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!

Monday, June 18, 2018

Monday's Poetry: "Money"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Several years ago I started noticing the "Where's George" dollar bills, paper U.S. currency with a special hand-stamp that invited holders of the currency to report the location of where they acquired it to a special website.  The website would provide a history of all of the locations where the bill had been reported, thus letting those with an interest gain some knowledge of how money circulates.  I even contributed to the process by reporting several of the bills that I came across.  Eventually, the system seemed to quit working - and now sightings of "Where's George" bills are becoming much more rare.

But that wasn't the last of stamped money.

Ben and Jerry, the guys with the ice cream, have been promoting special stamps with left-leaning messages about getting money out of politics.  Their company, The Stamp Stampede, offers a variety of hand-stamps with messages related to ending the big-money control of politics.  Ben and Jerry are promoting cause-oriented messaging on money, something which nagged at my conscience.  If they could tout their own political points-of-view on U.S. currency, wouldn't that same venue soon be overrun by individuals considerably less honorable than the virtuous Vermont ice cream makers?

Well, yes.

Yesterday I found out just how susceptible our paper money is to political lowlifes when I received a dollar bill in change at a local quick stop.  The bill had a small red stamp on its reverse side which read:  "TRUMP:  Make America Great Again."  I handed the bill back to the cashier and asked for a clean one - and he complied.

I fear we may be at the front end of a movement that will eventually deface our currency to the point that it becomes little more that folding graffiti.    People with a burning desire to get their message out before the public should post it on the internet - or fit it into a tattoo - and not rely on others to spread it through daily commerce.  That is just wrong.

With money on my mind, I have selected the poem "Money" by the late British master poet Philip Larkin for this week's poetry selection.  It is a clever verse that discusses money - and the habit of saving money - from the perspective of the money itself.

by Philip Larkin

Quarterly, is it, money reproaches me:
    ‘Why do you let me lie here wastefully?
I am all you never had of goods and sex.
    You could get them still by writing a few cheques.’

So I look at others, what they do with theirs:   
    They certainly don’t keep it upstairs.
By now they’ve a second house and car and wife:
    Clearly money has something to do with life

—In fact, they’ve a lot in common, if you enquire:
    You can’t put off being young until you retire,
And however you bank your screw, the money you save
    Won’t in the end buy you more than a shave.

I listen to money singing. It’s like looking down
    From long french windows at a provincial town,   
The slums, the canal, the churches ornate and mad
    In the evening sun. It is intensely sad.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

A Day for Atonement

by Pa Rock

It's Father's Day in America, a day set aside by our government to  recognize and honor dads for their faithful efforts in raising children and promulgating civilization.  Unfortunately this Father's Day is marked by that same government exercising a policy that intentionally and cruelly separates children from their parents along America's southern border.

Children are being taken from their parents and spirited into a great unknown of foster care and institutional warehousing, sometimes hundreds of miles from where their parents are being detained.  1,995 children, some as young as breast-feeding infants, were taken from their immigrant parents by government officials from mid-April through the end of May of this year - roughly a six-week span.

Donald Trump, a politician who has built his political career primarily by demonizing immigrants, is trying to back away from ownership of the onerous policy that separates children from their parents, and he has been blathering on that the child-removal is the result of a "Democratic" law that Democrats need to change.  There are a couple of problems with that statement.  First, it is a lie.  There are no laws on the books mandating taking immigrant children from their parents, Democratic or otherwise.   Second, even if such a law did exist, the U.S. government is currently under the complete control of the Republican Party, and Democrats are unable to change anything.

The practice of separating children and parents is a government "policy," a policy that was enacted by the administration of Donald Trump.  It was promoted by Trump aide, Stephen Miller, and has been defended by former Trump chief advisor Steve Bannon, as well as Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders - both of whom defended the policy on Biblical grounds.  (Some religious leaders, however, have openly disagreed with the policy - people like Pope Francis and evangelical huckster Franklin Graham.)

Attorney General Sessions has also said that taking children from their parents is an intentional effort to discourage people from trying to enter the United States.  And Donald Trump appears to be using the abhorrent situation to angle for concessions from Congress - such as funding for his "border wall."  The captive children are, in effect, being used as bargaining chips.

So, Happy Father's Day, America.    Wouldn't it be wonderful if we used this day to honor every father - and mother - and child in America, whether they have a "legal" status or not?  Aren't each of them, and each of us, passengers on the same planet, children of the same God?

Let's celebrate Father's Day by honoring families - not destroying them.

Atone, America, and set those children free!

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Rudy Tries to Pull a McCaskill

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Donald Trump's new personal lawyer, the elderly and irascible Rudy Giuliani, has so far proven to be the master of one thing only:  keeping his own name in the press.  And while Boss Trump may occasionally relish a few minutes out of the limelight, he is nevertheless a raging narcissist who views everything as being about him - and he has a constant need to be noticed.  A press hog like Rudy will eventually wear out his welcome in Trump World.

Giuliani got the press buzzing yesterday when he landed a couple of cheap shots on former Vice President Joe Biden.  Rudy was talking politics when he offered that he was far more worried about the emergence of unknown Democratic candidates in 2020 than he was regarding Elizabeth Warren or Joe Biden.  In fact, he went on to make remarks about Biden which were particularly corrosive.  "Joe Biden is a moron," Rudy offered at one point, and then, just to make sure that his point was set in cement, he added, "I'm calling Joe Biden a mentally deficient idiot."

Why this sudden administration spotlight on Biden?  Does Rudy's boss fear getting a political beat-down from the 75-year-old former Vice President of the United States, or is there a more nefarious game being played.  Are Rudy and Trump trying a variation of a game that Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill refined in 2012, a slick maneuver called "pick your own opponent."  McCaskill stampeded Missouri's doltish Republicans into choosing their weakest candidate, Congressman Todd Akin, to run against her by making it appear that he was the candidate she really feared.

Is Rudy running a variation of the McCaskill scam - trashing Biden in the hopes that angry Democrats will rush to nominate him just to spite Rudy and Trump?  Perhaps that is the case, but if Giuliani is trying to manipulate Democrats into doing his bidding, he needs to remember one thing:  he is not as bright as Claire McCaskill - and certainly not as devious.

Leave dirty tricks to the experts, Rudy.   Your relevance as a political strategist has passed, if it ever existed at all - and you need to be focusing your energies on finding wife number four.  There is an idiot out there somewhere just waiting for you to notice her.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Democrats Struggle to Reform and Unify

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Late one night last week as I was perusing Twitter for the last time before calling it a night, I happened upon a tweet that caught my attention:

A Message to the Unity Reform Commission
What we want:
  • CLOSED Primaries
  • No Caucuses
  • Super Delegates to Remain
  • Presidential Candidates must be registered as a DEMOCRAT for 2 years prior to seeking the Democratic Party nomination
  • All presidential candidates MUST release 10 years of income taxes

A single individual had posted the tweet, so I assumed the "we" in "what we want" was the royal "we."

