Saturday, October 31, 2015

GOP Candidates to Trick-or-Treat as Spoiled Children of Privilege

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

It's not really much of a stretch.  The leaders of the Republican Party, particularly those vying for the party's presidential nomination, are all decked out in their Halloween finery - and this year they have all chosen to be the same character:  a whiney-assed, highly temperamental teenager who will do what he (or she) has to do in order to be noticed and have the whole world cater to him (or her).

Good manners be damned - and don't look to this field of contenders for any examples of fairness.  This is the big show, and it's all about me, me, me, me, ME!

I didn't watch last Wednesday's Republican debate that CNBC hosted - nor either of the two previous ones - but I have enjoyed listening to the follow-ups when the establishment news goes to great pains to tell ordinary Americans what actually happened on the stage during the performance.   Apparently many on stage felt that too much was expected from them on Wednesday.  At some point the moderators from CNBC cut from the standard fluff and started asking questions that required thoughtful responses.

"Unfair!"  hooted the trolls in the studio audience.   "Unfair," shouted spoiled child of privilege (and party chair) Reince Priebus.  CNBC was obviously picking on those dilettantes on stage who thought they possessed the personal grit to lead the free world - but shouldn't have to answer hard questions.

Republicans understand two things quite well:  The powers of capitalism and the sweetness of retribution.  Priebus called around to some of the campaigns and said that he was thinking about punishing NBC (the parent of CNBC) by taking the next scheduled debate away from NBC.  When he met with no opposition, he did just that.  Losing the debate will cost NBC big bucks - and it was also a blow to the major network's self-esteem.

Priebus's action was a show of force on the part of the Republican Party.  Play ball our way - or you won't play ball at all - at least not with us.  But some in the party, and especially some associated with the individual campaigns, want to go further.  They want the candidates to have a veto power over the individual moderators.

Hand-picked moderators ought to make for some really enlightened "debates."  You betcha, they would!

Others are suggesting that the whiney-candidates go straight to their comfort corners and bring in Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity to moderate the remainder of the phony debate schedule.  I kind of like that idea - and they could dress the process up a bit by having Sarah Palin march across the stage after each commercial with a big numbered sign to let the crowd know what round they were about to see.

When it comes to class, nobody does it better than Republicans.

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 30, 2015

A Plea for National Funding and Control of Education

by Pa Rock
Retired Educator

There are a couple of insurmountable negatives that cripple the concept of public education all across America.  The first is that the process of K-12 education, as it has historically evolved, is paid for primarily through local taxes - and the second is that old codgers, those lacking direct ties to the schools, are primarily the voters who turn out on election day - particularly when the topic of taxes is on the ballot.   Old people on fixed incomes don't like taxes and would walk barefoot to the polls in order to screw with entities that depend on public funding - entities like our schools, our children, and our future.

As an educator, I fought this problem through countless tax levy votes.  When it comes to schools, most of the old voters don't have any skin in the game and can vote "no" with the greatest of ease.  Those are YOUR kids struggling to stay warm while they share text books in that moldy, vermin-infested old building - not THEIRS.  Old people, particularly the variety who sit around listening to Fox News all day, finally have a chance to strut their stuff and wave their flags of defiance when school bond or levy issues come up.

Arizona has one of the absolute worst publicly funded school systems in America.  Coincidentally, the Scorpion State is also a haven for America's retired folk.  Some wags out there even have the temerity to refer to the state as "God's Waiting Room."  Arizona is also where school funding issues go to die.

My good friends at the Dysart United School District in the West Valley of Phoenix are trying to pass a budget override in order to keep their schools functioning at a semi-literate level.  The vote will be next Tuesday.  The last several attempts by Dysart to pass budget overrides have failed horribly, and there is little reason to suspect that next week's effort will fare any better.

My last job at Luke Air Force Base, the one just prior to my retirement, involved working with the local school districts that surround the base - and Dysart was the most prominent of the lot.   I have a good habit of always supporting school bond and levy issues and was active in some of their more recent campaigns that ultimately failed - so now the district has my Arizona cell phone number and I am getting all of their robo-calls regarding next week's vote.  I am up-to-date on the issues and eager to do my part - but unfortunately I now reside in Missouri and can only help the schools out here.  (It's that damned "local control" issue again.)

Something as important as education should not be left to local control.  If it is a critical element of who we are as a nation - our future in a highly educated and skilled society - it ought to be funded and controlled by the federal government at a level where it is safely beyond the reach of the Fox News droolies.

The way it is set up now, rich districts can, and often do, adequately fund their schools, while the poor districts suffer.  There is nothing either democratic or fair about that.

This is America.  If we want our country to be great, to truly be a world leader, we need to provide good education, on a free basis, to all students - kindergarten through college.  And while an educated public might ultimately be a threat to the survival of certain news organizations and racist social groups, it would certainly be good news for the future of mankind in general - and for our children and their children in particular.

Education is a valuable commodity - one that needs to be directed and funded by our national government and safely beyond "local" control.

And as for you, Dysart - stay strong!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Mysterious Disappearance of Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock

by Pa Rock
Clueless Detective

I enjoy reading, and, in particular, I truly enjoy the two mystery magazines that I receive every other month.  The short stories contained in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine are well-written, sharp, and very entertaining.  I have even submitted my own efforts to the two story outlets a couple of times, but rejection has been quick and certain.  They have way too much class for the likes of me!

Queen and Hitchcock's magazines are small, pulp (sister) publications which fit easily into a coat pocket.  Putting them into my jacket pocket was, in fact, how I lost the set that I took along on the Alaskan cruise.  One minute they were tucked safely (or so I thought) into my pocket, and the next moment they were gone.  I walked several decks of the Celebrity Millennium in search of my prized reading material - with no success, and I was a daily visitor to the ship's lost and found where I again came up empty-handed time after time.  My theory was that someone had found my magazines, stuffed them into their own pocket, and later discovered that they liked them as much as I did.

Live and learn.

