Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Huck Bucks after being Spurred by the Imperial Court

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

There was a lot of big news across the nation last week - the continuing rage against official displays of the Confederate flag, for example, or President Obama's beautiful eulogy for the Charleston shooting victims.   And the Supreme Court helped to insure medical care for millions with its second affirmative decision on Obamacare.

But there was also another decision from the Supreme Court last week that overshadowed the momentous one on Obamacare, and it has stirred the emotions of people from coast to coast - making some jubilant while inflaming others.   That decision was the one which essentially made gay marriage the law of the land.   It is proving to be a bitter, bitter pill for some people to swallow, and many influence peddlers and public officials seem determined to either ignore or openly violate the Court's decision.

The United States Supreme Court was an extremely popular institution in right-wing circles back in 2000 when five of the nine justices got together, probably over bourbon and branch water, and made George W. Bush the President of the United States.  Now, even though the membership of the Court is more conservative than it was then, it is viewed by some of those on the right fringe as "imperial."  After the Obamacare vote and the gay marriage decision, more than a few conservatives are openly talking about changing to Constitution to limit the powers of the Court - perhaps even having the justices stand for a public vote of renewal every few years.

Others, though, have gone even further and have declared that they will not abide by the Court's decision on gay marriage.   Ken Paxton, the GOP attorney general of Texas, quickly declared that state workers in his state do not have to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples if doing so runs counter to their religious beliefs.  Paxton also said that judges may refuse to marry same-sex couples on the same religious grounds.  The Texas attorney general isn't going to take the legal heat for it, though.  He said that those same workers and judges could be sued for their actions - or lack of action - but he felt that many good Texas lawyers would quickly step forward and defend those God-fearing patriots for free.  So basically Ken was encouraging Texas officials to break the law and wishing them well in their efforts to do so - while keeping himself safely above the fray - barely.

A wall along the Texas border sounds like a good idea - its northern border!

But it was former Arkansas GOP governor (and 2016 presidential candidate) Mike Huckabee who yelled the loudest.  Huckabee, a former Baptist minister and Fox News television personality, decried the decision from the "imperial" Court and gave his opinion that county officials did not have to issue marriage licenses to gay folk because to do so would countermand the will of God.  Huck apparently has no issue at all with the wall between church and state - to him it just simply does not exist.  (He also said this week that if he is elected President, he would be setting up a nativity scene on the White House lawn at Christmastime.  One has to wonder if he will opt for the historically correct black baby Jesus.)

Wiggle like a stick, waddle like a duck
That's what you do when you do the Hucklebuck.

(I recently changed a key member of my medical care team because the doctor in question ran an ad on the front page of our little "trader" newspaper, a free rag that prints only advertisements and personals.  He was going to be conducting a study group on Biblical healthy living practices.  When it comes to physicians, I want mine deeply and firmly rooted in science.  And when it comes to elected officials, especially ones who will be responsible for tackling environmental issues like global warming and other things that could ultimately end life on the planet, I prefer those be steeped in science as well.)

Some are moaning that with last week's decisions, God has forsaken America.  It is just as likely, I suspect, that God has suddenly returned from Her holiday on Pluto to check in on Her people farm here on Earth - and She has made some much needed adjustments.  Maybe She will ultimately be able to save us all from the hate-mongering Christians.

Pray for peace, fight for justice.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Monday's Poetry: "Ballad of Birmingham"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

The past two weeks have witnessed monumental and fundamental change in America, with the precipitating event to much of that change being a bloody hate crime in the American south.   An ignorant and confused young white man walked into a prayer meeting at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, where he apparently spent some time in fellowship with the congregation before opening fire and killing nine of them.

A couple of days ago President Obama went to Charleston where he gave the eulogy for the church's minister, Clementa Pinckney, who was murdered in the attack.  Some said that the eulogy represented the high-water mark of Obama's oratory skills - and he followed his remarks by leading those gathered at the funeral in what was reportedly an amazing rendition of "Amazing Grace."  Many in the press felt that Obama had gotten his groove back.

The shooter in South Carolina was a twenty-one-year-old named Dylann Roof.  He had apparently come under the influence of several on-line hate groups who filled his head with stories of black criminals running amok in society and raping white women.  Mr. Roof also had a fixation on the Confederate flag and dreamed of instigating a race war.

The race war didn't happen, but at least five black churches across the south have been burned since the mass murder in Charleston - just cowardly acts of nighttime terror.   The shooter did, however, probably much to his own shock and horror, precipitate a war of sorts on his beloved Confederate flag.  Nikki Haley, the governor of South Carolina, is asking her state's legislature to remove it from the state capitol grounds - and another young woman in the state, Bree Newsome, didn't wait for the legislature to act - she climbed the flagpole and removed the symbol of bigotry and slavery herself.  Ms. Newsome, an African-American, was promptly arrested - it is still the American south, after all.

Governors in other southern states are either removing, or seriously talking of removing, Confederate flags that are on display in their own states - all changes being brought about by a young man who wanted to instigate change.  Thank you, Dylann Roof, for helping to speed the demise of that emblem you so dearly love.

Back in the first hundred years following the Civil War, racial hate crimes, if they were even reported at all, were often just local news.  That began to change in the 1960's when activists from the north and national television crews started arriving in the South to see what was going on and to make changes.  Several crimes occurred during that time that truly shocked the nation.  One of those was the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church (a black church) in Birmingham, Alabama, a blast which killed four beautiful young black girls.

Today's poem, "Ballad of Birmingham," by the late African American poet and publisher, Dudley Randall, pays homage to that awful event.   Maybe things are not much better than they were fifty years ago when this crime at a black southern church shocked a nation - or maybe real winds of change are starting to stir.  This time there was a black American President to go to the site of the carnage and lead all Americans in prayer and song.  This time there was a young black female able to scale a flagpole and bring down a symbol of hatred without being set upon by police dogs or shot.  This time there was a promise of actual change wafting through the magnolias of the Old South.

