Tuesday, July 17, 2018

McCain Explodes!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Much of the United States appeared to be in shock yesterday after Donald Trump stood next to Russia's Vladimir Putin and declared his belief in Putin's denials that Russia was involved in U.S. election manipulation in 2016.    Trump sided with the Russian dictator even though United States intelligence agencies had concluded otherwise - and twelve Russians had been indicted for U.S. election interference that very week.

Trump's public defense of Putin was regarded by much of the world as a stunning disrespect of American democratic principles.  There were many voices in social media using the word "treason" to describe Trump's statements in Helsinki.  Two of the more popular Twitter hashtags for the day were "#TreasonSummit" and "#SurrenderSummit".

American politicians were eager to try and surf the wave of public anger, with some members of Trump's own GOP even taking potshots at their Glorious Leader.  Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich called Trump's remarks the "most serious mistake of his presidency" and declared that they "must be corrected - immediately."

Ben Sasse, a Republican senator from Nebraska with a history of poking Trump, declared that Trump's Helsinki performance indicated that he has a "Trump First" rather than an "America First" foreign policy.

Retiring Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, the current head of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was effusive in his disdain of Trump's Helsinki remarks.  Corker said that Trump's comments were "regrettable" and "very disappointing" - and that they made the U.S. look like a "pushover."   He also commented that the Russians were probably enjoying caviar in celebration of Trump's seeming capitulation.

Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, another Republican who is retiring after this term, labeled Trump's remarks as "shameful."  In a tweet he lambasted his party's leader:

"I never thought I would see the day when our American President would stand on the stage with the Russian President and place blame on the United States for Russian aggression. This is shameful."
Senator Flake said that he plans to introduce a resolution in the Senate, perhaps as early as Monday, which would reaffirm Senate support for the FBI and the investigation by Robert Mueller's team.

Sadly, Flake appears to be the only Republican official with any substantive plan for countering Trump's Helsinki self-serving actions, and his is certainly far from being any great shakes.  None are using any language that suggests Trump should be removed from office.

They are angry, but not righteously angry.

And then there is John McCain.  McCain who is homebound in Arizona suffering from incurable brain cancer, has no intention of going "gentle into that good night."  He is pissed off and exploding like Mt. Vesuvius.   Yesterday Johnny Mac posted this on his homepage, and it has since been widely distributed across cyberspace.  What follows is the full text of McCain's statement on the Trump Helsinki fiasco:

“Today’s press conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory. The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naiveté, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate. But it is clear that the summit in Helsinki was a tragic mistake. 
“President Trump proved not only unable, but unwilling to stand up to Putin. He and Putin seemed to be speaking from the same script as the president made a conscious choice to defend a tyrant against the fair questions of a free press, and to grant Putin an uncontested platform to spew propaganda and lies to the world. 
“It is tempting to describe the press conference as a pathetic rout – as an illustration of the perils of under-preparation and inexperience. But these were not the errant tweets of a novice politician. These were the deliberate choices of a president who seems determined to realize his delusions of a warm relationship with Putin’s regime without any regard for the true nature of his rule, his violent disregard for the sovereignty of his neighbors, his complicity in the slaughter of the Syrian people, his violation of international treaties, and his assault on democratic institutions throughout the world. 
“Coming close on the heels of President Trump’s bombastic and erratic conduct towards our closest friends and allies in Brussels and Britain, today’s press conference marks a recent low point in the history of the American Presidency. That the president was attended in Helsinki by a team of competent and patriotic advisors makes his blunders and capitulations all the more painful and inexplicable. “No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant. Not only did President Trump fail to speak the truth about an adversary; but speaking for America to the world, our president failed to defend all that makes us who we are—a republic of free people dedicated to the cause of liberty at home and abroad. American presidents must be the champions of that cause if it is to succeed. Americans are waiting and hoping for President Trump to embrace that sacred responsibility. One can only hope they are not waiting totally in vain.”

What a damned shame McCain in not well.  If he was able to return to Washington, he would likely be the one Republican who would have the cajones to wave his American flag right in Trump's flustered face!  And that needs to happen - and it needs to happen now! 

Monday, July 16, 2018

Monday's Poetic Recipe: Emily Dickinson's Cocoanut Cake

by Pa Rock
Cake Appreciator

One of the major benefits of being retired, perhaps the major benefit of being retired, is having time to waste on projects that I could never have fit into my busy life back during the days when I was a slave to regular work schedules and paychecks.

Casey's is a chain of midwestern convenience stores that cater to travelers and local customers with gas and a variety of refreshments, including above-average pizza made locally in the stores, and a wide-ranging assortment of quick-stop paraphernalia.  My little community of West Plains, Missouri (population 12,000) is home to four Casey's.  This year is Casey's 50th anniversary.  I know that because the chain is hosting a big 50th anniversary sweepstakes.

And that has become my current waste-of-time retirement project.

Any purchase at Casey's during July and August generates a special receipt with a sweepstakes code number.  Those code numbers can then be entered onto a special internet form (it takes about two or three minutes per entry), and "many" lucky people will be notified that they have won instant prizes.  All entries are also eligible for the the $50,000 grand prize drawing later in the summer.

Over the past few weeks I have collected eighteen Casey's receipts (including for gas purchases) and carefully entered each and every one - along with a good dose of my personal information - into the internet.  Usually my entries are immediately tagged with a reply telling me that although the corporate office at Casey's  is sorry, I am not a winner of an instant prize.  But then, early this past week, my luck changed.  This time the message read that I had won . . . a cake doughnut!  The company proudly informed me that my prize would be mailed in approximately four weeks.

Note to the U.S. Postal Service:  Please hand stamp.

With that recent accomplishment in mind, I set out today to find a poem honoring pastry.  Unfortunately, I didn't come across anything that tickled my taste buds, but I did find a recipe ingredient list for "cocoanut" cake in the original script of one of America's premier poets - and master baker - Miss Emily Dickinson of Amherst, Massachusetts.  Dickinson, who despite being a recluse, often baked treats for neighbors and shut-ins.  Baking instructions were not included, but several contemporary bakers have their own baking suggestions available on the internet.

Miss Emily's ingredients for "cocoanut" cake were:

1 cup cocoanut
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoonful soda
1 teaspoonful cream of tartar
This makes one half the rule–
I love coconut - and strongly suspect that the concoction shared by Emily Dickinson would prove to be delicious.  Should anyone attempt it, succeed, and then decide to share a piece with this humble typist, please ask the post office to hand stamp the package!

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Green Morning!

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Summer

Yesterday my lawn was crispy brown, the sad result of several extra hot and extremely dry weeks in the Ozarks.  The few roses out by the road were almost dead, and the once magnificent patches of four o'clocks were withered and begging to be put on life support.

Then, yesterday evening just at dusk, something wonderful happened.  It wasn't long after I had finished my twilight routine of faithfully carrying water to each of my young trees (seven dogwoods, two figs, and two oaks) and several pots of begonias that splash color around my rural sanctuary, that the surprise rain shower erupted over The Roost.  The glorious rain fell for about thirty-minutes, soaking the parched ground and lowering the air temperature to a bearable level.

This morning the lawn is once again greening up and a sense of vibrancy is returning to the farm - as well as to the farmer.  The weather forecast indicates that temperatures will drop somewhat for the next couple of days.  The downside, of course, is that I will once again be mowing - probably tomorrow, but even that will seem somewhat pleasurable after all of this insufferable heat.

It's a green morning in the Ozarks, and Pa Rock could not be happier!   Have a wonderful day!

Saturday, July 14, 2018

An Embarrassment Abroad

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

For the past several weeks our glorious leader, Donald John Trump, has been a traveling fool - he has traveled and, at each and every stop, he has played the fool.  Last month he attended the G-7 meeting in Canada where he spent two days parading his petulance before other world leaders whose countries have strategic economic alliances with the United States, signed an accord with the group, and then left the meeting and headed for a summit with Kim Jong-Un, the despotic little tyrant who runs North Korea.

While Air Force One was in the air headed to the meeting with Kim Jong-Un in Singapore, Trump threw one of his famous tantrums and withdrew his approval from the G-7 accord.  He smiled for the cameras with Kim in Singapore, and then returned to the U.S. boasting that he had struck a deal with North Korea for them to denuclearize.   It now appears that the "agreement" was only a figment of Trump's imagination and all that he actually accomplished by visiting with the wily North Korean was to add some legitimacy to Kim's desire and claim to be a significant world leader - something U.S. Presidents before Trump had sought to avoid.