That tweet stoked more than a few feelings.  As someone who has registered in states where a statement of party affiliation or "independent" is required, I always chose "independent" because I regard my voting proclivities as nobody's business but my own.  Closed primaries force voters to register with one major party or the other, or sit the process out.  I always felt that was somewhat less than democratic.

(Missouri, FYI, does not require a declaration of party affiliation when registering, giving knuckleheads like me the ability to vote in either party's primary.)

The notion that presidential candidates must be registered as a "DEMOCRAT" (emphasis courtesy of the tweeter), was an obvious dig at Bernie Sanders, the goat on which some Hillary stalwarts tried to blame her loss to Trump.  (Anne Rice, I'm looking at you!)

The other provision of this royal demand that bothered me was the notion that the Democratic Party should keep using "super delegates," those hoary old office holders and professional politicians who think they deserve a vote in the final candidate selection based solely on their status as senior Democrats.  I replied back to the tweeter asking why she felt it was necessary to keep super delegates, and, not surprisingly, she bit my head off.  The tweeter defended super delegates with this reply:

"Because they have devoted their careers supporting, donating, canvassing, governing, and promoting Our policies for Democrats.  Super delegates have NEVER picked Our candidates, the voters have - Learn History.  If Republicans had SD's, Trump wouldn't be President."

Being somewhat of a farmer, I recognized the pungent scent of fertilizer, but I chose to ignore the taunt to "learn history" and go to bed instead.

But, as Paul Harvey used to say, here is the rest of the story:  Lots of young people work toward having a say in the Party by supporting, donating, canvassing, and promoting Democratic policies, and they should not have their avenues to influence blocked by some eighty-two-year-old senator who feels entitled to hold a permanent seat at the convention.  Republican super delegates might have kept Trump out of the White House - who knows?  But it is just as likely that a Democratic convention free of the heavy-handed influence of super delegates would have nominated someone with less baggage than Mrs. Bill Clinton and might have even won the election.

That was then, but this is now.

Now the Democratic Party has a working group called the Unity Reform Commission (the group to which the above tweet was addressed).  The URC was created by a resolution proposed by the Democratic National Convention Rules Committee and subsequently approved by delegates to the 2016 national convention.  It is made up of 21 members appointed by Secretary Clinton, Senator Sanders, and DNC Chair Tom Perez.   The chair is Jennifer O'Malley Dillon of Washington, DC, and the vice chair is Larry Cohen, also of Washington, DC.

The URC seeks to empower Democrats to participate in the party at every level.  It is looking at key elements in the party process including:

  • increasing participation in the presidential nominating process;
  • ways to engage new and unaffiliated voters;
  • the role of unpledged delegates;  and,
  • how to rebuild and make the party competitive all across the country.
The URC has held two public meetings so far this year - Washington, DC, in May, and San Antonio in June.   Public meetings are planned for Chicago on August 25-26, and Las Vegas on October 18-21.

The tweeter who got me fired up in the first place was right about one thing.  Now is definitely the time for those interested in making change within the Democratic Party to make their voices heard.  Defeating the Trump forces of darkness will require Democrats fielding the strongest teams possible, and that stands the best chance of happening if we all force our way to the table and make our voices heard.

That's what democracy is - people being heard!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Has Mark Sanford Reached the End of his Appalachian Trail?

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The famed "Appalachian Trail" is a 2,200 mile hiking trail extending from Georgia to Maine and traversing some of America's most beautiful and scenic mountain woodlands.  Truly bad-ass hikers can walk the entire trail in one long and arduous season, but most people who attempt to walk the full length of the AT do so over two, or three, or even several summers.

The trail figured prominently in the news nine years ago this month when the Republican governor of South Carolina, Mark Sanford, disappeared for six days.  After people began talking about his mysterious absence, Sanford's staff released a story that the governor was hiking the Appalachian Trail.  The truth about Governor Sanford's disappearance from public view finally came to light after a reporter caught him disembarking from a flight at the Atlanta airport - a flight that had originated in Buenos Aires.  Sanford stumbled through a few explanations, but finally admitted that he had been in Argentina spending time with his mistress.

Sanford's wife, Jenny, soon took their sons and moved out of the governor's mansion - later divorcing her unfaithful husband.  And while members of Sanford's own Republican Party in the state legislature threatened him with impeachment, he managed to remain in office until his term expired in 2011.  Most people felt that Sanford's political career was at an end, but at least he still had his pretty girlfriend.

Most people, however, were wrong.  Sanford's political career, his own personal Appalachian Trail, resumed in 2013 when he won the congressional seat vacated by South Carolina's new senator, Tim Scott.  Sanford managed to keep that seat for three terms before finally losing a primary election to retain the seat this past week.  Sanford's primary loss was reportedly due to his occasionally being critical of Donald Trump, even though he managed to vote the Trump position on most issues.

Rabid conservatives of the Trump stripe have a low tolerance for independent thought.  Jeff Flake, the Republican senator from Arizona whose own political career has been has been terminated, or at least detoured, because of his reluctance to publicly prostrate himself before his party's Golden Bull, describes the Republican fawning over Trump as being "cult-like."

So Mark Sanford has lost the Republican primary to retain his seat in Congress.  He is definitely down, but like many other hikers, but he may not be out.  Anyone who bounced back politically from a two-continent love scandal can probably outlast a political anomaly like Donald Trump - a man who has trouble "hiking" to the bathroom without the use of a golf cart.

Don't put those hiking boots in the yard sale just yet, Congressman.  You're probably going to need them after America dumps Trump.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

A Letter From David Koch

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

In this day and age of electronic communications, the once ubiquitous practice of direct mail fundraising is fast becoming a thing of the past.  Why should organizations and hucksters put a stamp on an envelope when it is much simpler and more cost effective just to press a button and send out thousands of appeals at one time - with no stamps at all?

But the occasional begging letter still makes its way into my mailbox - the one that sits patiently out by the road in front of my house.  A few weeks ago I mentioned that I had received a letter from a scam organization that was encouraging me to go to the internet and support them - with a donation - because of their support for Ol' Roy Blunt, one of my United States Senators and the recipient of a phony award presented by the begging organization.

The letter regarding Blunt seemed to be directed at the one remaining class of people who might not be totally internet savvy - the elderly.  Yesterday I received another letter of questionable merit which, if I were a betting person, I would wager was also intended for old timers like me.

Yesterday's letter was from David H. Koch, the Executive Vice President of Koch Industries.  It was mailed by and for a group founded by the billionaire Koch and his billionaire brother - Americans for Prosperity - out of Arlington, Virginia.  And although the envelope was packed and somewhat heavier than an ordinary letter, it came with just one stamp affixed, a special one for use by non-profit organizations.  Special rates for special people, I suppose.

