is not good.  It is all very sad, especially with the holiday season rolling in.  His family and friends will have to struggle to find any joys in the season.

My sister and I were supposed to be in New York City this Thanksgiving watching the family parade, but that trip was cancelled after a few of the travelers became worried about the possibility of terrorism in the Big Apple.   And while I resented the cancellation at first, it turned out to be fortunate because of my friend's medical catastrophe.

As I reflect on Thanksgivings of the past, a few stand out.  When I was about nine or ten-years-old, there were two years in a row when we had the first snowfalls of the season on Thanksgiving Day - heavy snowfalls.  Last year there was only one day in West Plains when the ground was white - and that was in March and the ground was just barely white.   Climate change is very, very real.

The other memorable Thanksgiving was in 2010 when two friends (Kelly and Murphy) and I went to Korea for the holiday.  We were staying at a U.S. military hotel in Seoul.  My friends had other plans on the evening of Thanksgiving - or they were holed up in the hotel bar - and I decided to enjoy the traditional Thanksgiving dinner that was being offered in the hotel restaurant.  It was a wonderful meal of turkey and dressing with all the trimmings, and I either overate, which is likely, or suffered food poisoning, because I was deathly ill for the remainder of the night.

When a person is young, they think in terms of snowfalls and the wonders of nature - but as we age our thoughts turn to medical issues.

It's Thanksgiving - hug your family and have a wonderful day!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Trump Begins Draining the Congressional Swamp

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Just before the close of the recent tragic campaign, billionaire blowhard Donald Trump began barking about "draining the swamp" as soon as he was elected as our Glorious Leader.  The "swamp" was reportedly the lagoon of lobbyists that infest Washington DC and all fifty state capitals.  But it didn't take long for President-Elect Trump to realize that not only was he not going to have much impact on the lobbyist cancer that eats steadily away at democracy, but that he was going to need those creatures to help his establish his new government.

Trump's plan had been to freeze current lobbyists out of the executive branch of government by not hiring any of them - either for the transition or the actual running of the government.  He also yammered on about barring those exiting his administration from becoming lobbyists for five years after leaving government.  It all sounded great - but the spirit of the swamp-draining quickly dissipated, and lobbyists are already being called on to aid with the transition.

Herr Trump, however, may have inadvertently begun draining Washington DC's other swamp - the U.S. Congress.  He is doing this by taking some of the most odious members out of their safe seats and placing them in prominent spots within the administration - where they can be removed on little more than the whim of a large man who lets his life be stampeded by Twitter.   Jeff Sessions, the racist curmudgeon from Alabama who has loomed large in the Senate for twenty years may soon give up his seat at that trough to become U.S. Attorney General - if he can find fifty of his colleagues who will support him in that move.  Sessions, with his colorful background and his complete misunderstanding of the Constitution will be a disaster - or an impeachment - waiting to happen.

Mike Pompeo, a congressman from Kansas who is about as culturally aware and as bright as Jeff Sessions, hopes to be confirmed as Director of the CIA.  True, both Sessions and Pompeo will be replaced in Congress through nominations made by redneck Republican governors who have little or no regard for the public good, but the replacements will go to Washington DC minus one very important asset that their predecessors had - seniority.   They will be dangling at the junior end of a system whose power is vested almost entirely in seniority.

This morning I heard that the Trump Administration is about to reach into the Congressional swamp and pull out another of its most noxious alligators.  Fat Boy is apparently thinking of bringing Representative Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee to The Show.  To misquote the late comedian Henny Youngman, "Take her, please!"  Governor Haslam will have a very difficult time coming up with a replacement who is half as mean-spirited as Blackburn, and the new member will again have zero seniority.

There are many Republican members of the House of Representatives and GOP Senators who could be replaced with sandbags without having a negative impact on government.  Hopefully Trump will give them all a good a proper vetting and then elevate as many as he possibly can to exalted positions in his administration.  And if they don't work out, he can fire them like the snot-nosed apprentices that they are.

