Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Return of Little Red

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Spring

Around this time last year I brought six baby geese and twenty young pullets to Rock's Roost.  A few weeks after that all of the young chickens and one little goose died in a nighttime rampage by predators. an act of violence that left me so disheartened that I have not added any more poultry to the farm landscape since the carnage.  Now I have five pea fowl - two cocks and three hens, five noisy geese - at least one of which is a female who has laid eggs and will occasionally sit on her nest, three equally noisy guineas, four roosters, and one ragged little red hen.

I try to take special care of the little hen who serves as an embattled concubine for the three larger roosters.  Over the past few months she has gotten to the point where she will eat from my hand, and she is particularly happy when I bring her bread crusts every morning.  She may suffer abuse from the roosters, but she knows that she is Pa Rock's pet.

But a week ago Little Red disappeared.  I was saddened by that turn of events, and the morning bird brunch was a less enjoyable experience, at least for me.  My friend had been gone seven days yesterday, when I suddenly saw here peeking out from behind some lumber in the nursery which is attached to the coop.  She has somehow gotten in the enclosure and had been unable to get out.  I managed to extricate her - and she rushed for the water bowl, acting as though she hadn't had anything to drink in several days - and she probably hadn't unless she stumbled across an oasis of pooled rainwater during her captivity.

Little Red is home now, back in the coop, and, for the time being at least, the roosters seem to be giving her space.  Old friends are the best, and I am glad she is home.  She seems to be happy about it too!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Great Fajita Heist

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I don't know whether to be appalled by - or in awe of -  the Texas public employee (and consummate entrepreneur) who stole and then sold $1.2 million dollars worth of fajitas over a nine-year period.  This is America, after all, a country that routinely glorifies criminals, particularly those who commit colorful crimes that inspire the anti-social streak in most of us.

Fifty-three-year-old Gilberto Escamilla had a profitable side business to augment the salary that he had been receiving from the state of Texas for his work at a state juvenile detention center.    Escamilla was apparently in charge of ordering food for the center, and for nine years he had been ordering fajitas and then intercepting the orders as they were being delivered.  He sold those fajitas through his own private business and pocketed the proceeds.

Reports indicate that fajitas were never served to the residents of the juvenile detention center during the time that Escamilla was running his side business.

The thief said that he "felt horrible" about his crime.  He added:

“I wish I could take this back. It was selfish. It started small and got bigger and out of control. It got to a point where I couldn’t control it anymore.”

Escamilla was arrested last August when a medical appointment caused him to miss the delivery of a truckload of fajitas - and the jig was up.    Local district attorney Luis V. Saenz noted that "If it wasn't so serious, you'd think it was a Saturday Night Live skit."   The judge who tried the case, however, saw no humor in the matter and sentenced the audacious thief to fifty years in prison because he was a public employee who had violated a public trust.

One is left to wonder about the accounting procedures that would let this crime go unnoticed for nearly a decade - as well as oversight provisions at the juvenile center which let massive amounts of food disappear somewhere between the delivery trucks and the serving tables.  Gilberto Escamilla made out like the bandit he was, but several other people were obviously not doing their jobs properly either.

If Texas decides to dig into the matter more thoroughly, perhaps others will follow Gilberto Escamilla to prison - and maybe if they are lucky, those prisons will serve fajitas - at least occasionally - along with "just desserts."

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Go Vote, Arizona!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Throughout the nearly fifty years that I have been voting, I have never been personally represented by a Democratic member of the House of Representatives.  I tend to shuffle from one hideously red congressional district to another, and, as a voter, I am always the odd man out.   At this point in my life, I don't expect that situation to change - but I will keep doing my bit to vote the bums out anyway.

Today, out in the desert on the western edge of Phoenix, a special election is being held in Arizona's 8th congressional district to select a new member to Congress.  The seat, a traditional Republican stronghold that encompasses Luke Air Force Base as well as the stadium where the Arizona Cardinals play their home games, lost its congressman when Trent Franks resigned last winter after it was revealed that he had offered to pay five million dollars to a staffer (or two) to carry a child (pregnancy) for him.  Franks had built a career around his staunch anti-abortion beliefs, and some folks felt that Trent's offer of cash for carrying his baby was a bit kinky.

Arizona's 8th is so red that under normal circumstances the race to replace Franks would go to the strongest Republican contender and attract little in the way of national attention.   But circumstances this year are far from normal - with Democrats recently picking up a congressional seat in Pennsylvania and a senate seat in Alabama - and national political analyst Charlie Cook (of the Cook Political Report) giving Democrats up to a 65% chance of retaking the House of Representatives this November.

The two candidates in this special election are former state senator Debbie Lesko, the Republican who edged out Franks' hand-picked replacement in the primary, an election that was splintered by several candidates, and Dr. Hiral Tipirneni, a physician and novice political candidate.   Various Republican groups have pumped nearly a million dollars into Arizona to support Lesko's campaign during the last couple of weeks. Tipirneni has also  received the support of national groups as well as many independent small donors.

Most polls favor Lesko, but by margins smaller than a Republican should expect in Arizona's 8th, and Tipirneni did have a small lead in one poll.  An upset is possible.

Voters have already been casting ballots through the mail for the past couple of weeks, and today those who have yet to vote can go to the polls to make their choice.  The 8th is my old district, and today is one of those rare days when I wish I was back out in the Arizona heat - voting to make a difference - and make a change.

Go vote, Arizona!  Our country needs you!

Monday, April 23, 2018

Monday's Poetry: "Little Prince"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator


An as-yet unnamed baby boy was born in London this morning, a chubby little bundle of joy who at the instant of his birth became fifth in line to sit on the throne of the United Kingdom.

British poet Denis Martindale often pairs his written works with prints of wildlife created by artist Stephen Gayford.  This poem, "Little Prince," accompanied a Gayford print of a leopard.  Martindale's words highlight the regal aspects of Gayford's leopard.   The poet discusses the legacy that was thrust upon the leopard at birth, and the pressures that he will have to endure if he is to maintain the royal line.  He closes with a note that life is a gamble to "every leopard born."

A child may be born a prince, but at his core he is still a child and must navigate through life in much the same manner as mere mortals.  He will know good times and bad, emotional highs and lows, courage and fear, love and despair.

Congratulations Wills and Kate.  May your newest heir have a long and productive life in which he accomplishes much good for his countrymen and the world - and may he never forget that - at his center - he is still one of us.


Little Prince
by Denis Martindale

The leopard cub was quite petite
And on the little side,
No wonder that he looked so sweet
And gave his parents pride...
His eyes a-twinkling neath the sun
As he lounged here and there,
Yet all the time, their precious one,
Their prince beyond compare!

Their legacy upon this Earth,
Laid on his shoulders now,
As he took years to prove his worth
In all God would allow...
To roam around, then run around,
To pause, reflect, move on,
All through his life meant to astound,
Until his life was gone...

Would he maintain the royal line,
His legacy intact?
Sometime to love his Valentine
With kisses action-packed?
Perchance to grow and make new friends,
No more to be forlorn,
That's still the gamble life extends,
To every leopard born...

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Rep. Jason Smith to Vie for GOP Whipping Post

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

According to an article in today's The Hill, my congressman, Rep. Jason Smith (R) of Missouri's 8th district and (who knew?) currently the secretary of the Republican Conference in the House, has his eye on the post of GOP Whip when the House reorganizes next January.   According to the article, Smith has been "approached" by colleagues to consider running for the post.

Congressman Smith, who sleeps tax-free in his Washington, DC, office on the rare times when Congress is in session, made a ripple of news at home a few weeks ago when he held a "town hall" - by telephone.   Smith, like so many of his other cohorts in the GOP, apparently doesn't relish the idea of facing hundreds of concerned constituents, in person, in situations where he might have to answer unscripted questions about the honest concerns of the folks back home and explain his positions on gun safety regulations or trade wars with China.

Peddling influence in Washington is a gentleman's game, and not one that lends itself to rubbing elbows with pissed-off soybean growers.

Best of luck in your quest to grab the golden ring congressman - and may you not have to crush too many good people as you make your way to the top of the Republican dung heap.  We're all rooting for you.  You betcha, we are!

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Fifty Cents Well Spent

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The United States Postal Service has a long history of a love-hate relationship with the American public.  We appreciate, and sometimes take for granted, the fact that it delivers our mail, often to remote rural locations, most days of the year - and we are quick to resent the fact that postage rates seem to increase on a regular basis with no relief in sight.  The first-class rate for sending a letter when I was a boy was three cents, and the public was outraged when that once stable rate was suddenly raised to four cents.  People were mad about it - damned mad!  Today with the advent of "forever" stamps, there is no price listed on individual stamps - but, just so you know - the price of an individual first-class stamp was recently raised from forty-nine to fifty cents.