The 16th Street Street Baptist Church wasn't the first black house of worship destroyed by racial hatred, and sadly the African Methodist Episcopal Church of Charleston hasn't been the last, but if we all hold hands and vow to overcome, someday America will see the absolute end of racial intolerance.  It's those who hate who are slowly fading from view - along with their beloved flag.

Please join me in remembering Birmingham and all of the other racial injustice that has wracked our nation and world over the centuries.  It is time to put that strife to rest - in a museum somewhere along with the Confederate flag - and get on with the process of achieving the liberty and happiness that every human - everywhere - deserves.

Ballad of Birmingham
by Dudley Randall

“Mother dear, may I go downtown
Instead of out to play,
And march the streets of Birmingham
In a Freedom March today?”

“No, baby, no, you may not go,
For the dogs are fierce and wild,
And clubs and hoses, guns and jails
Aren’t good for a little child.”

“But, mother, I won’t be alone.
Other children will go with me,
And march the streets of Birmingham
To make our country free.”

“No, baby, no, you may not go,
For I fear those guns will fire.
But you may go to church instead
And sing in the children’s choir.”

She has combed and brushed her night-dark hair,
And bathed rose petal sweet,
And drawn white gloves on her small brown hands,
And white shoes on her feet.

The mother smiled to know her child
Was in the sacred place,
But that smile was the last smile
To come upon her face.

For when she heard the explosion,
Her eyes grew wet and wild.
She raced through the streets of Birmingham
Calling for her child.

She clawed through bits of glass and brick,
Then lifted out a shoe.
“O, here’s the shoe my baby wore,
But, baby, where are you?”

Sunday, June 28, 2015

"You're Invited!" A Review of a New Novel

by Pa Rock

You’re Invited!  is a work of fiction that grew out of a very real and tragic event:  the 2011 massive tornado that wiped out a good portion of Joplin, Missouri.  The setting for the story is Neosho, a small Ozark community located twenty miles south of Joplin.   The novel’s author is Tim Macy, a young writer of promise who grew up in southwest Missouri and spent several years of his boyhood in Neosho.

Tim Macy is also my son, a successful screenwriter who has one feature film to his credit, The Brass Teapot, a second scheduled for production beginning next month, and a third in an early phase of pre-production.  In Tim’s “spare” time he is a devoted husband and father as well as a part-time college instructor.  He has also completed one other novel which has yet to be published.

You’re Invited!  tells the story of Barry Mayhew, a former member of the Neosho City Council who is about to begin serving a prison term for stealing money from a fund set up to benefit victims of the Joplin tornado.  As Barry tries to come to terms with his rapidly approaching incarceration and the impending long-term separation from his young son, an event from his past suddenly re-emerges that begins to play even more havoc with his life.

This book will stir memories for anyone who has lived in or around Neosho.   The author has captured the town’s authenticity replete with the hard edges and sharp corners of life in a small community, yet as with all things based in memory, it has been air-brushed with just a hint of nostalgia.    All in all, the book presents a startlingly good composite of the town Tim knew as a boy. 

But it is psychological distress of Barry Mayhew that is the true and necessary focus of this book.  The plot is highly original, exerting a force that destabilizes that main character’s once successful life and sets it spinning out onto the darkening horizon, much like the murderous twister that spawned the tale.

You’re Invited! is being published electronically by Amazon.com.   To read it free, or to order a copy for your Kindle for just $2.99, please visit the following link.

I wouldn’t recommend it if I didn’t like it – regardless of who the author is.

Great work, Tim!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

A Better Country

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

In what will surely become one of the most commented upon and controversial decisions in its history, the United States Supreme Court yesterday struck a blow for individual freedom and dignity when it lifted all of the remaining state bans on gay marriage.  Adult citizens of the United States are now free to marry whomever they please - regardless of gender.

The vote was five to four, with the usual suspects dissenting:  Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Scalia, Justice Thomas, and Justice Alito.

That judicial decision will even take effect in Missouri, one of the final thirteen states to ban gay marriage.  Governor Jay Nixon of the "show-me" state, a Democrat presiding over a predominantly red state and overwhelmingly red legislature, had this to say:

"Today's decision in Obergefell v. Hodges is a major victory for equality and an important step toward a fairer and more just society for all Americans.  No one should be discriminated against because of who they are or who they love.  In the coming days I will be taking all necessary and appropriate actions to ensure this decision is implemented throughout the state of Missouri."

And, one must assume, even in Howl County.

Sharon Trowbridge, our Recorder of Deeds (and issuer of marriage licenses) said that she has had several calls on the matter over the last few weeks, and she had one call yesterday seeking information.  She is waiting to hear from the attorney for Missouri's Recorders' Association - and expects to be issuing licenses within the next few weeks.

Predictably, every major Republican candidate for President felt obligated to speak out against the Supreme Court decision, with former Arkansas governor and Fox television personality Mike Huckabee being the most bellicose.    Huckabee exploded with so much force that he rendered the air nearly unbreathable in several southern states.  Republicans are in a box on this one, and it is one of their own construction.  They feel the need to kiss up to the evangelical conservatives during primary season by embracing their rampant insanity, but then come time for the general election where some commonsense would be of benefit, they are tasked with the unenviable chore of suddenly and drastically changing positions.  (A process the Romney people in 2012 referred to as "shaking the Etch-a-Sketch.")

Poll after poll shows that Americans support gay marriage, and young Americans, in particular, are enthusiastic on the subject.  Republican candidates know that, but they can't break free of the lunatic fringe of their party and still win primaries.  The clown car is still racing around the track at ninety-to-nothing -  headed in the wrong direction!

And while the clowns zoom on, the rest of America can sit back and relax and enjoy the burgeoning equality.  The Supreme Court has just made us a better country.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Supreme Court Acts Humanely

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The United States Supreme Court has, for the second time in three years, stepped in and saved the Affordable Care Act from destruction by its political opponents.  Yesterday's 6-3 vote prevented what would have been a sudden loss of insurance for millions of struggling Americans.

The Court has upheld the constitutionality of the law not once, but twice, and Congress, though attempting to repeal the law more than fifty times, has been unable to do so.  Somewhere, somehow, somebody ought to be getting the message that this is a good law, one which is meant to survive.