Make America great again, Donald.  Promote those Republicans right on out of Congress!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Pence's Broadway Debut

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Last weekend Vice President-Elect Mike Pence, who has been strolling the streets of New York of late trying to scrape Indiana off of his shoes, did the consummate tourist thing and went to Broadway to see the smash hit, Hamilton.  While Mr. Pence was probably just hoping for a bit of respite from the vulgar and oppressive personality of his new boss, what he got instead was a good dose of scorn and humiliation.

Pence was recognized as he entered the theatre, and a few in the audience applauded his arrival.   But before the Indiana homophobe could acknowledge the kind attentions of his supporters, others in the audience began booing, loudly booing the next Vice President of the United States!

And the show went on.

After the curtain calls were completed at the end of the play, the cast assembled on stage where the actor who played Aaron Burr (another Vice President of the United States) read a statement directed at Mike Pence - who was in the process of leaving the theatre.  The actor, Brandon Victor Dixon, read the following:

"You know, we have a guest in the audience this evening. Vice President-elect Pence, I see you walking out but I hope you hear just a few more moments. There's nothing to boo, ladies and gentlemen. There's nothing to boo. We're all here sharing a story of love. We have a message for you, sir. We hope that you will hear us out.

And I encourage everybody to pull out your phones and tweet and post, because this message needs to be spread far and wide, OK?

Vice President-elect Pence, we welcome you and we truly thank you for joining us here at Hamilton: An American Musical. We really do.

We sir, we, are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us — our planet, our children, our parents — or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights, sir. But we truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us. All of us.

Again, we truly thank you for sharing this show, this wonderful American story told by a diverse group of men and women of different colors, creeds, and orientations."

The Vice President-Elect reportedly heard most of the statement and said later that he had not been offended by it.  His boss, however, a man whom Hillary Clinton described as easy to bait with a tweet, took great offense and stirred up one of his standard Twitter shitstorms.  Donald Trump apparently put up multiple tweet responses to what he considered to be a personal affront by Broadway.  He later pulled down some of his invective, but the following survived:

"The cast and producers of Hamilton, which I hear is highly overrated, should immediately apologize to Mike Pence for their terrible behavior."
(There is perhaps no one in America more qualified to understand the concept of "overrated" as Donald John Trump.)

Trump has an interesting perspective on the types of things which should beget apologies.  Some of us believe  that he owes a huuuggge apology to every woman in America for his "pussy-grabbing" banter with Billy Bush.  Others believe that the appointment of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, a man with a racist past, to be Attorney General merits an apology to the country.   Still others think that the appointment of people like Kris Kobach and Steve Bannon to positions of influence in the transition team and the administration merit apologies.

But asking for the cast of a Broadway Show to apologize for encouraging the administration to be inclusive of all Americans and their values, well that is just bullshit.

Perhaps Ivanka can bottle the fragrance and sell it with her "fine" jewelry.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Monday's Poetry: "Yesterday, When I was Young"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

This week, as a close friend lies unresponsive in a hospital bed, I have been more than a bit contemplative over the meaning and swiftness of life.  Then last night as I was making the long trip home from the hospital, I heard the most beautiful song on the radio, a musical wisp from my youth that captured and and rooted among the feelings I was experiencing at that very moment.

The most famous version of "Yesterday, When I was Young," and the one that tugged at my memory last night, was recorded by country legend Roy Clark in 1969.  This beautiful ballad offers a timeless sentiment that eventually touches us all.

Relax, and let your mind listen - as time rushes by.

Yesterday, When I was Young
by Charles Aznavour, Georges Garvarentz, and Herbert Kretzme

Seems the love I've known has always been
The most destructive kind
Guess that's why now I feel so old
Before my time.