Well, it's me we're talking about here, and apparently I didn't learn a damned thing.  Last Monday I took along the new copy of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine when I reported to the hospital in Kansas City for my surgery.  (Ellery hadn't arrived by the time I left home for the hospital.)  I knew that once I was processed, changed, and planted on a gurney, I would have plenty of time for a couple of short stories before the man with the knife appeared.  When I was called from the main waiting room, I left all of my stuff with Tim - except the magazine which I clutched to my frail old body.  I stepped into the next room, sat the magazine down as I chatted with a nurse, and reached for it one nano-second later, only to discover that it, too, had disappeared.  Remembering my shipboard experience, I began an earnest search on the spot, but the little pulp publication was gone - as gone as if it had fallen into a hole in the space-time continuum - whatever the hell that is!

Tim came back to sit with me a little later, and I sent him up to the scene of the disappearance to have a look around.  A few minutes later my sister showed up - as a surprise visitor - and I cautioned her to look very closely as she walked through the area in question.  I also let all of the hospital staff within shouting distance know of my displeasure.

Somebody, somewhere, was reading well on my subscriptions!

So, figuring that I probably would not be able to write my losses off as a charitable contribution to literacy, I stewed about it for a couple of days - and then decided to vent in a blog post.  This afternoon, just as I finished typing the title and my name to the entry, my phone rang.  Nurse Betty from Research Hospital was on the line telling me that Alfred Hitchcock had been found and that she was stuffing him in a manila envelope and sending him my way.

Thank you to the honest person who found my magazine.  You have extended my reading pleasure by several evenings and restored my wavering faith in humanity.

And now, Celebrity Millennium, you need to do your part to keep an old man entertained.  I will be in the library with Colonel Mustard awaiting your call.  Now, where did I put that damned candlestick?

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Judging a Politician by the Size of His Green Room

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

If you are a Republican political hack vying for recognition and a bit of self-respect in their circus of a nomination race - size matters, boy howdy does size ever matter!  Republicans, being the spawn of Wall Street vultures, measure everything by cost, grandness, and ultimately size.  

The Grand Old Party is having another of its "debates" tonight, and, as per usual, they can't even get on stage before loosing their regal indignation on America in general and their opposition in particular.  The sponsor of tonight's debates (CNBC, I think) apparently stepped in a big, pungent pile of elephant poop when assigning "green rooms" to the various, and plentiful, esteemed debaters.

As the story goes, some of the candidates were given green rooms (preparation spaces) that were spacious and nice, while others were assigned areas that were thinly disguised restrooms.  Donald Trump, the grandest of the Grand Old Party's candidates, was awarded the grandest room in which to practice his most grand finger-pointing and yelling prior to going on stage, while the party's other master blowhard, Chris Christy, has been assigned a room in which the central focus is a toilet bowl.  (Libertarian wunderkind Rand Paul is reportedly also doing his debate preparations in a restroom stall.)

The indignity of it all!   There are people preparing to enter into serious debates this evening who have the intellectual heft of a George W. Bush or a Sarah Palin - and their brilliance will undoubtedly be dimmed by their exposure to shoddy dressing rooms.

It just isn't fair!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Captain Truman and General Percocet

by Pa Rock

Yesterday I had some surgery at Research Hospital in Kansas City which,
although the surgery was completely successful, required spending the night at the hospital for observation.  The nurse came in around 9:00 p.m. with some meds, including two kick-ass pain pills (percocets), and soon I was snoozing peacefully, and deeply, while visions of sugarplums danced in my head.

The lights in my room were off and I couldn’t see the clock, but it was somewhere close to the midpoint of the night when I felt a strange presence hovering over me.  There was just enough light seeping in around the door to reveal a relatively short man wearing an old military uniform and wire–rimmed glasses.

“Sir,” my visitor said, “I'm off to make rounds and check on the sentries.”

Although the effects of the surgery had worn off, apparently the Percocet had not.

Bewildered and trying to clear the sleep from my head, I managed to mumble, “Are you my nurse?”

“Nurse?  Nurse!  Hell no - sir!”  He clicked his bootheels together smartly and issued a sharp salute.  “Captain Truman, Harry S., reporting as ordered, General Pershing!”

“Harry Truman?”

“Captain Harry Truman, CO of Battery D, 129th Field Artillery.”

“Captain,” I said trying to gain some control of the situation, “I think you are a little confused.   Do you know where you are?”

“We’re in a hospital, General.”

Me, hopefully, “That’s right!”

“A field hospital in the Argonne Forest – and outside is France, as far as the eye can see!”

“Actually, Captain Truman, we’re on the sixth floor of Research Hospital in Kansas City.”

“Kansas City!  Why I grew up in Kansas City, and my sweetheart, Bess, lives there now.   But I don’t remember any six-story hospitals.”

“It’s actually seven stories,” I elaborated.  “And you have been here before.  In fact, you spent quite a bit of time on this very floor.”

“I did?”

“Yes, Captain, you did.   In fact, sir, you died here, just down the hall and around the corner.”


I’m afraid so, Captain.  More than forty years ago.”

“But I’m only thirty-four years old!”

“You were eighty-eight when you passed away.”

A cloud of bewilderment slowly crossed the face of the nocturnal visitor, and with its passing he aged into the elder statesman that America knew and loved so well.  “So that’s it,” he said with more than a little regret in his voice.  “Life ran off and left me – and I don’t have anything to show for it.”

‘You had four fine grandsons and your own library.”

“A library!  I had a library?  I’ve always loved to read!”

“Yes Captain, a beautiful library, just over in Independence.  Maybe you should go haunt that.”

Haunt?  You mean I’m a ghost?”

“Either that or a drug-induced hallucination. “

He turned and opened the door to leave.   “Well, if that’s the case, I believe I will go find that library.  I probably have a lot of history to catch up on.”

“Indeed you do.   Head east, Captain.   Your library is in Independence.”

“Thank you, sir, I will.”   And with that he snapped his heels and popped another sharp salute.  “Good evening to you, General Pershing.”

“Percocet,” I replied dully.

“Excuse me?”

“General Percocet.”

“Yes, sir.  If you say so, sir.  Good evening, General Percocet.”

“And a very good evening to you, Captain Truman.”