Over the years, as the price of a stamp slowly rose from three to fifty cents, the post office itself underwent many changes.  Somewhere along the line it became a sort of private corporation that was supposed to handle its own finances and not rely on government bailouts.  But there is private, and then there is private - and the government did not completely cut the post office free of government control.  Congress must still approve raises in postal rates, and a few years ago it put a major constraint on the USPS business model by mandating that the post office set aside money for employee pensions for decades in advance - a constraint that was destined and intended to hobble the agency well into the future.

And now Donald Trump also has the post office in his gun sights.  Trump, who is in a personal war with the CEO of  Amazon.com has announced a commission to study the business operations of the Postal Service.  He seems to be particularly concerned with special deals that the USPS may have with Amazon in order to secure a big portion of its package business.

But, all of that economic and political and noise aside, the United States Postal Service contributes to our national heritage and dialogue through the choices it makes for subjects pictured on postage stamps.  Unique aspects of science, nature, and history are elevated into the spotlight when they find their way onto millions of pieces of mail.  Stamps are an art form that teach and inspire.

I always buy stamps that tell a story because I want to relive those stories myself and share them with others, particularly my grandchildren.  Last month, on my birthday to be exact, the USPS issued a stamp that brought back wonderful memories of when my children were small.  The new issue features the late television icon Fred Rogers, aka "Mister Rogers," along with one of his more familiar puppet friends, King Friday XIII.  Mr. Rogers is clad in his familiar red cardigan and flashing his trademark welcoming smile.

And Mister Rogers' smile makes me smile - even after all of time that has passed since he welcomed us into his neighborhood.  Thanks, USPS, for reminding America that it was always a beautiful day in Mr. Rogers' neighborhood!

The "Mister Rogers" stamp is fifty cents well spent!

Friday, April 20, 2018

Students Fighting Back

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

There is another planned nationwide school walkout today, the second since the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, on Valentine's Day that killed seventeen individuals, mostly high school students.  A few weeks ago a brief walkout of seventeen minutes, one minute for each victim, was held in a symbolic effort to keep attention focused on the problems of America's lax gun laws.  Today's walkout will be more substantive in nature with students and teachers leaving class to participate in a host of activities including programs and speeches as well as voter registration efforts,

Today is also the nineteenth anniversary of the school shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, a bloodbath in which two young shooters, both from "good" families, killed thirteen of their fellow students before killing themselves.  Columbine wasn't the first school shooting in America, and, indeed, it wasn't even the first school shooting in Littleton, Colorado - but the calculated way in which Dylan Kliebold and Eric Harris planned and carried out the execution of their classmates did more than just stun and horrify the world.  It changed the way in which the country perceived its schools.

The killings at Columbine served as a bloody notice that the concept of education in America had undergone a fundamental change.  Schools were no longer safe havens, and, as the years slipped by,  school shootings became a more and more accepted fact of American life.

My oldest grandchild was born just a couple of weeks after the shooting at Columbine High School.  He is now completing his first year of college.    Boone experienced some exceptionally fine educational opportunities while growing up, but he was also part of a generation that was always looking over its shoulder and constantly on guard against suspicious circumstances and surprises.   Something that his father's generation could not have even imagined was a deadly possibility for Boone and his classmates.

Politicians who should have been looking out for the public's welfare were instead focused on serving the desires of the gun lobby and making bigger and more deadly guns more commonplace throughout American society.   There was plenty of anger over the subject of guns, but resolve was fragmented, particularly when compared to the iron will of the National Rifle Association and other gun lobbying groups.  It looked as though nothing could ever stop the cycle of carnage and death.

But then Parkland happened, and a group energized youth stepped out of those bloodied hallways and classrooms and took over the national dialogue.  Enough was enough - and by God things were going to change.

And change, at long last, appears to be a real possibility.

It's time now - time to register and vote - time to make our schools safe again.  We can either help the kids in this noble cause, or we can get the hell out of the way and watch as they do it themselves.  Change is coming - and its coming now!


Thursday, April 19, 2018

Stormy Daniels, Philanthropist

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Stormy Daniels, once a struggling porn actress, is now enjoying a tsunami of public attention that many in the film industry - at any level - would kill for.   She is in a mud-slinging fest with the President of the United States and his personal attorney, and she is winning.

Miss Daniels is claiming that she had a sexual affair with alleged billionaire Donald Trump in 2006 shortly after Trump's third wife, Melania, gave birth to his youngest son.  She has recently been revealing lurid details of that affair, including one particularly kinky liaison in which she supposedly spanked Trump with a rolled up copy of the Wall Street Journal.

Donald Trump is denying the illicit affair with Stormy Daniels, but, even so, his personal lawyer and "fixer," Michael Coehn, paid the porn star $130,000 in 2016 to remain silent on the matter.  Coehn admits making the payment, but says he did it with his own funds and without Trump's knowledge, and Trump has denied the affair as well as having any knowledge of the payment made by Coehn.

Now that payment to Miss Daniels is being viewed by investigators as a possible unreported campaign contribution, and/or an unreported use of campaign funds.  Stormy Daniels is also claiming that a man she did not know threatened her to remain silent about her affair with Trump.  She is in court suing to be released from the non-disclosure agreement which she claims she felt coerced into signing.

Stormy Daniels and her attorney have released a sketch of the man whom she says threatened her into keeping quiet, and they are offering a reward of $100,000 to the first person to identify the individual.  Trump, who is seldom able to exhibit self-restraint, has called the reward offer a "scam."

Yesterday Stormy Daniels upped the ante yet again and announced that if she wins her court case against Trump, she would donate the $130,000 payment received from Michael Coehn to Planned Parenthood, and that she would make the gift in the names of Donald Trump and Michael Coehn!

Planned Parenthood, which has provided basic health care to women for generations, will undoubtedly appreciate Miss Daniel's generosity, even if the cash was once stuffed into Michael Coehn's pocket.  Here's hoping they use it to open a clinic in the names of Trump and Coehn, or spend it on research to eradicate a few particularly nasty sexually transmitted diseases.  Either of those uses would be fitting and satisfying.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Fear of the NRA Is Evaporating

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Until very recently the National Rifle Association was the most ruthless and feared lobbying organization in America.   The group's ability to purchase politicians was unequaled, and those who didn't fall in line with the gun lobbyist's dictates quickly discovered that the NRA was also highly effective in whipping up its membership and getting them to the polls.

But now the once almighty National Rifle Association appears to be suffering a deep and noisy lack of respect.  Politicians who were once quietly, and sometimes eagerly, complicit, in insuring the "rights" of deranged individuals to arm themselves and carry their guns everywhere, from churches to saloons, were beginning to discover that the NRA might no longer be the most dangerous bully on the block.


The NRA's fascist utopia began unraveling on Valentine's Day of this year when yet another school shooting occurred - this one at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.  The United States has witnessed hundreds of school shootings and mass murders in other public venues over the years, and the country has become so accustomed to the bloodshed and carnage that the killings seemed to be becoming an accepted part of American life.  The old routine was for the the press to wax indignant for a couple of days and for politicians to encourage "thoughts and prayers" for the victims, and to caution against overreaction - especially toward guns and gun ownership.  And a week later the incident would be consigned to the dustbin of history, except, of course, for the victims and their families.

The difference in Parkland lies in the character of the school and the students.  The high school is named after a prominent  environmental and political activist.  It serves students from moderately affluent households, and many of the teachers are themselves idealists who had already begun instilling the virtues of political activism into their students.  The students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas were not going to sit quietly by and accept the assault on their lives and the murders of their friends and teachers as just another day in America.  These bright and highly motivated young people opted to fight back, and their chief target was America's gun culture as personified by the NRA.

The "kids" from Parkland, all of whom seem to have a mastery of social media that would make Donald Trump blush, took control of the internet and blanketed cyber space with their messaging in support of commonsense gun laws.  They lobbied their state legislature, held marches, called school walkouts, registered young voters, and even forced some members of Congress into holding town halls on schedules that the students set.  Their message was that politicians would listen to what they had to say, or those same politicians would be voted out of office.

There was suddenly another player in the gun control debate, and this new voice was just as loud and as intimidating of the NRA.  The old power equation was shifting and politicians were caught in the crossfire.

Since the Parkland shooting the NRA has been firing back at its youthful attackers, but the kids are proving to be a difficult target to get a bead on - and most shots fired by the NRA seem to inflict more self-damage than not.  It's damned hard to successfully attack young idealists.

NRA mouthpiece Dana Loesch led her group's assault on the young people of Parkland by minimizing their efforts and saying they were being controlled and manipulated by left-leaning political factions in America.  The students responded with a intelligent ferocity that not only put Ms. Loesch in her place, but showed the rest of the world that this was a group of individuals who were charting their own destiny and not under the control of anyone.

Fox News personality Laura Ingraham, who had been a featured speaker at last year's NRA Women's Leadership Summit Forum, used her position at Fox to ridicule one of the student leaders from Parkland, and he responded calmly by suggesting that her sponsors ought to look elsewhere for places to spend their commercial dollars.  So many of Ingraham's sponsors fled that she was forced to apologize and then take time off from her program to give the situation time to cool.  It still hasn't.

