Friday, October 31, 2014

Willie Horton Strikes Back!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

When I hear the term "sleazy politics" two organizations immediately leap to mind:  Rupert Murdoch's barely-based-in-reality Fox News (sic) and the Republican Party, an almost wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries.   Those two dark forces crank out enough manure in a good week to fertilize the entire land mass of the Louisiana Purchase.

Perhaps the single sleaziest political incident of the past half century was a television ad by presidential hopeful George H.W. Bush in 1988 in which he successful linked his opponent, Michael Dukakis, to a very scary looking black murderer named Willie Horton.  The Bush team, headed by the late Lee Atwater, a man who was burdened with no scruples whatsoever, was able to use Horton to paint Dukakis as soft on crime.  The fact that Horton was black also did not hurt candidate Bush with the racist wing of his party.  The incident was shameful beyond measure and showed just how low an American politician would stoop in order to be elevated to leader of the free world.

The fact that Daddy had been President eventually got his dullard son, George W. Bush, elected governor of Texas - and ultimately President himself where he spent eight years taking orders from Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld as his administration squandered the budget surpluses of the Clinton years (and the lives and well-being of thousands of innocent Americans) on a quagmire of endless and pointless wars in the Middle East.

All of that goes back to Willie Horton - or more specifically - Lee Atwater and Willie Horton.  One stupendous glob of sleaze that altered the course of human events, destroyed lives around the globe, and brought about a recession that had the potential to bring down our country.

So what did the political class learn from all of that madness?  One thing:  sleaze works.

The National Republican Campaign Committee has been involved in many congressional races, including the second district in Nebraska.  Lee Terry, the Republican incumbent in that district who was first elected in 1999, is facing a stiff challenge from Democrat Brad Ashford.   The NRCC thought they might be helpful to their boy, Terry, by cutting an ad that connected Brad Ashford with Nikko Jenkins - a convicted murder from Nebraska who is also a scary looking black man with tattoos on his face.

Willie Horton rides again!

This time, however, there was a minor glitch in the slathering of the sleaze.  At a court hearing this past week to determine his mental status, Mr. Jenkins, the involuntary subject of the Republican political ads, suddenly (and loudly) endorsed Lee Terry for Congress.  "Hey you guys," the convicted killer shouted to reporters, "Vote for Lee Terry!  Best Republican ever!"

Not surprisingly, Congressman Terry's campaign is trying to distance itself from the mess made by the National Republican Campaign Committee.   The Terry campaign said:

"We're not going to comment on the ranting of a serial killer who never should have gotten out of prison in the first place.  This man does not deserve one more second of publicity, which is why we refused to use his name or face in any of the ads our campaign produced."

Yes, but the Terry campaign didn't have a problem with the NRCC producing an ad that did.    It was all good - until the ad backfired and covered them in sleaze!

Live by the sleaze, die by the sleaze!

(One has to wonder how much better the world would be today if Willie Horton had had to presence of mind to endorse George H.W. Bush.)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Race in Missouri's Eighth Congressional District

by Pa Rock

Next Tuesday I will cast my first ballot ever in Missouri's eighth congressional district.  Because our state has no statewide offices up for grabs this election cycle, the highest spot on the ticket will be candidates for Congress.

There are five congressional hopefuls on the ballot in the eighth district.  The Republican incumbent is 34-year-old Jason Smith, a St. Louis native, who won his seat in a special election in June of 2013.  Smith is a lawyer, real estate agent, and proud NRA member - or as they say in baseball:  "Strike one, strike two, and strike three!"  Yet, unless he gets embroiled in some major morality scandal in the next few days, he ought to be easily re-elected to his place at the public trough.

The Democrat is a first time candidate for office who ran unopposed in the Democratic primary in August.   Seventy-seven-year-old Barbara Stocker is a retired biochemical engineer who has worked with Purina and Monsanto - two entries that I would prefer not having on my resume.

Rick Vandeven is the Libertarian candidate.  He ran for the same position and lost in 2012.  Vandeven seems to adhere to most of the Libertarian Party line including those of being pro-gun and pro-pot.

The Constitution Party is running Doug Enyart.  He ran and lost in the 2013 special election to fill the same seat.  Enyart is a "consulting forester."  He is very pro-gun and believes the "gun control crowd" is trying to push "law-abiding" citizens into a corner.   He also believes states have the right to nullify "unconstitutional" acts of Congress.  (I thought the nullification issue was settled by the Civil War!)

One Independent is also running.  Terry Hampton is a young grandmother from West Plains who writes for one of the local newspapers.  She has published two books and also owned a couple of local businesses.  Hampton's primary concerns seem to be with professional politicians who are in politics for what they can get out of it, and the serious lack of controls over the financing of campaigns.