Then he was gone – more gone than me!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Monday's Poetry: "Johnny Sands"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

"Johnny Sands" is an old American folk song that was popular in the 1840’s.  It is believed to have originated in Scotland - perhaps several centuries before it became familiar along the American frontier.  The Scottish version was often called “The Wily Auld Carle” or “The Wife of Kelso.”  It is the story of a scold of a wife who eventually gets her just deserts.

I came across this ballad of the hills in an old issue of the magazine, “Ozarks Mountaineer” (June 1993).   Vance Randolph, the famed Ozarks’ folklorist, recorded a version of the song in 1928 as he traipsed the hills gathering old stories, jokes, and songs.  This ancient ditty, "Johnny Sands," is a true piece of our American heritage.

As you read the words, imagine an aged, gnarled hand playing a handmade dulcimer softly in the background.

Johnny Sands
by Anonymous

A man whose name was Johnny Sands
Had married Betty Hague,
And though she brought him gold and lands,
She proved a terrible plague;
For oh!  She was a scolding wife,
Full of caprice and whim,
He said that he was tired of life,
And she was tired of him,
And she was tired of him,
And she was tired of him.

Says he, “Then I will drown myself –
The river runs below,”
Says she, “Pray do, you silly elf,
I wished it long ago.”
Says he, “Upon the brink I’ll stand,
Do you run down the hill,
And push you in with all your might.”
Says she, “My love I will,”
Says she, “My love I will,”
Says she, “My love I will.”

“For fear that I should courage lack
And try to save my life,
Pray tie my hands behind my back;”
“I will,” replied his wife.
She tied them fast as you may think,
And when securely done,
“Now stand,” she says, “ upon the brink
And I’ll prepare to run,
And I’ll prepare to run,
And I’ll prepare to run.”

And down the hill his loving bride
Now ran with all her force
To push him in – he stepped aside
And she fell in, of course.
Now splashing, dashing like a fish,
“Oh save me Johnny Sands.”
“I can’t my dear, tho’ much I wish,
For you have tied my hands,
For you have tied my hands, 
For you have tied my hands.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Girls Are Back in Business!

by Pa Rock
Chicken Rancher

Several weeks ago the egg operation here at Rock’s Roost really hit a slump.   Some of the hens took to hiding their eggs various places around the farm, and Thor, my egg-sucking Great Pyrenees farm dog, usually managed to find them before I did.  Then, when I had located all of the hiding spots and finally gotten Thor under control, most of the hens seemed to decide that if they couldn’t lay their eggs wherever they wanted, they would just go on sabbatical and quit laying altogether.

I had eight laying hens who should have been producing close to eight eggs a day, but the average daily yield sank to about four – or less.  One day the output of the eight ladies was only one egg - total!

I had a few young hens getting ready to begin laying in September.    They gradually found their way to the nesting boxes just as the older girls began to regroup and come back to work.   Now I have fourteen hens that are laying, and the egg numbers are on the upswing.

The past four days I have gathered a dozen eggs a day!  That is a record for our little endeavor.  If they keep this up I will have to provide a suitable reward.  I’m thinking of possibly piping country music –or Foghorn Leghorn videos – into the henhouse!

Nothing is too good for the girls at Rock’s Roost!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Incredible Shrinking Farmer!

by Pa Rock
Disappearing Scribe

Last January, at the request of the doctor who manages my diabetes, I began to do a better job of monitoring my weight and blood sugar readings.  On January 14th  I set up a rough chart in an old notebook to record my morning weight, blood sugar, exercise (if any), and evening blood sugar.  Before long it shortened into just a daily list of morning weights and blood sugars.  The first readings on January 14th showed that I weighed 218.4 pounds and had a blood sugar of 184.

I have weighed over 200 hundred pounds for literally as long as I can remember.  At one point, in fact, I actually reached 250 for a brief time, but normally I tipped the scale at around 240.  Much, much, much too fat to live comfortably.  My jeans had a very tight and uncomfortable 44-inch waist.  I had no problem holding my pants up - Mother Nature did the job for me!

After open-heart surgery in March of 2103 I lost twenty-five pounds almost immediately.  Some of that had begun to slip back on when I began tracking my weight in earnest in January of this year.  One reason that the doctor, an endocrinologist, was so serious about monitoring weight and blood sugar was that he was placing me on a new diabetes medicine, one which had a side effect of weight loss with some people.

There have been some flukes along the way, but basically the medicine, Invokana, has lessened my interest in food - and I no longer get the occasional urge to stuff myself just for the hell of it.  A week or so after starting it, my weight had increased to 220 pounds, but that proved to be the high water mark.  From there on it has been a very slight, and very steady, decline.  Now my blood sugars are normally in the 120-150 range, and my weight has been hovering just north of 200 for a couple of weeks.  Yesterday morning I weighted in at a tantalizing 200.0 pounds, and this morning I finally succeeded in cracking that formidable psychological barrier with a weigh-in of 199.8!

That's right!  fat Pa Rock is under 200 pounds - and it's all downhill from here!

A few months ago I purchased a pair of jeans with a 42-inch waist.  Those proved to be too loose, and I wandered along the coast of Alaska constantly having to stop and pull them up.  It got so bad that Gail finally presented me with a pair of suspenders!  I now have a new pair of jeans with a 40-inch waist laid out for tomorrow's trip to Kansas City.  (Another surgery, this one to fix a pain in my neck.)

But I'm not complaining because life is getting better - an ounce or two at a time!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Sympathy for the Clintons

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

 The Republican Congress has done it again.  Sixteen years ago that august body made itself look foolish when it impeached the President of the United States over what was essentially a sex scandal - and in the process turned a sleaze ball, overage frat boy into a sympathetic character.  Now, that same majority party in that same political institution has used its power of the subpoena and the committee process to make another hardened politician, also a Clinton, into a sympathetic character.  Additionally, the mean-spirited committee provided her with a free day in front of the national press corps - and a chance to look stunningly presidential.

Twice in less than two decades the Republican majority in Congress has tried to inflict mortal political wounds on a Clinton - and both times it has failed miserably.

I voted for Bill Clinton for President twice and was satisfied with those votes up until midway into his second term when he started usurping Republican positions (NAFTA and Welfare Reform, as examples) and the Lewinsky scandal broke.