From Quebec to Singapore, Trump's foray onto the world stage was an abysmal failure.

Now, barely a month later, he is at it again.

Over the past week Trump has attended the NATO summit in Brussels where he managed to attack one of our prominent allies, Germany, over a fuel supply agreement that it has with Russia.  It looked as though Trump might be trying to destabilize the government of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

There were also indications that Trump's ultimate aim might be to destabilize, and maybe even destroy, NATO, something that would play very well in Russia, but in the end he just harangued other members over what he perceived to be their shortcomings in financially supporting the defense alliance.

Trump also appeared to be fomenting a political rebellion when he arrived in Great Britain after the NATO summit.  He made news when he gave an interview to a London newspaper in which he was highly critical of Prime Minister Theresa May, telling the newspaper in essence that he had told her how to do her job but that she had not listened to his sage advice.  He also made news with the size of the protest crowds that followed him during his time Great Britain.  Trafalgar Square, according to some estimates, had more than a quarter-of-a-million people gathered to protest Trump's visit, the largest British protest ever of a visit by a foreign head of state - and the mayor of London  seemed to encouraging and enjoying the demonstrations.

And then he and Melania took tea with the Queen at Windsor Castle.

Trump, who has already insulted two world leaders, both female, on his current tour, showed his oafishness by walking, almost staggering, in front of Queen Elizabeth, and blocking her path.  No one expected him to bow before the British monarch, but most felt that he might have at least walked beside, or even offered an arm to, the ninety-two-year-old monarch.  But not our Donald John.  He stepped right in front of the elderly lady because that's the way he rolls.

(Remember the footage several months ago of Donald and Melania boarding Air Force One during a rain shower?  He marched smartly up the stairs to the big plane holding an umbrella - over himself - and Melania dutifully followed along behind in the rain - with no umbrella.)

Today Trump is in Glasgow, Scotland, playing golf at one of his properties.  Thousands of Scots are in the streets protesting his visit.  Tomorrow - or the next day - he will meet with Russian Premier Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland - even though the Justice Department issued indictments against twelve Russian citizens yesterday for interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections.  They were allegedly working at the behest of the Russian government - and for the benefit of Donald Trump.

Trump won't be walking in front of Putin, or bad-mouthing him to the press, or telling him how to run his country.  No he won't.  You betcha he won't.

He owes Putin - bigly.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Little Beauregard's Ulterior Motive

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Apparently the United States Department of Justice under the control of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, III, has decided to reopen the murder investigation of Emmett Till, the fourteen-year-old young man who was tortured and lynched in Mississippi sixty-three years ago.   Till, a black youth from Chicago, was visiting relatives in rural Mississippi in 1955 when he was accused by a white woman of whistling at her.  The woman's husband and his brother were arrested and put on trial for the murder of Till, but a white jury acquitted them.  Years later the pair admitted that they had indeed killed Emmett Till.  The white woman who had accused Emmett Till of flirting with her also admitted late in life that she had lied about the incident.

When Emmett Till's body was returned to Chicago for burial, his mother insisted on holding a public funeral with an open casket because she wanted the world to see the evil that had been perpetrated on her son.  Images of the brutalized Till have horrified generations of Americans and were felt to have been a powerful force in instigating the civil rights movement of the 1960's.

The Justice Department closed its case on Emmett Till in 2007 due primarily to the fact that the two admitted perpetrators were already dead and any others who might have been involved were likely dead as well.  But now, eleven years on, that same Justice Department says it is preparing to reopen the case based on new evidence.

Why, one must wonder, would the Justice Department, now under the control of a former tool of the White Citizens Council, Jeff Sessions, want to reopen the wound that helped to launch the civil rights movement and destroy his beloved ante-bellum, genteel South?  Part of the reason could be the renewed interest in the case following a new book on the murder that was published last year, but another reason might be that reopening the case will frustrate researchers (and members of the general public) who are trying to access official records dealing with the killing.

Doug Jones, the new senator from Alabama and a Democrat, has this week introduced legislation that would require the government to release information about unsolved killings related to the civil rights movement.  The family of Emmett Till is also still seeking information and answers from the Justice Department regarding the youth's brutal murder.

If the Till case is reopened, the Justice Department and other lesser law enforcement agencies will have cover for keeping their files on Emmett Till's murder away from the prying eyes of the public - because the records will relate to an on-going investigation.

That's one possibility.

Another possibility, of course, is that Little Beauregard woke up one morning and was suddenly overcome with a desire to achieve some justice for an old racial travesty.  

Jeff Sessions seeking justice for a dead black youth?

Don't bet your MAGA cap on that!

If Attorney General Sessions acquiesces to a re-opening of the Emmett Till case, he has an ulterior motive - and that motive isn't based in a burning desire for granting civil rights to minorities.  You can bet your MAGA cap on that!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Twitter Poised to Clean House

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

We have all seen those ads which offer people the opportunity to "purchase" thousands of Twitter followers for a modest fee.  Just a few dollars can fluff up a Twitter base to the point that it makes the user look as though he or she has more political, social, business, or celebrity impact than is actually the case.   Apparently what is being sold are fake accounts set up for the sole purpose of making Twitter users appear to be more prominent on the platform than they actually are.  They do not represent the accounts of actual people.

And we have also heard the stories about "bots," especially Russian bots, whose primary purpose is to infest the social media platforms with fake accounts and messages to shape content that other users view.  The net result is that it becomes harder and harder to trust social media as an honest arbiter of public opinion.

Many of the accounts do not represent real people, and some are even malicious contrivances designed to influence thoughts and actions.

Twitter has just announced that beginning today it is going to start removing fake accounts and "bots" from its platform.  I will be interested to see if my 1,543 "followers" diminish in number.  I will also be monitoring the account of Donald Trump (@realDonaldTrump) - 53.4 million "followers" - to see if it takes a noticeable hit.

It's time to begin cleaning up social media, and kudos to Twitter for breaking out its big broom.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Pelosi and Hoyer as Barnacles

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer are weathered old barnacles who have tenacious grips on on our rusting ship of state.   They have some power and are determined to hold on to it fiercely for all of their days.

Pelosi, in particular, did not get to where she is today, however, by being naive.   She knows that there are many good Democrats across America who are not enamored of her, and she recognizes that she has become a lightening rod of dissent within certain party circles.  Some Democratic candidates for congressional seats are facing considerable blowback from the voters of their districts because of Pelosi, and those candidates are being put on the spot regarding whether they will support Pelosi in her bid to retain the leadership of the Democratic Party in the House of Representatives.

Pelosi's response to these candidates is that it is perfectly fine to speak out against her on the campaign trail.  She will sort through all of that political bother once the upcoming election is over.

One constant complaint about the Democratic Party in Congress is that it stymies the advancement of its elected members.  The Democratic Party in Congress operates on a seniority principle, and once those senior Democrats finally achieve power, they are loathe to give it up.

Republican members of Congress, on the other hand, appear to be more democratic in the treatment of their members than the Democrats are.  Way back in 1994 the Republicans instituted a plan that limited the amount of time that a member could serve as a chair of one of the twenty or so various congressional committees.  A Republican committee chair gets three two-year terms at the helm and then must step aside.  That practice shakes things up in the congressional party hierarchy, but, as happened this year, some chairs feel ill-used when they have to give up their fiefdoms of power and decide to retire from Congress.  Some wags feel that dynamic is a "brain drain" whereby Congress loses members who have developed valuable institutional knowledge.  Others see it as a much needed  reinvigoration of the Republican Party and Congress.

But Democrats aren't having any of that touch-feely democratic stuff.  They are breeding barnacles - like Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer.

One other Democratic barnacle, a man who held the exalted position of Democratic Caucus Chair in Congress was Joseph Crowley of New York.  His position as a party bigwig within Congress was secure via seniority.  Crowley even fostered hopes of eventually replacing Pelosi as the party leader and perhaps even becoming Speaker of the House.  Crowley was so powerful - and protected in his power - that he seemed to have forgotten that his visions of grandeur ultimately rested on the will of the people who sent him to Congress again and again.  To the horror of Crowley and the other Democratic barnacles, he was soundly defeated at the polls in a primary election last month by a very young woman, a new face and a new energy who is headed to Capitol Hill with a stated agenda of shaking things up.

