Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Nothing Sadder than an Unused Gun

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

A young man got more than he bargained for when he was shot to death earlier this month while apparently trying to steal diapers from a Walmart near Orlando, Florida.  The victim, a 19-year-old, was gunned down by a concerned and armed Walmart shopper who happened to be nearby when the attempted theft of the diapers occurred.   A young lady who was with the reputed robber was also wounded.

Apparently it went down something like this:  two teen-aged men and the young woman were trying to make off with two carts of diapers when they were confronted by a store employee.  The shooter, an unidentified fifty-year-old male, saw the commotion and decided to get involved.  That is when he conveniently noticed one of the thieves reaching for "something" and opened fire.

Florida, you see, is one of those states where just about anybody can carry a gun just about anywhere.  It is also a "stand your ground" state (remember George Zimmerman) where the least bit of provocation can make a person feel "threatened" and thus justify opening fire on the perceived threat.  A perfect storm for a fifty-year-old boy with a gun who was just itching to shoot someone.

Zimmerman, you might recall, felt threatened by a bag of Skittles.

What, pray tell, would be the point in owning and carrying around a fine firearm if there was never any hope of getting to use it?   Could there be anything sadder than an unused gun?

And what of the store itself?   Should the multi-billionaire members of the Walton family expect their underpaid store clerks and overzealous customers to protect the family's wares, or should they perhaps invest in a few security guards to protect their diapers and Chinese knickknacks?  Perhaps they should even look at who they are attracting into their stores.  With items on the shelves like guns, and ammo, and liquor, perhaps they are catering to individuals who are move likely to resort to violence.

Florida is not alone in this rush toward vigilantism.  Lax gun laws have spread into all fifty states, a cancer giving cop wannabes everywhere the ability and incentive to charge into any hubbub with guns a-blazing!  It's Wayne LaPierre's wet dream - more and more Americans killing more and more Americans, and the rest of the public stampeding into gun stores and Walmarts to arm themselves for protection.

Talk about self-fulfilling prophecies!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Ladies Fight Back

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

If you don't believe that politics in America is still a basically white, old boys game, just take a look at some of those disgusting group photos coming out of Trump's Oval Office.  The same goes for Congress.  Though women and racial and ethnic minorities have made significant strides since Jeanette Rankin first broke the congressional gender barrier a little over a century ago, the preponderance of our national legislators is still old, white men.

State legislatures are also seeing some shift toward a gender balance, but slightly over 75% of state legislators nationwide remain male.  And in this, the Age of Trump, these old boys focus primarily on three things:  voting rights (to insure the system is sufficiently rigged so that they can maintain their positions and power), guns (to secure the support of the morons and Walmart shoppers), and vaginas (for the blessings of the Christian fundamentalists).  The current herd of men running America prefer policies that curtail voting, proliferate guns, and limit women's reproductive choices - all for purely political reasons.

(A news story out this morning says that HHS Secretary Tom Price may soon be able to gut the requirement that insurance companies offer contraception and birth control at no cost.  The age of enlightenment appears to be dimming.)

If the ladies are ever able to consolidate their majority power, God alone knows the extent of what the pent-up backlash could be - but so far the men and the churches have been successful in convincing women that they are better off leaving their fate in the hands of men.

So far . . . but the worm is showing signs of contemplating a turn.

Recently a female state legislator in Kentucky decided that since men are so concerned with controlling women's bodies, perhaps it was time for government to involve itself with the bodies of men.  State Representative Mary Lou Marzian has introduced a bill into the Kentucky legislature, HB 396, which would require a minimum of two doctor's visits and a permission slip from the patient's wife before any man in the state could receive erectile dysfunction drugs.  Single males and men who could not obtain written permission from the little woman would be S.O.L. when it came to shopping for Viagara!

Rep. Marzian said she was only trying to protect men from themselves.  Her bill would also require that men attempting to buy the erectile dysfunction drugs be required to swear with their hand on the Bible that they would use the medicine only when having sex with their current spouse.  The state representative stressed that her bill was about "family values."

The Kentucky legislature recently passed yet another restriction on abortion, one which requires that women contemplating a pregnancy termination receive counseling twenty-four hours prior to the procedure.   Perhaps Representative Marzian should add a counseling requirement to her bill.  Others are suggesting that the bill could also contain a requirement for a trans-rectal ultrasound to insure that there are no prostrate issues at play.   Also, a mandatory viewing of a film on the unintended consequences of sex might be in order.

Why, the list of potential impediments to the fulfillment of a male sex drive are near limitless.  Keep cranking out those bills, ladies.  Save those gnarly old men from themselves!

If it's good enough for the goose, it's sure as hell good enough for the gander!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Monday's Poetry: "Rocky Mountain High"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

As I was driving across southern Missouri this past weekend I came across a soft rock station on the radio that was enjoyable without distracting from the critical business of watching the road.  I hadn't been on that station very long when it played the late John Denver's classic ode to Colorado - and to an America that he understood and loved, "Rocky Mountain High."  The beautiful words took me back to a less-complicated and happier time.

Folk singer and song writer Woody Guthrie captured the essence of his idealized America in broad strokes with panoramic endeavors like "This Land is Your Land" and "Roll On, Columbia." Decades later John Denver also wrote and sang his vision of America, only Denver took it in smaller bites - state by state.  Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads" paid homage to the scenic poverty of West Virginia, and his "Wild Montana Skies" ripped open the soul of the American West in much the same manner as "Rocky Mountain High" had done.  John Denver was a poet's poet, using the briefest of glimpses into the natural world to evoke vivid landscapes where we would all like to frolic and sit around the campfire laughing late into the night.

Legalized marijuana sales topped one billion dollars in Colorado in 2016.  To recognize that milestone of capitalism, I thought this would be a good time to revisit "Rocky Mountain High."  Somewhere John Denver is kicked back into a cloud bank and smiling.


Rocky Mountain High
By John Denver


He was born in the summer of his 27th year
Coming home to a place he'd never been before
He left yesterday behind him, you might say he was born again
You might say he found a key for every door


When he first came to the mountains his life was far away
On the road and hanging by a song
But the string's already broken and he doesn't really care
It keeps changing fast and it don't last for long


But the Colorado rocky mountain high
I've seen it rainin' fire in the sky
The shadow from the starlight is softer than a lullabye
Rocky mountain high (Colorado)


He climbed cathedral mountains, he saw silver clouds below
He saw everything as far as you can see
And they say that he got crazy once and he tried to touch the sun
And he lost a friend but kept his memory


Now he walks in quiet solitude the forest and the streams
Seeking grace in every step he takes
His sight has turned inside himself to try and understand
The serenity of a clear blue mountain lake


And the Colorado rocky mountain high
I've seen it raining fire in the sky
You can talk to God and listen to the casual reply
Rocky mountain high


Now his life is full of wonder but his heart still knows some fear
Of a simple thing he cannot comprehend
Why they try to tear the mountains down to bring in a couple more
More people, more scars upon the land


And the Colorado rocky mountain high
I've seen it rainin' fire in the sky
I know he'd be a poorer man if he never saw an eagle fly
Rocky mountain high


It's Colorado rocky mountain high
I've seen it rainin' fire in the sky
Friends around the campfire and everybody's high
Rocky mountain high, Colorado, rocky mountain high
Rocky mountain high, Colorado, rocky mountain high!


Smoke 'em if ya got 'em!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Wind in the Willows

by Pa Rock
Reader

Last year after learning that my four-year-old granddaughter and her mother were reading and enjoying the "Frog and Toad" series by Arnold Lobel, I reasoned that if they liked those adventures, they would surely have fun reading Kenneth Grahame's classic, The Wind in the Willows.  I had seen an adaptation of some of that material on PBS several years ago and remembered liking it.  Even if I hadn't actually read the work myself, it was a classic and would undoubtedly be a hit with my grandchild.

So, Pa Rock being the pushy grandparent that he is, ordered a copy of The Wind in the Willows for little Olive and her mother.