And finally there were the attacks on the NRA's life blood, the sale of weapons.  Several weeks ago retail giant Dick's Sporting Goods announced that  it would quit selling automatic weapons and high-capacity ammo magazines.  Other big retailers, including Walmart, quickly followed Dick's lead.  Big gun retailers no longer seemed to fear the NRA.  And now, just yesterday, Dick's Sporting Goods has placed a second thumb in the eye of the NRA with an announcement that it would destroy all of the guns that it had pulled from the shelves.

While some scream "heresy," others, including astute  politicians, are sitting back and pondering where political power rests in this new equation.  Has the National Rifle Association been disarmed by a group of angry young people, and do those young people have the power and influence to change the make-up of Congress and the state legislatures?

Those questions may not be answered definitively until the votes are counted next November, but one thing is certain now.  The NRA no longer instills the abject fear in politicians that it once did - and for that fact alone America can be truly grateful to a group of angry young people from Florida.

Stand strong, American youth, you're doing good work!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Tatterdemalion Takes Top Honors at Kansas City Film Festival

by Pa Rock
Proud Papa

Tatterdemalion, a film which explores troubled family relationships and child neglect issues in the Ozarks, took top honors as the "Best Narrative Feature" at the Kansas City Film Festival this past week.  The movie was filmed in and around West Plains, Missouri, and featured the acting talents of national and local performers.

Ramaa Mosley directed Tatterdemalion, which was co-written by her and Tim Macy.  The movie premiered this past October at the Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis.  It will also be featured next month at the Bentonville Film Festival in Arkansas, an effort headed by actress Geena Davis which promotes the work of female filmmakers.

Mosley and Macy previously worked together on The Brass Teapot, a film that was based on a short story written by Macy.  That movie premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in 2012 and was reviewed in several national publications including Variety and The New York Times - and it has run on Showtime and Netflix.

Congratulations to everyone connected with this exceptional cinematic achievement.  Pa Rock will see you in Bentonville!

Monday, April 16, 2018

Monday's Poetry: "Woods Colt"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

The traditional definition of a "woods colt" is a child born out of wedlock, but it has also come to signify, primarily through literary characters such as Pete in the American classic novel The Shepherd of the Hills, a child living on his own.    The loneliness aspect is perhaps the overriding psychological characteristic of a woods colt, regardless of whether the child lives in a family setting or not.

Billy Edd Wheeler, a native of West Virginia, is an American poet, songwriter, and performer who has penned a raft of familiar songs, most with a country flavor.   In this poem, "Woods Colt," he examines the world as perceived by a young boy in Appalachia who is navigating through rural life without benefit of a father.  It is a hard look at old biases that slice into the world of a child who has been ostracized because of a situation that literally occurred before he was born.


Woods Colt
by Billy Edd Wheeler


     Walking between low mountains
     In the poolroom’s yard of brown beer glass
     Broken as the coal was
     Broken into pebbles of dissipated
     Texture, I stepped contented.

     Only jungle cats could
     Walk more softly and more proud,
     More tenderly strong, following
     The code of never-afraid.
     Following the clean way of temptation.

     The seed was planted
     By lowbrow benchers carrying
     Past to present in vulgar whispers.
     “Whose daddy are you, young gentleman?”

     Head high to the black purse
     I looked above and the
     Carrier mother put me at guard.
     “You’ve no call to play
     With bums, with asking fools.”

     At what untelling age I
     Comprehended and at what
     Reversed meanings I know not now.
     The bench birth of truth
     Put me at question and at limp.

     From which loin and tree
     Sprang the never proud, the
     Nervous walker, the drying me?
     I ask the lone companion bee,
     Heaven and the symmetry.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

An Administration Fueled on Revenge

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Donald Trump sits up in bed - a cheeseburger in one hand and his cell phone in the other, with Fox Noise blasting wall-to-wall vindictiveness in the background.  Occasionally he will set the cheeseburger aside so that he can use both tiny hands to tweet out policies that literally control and define the lives of billions of people who inhabit his planet.    And while those policies often negatively impact the little people, the ones who actually make the world function, they always benefit Trump personally.  That's the way he rolls.  It is never about what the other guy needs - Trump's ultimate focus is on Trump.  Always.

As an example, this past January Trump's secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, announced a plan that would allow almost the entire coastline of the United States to be leased for offshore drilling by the petroleum companies.   Before the ink had even dried on that pronouncement, however, Secretary Zinke backtracked and exempted the state of Florida from the administration's gift to big oil.  Florida, he reasoned, was special because it was a tourist state.  Other coastal states that thought they were tourist states,  most particularly California, could go suck eggs.

In addition to being a "tourist state," Florida also voted for Donald Trump in 2016 while California went solidly and bigly for Hillary Clinton.   Also, Florida is home to some very classy Trump properties, such as Mar-a-Lago, which he visits on an almost weekly basis.  Trump has only been to California once during his first fifteen months in office.

Red Florida is personally important to Donald John Trump.  Blue California is not.  The only tourist the Trump administration gives a damn about is Donald John Trump.

Another example:  Trump is in a permanent rage over the news coverage and opinion that is waged against him in the Washington Post, a highly influential newspaper with a national following.  The Post is owned by Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of on-line retailing giant Amazon.com.  While the vindictive Trump likes to rail against all stories that portray him negatively as "fake news," declaring all-out war on any newspaper is problematic, what with that pesky First Amendment and all noise that "left-wing" judges would make about it - as well as the quantity of news sources that displease Donald Trump.  It would be a lot harder than just ordering an air strike on Syria.

So Trump has chosen to make an example of The Washington Post and to do so by going after its owner, Jeff Bezos.  For the past several weeks The Donald has been publicly decrying Amazon for allegedly cheating states out of sales tax and being a financial drain on the U.S.Postal Service.  The unspoken message to consumers is that one of the reasons postal rates are so high is because Amazon is taking advantage of the USPS package rates.

Trump appears to be arguing that one retailer, Amazon.com, should be paying more than standard rates to use the nation's postal service - an argument that is somewhat baffling since the USPS sets its own rates.  If the agency is losing money on shipping packages, why not just raise their rates?  Or does Trump somehow think that Amazon should be paying a higher rate than other shippers?

It's all very confusing, perhaps even confusing to Donald Trump - whose own business sales organization neglects to collect sales tax in many states, including New York where it is based, and also sends many of their packages through the postal service.  This week Trump has announced the formation of a commission headed by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to study the rate structure of the United States Postal Service.  Mnuchin, a paragon of ethical banking practices, ought to get things straightened out - at least to Donald Trump's satisfaction.

Got that, Bezos?  Trump will get you, one way or another.

If Trump does have any wiggle room for helping others than himself, then those "others" are likely to be close family members.  Presidential daughter, Ivanka, a woman with delusions that she is Secretary of State, is a rag merchant (clothing importer) who brings in most of her wares from China.  To no one's surprise, Trump's recently initiated trade war with China stayed well clear of placing tariffs on clothing imports. 

Donald Trump takes care of himself first - always - and if there is any room left in the life raft, or storm shelter, or Air Force One, available seating will go to selected family members.  Trump is number one, and he will meet his own needs before those of anyone else.

Physically Donald Trump is one of the largest men to ever occupy the White House, but morally and ethically he is far and away the smallest.   When it comes to being concerned with the needs of others, Trump is a tiny excuse for a human being.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Mission Accomplished, Yet Again

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Though it was less cinematic than rushing into a school building under siege by a gunman armed with automatic weapons, last night American Generalissimo Donald Trump demonstrated his inner-Stallone by heroically ordering a limited air strike on three sites in Syria thought to be part of that country's chemical weapons' program.   France and Great Britain joined the United States in the attack on Syria.

This bombing represented Trump's second attempt to stop the Syrian government's use of chemical weapons on its own people.  The first occurred a year ago when the U.S. bombed an airfield in Syria in an attempt to disrupt the country's delivery system of chemical weapons.  This year's strikes targeted manufacturing and storage sites.

Last year's attack did not stop the problem, but yesterday's attacks have ended Syria's ability to use chemical weapons on its civilian population.  We know that for a fact because Trump had an announced goal of stopping the chemical attacks on civilians - and, after the attack, he proudly announced "Mission accomplished!"

Seriously.

Enough said.


Friday, April 13, 2018

A Slime Ball Projects

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Donald Trump and the immediate members of his crime family skipped a trip to Peru this week so that the Windbag in Chief could closely monitor the storms that are savaging his administration.  In the last few days he has suffered the humiliation of his personal attorney having his home and offices raided by the FBI, the re-emergence of his old nemesis, James Comey, as the former FBI Director begins hawking his Trump-focused memoir, as well as the storm that goes by the name of "Stormy."