Monica Lewinsky, a starry-eyed While House intern who was barely legal, succumbed to her boss's sexual charms and power in a little anteroom just off of the Oval Office.  They reportedly carried on an affair for over a year right under the noses of the Secret Service detail and Hillary.  As word of the liaison began to leak out, Bill Clinton shifted into political damage control mode and began lying and misdirecting.  The House eventually impeached him on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice.  The nation knew, however, that the prime motivation for the impeachment was the sanctimonious House members' repulsion at Clinton's sexual conduct as well as a deep-seated visceral hatred of the Arkansas politician.   In the end America felt sorry for the picked-on President, and he left office in 2001 with an extremely high personal approval rating - when a real man, one with any sense of honor, would have resigned in shame.  The impeachment had backfired.

Now, for over a year, a House select committee has been delving into the deaths of four Americans at the embassy in Benghazi, Libya, and the ultimate object of their indignation has been former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  A few weeks ago Rep. Kevin McCarthy, a man who had hoped to become Speaker of the House, pulled the curtain back on the charade when he told Fox News' Sean Hannity that the committee had done well in reducing Hillary's poll numbers.  McCarthy put voice to what everyone knew - that the sole reason for the hearings was to hurt Hillary politically.

Yesterday the formidable Mrs. Clinton spent an entire day before the committee, most of whom were Republican halfwits seeking to put together the magic question that would trip her up and sink her presidential barge.  None did - and in fact the longer the process drug out the more presidential Hillary looked - and the more sympathetic.  Another Clinton was again being picked on by a mean old Republican Congress.

Yesterday's appearance before the Congressional committee was a gift for Hillary Clinton - a gift of inestimable political value.

Twice now Republicans have suffered the delusion that they are somehow as smart, or at least as politically savvy, as the Clintons, and twice now they have made themselves into fools.

When will they ever learn?

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Tom Sawyer Abroad

by Pa Rock

Last year I paid homage to the American Library Association's annual "Banned Book Week" by drafting a list of ten regularly banned books to read over the coming year.  Five of those were books I had already read but wanted to revisit, and five were first-reads for me.  I completed that task with months to spare.

This year I let "Banned Books Week" slip by with no recognition.  (It was September 27th through October 3rd.)  Now, playing catch-up, I have decided to honor the very worthy event by doing something fun - reading several books by Mark Twain, one of the most banned authors in American literature.  I have read a few of Twain's short stories as well as "The War Prayer," Pudd'nhead Wilson, Tom Sawyer, and of course his classic, Huckleberry Finn.  Sadly, though, I have never read many of the great author's better known efforts.  This year I am determined to address that shortcoming.

So I have begun an effort to read the works of Mark Twain - at a leisurely pace.

For my first dip into the Twain pool I selected a lesser-known work of the author,  but one that featured familiar characters.  Tom Sawyer Abroad was written by Twain during a single month in 1892.  The story, narrated by Huck Finn, tells the tale of Tom and Huck and the freed slave Jim touring a giant balloon airship in St. Louis when the craft's commander, a professor, suddenly set the big balloon free and into the wind.  A few days later as the balloon is sailing east, the professor falls overboard during a storm, and the threesome from Hannibal are left on their own in a high-flying adventure.

Prior to his sudden demise, the professor had told them that they were headed for London, but before they could learn how to navigate and control the craft, it began to drift southeastward.  The balloon crossed the Atlantic Ocean and eventually reached Africa and the Sahara Desert.  The adventurers sailed above the entire width of the desert while observing caravans of merchants, a mighty sandstorm, an oasis, and the pyramids and sphinx of Egypt, before finally coming to rest on Mt. Sinai.  From Egypt they eventually turned and headed home, knowing that there would be hell to pay from Aunt Polly when she caught up with them.

Tom Sawyer Abroad was written at a time when Mark Twain was experiencing some business and financial failures, and many believe that the quick novel with familiar characters was more about crass commercialism than it was literature.   In fact,  Twain pounded out the novel so quickly that he seems to have inadvertently (one would hope) lifted extensive material of Jules Verne's Five Weeks in a Balloon, a novel that Twain had read and enjoyed thirty years prior.  Twain apparently had plans to develop a series of books for boys (and men who had once been boys) based on his three most famous characters - perhaps flying the balloon from country to country and from volume to volume.  That effort would have presaged the Hardy Boys  by three decades.

But the publication of this quickie novel had its own unique challenges.  Twain sold first publication rights to novelist and publisher Mary Mapes Dodge (author of Hans Brinker, or the Silver Skates) for serialized inclusion in her magazine for children, St. Nicholas.  Mrs. Dodge took issue with some of Twain's language and his use of the vernacular, and she edited freely.

Mark Twain did not take kindly to the meddling of Mrs. Dodge.  According to the magazine's illustrator, Daniel Carter Beard, who witnessed Twain's visit to the magazine's headquarters, the great author exploded before those present:   "Any editor to whom I submit my manuscripts has an undisputed right to delete anything to which he objects but, God Almighty himself can't put words in my mouth that I did not use!"

The Twain outburst was so intense that Mrs. Dodge and members of her editorial staff reportedly had to be resuscitated with smelling salts!

While Tom Sawyer Abroad, in its original form before Mrs. Dodge took her pen and scissors to it, is a good read, it is far from Twain's best.  It was a suitable format for Tom to show off his knowledge of geography and The Arabian Nights, and also presented several opportunities for Huck and Jim to conspire to deflate Tom's considerable ego.  But the tale remained simple, and at times it even bordered on being boring.  Clearly Mark Twain wasn't operating at the same heights as the boys and Jim were - but his wind, nonetheless, gave them flight.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Canada's Liberal Landslide - One More Reason for Rush's Head to Explode!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I met my good friend, Andrew Liu, as he was standing in the street outside of the University of Taiwan a few years ago.  Valerie (another friend) and I were having a look around the campus during one of our mini-vacations from Okinawa.  Andrew, a dapper gent in his early 80's, was a graduate of the University of Taiwan who had returned for a class reunion.  He immediately latched onto us and spent most of the morning showing us around his old alma mater.