Recently my son gave me a copy of the same book, one that he had picked up at a yard sale, and I determined to read it so that Olive and I could discuss the finer literary points of the children's novel.  To my surprise and embarrassment, I quickly learned that small children were probably not the intended audience for this work because it is rife with adult themes and situations.

True, Grahame did create the stories included in The Wind in the Willows to entertain his young son, in much the same manner as A.A. Milne intended when he penned the Winnie the Pooh collection and Richard Adams did with Watership Down, but the level of complexity in Grahame's work suggests that his young son, Alistair, an only child, might have been coaxed toward an early maturation by overly eager parents.

The Wind in the Willows is the story of several animals living in a wooded area along a river bank, with four - Mole, Water Rat, Mr. Badger, and Toad - serving as the primary catalysts of the tale.   As the story opens Mole is busy with spring cleaning when he suddenly tires of the annual chore and decides to go on a walkabout.  While on his stroll he encounters a new friend, Water Rat (affectionately known as "Ratty") and inexplicably moves into Rat's home.

(That move could entail a whole other level of meaning - one which I choose not to explore.)

Mole begins hearing tales about the elusive Mr. Badger who lives deeper in the woods, and determines to meet him - even though Ratty warns that Mr. Badger doesn't care much for company.  Mole goes into the woods one wintry afternoon in search of Mr. Badger.  Ratty eventually follows along out of concern for his wandering roommate.  Together the pair get lost in a nighttime snowstorm before inadvertently stumbling upon Mr. Badger's lodgings.  He invites them in out of the awful weather, and Mole has another friend.

But it is Mole's next new friend who drives the crux of the tale and pulls it far beyond the reach of many children.  Ratty takes Mole to meet the esteemed Toad of Toad Hall, a privileged and somewhat spoiled character who lives a life of leisure on inherited money.  (Toad was probably intended by Kenneth Grahame to satirize the lords and ladies and royalty of British society.)  The fellows' first encounter with Toad leads to an adventure and a mishap.  He takes them for a ride in a horse-drawn gypsy caravan (an ornate wagon whose proper name is a "vardo".)  While on their outing a young rascal in a motorcar forces them off the road and the wagon turns over.  Fortunately there were no injuries, but the incident had a profound impact on Toad who could suddenly think of nothing else but acquiring a motorcar for himself.

Over the coming months Toad acquires several cars, all of which he drives recklessly and too fast and eventually wrecks.  His vehicular irresponsibility reaches such a critical mass that his friends, Ratty, Mole, and Mr. Badger hold an intervention and make Toad a prisoner in his own house to prevent him from rushing out and buying another motorcar.  But Toad, that wily cuss, quickly escapes their well-intentioned captivity and hits the road on foot.  He isn't on his own for very long, however, before he  steals a car, goes for a joyride, wrecks the car, and bad-mouths a law enforcement officer - a combination of crimes for which he receives a twenty-year prison sentence.

After several months of confinement in a dank, old prison, Toad, with an assist from a woman who comes into the prison to read to him, dresses up as a washer woman and manages to escape.  While he is on the run he lies his way onto a train and a river barge, he steals a horse and later sells the stolen nag to a gypsy for a hot meal and a few silver coins, and slowly makes his way home where he discovers that the once grand Toad Hall has been taken over by a trashy band of stoats and weasels.  But with the aid of his old friends, Toad goes to war against the home-stealing varmints and eventually regains his home and his rightful place in society - as long as no one dwells too seriously on the fact that he remains an escaped convict.

So there you have it - a children's book whose wistful vistas of wild woods and babbling brooks are quickly replaced by reckless driving, social intervention, car theft, a joyride, confrontation with police, imprisonment, cross-dressing, escape from prison, life on the lam, lying, horse theft, the sale of a stolen horse, and a big dose of old-school violence.

Olive may have liked it, and I hope she did, but I was appalled!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Missouri's Highway Horrification Peters Out

by Pa Rock
Weary Road Warrior

I made a trip across southwest Missouri today, the first since my close friend was hospitalized and subsequently passed away last November.  At that time the rolling hills of the Ozarks were festooned with Trump/Pence signs - everything from the standard yard-size to vulgar billboard displays - and many cars were branded with Trump bumper stickers.    Now, I am pleased to report most of that trash has disappeared.   I did see one fairly large Trump/Pence sign (approx. 2-feet by 3 feet) cobbled to a larger billboard, but that was all.  During the jaunt of almost four hundred miles, I did not have to endure any other reminders of our national embarrassment!  Even the bumper stickers are gone!

I did try to return one nice yard sign that I had up in support of a local independent candidate for state representative.  The lady, who ran a tough race against a well-funded and entrenched local yokel, told me, rather dejectedly, to keep the sign and either properly dispose of it or turn it into a yard sale sign.   It's always sad to see a valiant effort in democracy reduced to promoting a yard sale.

Missouri's new Republican governor has already joined forces with our veto-proof Republican legislature and made Missouri the 28th right-to-work state in the nation.  (Now we are right up their with the likes of Alabama and Oklahoma - yea team!)  If there is any semblance of collective bargaining or labor protections left in the state, Governor Greitens has almost four full years left in which to destroy it.  All of that - and disappearing medical coverage.  (I dreamed that I was in hillbilly heaven!)

But hey, at least the most offensive trash along the roadways is disappearing - and will soon be replaced by the flowers of spring!  Blooming daffodils to subsume the last vestiges of the blooming idiots!

Friday, February 17, 2017

GOP Takes Aim at School Meals

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Years ago when I was the principal of an elementary-junior high school in a district that had several such schools, I volunteered to have our little school institute a breakfast program.  Because the school was in an impoverished area, many of the children who took advantage of the hot morning meal were able to do so at a free or reduced cost.  It was such a raging success, that the district's five other elementary-junior highs soon came on board with their own hot breakfast programs.

Yes, there were some in the community who opposed the notion of schools providing breakfast to students, but I didn't care.  The research showed that students who had breakfast were better behaved at school and did better academically - findings that soon became evident in our own school setting.  Eating breakfast also led to better health outcomes.

The hard part of the school breakfast and lunch programs was the record keeping.  Someone had to be present in the lunch room to collect tickets or money, and there was also a lot of administrative time dedicated to wading through applications and figuring out who was eligible for free and reduced lunches - and which families had to pay the full price.  But in the end, the program ran smoothly and lots of hungry kids had at least two good meals a day - something of which I was very proud.

Over the years the program has changed, generally for the better.  Through something called the Community Eligibility Program (CEP), schools in poor areas where 40% of the students qualify for free meals, may now offer free meals to all students and then be reimbursed at a variable rate, according to the percentage of low-income families.  That helps to ease the administrative burden of determining who is and is not eligible, and it assures that the schools will receive some reimbursement on all students.  It also goes a long way toward eliminating the social stigma that comes to receiving free meals.

The GOP, which is historically known for losing interest in poor kids at the time of their birth, nevertheless has a strong interest in providing meals to needy students at school - a strong negative interest.  Republicans in the House are looking at "adjusting" the CEP percentage up to 60% in order to combat the "fraud" of children who could afford to pay for meals receiving them for free.  That change will reduce that number of children who are able to eat at school and it will increase the bookkeeping burden on the schools.

Think about that:  the same people who fall all over themselves giving tax breaks to corporations and billionaires, would gleefully yank the cafeteria trays away from hungry kids.  That is immorality in its rawest and most unforgivable form.

Feed those kids!   It's what Jesus would do.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Arming the Mentally Ill in Trump's America

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

For those still suffering under the delusion that Donald Trump and the Republican Party maintain any sense of humanity or decency, consider this:  the House and Senate have each just passed a measure that would roll back an Obama era rule which was aimed at preventing the severely mentally ill from buying guns.  Donald Trump is expected to sign the act - and the public safety be damned!

The Obama regulation required that the 75,000 or so of individuals currently on disability support be added to the national background check database and denied permission to buy guns.  Those added to the database check would have been limited to individuals whose condition was so serious that they had to be assigned a personal trustee - and even those individuals would have had a right of appeal.

But Congressional Republicans, most (if not all) of whose pockets are stuffed with bloody cash from the National Rifle Association, weren't having it.  With a new sheriff in the White House, they quickly rushed through a repeal of the Obama rule, and with it expanded the gun market.