But there is a strong conservative element in our country which opposes what many term the "nanny state."  Those folks, all white and powerful, made their money the old fashioned way, by working for it, and by God anybody else should be able to do the same in this great land of opportunity.    Of course, many of the entrenched wealthy who spout that drivel inherited far more money than they ever earned, and some, like the Bush family for instance, are living off of money and entitlement that goes back multiple generations.

In America just a handful of people control most of the wealth, so while it may be easy to point the finger and lecture others on the work ethic, most of the available jobs pay minimum wage or less and have no health insurance component.  A great many people in our country work multiple jobs and are still unable to make ends meet - much less be able to afford luxuries like health insurance.   So if the super-rich won't share their wealth through paying livable wages and behaving in a socially responsible manner, government is morally obligated to fill the gap.

Those squawking the loudest about the abuses of the nanny state are the ones ultimately responsible for its necessity.  It would be nice if we lived in a land where everyone was born with some measure of equal opportunity, but race and the unequal distribution of wealth seem to have put that noble concept on hold.

Having health insurance is a basic human right.  Many thanks to the six justices of the U.S. Supreme Court who adhered to that principal and voted their humanity.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Racist Reality of America's Gun Laws

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Walmart has no policy on guns.  Just about anything that is legal in your state is perfectly acceptable at your local Walmart, and sadly, when it comes to guns, most things are now legal in most states.  That is why Leonard Papania, the Chief of Police in Gulfport, Mississippi, went on such a rampage a couple of days ago.  No, Chief Papania did not pull his personal sidearm and start firing, but he instead held a press conference where he lambasted Mississippi lawmakers over the "open carry" law that had been passed by the legislature.

The thing that got Chief Papania so riled up was a very scary incident at a Gulfport Walmart. Two men had entered the store carrying a shotgun.  Once inside the store, the one holding the weapon stopped to "load and rack" it, an event which scared the living crap out of many shoppers and caused a flood of 911 calls to the local police department.  By the time deputies responded, the men had taken their shotgun and left the store.  The police reviewed a tape of the incident and then telephoned the culprits who quickly informed them that they were exercising their lawful right to carry a gun in public and had broken no laws - and the police could, presumably, shove their interest in the matter up where the sun doesn't shine.

But Chief Papania would not go quietly into that dark hole.  He instead chose to attack the problem head-on by calling attention to the people who had done so much to create the dangerous situation in the first place:  the dumb asses who serve in the Mississippi state legislature.

The problem, unfortunately, goes well beyond the borders of Mississippi.  Most states now have versions of "concealed carry" and "open carry" laws, legislation pushed upon them by the profit-driven nabobs from gun lobbies like the National Rifle Association and the Gun Owners of America.   Most states have also passed what are commonly referred to as "stand your ground" laws which give people the right to start firing if they "feel" threatened.

It is now a risky business to enter many retail establishments - or even to go to church to pray.

What makes these laws even more troubling is the fact that they appear to be based in race.   A white man "standing his ground" and shooting a black man is likely to go free, even if he is a known racist vigilante, while a black man pulling a gun on a white, under any circumstances, will more than likely end his day wearing a toe tag in the morgue.

And the racial disparity is even more obvious in the "open carry" cases.  Those two yahoos down in Mississippi walked out of that Walmart as free men possessing gun rights, but last September at another Walmart a young black man by the name of John Crawford was shot and killed by police while only playing with a toy gun.

What would happen if young black men across the nation suddenly decided to do their Walmart, Target, or Home Depot shopping while openly carrying guns?  Sadly, we all know the answer to that one.   The rights to carry weapons, concealed or openly, and to stand one's ground were drafted for the benefit of white Americans - with the intent of keeping "others" in their places.

(On June 7, 2015, I wrote a similar piece in this space entitled "Jim Crow Is Alive and Packing Heat."  It discussed a YouTube video showing how police reacted very differently to two individuals openly carrying - one white and the other black.)

America's gun laws have been crafted and utilized with racist intent.   Any non-white citizen who ventures into a local Walmart with a shotgun in hand - and particularly if he stops to load that shotgun once he is in the store - will more than likely be lethally stopped by a patriotic goober who is standing his ground.  A couple of whites, however, doing the same thing are able to walk out of the store, free and healthy men, and go home and taunt the police.

It's time for all people to truly be treated as equals - and it's well past time for Walmart and other national retailers to develop gun policies designed to protect shoppers.  If the nation's legislators abdicate their responsibility for the public safety, then retailers need to begin filling that void.

More guns mean more crime, more death, and more entrenched racism.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Hey Bubba, Obama's Coming to Take Your Confederate Flag!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

As a direct result of the racist killings that occurred in Charleston, South Carolina a week ago, major retailers Walmart and Sears announced that they were going to quit selling Confederate flags and merchandise bearing Confederate flag logos.  Public pressure immediately coalesced onto Amazon and eBay to follow suit - which they did yesterday.  But before Amazon announced the shift in policy, they made a pile of money off of stupid people who feared the worst - that Obama was going to come and take away their Confederate flags.

The people rushing to stockpile the Stars and Bars and driving Amazon sales of the flags up more than 8,800 percent were, of course, basically the same segment of the buying public that the NRA routinely whips into a frenzy in order to help their real clients, the American gun lobby, sell more guns. They aren't smart, but by God they will not fall victim to that black socialist who stole the White House from real Americans!

The gun and flag hoarders are buoyed in their belief system by the Bible, which few have read and even fewer understand or practice, and Fox News, where other stupid people yell at them and tell them what to believe.

(Shameful admissions:  I had a Confederate flag hanging on the wall of my apartment for awhile when I was in college.  It was a statement, I suppose, though now I am non-plussed as to what I had been trying to say.  That was nearly a half-century ago and times have changed - and thankfully I have changed with them.  Over the course of my life I have also owned two guns - both shot BB's and neither was necessary for my personal security- they just made me feel bigger than I actually was.)  

I'm glad to see the Confederate flag coming down from public buildings, and I suspect that other southern states may soon remove the symbol from their official state flags.  When international corporations like Walmart speak, two-bit state politicians tend to shake and quake.  But I am also realistic enough to know that the old symbol of enslavement of other human beings will not disappear altogether.