Andrew moved to Montreal, Canada (in the French-speaking province of Quebec) shortly after he graduated from the university, and he has spent his life in that large metropolis where he raised his family and worked as an attorney.  Today he does a lot of traveling and enjoys meeting people and collecting email addresses.  Once a person is on Andrew's email list, they never come off!

Andrew constantly sends out emails with wonderful attachments - things like nature scenes and symphonic music. Occasionally he will send out something more personal.  That happened this week.

A couple of days ago Andrew blasted out an email to his friends in which he was very excited about the Canadian national elections.  The liberals had won - a landslide victory - and Andrew seemed very, very pleased!  After nine years of conservative rule, Canada was about to do an about-face and interact with the future.

Canada, like the United Kingdom, has a parliamentary form of government - a structure that enables the legislature (parliament) once it is elected to, in turn, elect the country's executive leader - or the "Prime Minister."  If the system descends into gridlock, like that of their American cousins to the south, a new election is called and a complete new government is seated.  Therefore, at least in theory, the executive and legislative branches of government are of the same party and capable of working together.

So the Canadians have just elected a new legislature - which means that a new Prime Minister will soon be seated.  The liberal party, with its substantial majority, will elect their party leader to that post.

Andrew's email did not mention the new prime minister, but that individual was undoubtedly the reason  the Mr. Liu, from Montreal, Quebec, was so excited.  The next prime minister of Canada will be Justin Trudeau, also of Montreal, the oldest son of the first man from Quebec to be Prime Minister of Canada, Pierre Elliot Trudeau.

As someone who often barks against the idea of political dynasties, I have to admit that I find the idea of this particular dynasty in Canada to be far less repugnant than the ones that the Clintons and Bushes are trying to foist upon the United States.  Justin Trudeau has been his own man and seems to have made it to the top with limited or no help from his family.  He is a former night club bouncer and public school teacher who bare-knuckled his way to the political top through tough races in challenging districts.  He came up through politics on his own, the hard way, and that seems to have been an intentional strategy on his part.  But, the Trudeau genetics and surname probably added a bit of shine to his already formidable political skills.

(Has anyone every accused Jeb Bush of making his own way to the top?)

Pierre Trudeau, Canada's fifteenth Prime Minister, died in 2000.  Margaret, Justin's mother, divorced Trudeau in the 1980's and went on to become a spokesperson for mental health issues.   Margaret Trudeau has survived to see her son return to the Prime Minister's residence.

Congratulations Justin - and Andrew - and Canada!  It looks as though happy days are there again!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Thor the Farm Dog

by Pa Rock

Thor, my seven-and-a half-month-old Great Pyrenees farm dog, seems to be adjusting to life at Rock's Roost quite well.  But although he is already quite massive (eighty pounds or more), he is still just a playful pup.  Anything left laying around in the yard is automatically a toy for the big dog, and he likes to show his affection by jumping on anyone who happens to stroll across his yard - and can topple a tourist with ease!

Great Pyrenees resemble St. Bernards, but they are entirely white.  They are bred and raised to herd livestock, particularly goats and sheep.  They also generally work well around poultry, particularly if they are raised with feathered friends from a young age.  The big dogs tend to sleep a lot during the day, and prowl or patrol at night.  Their deep barks serve to keep most predators at bay.

About the only creatures in the neighborhood who have not shown a fear of big, loud Thor are the deer - which is fine by me.  They gather at the salt block in the evenings, or lie around one of several watering tubs that I have scattered about the farm.   Thor used to get crazy when the deer would come onto his land, and he would run at them barking.  The deer, skittish at first, soon learned, however, that he was all bark.  One evening a deer was out in the yard with her tiny fawn when Thor rushed in doing his tough guy act.   The protective mother turned and actually charged him.  Another time one tried to kick the exuberant farm dog.

Thor knows the deer don't actually belong here, but sadly (for him) he is not dog enough to run them off.

So goes life.

A couple of nights ago another group of tourists traipsed across the back yard and set Thor to barking.    Some of the neighbor's cows had gotten out and decided to come visit the salt block and check the ground for leftover scattered grain.   The cows generally come a calling about this time every year.  But Thor wasn't having it.  He rounded up two or three and began herding them around the house as he barked in protest.  Although the neighbor quickly patched his fence, the cow escapades continued for the next two nights, and both nights Thor did what he was bred to do - he herded cattle.  He also put up a racket that let the entire neighborhood know that something was not right.

Big dogs can be a nuisance - boy howdy can they be a nuisance!  But since Thor moved in at Rock's Roost, death by predator has been reduced to almost zero.  He knows the property line, and he trots happily from corner to corner and boundary to boundary keeping a watchful eye over his domain.

The dog makes the farm - and Thor is one helluva a fine farm dog!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Monday's Poetry: "October"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

October, the first full month of autumn, is one of the most beautiful times of the year.  The leaves change in October from their dark summer green to the beautiful reds and golds of fall.  The air gets nippier and the wind a bit harsher as we all begin the slow process of hunkering down for the approaching winter.

And now the leaves are falling.    I will eventually rake and mulch those that don't blow away of their own accord - and then work them into the process of creating new soil for the next growing season.

The last remnants of the gardens are harvested in October.  Equipment is cleaned and put away in storage to await the spring, and many decorate their yards and patiently wait for the spooks to descend across the peaceful neighborhoods on Halloween.

Today's poem, "October," by the late American poet Robert Frost, is a tribute to the month of October. Mr. Frost covers his subject with simple grace, much like the actual frost does when it shimmers across a country landscape on a chilly October morning.

by Robert Frost

O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
For the grapes’ sake along the wall.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Family Talent

by Pa Rock
Family Chronicler

It looks as though the youngest generation of our family, the one composed of my grandchildren and grandnieces and grandnephews, may become recognized as the generation of the performing artist.

My grandniece, Lauren Pfetcher, will appear on stage next month with the Chicago Lyric Opera in the production of a German opera entitled "Wozzeck."   The playbill describes the show as "100 minutes of powerful, edge-of-your-seat drama."  Lauren will be on stage for a few minutes of each performance as a part of a children's ensemble.