The Republican argument was that instead of putting tighter controls on gun ownership, the government should be tightening controls over the mentally disabled.  Of course Republicans, being Republicans, wouldn't allocate a wooden nickel to anything as frivolous as improved mental health care.

And as for all of those whiney-assed liberals lamenting children being gunned down at school, if teachers and administrators were made to carry guns to school, school shootings and grizzly bear attacks just would not happen.

Lunatics with guns will make America safer - just wait - and watch - and see - and run for cover!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Coon and Friends

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I love hearing about campus unrest whose ultimate goal is bringing about a better America.  It brings to mind days gone by - very good days.

Back in 1962 a young, black Air Force veteran by the name of James Meredith managed to break the color barrier at one of the south's most segregated institutions - the University of Mississippi.   Now, more than half a century later, the campus of Ole Miss is still predominantly white (77%), and many of the old racist attitudes of the Jim Crow era still persist on and around the campus.  (A few years ago, in fact, someone at Ole Miss draped a noose over the neck of a statue of Mr. Meredith that stands on the hallowed old campus.)

Yesterday there was a profile of a current Ole Miss student in the New York Times that shined a light on some of the racial unrest that still persists on campus.  The student, a white junior by the name of Allen Coon, is a Mississippi native who chose to come to Ole Miss with the express intent of shaking things up on campus.  Mr. Coon has proven to be very successful at meeting that goal.

Allen Coon is recognized as an effective campus organizer, and his efforts to address racial injustices on campus have earned him the respect of much of the black community at the university.  As an elected member of the student senate, he drafted a resolution which ultimately led to the state flag of Mississippi (which bears a Confederate battle flag in the upper left corner) being removed from the campus.  Coon's involvement in the removal of the state flag earned him both respect and enmity of his fellow students, and much negative reaction in the surrounding community.

Ole Miss had two "die-in" demonstrations in 2015 to protest police violence - and particularly police violence toward blacks.  Both demonstrations were organized by Allen Coon.  He also initiated efforts to make Ole Miss a "sanctuary campus," one that would offer a safe refuge to illegal immigrants.

Allen Coon, whose last name doubles as a racial slur, describes himself as someone who thinks obsessively about race.  His best friends in high school were a pair of young black men.  The three referred to themselves as "Coon and Friends," with the joke being who was the "coon" and who were the "friends."  His girlfriend at Ole Miss is black, and one thing that Allen Coon worries about is if they marry and have children, should he saddle his bi-racial offspring with his unfortunate last name.

The Times article illuminated the influences that helped to shape Allen Coon into the young liberal activist that he is today - things like his friends, the Travon Martin and Michael Brown deaths, Stephen Colbert, and pop music artists - a variety of things that were all coming together at the exact same time America was experiencing the Trump invasion of its political landscape.  The result was the emergence of a force for good germinating in what some would see as a racist backwater.

Allen Coon, and hopefully many others with his idealistic determination, will be at the ready to balance out the moral outrages of the Trump administration, just as Tom Hayden, and Jerry Rubin,  and Abbie Hoffman, and a whole host of other young people stepped forward to challenge LBJ and his mindless pursuit of war in Vietnam.  The Chicago Seven had their time in the sun, and now Coon and Friends will hopefully have theirs.

America is a diverse nation, and in that diversity is strength.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Spring Teases

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Winter

The groundhog did not see his shadow this February 2nd, leading those of us who believe such signs to know that winter is damned near over.  The past several days, in fact most days since Mr. Groundhog ventured forth to look for his shadow, have been unseasonably balmy with signs of spring on obvious display.  The little daffodils, the small ones up next to the house that have been in the ground for generations, are already up and blooming, and the expensive bulbs that I have planted the last couple of autumns are just starting to peek through.  The maple trees have budded and tiny pinkish leaves are forming - and it won't be too long until the air is awash in those little maple helicopters - and the peacocks at Rock's Roost just love those!

The peacocks know that spring is upon us.  The two males are strutting their stuff and displaying their gorgeous fans that are about six-feet across.  Yesterday I was able to snap a couple of pictures of both of them showing off at once.   So far the seven peahens are steadfastly ignoring their showboating suitors.

The skunks who had taken up residence in the barn last fall have left.   Recently some larger animal has started pushing a brick out of the way that I have blocking the old entrance that the skunks used to use, but the skunk scent isn't back, so I'm assuming it's a groundhog.   Groundhogs used to be regular tenants in the barn until I dumped some concrete into one of their main tunnels two summers ago.  The new arrival could also be an armadillo. Time will tell.

The deer are back in force.  My son saw five out by the chicken coop the other evening eating grain that the chickens had missed.  The birds are also gathered around their feeder as well as any place where I scatter grain for the farm fowl.  I have a bird feeder outside of my living room picture window that holds four large drink cups of chopped corn and sunflower seeds.  It used to accommodate a dozen or so redbirds and a few smaller varieties and last for two to three weeks.  Now hordes of shiny blackbirds descend on it daily and manage to empty the feeder in less than two days.

Does anyone have a good recipe for blackbird pie?

I took advantage of part of this warm spurt by beginning to clean out the coop area where my new baby chicks will live when they arrive in April.  I've hauled out several small loads of chicken litter and rotting wood shavings out and dumped them in the garden area.  Spreading the material is easy - after dumping a pile, I call a meeting of the hens and roosters and lay down the law.  "Stay away from this pile!"  I make that stern demand, and the disobedient fowl will have it scratched through and spread out before I can even make it back to the house!

The yard is beginning to green, leading me to think that mowing will start earlier than usual this year.  Last year I mowed twice in April before my trip to Cuba at the end of the month.  This year I wouldn't be surprised to be cutting grass by the Ides of March.  Once the mowing starts, Pa Rock's life is defined by the length of the grass - and it goes on until early November.

Keep them mowers moving, Rawhide!

 And snow?  The last significant snowfall in this area was in March of 2013 while I was still living in Arizona - and that was just a few inches.  Don't let Lyin' Paul Ryan or anyone else tell you that global warming is a myth - because it isn't!

Guess I'll go fly a kite!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Let America Vote

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

My favorite Missouri politician, former Secretary of State Jason Kander, has begun another crusade, one that merits attention and support.

Kander, just thirty-five years of age, is an Iraq War veteran who was at one time the youngest statewide office holder in the nation.  As he was completing his term as our Secretary of State, Jason chose to try and advance himself in Missouri politics by challenging incumbent Republican Senator Roy Blunt.  And while Blunt's tenacious hold on that senate seat seemed insurmountable, young Democrat Kander came within a hair's breadth of knocking the old toad off of his stool.  Jason Kander lost the statewide election to Blunt by just 2.8 percentage points at the same time Clinton lost the show-me state to Trump by 18.5 percentage points.

Kander gave Ol' Roy the biggest scare of his political life.

Because of Jason's strong support in Missouri, particularly among young Missourians, it should not surprise anyone that he has chosen to remain active and in the public view during his current hiatus from elected office.  Last month it was rumored that Kander would jump into the crowded race to become chair of the Democratic National Committee, but for reasons unknown to individuals of my pay grade, he chose not to trudge that path.

Yesterday the former Senate candidate (and star of a television commercial where he, in essence, flipped a middle finger to the Blunt-supporting NRA by assembling a military assault rifle while blindfolded) announced plans for a new political venture, one intended to increase Americans' access to the polls.  The organization that Jason Kander is founding is called "Let America Vote," and its purpose is exactly what its title implies.

In the launch of this new effort to curb voter suppression, Kander had this to say:

"This means a lot to me.  As Secretary of State in Missouri, making sure eligible voters had access to the polls was a huge part of my job.  This week, I started Let America Vote to continue that work across the country.

"Voting is the fundamental right of every American.  GOP tactics like photo voter ID laws, slashing voting hours, or questionable purges of voter rolls have nothing to do with protecting elections -- they're meant to keep certain people from voting because those people rarely vote Republican.