David's letter was an appeal for money for Americans for Prosperity, an appeal that was eight full pages in length.  I was "invited" to send in a donation and to join "this all-out battle for freedom."  Freedom, as some say, is not free, apparently.  And where else but in the United States would billionaires have balls big enough to go asking senior citizens on fixed incomes to send them money? It warmed my heart to know that soulless bastards like David Koch actually needed something from little people like me.

David's letter praised the "free enterprise" that helped to build the billionaire class to which he is a member.  He also snarled that times are so perilous that an "avowed socialist" like Bernie Sanders could mount a serious political campaign in the United States.  Then he posited a list of six areas in which Americans for Prosperity has already had significant influence.  To wit:

  • Confirmations:  AFP pushed for the confirmation of Justice Gorsuch and is continuing its "unique grassroots efforts to support the confirmation of federal judges who will respect the Constitution and restore our freedoms."  Thus, one must suppose, providing us with a judiciary based on the judicial underpinnings of grifters like Antonin Scalia, a man who died while in the process of accepting a bribe.
  • Regulation:  An effort primarily directed at repealing regulations enacted by the administration of President Obama and replacing them with free enterprise models free of regulation.   Goodbye net neutrality, hello corporate control of the internet.
  • Taxes and Spending:  The tax "reform" plan enacted by Congress and signed by Trump was actively supported by AFP.  No surprise there.  The rich grew richer at the expense of the poor - as the god of unrestrained capitalism so ordained.
  • Healthcare:  David brags that "Thanks to our activists, we're involved with stakeholders in Washington to help develop healthcare reforms that will result in accessible, affordable, and patient-centered healthcare for all Americans."  That malarky was immediately followed by a statement that AFP helped defeat "Obamacare Medicaid expansions" in Kansas, North Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia - and began rolling back Medicaid expansions in Arkansas and Ohio.    People who believe that the Kochs or AFP  are interested in providing Americans with affordable and accessible healthcare probably need to have their heads examined - although if they live in Red states, they would have no affordable way of getting that done.
  • Labor Reform:  Something David Koch sees as "winning Right-to-Work victories" in places like Missouri and Kentucky.  Meanwhile, Missouri voters are preparing to try to negate that particular Koch/AFP victory at the polls.
  • School Choice:  AFP and the billionaire Koch worked to pass education savings accounts in Arizona - a tax dodge that takes money away from public schools - and they are working to expand charter schools - another ploy to defund and destroy public education.
And to help fund this master plot to rape and bankrupt America, David Koch wants me to send him a few dollars.  What a deal!

David Koch's letter did come with a postage-paid return envelope which I will stuff some of my other junk mail and send back to him.  It's the least I can do - and Daddy Warbucks can pay the postage!

(I am left to wonder how these clowns are coming up with my name and address.  I have never contributed to any conservative candidate or organization, nor have I never been to a white nationalist rally or any other Trump event.  Somebody has sold my mailing information to these right-wing slugs, most likely a group with a national base whose membership is primarily old folks.  AARP, I'm thinking that you fit that bill.  It may be about time for me to cancel my membership - again.)

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The High Cost of Tantrums

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

When Donald Trump doesn't like somebody, he usually bangs out a few insulting tweets and then, if the unlucky individual works for the federal government, often fires him or her - sometimes through a tweet.  His emotions fluctuate like a jack-in-the-box on speed, and his tantrums have become so commonplace that much of America has come to accept them as more of Trump's standard bodily functions - like belching or farting.  Behaving like a spoiled three-year-old is just what he does.

But Donald Trump's outbursts of rage come with a cost.  Sometimes they make him and our country look foolish, such as with his bizarre attacks on Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week, while, at other times, they are more of a direct drain on the U.S. Treasury.

Solomon Lartey is a records management specialist with the federal government, a position for which he is paid $65,969 per annum.  During the first five months of the Trump administration Mr. Lartey's actual duties focused primarily on one thing.  The man sat, day-in and day-out, bent over a desk at a desk in a small room of the Executive Office Building next door to the White House where he taped together torn up pieces of paper - official presidential documents that had been ripped to pieces by Donald John Trump.

Federal law requires that any piece of paper that is touched by the hand of the President be preserved by the National Archives.   Donald Trump, perhaps as a result of a lifetime of shady business practices. had a habit of ripping up papers once he was done with them and then depositing the pieces in the nearest trash can.  The White House staff tried explaining the law to their boss, but Trump, being Trump, continued to do things his way - and the weary staff finally gave up.

Now, some news reports are indicating that several individuals (perhaps as many as five - each making north of $60,000 a year) are involved in sifting through the trash cans in the Oval Office and at the private residence in the White House in order to retrieve the pieces of the documents that Trump has ripped up - and then spend hours taping them back together.

Those are our tax dollars at work.

(I'm beginning to get a sense as to why Stormy Daniels felt the need to spank Donald Trump.  He is a very bad boy.)

Monday, June 11, 2018

Monday's Poetry: "Home"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

I heard an astounding statement on the radio this morning - the United States now has custody of more than 10,000 refugee children whose parents either crossed the U.S. border illegally or presented themselves at the border, kids in tow, seeking asylum.  More than 10,000 children, some of whom are only weeks old.  We have all seen the news coverage of screaming children being pulled from the arms of their distraught parents, images that have to raise moral issues even in the most jaded of individuals.

There was one story in the news this week about a mother who was detained in Texas and her children were flown to a childcare agency in New York City.  The kids are being placed in foster care, even though most of the state foster care systems are already well over capacity.  Others are going into group homes, administrative "detention centers," and even psychiatric hospitals.  All without the participation, consent, or even knowledge of their parents.

The kids are traumatized, the parents are shell-shocked, and the representatives of the government who perpetrate these atrocities are smug and sanctimonious.   The narrative that our government would like us to buy into is that these people are crossing the border totally by choice as a way of making more money and perhaps garnering some of the material advantages of our capitalistic system.

The true circumstances of people who make the long march north are often far more complicated.  Many are fleeing gang violence and circumstances so dire and dangerous that the threats posed by the American ICE gestapo are a risk worth taking.  They are running from a home that is literally the "mouth of a shark."

Today's selection is "Home" by British-Somali poet Warsan Shire, a young lady who is a well established poet and songwriter.  This poem has become a rallying cry for the world's refugees and their advocates.  "Home" illuminates some of the circumstances that actually force people to leave the safety and comfort of their "home" and flee into the unknown.  Those thousands of children and their parents crossing our border did not head north for a vacation - many were fleeing for their very lives - and they ran out of one fire and into another.

by Warsan Shire

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

your neighbors running faster than you

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

no one leaves home unless home chases you

fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it's not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn't be going back.

you have to understand,

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

no one chooses refugee camps

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


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

or the words are more tender

than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
be hunger
forget pride
your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear

run away from me now
i dont know what i've become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here 

Sunday, June 10, 2018

The Strength of Justin Trudeau

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Donald John Trump, the self-proclaimed master negotiator who somehow managed to start and lose a worldwide trade war in only a few weeks, is in Singapore where he plans to meet on Tuesday with the world's nuclear bad boy, Kim Jong Un of North Korea.  The two leaders, neither of whom has garnered much respect from other major nations of the world, are promoting their sit-down with one another as a summit with the potential to make the world a safer place, and Trump, for his part, says that he is so astute that he will know within the first minute the event whether the meeting will be successful or not.