Lauren is my sister Gail's oldest grandchild (age 10).  She is the daughter of Jason and Heidi Smith Pfetcher of Chicago.  Gail and I are discussing the possibility of riding the train from Jefferson City to Chicago to watch Lauren in her operatic stage debut.  We are very proud of her!

I have also recently learned that my oldest grandchild, Boone Macy (age 16), played his guitar and sang solo at Neosho, Missouri's "Fall Festival."  Boone said that he did eight songs in front of an outdoor audience of a thousand - and "nailed" every song!  Boone is certainly to be commended - as is the person who gave him his first guitar - oh, wait, that was me!

Pa Rock would love to hear Boone perform - if someone would let him know when and where!

I whistle, if anyone is interested!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Un-Democratic Tendencies of Debbie Wasserman Schultz

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Last Tuesday's first-of-the-season Democratic Debate is over and slowly making its way into the footnotes of this year's annals of U.S. political history.   The big media outlets are generally agreed that Hillary won it, but small contributors still persisted in sending their danged ol' money to Bernie.  The actual results therefore, like most things attempted by the Democratic Party, are seen by many as a mixed bag. Hillary whipped the big boys into line, and Bernie maintained a firm hold on his populist base.

The big news around the debate, however, wasn't the results, but the set-up of the circus.  And most of the commentary (at least the angry commentary) didn't focus on the candidates, but centered instead on the party's chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Democratic congressman out of Florida.

Wasserman Schultz, a former co-chair of Hillary's 2008 campaign, angered much of the national committee when she summarily announced in May of this year that the Democrats would only have six debates this election cycle instead of eight or more as preferred by a large portion of the party.  Political wags, who are great in number in the Democratic Party, began to angrily associate the decision of Wasserman Schultz to limit the number of debates to the strong desire of the Clinton campaign to do the same thing.   Then, when Ol' Debs further announced that only four debates would be held before the Iowa caucuses, the hanging chads really hit the fan.

Wasserman Schultz, it seems, made those decisions totally on her own without any input from her vice-chairs or others in the party hierarchy.  She then went before the entire Democratic National Committee and announced it as a fait accompli.  

Tulsi Gabbard, a Democratic congressman from Hawaii and also one of the five vice-chairs of the Democratic National Committee, set the party to rocking this week when she poke out loudly in favor of increasing the number of debates.  Wasserman Schultz let her tyrannical and autocratic roots show when she fired back at her errant vice-chair and accused her of trying to take attention away from the candidates.  Gabbard rebutted with a statement to the effect that Wasserman Shcultz had told her she was not welcome to attend the debate in Las Vegas, and the chairwoman fired back saying that was a lie and that she had simply suggested that Congressman Gabbard might not be comfortable there and would be taking much-needed attention away from the candidates.  Gabbard re-countered that Debs was a liar, but she avoided fisticuffs with the strong-willed chair by staying in Hawaii and watching the debate on television.

Flying feces aside, it does sound like the Democratic Party has lost sight of the democratic process.  We aren't the Republican Party - and we should not try to act like we are.  If Debbie Wasserman Schultz has strong ties to one of the candidates - or if she can't lead by consensus rather than autocratic gestapo rule, then it is time for her to turn over the reins to someone who does understand the concept of leadership.

Go home, Debbie.  If Hillary is truly the right individual to lead our great nation, she will rise to the challenge on her own strength as a competent candidate - and not through some rigged selection process.  Take your act back to Florida where political skills like yours are much more in demand.

As a general rule, more debates open the doors and windows to better democracy.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Frances, Francis, and Bess

by Pa Rock
Road Warrior

I've just returned from a rushed trip to Kansas City where I did some preliminary lab work for a surgery that I will have there on the 26th of October.  While heading to the big city Wednesday, I had to make a stop in Willow Springs to see my cardiologist.  (He is based in Springfield and travels to Willow once a month to see his rural patients.)   As I stood in line to register, I had the pleasure of listening to an old couple as they also got registered.

The old man told the receptionist that his name was Francis, to which his wife interrupted, "My name is Frances, too - only my name has an 'e' and his has an 'i.'"  She went on to add, "The way you can tell whether its a man's name or a woman's name is that women have an 'e' like in 'her,' and men have an 'i' like in 'him'"  I had never heard that before - and thought it was rather clever!

The following morning (yesterday) I was interviewed by an older nurse at Research Hospital in Kansas City.  When I told my doctor there a couple of weeks ago that Harry Truman had died in that hospital, the young fellow was surprised.  I pulled the same line on the nurse yesterday, and she wasn't surprised at all.  In fact she replied, "Yes, I know.  Bess died here, too."  The nurse went on to say that she had not been working there when Harry died at the hospital, but that she knew he had an entire floor of the hospital to himself.  The nurse said that she had seen Bess during one of her final visits to Research Hospital when she was confined to the ICU.  She said that a Secret Service agent was on duty at all times sitting in a chair outside of the ICU.  "Like anyone would have tried to harm sweet old Bess!"  she added.

Bess Truman was 97 at the time of her death this week in 1982.

That almost sounds like the plot line for a charming, feel-good movie.  It could be called "Guarding Bess," and it might make a great career vehicle for Shirley MacLaine.  I picture someone like Kevin Costner in the role of the Secret Service agent.

Hey Hollywood, pay attention!  This is good stuff!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

McDonald's Breakfast Anytime

by Pa Rock
Fast Food Junkie

A cultural shift of seismic proportions swept over the land last week when fast-food retailer McDonald's began selling breakfast all day long - every damned day of the week.  No longer do consumers have to rush to their local Macky Dee's by 10:30 a.m. in order to wolf down a four-or-five-hundred calorie fat bomb, with egg.  Now, thanks to a new company policy, those coronary insults can be ordered up anytime, day or night.

It's a wonderful life!