I will cast my vote for Ms. Hampton and wish her well in her initial foray into politics.  My second choice would be Barbara Stocker, third would be Rick Vandeven, and I would write myself in before voting for Smith or Enyart.

I only have one vote in this election, a contest where tens of thousands will be cast, but . . .

I'm Pa Rock, and I do vote - every time!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Congressman Billy Long Comes Up Short on Compassion

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The "local" television stations for West Plains come out of Springfield.  West Plains is in Missouri's eighth congressional district, but Springfield is in the seventh.  Which means that although I am denied the pleasure of voting against incumbent Congressman Billy Long of the seventh, I do have to suffer his television ads.

Actually, I've only seen one.  Long's Republican district is so safe that all he has to do is run the occasional ad - and just sit back and bank the donations to his campaign.

In the ad that I saw Long hit on two interesting points.  First, he does not like television political ads - he said so right in his ad!  The former auctioneer is obviously a man of the people because we, the people, don't like them either.

The other point that Long made was that he does not like Obamacare - and by suggestion, he undoubtedly does not care for the President either.  Long, whose personal appearance would indicate that some serious health issues may loom in his future, said that he voted to defund Obamacare fifty-six times.   He seemed very proud of trying to deny health care to many of his own constituents.  That is sad, and more than a bit hypocritical, since Congressman Long has his own government-funded health care.

In fact, if Auctioneer Long had not gotten lucky and won a six-way Republican primary four years ago - with only 36 percent of the vote, he would probably be scrambling like the rest of us to find affordable health care.  Now though, thanks to the minority of Republican voters in the seventh district who felt that an auctioneer would make a good congressman, he doesn't have to worry about his own health care - and he doesn't seem too worried about anybody else's either.

(The seventh district was represented in Congress for many years by Gene Taylor, a used car dealer.  The most recent congressman prior to Billy Long was 'Ol Roy Blunt.  Those folks just can't catch a break!)

There is a vibrant and extensive health care community in Springfield including Cox and St. John's hospitals.  I wonder how their administrators really feel about Billy Long trying to defund a one of their major funding streams.  I doubt they want those people back clogging up the emergency rooms.  Springfield is also the home of Missouri State University, the second largest university in the entire state of Missouri.  I am wondering how much groaning goes on in the halls of that fine institution every time Congressman Long's name comes up.

All of the above, of course, is the concern of my friends over to the west in Missouri's seventh district - and not mine.  Well, it shouldn't be my concern, but a television spot bragging about trying to deny health care to those in need aired on my television set - and it pissed me off!

The election is next Tuesday.  If you like the benefits that Obamacare has provided - such as being able to keep your kids on your policy until they are twenty-six years old, or being able to get insurance even though you or a member of your family has a pre-existing medical condition - then send Billy Long a message at the polls.  Let him know through your vote that you are trying to defund him!

Go vote!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Mulching to Pretoria

by Pa Rock
Lawn Warrior

The leaves are falling, they are drifting to the ground and forming a blanket of dead vegetation that grows deeper by the hour.  Today I took the first action to bring the masses of fallen leaves that have been drifting across my front yard under control.

There are basically three methods that can be used to gain mastery over the leaves:  raking and bagging or burning, blowing and bagging or burning, and mowing.  Last year I came back to the Ozarks in November and spent an entire day with my son and grandson raking and burning the leaves.  It was a real mess - lots of hard work and breathing smoke all day long, and, at the end of the day, there were still lots of leaves on the ground and more hanging in the branches.  We had fun, but didn't accomplish that much.

My neighbor used a leaf-blower on his yard for several hours over the weekend, blowing his leaves into a brushy area that borders his land - and early this afternoon his yard looked no better than mine.  That was before I brought out my push mower and put in several hours marching back and forth across my front yard.  Now there is no doubt which one of us has done the best job of mastering the leaves.  It's Pa Rock, hands down!

My mower is actually a mulcher.  I bought it last spring and had no idea how it would work on leaves.  It has done a fine job of keeping the grass under control, and I was pleased to find that it is exceptional for chewing up leaves.  Now instead of the yard being covered with large leaves that shift and drift with every breeze, most have been finely ground up where they lay on the lawn waiting to decompose and enrich the soil.  It's much easier and quicker than raking or blowing, and the mulched leaves serve to make the soil better.  Win, win!

I still have lots of mulching to do before winter sets in, but I can see the progress as I mulch - row-by-row, hour-by-hour.  My rakes are going in the yard sale!