Nancy and Steny should have taken the primary victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Ortiz as a wake-up call, but one suspects that they remain complacent and secure in their bubbles of power.  They have a better knowledge and control of their districts than poor Joe Crowley had with his, and with the current party rules, their positions in Congress are set in cement.

Pelosi and Hoyer are as strong and immovable as the statues and marble columns that litter the building in which they work.  The Grim Reaper is the only one who has the ability to remove them from power.  But, in addition to ruling the Democrats in Congress with iron fists, Pelosi and Hoyer also cast a shadow over the future of their party.

Hey, Nancy - Hey Steny - here is my humble plan for invigorating the Democratic Party within Congress and hopefully increasing its membership significantly.   You two should promote a plan to cap the amount of time that members can serve as chairs of congressional committees - in fact, you could borrow the one that the Republicans have already put in place - and then you should announce a similar plan to limit the amount time that the party leader and whip could hold their positions.

And then - announce that you will not run for leadership positions when the new Congress organizes in January - regardless of whether the Democrats are in the majority or not.  Tell the candidates and the voters that you will give up your powerful holds on the machinery of government and will instead dedicate your efforts to welcoming new members and teaching them how to navigate the halls of power.

It's time for change.  Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez delivered the message, and now you need to take it to heart.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Fight Begins - and God Save Robert Mueller!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I don't have a television provider and last night I chose to avoid watching Trump do his Supreme Court Pick Pageant on the internet, but I knew the second that Old Orange Gas Bag had announced his choice because the inbox alerts on my phone started lighting up like the Vegas Strip.  He had chosen former G.W. Bush election-fixer Brett Kavanaugh - and predictably no one, at least no one who regularly emails me, was happy with the selection.

My email correspondents were in a slobbering rage as they warned me that Kavanaugh was determined to kill Roe v Wade and that he is on record as a strong opponent of Special Counsels and attempts to remove sitting presidents.  He was certain to be a disaster for humanity at all levels - and please send money.

Kavanaugh is just one more sideshow in the Trump carnival of depravity and disaster that we will have to endure until this festering freak show completes its run.  There is a chance, of course, that his nomination could be derailed if Democrats can dig up something that would be so vile and disgusting that it even managed to embarrass Trump's evangelical base, but those folks are demonstrably shameless so that is highly unlikely.  And even if this nomination were to be derailed, the same blowhard would quickly select another nominee - one at least as awful as Kavanaugh.

The only hope would be a substantial change in the political makeup of Congress and particularly in the Senate.

The Senate must become significantly more Democratic, or Trump must be indicted and suffer mortal political wounds.  Anything short of one or both of those outcomes will insure that this vile and abysmal crap will continue for two-and-a-half more years - at a minimum.

We have brought it on ourselves.  We own the monster and we may have to endure his determined destruction of civilization until he wears himself - and us - out.  This November's election is shaping up to be the most consequential in our history.

We must register, we must vote, and we must drive the soulless enablers of Donald John Trump out of the corridors of power!

And God save Robert Mueller!

Monday, July 9, 2018

Monday's Poetry: "I Saw Emmett Till This Week at the Grocery Store"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Tonight, in something akin to a television reality show, Donald Trump will unveil his Supreme Court pick - the second of his presidency.    Trump released (as a campaign gambit) a list of people from which he would select Supreme Court appointees shortly before the 2016 general election - a list that was created by a couple of extreme conservative organizations and designed to keep his sheeple in a tight flock.

The "winner" of tonight's show will be bad news for America, a person who could negatively effect life and culture in the United States for four decades or more.  The only question left to be answered at this point is just how awful will Trump's nominee be.  How badly we are screwed will be a matter of degree.

With the subject of justice weighing heavily on my mind, I hit the internet this morning searching for a poem to illuminate that topic.  My "winner" is a reflective verse about social justice by Chicago poet Eve L. Ewing.  It is entitled "I saw Emmett Till this week at the grocery store" - and its focus is Emmett Till, the Chicago fourteen-year-old who was beaten and lynched by a group of vigilantes while he was visiting relatives in rural Mississippi back in 1955.  Till was accused by a white, 21-year-old grocery store owner of flirting with her.  Many years later the woman admitted that her testimony about Emmett Till had been false.

This is a beautiful poem in which the poet compares the murdered teen to the to the sweetness and delicacy of the plums that she imagines him buying.  It reminds us of a bleak and mean era of American history, one which Donald Trump and his judicial "winners" seem to hold in a nostalgic respect.

If America is to grow better, our historical outrages - like the story of Emmett Till - must not be forgotten.  Eve L. Ewing reminds us of our regrettable and shameful past, and she does it in a most eloquent manner.

I saw Emmett Till this week at the grocery store
by Eve L. Ewing

looking over the plums, one by one
lifting each to his eyes and
turning it slowly, a little earth,
checking the smooth skin for pockmarks
and rot, or signs of unkind days or people,
then sliding them gently into the plastic.
whistling softly, reaching with a slim, woolen arm
into the cart, he first balanced them over the wire
before realizing the danger of bruising
and lifting them back out, cradling them
in the crook of his elbow until
something harder could take that bottom space.
I knew him from his hat, one of those
fine porkpie numbers they used to sell
on Roosevelt Road. it had lost its feather but
he had carefully folded a dollar bill
and slid it between the ribbon and the felt
and it stood at attention. he wore his money.
upright and strong, he was already to the checkout
by the time I caught up with him. I called out his name
and he spun like a dancer, candy bar in hand,
looked at me quizzically for a moment before
remembering my face. he smiled. well

hello young lady
       hello, so chilly today
       should have worn my warm coat like you
yes so cool for August in Chicago
       how are things going for you
oh he sighed and put the candy on the belt
it goes, it goes.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Trump Goes to War - and Quickly Loses

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Cadet Donald John Trump looked good in his school uniform, damned good, so good in fact that now he dreams of standing on a massive reviewing stand with our nation's men and women marching by in their simple and subservient uniforms and saluting him smartly as they pass.  Generalissimo Trump!  The glory of commanding the military without all of the fuss and bother of actually having to serve.

Perhaps Ivanka could even design a uniform to highlight his magnificence.

The impatient Generalissimo, however, could not wait until his vanity parade this November to show the world his military ability, and decided to exercise his tactical brilliance on the world economic stage in the meantime.   Trump, ever the stable genius, began his very own trade war!

"Trade wars are good and easy to win."
                              Donald John Trump
Generalissimo Trump began his global economic offensive by proclaiming past injustices against America and vowing to right those wrongs.  His first act of aggression was to institute tariffs (taxes) on imported steel and aluminum.   Those tariffs would make it more expensive for Americans to buy their steel and aluminum from overseas (as Trump himself had done in his past life as a simple civilian), and would necessarily make it more likely that American builders and manufacturers would buy American.  Easy peasy.

Trump had fired a shot and won the war - except, of course, he hadn't.

Trump took a particular interest in China, and his administration drew up a list of $34 billion worth of Chinese goods to tax - while, of course, leaving the Chinese shoes that First Daughter Ivanka imported to sell in her fashion business off of the list.  China retaliated with tariffs on pork, soybeans, and cars - products specifically selected to hurt geographic areas that had been big Trump supporters in the election of 2016.

The European Union, an assemblage of once-staunch U.S. allies, also retaliated over the tariffs on steel and aluminum with tariffs on peanut butter, bourbon, and Harley Davidson motorcycles - again products calculated to impact heavily on Trump supporters.

Canada was also quick to post a list of American imports that it would tax - a list including metals, food products, household goods, and appliances.  Our other neighbor, Mexico, announced tariffs on American bourbon and many agricultural products - again targeting constituencies that had been strong Trump supporters.

Trump was quickly discovering that sometimes the victims of bullying would fight back, a most inconvenient truth.

American farmers and manufacturers were getting a one-two punch.  The prices that they had to pay for goods were going up because of the tariffs imposed on imports by the Trump administration, and it was becoming harder to sell overseas due to the retaliatory tariffs imposed by other countries.  Donald Trump had already lost his trade war - bigly - but he was too busy preening and practicing his salute to even notice.

Now Harley Davidson, an iconic American manufacturer, has announced that it will have to move some production overseas to avoid the new European Union tariffs - that means hundreds of American jobs and paychecks leaving the country.  An enraged Trump responded by essentially declaring a war on Harley Davidson.

He won't win that war either.