The local McDonald's ran a breakfast special for a couple of weeks preceding the shift to breakfast-all-day.  That special was two Sausage Egg McMuffins for the price of one.  Those fat boys weigh in at a hefty 470 calories each.  Not knowing about the sale, I pulled in one day and ordered one of the sandwiches from my car.  The lady on the speaker clued me in to the sale when she asked if I wanted my free sandwich also.  Of course I wanted it.  I didn't need it, but I felt entitled since it was part of the sale come-on.   And once I had two Sausage Egg McMuffins in my car, chances were excellent that I would wind up eating them both.  That's 940 calories just for breakfast!

But how can a rational person pass on something that's free?

McDonald's "Big Breakfast" platters are over a thousand calories each, and several of the sandwiches on the menu top out at over 500 calories.  Instead of increasing the hours that it serves breakfast, McDonald's could have probably caused an increase in American health rates by reducing the breakfast hours.

But what fun would that be?

For a healthy breakfast at McDonald's - any time - check out the oatmeal - but order it without the brown sugar sweetener.  Plain oatmeal isn't much fun, but it is good for you!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Adults Take the Stage

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The Democrats held their first presidential debate of the season last night, and reports indicate that they addressed a whole slew of issues that the Republicans failed to even mention in their debates.  One commentator referred to the Democratic debate show as the "adults" finally taking the stage.

The local Howell County Democratic Club sponsored a debate watch party in the city of West Plains last night.  I had planned to attend up until about an hour before the show began, but decided at the last minute to stay home and follow the proceedings on Twitter.  It's probably the result of spending time around poultry - as the evening shadows begin for form, I start feeling the urge to roost!

Bill Clinton sent out an email during the debate, the only candidate or spouse who molested my in-box during the performance.  Bill told me how proud he was of Hillary - and then asked if I could send her a dollar.  Just one dollar - one small bit of commitment to helping him move back into the White House.

Bernie emailed this morning.  His communication said that last night's performance proved that we can win.  He would like fifteen dollars, please.

Apparently the best line of last night's production was when Bernie declared that America was sick and tired of hearing about Hillary's "damned emails," and suggested that the voting public was more concerned with income inequality and climate change.  His response brought a laugh and a "thank you" from Clinton.

Most accounts seemed to give Hillary the nod for the best debate performance of her career - but generally agreed that Bernie, in the first national debate of his career, was no slouch either.  And there were also three lesser-knowns on stage who seem to remain lesser-knowns after the curtain dropped.

After months of hearing little else than Republican paranoid delusions and the greedy twaddle of the very rich, it is heartening to know that there are others out there who seek to lead our country forward and into the light of reason.  Correcting income inequality, addressing climate change, healing the racial divide, and limiting access to guns are all much more pertinent to the survival of a free state than the GOP fixations on hate and greed.  Last night's debate showed that there are other viewpoints out there - one's that make sense in the modern world.

And while Hillary may eventually get my vote, it will be a mighty cold day in Purgatory before she gets my dollar!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Speaker Dick

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Iran's best friend in American politics, Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, suggested yesterday that Dick Cheney might make a good Speaker of the House.   And while the attention-starved young lawmaker was obviously just casting about in hopes of snagging a headline or two, his suggestion does make some sense - at least from a deranged point of view.  The reason the Republican Party is having so much difficulty coming up with a Speaker is because the House has been captured by the tea-bagger rabble, and anyone who tries to impose some order on the place will be committing political suicide.

But Cheney's already dead, politically speaking.   He has run his last race, faced down his last political opponent.  What could it hurt if he chose to sit out a few of his remaining years on the Speaker's throne?  It's not like the House will be doing anything of consequence anyway as long as Republicans are in the majority.  Dick could snarl and belch fire and drink cocktails with the high and mighty, all the while cashing those fat Halliburton checks - just like he did for eight years as Vice President.

So, yeah, the Dick probably could serve as Speaker of the House, at least on an interim basis, without causing irreparable harm toe the Republic - but then again, why risk it?  A much better fit for the Dick would be to serve as a defendant in a war crimes trial at the Hague.  There he could relive all of his old glories while the court stenographer took careful notes.  Cheney could get credit for all he did during the eight years that he ran the United States of America - into the ground.

And as for Speaker - I think I'll keep my support with Cher!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Olive is Four!

by Pa Rock
Proud Grandpa

Four years ago I was living and working on Okinawa - way out in the Pacific Ocean far from family and friends.  I had been on that small island over fifteen months before returning to the United States for my first visit, a brief stay of less than four weeks.  The highlight of that trip was getting to be at the hospital in Overland Park, Kansas, for the birth of my first granddaughter, Olive Noel Macy.

And now, today, Olive is turning four.

Olive lives with her parents, Tim and Erin, just outside of Kansas City, and she has grandparents and cousins close by.  This year she has started attending a pre-school located near her home.  She also was recently at my house in West Plains for a month where she spent most of her days on a movie set watching her daddy and mommy help to make a film.

For a little girl of just four years, Olive has already led a rich and colorful life.  She has been to Japan and Canada, and visited Los Angeles on several occasions.  She has also gathered eggs, fed turkeys, talked to peacocks, and splashed in some beautiful Ozark streams.

Olive, keep exploring, learning, and loving.  You are a very special young lady - and I wish you a wonderful birthday!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Helping the GOP Choose a Speaker

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Every time the Republican party seems to have hit rock bottom, something happens to re-energize its hole-digging efforts.  Now the once venerable party of Lincoln, the radicals who freed the slaves, has degenerated to a point where it cannot even field an "acceptable" candidate to serve as the next Speaker of the House of Representatives, a job that, as of late, has required little in the way of brains or effort.   Some of the faithful are "begging" Rep. Paul Ryan, Romney's running mate and the author of the draconian budget that would shred America's social safety net, to step forward and take the job, but he shows no interest in running the train wreck that calls itself Congress.  Others suggest looking beyond Congress for a leader.

That's right.  constitutionally speaking, a person does not have to be a member of Congress in order to be elected Speaker.  Former Speaker New Gingrich is quietly letting it be known that he would consider taking his old job back.  Newt has experience in the position and is probably as smart as John Boehner.  And some members are floating the idea of drafting former Secretary of State Colin Powell to take the job.   Powell is saying that he's not interested, and it is highly unlikely that the venomous right fringe of the party would vote for a Bush critic and an Obama supporter - whether he was an official Republican or not.