As mass distribution sources dry up, the flags will begin proliferating at craft and gun shows.    Making the flags by hand is one more thing that the tattooed women of the hills can do for an income while their menfolk sit on the couch watching television, drinking beer, and trying to figure out how to cook meth.

Keep flying those flags, Bubba.  They will help Obama figure out where you domestic terrorists are holed up.  And keep an eye on the sky - those black helicopters and drones are everywhere!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Spreading Rage from Charleston

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The blood had not yet dried on the church floor when my inbox began filling with petitions and appeals related to the horrific tragedy in Charleston.  Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont and Democratic presidential candidate  reached out to his followers with an email the morning following the shooting.  Sanders said, in part:

"What transpired in Charleston, South Carolina last night was not just a tragedy, it was an act of terror. 
"Nine of our fellow Americans were murdered while praying in a historic church because of the color of their skin.  This senseless violence fills me with outrage, disgust, and a deep, deep sadness. 
"This hateful killing is a horrific reminder that, while we have made important progress in civil rights for all our people, we are far from eradicating racism."

Bernie is right.  It was an act of terrorism, and it was the result of racism.  Republicans in general had trouble admitting either of those truths.

Bernie Sanders, always a classy guy, ended his email like so many politicians do - with an appeal for money.  But Bernie asked his followers to send money not to him, but to the historic church in South Carolina that had been the scene of the carnage.  His communication contained a link to assist in making that donation.

Hillary Clinton wrote a few days later, and her email, though not as timely as Bernie's and minus any request for donations, was a bit more eloquent.  She said, in part:

"Once again, bodies are being carried out of a black church.   Once again, racist rhetoric has metastasized into racist violence.  
"This is a history we wanted so desperately to leave behind, but we can't hide from the hard truths about race and justice in America.  We have to name them, own them, and ultimately change them."

Challenge noted and accepted.

Republicans predictably struggled with how to respond.  No politician in his right mind would openly support an act of violence like that which unfurled itself on Charleston, yet a big part of the base of the Republican party are white conservatives - and a goodly number of those have racist leanings.  That reality left GOP politicians scrambling to find a way to register their indignation as human beings without pissing off those what brung them to the dance.  It was a line that was much too fine for the average elephant to navigate.

And there were other types of comments as well.  Charles Cotton, a Texan who sits on the governing board of the National Rifle Association, decided to blame the victim.   He noted that the minister who was killed, Reverend Clementa Pinckney, was also a state senator in South Carolina.  Pinckney had voted against a "concealed carry" bill in his capacity as a state senator, and that legislation ultimately failed.  Cotton reasoned that if not for the political opposition of Senator Pinckney, the other eight victims might have been carrying guns that night and survived the shooting.

That logic is, of course, so flawed as to defy a logical response.  The reason the United States has the highest murder rate of any major industrialized nation is that too many people are armed - not too few.  If Mr. Cotton had been educated in any state other than Texas, he might know that.

Dylann Roof, the young thug who murdered nine people as they were praying, was a racist and proud of it.  Several photos of Roof holding a Confederate flag have surfaced, along with at least one of him burning an American flag.  The shooter's avowed intent with his bloody crime was to start a revolution - or a race war.

Some of the enraged voices emanating from Charleston seem to be focused on the Confederate flag which defiantly flies above the South Carolina state capitol.  Up until yesterday only one Republican of note, non-candidate Mitt Romney, had the cajones to openly and clearly call for its removal.  But now the state's tea-bagger Republican governor, Nikki Haley, has also come on board saying it should be taken down. That puts the GOP presidential contenders into an uncomfortable box - should they do the right thing and call for the flag's removal - or  keep their mouths shut out of fear of alienating conservative white voters in next year's South Carolina presidential primary - the first in the south?  What's a political panderer to do?

Today I saw on the internet that both Walmart and Sears have said they will remove all merchandise bearing the Confederate flag from their on-line and store sites.  Public pressure is being applied to Amazon and eBay to do the same.

It looks like instead of inciting a race war and proliferating the waving of the Confederate flag, young Mr. Roof may have triggered a chain reaction that will ultimately lead to the flag's complete removal from public view.

The tragedy in Charleston has whipped up a maelstrom of emotion -  a wrath which seems to be growing more powerful as it spreads across the land.   Let us all hope - and pray - that the deaths of those nine people in the old church in Charleston will ultimately have significant meaning and help lead America into a more tolerant and peaceful future.

And I, for one, hope - and pray - that Dylann Roof lives long enough to witness that change.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Monday's Poetry: "A Revolver"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

This week witnessed the racially motivated terrorist attack at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, an act that was committed by a young madman with a gun, an act which killed nine individuals who had gathered at the church simply to pray.  And while politicians, particularly Republican politicians, have stumbled all over themselves trying to condemn the act without offending any of their white conservative followers - and trying to paint the mass murder as something other than a racial attack, an act of terrorism, or a gun crime - it is what it is.

While digging through the internet trying to find a poem that might bear some relevance to the church shooting, I came across a unique a little known poem by one of America's premier poets, Carl Sandburg.   It is unclear when Sandburg wrote A Revolver.  The poem was unknown at the time of his death and only surfaced two years ago when a retired social work professor, Ernie Gullerud, age 83, discovered it while working as a volunteer in the rare books section of the library at the Urbana-Champaign campus of the University of Illinois.

Sandburg, in just a few lines, had quite a bit to say about guns and the power they bestow upon people.    Dylann Roof, the twenty-one-year-old shooter in Charleston, was a relative nobody harboring a head full of hate - but then he got his gun, and now we all know who he is.

A Revolver explores a dark topic, one that sadly concerns us all.

A Revolver
by Carl Sandburg

Here is a revolver.

It has an amazing language all its own.

It delivers unmistakable ultimatums.

It has the last word.

A simple, little human forefinger can tell a terrible story with it.

Hunger, fear, revenge, robbery hide behind it.

It is the class of the jungle made quick and powerful.