Now if I could only think of a good marching song to sing, or whistle, as I push the mulching mower back-and-forth across the yard!  Surely something will come to me!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Monday's Poetry: The Witches of Macbeth

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Are you having trouble planning that all-important All Hallow's Eve meal?  Are the old family standards just not up to snuff, and you need something special to rev up the menu?  Well here to get you started is a sure-fire recipe for an entree that will keep your guests enthralled (if not embalmed) with your culinary expertise.  Try this little cauldron concoction from the recipe box of Will Shakespeare for your soup de jour on Halloween night:

The Three Witches of Macbeth  (Act IV, Scene I)
by William Shakespeare

Round about the cauldron go;  
In the poison’d entrails throw.  
Toad, that under cold stone   
Days and nights hast thirty one  
Swelter’d venom sleeping got,  
Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot.  

     Double, double toil and trouble;
     Fire burn and cauldron bubble.  

Fillet of a fenny snake,  
In the cauldron boil and bake;  
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,  
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,  
Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,  
Lizard’s leg, and howlet’s wing,  
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.  

     Double, double toil and trouble;  
     Fire burn and cauldron bubble. 

Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,    
Witches’ mummy, maw and gulf      
Of the ravin’d salt-sea shark,    
Root of hemlock digg’d i’ the dark, 
Liver of blaspheming Jew,          
Gall of goat, and slips of yew    
Sliver’d in the moon’s eclipse, 
Nose of Turk, and Tartar’s lips,
Finger of birth-strangled babe   
Ditch-deliver’d by a drab,
Make the gruel thick and slab:
Add thereto a tiger’s chaudron,       
For the ingredients of our cauldron.

     Double, double toil and trouble; 
     Fire burn and cauldron bubble. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Zombies in Zizzerland

by Pa Rock
Theatre Fan

It's a beautiful fall day here in the Ozarks.  The sky is a cloudless blue, the air is still surprisingly warm, and the colorful harvest of autumn leaves are slowly drifting to the ground where they peacefully await the rake, or the mower, or the brisk winds of winter that will carry them off to the yards of my neighbors!

Last night I had the pleasure of watching a fine theatrical production by the Avenue Theatre  troupe here in West Plains.  The play, just in time for Halloween, was a stage version of the old movie classic, Night of the Living Dead.   The adaptation for the stage was written by Lori Allen Ohm, and the play was directed locally by Jim Clemens.

The theatrical company, many of whom are young people from the community (Go, Zizzers!), are a robust group of individuals who appear to be at ease in their roles both on and off stage.  The acting as well as the technical aspects of the productions of the Avenue Theatre are consistently professional.

The local production of Night of the Living Dead had some startling moments designed to put the audience into jump-and-shriek mode, but overall it seemed to promote fun over fright.  Yes, there were zombies stumbling up and down the aisles and in front of the stage, and the actors did get shot, mauled, and eaten - but it was all in a spirit of good, clean fun!  The audience was very engaged with the action, and some members of the audience even show up in costume.

The Night of the Living Dead will continue next weekend with performances Friday (Halloween!) and Saturday nights at 7:00 p.m.  It is a relatively brief production lasting just under an hour and fifteen minutes - even with a fifteen minute break between acts.  And while the run time is short, the laughs and screams are long!

Take your best ghoul out for a treat this Halloween and see The Night of the Living Dead at the historic Avenue Theatre in West Plains.  It will leave you hungering for more!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Pope Continues Dragging the Church Forward

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Pope Francis I, the current leader of the world's Catholics, is proving to be a true social leader and arbiter of change.   In fact, the recent days when the Church governed through benign neglect (at best) or paternalistic obstructionism (at worst) appear to be rapidly fading from memory.   When the College of Cardinals selected this Pope, they undoubtedly got far more than they had bargained for.  Francis shakes thing up!

It's only been a couple of week ago that Pope Francis rattled Church windows worldwide when he led his bishops in drafting a document suggesting that the Church should be more tolerant toward gays and divorced Catholics.  Radical notions like those brought about open angst and even condemnation from some conservative corners of the Church, particularly in America.  Now, before the Catholic bureaucracy has finished trying to tone down his last remarks, the Pope is off on a new crusade.

This time he is talking about the death penalty and prison reform.

In a speech before the International Association of Penal Law this past week, Pope Francis noted the Church's established opposition to the death penalty.  He also used the occasion to call for the elimination of life sentences and to propose serious prison reforms.  He said, in part:

"All Christians and men of good will are called today to fight not just for the abolition of the death penalty in all its forms, whether it be legal or illegal, but also the goal of improving prison conditions, out of the respect of the human dignity of people deprived of their freedom."

Keep talking, Your Holiness.  Every word you utter is golden!