Yesterday when I was young
The taste of life was sweet as rain upon my tongue.
I teased at life as if it were a foolish game,
The way the evening breeze may tease a candle flame.
The thousand dreams I dreamed, the splendid things I planned
I always built to last on weak and shifting sand.
I lived by night and shunned the naked light of the day
And only now I see how the years ran away.

Yesterday when I was young
So many happy songs were waiting to be sung,
So many wild pleasures lay in store for me
And so much pain my dazzled eyes refused to see.
I ran so fast that time and youth at last ran out,
I never stopped to think what life was all about
And every conversation I can now recall
Concerned itself with me and nothing else at all.

Yesterday the moon was blue
And every crazy day brought something new to do.
I used my magic age as if it were a wand
And never saw the waste and emptiness beyond.
The game of love I played with arrogance and pride
And every flame I lit too quickly, quickly died.
The friends I made all seemed somehow to drift away
And only I am left on stage to end the play.

There are so many songs in me that won't be sung,
I feel the bitter taste of tears upon my tongue.
The time has come for me to pay for
Yesterday when I was young...


Sunday, November 20, 2016

To Joplin and Back Again

by Pa Rock
Road Warrior

I just arrived home from my second round-trip to Joplin (180 miles each way) in three days.  Today's drive was uneventful with much less traffic than I encountered on Friday.

For those who know James, our friend is still deep in a coma with no visible signs of improvement.  He suffered a stroke on Wednesday morning and has been in the ICU on a ventilator since that time.   His family is constantly at his bedside, and an amazing assortment of friends have shown up to offer comfort and support.

I was telling Patti (James's wife) about my farm animals today, and mentioned Hector the Duck.  When I told her that he was a Cayuga, a nurse who happened to be in the room said, "I used to have a Cayuga.  They're beautiful!"  Yes, they are.  I will pass her compliment on to Hector when I see him in the morning. 

The leaves still remaining in the trees between West Plains and Joplin are all brown now - and almost all of the trashy "Trump / Pence" signs have been taken down.  The Ozarks appear to be settling in for the winter.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Incredible Shrinking Wall

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The Great Wall of Donald John Trump has yet to see the arrival of the first cement truck, and already it is shrinking.    The original edifice to American Intolerance was reportedly going to stretch 2,000 miles along the southwestern border with Mexico and be thirty feet in height, an obstacle of such grand enormity that only Mexicans with access to a Lowe's ladder department could ever hope to surmount it.

But before a single vote was cast, America's Big Orange Blowhard rethought his campaign scheme and decided the wall would only be one thousand miles long.   To increase the grandeur of the shorter barrier, however, he vowed that it would range in height from thirty-five to forty feet.  It would be a great place for thousands and thousands of photo ops - and what is America all about if not photo ops?

Then some Republican wags fluffed the wall again and said that it would be made of cement planks and soar to over fifty feet in height.  God help the poor wetbacks who thought they could get over something that enormous.  Lowe's might want to shift their sales from ladders to shovels!

But the size of Great Wall of Donald John Trump is still open to debate.  This week I heard a very political Border Patrol agent being interviewed on National Public Radio.  The man was gushing over Trump, seeing him as someone who would finally get serious about protecting the southwest from raging hordes of housekeepers and landscapers crossing the Sonora Desert to take jobs that were beneath their white neighbors to the north.  When the interviewer questioned the Republican operative, and questioned him hard, the fellow finally admitted that a lot of what Trump said on the campaign trail did not reflect what he would be likely to do as President.  The Border Patrol agent was forced to admit that the "wall" would be considerably shorter than 2,000 miles, probably more in the range of 400 miles, and some of it would not be a wall at all, but instead would be a fence.

So the once Great Wall of Trump will be more on the order of a glorified cattle guard.  How disappointing that it's going to fall short of Red America's great expectations.   But in all honesty, it would be unreasonable to expect more from a man with such petite hands.