Trump is arriving in Singapore still over-heated in the wake of a tantrum that he threw regarding Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.  While flying from the G-7 meeting in Quebec, Canada, to the summit in Singapore, Trump became enraged when Trudeau made it clear that Canada would not bend to economic pressures from the United States.  Trump began tweeting insults at Trudeau, calling him "dishonest" and "weak," and then withdrew his support for the joint communique that had been signed by the G-7 leaders at the meeting.

And Trudeau is weak by Trump standards.  One has only to remember the tearful Trudeau welcoming refugees from Syria to Canada at the Toronto airport one cold night in 2015 with the words, "You are home now!" - and compare that shameful behavior to that firm resolve of Donald Trump and his administration as they rip frightened children away from their parents who are seeking sanctuary in the United States, a country once thought to be a safe and welcoming harbor for the world's oppressed peoples.

One leader is guided by humanity, the other is fueled by white nationalism and greed.   One has the strength to do what is right, the other is Donald John Trump.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Republicans Meet the Enemy - and It Is Them

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Most of the high drama in our nation's capital of late seems to be in the form of political showdowns, affairs which are, quite surprisingly, taking place within the city's dominant political party - the GOP.   That's right, the big news is not Republicans versus Democrats, it's Republicans fighting among themselves.  And it goes without saying that this family-feuding couldn't happen to a more deserving group of individuals.

Some, if not many, Republicans are not happy with Donald Trump's trade war.  Trump seemed to think that he could prance onto the world stage, set some tariffs (import duties) on goods that he felt were being unfairly dumped into the U.S. market, and head back to the golf course without facing any consequences.  That would be that.  Those with more political experience than Trump, however, such as most members of Congress, knew better.  The affected countries immediately began hitting back by placing tariffs on U.S. exports - and many particular exports of states and localities that had been big-time Trump supporters.  Donald Trump might not feel immediate pain from his knee-jerk decision to start a trade war with a host of U.S. allies, but his partisan weasels in Congress felt the fire from day one.

A substantial group of Republicans are very distressed over the Trump administration's re-energized ardor in attacking Obamacare.  Trump's people are currently urging a federal judge in Texas to throw out the law's protections for people with pre-existing conditions.   Even Republicans who oppose Obamacare in principle want to keep some parts of the law - and one of the portions that they would like to salvage - one that is of direct benefit to many of their constituents - is the provision that forces insurance companies to accept enrollees who have pre-existing conditions.  But the petulant Trump wants to erase every vestige of President Obama.

While Donald Trump and certain important members of the Republican Party remain loud and belligerent in their hatred of immigrants, other Republicans prefer a more moderate approach to the issue, and, in particular, they favor doing something to allow the young people who are part of the "Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals" (DACA) program to remain in this country.  A couple of dozen tolerant Republican congressmen have signed onto a discharge petition that would force the House of Representatives to bring an immigration bill to the floor for discussion and a vote - a discussion and vote where DACA could be debated before the nation.  The GOP leadership has placed a temporary lid on this intra-party revolt, but it could still blow at any second.

And then there is pot.

The raging war over marijuana that has ravaged the nation for decades has about played itself out, with some states already having passed laws legalizing marijuana for medical and even recreational use, and other states lining up to do so within the next couple of years.   Old lies have been proven false, and a new day is dawning across much of the country.   The last bastion of resistance to tolerance and acceptance on the marijuana front appears to be in the U.S. Department of Justice and in the person of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, III, the Attorney General of the United States.

Jeff Sessions is a rigid old white cracker from rural Alabama who has yet to accept the results of the Civil War, much less something as controversial as that hippie drug, marijuana.  When he was asked about pot at his senate confirmation hearing to be attorney general, Sessions famously replied, "Good people don't smoke marijuana."   Sessions position on the subject since assuming his role as attorney general and head of the Justice Department is that federal laws against marijuana are the laws of the land and will be enforced, regardless of what the heretical states do.  (A stance which puts the unreconstructed Confederate wannabe in the uncomfortable position of opposing state's rights.)

Now Jeff Sessions is pitted against a bill sponsored by Senator Corey Gardner of Colorado (a Republican) and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts (a Democrat) that would allow states to regulate marijuana without federal interference.  The bill goes counter to a core belief of Sessions, but his Republican boss, Donald John Trump, is indicating that he favors the legislation and would sign the bill if it reaches his desk.

One-party control of the government is not good, and it leaves room for much mischief and long-term damage.    But at some point party solidarity begins to fragment and factions emerge.  That seems to be what is happening now.  If the Democrats are insufficient in number to mount a balance to the GOP insanity, then the Republicans have to do it themselves.  Slowly, and surely, that appears to be happening.

(And a note to Jeff Sessions:  Good people don't lie about meetings with representatives of foreign governments, call immigrants "animals," or pay off porn stars - but good people do smoke pot, every day in every neighborhood - even in Muskogee, Oklahoma   Instead of trying to function as Attorney General of the United States, a position that is clearly well above your ability, perhaps you should opt instead to take up residence in a display case at a museum.  There you could peacefully represent an arcane worldview and rest secure in the knowledge that you would be dusted regularly - probably by an immigrant.)

Friday, June 8, 2018

Anthony Bourdain in West Plains

by Pa Rock
Collector of Local Color

There is news out of France this morning that Anthony Bourdain has killed himself.  Bourdain, a celebrity chef and author who performed his culinary magic on the world stage, had surprisingly made a sojourn into the Missouri Ozarks a few years back, and even recorded his experiences from that trip for his Travel Channel television show, No Reservations.

Bourdain visited the small town of West Plains, Missouri, in 2011, in order to spend a few days with his favorite writer, West Plains resident Daniel Woodrell (author of Winter's Bone and several other novels of life in the Ozarks.).   Bourdain had called Woodrell the "best writer in America."

According to a few local news stories from that time, Bourdain and Woodrell enmeshed themselves in Ozarks food-gathering and preparation.  They skinned squirrels which Bourdain used in pot pies, and spent some time on the Current River gigging for suckers.  It was during the later pursuit that Woodrell broke his shoulder.

Anthony Bourdain stepped into the world spotlight with a book that explored the "dark corners" of New York restaurants, and he was still exploring dark corners when he came to the Ozarks.   Although I was not living here at the time, I am sure that both Bourdain and the city of West Plains benefited from his brief visit to our rustic community.