Through my past employment as a social worker, I had occasion to visit inside of several American jails and prisons.   Most, including those with which I am personally familiar, are seriously underfunded and understaffed, conditions which make them more dangerous than is necessary.  Some, like those in Arizona, are privatized (owned by private, for-profit companies), which make their profits through deliberately under-serving their inmate populations.  Add to that the impact of grandstanding politicians (Joe Arpaio, for example) who whip up public fervor against inmates having any rights or privileges, and the result is a penal system whose goal is only to degrade and humiliate - with no emphasis at all on rehabilitation.  It becomes a sucking cesspool where prisoners have no hope of deliverance back into society as productive human beings.

(There is no word yet on a reaction to the Pope's statements by America's most formidable Catholic institution - the United States Supreme Court.   Surely Justice Scalia won't be able to let this affront to his angry God pass without comment.)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Terrorism Touches Canada

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

A young Canadian man and possible recent convert to Islam (according to Fox Noise) shot a soldier at the Canadian War Memorial in Ottawa a couple of days ago, then commandeered a car and driver and made his way to Parliament where he managed to get inside of the building and fire off a couple of more rounds before he was fatally shot by Parliament's Sergeant-at-Arms.  The shooter, 32-year-old Michael Zehaf-Bibeau,  had recently had his passport revoked by the Canadian government and was reportedly a person of interest to the government.  He was using a lever-action hunting rifle that, without reloading - which he did not do - could fire a maximum of eight single shots.

The Canadian Parliament has been remarkably easy to access.  When the shooter was killed, he was reportedly outside of the room where Prime Minister Stephen Harper was meeting with his party caucus.

I heard on the radio this morning that the grounds of the Canadian Parliament are used by the public on a daily basis - for strolling, playing frisbee, and even yoga classes.  Now, sadly, security is likely to be ramped up with the result being something like the nearly inaccessible United States Capitol.

In the summer of 1990 our family took a leisurely vacation drive through much of Ontario and Quebec.  One Saturday as we were driving toward Ottawa, the capital, the Prime Minister at the time, Brian Mulroney, was on all of the local radio stations promoting the Meech Lake Accord, an agreement that he and the ten provincial premiers had reached regarding five new proposed amendments to the Canadian Constitution.  The amendments, which ultimately failed to make it into the constitution, were designed to make the residents of Quebec, a province with a strong historical French culture,  feel more respected and accepted by the rest of Canada.  Mulroney was giving his radio address from the Parliament building in Ottawa.

Mulroney was still speaking as we rolled into Ottawa and onto the grounds of Parliament.  We had just parked and were climbing out of our van when a group of reporters rushed by and one said that the Prime Minister was about to come out.  Being tourists, we followed the crowd to a set of large ornate doors which immediately swung open and discharged Prime Minister Mulroney, his wife, and a squad of government bureaucrats out into the small crowd.   The elected leader of Canada paused long enough to shake a few hands, including mine, and then climbed into his limo and was whisked away from the unwashed masses.

I thought at the time how refreshingly different Canada was from Reagan's fortress America.  I hope this week's shooting doesn't result in them becoming as paranoid and as isolated from their halls of government as we are.

Canada, do overreact.  You're better than that!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

God, Guns, and Goobers Hope to Win Big in Arkansas

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I had the opportunity to listen to some acrimonious political radio ads and view an assortment of campaign signs this past week as I drove across southern Missouri and northern Arkansas.  Actually, there weren't many in Missouri because in the few areas where there are races, the Republicans are lopsidedly favored.  Rural Missouri likes their pols on the loony side.

And, in all honesty, Arkansas does too.

There are two big races in Arkansas.  Democratic Senator Mark Pryor is in the fight of his career trying to keep his place at the trough in Washington.  He is being opposed by Tom Cotton, a Republican congressman and Bush War veteran.  Both men are Washington insiders who would like to convince the voters that they good old boys from just down the street.  Pryor is blanketing the radio airwaves with a very negative ad portraying Cotton as wanting to raise the age for Medicare and Social Security to seventy.  That's to scare aging voters.  To frighten the young he notes that Cotton wants to raise interest rates on student loans.   Other Pryor ads indicate that Cotton is being hypocritical on student loans because he used them himself for his education.  The senator also accuses his opponent of being in the pocket of billionaires.

Cotton's ads, at least in northern Arkansas where he probably thinks he will win big anyway, are more positive. He talks about growing up on the farm that has been in his family for generations and fighting for freedom in the Middle East.  Long on flag-waving, short on substance.

Sadly, I suspect that Mark Pryor is facing an early retirement.  It's doubtful that even Claire McCaskill could parachute in and save him now.

