Sunday, July 31, 2011

GOP to Eat Debt Ceiling Blame

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The Republican Party, in its ill-fated attempt to make the President look inept at handling the economy, has stirred up a mess from which it now appears unable to extricate itself.  It has listened to and heeded the demands from its ignorant wing - the teabaggers - who see any attempt to promote social programs or increase taxes on anyone as a personal affront to them.  The teabaggers don't want to see any increase in the debt ceiling at all, almost as vehemently as they don't want to make any  personal sacrifices that have even the remotest chance of helping someone else.

But the Republicans are also hearing from their real bosses - the big boys on Wall Street - who tell them they can have their street threatre just as long as they don't screw around with it too long and damage the economy.

Mitch McConnnell and John Boehner have their hands jointly clasped over a hand grenade, and the pin is missing.  Both appear destined to literally shit and go blind!

It wasn't supposed to get to that point, of course.  The game plan was just to push the black man in the White House around, force him into some short term settlement that would insure that the problem reemerges during his re-election campaign, and convince both wings of their party - the ignorant and the arrogant - that they did their bidding as well as was humanly possible.

There have been some interesting polling trends regarding this contrived economic mess.  According to the most recent Quinnipiac Poll, voters will blame Republicans over the President (48 to 34 percent) if the debt ceiling is not raised.   An even bigger percentage (67 to 25) stated that an agreement to raise the debt ceiling should include tax hikes on the wealthy and corporations, not just spending cuts.  Those polled saw the President's proposals to raise revenues as "closing loopholes" rather than raising taxes - by a margin of 45 to 37 percent.  But the respondents also felt (57 to 30 percent) that the President's proposals will have an impact on the middle class - and not just the wealthy.

Quinnipiac summarized America's current feelings toward their politicians thusly:  "The American people aren't  very happy about their leaders, but President Obama is viewed as the best of the worst, especially when it comes to the economy."

An ABC News/Washington Post Survey showed that 48% trust President Obama on the debt limit while 39% trusts the House Republicans.  That same poll states that 57% of Republicans want a compromise - even if they personally disagree with it.  A Gallup/USA Today Poll states that 72 % of independents want the same thing.

A CBS Poll found that 49% would blame Republicans if their is no deal, while only 29% would blame the President.  That same poll showed that 71 percent disapprove of the way Republicans are handling the issue.

Today CNN is running one of its Quick Votes that invites the public to weigh in.  Today's question is:  Which party deserves more blame for the US debt ceiling standoff?  With over 150,000 votes cast, Republicans are leading the field with 55%, No Difference is in second with 27%, and Democrats are trailing - and proudly - with just 18 percent!

Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum are still clutching their hand grenade, and when the damn thing goes off, the  people will know who to blame!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Racism Dies Hard in Arkansas

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

One would think that if any state would have a grasp on the evilness and ugliness of racial discrimination, it would be Arkansas.  It was in Arkansas, after all, where segregationist governor Orval Faubus moved to block nine black students from exercising their Constitutional right to attend the all-white Little Rock Central High School.  Faubus (a Democrat) was forced to stand by impotently when President Eisenhower (a Republican) sent in troops from the 101st Airborne Division at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, to enroll those young people and escort them to class.

That was 1957.  Over the next decade civil rights protests and public outrage changed the nation for the better in dramatic fashion - particularly in the American south.

But racism operates like disease, constantly searching for a way to reassert itself - either through a weak body or a weak social institution.

Public schools are especially vulnerable targets for simmering racists.  It is at the public school level where taxpayers sense they have the most control over government operations and spending.  Nationwide approximately half of public school funding comes from local sources, and much of the spending priorities are determined by locally-elected school boards.  School administrators find themselves surviving in office by kowtowing to the members of the local boards and unilaterally accepting local standards - even if those standards are shameless.

The town of McGehee is located in southeastern Arkansas, the poorest region of the state and, not surprisingly, the area where much of the state's black population is concentrated.  In 2000 Desha County, home to the town of McGehee, had a population that was 50% white and 46% black.

With those kinds of numbers, it shouldn't come as a surprise to find that local schools might occasionally find themselves honoring black students.  They have as much right to accolades as their white classmates, and this is, after all, the twenty-first century.

But school administrators in McGehee apparently failed to get the memo about Jim Crow being dead.   When the high school principal put pencil to paper last spring to determine the valedictorian, he was appalled to find that a black student, Kymberly Wimberly, had earned the honor.  He reportedly remarked that having a black valedictorian would be a "big mess."  In order to avert a backlash from the white community, the principal decided to have "co-valedictorians," and have Ms. Wymberlyy share the  honor that she alone earned with a white student who had a lower grade point average.

No word yet on whether the weasel principal managed to keep his job through his daring bid to maintain community standards.

There is an online petition being circulated by Color of Change to address this outrage.  As a former valedictorian and a former high school principal, I was proud to sign it.

Shame on You, Mr. Centerfold!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

In response to a wave of suicides of bullied gay and lesbian youth, certain prominent individuals and groups have recently been focused on providing emotional support to this fragile population through a series of radio and television spots called "It Gets better."   Generally, encouraging young people to remain strong in the face of adversity is not a bad message.  It promotes a positive self-image and hopefully saves a few lives.

But of course not everyone can buy into the concept of treating kids humanely or letting them grow up proud of who they are.  Extremist Christians, in particular, want to make sure that these kids are suffering emotionally due to their choice of being gay.

A solid majority of Americans realize that most rational people would not "choose" a lifestyle that would subject them to scorn and humiliation - especially during adolescence when the overwhelming desire among young people is acceptance by their peers.  But fundamentalist Christians insist that homosexuality is a "choice" because not to do so would mean that their God created gay people - and would run directly counter to one of their most cherished and entrenched Christian hatreds.

Scott Brown, former nude model and current U.S Senator from Massachusetts, has his own major identity crisis going on, one which he undoubtedly hopes will get better.  Brown wants to maintain at least a semblance of conservative credibility, something that would be a no-brainer if he were from someplace like South Carolina or Oklahoma.  But Massachusetts clearly is not some cracker enclave where voters take their cues from religious zealots or radio hate mongers.   Many people in Massachusetts have the ability to think independently and make intelligent choices

Scott Brown won Teddy Kennedy's old senate seat in a special election, and he will have to run in November of 2012 in order to maintain the seat.  His election was a fluke that boiled down to an ineffective campaign by Democratic nominee.  Winning in 2012 will not be a sure thing for Brown.

That is why it is interesting that Scott Brown has chosen to flaunt his GOP gooberishness by becoming the only member of the Massachusetts congressional delegation to decline to appear in an "It Gets Better" anti-bullying video.  Well, actually it is not so interesting as it is chickenshit.

Not to worry, Scotty.  After your gig in the Senate comes to an end next year, you will be free to pursue your other talent.  We'll be expecting to see your centerfold in the AARP Magazine!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

God's Approval Rating

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

A telephone poll of 928 American voters in mid-July by Public Policy Polling (PPP) showed that Democrats are generally regarded as more effective in Congress than Republicans (barely), Rupert Murdoch, the head of News Corp which owns a media "empire" that includes Fox News, is seen as unfavorable (big time), and God trends favorable in "its" job approval rating - depending on which aspect of the job is being rated.

Listed below are just a few items for the July poll.  For complete results, including crosstabs, rush on over to

If God exists, do you approve or disapprove of its performance?
Approve 52%, Disapprove 9%, Not sure 40%

If God exists, do you approve or disapprove of its handling of natural disasters?
Approve 50%, Disapprove 13%, Not sure 37%

If God exists, do you approve or disapprove of its handling of animals?
Approve 56%, Disapprove 11%, Not sure 33%

If God exists, do you approve or disapprove of its handling of the universe?
Approve 71%, Disapprove 5%, Not sure 24%

Who did you vote for President in 2008?
McCain 44%, Obama 47%, Someone else/Don't remember  8 %

Would you describe yourself as very liberal, somewhat liberal, moderate, somewhat conservative, or very  conservative?
Very liberal 10%, Somewhat liberal 15%, Moderate 36%, Somewhat conservative 21%, very conservative 17%

My own personal view on God will depend where She ultimately comes down on the debt ceiling "crisis,"  but a sudden and swift rapturing of teabaggers and their guns would also go a long way toward cleaning up the planet and securing my support!

You go Girl!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Billy Long Does Amy Winehouse

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Billy Long is a good "Christian" gentleman from Springfield, Missouri, who spent many years selling real estate and auctioneering in the Ozarks, and for several years even hosted his own talk radio program from a Springfield AM station.  And those were certainly good years for the affable Mr. Long.  But last November Billy got himself a job that most auctioneers would kill for:  he was elected to Congress.  (The power, the glory, the money!)