It is the club of the savage turned to magnificent precision.

It is more rapid than any judge or court of law.

It is less subtle and treacherous than any lawyer or ten.

When it has spoken, the case can not be appealed to the supreme court, nor any mandamus nor any injunction nor any stay of execution in and interfere with the original purpose.

And nothing in human philosophy persists more strangely than the cold belief that God is always on the side of those who have the most revolvers.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Being Jesus

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church has withstood numerous acts of violence over its two hundred year history, and yet survived.   Today its doors are open for Sunday services.  Some of those in the pews today are relatives of the people who were murdered on Wednesday - and many of them have already offered their forgiveness to the confused racist thug who killed their loved ones.  They aren't just parroting Jesus or singing to Jesus, they are being Jesus.

May the very good people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston become a light in the darkness for the entire nation.  It's time for the Civil War to end.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Tao of Cher

by Pa Rock
Disciple of Cher

Having come of age in the sixties, I have seen more than my fair share of concerts and live performances - from college fare to Branson to Vegas to Broadway - but of all of the hundreds of shows that I have seen and enjoyed, one stands out clearly from the rest.  On May 31st, 2014, I had a great seat at the Sprint Center in Kansas City where I enjoyed the singing and theatrics of Cyndi Lauper followed by an astounding performance by Cher.

Cher entered that performance standing atop a thirty-foot pillar - the high priestess of the age.

It was one hell of an evening!  Both ladies pulled out all of the stops as they led the audience on a nostalgic musical road trip.   They worked hard to see that everyone left feeling that they had gotten more than their money's worth - and there wasn't a cheap seat in the house!

So I am a Cher fan - unashamedly.

Yesterday there was a political Cher story on the internet.  The iconic entertainer had tweeted her opinion of GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, to wit:

"Donald Trump's ego is so inflated, he might as well be the Hindenberg.  In dictionary next to 'Obnoxious Asshole' see photo of 'The Donald.'"

I quickly pulled my dictionary off of the shelf, and there was Trump's picture - right where Cher said it would be!  The woman is amazing!

One of Cher's other fans (a lesser fan than me) responded back to her tweet by asking her to choose between Trump and Senator Ted Cruz, another Republican presidential candidate and troglodyte.  Cher's response:

"That's like saying 'would you rather have a migraine or throw up?'"

Yet another fan asked if she would ever agree to have her picture taken with Trump, to which Cher replied that she would rather stick needles in her own eyes.

Hard to believe that Cher's musical other half, Sonny Bono, went on to become a conservative Republican congressman before being felled by a tree.

Cher, however, remains true to the spirit and tao of the sixties.   The world is her stage, and Donald Trump is her doormat!

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Road to Jefferson City

by Pa Rock

There was a time back in the late 1990's when I was a familiar figure in Jefferson City, Missouri's capital.  At that time I was a graduate student at the University of Missouri, just up the road in Columbia where I was working on the degree of Master of Social Work.   One of the ways that I filled in my non-school time during those years was as an operator/counselor at the state's child abuse and neglect hotline which is located in a rather nondescript building in Jefferson City.

But that was then.

After graduating from MU, I had very little  contact with the central part of the state - that is until yesterday when I left my farm at 3:30 a.m. to ensure that I could make the road trip north to the capital safely and without having to rush.  Most of the drive was in the rain.

It was my first trip to Jefferson City from West Plains, and I seriously misjudged the amount of time it would take to get there.  The class that I was attending (continuing education for renewal of my social work license) did not begin until 8:00 a.m., and I was in town and at the parking garage a little before six.   I also misjudged the city traffic.  Jeff City is little more than an overgrown cowtown of offices and watering holes for politicians.  Traffic is almost a bigger problem in West Plains than it is in downtown Jefferson City.

Oh, well, my early arrival gave me plenty of time to look around - I suppose.

The first thing I learned on my capital city walkabout is that the place is a mecca for lobbyists.  Just about every building was inhabited by lawyers or representatives of some trade or labor group.  I spied the offices of the Missouri School Boards Association and teachers groups near the capitol building, as well as groups representing convenience stores and elk growers.  Anyone with any interest in government has an office in Jefferson City where they can readily buy some of it.

I also discovered that almost all of the downtown cafes don't open until eleven.  I guess that must be when our esteemed legislators crawl out of their lobbyist-funded beds and begin stumbling into work.  (Did I just use the terms "legislators" and "work" in the same sentence?  Missouri legislators, at that!)

After a morning in the most boring class that I have endured in recent memory, I had lunch with an old friend whom I hadn't seen for several years.  The visit was great - even if the lunch was not.  It was followed by the afternoon class session, which was somehow even worse that what we had to sit through that morning.

Most of the ride home was in a downpour, and I got back to Rock's Roost just in time to put the chickens - and then myself - to bed.  Today I am on the road to Springfield (two hours each way) for a doctor's appointment - and it is raining again!.

Living in the country makes for a fair amount of driving!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

More Senseless Bloodshed in America

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Nine people were killed last night when a young white man opened fire at a predominantly African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina.  The 21-year-old domestic terrorist allegedly yelled "You rape our women, you have to go!" as he opened fire on the unsuspecting worshipers.  The gunman, Dylan Storm Roof, was captured today more than 200 miles away in North Carolina.

The dead from the church shooting include the pastor, Reverend (and South Carolina State Senator) Clementa Pinckney, a religious leader who was a personal friend of President Obama.  The President addressed the nation on the church murders this afternoon and noted in his remarks that he has had to talk about these types of killings way too many times during his years in the White House.

Our demand for easy and unlimited access to guns has made America one of the most violent and dangerous places on the planet.  There are almost no guns in Great Britain or Japan, and the streets of those countries are infinitely safer than our own.  We are no longer the shining example of a leader for the rest of the world, but a wounded ex-leader bound up in bloodied bandages and nonsense bumper stickers.