It almost feels like Donald John Trump is working for someone other than the American people.  Perhaps that will clarify after Helsinki.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Twenty-One (or More) Candidates Seek to Unseat McCaskill

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Missouri will hold it's primary election one month from today.   The top position at play is that of the U.S. Senate seat currently being held by Missouri's senior senator, Claire McCaskill.  In addition to McCaskill who would like to be retained in office, the Democratic Party has fielded six other candidates who wish to do their bit to usher McCaskill into retirement.   The Republican Party will have eleven potential senators on its ballot, the Libertarians have three, and their is one declared candidate running on the Independent ticket as well as one very big name who is apparently considering running as an Independent.

All-in-all, Missourians going to the polls next month will have a good selection of senate candidates from which to choose.

McCaskill, a former denizen of Jefferson City, must have camped out at the Missouri Secretary of State's office on the night before filing opened, because she managed to get her name at the top of the Democratic list.  Other Democrats on the ballot will include Angelica Earl (a former ACA counselor who supports single-payer health care and openly refuses donations from the fossil fuel industry), David Faust, Travis Gonzalez, John Hogan, Leonard Steinman II, and Carla Wright.

McCaskill is easily favored to win the Democratic primary, although, as I like to point out to our state Democratic Committee, she has not won it yet and is not yet the official Democratic candidate - and they should damn well quit acting like she is!  The primary is the official method of choosing the candidate, and the state committee should remain neutral and impartial until after Missourians make their wishes known through the August balloting.

(Interestingly, being an incumbent is not sacrosanct, even to McCaskill herself.  In 2004 she challenged incumbent Missouri Governor Bob Holden in the Democratic primary and defeated him - only to lose the office to Roy Blunt's son, Matty, that November.)

State Attorney General Josh Hawley who has held his statewide office less than two years, is the heavy favorite to win the Republican primary.   Unlike McCaskill, Hawley apparently did not sleep in the hallway outside of the Secretary of State's office, and his name will appear second on the Republican primary ballot.  First place honors go to Brian Hagg.  Other GOP senator wannabes include Bradley Krembs, Tony Monetti, Kristi Nichols, Ken Patterson, Austin Petersen, Peter Pfeiffer, Fred Ryman, Christine Smith, and Courtland Sykes.

The Libertarians have fielded Japheth Campbell, Don Donald, and Dennis Lagares to seek the Senate nomination on their ballot.

Kansas City attorney Chris O'Dear is seeking the position as an Independent, and also toying with the notion of running as an Independent is Eric Greitens, the disgraced former governor of Missouri who was forced from office last month.  At this stage in the collapse of his political career, Greitens would probably have a negligible effect on the race, but any votes that he did receive would likely be at the expense of the state Republicans' other golden boy, Josh Hawley.

The good news is that there is a lot of variety in senate choices for Missouri - at least during the primary.  Yes, the field will be narrowed considerably by November - undoubtedly to McCaskill and Hawley - as well as one Libertarian and an Independent - but for August at least there is still a sense that anyone can prevail.

Pa Rock never misses an election - and he will definitely be voting in Missouri's August primary!

Friday, July 6, 2018

A New American Hero

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

July 4th, the anniversary of our nation's independence from an oppressive foreign government, is a holiday that traditionally recognizes the liberty that so many Americans have fought to preserve - at least the ones without bone spurs.  Americans celebrate the Fourth in a variety of ways, often through relaxing activities like picnics, parades, and fireworks.    Sometimes, however, they get more creative in recognizing and honoring the importance of our independence and civil liberties.

Many celebrate the holiday by visiting Liberty Island in New York Harbor and touring our national symbol of freedom - the Statue of Liberty.  This year a few of those visitors staged peaceful protests during their visits to Liberty Island.  Early in the afternoon a group of seven individuals from a group called "Rise and Resist" unfurled a large banner at the base of the Statue of Liberty with a message that said "Abolish ICE."  Those seven were escorted from the island by members of the National Park Service.

Later in the day another member of "Rise and Resist" made a spur-of-the moment decision to launch her own protest.  Patricia Therese Okoumou, age 44, a naturalized U.S. citizen who was originally from the Congo, decided to try and climb the statue.  She made it over the base and up onto the platform where the statue stands - without the aid of any climbing equipment (other than a pair of pink tennis shoes).   Ms. Okoumou eventually achieved a perch on the lower folds of the robes of the Statue of Liberty.

She was protesting the Trump administration's practice of putting children and families in cages.

After occupying the Statue of Liberty for four hours, Ms. Okoumou was finally talked into climbing down by members of the New York Police Department's Emergency Services Unit and charged with misdemeanors of trespassing, disorderly conduct, and interfering with government agency functions.  She appeared in court yesterday wearing a shirt which said "White Supremacy Is Terrorism," and pleaded "not guilty" to the charges.  As she left the courthouse, Ms. Okoumou again stated her opposition to putting children in cages.  In paying a bit of homage to former First Lady Michelle Obama, the protester also said, "When they go low, we go high - and I went as high as I could!"

Right wing pundits predictably went nuts in discussing the incident, saying that the climber was an ungrateful immigrant who had put people involved in her "rescue" in unnecessary danger.  Other Americans, however, were inspired by the very effective peaceful protest.

One suspects that Henry David Thoreau, the grandfather of American civil disobedience and the man whose writings inspired Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr, would have been especially pleased.  A lone woman, a person who had experienced the awfulness of life under an oppressive government, bravely took a stand to protest her displeasure with the actions of the government of her adopted country - and she did it in a non-violent manner on an island called "Liberty."

Patricia Therese Okoumou, one of the "huddled masses" who had been welcomed to our shores by Lady Liberty, returned to that iconic symbol of freedom to have her say about securing freedom for others who were seeking sanctuary in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Patricia Therese Okoumou has proven that she understands the promise of America.  Her actions on Liberty Island were brave and eloquent, and they elevated her onto America's ever-growing roster of national heroes.

She went as high as she could go - and she forced us all to raise our eyes to the heavens.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Sebastian is Eleven!

by Pa Rock
Proud Grandpa

My second oldest grandchild, Sebastian Phoenix Files, is eleven-years-old today.  He lives in Oregon with his parents and brother and sister, and we only get to see each other two or three times a year.  Because I don't get to see Sebastian very often, he has always changed each time that I do see him.  That makes it feel like he is growing up very fast - and, of course, he is.

I was living and working in Kentucky when Sebastian was born in Phoenix, Arizona, and he was just a few weeks old when his Uncle Nick, Cousin Boone (who was eight), and Pa Rock boarded the train in Topeka, Kansas, and headed west to meet the newcomer!  We got off of the train in Flagstaff and rented a car for the drive south to Phoenix.  As we drove down out of the mountains and headed across the desert to Phoenix, we were challenged by oppressive heat, but a rare thunderstorm hit as we drove into Phoenix.  I have always felt that we managed to somehow create that rain and bring it in with us.

Boone spent part of that trip calculating how old he and Sebastian would both have to be before they were able to play together.  Sadly, they saw each other so seldom over the ensuing years that the opportunities to interact were rare.

That was in July of 2007.  Three months later I moved to Phoenix for a new job, and got to spend a little more quality time with my second oldest grandchild.  One night I even babysat while Sebastian's parents walked to the Arizona State Fair which was being held just a few blocks from their home.  We watched "The Polar Express" on television, and, years later, that movie had become one of his favorites.

Sebastian, happy birthday.  Have a great day and don't eat too much cake and ice cream.

Pa Rock loves you, buddy!

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

July 4th for Dummies

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Happy birthday, America, on this the 242nd anniversary of the signing of the document that declared our independence as a free and sovereign nation.   As we celebrate this patriotic holiday, it might be a good time to reflect on the resilience of America and to pay homage to its unique ability to survive all manner of tragedy and hardship.

America's strength has always been her people, a unique blend of native residents of many tribes who were forced to share their ancestral home with immigrants who piled in from every nook, cranny, and crevice of the globe.  We were a literal melting pot that mixed diverse peoples and ideologies and came up with a strain of humanity that was uniquely defined as "American."

That diversity was our strength, something that helped up to stand out from much of the world.  We weren't tied down to any single provincial view of the world, but instead were open and accepting of a multitude of points of view.    Race, ethnicity, and tolerance were a flowing concept in America, things that pulled us forward and made us stronger - and special.