 Long followed the dastardly Ol' Roy Blunt into an office that has also provided princely incomes and cushy extra benefits to such rodents as Mel Hancock, Gene Taylor, Durward Hall, Dewey Short, and even the venerable O.K. Armstrong - all Republicans and all sadly lacking in intellectual curiosity or the ability to express independent thought.   But hey, it is southwest Missouri, after all.

Social Security is a favorite topic of Congressman Long, and it is a matter of extreme concern to the many senior citizens in his district.  There is a problem for the legislator, of course, when it comes to maintaining Social Security or adhering to the Republican orthodoxy of trying to completely stamp out the last vestiges of the New Deal.  Long boasts proudly that he is a member of the Cut, Cap, and Balance brigade in Congress, which is focused  on a balanced budget Amendment to the Constitution.  This group of sleight-of-hand artists actually favors balancing the budget on the backs of the poor through cuts in and/or the elimination of the social safety net:  reduced-cost health care available to all Americans, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  They proudly have no intention of allowing taxes on people making over a quarter of a million dollars to rise, allowing corporate taxes to rise - and many big U.S. corporations pay no taxes as it is, cutting war spending, or even just trying to shave some fat off of the Pentagon's budget.  They are all about protecting privilege.

This year if the budget process ever does enter the realm of serious negotiation - that risky stratum where people actually begin to listen, Congressman Long and his friends will have to make some heavy duty decisions about political orthodoxy versus political savvy.  Clearly there will come a point when these clowns will no longer be able to have their cake and eat it too.

So that is Billy Long.  The reasons I chose to dedicate a little space to him in The Ramble are twofold.:  he is my congressman, and just yesterday he chose to call attention to himself through a bizarre tweet on Twitter by artfully linking the demise of British blues singer Amy Winehouse with the debt ceiling "crisis."  Long's tweet read:

"No  one could reach #Amy Winehouse before it was too late.  Can anyone reach Washington before it's too late?  Both addicted - same fate???"

Tacky, Mr. Auctioneer, very tacky!

But to the man's credit, he did run a brief apology in today's Springfield News-Leader which said, in part, that Ms. Winehouse "was one of the few true artists to come along in a long time."  I guess we know what's on Billy's iPod!

I think a bunch of Republican congressmen and senators are going to get a surprise when the people speak in 2012.   The GOP's rage at having a black family in the White House has become so extreme that their elected officials are making truly crazy decisions.  Real Americans - the ones who live and work around us - will not tolerate tinkering with Social Security, Medicare, or even basic healthcare.  If the debt "crisis" is really a crisis, they  would rather see the rich paying more - for a change.  Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both state that they are under-taxed and believe that they and their peers need to be paying more.  And just what is wrong for suggesting that normal sales taxes be collected on the sales of private and corporate jets and luxury yachts?

Read the polls.

Heed the voice of the people!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Russell Pearce Hires Out-of-State Mudslingers

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Arizona State Senate President Russell Pearce, the author of last year's imbecilic SB 1070, an act that made it damn near criminal to even have a dark tan in the Scorpion State,  is facing a recall election this November that will hopefully pitch his sorry ass out of the state legislature.  Pearce has to suffer the indignity of a recall election because way too many legal voters in his district signed petitions expressing disdain for the racist windbag.

Pearce, a former deputy to Sheriff Joe Arpaio, is not one to accept any form of criticism lightly.  He began his whining by claiming that the committee pursuing his ouster, Citizens for a Better Arizona,  has been organized by unnamed "outside interests."   A report in today's Phoenix New Times states that the co-founders and members of that group are residents of the state of Arizona.

Interestingly though, Pearce, in forming his own committee to fight to save his cushy job, has gone to the suburbs of Washington, DC for his help.  The Pearce propaganda arm is calling itself the Committee to Oppose the Recall Of Russell Pearce.   It is the creation of Team America PAC, a lobbying group from Vienna, Virginia, and according to the Phoenix New Times "a rabidly nativist organization that just loves bashing Mexicans and supports any politician doing likewise."

The chairman of Team America PAC is former Colorado Congressman and Mexican basher extraordinaire Tom Tancredo, and its treasurer is the odious Bay Buchanan - Pat's sister.  (Bay actually has a history of donning camos, loading her rifle, and wandering off into the Sonora in search of hungry and frightened landscapers, domestics, day laborers, and their children.)   Neither Tancredo nor Buchanan is Arizonan in any way, shape, or form.

Here's hoping that Tancredo and Buchanan prove to be too little, too late, and too out-of-state!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Monday's Poetry: "Joe Heller"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

In honor of the fact that my Library of America collection of some of Kurt Vonnegut's major works finally arrived last week - 38 days after Amazon shipped it - and I do mean "shipped" - I though it might be fun to run a poem by the late and great Mr. Vonnegut.  Trouble is that while Vonnegut was a prolific novelist who wrote many short stories and even the occasional odd play, he really doesn't appear to have crafted much poetry.

I did find one Vonnegut poem that caught my attention, however, a tribute to another great American novelist:  Joseph Heller.   Not only does the following poem pay homage to Heller, it also contains a simple, yet scathing, attack on America's primary religion:  greed.

Joe Heller
by Kurt Vonnegut

True story, Word of Honor:
Joseph Heller, an important and funny writer
now dead,
and I were at a party given by a billionaire
on Shelter Island.
I said, “Joe, how does it make you feel
to know that our host only yesterday
may have made more money
than your novel ‘Catch-22′
has earned in its entire history?”
And Joe said, “I’ve got something he can never have.”
And I said, “What on earth could that be, Joe?”
And Joe said, “The knowledge that I’ve got enough.”
Not bad! Rest in peace!

Bonus:  What follows are Kurt Vonnegut's Eight Rules for Writing Poetry:

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

4. Every sentence must do one of two things -- reveal character or advance the action.* 

5. Start as close to the end as possible.

6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them -- in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the poem themselves, should cockroaches eat the bottom of the page. 

*which is to say, create or resolve tension.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Pa Rock's Dead Pool Heats Up

by Pa Rock
Dead Pool Master

The sudden, though certainly not unexpected, death of British singer and dope fiend, Amy Winehouse, has lit a fire under this year's Dead Pool.  Ms. Winehouse was found dead in her home in London yesterday.  (My guess is that she actually died the day before yesterday because  that is the day that I happened to be walking through the Camp Foster Base Exchange and heard Rehab playing as part of the store's background music.  Premonition, anyone?)

Amy Winehouse, due to her serious drug addiction and young age, was a perennial favorite on Pa Rock's Dead Pool.  She was the very essence of a tragic character.  Actor Stephen Fry put a tweet on Twitter this morning that referred to her as a "poor unhappy creature."

The early demise of Amy Winehouse at the age of twenty-seven means that five prescient death dogs earned 73 points each from the sad event.  And two of those five have had an extra sweet year because they also correctly predicated the death of Elizabeth Taylor who died on my birthday (March 23 - put it on your calendar and send presents next year!) at the age of seventy-nine.  Mike, of the Osawatomie Mike's, and Brenda, of the Jane Brenda's, now have a hefty 94 points each.   Molly, of the Salem Molly's, has also scored on two deaths so far - Jeff Conaway (age 60) and Betty Ford (age 93) - giving her a respectable 47 points.

I think this is the first time that the Dead Pool has had contestants with multiple scores.  We are only in  our fourth year, but the death dogs are clearly getting smarter!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Jasper and Newton, Forever Together

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Years ago I ran a small piece in my newspaper genealogy column, Rootbound in the Hills, about the weird geographical association between Jasper and Newton.  My interest had to do with local history because there are two adjoining counties in southwest Missouri that bear those names - and together those two counties are home to the city of Joplin.  I noted in that piece that there are counties with those same names in several other states, and in states that have a Jasper County and a Newton County, they are always adjacent.  They were named to respect two lesser-known heroes of the American Revolution.

Sergeant William Jasper and Sergeant John Newton were a pair of grunts fighting for the infamous General Francis Marion, aka "The Swamp Fox."   In August of 1779 the young sergeants succeeded, by themselves, in freeing ten American prisoners from a detachment of British soldiers just north of present-day Savannah, Georgia.  The incident would have likely been relegated to the dustbin of history had it not caught the attention of Mason Locke "Parson" Weems.