"I joined the Army to protect this nation.  i did it because I truly believe that our country, our democracy, is a beacon of hope where everyone is equal and everyone's voice is valued.  Voting is one of the fundamental rights that I put my life on the line for, that my fellow soldiers fought and died for.  I have a stake in this democracy -- and I intend to do everything I can to make sure every eligible American can exercise their right to cast a ballot."

The advocate for unfettered democracy then went on to ask recipients of his email announcing the new effort to respond with their own take on what voting rights means to them.  I did that and elaborated by noting that as an older white male I had never had any personal difficulties in voting.  I shared my belief that voter registration should be universal and that access to the ballot needs to be as simple as possible.

Then I went on to share my best voting experience with Kander.  Surprisingly, that was in the state of Arizona.  Registration was completed at the DMV when I showed up the first time to register my vehicle, and ballots were mailed to me several weeks ahead of each election - along with a postage-paid return envelope.  I voted in the comfort of my own home and mailed my ballot back to the election officials.  Or, if I wanted the excitement of visiting the polling place, I could take my ballot there and cast it on election day.  By having the ballot arrive by mail before each election, I never missed getting to vote -  and I never forgot about any election.  It was a great system.

America's strength is in the numbers of people who get to the polls and vote - and keeping people away is a weakness.  I am glad that Jason Kander has chosen to fight voter suppression in America because he is just the person who can spotlight and defeat that insidious old evil.

For more information on this extraordinary young man and his ambitious new effort, please check in at  letamericavote.org.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Welcome to Haven!

by Pa Rock
TV Junkie

I first started getting to know the quirky inhabitants of Haven, Maine, while living on Okinawa a few years ago.   The Okinawans and Japanese have a strong appreciation of science fiction that goes at least back to Godzilla, and the television networks that catered to American residents presented a fine assortment of entertainment from the SYFY channel.

Haven, a fictional community, looks more like Santa Barbara, California, from the aerial views than it does a rugged Maine coastal town, but once the cameras are on the ground a sense of a typical New England fishing village takes over.  Haven, however, is far from typical.  Some of it's citizens, most of whom are basically good people, experience"troubles" which manifest themselves in strange ways.  There is one who can psychically push away people who invade his space.  Another resident of the town can't control his shadow which takes it upon itself to kill people.  There is a psychic fire starter, a person who causes things (and people) to explode when she touches them, another who can only speak in babbles, and one who causes people to switch bodies.  And then there are the animals who have been stuffed by a local taxidermist who reanimate and hunt down the people who killed them.

Haven is a community of oddballs that never fails to surprise - and, not surprisingly, it germinated in the mind of Stephen King.

The central character in the television series, Haven, is FBI Agent Audrey Parker (Emily Rose) who arrives in town while working a case.  There she meets the local lawman, Nathan Wuornos (Lucas Bryant) who befriends Parker and eventually becomes her love interest, and Duke (Eric Balfour), a self-styled "pirate" and saloon keeper who is also a bit of a charming criminal.  The three of them - Audrey, Nathan, and Duke - become the local force in identifying and bringing "troubled" people under control.

As Audrey becomes entangled in the problems of Haven, she gradually learns that she has been in Haven before - in past lives - and that she arrives every twenty-seven years just as the troubles begin expressing themselves.  She was there, in fact, twenty-seven years before when a young man known only as "the Colorado Kid" was murdered on a local beach.   And the young man, who was twenty-seven-years-old at the time of his death, had a connection to the previous incarnation of Audrey Parker.

It all gets a bit convoluted as the mythology surrounding Haven begins fleshing itself out.   There are complications involving time-travel, parallel worlds, and even a connection to the lost colony of Roanoke Island.  The final few episodes feature a Satanesque character by the name of "Croatoan" who is ably brought to life by science-fiction icon William Shatner.

The complete five seasons of Haven (78 episodes) are available on Netflix.  It is a series that needs to be viewed from the beginning in order for viewers to develop an understanding of the origin and impact of the troubles, the most significant aspect of life in Haven.  The town's strange nature is complex, but even so the stories flow smoothly and make sense - in a Stephen King sort of way.

Visitors are always welcome in Haven, Maine - and for those who like their troubles to be a bit more traditional, drive on up the coast to Cabot Cove, Maine, the murder capital of New England.  Fictional Maine is a lovely place!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Oh, Canada!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Sarah Palin is one of the most maligned (and deservedly so) politicians in the annals of American history, and just the mention of her name brings a smile to the faces of millions as they anticipate the joke that is likely to follow.  This week Palin, who was too lazy and self-centered to complete even one term as governor of Alaska, again made the news when word broke that her good buddy, Donald Trump, was thinking about appointing her as the United States Ambassador to Canada.  When asked about that absurdity at a White House press briefing, Sean Spicer fueled speculation that it might be true when he failed to deny that it wasn't.

Sarah Palin as an ambassador on the world diplomatic stage?  The mind reels!

Twitter, Donald Trump's home away from home, literally went up in flames at the news.  There were bursts of anger and shame from some U.S. residents with the general sentiment being that sending Palin to Ottawa was no way to treat a friend.  But the tweeters north of the border accepted the looming insult with a surprising degree of  good humor.

One Canuck wrote that Palin would be welcome, but hoped that she would learn Canadian before she arrived.  Another was a bit less snarky and stated simply that the incoming ambassador should learn one of Canada's two official languages - either French or English.  Either goal might be difficult for Sarah to attain.  She is more into shooting moose from helicopters than she is book-learning.

Another wag reported that he heard Sarah was interested in the job, and that she had hopped a plane to Europe in order to check out Canada in person.  But that's just silly.  Palin knows where Canada is.  She once admitted that as a little girl she and her family would slip across the border into Canada to take advantage of the country's free medical care.

Still another Canadian pined for the notion of Canada building a huge wall across its southern border to keep the riffraff out.  No word yet on whether Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would expect the United States to pay for it or not.

And one thoughtful Canadian even posited the notion that Canada could reciprocate in kind and make Justin Bieber their ambassador to the United States!  That is unlikely to happen because Canada is better than that.

Sending Sarah Palin to Canada isn't exactly an act of war, but it would be an egregious insult to a long-standing ally and a good neighbor.  Canada deserves better  - and so do we!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Ethics? Trump Don't Need No Stinking Ethics!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Some of the yokels and hare brains who helped elect Donald Trump to the presidency claimed to have supported him because he was "a businessman" and they felt that America needed to be run like "a business."  What they got for their efforts was a businessman who could not let go of HIS businesses - or the businesses of his family members.

As an example, a report on National Public Radio this morning suggested that a Trump hotel project in Dallas is being funded, in part, with money from Kazahkstan, the largest of the former Soviet satellite states.  While Kazahkstan is today independent of the Russian Bear, it still exists in its cold shadow and is characterized by a long-term authoritarian government known for oppressing the rights of its individual citizens.   But Trump will take money from Kazahkstan, thank you very much.

Should an American President accept investment monies from citizens of a foreign nation?  Should a President of the United States have his hand out seeking money from any investors?

Also in the news of late has been a story that the Department of Defense is thinking about renting an entire floor of the Trump Tower in New York City,  a transaction that will cost our government a hefty $1.5 million a year.   The justification for this outrage is that the serviceman carrying the nuclear codes needs to be physically close to the Commander-in-Chief at all times.  The Secret Service is reportedly also planning on renting space in Trump's phallic monument to himself.

Today Trump is hosting the Prime Minister of Japan at the White House, but when their meetings are over, Trump is taking his guest to his resort in Florida - Mar El Lago.  Trump says that he will pay the Japanese leader's rent at the resort out of his own pocket, but even so Trump will still benefit immeasurably by all of the publicity that a state visit by a foreign leader will generate for his business property.

And then there's Ivanka.  Trump's oldest child makes her pin money by hawking clothing and jewelry of her own design, much of which is produced in China.  This week Nordstrom's announced that they were discontinuing Ivanka's clothing line, and Big Daddy rushed to fire up his Twitter account where he disparaged that Seattle-based retailer for picking on his daughter.  Later administration mouthpiece, Kellyanne Conway, went on Fox where she essentially did an infomercial for Ivanka's line of rags. 