Even with the new reality of an abbreviated wall, I still would expect to see a monstrous observation tower somewhere along its length, a place where our Great Leader could stand in all his glory looking south and waving an angry fist at his former hotel housekeepers whose continuing lives of poverty he helped to insure.  If those women wanted to be successful in his America, they should have been born pretty.   The man with the big, orange comb-over understands the value of pretty.

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Speed of Life

by Pa Rock

I drove to Joplin today to stand at the hospital bedside of a close friend of over fifty years, and to provide what comfort I could to his stunned and grieving family.   My friend suffered a stroke and is currently on a ventilator.  The prognosis is not good.

The long drive to Joplin and back, a total of about seven hours, gave me plenty of time to ponder the frailty and uncertainty of life.  One day we were young men setting out to conquer the world, and mere moments later we found ourselves clad in old, gray bodies fading into the twilight.

It all goes by so damned fast.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Pelosi Swings her Big Hammer

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and current Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is moving swiftly to curb a revolt that appears to be fomenting within the House Democratic Caucus.  The objective of the revolutionaries, it would seem, is to oust Pelosi, and perhaps the rest of her Metamucil-fueled leadership team as well, from their fancy offices and positions of power.  Younger Democrats in Congress are noting, with no small amount of frustration, that the reluctance of Pelosi and her lieutenants to step aside is keeping other deserving individuals from ever having the opportunity to gain leadership experience.

Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio is a Young Turk within the Democratic Party who feels that the Midwest (what he calls "flyover country") is lacking representation within the Democratic leadership.  Although Ryan hasn't announced yet that he will challenge Pelosi for her title and sweet corner office, he is openly considering it.  Others in the Democratic Caucus are urging Congressman Joe Crowley of Queens in New York City to challenge Pelosi.  Crowley is the current Vice-Chair of the Democratic Caucus.

The point is being made that it's time to retire the old leadership and bring in some new talent - but Nancy Pelosi ain't having it.

Yes, she did attempt to mollify the insurgents by letting them move the leadership elections from this week until November 30th so that they could "discuss" the current state of affairs and pitch a few strategies for going forward.  But going forward will include Nancy in the wheelhouse steering the ship, of that there is to be no doubt.

Yesterday Pelosi sent every Democratic Member of the House a cheery letter which said in part:

"It is with both humility and confidence that I write to request your support for House Democratic Leader.  As of this writing, I am pleased to report the support of more than two-thirds of the Caucus."

Or, in plain English, "Vote against me at your own peril."

And with that bit of contrived sweetness, Nancy Pelosi brought her big hammer down on any dreams of democracy that might be welling up within the rank and file of the Democratic Party.   She plans to stay at the helm until she is too frail to even lift the hammer.

Please pass the Metamucil.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Kander For DNC Chair

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Now that the general election of 2016 is history, one of the tasks that awaits both parties is an internal reorganization.  Reince Priebus, the current Republican Chair, is moving to the White House where he will become Chief of Staff to the incoming President.  The Democrats' interim party Chair, Donna Brazile, will hopefully be ousted from her position and set out along the side of the road someplace where she can do no further political harm.

New leadership for the Democrats will be critical as the party comes off of an election year in which it was deeply divided and ultimately witnessed the loss of its crown jewel - the Presidency.  The presidential candidate who suffered the most grievous personal harm at the hands of his own party machinery, Senator Bernie Sanders, is endorsing Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota for the post.  Ellison, one of only two Muslims in Congress, would be a bold and perhaps provocative choice to lead the party.  He is already garnering support among party leadership.

Another prominent entry into the DNC Chair race is the party's former Chair, Howard Dean.  Dean, a medical doctor and former governor of Vermont, helped to organize and revitalize the party after John Kerry's loss to George W. Bush in 2004, and his "50-state" strategy is often cited as one of key components of Obama's victory in 2008.

Howard Dean argues that the party needs to be under the leadership of someone who can devote full time to the job - not someone who would be running it as an extra duty, as was the case with the last party chair, Debbie Abomination Wasserman Schultz, who was also a full-time member of Congress.  Dean, who is currently unemployed, would meet that criteria of being available for the position on a full-time basis.