Rest in peace, Chef.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

A Tale of Two Heroes

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Donald Trump recently mused that if he was at a school where a shooting was occurring, he would probably run into the building and confront the shooter.  And while that statement from the 287-pound Trump undoubtedly reminded many Americans of something they spread on their gardens each spring, Trump tends to believe much of what he says.  Donald Trump is a hero - in his own mind.

But in a world as diverse and dynamic as our own, true heroes do exist and occasionally reveal themselves.  Here are two recent examples:

First, a young black man named James Shaw, Jr. (age 29) was having a meal at a Waffle House in a suburb of Nashville, Tennessee, this past April when a mostly nude young man entered the diner and began spraying customers with gunfire from an automatic weapon.  When the shooter, who was clad only in a jacket, took a break from shooting to reload, Mr. Shaw rushed him and grabbed the hot barrel of the man's AR-15 and wrested it from him.  The shooter, Travis Reinking, also 29-years-old, fled the scene and was captured by police the next day.

Four people were killed in the shooting, and four others wounded.

James Shaw, Jr. instantly achieved widespread notoriety for his heroic action.  His alma mater, Tennessee State University, recognized him in a ceremony and reception, and the university established a scholarship in his name.  For his part, Mr. Shaw set up a GoFundMe site with a goal of raising $15,000 - not for himself, but to benefit the shooting victims.  The website quickly brought in more that $200,000.

James Shaw, Jr. was a hero both during and after the attack.  Many public figures were effusive in praise of his bravery.  But one important public official was somewhat reticent to offer congratulations.  Donald John Trump had to be goaded by pundits and other politicians before he finally - 22 days after the incident - picked up the telephone to speak with Mr. Shaw and "commend (his) heroic actions and quick thinking last month."

Did I mention that James Shaw, Jr., is a black man?

Meanwhile in France . . .

A 22-year-old "illegal" immigrant from Mali, Mamoudou Gassama, also a black man, was walking along a Paris street two weeks ago enroute to watch a soccer game when he was suddenly confronted with blaring car horns and people pointing to the sky.  Mr. Gassama looked upward where he saw, to his horror, a 4-year-old child dangling in the air as he desperately clung to a balcony railing - four stories up!  Showing no concern for his personal safety, the young "illegal" alien scaled the exterior of the four-story build in less than thirty seconds, jumped from one balcony to another, and rescued the frightened child.  Mr. Gassama said that he did not get scared until after the rescue was completed.

French President, Emmanuel Macron, who, like Trump, poses as being tough on immigration, nevertheless exhibited the political acumen and humanity to immediately recognize the heroics of the young man from Mali.   He invited Mr. Gassama to a sit-down at Elysee Palace where he presented the youthful hero with a certificate and a gold medal - and a promise to fast track his application for citizenship.   Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, telephoned the man who Parisians are now calling "Spiderman" to commend his heroics and to offer him a job with the Paris fire brigade.

Two heroes and two very different responses from national leaders.  One can't help but suspect that if the American hero, James Shaw, Jr., had been an "illegal," the ICE gestapo would have grabbed him before the sun set that day, and, if he had children, they would have been rounded up and placed in a cage somewhere in Texas.

But I digress.

We should all take comfort in knowing that there are heroes among us.  James Shaw, Jr. and Mamoudou Gassama risked their lives to save strangers, and, with their selfless acts of bravery, these two young men have shown the human race its true potential.

We have the ability to live in harmony and to care for one another.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Bobby Kennedy Remembered

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Senator Robert F. Kennedy, the leading candidate in the Democratic race to replace Lyndon Johnson as President, was assassinated fifty years ago this week.  Kennedy, who had been the Attorney General of the United States in the presidential administration of his older brother, John, left the Johnson administration after JFK's assassination and was elected to the U.S. Senate from New York.  He entered the 1968 presidential on March 16th of 1968, and Lyndon Johnson, the sitting Democratic President, announced fifteen days later that he would not seek re-election.  Many saw Kennedy's entry into the race as a prominent factor in Johnson's decision to pull out.

Bobby Kennedy quickly proved to be a formidable candidate.  He had, in fact, just won the California primary shortly before he was gunned down.  He was walking through the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles with supporters heading toward a press conference when a young Palestinian national, Sirhan B. Sirhan, managed to work his way through the crowd and shoot the senator in the head.

Kennedy died of his wounds at a Los Angeles hospital on June 6, 1968 - and with him died the hopes of many young Americans.

Delores Huerta, a co-founder along with Cesar Chavez, of the National Farmworkers Association (later called the United Farm Workers), was with RFK at the podium in the ballroom of the Ambassador Hotel shortly before he was shot.  In recent interviews about Kennedy and the events of that night, Huerta stressed how he was the hope of the nation's Hispanics.  She felt that the killing of Bobby Kennedy turned American history onto a dark path the resulted not only in the election of Richard Nixon later that year but seeped on down through history to the election of Donald Trump in 2016.   She saw Kennedy as the pivotal character who could have changed a half-century of history for the better.

Bobby Kennedy's death not only signaled the end of the era of American politics that eventually became known as Camelot, it also seemed to be the closing chapter in a bloody segment of our nation's history where liberal political figures - and Civil Rights workers - were being killed for their beliefs and political activism.  Bobby Kennedy was the last lion, and after he was gone the inequity of the status quo resumed its slow push downhill.

Robert Kennedy's light of promise was extinguished by violence, and, as a nation, we have been diminished by that act.  Rest in peace, Bobby, and know that you are still held in high regard in the hearts of millions.  You served us well, though far too briefly.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The GOP and Hotel Mattresses

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

What is it with Republicans and their fetish for hotel mattresses?

First Americans were shocked - or at least decent Americans were shocked - when stories began circulating during the last presidential campaign which suggested that Donald Trump had rented a particular hotel room in Moscow in order to defile a bed that the Obamas had slept on.  When Trump was in Moscow for the Miss Universe Pageant a couple of years earlier, he allegedly hired some Russian hookers for a urination party on the Obama bed.   A postscript to the sordid tale suggested that the Russian spy agency, the KGB, has a film of the pee party and that Vladimir Putin has used that film to blackmail Trump into being little more than a Russian stooge in the White House.

That's weird enough on its own, but now another hotel mattress story involving a prominent Republican politician is also emerging.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, a man who has a starring role in several on-going corruption scandals, is facing allegations that he used a top aid for several personal errands and other matters unrelated to her government duties.  The aid said that Pruitt had her booking personal flights for him, assisting in a housing search for the administrator, and even trying to get the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC, to sell him a used mattress.

Several questions remain unanswered in this highly sensitive government matter.  For instance, was Pruitt trying to buy a particular mattress, perhaps one with which he had a sentimental attachment?  Was he possibly seeking a souvenir of a somewhat kinky nature from a property owned by Donald Trump?  Or did he have some legitimate and mundane use for a mattress and just wanted to save himself a few dollars by buying used?