Crap is flying in every direction, and Trump knows that he, a very stable genius, is the only one capable of controlling the chaos.

Today Donald Trump has been spitting his venom on Twitter, and his target de jour is former FBI Director James Comey, the man Trump fired last year when it became apparent that Comey would not be the White House lapdog and control or quash the Mueller investigation.  Comey has spent the intervening months since his firing writing a book, one which reportedly views Trump in a most unkind light.   He has been holding interviews and press events hyping the book's release.  It is due out next week.

This morning Trump had a meltdown on Twitter.  In two connected tweets he threw everything he had at Comey, to wit:

James Comey is a proven LEAKER & LIAR. Virtually everyone in Washington thought he should be fired for the terrible job he did-until he was, in fact, fired. He leaked CLASSIFIED information, for which he should be prosecuted. He lied to Congress under OATH. He is a weak and.....

...untruthful slime ball who was, as time has proven, a terrible Director of the FBI. His handling of the Crooked Hillary Clinton case, and the events surrounding it, will go down as one of the worst “botch jobs” of history. It was my great honor to fire James Comey!
Those two blasts are so rich in hypocrisy that one almost feels compelled to pull on boots before attempting to wade through them.   Donald Trump, a man who lies with almost every breath, having the gall to single out someone else as a liar is breathtakingly incredulous.   But then, for a man who hired a porn star to spank him with a rolled-up newspaper to label anyone a "slime ball," well, its just stupefying.

Psychologists refer to this phenomenon as "projection."  It is a defense mechanism in which people protect themselves from their own feared shortcomings or negative qualities by projecting those attributes onto others.  Trump calls Comey a liar because he knows others see him (Trump) as being a liar - or he sees himself that way, and the same goes for being a slime ball.  And "Crooked Hillary" has always been about Trump deflecting attention from his own corrupt business practices. 

James Comey knows, and most of the planet knows, that when Trump is ranting, he is basically describing and defining himself.

As a way of giving our fake POTUS an appropriate salute with both hands, I plan on ordering James Comey's new book:  A Higher Loyalty:  Truth, Lies, and Leadership - and I plan on purchasing it through Trump's least-favorite on-line retailer:  Amazon.com.  (I will review it in this space at a later date, perhaps during the impeachment.)

Keep up the craziness, Donald.  We all know who you are really tweeting about.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Grave Robbing with Ancestry.com

by Pa Rock
Grave Robber

I majored in history as a college undergraduate student and have always enjoyed digging into the past.  Back in the 1980's I turned that natural interest in history inward and began exploring the history of how I, as an individual, came to be.    The official name of this type of history is "genealogy," and I was determined to learn as much about my family history as possible.

Back then, well before the time when everyone had their own personal computers, much of the actual work of collecting information was done through letters - the old fashioned kind that required stamps - telephone calls, interviews with family members, and expensive trips to far-flung courthouses and other repositories of public records.  Things like birth, death, and marriage certificates - items which could "prove" relationships were often hard to locate, and when they were found applications and fees were usually necessary in order to secure copies.   Copies of small town newspapers were likely to only be available at those newspapers offices, and if researchers could gain permission to search back copies, that usually involved hours spent poring over microfilm or microfiche readers.

Genealogy back in the day was a helluva lot of work - and expense!

My interest in the subject grew, as time permitted, and I eventually found myself penning a newspaper genealogy column, Rootbound in the Hills, that ran over five years and was, at one time or another, featured in seventeen (mostly small) newspapers on a weekly basis.  During that time I also had articles published in several national historical and genealogical publications - including Everton's Genealogical Helper, which at that time was the flagship publication of genealogical research.

Then, due to family issues and job changes, I set my passion for genealogy aside for a couple of decades.  Most of my materials and collections were boxed up and put in storage, and some, unfortunately, were lost.  But as my career began sliding toward retirement a few years back, I started digging through those boxes, as time permitted, and laying the foundation for some serious genealogical research during my golden years - the time when most people seem to finally get around to digging for their roots.

Around ten years ago I joined Ancestry.com and moved much of my research to their web site.  At that time I was still working and not really able to justify, at least to myself, the expense of remaining on Ancestry and not giving it maximum attention.  (Ancestry.com was, and is, an expensive site.)  So, after two years and nearly six hundred dollars in membership fees, I cancelled my membership.

(Recognizing it for the cash cow it was, I did consider buying stock in Ancestry.com briefly, but the founders soon recognized its almost unlimited profit potential and took the company private.)

My first genealogical project in retirement was to enter all of those old Rootbound in the Hills into my computer (hours and hours of typing and proofreading), and then indexing the entire mess.  Hopefully, I will eventually get all of that material published and available to family researchers.

The next project was working on my own genealogy and getting it into an organized format so that the material will mean something to my grandchildren.  A couple of months ago I began researching companies that had newspaper collections available for research on the internet.  After looking at the collections of several, I chose to join the advanced  collection at newspapers.com which included several of my local papers in its collection.  I dedicated over a month to finding and "clipping" a couple of hundred articles related to my family, some going back nearly a hundred years.

(One of my first finds at newspapers.com was a front page article about my father coming home after being wounded in World War II.  Almost that entire front page was covered with international stories about the war - and there was my dad at the top of the page bringing the reality of the war home to his friends and relatives.)

Newspapers.com is owned by Ancestry.com - and, yes, there is a separate fee to join.  Fold3, an internet repository of military records, is also another separate-fee branch of Ancestry.com.  Those folks understand the concept of maximizing profits!

Finally, a week ago, I was able to set aside all of my biases against the unmitigated corporate greed of Ancestry.com  and re-enroll in the service.  I did that after a long talk with one of their telephone operators who assured me that I would have full access to my family tree if I quit the program in the future - but would no long be able to access their research materials,  She also gave me a special AARP rate which would only be good for the first year, and she gave me some suggestions on how to get membership specials after the first year.

The first week with my new membership has gone great.  Ancestry.com is remarkably easy to use, and every item that I incorporate into my tree footnotes itself, making my work come off as a very professional effort.  All of the articles that I "clipped" from newspapers.com have transferred seamlessly to the appropriate individuals on my tree, making what was once little more than "toe-tag" entries into vignette-laden personal histories.

(One caution with using Ancestry.com lies with their famous "hints."  Many of the hints involve historical records which serve as proof of relationships or activities of ancestors.  Other "hints" use information on family trees of other members.  Those member tree hints may or may not be correct - and researchers should be highly skeptical when it comes to appropriating someone else's work.  My rule is if I can't prove it on my own, it's not going onto the tree,)

I have set a goal of getting all of the material that I have amassed over the years sorted and documented  by the end of the summer.  In September I will celebrate that accomplishment by going on a research trip to the Mormon Library in Salt Lake City - a lifelong dream.  By then I will have a better grasp on what I know - and which questions still need answers.

As the spring and summer slip by, know that if Pa Rock isn't mowing, chances are he is robbing graves with Ancestry.com!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Congress Needs New Leadership: Five Under Fifty

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

House Speaker Paul Ryan is apparently set to announce his retirement from Congress effective at the end of his current term.  Good riddance.

Ryan's impending exit is being reported as an acknowledgment that he anticipates his party, the once-proud GOP, will lose it's majority in the House following the 2018 midterm elections.  Rats always seem to know when the ship is preparing to sink.

Ryan's departure, along with that of dozens of other Republican representatives, is feeding into a self-fulfilling prophecy, one that would indicate that Democrats are indeed very likely to retake control of the House of Representatives this November - unless, of course, they screw it up.  Democrats are, after all, democrats.

Democratic control of the House would more than likely bear a strong resemblance to the last time Democrats had control.  Creaky old Nancy Pelosi (age 78) would again be Speaker, and equally creaky Steny Hoyer (also age 78) would be the Majority Leader.  Together they should be able to keep the kids in line, at least for awhile longer, and stem any tides of unruly energy that might threaten to flow into Congress.

Same swamp, same old gators.

There is some young blood circulating in the Democratic veins of Congress, but it is mostly being subsumed by the Geritol generation.  If Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer really wanted to be of invaluable service to their party and their country, they would follow in Paul Ryan's footsteps and head out to pasture.

Here are five young members who have had enough experiencce in Congress to know how things work, yet still harbor enthusiam and ideals.  They, and others, deserve a chance to lead before their idealistic lights begin to dim.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (36) of Hawaii has served in the House since 2013.   She is a proponent of gun safety reforn, making America's election process more secure, and civil defense preparedness.  Gabbard earned the ire of some members of the party when she stepped down from her position as an assistant chair with the Democratic National Committee in order to endorse the presidential candidacy of Senator Bernie Sanders.  She also angered politicians in both parties last year when she urged restraint in dealing with Syria.  Gabbard is a major in the U.S. Army Reserve who served in the Middle East conflicts.  She is the first Hindu to serve in Congress, as well as the first American of Samoan descent.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (47) has been representing parts of Brooklyn and Queens (NY) in Congress since 2013.  He is an advocate for public heath care, and has an interest in the music industry - supporting creator's rights and recognition for female rappers.  He is an outspoken critic of the Trump administration.  Rep. Jeffries has degrees from Binghamton University, Georgetown University, and the University of New York Law School.