Was Trump elected to bully companies into selling Ivanka's wares, or should he be focused on governing?

Trump's intent was to teach Nordstrom's a lesson as he had done earlier when some of his vitriol had brought down the price of Boeing stock.  But America is beginning to stand up to presidential bullying - and Nordstrom's stock took a sharp rise after Trump tweeted his displeasure with the company.

Oops!

Perhaps America could benefit from the leadership of a skilled and successful businessman, but that is not what the country elected.  Refusing to pay contractors and workers, buying cheap goods abroad, using frivolous lawsuits and bankruptcy filings to hide from honest debt, and using the highest office in the land to promote benefits to his own business interests are not the hallmarks of a good businessman.

America deserves better.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

In Praise of a Persistent Woman

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

When Mitch McConnell and his party "silenced" Senator Elizabeth Warren from speaking on the Sessions' nomination to be Attorney General, he essentially told her to sit down, shut up, and quit interfering in men's work.   The Senate's churlish little-old-lady in residence, Lindsey Graham, was quick to rush to the turtle's defense, arguing that Warren was long overdue for a slap-down.

McConnell, who despite his outward appearance is no dummy, knew that by silencing Warren he was, in effect, releasing a raging storm that would howl through the Halls of Congress, ignite the press, and blast across the American landscape energizing females and their supporters from sea to shining sea.   McConnell understood that by singling out Elizabeth Warren and trying to humiliate her, he would be instrumental in establishing her as the most powerful figure in the Democratic Party.

And Mitch's turtle sense told him that it was a smart move.  Warren, he reasoned, was far too radical to ever pose a serious threat to a candidate with the political gravitas of a Donald Trump.  Mitch assumed he was helping to create a monster, but one which could be easily defeated in 2020.

Some candidates, after all, are just too "out there" to ever be taken seriously.  Consider the case of Ronald Reagan thinking that the country would possibly elect a B-movie actor to the highest office in the land.  Ridiculous!  Or Barack Obama, a colored man, for God's sake!  There are places for Negroes in the big house that slaves helped to build, just not upstairs as part of the First Family.  The thought of a black man in the Oval Office was just ludicrous!  And a misogynistic, xenophobic, narcissistic scam-artist with the temperament of a junior high bully becoming President.  No way, Jose!

Those were things that Mitch knew, and things that much of America took for granted - and they were wrong.  Now Mitch deftly moves to control Democratic politics by turning the glare of the spotlight on a woman whom he is sure could never be elected President by the America he knows and loves - and he fails to realize that the ground beneath his feet is again shifting.

Elizabeth Warren will have her day, Mitch, and she probably would have had it even without your unkind assist.  You probably need to check in with Elaine a bit more often and get some sense of the surging resentment against patrimony that is rushing forth across our great land.

Hillary Clinton may have lost the Presidency, but she won the popular vote by a margin of nearly three million.  Hillary had some enthusiastic supporters, and she also had some unenthusiastic ones, like me, who reluctantly voted for her in order to stave off an Orwellian takeover by Trump.   But Hillary was never able to develop that "fierce sense of urgency" (Dr. King) that was needed to stem the rising tide of ignorance that eventually floated the Alt Right into the White House.

Elizabeth Warren is brilliant, eloquent, and tough - and she understands the full urgency of the perils that face our country.  She will air her views in the Senate, on Wall Street, at Boston's Logan Airport, and on the streets of America.    Elizabeth Warren is unafraid to speak truth to power, and she will persist!

Mitch, buddy, this might be a good time to hunker down in your shell and try to get some sleep - because things out in the real world are about to get noisy!

And Lindsey, you need to get back to your knitting.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Of Swamp Creatures and Women in Drag

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

One campaign promise Donald Trump has not kept and will not keep is his pledge to "drain the swamp" of Washington, DC.  The troglodyte Trump is, in fact, making himself right at home in the primordial ooze.   To add to his comfort in the slime and sewage, The Donald has flushed in a load of billionaires and generals to ensure that his swamp is swimming in arrogance and authoritarianism, two hallmarks of the Trump brand.

Most of the new vermin that Trump has introduced into the swamp are men, crusty old white men who possess an unbounded sense of entitlement.  But he has also seen fit to import a few females to class up the joint - while maybe answering the phones and serving coffee and pastries to the men.   Despite the sexist label that those pushy broads in the Women's March tried to hang on Trump, he loves the women - and it's been acceptable for a few to hold down jobs in his swamp so long as they dress like ladies.

Yup.  Women are welcome in the Trump administration if they dress like ladies.  While the exact dress code hasn't been published yet, the opening salvo sort of puts one in mind of California during Reagan's governorship when Queen Nancy decreed that all female state employees had to wear dresses.  What about the men in your retro world, Donald?  Will you be bringing back sideburns checks?  And what if Sean Spicer wants to grow a stache - or Kellyanne, for that matter?

I'd be careful if I were you, Orange Buddy, or some liberal judge might just allow blue jeans in the White House.  Of course, for Steve Bannon, blue jeans might be seen as dressing up!

In a related note, comedienne Melissa McCarthy brought down the house with her spot-on impersonation of White House mouthpiece Sean Spicer on last week's Saturday Night Live.  McCarthy, dressed in a man's suit, a short wig, and chomping on chewing gum, impaled the hapless Press Secretary in a scathing routine that will likely be a highlight of both of their careers.   Spicer handled the affront in a relatively good-natured manner, but his boss, Hair Furor, was reportedly not amused.  Trump, who likes for himself and his team to be viewed as strong, took umbrage at a woman playing the role of his press secretary - and particularly a woman dressed as a man, and probably even more particularly, that woman.

Now Trump's long-time nemesis, Rosie O'Donnell, is also trying to poke the pig.  Rosie is openly campaigning to be cast as Trump's brain, Steve Bannon, or Saturday Night Live, or should Alec Baldwin ever tire of his role portraying The Donald, O'Donnell would like to be cast as the lead in the comic send-up of our national melodrama.

How would that grab you, Donald - being played by a woman in drag - especially if that woman is your sweetie, Rosie O'Donnell?

Donald Trump is probably right in his demand that the women working around him dress like ladies.  Otherwise they could start down that slippery slope to ignominy and one day wind up posing naked in GQ!

Keep those standards high, Donald! 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Judgment Day for DeVos

by Pa Rock
Educator

Less than an hour from now the United States Senate will meet to vote on the nomination of billionaire educational enthusiast Betsy DeVos to be this nation's eleventh Secretary of Education.  As it now stands, DeVos, the sister of Blackwater founder and self-styled mercenary, Erik Prince, is likely to be confirmed on a fifty-fifty vote in the Senate with Mike Pence casting the tie-breaker.  And if DeVos wins, America's children will lose -bigly!

Betsy DeVos grew up rich and married richer - and while lolling about in a life of privilege, she never had to spend a single day as a student in a public school.  She was educated well away from the stench of the masses in refined, private settings.   As a result of her breathing so much rarefied air, Betsy somehow came to the conclusion that all children would do better being educated in private settings - or at least straight , white ones without special needs - and the best way to pay for that would be through siphoning tax money away from public schools through schemes like vouchers and into private types of schools favored by DeVos and her rich friends.  Unfortunately, those tin-foil hat solutions, no matter how well intended, will still be beyond the financial grasp of many students in the United States.  Much of their share of the education dollars will go to their betters, as God and Betsy DeVos intended.  Also, those educational machinations, at least the ones implemented by Betsy DeVos in her home state of Michigan, have a history of not working well.

Betsy DeVos supports private, religious, and charter schools over traditional schools, and she fights efforts to make her darlings accountable to those nasty old state legislators who want to know if the public's money is being used effectively.   On those occasions when it has been possible to make comparisons between the experimental schools of DeVos and their public counterparts, the public schools have always performed as well or better than the more expensive and exclusive ones favored by Betsy DeVos.

DeVos does not understand special education and is not supportive of many measures aimed at improving educational outcomes for students with special needs.

Betsy does support an increased presence of God in schools, and she favors teachers and administrators being allowed to carry guns to school.