Or perhaps he is planning a party?

Decent Americans probably don't want to know!

Monday, June 4, 2018

Monday's Poetry: "The Divine Right of Kings"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Yesterday in this space I waxed unamused at Donald Trump's seeming belief that he is well above and beyond any laws constructed by mortal man.  Trump, if he believed in any God besides himself, would undoubtedly see his power and authority in much the same manner as the European monarchs of old saw theirs - that it was granted to him - and them - by God.  Trump rules, and they ruled, because God ordained it, and mortal man has no authority whatsoever over whom God has anointed to lead.

With that preamble in mind, I went in search of a poem to highlight the sentiment.  I didn't find one that suited my frame of mind, but I did unearth a little gem by Edgar Allan Poe entitled "The Divine Right of Kings."  It is not, as the name implies, some heady verse attacking or sustaining the concept of autocratic monarchs, but rather a love ballad - the poet's declaration of love for a Miss Ellen King.

Nevertheless, the closing line could have been murmured with affection by Donald Trump speaking of himself, or by Trump's doting love hound, Rudy Giuliani - to which the poet would have certainly replied, "Nevermore!"

The Divine Right of Kings
by Edgar Allan Poe

The only King by right divine
Is Ellen King, and were she mine
I'd strive for liberty no more,
But hug the glorious chains I wore.

Her bosom is an ivory throne
Where tyrant virtue reigns alone;
No subject ice dare interfere
To check the power that governs here.

O!  would she deign to rule my fate,
I'd worship Kings and kingly state,
And hold this maxim all life long
The King - my King, can do no wrong.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Trump: Above and Beyond the Law

by Pa Rock 
Citizen Journalist

There were two stories in the news the past week which would seem to argue that the presidency of the United States is a position well beyond the reach of the law, an argument that might make the job especially appealing to a person whose business practices have historically been less than above-board.

Wouldn't life be great if we could do no wrong, regardless of the greed or wickedness of our intent?  Well, perhaps not to all of us, but certainly there would be a few who would relish the idea of the law always bending to suit them - or at least one big orange narcissist who had spent a lifetime believing that he was True North in a world of misguided losers.

The government released the monthly "jobs figures" earlier this week, a statement to the nation on the fluctuating unemployment rate.  The President of the United States has traditionally been briefed on this piece of economic data the evening before it is released to the public, but then keeps that information to himself until the announcement is officially made the next morning.  An unscrupulous President could, if he leaked the numbers early, impact the markets or assist his cronies in making a quick profit off of the information.

Donald Trump has been critical of this particular report in the past and whined that the information was compiled in such a way as to not give an accurate picture of the real jobs situation.  This week, however, the jobs numbers were particularly good, and Trump chose to tweet his pleasure regarding the report before it was officially released.  Under other circumstances, and with another leaker, this would have been regarded as a crime - the leaking or sharing of classified material.  However, Trump has always argued that since the President has the power to declassify anything, and he can never be guilty of leaking.  He simply "declassified" the material early.

And it can go well beyond jobs numbers.  By that logic, Trump could give top secret information on U.S. nuclear capabilities to Putin or some other Russian prostitute and be guilty of nothing because the material was declassified the moment it passed his pouty lips.

Another case arguing that the President is above the law surfaced yesterday when the New York Times revealed the text of a twenty-page letter that Trump's lawyers had sent to the Mueller investigative team in January.   That letter posited that the President could not obstruct justice because he is the head of the executive branch and essentially over all investigations within that branch - including the one that Robert Mueller is conducting.  The President cannot obstruct justice because he is justice.  If he does anything to change the course of justice, he is simply just rearranging the deck chairs on his yacht.  And the entire boat belongs to him anyway.

The President of the United States cannot be guilty of releasing classified material because if he reveals it, it is no longer classified - and - he cannot obstruct justice because justice serves at his pleasure anyway.

What a sweet job that is - especially for someone who has always held the law in contempt.   Donald Trump sees the presidency as one big, beautiful get-out-jail-free card.  He has always known he was above the law, and now he is.

And now, one of Trump's lawyers, Rudy Giuliani, is even saying that Trump probably has the power to pardon himself!

The voters own this catastrophic, moldering pile of self-righteousness, and now the voters must - MUST - fix it!

Saturday, June 2, 2018

The Roy Blunt Health Care Award Scam

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I received a most interesting piece of mail this week -  a glossy one page flyer informing me that several Missouri organizations were congratulating my state's junior senator, Ol' Roy Blunt, for being a champion of health care innovation.  The flyer came from a sketchy group called the American Life Sciences Innovation Council with a return address in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Blunt, the patriarch of a family of lobbyists, pulls down a handsome side income by serving in the United States Senate where he champions American corporate interests.  If he has any interest in health care, it is in ensuring that profits for insurance companies and the health industry are unimpeded.  He is a strong believer in the Republican political ethic that the only involvement government should have in health care is to pay the premiums of members of Congress - and screw everybody else.

But here was this group I had never heard of sending out a flyer telling me that seven Missouri groups were all congratulating Senator Blunt for being a "champion" of health care and then encouraging me to visit an internet site to learn more.  The seven groups, which all sounded like lobbying organizations, were:  Associated Industries of Missouri, Missouri Pharmacy Association, Missouri Biotechnology Association, SCIL (Choices and Empowerment for People with Disabilities), BioNexus of KC, and CHOP (the Coalition of Hematology and Oncology Practices).

The flyer contained a few photos of senior citizens and their doctors, along with one cheesy shot of a smiling Ol' Roy.

I did some quick research and found out that the group had initially gotten its web address through a proxy registration out of Arizona at Go Daddy, and its initial physical address had been a mail drop in Washington, DC,  a box that had also been used by Republican con-artist and "filmmaker" James O'Keefe.  One of the group's past tactics had been to make robocalls recognizing various congresspeople as "champions" of health care - people who were in the fight to actually pull the government out of health care.

Then I visited the site that the flyer directed me toward.  Just typing in the name of the group and "dot org" resulted in nothing, but when I added a backslash and "Blunt" as outlined in the flyer, a copy of the flyer that I had received popped up.   There I learned that I could congratulate Senator Blunt myself by simply providing the American Life Sciences Innovation Council with my personal contact information.  Who knows, maybe then I could help fund future awards for other health care innovation "champions," perhaps like Paul Ryan or Mitch McConnell.

The line of people and groups who are trying to cheat old folks out of their meager incomes grows ever longer.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Governor Scumbag Leaves Office Today

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Eric Greitens, the scandal-plagued Republican governor of Missouri, has thrown in the towel and tendered his resignation from the state's highest office effective at 5:00 p.m. today.

Greitens, who once harbored presidential ambitions, ran for governor in 2016 solely on the "qualifications" of being a former Navy Seal and a good family man.  Once in office he assumed the mantle of a reformer and went about annoying many of the state's Republican legislators - a group generally more concerned with meeting the needs of lobbyists than they are in serving the people who elected them.  When the governor's political fortunes began heading south earlier this year, state politicians from both parties were eager to pile on.