Rep. Jsoeph P. Kennedy, III, (37) has also served in the House since 2013.  The Massachusetts legislator in the grandson of Bobby and Ethel Kennedy and a rising star on the national political scene.  Kennedy is an advocate for gun safety legislation and a vocal critic of Donald Trump.  There is some press buzz that he is focused on moving beyond Congress.  Young Kennedy has the charm and the eloquence of a . . . well, a Kennedy.

Rep. Seth Moulton, also from Massachusetts, is only in his second term in the House, having served since 2015.  Moulton is 39 and a former Marine Corps officer who still receives his medical treatment through the VA - and consequently has a strong interest in the viability of that organization.  Moulton did four tours in Iraq and has three degrees from Harvard.  He is a proponent of bi-partisanship in Congress, a stance that has put him at odds with his party's leadership.

Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas had been in the House since 2013.  He is a former member of the Texas House of Representatives and the identical twin brother of former San Antonio Mayor and Obama cabinet member Julian Castro.   Castro is 43 and an outspoken critic of the Trump administration.   He is a strong supporter of DACA and immigrant rights.  Castro graduated with honors from Stanford and has a law degree from Harvard Law School.

Those are just five - and their backgrounds, positions, and personalities are as different, yet as defining - as America itself.  And there are many, many other people of talent and inspiration sitting on the Democratic benches eager to showcase their leadership abilities - but first the old barnacles like Pelosi and Hoyer have to loosen their death grip on the ship of state.

Stuff the rules and traditions.  The times have changed, and it's high time that Congress itself changes.  Congress needs the energy and vision of its younger members - and they need to be serving in the positions where they can actually effect change. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

A Dark and Stormy Daniels

by Pa Rock
Culture Vulture

Actor and activist George Takei, best known for his portrayal of Mr. Sulu, the helmsman aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise in the original Star Trek television series, is a prolific tweeter and an eternal thorn-in-the-side of Donald Trump.  Takei, who is eighty-years-old and light years smarter than Trump, often sees his witty and acerbic tweets about Trump repeated in the national press.  This morning I ran across a Takei tweet that I regarded as exceptionally interesting:

"The FBI has conducted a raid of Michael Cohen’s office. Cohen is Trump’s personal attorney as well as general counsel for the Trump Organization. I’m going to sit back and sip a cocktail now. Perhaps a Dark and Stormy Daniels?"

I seldom sip cocktails these days, but now, thanks to a nudge from Mr. Sulu, I find myself longing to be seated on a tropical veranda, or at least my back deck, with a glass, or perhaps a pitcher, of Dark and Stormy Daniels - drinking toast-after-toast to the success of Robert Mueller and his fine team of investigators.

Not knowing how to make this awesome-sounding cocktail, however, meant that some research was in order.

The literary trope, "a dark and stormy night," was first thought to have been used by Washington Irving in his A History of New York in 1809, and was later the opening phrase that British author Edward Bulwer-Lytton used in his 1830 novel, Paul Clifford:

"It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness."   

The melodramatic phrase - "it was a dark and stormy night" - has suffered much literary ridicule over the years and today persists as an oft-cited example of "purple prose."  It has also inspired a literary competition, the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest,  in which participants have to begin their stories with that line.

There is a cocktail, the Dark and Stormy, named in recognition of the infamous line.  It is made by pouring two ounces of dark rum over ice in a highball glass, adding five ounces of ginger beer, and then squeezing a lime wedge into the concoction.

Apparently some bartenders and Trump critics have taken to replacing the rum with Jack Daniels and have started calling this new drink the Dark and Stormy Daniels.

It sounds intoxicatingly delicious - but don't expect to find it on the drinks' menu at Mar-a-Lago!

Monday, April 9, 2018

Monday's Poetry: "Spring Snow"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

It snowed again, though just barely, in the Ozarks yesterday - a lingering proof that calendars are man-made constructs which Mother Nature may override with alarming ease.  Spring has arrived, and yet it snows.  Easter has come and gone, and yet it snows.

"Spring Snow" by Canadian poet Richard Greene not only captured the feeling of a sudden return of winter, it also sent me to the dictionary to master a new word.  "Limns," it turns out, is a depiction or description in painting or words.  Mr. Greene's uses a sparsity of words to describe the event of a spring snow - and he limns his words beautifully.


Spring Snow
by Richard Greene

Wet snow coats
twig, branch and bud.
Against the still black street
the waning season
limns its last words
in bold calligraphy.


Sunday, April 8, 2018

Rep. Jason Smith's Ardor for Trump is Cooling

by Pa Rock
Voter

My representative in Congress, Jason Smith, a Republican representing Missouri's 8th district, has spent most his current term being besotted with Donald Trump, wallowing in the notion that Trump's election can only be compared to the Second Coming of Christ.  Each week Smith sends out an email newsletter to constituents in which he dishes the GOP's latest canned talking points while giving the party's corpulent leader a lavish tongue bath. 

Smith's newsletters always have a focus on what he sees at the good things that Trump is doing for America.  The young congressman never misses a chance to post pictures where he has elbowed his way into a group shot with Trump, and in one issue he giddily name-dropped that Ivanka had made a personal visit to his office.

Smith wants to be seen as Trump's main appendage dangling over the Midwest - or at least he did until The Donald began stirring up a trade war with China.  Smith's district is primarily rural with an abundance of farms - and Smith himself claims to be a farmer - when he's not busy being a real estate developer, lawyer, and politician.   So when the Chinese quickly announced retaliatory measures to Trump's posturing and bluster, measures that hit hard at U.S. farmers, poor Jason was flummoxed.

U.S pork was one of the foodstuffs that China announced it would place a tax (tariff) on - and another was soybeans.  (China buys one-third of the United States' soybean crop.)  Missouri is one of the top ten states nationwide in the production of pork and soybeans, with a sizable portion of each coming out of Smith's own district. 

Trump's trade war with China is going to hurt Missouri farmers - and farmers in the state's 8th congressional district appear set to take an especially hard hit.  Could that be why Smith's newsletter from March 31st did not mention The Donald at all?  Or why yesterday's newsletter only had two extremely brief references the man who once enjoyed an almost god-like presence in Smith's weekly partisan drivel?

Perhaps Jason Smith should take a few more meetings with Ivanka.  None of her Chinese imports have been targeted in the trade war, so she must be a whole lot more politically astute than Missouri farmers - and she undoubtedly has better representation in Congress than they do.    

Hog and soybean farmers are not part of Donald Trump's social circle.   Most of us have known that all along - and now Jason Smith knows it too!

You've been played, Congressman.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Are You My Daddy?

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Five years ago I had my DNA analyzed through the services of the esteemed National Geographic Society.  The results were comprehensive showing the parts of the world where my lines originated along with percentages that those lines played in my eventual genetic makeup, as well as general migration routes that my ancestors likely traveled as their trails slowly merged over time.

Recently Ancestry.com has also gotten into the business of analyzing DNA - and Ancestry applies the results directly to the family trees of its users.  Because Ancestry.com is a ruthless profit-generator, they will not accept the DNA results of other companies - such as the National Geographic Society - to link to their cash cow.

So I had my DNA analyzed a second time so that I could link it to my research on Ancestry.com.  This time my results included a list of individuals who are members of Ancestry.com and who are likely relatives of mine.  I knew most of them, a sure indicator that I am who I thought I was.

A lady from the Pacific Northwest, however, was not so lucky.  The young woman had her DNA tested through Ancestry.com, undoubtedly hoping to learn more about her distant ancestors, and wound up learning a shocking truth.   The results showed a parent-child relationship to her mother, but not to her father.  The father-child link hooked to a man of whom she had never heard - but, her mother had.  The man had been her mother's obstetrician - and also her fertility doctor.

Whoops!

The daughter, now an adult, never knew that her parents had used the services of a fertility doctor.  The procedure that the doctor had explained to the young couple all those years ago was that to make up for the husband's low sperm count, the doctor would create a mixture consisting of 85% sperm from the husband and 15% sperm from a donor, and use that in an attempt to try and impregnate the woman.  The couple requested that the donor sperm come from a college student who had basic physical similarities to the husband.

The mother remarked that she thought it was strange when several years later she told her obstetrician that the family would be moving out-of-state - and he began to cry.

Lawsuits are flying!

So, who's your daddy?  Don't have your DNA tested unless you really, really want to know!

April Snows Bring May Mows

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Spring

I was out in the dark at 6 a.m. this morning opening the coop - where the chickens, geese, peacocks, and cats had all been holed up for the night - and scattering feed - all amidst an April snowfall.  A few hours later the ground is still white.