Now, of course, that is changing rapidly.  Certain elements of our society failed to release their innate fears and prejudices and were unwilling to move forward.  In a fluke election that was decided by a quirk in the Constitution and blatant interfering by Russia, these stubborn sectors of society were able to elect a President who campaigned from a posture of intolerance and hate - and that new administration has focused on rolling back the social progress of much of the last century.

Less than two years into this new political reality, our government has turned its back on historic allies in North America, Europe, and Asia, and made questionable alliances with totalitarian states like Russia and North Korea, threatened the stability of NATO, precipitated a global trade war, and basically declared war on a large segment of our own population by drastically reducing access to health care, education, decent housing, basic nutrition, and the voting booth.

And yet a certain segment of the population wave their flags, light their fireworks, and shoot their guns in the air proclaiming that America is once again on the verge of greatness, something they define by race, gender, religion, and privilege (or, more specifically, lack of privilege) - all imposed on society by a government in sync with their narrow and bigoted world view.

Some celebrate the Fourth while others contemplate what was and what can be.

Bette Midler posted a defiant tweet this morning, one which poses a hope for the resurrection of our better selves:  The Divine Miss M said this:

"It's the 4th of July. Only 125 more days until the Mid-Term elections. And if it goes the way I hope, THAT will truly be !!!"

Optimism.   I'll light a firecracker to that!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Trump's Trade War Bombs in SE Missouri

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I know Poplar Bluff, Missouri, and I know it fairly well.  It is a quiet, hard-working community of slightly over 17,000 individuals that is located just a hundred miles due east of my own town of West Plains.  Jobs in Poplar Bluff are - just as they are in most places - the key to the community's survival.

Donald Trump's ill-conceived trade war is poised to have a monstrous effect of the town and people of Poplar Bluff.  One of the area's largest employers (and the largest nail manufacturer in the United States), the Mid Continent Nail Corporation, announced layoffs of sixty people in June - due to Trump's 25% tariffs on imported steel - and the company has said that it may layoff 200 more people in July.  In fact, it now looks as though Mid Continent may close down entirely - or move it's operation to Mexico - sometime after Labor Day.

And now that trade bomb is rippling across the local economy.   SEMO Box Company in nearby Cape Girardeau, MO (Rush Limbaugh's hometown) makes the packaging for Mid Continent Nails.  The box company has laid off four people as a result of the slowdown at the nail company.  That's four more families missing paychecks that would have been used to put food on their tables and spur the local economy.

Sixty-four jobs are already gone thanks to our "stable genius" making brash decisions that affect far more than just the price of steel.  Every one of those paychecks is important not only to the families they feed, but also to the many small town merchants and service providers who help to keep those families functioning.  The loss of sixty-four jobs in rural Missouri will hobble the lives and incomes of far more than sixty-four families.  And this month two hundred more jobs may be lost - and that impact will be devastating!

Add to that mix the crippled incomes of soybean farmers in this part of the state who have suddenly lost their biggest trading partner - China - thanks to Trump's trade war, and the income-loss nears being incalculable - at least by local standards.  And add to that mix the fact that our local congressman, a Republican by the name of Jason Smith, is an unbridled cheerleader for Trump, and hope appears dim indeed.

Trade diplomacy, it would seem, takes more than just a ball cap, bad manners, and a Twitter account. Adding a dose or two of raw intellect and common sense to the process couldn't hurt, but those commodities appear to be in very short supply in the Trump administration.

Minuscule tax cuts aren't much comfort when your whole income gets flushed down the toilet!

Monday, July 2, 2018

Monday's Poetry: "Dust in the Wind"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Rosie and I began this morning by packing the car in Kansas, zipping through the McDonald's drive-thru, and then hitting the road for home.  We flew across a bit of Kansas and a bunch of Missouri, much like a speck of dust racing along in a cyclone - such as the one that blew Dorothy from Kansas to Oz.

We covered 280 hot road miles and were home by noon.  Our primary observation was the the Missouri Highway Patrol was out in full force, and we saw several unlucky motorists who were having to deal with them.

The holiday approaches.  Drive with caution.

The hurried trip home put me in mind of the song by Kansas about the magnificence - or meaninglessness - of life - depending on your frame of mind:  "Dust in the Wind."  Please enjoy this flashback to 1978 - and feel free to sing along!

Dust in the Wind
by Kansas

I close my eyes only for a moment, and the moment's gone
All my dreams pass before my eyes, a curiosity

Dust in the wind
All they are is dust in the wind

Same old song
Just a drop of water in an endless sea
All we do crumbles to the ground
Though we refuse to see

Dust in the wind
All we are is dust in the wind

Now don't hang on
Nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky
It slips away
And all your money won't another minute buy

Dust in the wind
All we are is dust in the wind
(All we are is dust in the wind)
Dust in the wind
(Everything is dust in the wind)
Everything is dust in the wind
(In the wind)

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Kansas City in Summer

by Pa Rock
Road Warrior

Rosie and I decided to brave the god-awful heat and drive to Kansas City yesterday - our first trip away from the farm in several months.  We left at 6:30 in the morning a drove through patches of fog for the first hour or so, but by the time we reached Springfield (approximately two hours from The Roost) the sun was out and bearing down.  Rosie slept comfortably most of the trip - on her heated car seat while in the cool caress of air-conditioning.

One of our stops on the way north was the Osceola Cheese Store in Osceola, Missouri, a business establishment featuring hundreds of cheeses, many of which are made by Mennonite families living in the area.  Tour buses like to dump their graying hordes of cheese-sampling senior citizens there while the drivers catch a smoke.  I didn't see any of the dreaded buses yesterday, but the place was crowded nonetheless.  It was too hot to transport cheese, but I did pick up a couple of toys for my grandkids while I was there.

Tim and I went to Costco for my quarterly shopping trip during the afternoon.  Saturday is a good day for food samples at Costco, and I tried not to miss any!  I sampled everything from lemonade to sausage and potato salad.  We both managed to gather food staples while we were there, and I found a couple of books that will make good Christmas presents for grandchildren at the close of the year.

Costco is a great place to shop, and they pay and treat their employees so much better than the evil Walton family's warehouse box store - Sam's Club.  Unfortunately, there are no Costcos in outstate Missouri or northern Arkansas, probably thanks to the political clout of the Waltons, so I have to make the 280-mile drive to Kansas City whenever I want to fill my larder.

It did rain while we were at Costco, and there has been a bit of rain this morning.  Hopefully some of it will drift south to The Roost!

Today will be spent enjoying life with the Kansas City Macys, and early tomorrow Rosie and I will hit the road for the long drive home - and by Tuesday it will be time to start mowing again!

Saturday, June 30, 2018

A Pair of Trump's Losers

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Donald Trump likes to trumpet the rising stock market and take personal credit for every piece of good economic news.  Bad economic news, on the other hand, is always the fault of someone else.  The stock market has had some winners - most of which were winning well before the time that the Trump crime family entered the White House - but it has also harbored a few losers.

One company whose stock price has been in a recent decline is Harley Davidson (HOG) which has suffered a two-fold problem.  First, Harley's American customer base is shrinking as many of its loyalest customers are becoming too old to swing their leg over a motorcycle.  The worldwide market for Harley's, however, is still growing.  The second problem is that that some of our trading partners have retaliated against Trump and his trade war by placing their own tariff's on certain items which they hope will cripple Trump electorally - and Wisconsin motorcycle maker Harley Davidson is on that list.  Harley has recently said that they may move some manufacturing and jobs to Europe in order to avoid the retaliatory tariffs.

Harley stock has dropped about fifteen dollars a share over the past year.    Trump sees the company's decision to move some jobs overseas as a repudiation of him and his ill-conceived trade policies.    And Trump is pissed.  Womp, womp!

General Electric (GE) is another American company that is currently losing.   Back in the day GE was the very definition of American innovation and business success.  It's weekly television program, General Electric Theatre, made its host, Ronald Reagan, a household name.  Now the company is in hard times and has been suffering due to market changes and a company-wide restructuring.  In the past year the price of General Electric stock has been cut in half - from roughly $27 dollars a share to a price fluctuating in the $12 to $14 range, and it has lost its coveted position as part of the Dow Jones index.  The Gipper would not be pleased, and neither is the Groper.

There are winners, at least temporarily - but never forget that there are also losers.  The American economy is, in large measure, controlled by a man who operates by whim and tantrum - and who takes economic advice from Larry Kudlow.

It may be time to start banking with a tin can and a shovel!