Parson Weems was a preeminent propagandist during colonial times.  He was the person who invented the stories of George Washington chopping down his father's cherry tree and throwing a silver dollar across the Potomac.  Neither event actually happened, but Parson Weems was not concerned with the truth.  His goal was to foster patriotism in the citizens of the young nation.

Parson Weems also wrote a book on General Marion, the Swamp Fox, that was entitled Life of General Francis Marion, and can be found on the Internet.  Chapters 7 and 8 of that flowery and ultra-patriotic tome recount the brave action of Sergeant Jasper and Sergeant Newton in saving the band of captured patriots.  Weems, who was not a first-hand witness to the heroic action (and probably did not even talk to anyone who was there), took the basic facts of the incident as he knew them, and spun them into a tale of unbridled bravery that made national heroes of the pair.

And shortly thereafter the young states of the young nation began naming counties and cities after the sergeants.

There are eight states that have a county named Jasper:  Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, and Texas.

There are six states that boast a county named Newton:  Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Texas.

Of the five states that have both Jasper and Newton Counties (Georgia, Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Texas), the two counties are adjacent in each.

There is also a city by the name of Newton in Jasper County, Illinois, and a city named Jasper in Newton County, Arkansas.  (Jasper, Arkansas, was the home of Dogpatch, the theme park built around the comic characters of Al Capp.)

There were also multitudes of children named in honor of Sergeant Jasper and Sergeant Newton.  The gunfighting Earps had an older half-brother who pursued a calmer life than his rambunctious little brothers.  Newton Jasper Earp grew up to become quite an accomplished carpenter.  And Jasper Newton Daniel became a famous whiskey distiller.  His label used his nickname:  Jack.

And that is the story of the strange and enduring connection between Jasper and Newton:  two young sergeants who knew each other only briefly, had an impromptu date with destiny (and a great publicist), and went on to be linked forever across the American landscape.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Horrible Bosses

by Pa Rock
Movie Aficionado

In honor of this being the first anniversary of my arrival on Okinawa, I decided to take myself out to dinner and a movie.  The dinner sucked because some sort of police emergency had all of the streets blocked that I needed traverse, so I wound up at A&W at the Camp Foster Post Exchange - and it was just as crappy as it sounds.  And the movie playing across the street at the Camp Foster Theatre didn't sound much better.  Fortunately, I was wrong about the movie.

I'm not saying that Horrible Bosses is a great movie, because any moron can tell from the title alone that it is going to be some elongated sitcom about a group of people suffering under the tyranny of really crappy bosses.  That has happened to me on occasion, and I know from experience that having a rotten boss makes life exceedingly painful.

There were three badly mistreated employees in this movie who also happened to be friends outside of work -which is a good thing because if they hadn't known each other the plot would have never come together!  Jason Bateman worked for the unrelenting and ego maniacal Kevin Spacey, a sleazoid who squeezed every ounce of work and self-respect out of Bateman by dangling a promotion in front of him for years - only to wind up giving the job and the extra pay to himself.

Charlie Day was a dental assistant who had gotten his name onto the sex offenders list by taking a leak late one night on an empty school playground that was located next to the bar where he had been drinking.  His boss was Jennifer Anniston, a lusty dentist who was always trying to get into poor Charlie's pants.   Anniston's  character was the epitome of a sexual harrasser.  She, too, was a sleazoid.

The third abused employee was Jason Sudekis whose boss at the chemical firm was great - a very kind and pleasant Donald Sutherland.  The problem for Sudekis arose when Sutherland died suddenly and the company was taken over by his coke-snorting son, Colin Farrell, who wanted to squeeze every ounce of profit from the company and then head to an island.  Farrell, of course, was another sleazoid.

One night after a few too many drinks, the three good guys decided that they needed to murder their bosses.  But after some sober reflection, they chose a more practical course of hiring a hit man.  They drove to a bar in the worst part of town and agreed to engage the services of Jamie Foxx - whose character went by the name "Motherfucker Jones," which he saw as far more preferable than his real name, "Dean Jones."  After relieving the three stooges of five thousand dollars, Foxx told them that he was actually just a "murder consultant," and gave them the idea of murdering each other's bosses.

(To this movie's credit, it actually mentioned in the dialogue that the idea of murdering each other's bosses came from the 1941 Hitchcock film, Strangers on a Train, and 1987's Throw Momma from the Train.)

And all of that was just the set-up, after which it started to get complicated.  The film had the feel of another old movie, Nine to Five, the 1980 classic that had three women plotting against one boss.

Horrible Bosses was not great, but it wasn't a wash either.  It featured lots of good gags as well as a few ideas for anyone who might be considering improving their work situation through homicide.

(Note:  To read a short recap of my year on Okinawa, check out today's posting on my other blog:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Texas Dumb

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Texas public education is back in the news today as the newly constituted State Board of Education prepares to meet.  One of the first items on the agenda will be what to do about the nettlesome problem of some high school science teachers who still believe that modern man evolved.  Granted, there is less evidence for evolution in Texas than perhaps any other state - with the likely exception of Arizona - but the theory is "scientific," meaning its supported by facts instead of flaky religious hoodoo.

The Texas State Board of Education has fifteen members,  eleven of whom are Republicans.  An ultra-conservative (and proud of it!) board member named Barbara Cargill was recently appointed by Texas governor Rick Perry to serve as the leader of that august panel.  She got off to a rocky start by inexplicably making a claim that as of the present there are only six "true conservative Christians" on the board.  For the sake of Texas school children, I hope that her count is accurate.

Evolution, of course, is an old battle in Texas.  The Texas State Senate turned down Perry's candidate to head the board in 2009 because senators believed the nominee advocated teaching creationism in public schools.  Obviously, a majority of the Texas State Senate has evolved further than Rick Perry or his last two appointments to head the state school board.

One group advocating dumbing down the Texas state curriculum calls itself (misleadingly) "Texans for a Better Science Education," and it is trying to generate a firestorm of public outrage against real science at next week's board meeting.  Texas, of course, has always had a warm spot in its heart for public hangings.

I wonder what parents who want their children to become medical doctors - or scientists, or engineers, or pharmacists, or just plain able to reason - think of all of this nonsense.  Do they want their kids being exposed to dunderheads who preach that the world is a mere 6,000 years old, and that ancient farmers used dinosaurs to pull their plows?  How will a tragic high school mis-education work for them when they are sitting in grad schools and medical universities competing with students who were exposed to real science in high school?

Well, it is Texas, so they will at least have the basics - football and cheerleading!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wednesday's Hate Group: The Family Leader

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

It's been quite a while since I have dedicated a posting to a hate group.  I remember early on doing a piece on the god-awful Phelps family of Topeka and their phony-baloney "church,"  and I have made references to the Ku Klux Klan on numerous occasions.   The Phelps' are anti-gay, and the Klan is anti-almost everything, but both of these groups have one thing in common - their rigid belief in good, old-fashioned, fundamentalist Christianity.  The Bible is a wonderful book, and someplace between it's covers is something to support almost any bigotry or hatred -  even if it is just a snippet that may be denied fifteen other places in the same magical manuscript.

The confluence of teabaggers and Christian crazies that is now fighting for control of the Republican Party in the hopes of parlaying that into control of the Free World has brought about a dramatic resurgence in hate groups - almost like some sort of perverted national revival.  One of those that has been in the news lately is a small group out of Iowa hiding behind the respectable-sounding name of The Family Leader.

The Family Leader seems to be concerned with three burning issues:  traditional marriage (code for being staunchly homophobic),the lack of traditional family values in black households (code for being racist), and pornography.  They recently concocted a pledge for Republican presidential candidates to sign as their commitment to the group's much beloved "traditional" (old, straight, and white) values.  Michele Bachmann left her competitors in the dust as she rushed to sign her name to the screed, and Little Ricky Santorum was not far behind.  Both wanted Iowans to know that when it came to intolerance, they were the absolute purist in the race.

The pledge had the title, "The Marriage Vow:  A Declaration of Dependence upon Marriage and Family."  Unfortunately for Bachmann, she was in such a hurry to get her name on the hateful document that she apparently neglected to read it.  The version that Bachmann signed had this little nugget of erroneous history embedded in its preamble:

"Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA's first African-American President." 
They just had to get in that little dig at Obama!  Surley to Jeezus the economic policies of Reagan and two Bushes had nothing to do with the current plight of minority families - that trickle-down stuff that got stuck in a clog somewhere up close to the toilet!

And no, slave children were not more likely to remain in a two-parent home - they were more likely to be sold!