My intention was to begin mowing today - seriously - but now that will have to wait - at least until the snow melts.

The daffodils have already bloomed, the narcissus are blooming now, the tulips are preparing to bloom - and the ground is covered in snow!

I am not sure what is going on with the weather, but I am resolute in my determination to blame it on Trump!

Friday, April 6, 2018

Albright's Guide to Fighting Fascism

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has a guest editorial in today's New York Times which delves into the subject of fascism.   It is ominously entitled "Will We Stop Trump Before It's Too Late?"


Secretary Albright begins her opinion piece with a quick recap of the deaths of Benito Mussolini and Adolph Hitler in April of 1945 - two days apart - which she describes as the apparent death of fascism.  (Although some purists might point out that Generalissimo Francisco Franco held on for thirty more years until his death from old age - and, as Chevy Case would remind us - he is still dead today!)  This long period of anti-fascism which followed the end of World War II witnessed an advancement in human rights and a spreading of democracy.

But, as we are all aware, human rights and democratic tendencies are beginning to be tamped down and extinguished around the globe.  Secretary Albright catalogues a list of countries where leaders are openly focused on amassing more power and control over their people, and, not surprisingly, she ends her litany by focusing on Donald Trump

"with his oft-vented scorn for democracy’s building blocks, (he) has strengthened the hands of dictators. No longer need they fear United States criticism regarding human rights or civil liberties. On the contrary, they can and do point to Mr. Trump’s own words to justify their repressive actions."

That said, Secretary Albright pivots to the real purpose of her editorial - to posit some suggestions which a responsible citizenry can employ to fight the rise of fascism here in America.  Her three-pronged approach includes:

  • defending the truth by standing up for a free press;
  • emphasizing the fact that no one - even the president - is above the law;  and,
  • energizing the democratic process by registering voters, listening respectfully to people with whom we disagree, knocking on doors for favored candidates, and ignoring cynics who downplay the effectiveness of voting.
Secretary Albright concludes with an eloquent description of what "greatness" for a nation should and should not entail, and her summation leaves no doubt as to her concerns regarding the presidency and leadership of Donald Trump:

"To me, greatness goes a little deeper than how much marble we put in our hotel lobbies and whether we have a Soviet-style military parade. America at its best is a place where people from a multitude of backgrounds work together to safeguard the rights and enrich the lives of all. That’s the example we have always aspired to set and the model people around the world hunger to see. And no politician, not even one in the Oval Office, should be allowed to tarnish that dream."

Trump is a person focused on material things that, to him, magnify his magnificence - things like luxurious hotels that bear his name and endless photo-ops standing and reviewing troops who have been compelled to perform for the P.T. Barnum of the Potomac.  His presidency is the greatest show on earth - and he's the greatest showman.

It's a bit of pomp, a dollop of pageantry, and a whole lot of Berlin circa 1933.  Secretary Albright urges us to recognize the Trump reign for what it is, an unapologetic drift, or perhaps march, into fascism, and to get busy and derail this movement while we still have the democratic machinery available to get that job done.

To paraphrase an old right-wing bumper sticker:  Fight fascism until hell freezes over, and then fight on the ice.

Defend democracy by registering to vote - and then voting!

The power of the ballot must reign supreme.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Seeing Plenty of the Show-Me State

by Pa Rock
Road Warrior

This past Monday I made an overnight trip to McDonald County, primarily for a workplace reunion that turned out to be a dud.  Then yesterday, just as I was getting acclimated to being home again, my six-year-old  computer began crashing  - odd sounds, flashing backgrounds, loss of function.  I quickly arranged things so that I could rush to Kansas City today where I would be able to pick up my computer-literate son and take him to the Apple Store - where I would either get the sick computer repaired or buy a new one.  With all of the sudden symptoms that mine had, I assumed that I would be returning home with a new laptop.

I brought the ailing computer into Tim's house just to show him the bizarre things that it was doing.  He turned the little machine on, fiddled with it for less than ten seconds, and handed it back to me with the announcement that it was fixed!

Color me technologically challenged.

My over-nighter in the Kansas City suburbs will have some upsides - a supply run to Costco, and, I suspect, the purchase of a cheap computer so I will have a backup machine the next time that mine decides to go on strike.  All of that, and I will get to play with my grandkids for a couple of hours.  Seeing Olive and Sully makes the long drive worthwhile!

The big downside is that Rosie did not get to make either trip - and she is barking mad about it!


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Dr. King, Fifty Years On

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King was shot and killed in the city of Memphis, Tennessee, fifty years ago today.  I was in college at the time and remember well the anger and turmoil that swept across the American landscape in the days following Dr. King's assassination.  The rage was especially pervasive on college campuses - even at Midwestern cow colleges like the one I attended.

At the time of Dr. King's death America was still reeling from the assassination of a president less than five years before - and the civil rights movement had seen several of its leaders martyred through violent deaths including the shooting of Medgar Evers in 1963 and the killing of three civil rights workers (Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney) in Mississippi by members of the Ku Klux Klan in 1964.  Then, in 1965, human rights activist and Muslim minister Malcom X was gunned down by an assassin.

The times were turbulent and troubled, and the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. seemed to be the straw that brought down the camel.  After the shooting in Memphis, riots broke out in places like Washington, DC, Chicago, Hartford, and Detroit. 

One day before his murder, Dr. King gave his final public sermon, and in it he spoke about having been to the mountaintop and seeing the promised land.  His words were prophetic:

"Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live - a long life; longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. So I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."

Rest in peace, Dr. King.  You served us well.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Stuff-Your-Face Tuesday

by Pa Rock
Eating Machine

I've been on the road for the past twenty-four hours, and really haven't gotten a good head of steam built up over any issue.  Well, I did guffaw upon hearing that Trump has made one of his former caddies the new White House Communications Director, a job with a notoriously short tenure.  And while it is both funny and sad, I do feel for the poor fool.  He will be fired in less time than it takes to play eighteen holes, and he will learn about his firing over Twitter.  Trump is nothing, if not a class act.

During my travels I did trip across a couple of food stories that caught my interest.  Cate Martel, in writing for "The Hill" on the internet machine, reported that there is a new trend in food preparation using edible glitter.  Poor Cate named a few items that can be had with added sparkle including glittery bagels (available at the Bagel Store in Brooklyn, NY), gravy with glitter (which was served over a roast beef dinner last Christmas at an unnamed London pub), and, the item that made Cate wretch the longest and hardest - rainbow glitter pizza (source of availability not provided, but she did include a photo of one that had been posted to Instagram - and it was beautiful!)

Barf that up, why don't you!

Undoubtedly a platoon of hack writers are already pounding out pulp mysteries that center on the villain replacing the cook's edible glitter with the real thing!    Metallic glitter coursing through the bloodstream would likely lead to a very  painful death, and a fabulous autopsy!

The other food story that caught my interest while on the road was a radio report about a new restaurant in Florida that serves only food and drink that begins with the letter "c".  The place is called "The C-House".  The restaurant is located in Seminole Heights (the Tampa area) and promotes things like cheese burgers, cheesy macaroni, cheese cake - as well as cocktails and craft beer.

I'm thinking about starting a similar place with a focus on the letter "k".  The menu would feature some international delicacies like kimchi from Korea made with kabbage grown in Kuala Lampur, as well as kabobs and korn dogs - all washed down with several flavors of Kool-Aid and Kahlua.  Tentative name:  The Korner Kafe or the Kountry Kitchen.   And, just so you know - and before you ask - KKK members will NOT be welcome - with or without shoes, shirts and klean sheets!

Must close and go get started setting up my "Go Fund Me" site.  Kommerce awaits!

Monday, April 2, 2018

Monday's Poetry: "The Goose"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Yesterday I noted in this space that Fiona has four beautiful kittens  in a nesting box on the floor of the chicken coop.   Mother and her little ones are still doing fine.

One of my five geese has set up a nest on the floor of the coop not too far from Fiona's "nest."  This morning as  Mama Goose hopped off of her nest and went in search of breakfast, I was able to count the eggs - thirteen - a baker's dozen.   Mama Goose is one of the smarter fowl on the farm.  In the afternoons when I scatter dry dog food, she is the only one of her species who rushes forward to eat.  Dog food is high in protein which probably helps in the egg production process.

Anyway, things are multiplying in the coop.

Today's poem, "The Goose," was written by Alfred, Lord Tennyson in 1842.  It is supposedly an allegory dealing with Britain's Reform Bill agitation of the times, and is Tennyson's way of showing how illusory the bills advantages to the poor really were.  The goose's clatter and clamor that eventually drive the old woman over the edge represent the social anarchy that would result from passage of the radical proposal.

Lifting-up the poor did not seem to be a priority of Tennyson.   If transported to modern times, he might have earned a living as a Fox News commentator.

Sadly, none of my Mama Goose's eggs are golden.  I checked.  Pa Rock appears destined to remain among the needy and noisy rabble.