Friday, June 29, 2018

An Attack on America

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Just days after Donald Trump fired up a South Carolina rally by referring to the press as "enemies of the American people" and prominent Trump supporter and social provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos said that he couldn't wait for vigilante gangs to start "gunning down journalists on sight" - the unthinkable happened.  A young gunman (and Trump supporter) by the name of Jarrod Warren Ramos stormed the offices of a local newspaper - The Capital Gazette - in Annapolis, Maryland, and opened fire on the men and women who were at work there trying to get the day's paper out.

The shooter had a long-standing personal grudge against the newspaper staff over a story they had run about him several years earlier, and at one time he had taken the paper to court charging defamation of character - a case that was eventually dismissed.  He had also tweeted his anger at the newspaper on at least one occasion because it had referred to Donald Trump as "unqualified."

Five people died in the attack and two others suffered wounds.  The shooter was taken alive and unharmed.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders made a statement condemning the shooting, but when Donald Trump was approached by reporters seeking a comment, he walked away without responding.

Some thought it was inappropriate, and perhaps even offensive, that Trump could not be bothered to at least burp up a "thoughts and prayers" soundbite, but others were less surprised.   The victims, after all, were journalists, "enemies" of the American people.

True leaders inspire - they don't incite!

An attack on the press is an attack on America!

Thursday, June 28, 2018

The Ground Shifts

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The political landscape in the United States underwent a seismic shift yesterday when Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his imminent retirement.  Kennedy, often a "swing" justice on the Court, will be replaced by someone selected by Donald Trump and confirmed by a Senate under the control of Mitch McConnell.  It is hard to imagine an outcome where America does not lose - bigly!

The Kennedy vacancy becomes known just after the current Supreme Court issued some horrendously bad decisions.  The past couple of weeks has seen the Court uphold what Trump himself referred to as a "Muslim" ban on travelers to the United States, a decision which flies in the face of the notion of the free exercise of religion - while, at the same time, upholding a baker's right to refuse service to gay couples as a religious freedom.  The hypocrisy was thicker than old cake frosting.  And after the Court finished maligning the religious portion of the First Amendment, it moved on to the part about free speech and decided that public sector unions could not compel non-members to pay dues, even though the unions represented and benefited those non-members, because to do so impinged on the "free speech" of the freeloading workers.

Now, with another Trump troglodyte sitting on the Supreme Court, the fear is that some of the most hard-fought progressive victories of the past half-century could be revisited and overturned - things like a woman's right to choose (as ensconced in Roe v. Wade) or the more recent decision that affirmed the right of gay couples to marry.

Trump says he is looking for someone who will be able to serve forty or forty-five years.  McConnell says that he hopes to complete the confirmation process this fall.  However this cake is ultimately sliced, it looks as though a significant portion of America will be left with nothing but crumbs.

Come on Mueller - kick it into gear!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

House Dems Get Their Wake-Up Call

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Republicans in Congress had their wake-up call back in 2014 when Eric Cantor, their number two in the House of Representatives, lost his primary to an unknown upstart, and last night Joe Crowley, the number four congressman in the Democratic caucus suffered the same fate.  In both cases the party's base sent a loud message that if members of Congress want to keep their positions of power and prestige, then they had best stay connected to the people they represent.

Congressman Joe Crowley, who had aspirations to be Speaker of the House, had his political career castrated when he lost the primary yesterday in New York's 14th congressional district to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.   The surprise winner is half Crowley's age.  She developed her political chops working as a grass-roots organizer for Bernie Sanders.  Ocasio-Cortez, a Latina whose race and ethnicity were more closely aligned with the diverse district that selected her over Crowley,  ran as a Democratic Socialist and positioned herself far to the left of the twenty-year incumbent.  Crowley, for his part, seemed to assume that he would easily defeat the challenger, and he ostensibly campaigned by ignoring her.  He even went so far as to send a surrogate to face her in a debate.

Crowley's nonchalance was a colossal political error.

New York's 14th is a strong Democratic district and Ocasio-Cortez is expected to win the seat handily in November.  Congressman Crowley has already endorsed her.  In January, barring an even bigger surprise, she will take her seat in the United States House of Representatives.  Ocasio-Cortez will bring her liberal agenda the the floor of the House, and she will also bring her youth and energy.   Expect her to make some noise - and hope that the old farts who run the Democratic Party in the House have the good sense to listen.   They have had their wake-up call.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Hizzoner, Mayor Kander

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Former Missouri secretary of state Jason Kander made news yesterday when it was revealed that he will be running for mayor of Kansas City next year.   Kander made a national imprint in 2016 when he gave entrenched Missouri Republican senator Roy Blunt the race of his political life.

After narrowly losing that race to Blunt in what was otherwise a Trump landslide across Missouri, Kander went on to form a non-profit group called "Let America Vote" which worked at registering voters and creating easier access to the polls nationwide.  Kander's work with that group led him to campaign with many Democratic candidates across the country, a move that some saw as a prelude to a presidential run in 2020.

Jason Kander has recently noted that he received more votes in Kansas City in 2016 than any other candidate on the ballot.  If he wins the election as the city's next mayor, he will be in a comfortable position to pursue higher office in the future.

Kander was born in the Kansas City suburb or Overland Park, Kansas, in 1981.

The Kansas City mayor's office sits atop the 29-story City Hall building in downtown KC. Back in the early 2000s, my good friend and former university housemate, Millie, was working as an aide to Kansas City's mayor at the time, Kay Barnes, and had an office just outside of the mayor's.   Millie took me over to City Hall one evening, after normal business hours, and gave me a tour.  We strolled around the observation deck that crowns the building and gives a magnificent view of the entire city, and then we went to Millie's office and on into the one occupied by Mayor Barnes.

I remember two things about the mayor's office from that night.  She had a bouquet of fresh flowers on her desk, a gift from her husband - fresh flowers delivered every week for a year.   The mayor's husband had passed away shortly after placing that order - he was gone, but the flowers kept coming.  The other thing was a small framed photograph of the mayor's cousin, Walter Cronkite, that was also sitting on her desk.  Both items provided a very personal glimpse into the life of the lady who was running the great city at that time.

And Kansas City is a great city - one where everything was, is, and always will be up-to-date!

Congratulations, Kansas City, on recruiting a top flight candidate for mayor - and give 'em hell, Jason!

Monday, June 25, 2018

Monday's Poetry: "I Am Not What You Think"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Antwon Rose, Jr. is being buried today.   He was a seventeen-year-old honor student who was gunned down by a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, policeman last Tuesday evening.  Rose, a black youth, made a bad decision when the vehicle in which he was riding was pulled over by police - he chose to run.  Of course, other young black men - like Philando Castile of Minnesota - have been shot while sitting in their cars while trying to cooperate with police requests, so Antwon Rose may have felt that he had a better chance of survival if he ran.

In the end he was little more than moving target practice for a novice policeman.

The death of Antwon Rose is one more outrage that our country continues to perpetrate on young black men.  He was running away from the incident and posing a threat to no one when a young policeman felt the need to shoot him not once, not twice, but three times in the back.  Antwon's life mattered to many people, but apparently not to the man with the gun who chose to bring the lad's life to an end.

Black lives matter.  That statement gets my neighbors angry because they see it as some sort of denial of the importance of the lives of others - particularly white lives and blue (police officer) lives.  But that is not what it's about.  All lives matter, that's a given, but society must remind itself that black lives matter because for centuries black lives have not mattered.  Perhaps if the slogan was "Black lives matter, too" it would resonate better - but probably not.

Antwon Rose mattered to his family, and to his friends, and to his school and community - and he should matter to all of us because his death diminishes ourselves and our civilization.

Being killed by police was something that Antwon Rose had worried about for some time, and it was the subject of a poem that he wrote for his honors English class on May 16th, 2106.  That poem, "I Am Not What You Think," is today's poetry selection.

Rest in peace, Antwon.  Your light will be missed.

I Am Not What You Think
by Antwon Rose
I am confused and afraid
I wonder what path I will take
I hear there is only two ways out
I see mother’s bury their sons
I want my mom to never feel that pain
I am confused and afraid
I pretend all is fine
I feel like I am suffocating
I touch nothing so I believe all is fine
I worry that it isn’t though
I cry no more
I am confused and afraid
I understand people believe I am just a statistic
I say to them I am different
I dream of life getting easier
I try my best to make my dream come true
I hope that it does
I am confused and afraid

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Whining and Dining with Fascists

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

There have been several reports in the news lately which indicate that many of the young Trumpies who migrated to our nation's capital to serve their Fuhrer are beginning to encounter some social challenges.  Young male staffers are apparently experiencing difficulty in getting dates.  DC girls still want to have fun - just not with them!