The statement was so egregious and such a bald-faced racist lie, that the group decided to pull it out of the pledge - but that was after Michele, the lawyer, had already signed it.  Santorum, always a sticky mess, rattled off some inane remarks about being happy to sign the pledge, but agreed with the group's decision to remove the racist remark.

Kudos to the Republican presidential hopefuls who declined to sign this piece of polarizing nonsense:  Jon Huntsman, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, and Gary Johnson.  Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico, was especially eloquent in his rejection of the homophobic and racist pledge.  He said, "It's not American to give rights to certain groups of people and not others...and it's not American to discriminate against others for the way they were born."

Amen, Brother Johnson, amen.  You sound like you have an understanding of what Christianity was meant to be.   I would go to your church any day - proudly!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Farmer Bachmann Is Choosy About Who Gets Farm Aid

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Michele Bachmann, a  former attorney for the Internal Revenue Service who has no problem collecting her own farm subsidies, seems to be drawing a line in the sand when it comes to others doing the same thing - especially, it would seem, if those needy farmers happen to be black.  She feels that it is wasteful of the government to provide settlement money to black farmers who were routinely denied loans and other  agricultural aid for decades.  President Obama signed legislation last year to correct that situation - and since Obama signed it, it must be bad.

Sweet Michele doesn't like seeing her tax dollars go to just anyone.  It's sort of a case of I've got mine - and screw you!

So tonight as she sits in her $1.27 million dollar home located on a golf course in Minnesota, she can wax bitterly on the unfairness of it all.  And if she feels the need to share her burden with a "professional," she has simply to tell her unlicensed therapist husband who got his psychology degree from a correspondence school all about how wickedly awful the world is.  And maybe after a nice dinner, they can go out and peek in a few bedroom windows!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Monday's Poetry: "Richard Cory"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Today's selection, Richard Cory by Edward Arlington Robinson, is another gem that I first came across in an American literature class in high school.  It's message is simple:  while the rich may have a better life than the poor by almost all measures, they are also human and suffer from things that money cannot cure.  And yes, we have all heard stories about celebrities and the ultra-rich who have led unhappy lives, but I believe that more often than not, all of that money has been quite the pleasant balm.

One of the reasons that American slave owners were so quick to foist Christianity on their slaves was to keep them in line with the notion that while they might living in misery in this life, there would be pie-in-the-sky by-and-by when the meek inherit the earth.  Well, good luck with that!

Richard Cory was written in 1897, at a time in history when the contrast between the rich and poor was as stark as it is today.  Simon and Garfunkel turned the poem into a song which they recorded, and it has since been recorded by Van Morrison and the group Them.  This work supports the view of Ernest Hemingway who reportedly said that "the rich are no different than you and I."  That may be so, but they seem to fight awfully hard to keep their advantages!

Richard Cory
by Edward Arlington Robinson

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.
And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
"Good-morning," and he glittered when he walked.
And he was rich – yes, richer than a king –
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.
So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Bunch of Dim Bulbs

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

It is almost a comfort to know that while the world is consumed by war, famine, pestilence, and plague, the United States House of Representatives is focused on the plight of the old-fashioned incandescent light bulb.  It's a small mercy that those bozos are content to leave matters relating to the survival of mankind to the Senate and the President while they themselves desperately try to hang on to the good old days of harsh lighting and high energy costs.

While Republican Congressman Joe Barton of Texas is probably not the dumbest member of Congress - only because the whole Congress includes the Senate which is home to Jeff Sessions and Jim DeMint - he is certainly on most people's short list for that honor.  Barton has been trying to pass a bill that would repeal light bulb efficiency standards that are due to go into effect next year.  The new standards are part of the 2007 Energy Bill that was signed by President Bush, and those standards mandate thirty percent more energy efficiency in light bulbs beginning next year.

The end result of the new regulation will be the demise of the old-fashioned incandescent light bulbs, and a dramatic rise in those nifty new coil light bulbs that most of us are starting to use.  The end result would also be a savings of $6 billion a year to American consumers - because the new bulbs burn less energy and last much longer than their antique predecessors.  (The incandescent bulbs are essentially what Edison invented well over a century ago.)

But old habits die hard, and some elements of society have difficulty accepting change and moving on - especially the elements that are steeped in paranoia.  The teabaggers and guys in the tin foil hats are deep thinkers, and they know that this is all a government conspiracy more insidious than mandating trigger locks for guns.  The new light bulbs are undoubtedly space alien technology designed to turn real Americans gay - or worse yet, Kenyan!

You blow, Joe!

Saturday, July 16, 2011


by Pa Rock

I am on Facebook through the well-meaning act of a relative, but I never use it, don't like it, and cannot figure out how to get off of it.  Occasionally (sometimes as often as once a day) I get notices that I have things on Facebook to which I need to respond.  I can't respond, of course, because I long ago forgot my password and I refuse to engage with that rumor sewer long enough to secure a new one.  So for the time being I just sit and sizzle and delete those bothersome messages - knowing that very soon some nineteen-year-old will come up with a new social networking platform that will send Facebook into the same abyss that is now home to MySpace.

Maybe Rupert Murdock should buy Facebook.  That would serve them both right - and probably speed the demise of the site as well!

But I am not completely anti-social networking.  My site of choice is Twitter.   Twitter lets me vent my spleen in short bursts, the equivalent of keyboard gunfire!  It is very challenging to put some devastatingly insightful thought into one hundred and forty characters or less, but it can be done.  If I had my druthers, and I probably never will, I would druther be banging out tweets all day than trying to come up with a longer and more complicated blog post.

Today I had three new "followers" add their names to my Twitter account.  It now stands at 107, and has been as high as one hundred and ten.  The secret to building up a big following  - which mine is not - is to "follow" everyone who "follows"  you, but I don't do that because the people who follow me are often boring and I don't like to plow through their tweets.  When I don't follow my followers, they usually quit following me.

So if I follow you, you are special!

I follow fifty-four individuals and one snake.  Two of the individuals are relatives and one is a woman who once lived with my family as a foreign exchange student.  Several are celebrities whose work I admire, and some are people focused on left-wing politics.  Here are five of my favorites, beginning with the snake:

BronxZoosCobra:  This silly reptile slithered out of the Bronx Zoo last year and led New Yorkers on a merry chase until he was finally captured and returned to his place of confinement.  Fortunately for all of us, the cobra tweeted profusely during his great adventure, and still tweets  occasionally from the zoo.  New York is an experience not to be missed, and it is especially delightful when seen from sidewalk-level.

SaveBradley:  "The Bradley Manning Support Network defends the American soldier accused of revealing the truth about war crimes and illegal foreign policy."   This isn't as much a story about espionage as it is the Pentagon going berserk and overreacting because it set up a system whereby a bored Private First Class in the Army could download tens of thousands of classified documents (many of which were  snippets of gossip that should have never been classified in the first place) while relaxing with his feet up on the desk and listening to his iPod.  The story has much more to do with embarrassment than it does with spying.   It is the modern equivalent of The Pentagon Papers.

brassteapot:  This Twitter-site pays homage to The Brass Teapot, a story written by my son Tim.  It has been made into a short  movie that was featured a few years ago in the Abu Dhabi Film Festival.  It has now been turned into a comic book, and next week filming will begin in upstate New York on a feature-length film of the same material.  Tim, of course, has written the screenplay for the movie.  The production company has hopes of getting it entered into this year's Sundance Film Festival.

kyrstensinema:  Krysten Sinema is one of a very small handful of intelligent individuals in the Arizona State Senate.  She is also a college professor.  One of her students dragged me to a health care rally a few years ago that had Senator Sinema as one of several speakers.  She is charismatic and a live wire.  She is also the Arizona talking head most likely to be featured on national news programs as a counterweight to Joe Arpaio, Russell Pearce, or Jan Brewer.  She rocks!

stephenfry:  "British Actor, Lord of Dance, Prince of Swimwear, and Blogger."  Fry is an accomplished actor and novelist, and he is a master of the dry British wit that he often uses with deadly accuracy in his tweets.  I am currently watching the DVD collection of Jeeves and Wooster, which stars a very young Stephen Fry and an equally young Hugh Laurie (Dr. House).

And I think of all of those, only brassteapot follows me!

You can find me on Twitter @PaRock.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Murdoch Descending

by Pa Rock 
Citizen Journalist

With Lord Voldemort reportedly dead and Dick Cheney retired and apparently in hiding, one would think that this would be an ideal time for media mogul Rupert Murdoch to become the undisputed King of Evil.  But alas, poor Rupert appears to have stumbled and is now busy falling all over himself.

And it couldn't have happened to a sweeter guy!