The Goose
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson



  I knew an old wife lean and poor,
  Her rags scarce held together;
  There strode a stranger to the door,
  And it was windy weather.



  He held a goose upon his arm,
  He utter'd rhyme and reason,
  "Here, take the goose, and keep you warm,
  It is a stormy season".



  She caught the white goose by the leg,
  A goose--'twas no great matter.
  The goose let fall a golden egg
  With cackle and with clatter.



  She dropt the goose, and caught the pelf,
  And ran to tell her neighbours;
  And bless'd herself, and cursed herself,
  And rested from her labours.



  And feeding high, and living soft,
  Grew plump and able-bodied;
  Until the grave churchwarden doff'd,
  The parson smirk'd and nodded.



  So sitting, served by man and maid,
  She felt her heart grow prouder:
  But, ah! the more the white goose laid
  It clack'd and cackled louder.



  It clutter'd here, it chuckled there;
  It stirr'd the old wife's mettle:
  She shifted in her elbow-chair,
  And hurl'd the pan and kettle.



  "A quinsy choke thy cursed note!"
  Then wax'd her anger stronger:
  "Go, take the goose, and wring her throat,
  I will not bear it longer".



  Then yelp'd the cur, and yawl'd the cat;
  Ran Gaffer, stumbled Gammer.
  The goose flew this way and flew that,
  And fill'd the house with clamour.



  As head and heels upon the floor
  They flounder'd all together,
  There strode a stranger to the door,
  And it was windy weather:



  He took the goose upon his arm,
  He utter'd words of scorning;
  "So keep you cold, or keep you warm,
  It is a stormy morning".



  The wild wind rang from park and plain,
  And round the attics rumbled,
  Till all the tables danced again,
  And half the chimneys tumbled.



  The glass blew in, the fire blew out,
  The blast was hard and harder.
  Her cap blew off, her gown blew up,
  And a whirlwind clear'd the larder;



  And while on all sides breaking loose
  Her household fled the danger,
  Quoth she, "The Devil take the goose,
  And God forget the stranger!"

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Easter Kitties!

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Spring

It's a cool, crisp spring day in the Ozarks.  The temperature is just barely above freezing and the forecast calls for rain later in the day.  The Roost is suffering a bit of a shiver, but in one corner of the chicken coop things are warm and content.  Fiona, my farm cat, gave birth yesterday to four beautiful kittens, and the entire family lies curled up on the coop floor in a box full of wood shavings that I originally constructed as a place for the peahens to nest.  The peahens didn't care for it, and neither did the goose who occasionally lays an egg - but Fiona found it to be a perfect place to give birth to her second litter of kittens.  Big brother, Magoo, stays close by keeping an eye on his new siblings.

Fiona's last litter arrived in the barn loft this past May 8th, Harry Truman's birthday.  This batch got here on the March 31st, the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, and Al Gore's 70th birthday.  Fiona definitely appears to be expressing Democratic tendencies.

The first litter consisted of five babies:  two brindle (like the mother), two orange, and one black.  The new group of four has one brindle, one orange, one black, and one gray and black striped.  All are large, as kittens go, and appear to be very healthy.  I suspected there would be more this time.  Just before the births Fiona was enormous, resembling a short, constipated raccoon, but she has quickly regained her girlish figure.

The first litter of kittens constantly begged to move to the Kansas City area, which three of them eventually did.  This group is already mewing about the beauty of the Idaho panhandle.

Forewarned is forearmed!

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Need a Gun? Print One.

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Republic of Doyle is a lightweight Canadian "comedy/mystery" television series that was filmed in St. John's, Newfoundland, over several seasons in the early part of this decade.  It is currently available for streaming on both Netflix and Amazon Prime.  The show features a pair of father and son private detectives who trade sarcastic barbs and assist each other in solving crimes.   Allan Hawco, plays the action-loving, womanizing son, Jake Doyle, and Sean McGinley is the more stable and subdued father, Malachi "Mal" Doyle.  Many of the episodes were written and/or directed by Hawco.

A few weeks ago I was watching an episode that had originally run in 2013.  It involved a woman breaking into a college laboratory so that she could "print" a pistol using the lab's nifty new 3-D printer.  She accomplished her task with the speed that it would take to heat a TV dinner in a microwave, and then grabbed her shiny new blue plastic pistol and headed off to the airport where she planned to sell it to an arms dealer.  If not for the ultimate interference of Doyle and Son, the arms dealer would have then boarded a plane with his deadly weapon - going undetected through the airport's security screening equipment - and terrorists would have won the day.

This week while doing business at a local establishment, I happened upon a 3-D printer, much like the one that the lady on television had used to quickly produce a firearm.  This local printer was busy constructing an Eiffel Tower that, when finished, would stand about fifteen inches tall.  On display were several other plastic items - masks, a unicorn's head, a frieze of the Last Supper - which had all recently been constructed by the same printer.  The business owner told me that the Eiffel Tower would take about fifteen hours to complete.  He picked up the unicorn head to show me that item, which has also taken fifteen hours to produce, and accidentally dropped it on the concrete floor.  The head bounced around, but did not break.  The 3-D printer made very durable goods, but it was obviously a slow process.

Being the curious sort, I then asked about guns.  The guy told me that others had asked him the same thing - not surprising in West Plains, Missouri.  He said, taking great pains to explain that he had no personal views on the issue of guns, that it is possible to print working guns with 3-D printers, but that was something which he would not be doing.

By the time I got home my curiosity completely had the better of me.  What was the process for "printing" a gun, and how long would it take?  My quick research indicated that guns could not be printed in tact - as a finished product - as the one had been on Republic of Doyle.  Instead, the parts could be printed individually - fifteen or sixteen for a pistol - and then assembled by hand.  Would it then work?  Sadly, yes.

Then I went on to investigate the current cost of 3-D printers.  They can be purchased on-line and run, on the average, from $250 to $2,500 each, depending on the size and quality desired.   Like all tech equipment of the past two or three decades, those prices are bound to fall into the range where every home can eventually have one.

That may be well and good for people who need a tricky part for a mower, blender, or antique clock make in Silesia in the 1830's - just go on-line, order the schematic or whatever software is necessary, and print the part.  But what about Bubba and his buddies, working late in his garage every night making gun after gun?  Certainly plastic bullets would be just as deadly as those made of lead.  The only ingredient left to buy would be gunpowder.  That represents a future that might even scare Wayne LaPierre and Ted Nugent.

And it damned sure scares Pa Rock.  This brave new world has left me in future shock!

Friday, March 30, 2018

Good Guys Win Pair of Epic Twitter Battles

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Twitter is one place where the fun never stops.

Senator Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat from Illinois and a retired Army lieutenant colonel who lost both of her legs when a helicopter that she was piloting was shot down in Iraq in 2004, has been speaking out in support of a fellow combat veteran, Miguel Perez, Jr.   Perez, who served in Afghanistan, returned from the war with some of the same emotional issues that plague many of the people who serve in combat.  He became involved in drugs and was eventually arrested and convicted of drug manufacture and trafficking for which he served a prison sentence.  After his release from prison, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) determined to deport the combat veteran back to Mexico, which it eventually did.

Duckworth, speaking in support of Perez and all veterans, tweeted this:

“Many veterans who suffer from PTSD struggle with addiction and land in legal jeopardy.  It’s easy to pay lip service to supporting our troops and veterans until they come home with complicated and often invisible wounds that they will carry for the rest of their lives.”

And she followed that up with this postscript:

"You don’t truly support our Veterans if you’re not willing to acknowledge and support them through the ugly havoc war can wreak on their lives."

The conservative blog, Red State, took issue with Senator Duckworth's defense of her fellow veteran and posted a response on Twitter.  Unfortunately - for Red State - the editors of the publication overstepped the bounds of common decency in their disagreement with Duckworth and sniped that she  "didn't have a leg to stand on" in her appeal on behalf of Miguel Perez.

Duckworth, the grown-up in the room, tweeted back at Red State:

"Thanks for noticing, @RedState, but you’re wrong. I actually have two legs. They’re made of titanium, and they don’t buckle."

Game, set, and match - Duckworth!

The other big entertainment on Twitter yesterday occurred when Laura Ingraham, a fringe "journalist" and provocateur on Fox News,  decided to lob an insult at David Hogg, one of the survivors of the Parkland school massacre and an emerging gun control advocate.  Ingraham posted the following tweet which seemed to ridicule Hogg for being rejected on some college applications:

"David Hogg Rejected By Four Colleges To Which He Applied and whines about it. (Dinged by UCLA with a 4.1 GPA...totally predictable given acceptance rates.)" 

To which young Mr. Hogg quickly responded:

"Soooo what are your biggest advertisers...Asking for a friend. #BoycottIngramAdverts."

Minutes later he posted a list of twelve Ingraham advertisers and suggested that his followers begin boycotting those businesses unless they severed ties with Ingraham.   Shortly after that three companies on the list announced that they were bailing out of their sponsorships with her show, The Ingraham Angle, and others appear to be preparing to follow suit.