Our leaders need to stand up to the National Rifle Association and the other lobbyists for gun manufacturers and sellers.  Not every moron with a pulse needs to be armed with automatic weapons - and tattooed goons don't need to be dragging their knuckles and weapons through our shopping centers, university halls, and school parking lots.   There is no guarantee in the Constitution that anyone has a right to be armed - other than a "well regulated militia."   Somehow, I don't believe that the lunatics who opened fire in Tucson, Aurora, Newtown, or Charleston were a part of any official group charged with protecting the country.

Guns are not the answer, they are the problem.  The streets of America will never be safe until the guns are gone.  

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Trump on the Stump

by Pa Rock
Political Junkie

The Republican clown car just got crazier than most people thought it ever could yesterday with the official entry of the blowhard with the bad hair, Donald Trump, into the presidential race.   Trump, a real estate developer and reality television star who is best known for publicly humiliating and then firing people, has threatened to run for President during past election cycles, but never followed through.    Now, however, the attention-seeking media whore has thrown his cash into the ring and is officially running for President.

Not surprisingly, the serious Republican candidates (oxymoron?) are rushing to put daylight between themselves and The Donald.   No one, it would seem, is eager to share a debate stage with someone who is that outspoken and unpredictable.  Polling numbers are working their way through news stories today, each "trumpeting" different aspects of Trump's unpopularity.

Fox News, the de facto propaganda arm of the Republican Party, has released numbers from one of its own polls showing that 59% of Republicans say they would never vote for Donald Trump.  ABC News / Washington Post Polls show that he has a 71% unfavorable rating among Republicans.  (I didn't see the numbers on Sarah Palin, but one suspects even she could do better than that.)

So, it looks as though the American public will be in for some world-class comedy during the 2016 election cycle as the GOP hopefuls climb over one another trying to get their faces in front of the cameras.  It's going to be like watching a barrel of monkeys playing with Bibles and guns while flinging their feces at one another!

I'm predicting that popcorn sales will skyrocket!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Look of Latte

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

In an attempt to paint the presumptive (at least in her own mind) Democratic candidate as not being authentic, Mitt Romney went on Morning Joe yesterday and said this of Mrs. Clinton:

"Somehow, though, when you see her on a stage or when she comes into a room full of people, she's smiling with her mouth, but her eyes are saying, you know, 'Where's my latte?'"
That's a clever line, one that the dullard Romney has surely paid someone to craft - just like his wife pays people to teach her horses how to dance.  But it's just a line, one created to be memorable and easily repeated, while not really saying anything of substance either for or against the candidate.    It's a tacky attempt at humor - and ain't that Mitt a card!  (Knee slap, knee slap!)

If there was ever a candidate who looked as though he would be more comfortable holding a latte than shaking the hand of a factory worker or a mechanic, that person would be Mitt Romney.  He is a dilettante who expects to be pampered - and have his pillows fluffed - and his shoes shined - and be handed a latte without having to ask.

So I guess the Mittster knows that of which he speaks.   If someone has the look of latte in their eyes, Mitt would be the one to recognize it.

The good news is that Mitt Romney is accusing Hillary Clinton of being like himself.  The bad news is . . . well, there is no bad news.  Those two could sling lattes at each other all day without getting any on the real people who populate the real world.

Bernie in 2016!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Monday's Poetry: "A Good Death Is Hard to Find"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Cowboy poetry is a distinctly American literary tradition, one that is lyrical, often poignant, and usually undervalued as a form of verse.     I have recently been watching back episodes of the A&E series, Longmire, where I came across two very good cowboy poems featured in episode twelve of the second season.    The background for part of that particular show was a cowboy poetry slam at Henry's bar, "The Red Pony."

This poem certainly evokes the feel of the main character on the show, Sheriff Walt Longmire.

The episode was entitled, "A Good Death Is Hard to Find," and that was also the title of one of the poems.   The versifier was not acknowledged.

A Good Death Is Hard to Find
Poet Unknown

The Cowboy has always been the dying breed- 
But he takes his dying slowly, perched upon his steed- 
The prairie is his prison, his church his wife- 
You can take away his sky 
You can take away his life- 
Yet where does he go when the range is all closed? 
Does he retire to his bunkhouse, and depressed propose? 
No- he climbs back in that saddle- if just to bide his time 
The Cowboy knows- a good death is hard to find.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Send Me the Money!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

My email inbox is primarily clogged by two types of junk mail.  The first is from politicians urging me to sign petitions and then follow-up with quick donations - because, you see, my cyber signature and a few spare dollars are essential in the defense of true democracy - or safeguarding civil liberties - or stopping the evil Koch brothers.  It's all up to me - it's all on my shoulders.

The other strident appeal comes from three well-known banking houses, or their doppelgängers.  ChaseBank of America, and Wells Fargo each write almost daily to warn me that someone may have accessed personal information related to my account.   Horrors!    If I could please rush a reply with further confidential information about myself, it would no doubt help to curb these atrocities and protect my accounts from cyber swindlers.

Today I received two emails from Chase, and there is seldom a day without an urgent alert from Wells Fargo.  Oddly though, I have never had an account with either of those fine banking houses.  I did have an account with Bank of America at one time, but it has long since been closed and I will never bank with them again - and they know it.  Boy howdy, do they know it!

Either I am being scammed, or else one of those nice Nigerian ladies who used to write and ask me to help them with banking favors has opened accounts in my name and forgotten to let me know.

Hey Chase, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America - instead of providing you with more personal information about myself, I think I would rather you guys close those accounts and send me the money.  I will bury it in my backyard - and then we will all feel better.

Cashiers checks will do nicely.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Religious Quackery

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Our community supports one of those free advertising rags that provides locals with a way to find or sell almost anything.  Thousands of copies are distributed each week to eager consumers, making it undoubtedly the most widely ready publication of any type within the area.   For weeks I faithfully checked this paper looking for the perfect farm dog - and eventually that is where I found him.  I still scan the front page every week along with the "pets" section - as much out of habit as anything.

A few weeks ago there was an ad on the front page that caught my attention.   A doctor was going to be conducting a weekly "study" on the "biblical principles for healthy living."  Normally that wouldn't have drawn more than a cursory glance from me - there are "doctors", and then there are "doctors", after all.  But this doctor was a genuine physician - one who had direct responsible for a critical component of my health care.