The other lively race in Arkansas is the one for governor.   The incumbent, democrat Mike Beebe, is leaving office due to term limits.   The Democratic candidate to replace him is Congressman Mike Ross.  He is running a solid campaign but will likely come up short - primarily due to being a decent human being.  The Republican candidate is Asa Hutchinson, a former congressman and bureaucrat from the George W. Bush administration.  Hutchinson, a graduate of Bob Jones University (sic), is the brother of Tim Hutchinson, a former congressman and one-term Republican senator from Arkansas.  Asa has big billboards blaring that he is "Pro Life, Pro Guns, and Pro Morality," or, pro gun and pro God to impress the goobers.   Hutchinson is campaigning to put computer science in every Arkansas high school - and to lower the state's income taxes.

How did lowering those taxes work out for your buddy, Sam Brownback, over in Kansas, Asa?

It looks like God, guns, and goobers may do very well in Arkansas this November.

Maybe it's time for Big Dog to fly home and straighten things out!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Skin Cancer: A Souvenir of Arizona

by Pa Rock
Former Desert Rat

Many people leave the lush green of the midwest when they reach retirement age and head out to the parched lands of the American west - particularly Arizona.  They ago because the winters are warmer (and that's true), and taxes are lower (and that's a big lie).   Most wind up in hot little mobile homes which are squeezed in bumper-to-bumper between other dumb asses who rushed west to retire in warmth and comfort.  It's just them, neighbors they don't like, scorpions, sagebrush, and regret.  They drink heavily and grow more bitter each day as they slowly bake themselves to death.  It's far from an idyllic final act.

I went the other direction to retire - away from the God awful heat and lunatics of Arizona and toward the peace and quiet of living in the Ozarks.  I have been here almost eight months - and have few regrets.

But I learned this week that I brought and unintended souvenir back from Hellizona:  skin cancer.  I've had several uglies breaking out on my face - one which resembled an angry wart - and finally my doctor referred me to a dermatologist.  He took biopsies from two spots, and I learned yesterday that both were positive for skin cancer.  I was driving when the call came and didn't get any specifics other than they will see me next week for treatment.   The lady who phoned did not seem overly concerned - of course, it's not her skin!

When the doctor and his assistant were examining me and taking a social history, their heads began nodding as soon as I mentioned that I had recently moved from Arizona.   My souvenir from the Scorpion State was beginning to show itself.

Arizona is bad for skin - and I don't care what the lying tourism industry out there says on the subject.  If you need proof, just google a photo of the governor, Jan Brewer.  Desert Pete ain't got nothing on her!

I have never been a consistent user of sunscreen, but I plan to correct that now.   Everyone should wear sunscreen - and they should stay the hell away from Arizona!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Rush West

by Pa Rock
Road Warrior

I made a quick trip to southwest Missouri and northwest Arkansas yesterday to check on property, relatives, and friends - not necessarily in that order.  Rosie the Wonder Dog travelled with me and spent most of the nearly two hundred mile trip snoozing peacefully on my lap.  She knows how to make the very best of a dog's life!

My first sop was in Neosho where I met my grandson, Boone, and took him to lunch.  Boone is a sophomore at Neosho High School.  I also had to do a bit of banking in the Flowerbox City.  I drove Boone around town and showed him the house that my parents were living in when both Gail and I were born.  It is still there, at 510 Park Street next to the Neosho National Fish Hatchery.  The little house is fairly dilapidated and appeared to be empty.  I suspect that it will soon be torn down.

My earliest memories are of walking past the fish hatchery with my parents and throwing rocks at the trout.  One day when I was about two and my mother was busy with some household chore, I slipped out of the house unnoticed.  A railroad track runs between that house and the fish hatchery.  Two high school girls found me playing on the tracks and took me home - much to the astonishment of my mother who did not realize that I had even left the house.   (That was over sixty years ago.  If it had happened now, my good friends from the 40th Circuit Children's Division - which I used to head - would have been paying the scared mother a visit.)

I also drove Boone by the house that we used to live in when his father was a sophomore (and junior, and senior) at Neosho High School.

My next stop was twenty miles south of Neosho in Noel, Missouri, where I went to the cemetery and checked on my parents' graves.  Gail, or one of her adult children, had their stone nicely decorated.

I swung by the home of my good friend, Mertie Harmon, and took her with me as I went to check on two properties that I still have in Noel.  Mert held Rosie as we drove - and she became quite attached to her.   Mert told me that someone had dropped a mama cat off by her house, and the feline gave birth to seven kittens.   I respectfully replied that I have known her over fifty years (she is the mother of one of my classmates) and that people were dumping pregnant cats off near her home as long as I have known her.  Mert is the type of person who will look after the kittens and see that they make it into good homes - or to an animal shelter.  She has earned a cushy spot in heaven - many times over!