A couple of weeks ago the Murdoch empire sold the once preeminent social networking site, MySpace, for a whopping $35 million.  At least that sounds like a staggering amount of money to people who actually have to work for their income.  However, considering that Murdoch gave a hefty $580 million for MySpace just six years prior, his selling price looks pretty puny.  In fact, I doubt that $35 million even paid the lawyers.

This week things really began heating up for the once untouchable Rupert Murdoch.  His flagship newspaper (actually a tabloid), The News of the World, closed its doors for good over a telephone hacking scandal that revealed the editors of the publication listened in on private telephone calls, bribed police, and interfered with police investigations.  The News of the World, which had the largest circulation of any publication in the world, was headquarted in London - and the Brits were not amused by its shenanigans and blatant criminality.  Members of Parliament who were once dependent on Murdoch's kind words became especially bitter and vocal, and Murdoch was forced to withdraw his bid for complete control of one of Britain's largest television networks as a further consequence of his underlings' malfeasance.

Now it is being reported that Murdoch's "empire" is even being investigated by the FBI for tapping the telephones of 911 victims!  Maybe he will atone for that one by closing down Fox News - thus giving us all a break!

Whatever happens, it is fun seeing one of the bad guys get his for a change.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Florine Macy (14 July 1921 - 8 December 1986)

by Pa Rock
Proud Son

My mother, Florine Macy, would have turned ninety-years-old today, and I felt this would be a good opportunity to reflect on her life and times.  I invite any of her grandchildren or others who knew Mom to attach their comments to this post.

My mother was born on a farm on Swars Prairie in rural Newton County, Missouri.   Her parents were Dan and Sis Sreaves (Daniel Alexander Sreaves and Nancy Jane Roark Sreaves).   Mom’s given name was Ruby Florine Sreaves, but she was always known as “Florine.”  She was the fourth of seven children.     All of the Sreaves kids went to one-room schoolhouses, and all but one went on to complete high school in Seneca, Missouri. 

(Mom and I sat down for a session with a tape recorder in the early 1980’s when she first became ill.  She shared many family stories on tape – and I made multiple copies and gave them out to her sisters , my sister, and some other people – but all copies, including my own, seem to have become lost over the years.  If one still happens to be in existence, I desperately would like to have it.)

One of the stories that I remember from our taping session was Mom talking about her family traveling through the woods on Christmas Day in a wagon that was pulled by my granddad’s two farm horses – one of whom was named Dolly.  The family was headed to Gramma Sreaves house for the holiday meal.  She said that everyone sang “Over the meadow and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go” as the wagon rolled merrily along.

My dad told me another story of mom’s youth that she probably would have preferred not be passed along.  At some point when they were little girls, my mom and her sister, Christine, and a third girl – probably their cousin, Margaret Anderson – decided one night that it would be fun to lean backwards out of the second story window of their white clapboard farmhouse and pee – instead of taking the long walk in the dark to the outhouse.   The next morning my granddad was surprised to find three long, bright white stains running down the front of the dusty farmhouse– directly beneath the girls’ bedroom window!

The Great depression and World War II were the defining events of my parents’ lives.  Everyone learned to be frugal during the Depression, and they learned the importance of service during the War.  Mom worked at a munitions plant in Parsons, Kansas, during World War II, and for awhile I believe she lived with her sister, Christine, in Texas, (Ft. Bliss?) where Christine’s husband, Bob Dobbs, was stationed.  If memory serves, and it doesn’t always, she worked at one of the base PX’s while in Texas.

Mom met my dad, Garland Macy, after the war when he and his cousin, Dalton Macy, were driving a taxi in Neosho, Missouri.  They were married on March 31, 1946, in Columbus, Kansas.  Dalton Macy went on to marry Mom’s younger sister, Betty Lou Sreaves.

My folks were living at a little house they bought in Neosho when my younger sister, Gail, and I were each born.  It was 510 Park Street – right next to the National Fish Hatchery and a railroad track.  Some of my earliest memories are of walking by the fish hatchery with my folks and throwing rocks at the trout.  Mom also liked to tell about the time she lost track of me shortly after I learned to walk, and two high school girls found me playing on the railroad track.  They brought me home to my mortified mother!

Years later I was living in Neosho as an adult when I rode my bike down by the fish hatchery.  An older lady was standing out in front of that little house.  We talked awhile and she invited me in to look around.  Nothing inside of the house brought back any memories, but the lady did tell me that her mother had purchased that house from my parents .  The house had a total of two owners in nearly fifty years!

My mother worked hard her entire life, and I cannot remember a time that she did not have a job – other than her last couple of years when she was too ill to work.  She was a waitress off-and-on for years, and she and Dad built a truck stop (café and gas station) in Goodman, Missouri, with her sister and brother-in-law – Christine and Bob Dobbs.  Gail and I would often have to get ourselves ready for school and then walk from our house to the café where we ordered breakfast from the menu.   Mom also worked part-time as a seamstress for the Penney’s store in Neosho, making alterations on clothes so they would properly fit their new owners.  

My parents sold their interest in the truck stop (La Bella View) to the Dobbs’ in 1958 and bought an eight-unit tourist court on the Elk River near Noel, Missouri.  We were there for six great years – and they were great years!   Mom and Gail and I ran the Riverview Court in the summer, cleaning cabins in the morning, doing laundry – bedsheets and towels in an old wringer washer– in the early afternoons, and occasionally playing in the river in the late afternoons.  (Mom and Gail would often sunbath in the afternoon while the sheets and towels dried on the clotheslines.  We didn’t know about skin cancer in those days.)  Gail and I made friends with many of the children of the tourists who stayed with us, and we also had good friends who had summer cabins next to Riverview with whom we spent many happy hours swimming and playing cards.  Dad worked in town where he had his own DX gas station for a couple of years, and later started an appliance store.

One of the memories that I have of our time at Riverview involves Mom and her soap opera – “As the World Turns.”  She became hooked on that program through the influence of some of our summer neighbors, and she watched it faithfully for years.  We would plan our lunch breaks in summer around “As the World Turns” so that she could keep up with her story.  Gail and I watched, too!

Another thing I remember is going to Springfield during the Christmas break (two or three years in a row) where Mom and Gail and I would stay at a motel on College Street, and then shop on the Springfield Square for a couple of days.  It was a nice break – a mini-vacation of sorts.

Mom completed cosmetology school while we still had the cabin court because she wanted to have a winter profession.  She drove to Neosho five days a week for several months where she learned the fine art of hair care with a group of girls who were young enough to have been her daughters.  After she completed the course and passed her state exam, Mom worked for Carol Kerry at her beauty shop in Noel.  Ironically that shop was part of a large building on Sulphur Street – the same building that my dad later bought to house his growing appliance business.

Mom was always busy, whether at a job or keeping house.  She would sit and watch television in the evenings with the rest of the family, but even then she stayed busy making doilies, pillow covers, clothes, and, later in life, quilts.  She took up painting just a few years before she died and produced many beautiful small paintings of rural scenes.  She was making treasures that her children and grandchildren would remember her by!

My mother had some significant health issues.  She was operated on in the early 1960’s for stomach ulcers, a procedure that resulted in four-fifths of her stomach being removed.  She also had some emotional issues, and looking back on it from the perspective of a trained and licensed clinical social worker, I suspect that she suffered from depression.  She usually had a supply of tranquilizers which doctors of that era readily prescribed.

During her later years Mom helped Dad at the appliance store, and, after he sold that business, she became the office clerk in his real estate business.

Mom and I spent one very interesting day together shortly before she became ill.  We drove to Huntsville, Arkansas, and visited several cemeteries trying to learn some history of her father.  Her dad, Dan Sreaves, had been born near Huntsville in October of 1888, and he attended an elementary school there.  Around the turn of the century he and his family moved to McDonald County, Missouri, in two covered wagons.  That day in Arkansas Mom and I found graves of several individuals whom we felt were probably Granddad’s aunts and uncles or other relatives.

Grandkids were a big part of Mom’s life.  She managed to live long enough to meet all of her seven grandchildren.    Reed Smith, the youngest, was born seven months before she passed away, and the same woman who took care of Mom during her last months also watched Reed during some of that time.    Mom, who was suffering from brain tumors and resultant dementia, didn’t know many people toward the end, but she always recognized me by my voice and called me by name – and one day when someone was struggling to remember Reed’s name, she blurted out, “His name is Reed!”