Last week, at the height of Trump's war on Latino immigrant families, two administration officials encountered public hostility when they showed up at fancy Mexican restaurants in the DC metro area.  One alert diner spotted Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and a friend sitting in an upscale Mexican restaurant enjoying conversation and guacamole dip - and surreptitiously took their picture.  She then sent the photo along with the location to a friend, and within minutes a group of protesters from the DC chapter of Democratic Socialists of America were in the restaurant and surrounding her table, some of whom were shouting taunts about Nielsen's gall in choosing to dine at a Mexican establishment.  Secretary Nielsen conveniently had two Secret Service agents in tow who placed themselves between her and the rude hecklers.

Stephen Miller, the Trump aid with strong fascist tendencies who reportedly devised and promoted the administration's plan to separate immigrant children from their parents, also tried to enjoy a Mexican meal at another DC area restaurant, and he, too, had his meal interrupted by protests.

One school of thought on these Trump administration officials choosing to dine very publicly at Mexican eateries was that they were trolling the good people who were opposed to Trump's no-tolerance immigration policies - just as Melania did with her infamous "I really don't care, do U?" Zara jacket:   a little in-your-face response to a horrific social and political situation that Trump created.

Late in the week presidential press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders  and her family showed up at a restaurant in Lexington, Virginia, called the "Red Hen," with plans to enjoy dinner.  A waiter was getting them settled in when the manager walked over to the table and asked Sarah and her entourage to leave - which they did.  Sanders tweeted later that they had been asked to leave because she worked for Trump, and that she and her family complied with the request.

Perhaps Sarah now at least has some vague notion of how the gay couple felt when the bigoted baker refused to bake their wedding cake, though probably not.  She was excluded from the restaurant based on something tangible that was related to her - the company she kept.  The gay couple was denied service based on discrimination toward an entire class of people.

The Trumpies may feel like they own Washington, DC, but it is the city that owns them.  This administration is just a temporary aberration taking up space on the city's social calendar - a page that will soon be ripped off and discarded.  The young Turks whine and dine and rock the beltway with their sound and fury - but in the end they signify nothing.   The city and its people will prevail - as they always have.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Less than Human

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The big news this past week, in fact, the pervasive news of the past week, was the Trump administration's treatment of immigrant children and families.  For nearly two months agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have been forcibly separating refugee parents from their children, and this week some of the personal horrors brought on by that government-sponsored inhumanity began making themselves known in the media.   News photos began circulating showing frightened children sobbing as they stood bewildered among armed, uniformed strangers, and recordings of immigrant children screaming and crying for their parents also echoed off of the national landscape.

Americans, by and large, were appalled.

And while Trump tried to stand firm on the practice of child-snatching, falsely blaming it on Democrats and falsely saying that he had no power to end it, in the end - and after a tremendous public uproar - The Donald folded like a cheap card table and signed an executive order intended to end the practice.

In addition to Trump's continuing lies that he had no power to end the practice and that he himself was against it, at various times during the crisis he or members of his administration also indicated that the practice was an intentional travesty designed to deter immigrants from trying to enter the United States - and a bargaining chip to help Trump get money from Congress for his vanity wall along the southern border.  It was repeatedly cited as part of Trump's "no tolerance" policy toward immigrants.

As the week wore on several state governors announced that they would no longer send troops or equipment to the U.S.-Mexican border to aid in border security.  A couple of airlines also said that they would not be involved in transporting migrant children to internment centers.  American politicians made news when they tried, usually unsuccessfully, to gain access to their child detention facilities.  One congressman played a tape of frightened children screaming for their missing parents on the floor of Congress, and a group of protesters  played that same horrifying tape, loudly, outside of the home of the Secretary of Homeland Security.

One Guatemalan mother managed to get into court and obtain an order from a judge to be reunited with her child, and other attorneys, including the one representing Trump nemesis Stormy Daniels, began volunteering services to immigrant parents who had had their children stolen by the American government.

All living First Ladies of the United States, including Melania Trump, spoke out against the policy of removing immigrant children from their parents, and mental health experts began educating the public on the serious and long-term consequences of pulling young children away from their parents.

All in all it was a helluva week and in the end Trump, a man who leads his supporters in chanting "animals" when he is discussing immigrants and talks about "our" country being "infested" by people seeking asylum and opportunity, changed a policy that he said he could not change.  Children will no longer be taken from their parents - and now entire families will be detained together in makeshift internment camps.

So far there have been no announced plans for returning the 2,300 children who were already separated from their parents.

But. don't worry, America.  Brian Kilmeade, the host of Donald Trump's favorite television program, "Fox and Friends," told us this week that the kids living in crowded confines away from their parents "aren't our kids."  They aren't white, middle class kids from suburban America - they are other people's kids from other parts of the world - presumably "shithole" countries - and that makes it alright.

As long as attitudes like those expressed by Brian Kilmeade exist, this will never be over!

Hunker down, America - there is going to be hell to pay for the way we have treated these children.   We are all members of the Family of Man, and "those kids" ARE our kids!  Anything less is less than human.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Melania Steps Out

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

While much of America seemed to be feeling some sympathy for former underwear model Melania Trump as she struggled to fit into her new role as First Lady of the United States, that compassion is now evaporating as Mrs. Trump seems to have suddenly gotten her footing on the political stage.  The woman who was once thought to likely be a "victim" of circumstances well beyond her control - even a "hostage" within the confines of the White House, desperately trying to survive within a sordid sea of prenuptial weeds and hungry young sharks eager to do her husband's evil bidding, is now coming into her own - and sadly, Melania is far from being an Eleanor Roosevelt.

Yesterday Melania stepped out onto the world stage to represent her husband in a matter of great import to the nation, much like Mrs. Roosevelt was often forced to do for FDR due in part to his serious physical handicap.  But the clueless (Or is she?) Missus Trump was in trouble even before she managed to climb aboard Air Force One.  She left the White House, on a very warm morning, wearing a (Zara) long jacket which one journalist described as a "sandwich board" because it contained a full-length printed message on the backside:  ""I really don't care.  Do U?"

Melania was on her way to Texas for a couple of photo ops with older detained youth (teens) - and her message was "I really don't care.  Do U?"  By the time her plane reached Texas she had shed the jacket, but she had it back on again later in the day when Air Force One dumped her back in D.C.

What is it that she really doesn't care about?  The immigrant kids that she flew two thousand miles on the taxpayers' dime to visit?  Or perhaps FLOTUS, a former immigrant herself, doesn't give a rat's ass about immigrants in general - after all, she already has her citizenship - and free public housing to boot!  Not only that, but after qualifying to stay in the United States due to holding a critical job - underwear model - she bagged a rich sugar daddy, got her papers, and chain-migrated several members of her family into the U.S. as well.

To hell with those brown animals infesting her country!

Melania really doesn't care.

Do you?

Some social media noisemakers suddenly began re-evaluating the only First Lady to ever be featured on the Internet in a g-string,  Perhaps she wasn't a prisoner of a ruthless dictator after all, but a coldly complicit and calculating collaborator.  Herr Trump himself coughed up a statement on the jacket affair saying that Melania was not trolling immigrant kids, but instead was trolling the press.

If that is so, Melania Trump, a recently minted United States citizen, might do well to read the Constitution that she swore to uphold.  A free and unfettered press is a necessary component of democracy - especially when the country is suffering under the control of an infantile tyrant.

America is a great land, one that has always cared.  If we lose that sense of compassion, we will be no better than the Trumps.

Shame on Melania for wearing that jacket, and shame on us if we are not outraged by it!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Pa Rock's Rocks and Other Tales from The Roost

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Summer

I thought with today being the first day of summer, it might be a good time to catch my friends up on what's happening here at Rock's Roost.   My decision to "retire" to a farm pretty much counteracted any plans that I might have had for extensive reading, writing for pleasure, long strolls down idyllic country lanes, or daily naps.  Farms, even small ones like mine that don't produce anything, are busy places!