The wheels started coming off of the Greiten's steam roller in January when it was revealed in the press that he had been involved in an extra-marital affair with his hairdresser two years earlier, and that during the affair he had blindfolded her and then duct-taped her, either nude or semi-nude, to a piece of exercise equipment in his basement gym.  He took a photo of the bound woman and threatened to make it public if she ever told anyone about their affair.

The randy politician was facing legal charges regarding that incident, as well as charges that he had illegally used a donor list for a charity to solicit funds for his campaign.  The Missouri Legislature, some of whose members were still angry that the governor had tried to reform them, was in special session discussing his possible impeachment at the time Greitens announced that he would resign.

Greifens will be replaced in office by the state's current Republican lieutenant governor, Mike Parson, a farmer from rural Polk County and a former county sheriff.   No one seems to be expecting any pesky reform  movement from the Parson administration - and the army of lobbyists who run Jefferson City are no doubt breathing a big sigh of relief.

Things should be back to normal in the Show Me state in no time at all.

Eric, you managed to leave our state in worse shape than you found it.  Good riddance to you, sir.

Thursday, May 31, 2018


by Pa Rock

The young man who was buried yesterday wasn't a close friend of mine, but we were friends.  He was the one I called a couple of years ago when I managed to drive my pick-up truck into a hole in the pasture - and he quit what he was doing and drove over to pull me out.  He also knew that I collect aluminum cans, and on a couple of occasions he brought me several bags of beer cans, most of which I supposed that he had personally emptied himself.

The young man who was buried yesterday held down a job, and I respected him for that.  But even with a regular income, life was still hard.  His father passed away shortly before I returned to the Ozarks four years ago, and one of the first social functions that I attended here was a chili supper to help raise money to pay off the man's funeral expenses.

The young man who was buried yesterday was steeped in local rural values.   He had a Confederate flag flying from a pole in the front yard of the house he was living in, and he once sent word to me that he read my blog - though I strongly suspected that he was not a fan.   He also had a violent streak.  I ran into him in the grocery store last year and couldn't help but notice that he had his arm in a cast.  When I asked him about it, he replied rather sheepishly that he had broken it in an accident.  I heard later that he had sustained the injury while fighting.  In the Ozarks fighting is often a favored form of dispute resolution.

But the young man who was buried yesterday was in one fight too many.  A couple of weeks ago he got into a dispute with another angry young man over some missing motorcycle parts, and a fist fight ensued.  After the raging gladiators proved unable to settle the dispute with their fists, they each ran for their guns.  The young man that I knew - the one who was buried yesterday - was shot multiple times.  One estimate that I heard was that he was hit fourteen times, with some of those being head shots.  He survived in a coma for a few days before finally succumbing to his injuries.  The other guy was reportedly hit twice.  He survives, and as of this time no arrests have been made.

The young man who was buried yesterday died in a gunfight.  A shoot-out. A needless and pointless death that was the inevitable result of too many guns adrift in a society that is steeped in violence.  Now his widow will face the burden of raising their two school-age children alone.    It won't be an easy task, but hopefully the kids will survive this tragedy and go on to live successful lives.  Sadly, their father, the young man who was buried yesterday, will never know if they did or not.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The Smell of White Trash Burning

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

"Comedian" Roseanne Barr went down in flames yesterday as ABC cancelled the reboot of her hit television series, and several other networks announced that they would no long air "Roseanne" reruns.

Ms. Barr, who has more or less declared her fealty to Donald Trump over the past few months, saw a steep rise in ratings as Trump trumpeted her show and her success - and as many (supposedly) Trump lemmings hurried to demonstrate their disdain for political correctness by watching show that Dear Leader was touting.

Roseanne was back to living the good life with buckets of money, fame, and influence.

But her castle in the sky came crashing down this week with a late-night tweet in which she compared former Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett to an ape and suggested she might have ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.  The irrepressible Ms. Barr later said that she was under the influence of the sleep aid, Ambien, while she banged out this gem in a reply to three other Twitter users:

"Muslim brotherhood and planet of the apes had a baby = vj"
The following day (yesterday) as public outrage over the remark was building, Roseanne began to realize the gravity of her situation.   She pulled the offensive tweet and started issuing effusive apologies.  Here is one of several tweets that she posted as the public firestorm began to consume her:

"I apologize to Valerie Jarrett and to all Americans.  I am truly sorry for making a bad joke about her politics and her looks.  I should have known better.  Forgive me - my joke was in bad taste."

But it was too little, too late.  Channing Dungey, the President of ABC Entertainment, had this to say later in the day as he announced the show's cancellation:

"Roseanne's Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant, and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show."

"Abhorrent" was also the descriptor used by Roseanne's cast mate, Sara Gilbert, who plays Darlene, the star's caustic daughter.  She tweeted the following:

"Roseanne's recent comments about Valerie Jarrett, and so much more, are abhorrent and do not reflect the beliefs of our cast and crew or anyone associated with our show.  I am disappointed in her actions to say the least."

Ms. Gilbert and the other cast and crew members of "Roseanne" are now as unemployed as the show's star - and they have the intemperance of Roseanne Barr to thank for their economic downturn.

There is apparently only one person on God's green earth who can post race-baiting tweets all night long and suffer no consequences, and that person is not Roseanne Barr.  She learned that lesson the hard way.

A very rude (and funny) young man whom I follow on Twitter posted a celebratory tweet regarding Roseanne's sudden downfall.  His tweet ended with these words:  "I love the smell of white trash burning!"  And while hating to sound uncharitable, I find myself enjoying that smell as well.  May the flames of justice spread like wildfire and consume bigotry and hatred in all of the dark corners of our great land

(Kudos to ABC Entertainment for acting quickly, decisively, and with honor.  If you can come up with a way to salvage the show without the obnoxious Ms. Barr, I will once again become a viewer.)

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Family Values in the Age of Trump

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The Florence Project, a non-profit group set up to assist arriving refugees as they cross into the United States from Mexico, says that there have been over 200 cases of immigrant children being taken from their parents in Arizona alone this year.  And the child-snatchers aren't desperadoes tied to a human-trafficking gang.  No, the villains who are taking terrorized, screaming children from the arms of their equally terrorized parents are representatives of the United States government.  The children are quickly warehoused and then placed into "foster care or whatever."

Many of these traumatized kids have no idea what is happening to them - or the fate that awaits them.    They are literally strangers trapped and alone in a strange land.  The parents, often on the run from terror at home, now find themselves struggling to find and reclaim the most important people in their lives.

And in Washington, DC, it's still cocktails at five as our political elite slap each other on the backs and toast "family values."