Mom sewed and made things for several of the kids.  One of the things that she made for Nick was a clown costume for Halloween, and I know that it got passed back-and-forth between the Macys and the Smiths for at least the first four grandkids – and possibly the first six.  The grandkids all called her “Ma.”   Molly told me after Ma died that she was sad because now Ma would not be here to teach her how to sew.

My mother, a lifetime heavy smoker, was diagnosed with brain tumors at the age of sixty-two and passed away when she was sixty-five.  I was alone with her at St. John’s Hospital in Springfield when the doctors came in and told her about the tumors.  She was very upset, of course, but said solemnly, “Well, that’s just my luck.”  Today we know much more about the dangers of smoking, and I can’t help but believe that if Mom and the rest of her generation would have had better information, they would have made wiser choices.

My mother has been gone a quarter-of-a-century, but I find myself thinking of her often.   I know that all of our family missed out on a great deal due to her early passing.  I miss my mother and wish that she was here to celebrate her ninetieth birthday with her loved ones.  I know that she would have relished being around her children, grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren – which will number ten by the end of this year.  We would all benefit from having her still with us.

Rest in Peace, Mom – and happy birthday!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Let the Rich Pay - For a Change!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The Republicans thought this was going to be their year.  It started off so well with impressive wins in Congress last fall, but the more experience American's have with this crop of Republicans, the less they seem to like them.

This has been the year that several Republican governors and Republican state legislatures declared war on state workers, their unions, and pension funds.  However, as the public began to see what was really happening, the dynamic is quickly shifting.  Wisconsin is in the process of recalling six Republican state senators and that effort appears to be doing so well that all six may be swept from office.  Minnesota, the land of Tim Puh-lenty and Michele Squawkman, has officially quit paying its bills - although it looks as though the legislators (a majority of whom are Republicans) may have found a way to keep paying themselves!  (Praise Allah for small mercies!)

But it is on the national political stage where things have really gone nuts.  The Republicans in Congress are bowing to the will of the teabaggers and refusing to raise the debt limit - even though their other masters, the rich ones on Wall Street, have told them to quit dicking around with the economy and get that debt ceiling raised.  But the teabaggers don't want to allow the country to borrow any more money - at least not until the national safety net - social security, medicare, and medicaid - has been ripped to shreds.

The Obama administration is resisting efforts to destroy the remnants of the New Deal and the Great Society.  They believe that America's finances should be brought under control through generating more revenue - i.e. by getting rid of the Bush tax cuts for the richest people and corporations.

But the Republicans don't want no stinking taxes - especially taxes on the rich.

And then there is one other special interest group which is also pitching out some ideas - the people, or at least the people who aren't wearing tin-foil hats or head gear with dangling tea bags.  These ordinary people have come up with some extreme measures like ending Congressional junkets, and winding down the wars - that, plus taxing the rich.

Today John Boehner, who really does not want to piss off the teabaggers or Wall Street, was talking about an idea where the Republicans would not vote to raise the debt limit, but would somehow force President Obama to do it by himself.  That way Boehner's band of dunderheads could say that there hands were clean and that evil Obama did it all by himself - and Wall Street would rest easy also, not really giving a crap who did it - just as long as it was done.

Sweet, John.  You are such a man among men.

Obama's hands are not clean either.  He has been trying to lure Republicans into a deal by making noises that he would be agreeable to some cuts in the social safety net.  That, of course, is shameful - and Pelosi says it ain't a-gonna happen.

The bills come due August 2nd, and as a federal employee I have more than a passing interest in whether the government will choose to shut itself down, keep running through some political chicanery, or begin the serious task of bringing the nation's economic house back into order.  Clinton left our national economy in relatively good order, Bush ran it into the ground, and now we all stand by eagerly to see what actions this President and Congress will take in order to turn things around.

Will it be government run on the backs of the poor - with no millionaires left behind, or will we finally do as Warren Buffett and Bill Gates and other American billionaires have suggested and let the rich begin paying their own way for a change.  Trickle down doesn't work, and trickle up isn't fair.

(A CNN Quick Poll on that network's homepage today asked which party did people trust most in talks over the debt ceiling, and with almost 200,000 votes cast - 60% of respondents trusted the Democrats more than they did Republicans.)

Barack, if you give one inch on social security, medicare, or medicaid, I will contribute more to my own future by not contributing to yours.  You have my word on that.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Satan's Bitches vs Selfish Strumpets

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The Phelps' klan is at it again.   This group of intolerant and insensitive crackers who live to desecrate  flags and demonize dead veterans in front of their grieving families has announced plans to protest at the funeral services of former first lady, Betty Ford.

The crazy cult's justification in disrespecting this truly great American is that Mrs. Ford was a divorced woman when she married Gerald Ford - and thus an "adulterer."    They have also accused her of promoting premarital sex both in casual conversation with reporters, as well as "teaching" premarital sex to her "daughters."  (As far as I know, the only daughter of Gerald and Betty Ford was Susan.)

I won't go to the website of the Westboro mutants because it shoots fire and brimstone directly into my hard drive and makes my printer vomit long, smelly streams of santorum, but the website apparently discusses Mrs. Ford thusly:  "The trashy reporters encouraged her to say more!  So she urged all the women of the doomed foul nation to engage in extramarital sex.  Then she pushed for abortion, because when you teach a nation's women to be whores, it's (sic) inevitable pregnancies will inconvenience the selfish strumpets!  That is the legacy of Betty Ford!"

Oh, yeah!  Well at least the leader of the selfish strumpets never stooped to wearing her hair in a bun!

I feel sad beyond words for the families of our service men and women who have to endure the taunts and ridicule of these very nasty people.  But I am not the least bit concerned about the friends and loved ones of Betty Ford.  They know that the great lady is comfortably situated in a celestial setting having a good laugh over the whole situation - and knowing that chances are damned slim that she will ever encounter any Phelps from Topeka walking the streets of Heaven.

Rest in peace, Betty, and know that all of the selfish strumpets and other good people of the world will miss you greatly!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Monday's Poetry: "Jabberwocky"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Last night I had the opportunity to watch the Tim Burton version of Alice In Wonderland on television here in the Land of the Rising Sun.  I had seen the movie in a Phoenix theatre last year when it first came out and enjoyed it then - and much to my surprise and pleasure, I found it even more entertaining with the second viewing.

Johnny Depp, of course, is amazing in most of the roles he tackles - from an adolescent with hedge clippers for hands to a pirate with way too much eye-liner.  Depp is an actor who is not afraid to put himself "out there," and his work with Tim Burton over the years has always been brilliant.  Depp is definitely at his quirky best as the Mad Hatter.  The other standout performance in this updated retelling of the Louis Carroll classic is Helena Bonham Carter portraying the bungling and delightfully evil Red Queen.

There is one scene in the movie where the Mad Hatter begins quoting from Jabberwocky, in an almost incidental manner.  He is so relaxed in his brief rendition, that the words almost seem to make sense.   Depp, like Lewis Carroll, has a good ear for sound, rhyme, and meter.

Jabberwocky is another poem that I first encountered in a high school literature class.  It is from Lewis Carroll's other book about Alice entitled Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There.  Enjoy!

by Lewis Carroll

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought --
So rested he by the Tumtum tree.
And stood awhile in thought.

And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came wiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

"And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!"
He chortled in his joy.

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe. 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Andrew Wilfahrt: A Damn Good Soldier

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Corporal Andrew Wilfahrt was an American fighting man who died as a result of enemy action in Afghanistan on Sunday, the 27th of February, 2011.  He had been in Afghanistan since the previous July and was due to go home on leave within a week of his death.

Obviously there is no such thing as a "typical" soldier, but if there was, Andrew Wilfahrt would have been far removed from that stereotype.  He entered the army at the age of twenty-nine, a time when many soldiers are already making tentative plans for their retirement.  His rugged physique caught the attention of his drill sergeants, and his raging intellect was an item of interest of the officers.  Why was this man, an exceptional physical specimen who made a perfect score on the military's aptitude test (the ASVAB), coming into the service as a "grunt?"

AndrewWilfahrt was a complex individual.  He could discuss the history of America's wars for hours on end.  He loved classical music and longed to have a job where he could spend his time composing music.  He was referred to as a math "genius," and he maintained a diverse range of interests in such things as quantum physics, maps, patterns, palindromes, and the U.S. Constitution.  Before Andrew entered the Army, he had served as a volunteer at an AIDS Hospice, food shelters, animal shelters, and walked the streets in voter registration drives.  He was the very essence of a renaissance man.

He was also gay.