Laura Ingraham, being hypersensitive to the power of the dollar, quickly issued an apology over Twitter.  She groveled:

"Any student should be proud of a 4.2 GPA —incl. @DavidHogg111. On reflection, in the spirit of Holy Week, I apologize for any upset or hurt my tweet caused him or any of the brave victims of Parkland. For the record, I believe my show was the first to feature David...(1/2)"

Ingraham had lost - bigly.  Or as one internet news source put it, she had her ass handed to her by a seventeen-year-old!

Yesterday may not have been a day that will live in infamy, but it had its moments - especially on Twitter.  Congratulations to Tammy Duckworth and David Hogg for holding the barbarians at bay.  Your service for a better America is noted and appreciated!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Psychos with Guns Impact School Curriculum

by Pa Rock
Former School Principal

I remember a time nearly forty years go when, as a principal in a large rural high school, I suspended  a young man for some infraction of school policy.  As I stood at my office window and watched him march across the parking lot and get into his pickup truck, I noticed that he had a couple of rifles on display in the back window of his truck.  The kid had left school angry, and the guns were concerning - at least to the fellow who had made him angry - me.

The driving age in Missouri was sixteen, and many students drove their own vehicles to school.  It was a hunting community where the schools even closed a couple of days during the annual deer season so students could hunt.  Guns were an important part of the local culture, and many of the students, especially boys with pickup trucks, proudly kept their guns on display in their vehicles.  Those guns symbolized their emerging manhood.

I mentioned my concern about all of the available weaponry in the high school parking lot to my superintendent, a wizened old cuss who had his thumb on the pulse of the community, and he quickly put me in my  place with "Oh God, Rock, don't get me in a gun control flap!"  So I let the matter drop - while continuing to keep a wary eye on the parking lot.

That was twenty years before school shootings started to become commonplace events in America.

One of my two favorite nephews called the other day to wish me a happy birthday.  Reed is a young teacher and coach in a rural high school in Arkansas.  While we were talking,  the subject of guns in school came up.  I told Reed of my old concern about the high school kids with their guns on display in the truck windows.  He assured me that those days are long over.

Our conversation morphed into "active shooter" drills at school, and my nephew explained that his school is well prepared for that contingency.  He said that they use a special "ALICE" curriculum in teaching students and staff how to respond to an armed intruder.  Not being familiar with that material, I looked it up and learned that ALICE is an acronym for "Alert, Lock-Down, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate."  The program was created by a police officer who was married to an elementary school principal, and it has been in use since 2001 with nearly four thousand schools nationwide adopting the curriculum.

The negative side of the ALICE program is that some fear that this type of training serves to "normalize" gun violence in schools.

There are, of course, some political options that could also be employed to make schools safer - things like reducing the availability of automatic weapons, raising the age at which individuals can buy guns, prohibiting violent criminals and  the seriously mentally ill from owning guns, and requiring thorough background checks on all gun sales (even those at gun shows and sales by individuals)  - but actions like that would surely bring about those dreaded "gun control flaps!"

Meanwhile my nephew and millions of other teachers and students in America's schools will continue to devote portions of their school days practicing ways to protect themselves from crazed psychos with guns - time that could be spent preparing for a successful life in a civilized society.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Trump's Mueller Options

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The New York Times, the venerable "Old Gray Lady" of journalism and certainly one of Donald Trump's least favorite news sources, is running a story today that claims Trump's former attorney, John Dowd, contacted lawyers for former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and talked to them about the possibility of presidential pardons for their clients.  Both men, Flynn and Manafort, have since been indicted as a result of Mueller's investigation.

Presidential pardons are clearly one way that Trump has of derailing and neutering the Mueller investigation, and it's not far-fetched to suppose that someone who would stoop to pardoning Joe Arpaio would have no qualms about issuing a slew of pardons to high profile criminals, con-artists, relatives, and in-laws in order to save his own skin.  The pardons would float down on Washington, DC, like confetti on steroids, and suddenly Trump's once-loyal lieutenants no longer have a legal motivation to turn on their former boss.  In fact, they would have cause to protect their benefactor.

Pardons.  That's option one.

Option two would be to cut the head off the snake by firing Mueller.  This option, like the first option, would create a firestorm of public outrage.  Trump, of course, relishes the attention and noise that come from pissing off (or "on") the masses, and he would likely not hesitate to employ either measure to keep his luxury-class weekend trips to Florida and the continuous use of his businesses for Republican Party shindigs and rest stops for foreign dignitaries.  The Trump organization is making big money off of this presidential gig, and it would sorely hate to lose that income stream.

Option two works because, with Republican control of both houses of Congress, there is little realistic chance of him being impeached.  That situation could change, however, come November.  As the fall elections approach and Mueller continues to draw his noose tighter and tighter, a cornered Trump is almost certain to go on the offensive.

Option three would involve Trump sitting back and not doing anything to impede the course of justice.  He has repeatedly said that he would welcome the opportunity to testify in the Mueller probe - and while most regard that as meaningless braggadocio, his lawyers, well aware of their client's proclivity for lying, have strongly advised against it.

Trump leaving the investigation alone or stepping forward to defend himself before Mueller's team?  Clearly option three is not an option.

So the two likely scenarios are that presidential pardons will begin falling from the sky like the spring showers - or he will fire Mueller.  Those are tough choices, but Trump is a tough guy who has been spanked by rougher characters than Robert Mueller.

My money is on the pardons.


Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Sometimes It Takes a Kid to Kick Down a Barricade

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

This past weekend young people and their allies from across America took to the streets to clamor for more effective gun laws.  Millions carried signs and sang and chanted to protest the unwillingness of Congress and state legislatures to stand up to America's greatest bully - the gun lobby.  In many instances Democratic lawmakers, at least those with spines, marched in support of the angry youth, while other politicians more beholden to the cash of the NRA and the gun industry (generally Republicans) stayed out of sight, or in some cases openly rebuked the idealistic youth.

Iowa Republican congressman and troglodyte Steve King expressed opposition to claims by the protesters that the NRA bribes legislators, and shot back that the $11,000 which he received from the NRA was not enough to constitute a "bribe."  Congressman King apparently has his standards - and they appear to be quite pricey.   Former Pennsylvania Senator Little Ricky Santorum went so far as to suggest that the students focus less on the availability of guns and more on learning life-saving techniques for when they come under fire at school.  Santorum thinks the kids would better serve themselves and their interests by learning CPR.

But all of that GOP/NRA whining seems to be of no avail.  By and large America's youth are mad as hell and they aren't going to take it anymore.  They are fired up and determined, and those who get in their way do so at their own peril.

Young people have kicked down the barricades to social change before. 

Linda Brown, a young black child in the 1950's, wanted to attend a school near her home in Topeka, Kansas - a segregated school that only admitted whites.  Schools were segregated in much of the United States at that time based on a Supreme Court decision from the previous century, Plessy v Ferguson, which said that separate schools for the races was permissible as long as the schools were "equal."  Miss Brown became the focal point of the landmark case, Brown v Board of Education in which the Supreme Court of the United States ultimately ruled that separate schools were inherently unequal - and effectively ended the overt segregation of schools in America.

Linda Brown died this week at the age of seventy-six, but her legacy lives on in our increasingly multi-cultural nation.

Ryan White was only fourteen when he was diagnosed with AIDS in 1984.  White, a hemophiliac, contracted the disease during a blood transfusion.  When Ryan left the hospital and was ready to re-enroll in school, his local school would not accept him out of ignorance and fear surrounding his condition.  Ryan became the national poster boy for HIV/AIDS and did much to humanize the condition and educate the public.  Ryan White was a central figure in removing the stigma from AIDS and presenting it as a treatable disease.  Ryan succumbed to AIDS in 1990 at the age of eighteen in his home state of Indiana.

Malala Yousafzai, a young girl from Pakistan,  was a blogger and peace activist when she was nominated for the International Children's Peace Prize by Desmond Tutu.  Not long after that nomination, and as her fame as an activist was on its ascendancy, Malala was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman.    She lingered on the verge of death for several weeks.  Now, nearly six years after the shooting that almost claimed her life, Malala has won the Nobel Peace Prize, the youngest Nobel laureate ever, and is an leading proponent for the education of girls and women.  A bullet could not stop her.

Linda Brown, Ryan White, and Malala Yousafzai each made an indelible mark on the world around them, and they did it as young people - kids - who through circumstances beyond their control, took a stand for what seemed fair - and right.  The young people from Marjory Stomeman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, are also taking a stand - and marching - and not even the likes of Steve King, or Little Ricky Santorum, or the whole bloody NRA will be able to stop them.

Their time is now - and they are going to leave their stamp on history, just like so many other "kids" before them have done!  These kids are making the world we live in a better place, and we are all going to benefit from their activism.

God bless them and their boundless determination!