Both of the Noel houses looked to be in good order, though one is undergoing renovations that are coming along very slowly.  The lady who manages those properties for me had a wonderful time playing with Rosie - a dog who never meets a stranger!

I also managed to get in a quick visit with my old college roommate, James Carroll, who was at work remodeling a home that he and Patti own.  James, the consummate glutton for punishment, has served as Mayor of Noel on a couple of occasions.

Rosie and I spent last night with my sister at her home in Fayetteville, Arkansas (Go Razorbacks - woo pig sooie!)  Gail doesn't eat eggs, never has, but I brought her three cartons of farm-fresh eggs to distribute to her Arkansas kids.  We discussed several good places to eat, and finally decided on Steak and Shake, someplace neither she nor I had been in years.  The one in Fayetteville is excellent, and the staff was among the finest of anyplace I have ever eaten.   There's not a steakhouse in that area where we would have eaten better or received treatment as good as what we experienced at that Steak and Shake.  Good job, people!

Rosie loved her Aunt Gail!

Today we drove home through a fog so thick that for the first three hours of the trip visibility was limited to twenty-five feet or so - and sometimes not that much.  Again, Rosie laid on my lap snoozing and didn't worry about a bit of it.  The sun was out by the time we got home, and she immediately rushed into the yard and began trying to herd the chickens.  Sometimes she chases them, and other times they chase her!

That was our road trip.  It was fun, and quick, and we're glad to be home!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Monday's Poetry: "Al Franken's Fundraising Sonnet"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

If you are anything like me and somewhat politically aware, you are probably sick to death of emails from candidates begging for money.  It’s not like the old days when it cost actual money to send out campaign literature  and tear-stained pleas for cash.  Now, with email being essentially free, thousands of potential money contributors can be blanketed with requests at just the push of a button.

As the political season has dragged on, the quality of the emails are evolving.  The campaigns know that most of these irksome communications are routinely deleted by most recipients, so the game is to make them so interesting in the subject line that those receiving the nuisance emails will open them just out of curiosity.

One of the current trends is to put the word “personal” in the subject line, you know – just a quick note from the candidate running for Congress in New York to you “personally” – because the old coot or cootess really wants to know what you specifically are thinking – and please send money. 

Another strategy that I am enjoying (not!) are emails sent from the candidate’s iPhone.    That crafty bugger took time out of his extremely busy schedule to pull his iPhone out of his pocket and send me an email!  Wow!  Am I important, or what?

There are also emails focusing on specific issues that are worded to make readers so angry that they will whip out their checkbooks, those with surveys attached that make readers think their opinions will help shape the positions of the candidates, and emails with artificial deadlines that beg for money RIGHT NOW before the second quarter donation deadline tonight at midnight.  (Of course, they would gladly accept your money tomorrow, as well!

The game is to try and differentiate the e-mailer's begging from the other guy’s – and as soon as someone comes up with an original approach, others quickly copy the idea and make their own version.

This week Senator Al Franken (D, MN – and Saturday Night Live) cranked one out that was unlike anything I have received this election season.  Franken, or his campaign poet, sent out a sonnet asking for funds.  Good one, Al!

Franken - Clinton in 2016!

(Franni Franken, the senator’s wife, also sends out the occasional email, and hers are always a work of art.  My favorite is her Thanksgiving email containing favorite family recipes.)

Here is the Franken fundraising sonnet.    Enjoy – and if it leaves you itching to send money to the senator’s campaign, the snail mail address is:  Al Franken for Senate 2014, P.O. Box 583144, Minneapolis, MN  55458-3144.  And be sure to tell him that Pa Rock sent you!

Al Franken’s Fundraising Sonnet
by the Franken Campaign

This deadline coming up just ain’t a ruse
It’s crunch time with our foes on the attack
And with just days to go, you have to choose
Will sit idly by – or help fight back?

Our field program is fully underway
From Moorhead to Mankato to the Range
And yes, there’s more new email every day
And yes, as it gets late they’re getting strange
But right-wing groups want you to hit “delete”
They hope you’re cynical, they hope you’ll quit

Because they want to buy this Senate seat
And that is how they’ll get away with it
So if you think this sonnet’s lame, that’s true
But he, at lease it isn’t a haiku

Now, whip out those checkbooks!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Remembering One of the Greatest Generation

by Pa Rock
Proud Son

My father, Garland Eugene Macy, were he still living, would be ninety-years-old today.  He was born on October 19th, 1924, in the Westview area of Newton County, Missouri – approximately halfway between Seneca and Neosho. 