Andrew told his parents that he was gay when he was sixteen-years-old.  He went on to suffer the indignities that "normal" kids seem all to eager to heap on anyone who dares to be different, including name-calling and acts of violence, yet he somehow managed to successfully ride out the emotional storm of becoming a self-assured and well-defined gay man.

At the age of twenty-nine, Andrew made another momentous announcement.  He told his parents that he planned to join the Army in a search for the camaraderie that he felt his life was missing.  He told a retired (gay) marine that he wanted to serve so a soldier with a wife and children wouldn't have to go fight.

Andrew Wilfahrt didn't flaunt or hide who he was during his brief military career.  He told his mother over the telephone shortly before his death that  "everyone knows - nobody cares."  His sexual orientation was just a small component of who he was, and he was fully accepted by his brothers-in-arms as part of their combat family.  (Wilfahrt rode with an African-American and an Hawaiian on combat missions, and the threesome was known as "Team Minority.")  And as for that camaraderie that he had been seeking,  the bond that Andrew made with his combat brothers was so strong that he was talking in terms of becoming an Army "lifer."

Shortly after his death, Corporal Wilfahrt's comrades named a combat outpost after him in Afghanistan.

Andrew's parents, Jeff and Lori Wilfahrt, are peace activists who are now engaged in their own battle, an epic confrontation with a majority of the state's legislators (primarily Republicans) who recently voted to put a proposed amendment to the Minnesota's constitution on the November 2012 ballot that would outlaw gay marriage in the state.  The Wilfahrt's believe that their son died in Afghanistan fighting for the rights of all American's - including the right to marry whom they please.

John Kriesel, a Republican Representative in the Minnesota Legislature, has taken up the Wilfahrts' cause.  Kriesel, who lost both of his legs while serving in Iraq, sent Corporal Wilfahrt's photo around to other legislator's during the debate, in an attempt to personalize the issue with a stark reminder of who is actually fighting and dying for our nation.   Representative Kriesel, the proud veteran, said:  "I cannot look at this family (the Wilfahrts) and look at this picture and say, 'You know what, Corporal, you were good enough to fight for your country and give your life, but you were not good enough to marry the person you love'  I can't do that."

Republicans like to put wedge issues, such as gay marriage, on the ballot during important elections as a way of bringing the meanest elements of their party to the polls.  But Jeff and Lori Wilfahrt are not going to take the insult lightly.  They are traveling the state speaking to any group that will listen.  They are imploring people to set aside old prejudices and do what is right by voting down the bigoted marriage amendment.    The Wilfahrts are fighting and they are fighting mad - with plans to take the battle all the way to the Supreme Court if that is what it takes to ensure that all people have the basic human and civil right to marry the person they love.

Jeff Wilfahrt said:  "I hope my son didn't die for human beings, for Americans, for Minnesotans who would deny him civil rights."

Jeff and Lori Wilfahrt want people to know that Andrew was not a gay soldier, but rather a soldier who happened to be gay.    And he was, as his father so eloquently put it, "A damn good soldier."

Friday, July 8, 2011

Has Bachmann Written-Off Utah?

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, a Minnesota welfare recipient and de facto Grand Dragoness of the Teabagger Party, has signed a kooky pledge in Iowa vowing to ban pornography and gay marriage.  It is unclear how she plans to accomplish those dubious goals given her loud support of the Constitution - especially when that document protects her rights to be as outrageous as humanly possible.  The Constitution speaks to the right of free speech, and the Supreme Court, the arbiter of what the Constitution does and does not permit, has been very cautious in placing any limits on what we can or cannot say or view.

And would Ms. Bachmann, a loud supporter of states' rights, really want to ban gay marriage nationally by a Constitutional amendment, placing yet one more Federal restraint on states?

But back to Michele Bachmann's porn problem.  Surely her campaign manager, Ed Rollins, has told her that if she seriously goes after pornography, she can kiss the delegate votes of Utah goodbye.  Utah, as has been pointed out in this space before, has a very high online rate of pornography usage.  In fact, a report by Benjamin Edelman, a Harvard Economics professor, cited the state of Utah as being number one in online porn subscriptions.

The report was entitled "Red Light States:  Who Buys Online Adult Entertainment?"   It was published in a 2009 edition of The Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Ed Rollins is a very seasoned political operator and he undoubtedly knows of the report's existence and findings.  That leads to the inescapable conclusion that by coming down foursquare against porn, Ms. Bachmann must be conceding the home state of the Mormon Church to Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman.

Politically, that could make sense if it weren't for another significant finding of Professor Edelman:  porn subscriptions are more prevalent in states that have enacted conservative legislation on sexuality.  By coming out against pornography, Bachmann may have inadvertently declared war on a significant portion of her base!

Michele, those good ole boys and girls out there in Red Meat America may whoop it up and wave their flags whenever you're spewing your usual nonsense, but if you start messing with their porn - watch out - or their sticky dollar bills may stop flowing into your campaign coffers!

Melva Foley

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Miss Melva Foley was my third grade teacher at the Goodman (Missouri) School, and though she was a native of McDonald County (born in Noel), Goodman was the only local school in which she taught - and that was just for one or two years.

Miss Foley was a new teacher when I entered third grade, new to the Goodman School, and fairly new to teaching as well.  I first met her before school started that year when her uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. Virgil Yost, brought her by the truck stop (cafe, gas station, and bunk house) that my parents owned along with Mom's sister and brother-in-law, Christine and Bob Dobbs.

Miss Foley was a good teacher, but rather quiet and somewhat "mousy."  She taught us the fine art of multiplying, and fostered, at least in me, a continuing desire for education.  One of my clearest memories of that year occurred when I dropped my pencil and did a long reach from the wrong side of my student desk trying to retrieve it.  Somehow I managed to turn the poor desk over and completely disrupt the class!  I also remember Miss Foley coming into class one day with an almost stunned look on her face and announcing that she had heard that the United States would have a man in space within the next twenty-five years!  We were as amazed as she was!

(The year was 1957, and Eisenhower was  President.  Yuri Gargarin became the first human is space four years later, and that same year (1961) Alan Shepard became the first American in space - and the second human to travel into beyond the earth's atmosphere.   1961 was also the year that America's first Catholic President was sworn into office.  The times they were a'changin' - fast!)

We left Goodman and moved twenty miles down the road to Noel, MO, after I completed fourth grade - and I never saw Miss Foley after that.  In fact, I am not even sure whether she did a second year of teaching at Goodman.  The next I heard of her was twenty years or so later when a couple of her relatives, possibly the Yost's, stopped at my parent's appliance store in Noel to visit.  They said that she was working as an administrator at a college.  (They also said that they would tell her they had run into "Little Rocky!"!

Just a few years ago I found (on the Internet) a lengthy decision of the Fifth District Appellate Court of Illinois in which Miss Foley - who was by then Dr. Foley - was the unsuccessful Petitioner.  She had been serving as an instructor, student teacher supervisor, and Chair of the Division of Education at McKendree College in Lebanon, Illinois, for a few years in the 1980's when college officials chose not to renew her contract.  She went before the Human Rights Commission of Illinois arguing that she had been unfairly dismissed due to age and gender discrimination, but the Commission upheld the action of McKendree College.  Dr. Foley then asked the Appellate Court to review that decision, but they upheld the finding of the Human Rights Commission.  It was, it would appear, an ignominious end to a long educational career.

This week I did a Google search on Dr. Foley and learned (sadly) that she passed away on April 7th of this year in Maryville, Illinois, and is buried in Staunton, Illinois.  She was eighty-four at the time of her death.

One of the interesting things that I learned about Dr. Foley from her obituary was that she contracted tuberculosis during her freshman year of high school and was hospitalized for four years.  When she was finally released from the hospital, she returned to high school and graduated as the valedictorian.

Dr. Foley got her Bachelor's Degree from National College in Kansas City, her Master's at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, and her PhD in Education from Northern Colorado University in Greeley.  Besides teaching at Goodman, she also taught public school in Olive Hill, KY, and Windsor, MO.   She was a college instructor at National College in Kansas City, Berea College in Berea, KY, Southwestern College in Winfield, KS, Kansas Wesleyan University in Salina, KS, and the aforementioned McKendree College.  She also worked for several years as a librarian and was active in the United Methodist Church and several charities.

Dr. Melva Jean Foley was a good elementary school teacher, and she appears to have led a very complete and challenging life.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Cora Gum

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Yesterday I discussed my first grade teacher in this space, Miss Helen Hubbard.  I would like to extend the topic of my elementary education a bit further by also talking about my second and third grade teachers.  This piece will focus on Cora Gum who spent many years as a second grade teacher at the Goodman (Missouri) School, and tomorrow I will introduce my third grade teacher, Miss (later Dr.) Melva Foley.