Religion is fine, in its place, and it brings comfort to many people.  But for my own personal health care, I have a strong preference for medical practitioners who are totally and unashamedly grounded in science, real science - not the type promoted in Texas textbooks.   I will soon be replacing this specialist with one who hopefully is a better fit.

Stories about religion being conflated with science are becoming more commonplace.  Anytime our country experiences a natural catastrophe, there is always some two-bit huckster/prophet grabbing a microphone to proclaim that the event was God's will.  California, for example, has been undergoing a severe drought for four years - the worst in more than twelve hundred years.  It has become so bad that the state government has announced that it will be reducing the amount of water available to California's farmers - an act that will soon reach into the pocketbooks of consumers across the nation.

And, of course, the demagogues are already out using the drought to promote their own issues.

California assemblywoman Shannon Grove has it all figured out.  The drought, according to the Bible-thumping politician, is a direct result of God's wrath over California's easy access to abortions.  She believes that more restrictive abortion laws would bring about an end to the drought - and she is therefore supporting one of those patently unconstitutional 20-week abortion bans that are coming into vogue in the dark red states.

It's not about climate change brought about by man's disregard of the environment, is it Shannon?  Jesus is due back in a matter of weeks now, isn't he, Shannon - so it doesn't make one wit's worth of difference how we treat the planet because the good people, God's defenders, are about to be lifted up and raptured away.   But until J-Boy arrives at the Los Angeles Greyhound station, let's keep the focus right where it belongs - on vaginas, or gay marriage, or skin color, or guns, or whatever - anything but the need to protect our planet and care for one another.

Lord, protect us from the evils and absurdities of "good" Christians!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Elly May, We Hardly Knew Ye

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

When it comes to keeping up with the news, I don't even pretend to be current on what is happening in the world.  I don't have television service, and I don't subscribe to a newspaper.  I do follow stories and topics that interest me over the internet.  Over the past few years the internet has evolved into my primary window on the world.

Not surprisingly, given my lackadaisical attitude toward things beyond my yard, I occasionally miss a story that would have been of interest to me.  That happened this week as I was surfing the web and came across a human interest article on famous people who had died in 2015.  The first name was that of Donna Douglas, the buxom blond actress who played the teenage tomboy and animal lover, Elly May Clampett, on the 1960's classic television series, The Beverly Hillbillies.  Donna Douglas had died on New Year's Day in Louisiana at the age of eighty-two.

Eighty-two?  Once a show ends, are the actors supposed to age?

I was fourteen when The Beverly Hillbillies premiered in 1962.  Douglas, though obviously an adult woman at the time, played the role of a country teen whose granny was worried that she was well on the way to spinsterhood.  Now, I'm slipping up on seventy, so yeah, I guess her being eighty-two was possible - but damn!

My old buddy, the internet, provided a couple of more details about Ms. Douglas that proved to be as surprising as her age.   The virginal hillbilly goddess was actually a thirty-year-old divorcee when the series began, and she had an eight-year-old son.  It's a good thing People magazine or Entertainment Tonight weren't around in those days - she would have been exposed in a Hollywood minute!

Granny, Jed, and Elly May have all passed from the scene and only Jethro (Max Baer, Jr) remains.  He is seventy-seven.

Seventy-seven?  Damn!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Headline Writer Dies Intact

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

While almost any fool can make news, it takes someone with a bit of entertainment or business savvy to turn news into a profitable business.  Almost all sources that report on news are profit driven, generating an income through paid subscriptions and/or advertisements.  Without stories that people want to read, watch, or hear about, revenue dries up and news venues blow away.  Those that survive do so because they have been successful in holding their readers, viewers, and listeners rapt attention.

This week a journalistic icon, of sorts, passed away.  Vincent A. Musetto, a former editor with Rupert Murdoch's tabloidish New York Post,  gained fame briefly for a headline which he composed on April 15, 1983, to bring attention to a bloody murder than had occurred in a topless bar in Queens.  A drunken customer, Charles Dingle, got into an argument with the bar's owner, Herbert Cummings, and Dingle subsequently shot Cummings to death.  After raping a female customer, Dingle learned that another female customer was a mortician.  He ordered that woman to cut off the head of Mr. Cummings - which she did.  The head was later found in Dingle's car.

The headline crafted by Vince Musetto:  "Headless Body in Topless Bar."

That brief attention-grabber got Musetto booked onto David Letterman's late-night television show - and the remark quickly found its way into pop culture - including a skit on Saturday Night Live and a crime movie.

Musetto, who knew at once that he had the headline of a lifetime. got cautious at the last moment and sent a reporter to the bar to make sure that it actually was "topless" - and it was.  Journalistic sensationalism was saved!

New York City's other major newspaper, The New York Times,  ran a piece on the same story under the headline:   "Owner of a Bar Shot to Death;  Suspect is Held."  There is a reason that the Times is known as "the old gray lady" of journalism.

Vincent A. Musetto died this past Tuesday of pancreatic cancer.  He was seventy-four.  His body was reportedly intact at the time of his demise.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A Day With Guineas

by Pa Rock
Poultry Provocateur

I am beginning to develop a sense of why so few farmers bother to try and raise guineas.  The birds have two admirable qualities that should place them in high demand on most small farms, yet they remain fairly uncommon - at least in these parts.  Guineas do eat ticks and chiggers - and that's not just a rural legend.   They walk the property in a pack from sunup until sundown carefully eyeballing the ground for the tiny parasites - as well as any other bugs that stumble through their line of vision.  They establish a route, and each day they work their way down that established paths with a ruthless determination.  Last year I had guineas on the place throughout the summer months, and during that time I encountered absolutely no ticks or chiggers.

The other things that guineas do so well is they make noise.  Whenever something unexpected happens on the farm, night or day, a flock of guineas will set up a racket that is impossible to ignore.  Everyone within half-a-mile will know that something is amiss at the farm where the guineas live.

I have also heard reports that guineas are good to eat, but I have never tried one.  Unfortunately, some of the predators of poultry in this vicinity would appear to be in general agreement with that assessment.