Donald Trump has made some truly awful choices to serve in his cabinet, and some, like Attorney General-designee Jeff Sessions, would turn America back toward some of those dark places we thought we had crawled out of for good.   But none of Trump's choices, not even Sessions, has the potential to do damage as extreme and long-lasting as that which Betsy DeVos is itching and poised to bring about.  If she succeeds in making education a privilege for those already blessed with privilege, she will have undermined the sturdiest tenet of democracy.  

Of course, that has probably been the game plan all along.

DeVos admitted before a Senate hearing that she and her family have possibly donated as much as $200 million to political candidates.  Secretary of Education is a job that Betsy DeVos has already bought and paid for - and she expects it to be handed to her today - gift-wrapped!

The Senate needs to stand up to his outrage against our children.  My own Republican senator, Roy Blunt of Missouri, has, along with his political family, received tens of thousands of dollars from DeVos and her family.

But Roy, so did Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and she grew a spine anyway and announced that she would be voting against Big Donor DeVos.  Betsy DeVos will negatively impact education for children in Missouri communities like Bolivar, Springfield, Galena, Ozark, West Plains, Branson - and even your home town of Niangua.

The destruction of America's schools is not a legacy that any politician should seek - and voters will be reminded of which senators voted to bring about this disaster.  Roy Blunt, stand up for Missouri's school children and vote a big, loud "No" on Betsy DeVos!  As one teacher to another, we both know it's the right thing to do!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Monday's Poetry: The "Mister Ed" Theme Song

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

My seven-year-old grandson, Judah Files, recently lost a friend.  Izzy, a therapy horse who had patiently taught Judah and many other children to ride, passed away after a lifetime of patient service to others.  This past week Judah was among those present at a memorial service for Izzy.  One of the speakers at that event made a reference to another much-loved horse, television's "Mister Ed" of many years ago.

It hard for those of us of a certain age to hear the name "Mister Ed" without connecting it to the catchy theme song that accompanied the program.

Judah, here is a nice song about a funny horse.  I used to sing it when I wasn't much older than you.  Ask your Mama to sing it to you - and have a wonderful day!  Love, Pa Rock.

Willlburrr!


Mister Ed Theme Song
by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans

Hello, I am Mister Ed

A horse is a horse, of course, of course,
And no one can talk to a horse of course
That is, of course, unless the horse is the famous Mister. Ed.

Go right to the source and ask the horse
He'll give you the answer that you'll endorse.
He's always on a steady course.
Talk to Mister. Ed.

People yakkity-yak a streak and waste your time of day
But Mister Ed will never speak unless he has something to say.

A horse is a horse, of course, of course,
And this one'll talk 'til his voice is hoarse.
You never heard of a talking horse?

Well listen to this.

I am Mister Ed.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Remembering the Bowling Green Massacre

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

There are certain events in the annals of American history that can always be relied upon to inspire bouts of patriotic fervor.  Things like the ride of Paul Revere, the battle of the Alamo, the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the 9/11 terrorists attacks were rallying events that brought the country together in the face of tyranny, and just the mention of any of these historic events is usually more than enough to get our red, white, and blue blood fired up and ready to fight.

This past week another historical outrage was added to that list when Trump mouthpiece, Kellyanne Conway, reminded America that it was two Iraqi refugees who were responsible for the "Bowling Green Massacre."  Conway, the person who coined the term "alternative facts" in explaining some of the Trump administration's steady stream of lies, cited the infamous massacre in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and the Iraqi refugees' part in the carnage as part of a defense of the Trump ban on refugees and visa holders from seven Muslim countries - including Iraq.

The United States is a country that has become sadly inured to violence and even massacres over the years in places like Littleton, Sandy Hook, Aurora, San Bernardino, and Orlando with the terrorists behind those bloody events usually being of the domestic variety.   But Iraqis massacring the good people of Bowling Green?   How did we miss that?

Kellyanne had an answer for that one.  The awful U.S. press had not covered it well. 

It turns out, of course, that the press had not reported on the Bowling Green Massacre primarily because it had never happened.  She was apparently referring to two Iraqi refugees who were arrested in Bowling Green in 2011 as they attempted to send weapons and money to al-Qaeda in Iraq.  No actual violence occurred in Bowling Green, no bloodshed, no massacre - and the press had reported it quite well, thank you very much, Kellyanne.

The brouhaha was just Kellyanne Conway spewing more alternative facts.

If her lips are moving she must be hallucinating.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

So-Called President Points Finger at So-Called Judge

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

With the President of the United States codifying hate as fast as he can scribble his name on executive orders - and Congress rushing to legislate crimes against humanity, it is fast becoming apparent that the judiciary is the only branch of the federal government where reasonable people can hope for any relief from the madness that seems be consuming America.

Yesterday Judge James Robart dealt the Trump juggernaut a significant blow when he issued a nationwide restraining order on Trump's executive order banning travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries.   Robart is a George W. Bush appointee to the federal bench who was approved by the U.S. Senate 99-0 in 2004.  With Judge Robart's order in place, airline carriers are reportedly again bringing visa-holding passengers to the U.S. from the countries on Trump's banned list.

The judge's order predictably set off a Trump tantrum on Twitter.  The tweeter-in-chief exploded this morning in bursts of 140 characters or less.  The first tweet flew at 6:59 a.m.:

"When a country is no longer able to say who can, and who cannot , come in & out, especially for reasons of safety &.security - big trouble!"
The second flew seven minutes later at 7:06 a.m., and though the White House spent much of last week denying the President had issued a travel "ban," that's the word Trump used in this tweet to describe his executive action.
"Interesting that certain Middle-Eastern countries agree with the ban. They know if certain people are allowed in it's death & destruction!"
The third tweet came after six more minutes of thoughtful presidential deliberation.  It flew at 7:12 a.m., and revealed that the nation's chief executive had worked himself into a name-calling snit.
"The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned! "
 One note of interest is that Trump has taken to equating himself with "country."  When he takes an action, it is America acting.  When a judge intervenes to safeguard liberty and the Constitution, that jurist is a "so-called" judge who is impeding the vision of America's glorious leader.

With Donald it's always about Donald.

Friday, February 3, 2017

A Peek into Trump's Medicine Cabinet

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Our new leader is a man of many secrets, or, to spin that a bit more positively, Donald Trump zealously safeguards his privacy.  Americans, for instance, don't know much about Trump's finances other than what makes the news over things like bankruptcy filings and failure to pay his employees and contractors.  While he once said that if he ran for President he would show America his tax returns, the real Donald Trump, once he did become a candidate, flatly refused to keep that promise.  He was a businessman, by God, and keeping financial shenanigans secret was a necessary component to being a successful businessman.

And Americans really don't need to delve into Donald Trump's business machinations.  If he or his family were to inadvertently profit from a government spending program or activity, he would tell us.  The Donald is our much admired big brother - so trust him.

Another area of public concern where Trump has kept the lights of public scrutiny turned low is his health record.  The physical and mental fitness of any individual seeking to serve in the presidency is a valid concern to voters, and the matter is even more significant when the individual is someone as old as Donald Trump - the oldest person ever elected President of the United States.

Trump did not share much in the way of medical information during the election - basically just a hand-written note from his personal physician, Dr.Harold Bernstein of Manhattan, saying that he would be the healthiest person ever to serve in the White House - a statement that brought about more laughter than it did confidence in the candidate's health.  It would have been nice to have known a bit more about the overall medical condition of the man who was destined to be the heaviest President since Taft.

Now, well after the fact of the election, more medical information on Donald Trump is beginning to seep out, again courtesy of Dr. Bornstein.   The physician, in an interview with the New York Times, elaborated on his hastily scratched note of several months earlier.  He has now revealed that Trump takes a medication to control rosacea, a common skin disease, baby aspirin to help prevent heart attacks, a statin for lowering cholesterol, and Propecia (Finasteride) for combating male pattern baldness.

Propecia is used by men who set great store in having a lustrous head of hair.  It has been known to have some interesting side effects including sexual dysfunction and mental confusion.  There is a wealth of information available in the popular press regarding these side effects as reported by patients who suffered them.