I don't know whether Cora Gum was a spinster (like Miss Hubbard) or a widow, but I am fairly certain that she was not married during the time that she was my teacher.  For the purposes of showing her respect, I will refer to her as "Miss Gum" for the remainder of this remembrance.

Miss Gum had to have been in her sixties or maybe even seventies when I was in her class.  I believe that my cousin, Bill Dobbs, was in her final class before she retired, and he is six years younger than me.   Miss Gum was the complete opposite of Miss Hubbard.  She was sweet in contrast to Miss Hubbard's tendency to be severe.  Miss Gum was gentle, and soft-spoken, and affectionate, while her co-worker in the first grade classroom was more of a drill sergeant.  It was hard not to be completely in love with the grandmotherly Cora Gum.

Reading and spelling were big things in her class.  One of my clearest memories of second grade was preparing for a spelling bee toward the end of the school year.  Two students were to be selected from the class to compete in the bee, and those were chosen through in-class spelling tests.  The group finally narrowed down to myself and two girls, and we finished the second grade speller and were halfway through the third by the time I was eliminated.   (My grandson, Boone Macy, is a spelling machine who goes to his county spelling bee every year - and I guess that I must be the source of his spelling smarts!)

We also did an art project that year that my mother saved for the rest of her life.  We had to bring a pane of window glass to school - or maybe our parents had to bring it in for us - then Miss Gum outlined a picture onto the glass from a coloring book of flowers, and we had to paint our flowers.  Mine was a tulip.  After the flower was painted onto the glass, we crinkled up tin foil and placed that behind the picture for a glitzy background.  The project was "framed" with black electrical tape and taken home to our amazed parents.  I suspect that it was a 'Mother's Day" project.  Anyway, my mother was touched and kept it among her treasures.

Living in Goodman, I had never seen an airplane up close, let alone fly in one.  During the summer after my second grade year, Miss Gum flew to California to visit relatives, and she sent a postcard to each of her students.  Mine was of the inside of a big TWA passenger plane.  I was so amazed and knew that someday I wanted to fly in one of those big planes.  (My dad, who had learned to pilot small planes after the war with his GI Bill, was also impressed by the size of the cabin on that airliner.)

I was in junior high or even early high school the last time I saw Miss Gum.  She was shopping at McGinty's Department Store in Neosho, MO, when my mother, sister, and I came across her.  We all chatted for a few minutes, and Miss Gum told my mother that her children had been very easy to teach.  That may or may not have been true, but Cora Gum was such a sweet lady that she would have never said anything the least bit negative about anyone.

I will always remember Miss Gum as one of my favorite teachers.  She made her students feel welcomed and loved - and if a teacher can master how to do that, the "teaching" part will be a piece of cake!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Miss Helen Hubbard

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

After doing a little research on McDonald County bank robber Cora Hubbard, I thought it might be interesting to see what the Internet had to say about my nearly-as-infamous (and probably much tougher) first grade teacher, Miss Helen Hubbard.  To my great surprise, the only thing that I was able to come up with on Miss Hubbard was a notice that there is a scholarship to Crowder College in her memory.

In an effort to correct that oversight, I am going to pen my remembrance of Miss Hubbard in this space and invite any others who knew her to chime in with their memories as well.

Helen Hubbard taught first grade at the Goodman (Missouri) School for so long that she became more of an institution than the school itself.  By the time I entered her class, I am certain that she had already taught there for many years - and while I am still not good at guessing ages, I would speculate that Miss Hubbard was well into her forties when she taught me and my classmates the fine arts of reading, writing, sitting quietly in our seats, and walking in straight lines.

Several generations of Goodman residents attended first grade with Miss Hubbard, and though I have heard many fond and glowing stories of her, I remember her in a different light.  Oh, she motivated students to work hard, but her prime means of motivation was fear.  Even parents seemed to know that you could mess with board members and superintendents, but Miss Hubbard was the rock around which the school was  built - and nobody messed with her!

But, in fairness, Helen Hubbard did teach me to read, and that is a skill that I have used and enjoyed my entire life.

One of my most horrific memories was one day when I came bounding into the house after playing outside and discovered Miss Hubbard sitting in the living room chatting with my mother.  (Was she going to snatch me up and take me to the kiddie pound?)  And if that wasn't shocking enough, she was smoking a cigarette!  I didn't know whether to run or just fall over and play dead!  (I learned later that they were talking about the P.T.A.)

Who knew teachers smoked?

Miss Hubbard eventually retired from school-teaching, though I suspect it was rough giving up all of that absolute power and authority.  She moved into a little white house just down the street from the school where she spent her final years, and where school personnel could drop in and check on her.  I never made contact with her after we moved from Goodman, but in my young adult years I noticed several letters-to-the-editor from Miss Hubbard in our local press.  Turns out she was an arch-conservative (color me surprised!) who had an intense dislike of the Kennedy's.

I did see Miss Hubbard one final time.  It was at the Wal-Mart in Neosho probably fifteen or twenty years ago.  When I heard her name called over the store intercom for a pharmacy pick-up, I walked over to get a look at her.  She was a very frail and elderly individual whom I would never have recognized out on the street.  I should have stepped up and introduced myself, but by then I had had some of my own letters-to-the-editor printed and was known for being a lefty,  so I chose to let sleeping dogs lie.  Some fears are hard to overcome!

About ten years ago I was at the Goodman School (now an elementary school with the Neosho R-5 School District) in my official capacity as a Child Protection Worker for McDonald County.  While I was there the secretary introduced me to pretty new first grade teacher.  Her name was Mrs. Hubbard!  It turns out that she was no relation to her famous predecessor, but I wondered if that name might have not been instrumental in helping her to get the job.  The secretary grinned when she introduced us, because she knew that I was a veteran of the Miss Hubbard who will forever haunt the halls of that peaceful little school.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Cora Hubbard and the Secret to Making Cash Money in McDonald County, Missouri

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I subscribe to a web service that tracks "hits" to this blog and lets me know in most cases (but not all) where each visitor to my blog originated and what terms he or she was searching that led the visitor to this site.  It's a good service and lets me know the types of things that interest people.  A column that I wrote several years ago on missing Kansas teen, Randy Leach, draws two or three visits a week, and another piece that I wrote dealing with the rich vocabulary of writer H.P. Lovecraft brings in hits almost daily.  The writer, Tim Macy, who happens to be my son, also stirs a lot of interest in the blog from his fast-growing groupie fan base.

And then there are lots of extraneous searches that lead people to Pa Rock's Ramble.   This week, for instance, someone from Anderson, MO, googled "Where can I make cash money in McDonald County, Missouri?", and Google's number twelve response was one of my old columns that mentioned the terms "cash," "money," and "McDonald County, Missouri."  Know this, friends:  I have spent many years getting by in McDonald County, but made damn little "cash money!"

Google's first response to that query, however, was much more practical and on-the-money.  It directed the person making the inquiry to the Wikipedia page on Cora Hubbard, a nineteenth century bank robber whose major claim to fame as a felon was holding the reins of the get-away horses while her two male accomplices robbed the McDonald County Bank in Pineville, MO.   That robbery occurred on August 17, 1897, when Cora was just twenty-one-years-old.

The desperadoes relieved the bank of $589.23 in currency - or roughly $15,000 by today's standards.  They then high-tailed it out of town to Weir City where they holed-up at Cora's father's house and buried the loot in his garden.  When the law arrived a day or two later, they dug up the old man's garden and retrieved the bank's money.

Cora Hubbard served a couple of years in prison for her crime, and then disappeared into the dust of history.

And that, Gentle Reader, is how you make real cash money in McDonald County, Missouri!

(Note:  Most of the banks in McDonald County have been robbed at one time or another.  I remember the Goodman  Bank being robbed when I was in elementary school.  The bank at Southwest City (now called the Cornerstone Bank) was robbed by the Wild Bunch (surviving members of the Doolin-Dalton Gang) on May 10, 1894.  But the cruelest robbery took place at the State Bank of Noel on October 6, 1989 when brothers Shannon and Joseph Agofsky kidnapped the bank president, Dan Short, from his home south of Noel, took him to the bank and forced him to open the vault, stole $71,000, and then sadistically murdered the 51-year-old banker.   The Agofsky brothers are now serving life terms in prison.  Dan Short was a friend of mine - and that one is personal.)

Best bet for making real cash money in McDonald County, Missouri:  get a job.  The world would be a richer place today if the Agofsky brothers had taken that option.