Donald Trump blames this government child-grabbing on a "horrible law" enacted by Democrats, a "horrible law" that, in fact, sprang from Trump's imagination one day as he was tweeting bile to his MAGA masses.  The child-grabbing was actually the result of a policy implemented earlier in the year by the Trump administration itself.

And what happens to these purloined children.   1,475 of them have disappeared.  That's right.  Our government has misplaced almost fifteen hundred of the children that it forcibly took from their parents.   Some have probably found their way back to the safety of family members, but others may have fallen prey to human traffickers and are trapped in the darkness of America's criminal underbelly.  Who knows the fate of these children?  Immigration and Customs Enforcement clearly does not have a clue.

Ripping children from the arms of their parents is a deliberate policy of the Trump administration, one designed to discourage people from trying to cross into the United States.  All adults entering the United States through Mexico are now subject to detainment, even those who seek entry for humanitarian reasons.  They are incarcerated as they wait for a hearing, and their children are detained elsewhere.  It is a system designed to inflict as much horror as possible onto the new arrivals.

But Donald Trump and underlings with badges and guns can live with that.  These brown invaders aren't people, after all, they're animals.

America has a lot to answer for in the age of Trump.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Sgt. Garland Macy Wounded in Action

by Pa Rock
Proud Son

Memorial Day is a time set aside each year when we honor the memory of our war veterans, and, in particular, those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country.  On this somber occasion, I would like to honor the war service of my father, Sgt. Garland Macy, who was wounded during his service in World War II.

I had known that my father was wounded during the time that he served in Europe, but he didn't talk about it much, and when he passed away in 2009 I possessed very few details about the incident.  Now, thanks to an article that I came across in an old issue of the Neosho Daily Democrat (Neosho, MO), I am better versed on that important event in my father's life.

The article regarding my dad ran at the top of the front page of the Neosho Daily Democrat on March 17th (St. Patrick's Day), of 1945.  It was a Saturday.  Almost that entire front page was dedicated to stories about the war, a global catastrophe that was quickly drawing to a close.   (The war in Europe would end less than two months later.).

Included on the front page of that issue were stories about Patton's tanks rolling across Europe and the impending fall of Germany, a massive allied air raid on Japan, the proposed drafting of nurses, a proposed Missouri veterans' loan law, a notice about expiring gas coupons, labor strikes in Detroit and Hollywood, and a brief notice about the Roosevelt's 40th wedding anniversary which was that day.   (FDR would be dead less than four weeks later.)  There was also an advertisement from a local bank comparing the importance of saving money to the importance of maintaining reserve troops.

But, at the top of the page was the story about my dad, the only war news with a local connection.  Mrs. Jack Lowe, the aunt who supplied the newspaper with the facts, was Pearl, the youngest sibling of my grandfather, Charles E. Macy.  My dad undoubtedly chose to contact her because his parents resided out in the country and would not have had a telephone.

Here is that article:

Sgt. Garland Macy Wounded in Action
Mrs. Jack Lowe, 323 West Adams Street, this morning received a telephone call from her nephew, Sgt. Garland Macy, who returned to the States last night.  Sgt. Macy, a tail gunner, was wounded in the arm in Luxembourg on January 26 and received the Purple Heart Award.  He is now stationed at the Springfield O'Reilly hospital, Springfield, Mo.  Sgt. Macy will arrive here tonight to spend two days with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. C.E. Macy, and other relatives and then will report back to O'Reilly hospital.  Sgt. Macy graduated from the Neosho high school in 1942 and enlisted in the Army in the fall of that year.  He was sent overseas last spring.

May our nation's war dead rest in the peace which they helped to secure, and may our surviving veterans be allowed to build lives of hope and dignity, and be shown the respect they so richly deserve - especially by their own government.

May our political leaders act in a measured and thoughtful manner and not quench the bright flame of freedom and justice that so many for so long have fought and died to maintain.

And may all of us enjoy the freedoms that we have been granted by those who sacrificed so very much.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Magpie Murders

by Pa Rock

Even though I have long regarded Anthony Horowitz as one of my favorite writers, it was not until recently that I actually read one of his works.  Horowitz, you see, is known primarily for being a writer of television programming, and his work in that medium is in a class by itself - a very high class.  While the television credits of Anthony Horowitz are too numerous to preclude any type of listing here, one of his signature achievements was the creation of two exceptionally fine British television series:  Midsomer Murders and Foyle's War, both of which were featured on the PBS show, Masterpiece Mysteries.

Horowitz is a master of British detective fiction.  His sleuths roam backroads and picturesque country villages gathering clues and sorting through suspects as they calmly and methodically reveal the machinations of of the crime and the criminal to the viewer - or reader.

Anthony Horowitz has begun writing novels, and if his most recent foray into that medium, Magpie Murders, is any indicator, he is destined to have as much success with books as he has had with television programs.

Magpie Murders is a very clever and complicated piece of writing that is, in essence, a book within a book.  The main character, Susan Ryeland, is an editor with a publishing house in London, a business concern that is primarily kept afloat by the success of one author, Alan Conway.  Conway is the author of eight detective novels featuring an old detective named Atticus Pund who emigrated to England from Germany shortly after World War II.  Pund bears several similarities to Agatha Christie's famed fictional Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot.

As the story opens, Ryeland finds a copy of Conway's latest book, his ninth, on her desk and takes it home to read it over the weekend.  The new novel its entitled Magpie Murders.  After finishing the manuscript she discovers that it is incomplete - the ending chapter is missing.  At about that same time she learns one other thing that will have a bearing on the success of the novel's sales - Alan Conway has committed suicide.

Susan sets off to find the missing chapter and to learn more about what drove her company's primary author to kill himself, and, as she attends the funeral and meets people involved in Conway's life, she begins. to suspect that he may have been murdered.  There are many similarities between the life of Alan Conway and the characters who populate the book that he has just finished, and the clever editor must sift through all of the tangled story lines and clever puzzles to arrive at the truth.

Horowitz's novel, Magpie Murders, contains the entire text of the fictional novel by the fictional author, Alan Conway, as well as the details of the mystery being unravelled by Conway's editor, Susan Ryeland.   It is two books forged together as one.

Horowitz also uses Ryeland's examination of Conway's work to highlight philosophical and intellectual details of writing in the mystery genre.  He stresses multiple times that actual murders are quite rare and not very representative of real life - except perhaps in certain high-crime areas.  He also examines the relationship between the detective and the reader, noting that they are bound together in the search for the truth of what has transpired.    Another aspect of his own detective fiction that Horowitz clarifies is his use of the English village for a backdrop, a convenient setting because everyone knows each other and it becomes easier to develop complex motives that will encompass most of the community - and thus keep the detective and the reader struggling to come up with the "truth" until the final pages.

Magpie Murders is more than just a story - or two stories - of murder.   It is an in-depth look at the work that goes into crafting mystery fiction - and who better to take us into the mind of a mystery writer than Anthony Horowitz!

It's a damn fine work!