Dad was the second of four children born to Charles Eugene “Chock” and Hazel Josephine (Nutt) Macy.  Dad’s older brother was Wayne Hearcel Macy, and his two younger siblings were Tommy Dean Macy and Betty Joan Macy (Lankford).  My Dad passed away in the wee hours of Christmas morning in 2009 at the age of eighty-five.  With the passing of my Aunt Betty last fall, all of the children of Chock and Hazel are now gone.

My father married my mother, Ruby Florine Sreaves (also a native of rural Newton County, Missouri) on March 31st, 1946.  Mom passed away at their home in Noel, Missouri, on December 8th, 1986.  They had two children – me and my younger sister, Gail.

My parents and their siblings were part of what Tom Brokaw famously called “the greatest generation.”    They came of age in the Great Depression, a time in our history that necessarily forged values like thrift, conservation, and self-reliance, and many of them entered adulthood helping to shoulder American efforts in World War II. 

My father attended school at Westview.  He was a good student, and the teacher promoted him from first to third grade, an act that apparently caused some resentment among his cousins and friends.  Westview only went through grade ten, so when Dad finished tenth grade he moved to Neosho and got a room with relatives – and a job – so that he could complete high school.  He graduated from Neosho High School in May of 1942 – just in time to join the war effort.

Dad enlisted in the new Army Air Corps (the precursor to the United States Air Force).   One of his primary duties was to fix the sights on aircraft machine guns.  He served in England and in France where he attained the rank of Staff Sergeant.  He was the only one among his cousins to obtain the rank of Sergeant, and most of them continued to call him “Sarge” even after the war.  Dad received a serious wound in a training exercise in France in 1944, an act that led to his receiving the Purple Heart.

(Dad's best friend in the military was Joe Spake of Memphis.  Within the past few years I have enjoyed re-establishing contact with Joe's sons and daughter.)

Many in my father’s generation had grown up in poverty and desperate circumstances, and after the war their attention turned to making money so their their families would have a better quality of life than they had experienced in the Great Depression.  My father was always proud of the fact that he had seldom had to work for a paycheck.  He and my mother had a variety of businesses in their lifetimes, and Dad was out working as a landlord on the day he died.

(Dad and Mom also bragged about being homeowners – stating that they had only paid rent one time in their married lives.)

My parents were both good family people, but if there was one outside force that shaped their lives, and especially drove my father, it was it was an obsession to continually be making money.  Money, in fact, was almost his exclusive measure of success.  And it was more than just making money – it was saving, putting money aside for those “rainy days” or the potential needs of old age.    Money was not wasted:  clothes were bought too big so that they could be “grown into,” nights on vacation were either spent sleeping in the car or in the homes of relatives, and treats for the drive-in were prepared at home and brought along to the movies.    Making a big purchase, like a vehicle or major appliance, would involve a “haggling” process over price that could last for hours.  Money was to be accumulated – not wasted.

My father was born poor when the American economy was “roaring” under President Calvin Coolidge.  He grew up in the poverty and neglect of the Hoover administration and the social and economic experimentation of FDR, and he matured in war.  He got his business footing and began climbing the ladder of success while Ike and Mamie were in the White House,  and he passed away during the first term of America’s first black President. 

During my dad’s eighty-five years he went from trapping and selling rabbits for pennies to buying, renting, and selling homes.    He listened to radio when it was a new medium, and as an adult he was able to sit back and enjoy television – particularly the westerns like “Gunsmoke” and “Have Gun, Will Travel.”  By the time of his death he had mastered such modern marvels as the VCR and the microwave oven.   Even though my dad’s father only drove a car one time in his life and often traveled to town in a horse and buggy, my father owned and drove many vehicles over the years, he even had his own airplane for awhile.  (He got his pilot’s license after the war through benefits from the new G.I. Bill.)

When my father was born students were using hand-held slates in the classrooms.  By the time he passed away they were using laptop computers and hand-held calculators.

The old guy saw a lot of change in his lifetime.  He witnessed all seven of his grandchildren reach adulthood, and was even around to meet several of his great-grandchildren.    Those grandchildren and great-grandchildren are all good people – and that is a legacy of which he would be very proud.

Happy birthday, Dad.  You are remembered and missed!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Another Carnival Disaster

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I knew when I heard the news yesterday that Belize was denying entry to a cruise ship because someone who had been exposed to Ebola was on-board, the ship would undoubtedly belong to Carnival Cruise Lines - and it did!