The same drug, with a higher dosage, is also used to keep PSA levels low and help prevent prostate cancer, and it is used in hormone replacement therapy for transgender women.

As someone who is seventy-years-old, obese, and avoids exercise while enjoying fast foods, Donald Trump is unlikely to ever make the cover of Men's Health, but he is likely to require ever-increasing amounts of medical care.  (Thank God for Medicare - right, Donald?)  And as the Trump presidency rolls on, America's voters have both a right and a responsibility to be kept informed about the President's health.

Donald Trump's complete medical history should be available for public perusal - and so should his tax returns.  He is our creature, and, as such, he should be in full public view - grotesque as that may sound.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Dumping DeVos

by Pa Rock
Educator

As I understand it, the last person to be turned down for a presidential cabinet appointment was former senator John Tower of Texas when the Senate rejected his nomination by George H.W. Bush to be Secretary of Defense.  That was way back in 1989, and some senators felt that Tower was a bit too much of a drunk and a womanizer to be put in charge of the nation's defenses.

Now comes Donald Trump with some truly hideous cabinet nominees, and most are being confirmed.  The Senate is Republican, after all - by a fifty-two to forty-seven to one majority.  For a candidate to not be confirmed, all forty-seven Democrats would have to hang together along with Independent Angus King of Maine - and they would have to pull three Republicans over to their way of thinking.  Just two Republicans would not do because that would leave the vote tied at 50-50, and Trump's holy lapdog, Mike Pence, would get to cast the deciding vote - and would undoubtedly support Trump.

Yesterday two Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, announced that they would vote against Betsy DeVos to be Secretary of Education.  If all of the Democratic flying monkeys in the Senate and Angus King stand firm, that would leave the exceptionally unqualified Ms. DeVos with just fifty votes - and Pence would be called upon to save the job that she has already bought and paid for through massive amounts of political donations.  But if just one more Republican were to have an attack of conscience and rebel at what their party is preparing to do to public education in America, then DeVos could be kept a safe distance from our children and our schools.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer, a bumbling mouthpiece for the President, yesterday declared that Devos is a "great educator" who would be confirmed by the Senate.  She is, of course, not an educator in any sense of the word.  Betsy is not a certified teacher or school administrator, she has never functioned as a "teacher," nor has she ever had any training as a teacher.  Betsy DeVos did not attend public schools and neither did any of her children.   She is, in fact, a flak for schemes to defund public schools and redirect public monies into voucher programs and private and religious schools.  Her approach to education would leave America's most vulnerable children without any hope for a decent education and a ladder out of poverty.

Betsy DeVos has a record as an educational "reformer" in Michigan.  It is a sordid tale of taking money away from public schools and putting it into vouchers and charter schools - schools which did not show improved outcomes over their public counterparts - and DeVos has fought efforts by the state to make those schools accountable for the public money that they have spent.  Her experiment failed, she struggled to keep the results secret, and vast numbers of children who were left stranded in the public schools because they could not afford the alternatives, suffered because even less money was being spent on them than before - and Betsy DeVos didn't care.

Betsy DeVos is all about taking care of children who look and act like her.  Our nation's students and schools deserve to be lead, and must be lead, by someone who understands the importance of public education for all - and someone who is inclusive.

When Senator Bernie Sanders was questioning DeVos in a committee hearing about the amount of money that she and her family have donated to politicians and political parties over the years, she said that she had no idea how much money was involved.  Sanders responded that he heard it was around $200 million - to which DeVos replied, "That's possible."  Most, obviously, goes to Republicans and conservative causes.

My own Republican senator, Roy Blunt, while yammering on about being a former public school teacher with a sincere interest in education, has received campaign cash from the DeVos family - as have many Republicans in the United States Senate.  Betsy and her family have been buying influence and political support the way the rest of us buy groceries.  Politicians, to DeVos and people of her ilk, are little more than commodities sitting on store shelves waiting to be purchased.

Interestingly, the DeVos family has donated $5,000 to Senator Collins and over $34,000 to Senator Murkowski.  If they can summon the moral courage to vote against her, perhaps an "educator" like Roy Blunt can also.

Betsy DeVos is out of touch with the real world, and certainly a complete and total stranger to the needs of America's students and their schools.  Her appointment to be Secretary of Education would be catastrophic, and people like Roy Blunt know it.   The United States Senate needs to rise as one mighty voice and reject her!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Pinochle Wednesday and a Bridge Too Far

by Pa Rock
Retiree

Here it is, another Wednesday, the one time each week when I get out of the house and head into town for some social activity.  I have played pinochle at the local senior center most Wednesday evenings for the past couple of years, and while I like to think of myself as a fairly good card player, winning nights over the past several months have tended to be few and far between.  Yes, there is a certain level of skill involved in the game of pinochle, but the particular cards which one is dealt also play a significant role in success - and I have been suffering through some really rotten hands of late.  And on those rare occasions when I did receive a good hand of cards, people on the opposing team seemed to have drawn even better cards.

The official games are from five until eight p.m., but "practice" games are being played as people drift in from about 3:30 p.m. onward.   One popular belief on game night is that if you do well in the practice rounds, you can expect to do poorly once the "real" games begin.   Last week I was on fire in the practice rounds, drawing double aces one hand (100 points) and a double run in another hand (150 points).  I knew by the time the actual games started that I should just pack up and go home.

We draw for partners every week, which sometimes results in a good fit across the table, and sometimes not.  The past two weeks I have drawn the same partner, and with her my luck began changing for the better.   That partner is an older woman who has a son my age.  She and I had a great night the week before last - winning more games than we lost - and last week we "shot the moon" - a local term for winning every game that we played.  Not only that, but I somehow managed to draw double aces again - the second time that evening.

As I left the senior center and drove home, I did so with a feeling of confidence that with the way my luck had run all night, this would be the evening that I would finally win the Missouri Lotto's top prize - estimated at three million dollars for that night!

That turned out to be a bridge too far.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Another Day, Another Trump Tantrum

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Before turning in early last night, I did one final check of headlines on the internet - not necessarily a wise practice when one is hoping to get to sleep - particularly in these challenging times.  These was one big emerging story, a notice that the Acting Attorney General of the United States, Sally Q. Yates, was instructing Justice Department lawyers not to defend Trump's executive order on immigration and refugees.  Yates was a holdover from the Obama administration who was keeping the seat warm for Trump's incoming Attorney General, which more than likely will be Senator Jefferson Beauregard "the South will rise again" Sessions, III.

I went to bed secure in the knowledge that Trump would annihilate and fire the Acting AG as soon as he could get logged into his Twitter account.  And before the sun rose over the Potomac, he had done just that - except that he fired the uppity woman with a letter instead of a tweet.   He went on to ravage her in a firestorm of vitriol.  Among other things the whiner-in chief charged was that Ms Yates was "weak on borders" and "very weak on illegal immigration."   A later White House statement also snarled that she had "betrayed" the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce Trump's order.

Sally, babe, you're fired!  And the fact that you're a woman - well, that's just gravy!  His (xenophobic, misogynistic, barely literate) Petulance has spoken!

Before the ink was even dry on the letter firing Ms. Yates, a video from 2015 was unearthed and posted on the internet which showed Senator Sessions grilling Sally Yates as to her fitness to be the Deputy Attorney General of the United States.  Ironically, Sessions wanted to know if Yates would have the cajones to go against the President if he wanted her to behave in a manner that was unconstitutional or illegal.  She assured him that she would always uphold the Constitution and the rule of law - and last night she proved it - though the President she defied was not the one Sessions had in mind.    Now someone needs to ask Jeff Sessions the same question and hold his feet to the fire until he gives an honest answer.