I am currently on my third attempt at raising guineas.  Fifteen or so years ago I bought some guinea chicks for my little farm in Noel.  I got them at the local feed store and basically just turned them loose with the chickens.  They did fine and grew to maturity.  The guineas soon learned that they did not want to stay in the coop at night with the chickens, and they would roost in the very tops of the tall pine trees that were abundant on the rocky patch of hillside that I called a farm.  Several times they would come walking out of the woods to show off a dozen or so baby chicks, but something always managed to get those chicks before they could reach maturity.  The first generation, however, survived and did fine.

Here at my new Roost, I decided to try raising guineas again.  The local feed stores do not handle guineas, but last spring (2014) I found a producer in northern Arkansas who sold me twenty chicks.  I started them off in my chick nursery - sort of a brooder attached to a big wire enclosure - and when they developed feathers and the ability to fly, I released the birds to make the Roost their own.  They survived the summer, but began disappearing in the fall.  By the end of October, predators had gotten all of them - as well as all of my turkeys and most of my chickens.  Although I have plenty of tall pine trees on this property like in did in Noel, the guineas never figured out that they could make relatively safe roosts for themselves in the treetops.

After the predators began their rampage, I hurriedly converted an old garage into a chicken coop that could be secured at night.  The hens who survived, the smart ones, love their new home.   But the new ones, the ones I got as chicks this spring, would much prefer to sleep outside.  Each evening I have to struggle to herd the little chickens into the coop with the older birds.

I also decided to give guineas another try this year.  I bought twenty-five from a different breeder - hoping to get a smarter strain of bird.  The little guys were in their nursery over a month and had developed both feathers and flight by the time I released them yesterday morning.  Up until yesterday the little outlaws had busted out of the nursery in ones and twos at every opportunity, but when I threw the door open at dawn yesterday and invited the entire group to experience the glories of freedom, they just stood around looking as if something must be skewed with the universe.  Eventually, though, they began stumbling out where they formed into a group in the grass and started walking the place - as guineas do.

I was in the house for a couple of hours, giving the guineas plenty of time to become accustomed to their freedom, before I went back out to check on their progress.  When I finally did go back outside I discovered that they were nowhere to be found.  Great, I thought, the guineas first day as free birds and they have all moved to the neighbor's!  But, a few more hours later and they were back.  (I only mow about half of the ten acres, leaving the rest to be bush-hogged by a friend twice a year.  The part that the farm that hasn't been mowed yet is a tall wall of grass, weeds, and sprouts - and the guineas had been out in all of that exploring as they took their initial walkabout.)

The second crisis occurred just at dark.  Farm birds instinctively look for someplace to roost as evening falls.  In addition to all of the trees, the little guineas had several other good options, including the enclosed area where they had been raised up to that point.  (I had left the door open for them.)  But instead of the old pen - or the covered coop area or the chicken house itself, the little guineas roamed about on the ground almost acting disoriented.  I tried to shoo them toward a safe area, but herding a flock of guineas is not a task that can be accomplished by one person.  Finally, well after dark, I gave up and wished them well.

This morning they were still out there walking and squawking - so perhaps at some point during the long night they discovered the safety of "up."

Up, guys, fly up!   Be survivors!  Let's show the folks around here that guineas do make sense on an Ozark farm.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Lucy and Ethel Move to the Beach

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

One of the programs that I have been watching through my Internet streaming device, the Roku, is a new sitcom from Netflix called Grace and Frankie – a show written especially to fit the talents of its two female leads:  Jane Fonda (Grace) and Lily Tomlin (Frankie).

As the series begins, the two ladies, both in their early seventies, are acquainted through their husbands who have been law partners for many years, but the wives are starkly different from one another and not close friends.  Grace is a professional woman who has started and run her own cosmetics company before recently retiring and turning the business over to one of her two adult daughters.    She has been married to Robert (Martin Sheen) for forty years.

Frankie, on the other hand, is an unreconstructed hippie.  She and her husband of forty years, Sol (Sam Waterston), have two adopted sons who are now adults.

The conflict is established in the first episode when the husbands take the wives out for a nice dinner.  At that meal they inform their shocked spouses that they have been carrying on a secret affair with each other for twenty years and plan on divorcing the wives so that they – the husbands – can marry.

Each of the couples own and reside in a very nice home in San Diego, and they jointly own a beach house in neighboring La Jolla – probably near the Romney beach manse with the infamous car elevator.  Grace and Frankie, unbeknownst to one another, each decides to leave their primary homes with their husbands and move into the beach house.  From that point on, for the first episode at least, it’s pure Lucy and Ethel (or Laverne and Shirley for you younger types), but coping in modern times which are punctuated with sex, drugs, and f-bombs.

In the first episode, which is particularly contrived in order to introduce a host of plot points, Frankie is relaxing in what she assumes is her new home when Grace arrives to begin her post-marital life there also.    After a bit of personal conflict, Frankie heads to the beach where she apparently intends to spend the night.  A worried Grace goes looking for her later in the evening.   Grace, sitting with Frankie on the beach, complains of aches and pains in her seventy-year-old body, and Frankie hands her a muscle relaxer.  Grace gratefully accepts and then grabs Frankie's glass of tea to wash it down – not realizing that the tea is made from peyote.

And then the two older women are crawling around on the beach “listening to the sand” and “smelling the colors” while Ricky and Fred are presumably cozy at home cuddling in bed.

The show does begin to get better in later episodes (thirteen have been completed and aired so far), but, as with sitcoms in general, some of the themes are a bit worn – the women learning to date again, or the men fussing over trivialities like caterers and guest lists as they plan their wedding.

There is one exceptional scene, however, a sort of dream sequence in the fourth or fifth episode, where Grace thinks she has fallen in an ice cream parlor and wakes up in a hospital preparing to undergo hip surgery.    Grace lying in that hospital bed, a scared little old lady without makeup or pretense, preparing to spend her final years pushing a walker and surviving through the mercy of others, is a very sobering image – one that only an actress with Jane Fonda’s rare range of abilities could pull off.

Grace and Frankie is slowly becoming an exceptional series.  I look forward to the second season.