A few years ago I managed to save up a few extra dollars (a feat that cannot be accomplished while farming) and determined to make a stock purchase.  I had studied the market and had my eye on two stocks in particular:  Harley Davidson (HOG) and Carnival Cruise Lines (CCL).  Some of my friends owned Harley’s, and just about everyone I knew took an occasional cruise – myself included. 

I had only made a couple of stock purchases in the past, but I had been extremely fortunate on those picks – all which were made by looking at stock histories, seeing how the companies were performing out in the real world, and following my gut.

My gut in this case was pushing for Harley, but I made the unfortunate decision to seek the advice of my stockbroker – and she leaned strongly toward Carnival.    I took her advice – just in time to witness in horror as the Costa Concordia, a cruise ship owned by a company that was owned by Carnival, hit a reef off of the coast of Italy and partially sank killing thirty-two people.   

The sinking of that ship ultimately resulted in Carnival stock sinking as well.  When a stock takes a sudden drop in value, there are a few options.  First, the stockholder can sell and get the hell away from that unlucky purchase – but selling confirms the loss and does away with any chance of ever getting the investment back.  The money is gone.  The second option is to stand pat and hope that the stock will eventually rebound.  The stocks of large, well-known corporations often do rebound.  A third option is to double-down while the price is low and buy more. 

After watching the stock price remain low for several months – throughout the summer and up until the fall and winter cruising season – I decided to take the third option and buy more Carnival stock at the lower price so I could see a return on my investment when the price finally began rising. 

No sooner was the ink dry on the agreement to purchase than disaster struck that cruise line again.   This time it was an engine fire aboard the Triumph that resulted in a loss of power throughout most of the ship and caused the vessel to struggle crossing the Caribbean for five days until finally reaching the port at Mobile, Alabama.   Bathrooms backed up, people became ill, emergency supplies had to be flown in daily by helicopter – and passengers called relatives and the press to offer constant updates regarding the hell that they were experiencing aboard the vessel.

And CCL stock prices dropped again.  But I had learned my lesson and stood pat – choosing neither to sell nor to purchase additional stock.

Now, of course, there is another Carnival Cruise Lines disaster taking place.  The Magic, with four thousand or so once-happy tourists aboard, was denied entry into ports in Belize and Mexico after it was learned that one of the healthcare workers who had been exposed to the Ebola patient in Dallas was on board the vessel.  Carnival did quarantine the worker on board the ship, but that precaution was not enough to convince other countries to take the risk of exposing their populations to a flood of passengers – anyone of whom could conceivably be a carrier.  

Four thousand passengers, it would seem, got little more than a long boat ride for their money.

As an interesting aside, Carnival’s very first cruise ship, the TSS Mardi Gras, ran aground on its maiden voyage in 1972.  Obviously my research on this company was seriously flawed!

If and when the price of Carnival Cruise Lines stock ever rises to the point where I can break even – I will be selling my shares.

It’s a carnival all right – one that could have been put together by Stephen King! 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Guns Versus Free Speech in Utah

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Anita Sarkeesian, described in the press as a “feminist pop culture critic,” was forced to cancel a speaking engagement at Utah State University after an anonymous e-mailer threatened to launch the biggest school shooting in history.  The e-mailer specifically referenced an earlier shooting in Montreal in 1989 in which shooter there, Marc Lepine, murdered fourteen women and claimed he was “fighting feminism.”

Ms. Sarkeesian had planned to speak to students and faculty at Utah State University on the subject of violence against women in video games..

The misogynistic email rant against Anita Sarkeesian stated in part:

“I have at my disposal a semi-automatic rifle, multiple pistols, and a collection of pipe bombs.  This will be the deadliest school shooting in American history and I’m giving you a chance to stop it. 
 “You have 24 hours to cancel Sarkeesian’s talk . . . Anita Sarkeesian is everything wrong with the feminist woman, and she is going to die screaming like the craven little whore that she is if you let her come to USU.  I will write my manifesto in her spilled blood, and you will all bear witness to what feminist lies and poison have done to the men of America.”

Sarkessian initially planned to go ahead with her talk at the university despite the threat, but she relented after officials told her that people with “concealed carry” permits in Utah were free to bring their handguns to the event.  Her First Amendment right to speak freely had been preempted by Joe Bob Shitkicker’s Second Amendment right to carry his guns anywhere he damned well pleased.

(You just can’t get more American than that!)

Even though an imbecile with access to email managed to keep Anita Sarkessian from speaking – and hundreds from hearing what she intended to say – I can’t help feeling that his anonymous threat served to underscore the message that she would have delivered.   Male violence toward women is about power and control, and it is a phenomenon that is learned – in places like the home – and even in video games.

And if a woman won’t voluntarily submit to a man’s will, then she must be forced to do it.

The knuckle-dragger proved her point!