And Keith Ellison, in the mold of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, would not.

I like the good doctor from Vermont, and even had the privilege of sharing a brief conversation with him once - and I firmly believe his point is valid.  Leadership of the Democratic Party is too important to be addressed on a part-time or phone-in basis.  But Howard Dean, who did a remarkable job with the party before, will be sixty-eight-years-old tomorrow and is nearing his "use by" date.   He could best serve his party by helping a young and dynamic new leader learn the ropes.

Others being mentioned or expressing an interest in the job include former governor Martin O'Malley of Maryland, Labor Secretary Tom Perez, South Carolina Party Chair Jaime Harrison, New Hampshire Party Chair Ray Buckley, and Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander.

And for anyone who's interested, Pa Rock has a favorite in this race.  Thirty-five-year-old Jason Kander, a political dynamo who came within three points of defeating our basset-faced junior senator, Ol' Roy Blunt, would be exceptional in the position.  Kander is energetic, personable, and politically astute - and he will be available full-time when his term as Missouri's Secretary of State expires in early January.

The Democratic Party could not do better than allowing itself to be led by Jason Kander.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

After the Flood

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Usually after a flood, a good housecleaning is in order.  One might assume that after a flood of Biblical proportions, such as the one that swept over the Democratic Party last week, cleaning house would be the first order of business.  But politicians, being politicians, seem to be much more focused on clinging to their bits of power than they are on creating substantive changes that might help protect the party (and the nation) from a future drubbing.

The Democratic Minority membership of the United States House of Representatives is a case in point.   Democrats are currently scheduled to meet on Thursday morning to select (or more likely, confirm) their leadership.  There is, however, some growing unrest in the party, and some have been putting forth the notion that the leadership elections should wait until after Thanksgiving so that members will have time to adequately review the situation and visit among themselves on the best ways for the party to go forward.  The Black Caucus and others argue that there is no need to rush.

Today Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has agreed to let the Democratic Caucus in the House vote on whether to postpone leadership elections or not.  (If one were predisposed to being cynical, one might reckon that Pelosi has the votes to keep the election on schedule, or she would not be promoting a plebicite on the issue.)

The current House Minority leadership appears to be the picture of diversity.  The group of four includes a woman (Pelosi as Minority Leader), a standard issue white guy (Minority Whip Steny Hoyer), a black (Assistant Minority Leader Jim Clyburn), and an Hispanic (Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra).  Sadly, though, the group is not nearly as diverse as its yearbook photo would indicate.

None of the four, for instance, comes from a state that played a pivotal role in the Presidential election.  Pelosi and Becerra are from California, with Pelosi doubling down on the Left Coast effect by being from the San Francisco area.  Hoyer is from the Washington, DC, suburbs of Maryland, and Jim Clyburn, out of South Carolina, is the only member of leadership from the Old South.  The group has no representation from the Midwest, the Rust Belt, or the decisive Battleground states.

The other area in which the Democratic leadership does not resemble all of America is in age.  Three members of the incoming group are older than our next President - and he is old.  Pelosi and Clyburn are both seventy-six, and Hoyer is seventy-seven.  All should be retired and home raising peacocks - not trying to create and ramrod legislative priorities through Congress.   Becerra, the baby of the group, is fifty-eight.

Nancy Pelosi, the former Speaker of the House, is likely going to be challenged for her leadership position, regardless of when the election is actually held.  Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio has indicated an interest in running against her.   Ryan, at age forty-three, is younger than all five of Pelosi's children.  And while toppling the entrenched Minority Leader would be a long shot, just the act of mounting a challenge to her barnacle-like hold on power is healthy and reflects the spirit of democracy on which the Democratic Party is based.

We've suffered a flood, and the mud is up to our knees.  This would be an excellent time to start pitching and cleaning.   Change is often good - and often necessary.

Bring on those shovels and mops!