The other thing suddenly floating around the internet is a history lesson on Richard Nixon's infamous "Saturday Night Massacre," referencing the time way back in 1973 when President Nixon was being investigated by a Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox as a result of the Watergate scandal.  Nixon, peeved at Cox's subpoenaing of his clandestine White House tape recordings, instructed Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire Cox.  Richardson had promised Congress when Cox was appointed to the post that he would not fire him except for cause, so he declined to do as instructed by the President - and resigned his office.  Nixon then called on Deputy Attorney General William Ruckleshaus to fire Cox, but he also declined and resigned.  Solicitor General Robert Bork was suddenly promoted to Acting Attorney General and given the same demand by the President - and  Bork caved and fired Archibald Cox.  All of that occurred on one Saturday night in October of 1973.  Nixon himself resigned from office less than a year later.

It took Richard Nixon nearly five years to go to dig a hole that deep.  Trump has been in office less than two weeks.  Just imagine how far down he could be like in five years!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Monday's Poetry: "Home"

Presented by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Today, right on the heels of Donald Trump's colossal act of hate in banning refugees from America as well as travelers from selected Muslim countries - but not the ones where Trump has business interests - and his repulsive ham-fisted attempt to establish Christianity as the official state religion of the United States, it seemed to be a necessary and urgent time to present a poem dealing with the plight of refugees.

I have published poetry in this space before that reflects the now-tarnished American ideal in accepting people from other countries into our land - such as "The New Colossus" by Emma Lazarus, the words of which are etched on the base of the Statue of Liberty - as well as poetry focused on the hardships that some endure in getting here - such as "Running to America" by Luis J. Rodriguez.

Today's selection is called "Home," and it was penned by Somali born poet Warsan Shire, a lady still on the front side of thirty who lives and works in London and Los Angeles.  Like the poem by Luis J. Rodriquez, this also makes it very clear that people only become refugees when they have no home left to cling to - or when "home" is "the mouth of a shark."  It is a very moving look at the hardships endured by those fleeing a hazardous past and searching for peace and security in which to live, work, and raise their families.

Kudo's to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada who has stepped forward to restate his country's continued support and acceptance of immigrants and refugees.  Kudos to actor Kal Penn who has raised over half-a-million dollars to support refugees from Syria in just one day - money that he will donate to the International Rescue Committee.  Kudos to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz for his announced plan to hire 10,000 refugees over the next five years - as well as plans to help more of his employees with health insurance.  And kudos to every good American who showed up at America's airports - as well as at some Trump hotels - to protest our nation's new and shameful stance on immigration.

Trump's poorly thought-out and executed policies to limit immigration and effectively ban Muslims from entering the United States will make our enemies stronger.

Here is why people try so desperately to get here.    To stand in their way is immoral and self-defeating.  We are better than this.

Home
by Warsan Shire

-->
no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land


no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
pitied

no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough

the
go home blacks
refugees
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
savage
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off

or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home


unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
drown
save
be hunger
beg
forget pride
your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
saying-
leave,
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here


Sunday, January 29, 2017

Kal Penn Gets His Rage On

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Yesterday actor, college instructor, and former White House Associate Kal Penn was having a conversation on Twitter with a friend regarding an Iraqi who had been caught up in Trump's executive orders halting refugees and banning immigration from seven Muslim nations - and how unfairly the man and his family were being treated.  Right on cue a racist troll jumped into the conversation and informed Penn, an Indian American, that he did not belong in this country and was a "fucking joke."

Kal Penn responded to the jerk, as Michelle Obama would say, by "going high."  Instead of getting into a battle of tweets with a moron, Penn opted instead to start a fundraising page for Syrian refugees in honor of the fellow who had trolled him.   He created a "Crowdrise" page to raise money for Syrian refugees.  As of a few minutes ago more than $190,000 had been contributed to the site.

Donations may be made here:   https://www.crowdrise.com/donating-to-syrian-refugees-in-the-name-of-the-dude-who-said-i-dont-belong-in-america/fundraiser/kalpenn

Kal Penn is what a good American looks like - in case Donald Trump or anyone in the current White House was wondering.

Kumar rocks!   Follow his tweets  @kalpenn

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Pence Fires Up Forced Birthers

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The National Park Service had to clean up after another big march in Washington, DC, yesterday, this one a gathering of anti-abortion advocates calling itself a "March for Life," an annual event held to commemorate the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v Wade decision that legalized abortion in the United States.    This one was a bit more pumped than some of the those held in past years because the event finally succeeded, after forty years, in attracting a nationally-elected official - even if it was only Vice President Mike Pence.  Pence earned his chops as a congressman and then governor of Indiana who stood foursquare against the evils of abortion and same-sex marriage.

Indeed, Mike Pence's interest in other people's bedrooms is almost legendary - and was a critical factor in propelling him into the national spotlight.

Pence, with an able assist from White House mouthpiece Kellyanne Conway, threw red meat to the crowd  with a promise that next week Trump would nominate a justice to the Supreme Court "who will uphold the God-given liberty enshrined in our Constitution in the tradition of the late and great Justice Antonin Scalia.”

Justice Scalia died a year ago while on a hunting trip in Texas that was a gift from someone who had business before the Supreme Court.  Alas, poor Nino, a bribe by any other name is still a bribe.

The Vice President also delivered "greetings" from his boss, a man who up until recently was a pro-choice advocate in the abortion debate.  The crowd roared its amnesiac approval every time Trump's name was mentioned.

Some things are probably best forgotten.

Also forgotten, or at least conveniently overlooked, was the fact that most Americans are in favor of women having the right to have an abortion in all or most cases.  The Pew Research Center found that to be the case with 59% of Americans in a 2016 poll.

But yesterday's marchers won't be deterred by facts or numbers.  They have God on their side, plus an array of opportunistic politicians, and at least one admitted sexual predator - for the time-being anyway.  They envision a world in which all life is sacred, from inception as a one-celled zygote until the doctor slaps it on the bottom.  After that, of course, it is on its own.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Who's Really Going to Pay for Trump's Ego Wall?

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Attention Walmart Shoppers:  Mexico will not be paying for the Great Wall of Trump - you will!

Donald Trump has maintained all along that the construction costs of his self-aggrandizing wall project would be borne by Mexico, a claim that was quickly refuted and ridiculed by our neighbor to the south.  And many even here in the United States questioned how Trump could effectively force a foreign nation to fund something that will essentially be an insult to their national character and pride.  The answer, of course, is that he can't.

The Great Wall, once envisioned by many of Trump's loyal supporters as being thirty feet high and stretching along the entire United States border with Mexico, is now being discussed in much simpler terms - not as massive, and stretching along only a few hundred miles of the more turbulent border area.  And much of the wall would actually be a fence.

But even with this dramatic demise, cost estimates still range upward of forty billion dollars, something the struggling economy of Mexico could not cough up even if it was of a mind to.  That's forty billion of today's dollars - and God knows what the actual cost would be with overruns, payoffs, kickbacks, and who-knows-what by the time the damned thing actually gets built.  (Remember Donald, building a wall will not be like building a hotel.   When the government orders something built, contractors have to be paid - there will be no stiffing bill collectors, hiding from honestly-incurred debt, cheating employees, and seeking protection from creditors in bankruptcy court.)

Mexico is becoming pissed at Trump's ceaseless braggadocio.  Yesterday President Pena Nieto cancelled a planned meeting with Trump to protest his continued plans to build a wall as well as his nonsensical threats to make Mexico pay for it.  If Donald Trump wanted to alienate out neighbor to the south, and one of our most important trading partners, he has succeeded.

After Pena Nieto cancelled his trip to the United States, word began to leak out of the White House as to how Mexico would be made to "pay" for Trump's glorious edifice to himself.  The idea being floated was that Trump was going to place a twenty-percent tax on all imports coming into the United States from Mexico.  Yes, that move would hurt the Mexican economy because it would ultimately decrease their total exports to the United States.  But - Mexico would not be paying those import duties.  Those taxes would be paid by you, Walmart shoppers, on every Mexican tortilla, tomato, head of lettuce, avocado, strawberry, jumping bean, bottle of tequila, and big screen television that was manufactured south of the border down Mexico way.

Who will you have to thank for these higher prices?  Donald John Trump, that's who!

And then, as in all good trade wars, Mexico will retaliate by slapping higher taxes on our exports - thus decreasing U.S. sales to their country and costing us jobs here at home.

Again, thank Trump as he stands atop his glorious wall and admires himself.