Quite a bit of my time is spent mowing.  The Roost is ten acres, and I mow about half of that.  Rex, the world's best neighbor, comes by on his tractor and bush-hogs the rest twice a year.  Since arriving here four years ago, I had gradually expanded the amount of land that I mowed until last year it was taking between eight to ten hours to cut the grass.  Near the end of the mowing season, on the occurrence of me tearing up my mower for the second time that summer by hitting rocks that protrude from the ground like vulgar stone mushrooms, I decided to invest in a tougher mower.  I bought a zero-turn "Dixie Chopper" with a 52-inch swath that not only cut the grass and pulverized many of the rocks, but also cut my mowing time roughly in half.  I once bought a new car that cost less than that mower, but, of the two, I love the mower best!

Rex came by and bush-hogged late last week, and I mowed the entire yard in two sessions this past Monday and Tuesday.  The whole place looks like a picture postcard!

One corner of the farm is low and collects water when it rains.  That water spills over  the junction of two paved county roads two or three times a year.  This week Howl County finally sent a crew out to address the situation.  They tore up the roads, installed two big tin whistles for drainage, and then brought in some fill dirt to try and cure the situation.

That particular corner of land, the one that collects the rainwater, spawned an interesting Ozark tall tale.  One of my son's friends, the one who was killed a couple of weeks ago in the Shannon County shootout (as mentioned previously in Pa Rock's Ramble) told the story, with a straight face, that on days when a small lake forms over that parcel of land, fish can be seen jumping in the water.  A few gullible locals believed him and posited that the fish were probably living in some spring or water channel that ran beneath the land.  While these goobers are (and were) nice people, they are also the geniuses who voted for and elected you-know-who.

But I digress.

Fiona had four kittens on March 31st, and one died the following week.  I put a sign out in the front yard to give away the other three.  A pair of young men from the neighboring community of Pomona stopped by and took the two smaller kittens, one black and one brindle - and probably both female - and left me with just the larger orange one - definitely a Tom.  They were looking to raise the kittens as barn cats.  A mother and daughter asked for the Tom, but he did not cotton to them and ran and hid.  After a couple of discussions with the kitten-seekers, I decided that the little Tom was right - and I chose to keep him.

I have a black Tom from Fiona's litter last May and had named him Magoo.  That name never seemed to fit, and the poor cat would not answer to it, so I sat all three down, Fiona, Big Tom, and Little Tom, and had a discussion on names.  We finally chose to go with an alliterative assemblage.  Fiona is proud of her name and will keep it.  Magoo, who is all black with just a few white hairs, is now Felix, and the bouncy little fellow is Fargo - named in honor of noted physicist Dr. Douglas Fargo.  They all seem pleased with their handles, and surprisingly, to me at least, the two males play together and get along quite well.  Little Fargo is already almost as big as his mother, and he is closing in on Felix.

In an effort to become more mobile, I got rid of my five remaining peacocks (two cocks and three hens).  They are now in residence with a neighbor in a very isolated location.  I visited them last Sunday and was pleased with how well they appear to be getting along in their new digs.  Plans are for the four geese to soon join them.  I will miss the noise and confusion that those big birds generated, but it will be so much easier for me to close up and go on road trips if I don't have to worry about how to take care of the poultry.  I still have four roosters and one hen - and will deliver to anyone, anywhere!

Rosie and Riley and fine.  They go outside several times a day, but basically they like to lay around in the house and soak up the air-conditioning - as do I.

And the rocks?  I started a rock pile and a brush pile when I moved here.  The first brush pile is now the size of a native hut with an upstairs - and the second one is about half that size and growing.  I have seen a few wild bunnies this year, and I suspect they reside in those brush piles.

The rock pile grew out of stones that I picked up as I expanded the area being mowed.  It quickly grew to a pile covering about twelve square feet and reaching three feet in height.  The original pile was just ordinary rocks as well as some smooth river rocks that my son dragged home and for which I had no earthly use.  Then I started a second pile of field stones, those flat rocks that are common in Ozarks' fields and often used as siding on homes.  Those accumulated even more quickly and that pile is about four feet high.  I started a third pile that bridged the first two.  It began as ordinary rocks, but for the past few weeks I have been digging boulders out of the ground in an effort to spare the mower.  Some of those rugged beauties are fifty pounds or more, and that middle pile is quickly becoming as big as the other two.  Taken in total, the three connecting piles of rocks are immense - and likely pose a threat to the tilt of the earth.

This afternoon I will be out and about with the wheelbarrow and pickaxe, pulling more big rocks out of the ground and carting them to the pile.   I'm filling the holes with bagged top soil that I haul in from the local feed store.

Thankfully, I'm retired - so I have plenty of time to work!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Sully Is Two!

by Pa Rock
Proud Grandpa

My youngest grandchild, Sullivan Charles Macy, is celebrating his second birthday today, safe and secure in the loving arms of his family.  Sully's mother, Erin, his father, Tim, and his older sister, Olive - as well aunts and uncles and his several grandparents - have all gone to great lengths to ensure that he experiences a happy and charmed life as he grows into his future.

I don't get to see Sully often enough, but I maintain as much contact as I can and treasure the time that I get to spend with him.  I know that he has an innate ability at basketball and shoots with his right hand, and I also know that he is becoming quite verbal - he called me last week to thank me for his birthday card, and he spoke very clearly, "Thank you, Pa Rock."  For a call like that I would send a card every day of the year!

My birthday wish for you, Sully, is that you are remain safe and secure in the loving confines of your family, and that you never have to experience horrors like "tender age" camps that other little children in America are being forced to endure.  May your youthful years, and the youthful years of all children everywhere, be spent in the safe embrace of family.

Much love.  I will see you soon.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

4,000 Rambles, but Who's Counting?

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Pa Rock's Ramble hits a milestone of sorts today with this posting, the 4,000th since this blogging effort began nearly eleven years ago.  For the most part it has been a daily occurrence, with a few days being skipped early on before I set a goal of publishing something every day.  Some days I even get carried away and do multiple postings, with an average of about 380 or more in a normal year.

The first blog posting in this effort was on November 7th, 2007.  I had been living in Phoenix, Arizona, for a couple of months and was sitting around my apartment one evening feeling a bit lonely and bored - and decided to learn how to blog.   I wrote the first entry that night, a piece promoting the candidacy of Barack Obama for President.  Ironically, he was elected President exactly one year later.

One of my goals when I started writing The Ramble was to collect as many of my writing "scraps" that I could salvage and preserve them in the blog.  Consequently, the archive of this effort contains a few short stories of mine as well as some tortured poetry that I hammered together, a couple of magazine articles, and my continuing collection of the adventures of "Rusty Pails" and his pals.  I also used this space to preserve some family stories and memories, as well as to memorialize some of my lifetime friends.  Sadly, since the election of Donald Trump, much of my focus in this writing endeavor seems to have slid into the muck of politics, and my continuing goal is go pull myself free of his slime.  It's a struggle.

Probably the widest-read article that I wrote for The Ramble  was a biographical sketch that I did on Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords about a year before the tragic shooting in Tucson.  Living in Arizona at the time, I had an understandable admiration for any local politicians who displayed signs of intelligence and compassion, and Gabby Giffords was one who fit that bill.    By the time of the Tucson shooting I was living abroad on Okinawa.  After hearing about the shooting, I scrolled back to the column that I had written about Gabby, entitled simply "Gabrielle Giffords," and was shocked to see that over a thousand people had pulled it up that day in their rush to learn as much as possible about the wounded public servant.

I have also written a couple of pieces regarding convicted murderers that I knew personally when they were kids - Shannon Agofsky and Levi King - and those entries continue to draw in all types of responses from readers.

Pa Rock's Ramble has some international roots.  Over the years I have crafted entries to the blog from several locations within the United States - including Arizona, Missouri, Florida, Indiana, Arkansas, Kansas, Oregon, California, New Mexico, Texas, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, Alaska, and Hawaii - and from a raft of foreign countries including Japan, Vietnam, Taiwan, Korea, Canada, Cuba, and several smaller islands in the Caribbean.  Sometimes it was hard to acquire a workable internet connection - and in Cuba it was next to impossible - but still I persisted.  (In Cuba I finally had to resort to just blogging onto Word documents and then publishing those to the blog once I made my way back into the twenty-first century.)

While I fuss and grumble about the rigors of typing something of interest (at least to me) each day, overall it has been a positive experience.  Pa Rock's Ramble may fall short of being great journalism, but for me it has often been damn fine therapy!

Thank you for the continuing feedback and encouragement over the years.  When that stops I'll probably end this effort and go back to mowing full time!

Stay strong, America - Trump won't last forever!