It's a two-fold problem:  first the party must find an individual who has the ability to win the support of a majority of the Republicans in Congress - and, when and if that happens, that individual must go on to win over a majority of members of the House.  That can't happen if a large block of Republicans who didn't get their way either sit out the Speaker's election, or vote for someone else.   Some in the House are even whispering about the possibility of striking a deal with Democrats in order to elect a Republican Speaker who is less than maximus odious.

At this point it looks as though anything could happen - but I still like the idea of an outsider coming in and taking charge.  The Republicans have been left to their own devices for several years now, and their accomplishments are nil.   Surely a call for fresh blood is in order.

The House has a "rule" which allows only certain people to be on the floor of Congress, but there is a loophole which permits anyone who has ever been formally "thanked" by Congress to be on the floor.  So an outsider could be thanked and then seated, or there is the possibility of ruling from the Gallery.  I'm sure that a bunch of folks as bright as our legislative leaders could figure out a way to finagle an outsider in as the Speaker.

My first suggestion, and I think an obvious choice for Speaker of the House, would be Cher.  True, the mega-star might be lacking experience, but, being the former wife of a man who went on to serve as a Republican in Congress, she has a solid political connection to the institution.  Cher would add a much needed dollop of glamour to the House, and when she called members to order with a rowdy rendition of "Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves," the whole world would pay rapt attention.  (I know I would!)

If Cher cannot be lured into the speakership, there is another celebrity waiting in the wings, or the Rotunda, who bears consideration.  Caitlyn Jenner has several qualities that would make her an exceptional candidate for the job.  She is athletic (a former U.S. Olympian), fearless (a transgendered individual), used to operating in pandemonium (a former reality-television star), and far prettier than any of the current female members of Congress.   She also is (or at least was, while known as Bruce) a conservative Republican.    Clearly Caitlyn Jenner would be the ideal individual to bring the Republican Party into the twenty-first century.

And if neither Cher nor Caitlyn can be persuaded to step in and help save the honor and glory of Congress, and Congress wanted the continuing security of an old white man as its leader, then there is always Tommy Chong.  He could definitely make the joint more mellow!

The possibilities are endless.  Come on Congress, pick a sucker Speaker!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Of Phalluses and Security Blankets

by Pa Rock
Stranger in a Strange Land

The Confederate flags are springing up along the local landscape in increasing numbers, like so many roadside weeds.  The flags are testaments to some sort of warped independence from modern America.  This latest outbreak of the Stars and Bars coincides roughly with the tragic shooting at the historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina.  They fly above private homes and from the beds of pickup trucks and windows of mini-vans, often alongside the American flag (so the flag owners won't look "unpatriotic").

Last week I was in a little mom-and-pop computer store where a neat stack of folded Confederate flags were for sale on the counter.  This morning I drove to town where I encountered a pickup truck with two enormous flags - one American and one Confederate - flying from its windows.    In fact, there is seldom a day goes by that I don't see several of these despicable tributes to treason desecrating the local landscape.

I'm not completely sure what it's all about.   The flag is historically a symbol of racial subjugation, but the non-white population in and around West Plains, Missouri, is infinitesimal.   It feels more like a political thing - some sort of desperate push back against Obama, a kind of "I'll show him!"  Or an "In your face, you black Muslim!"

People out here in the woods love their guns.  They may not have a lot of money, or education, or teeth, but by God they have their guns - and they worship their guns with the same intensity as others worship cash, or clothes, or "likes" on Facebook.  And now they can lay down at night, next to their guns wrapped securely in Confederate flags, phalluses in security blankets, and know that they are safe from the evils running rampant in the rest of the world.

And next year if Obama is replaced by Hillary, they'll go to town and buy more guns, and bullets, and flags - because that's what freedom is all about!

Friday, October 9, 2015

It's Beginning to Feel Like the Primary Season

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Hillary Clinton seems to have had a very good week in the race to succeed her old boss, Barack Obama, in the Oval Office.  After Kevin McCarthy bragged to Fox entertainer Sean Hannity that Republicans had been using the Benghazi hearings primarily to cripple the Clinton campaign, Hillary's people turned that rare nugget of Republican honesty into a barrage of new political advertisements.  McCarthy was not able to recover from his gaffe, and yesterday he withdrew from the race to replace John Boehner as the next Speaker of the House.

Now that she has the Benghazi thing on the run, Mrs. Clinton has time to focus on her Democratic opposition.  Bernie Sanders has raised a huge pile of cash, primarily from small donations of $200 or less, and looks as though he might beat the former Secretary of State in the two early contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.  Even so, Clinton seems to be ignoring him and focusing her fire instead on Vice President Biden,  a possible entrant into the race who has yet to declare and has almost no campaign cash on hand.   Reports indicate that Hillary surrogates are busy scurrying through the cesspools and sewers in and around Washington, DC, (their comfort zone), looking for any sludge that will stick to the genial Joe Biden.

Raul Grijalva, a Democratic congressman from southern Arizona, sent out an email today endorsing Bernie Sanders for President as a "matter of conscience."  Grijalva, one of my favorite Arizona Democrats, said, in part:

"I am endorsing Bernie Sanders for president today.  This is a matter of conscience for me.  I cannot sit on the sidelines when our country faces so many challenges, and there is one candidate who I believe will fight for the bold changes we need.  Bernie Sanders is fighting for a populist economic agenda to reign in economic inequality, ensure the richest among us contribute their fair share, and ensure the government works for every single American"

Claire McCaskill, a United States Senator and one of my least favorite Missouri Democrats, seems to have had a drastic change in her political religion over the past decade and is now pimping for the Clintons.  McCaskill, who once famously said that she would not let her daughter anywhere near Bill Clinton and who supported Obama over Hillary in 2008, is now begging cash for Team Hillary.  Does Claire sense a cabinet position or an ambassadorship in her future?

The first Democratic debate is scheduled for next Tuesday evening - and I plan on viewing it at a watch party in town.  There is no way it will match the galloping insanity of the Republican debates, but it should be entertaining, nonetheless.  And, with Democrats, there is even a chance that it might be educational.

The big race is about to kick into gear!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Three Thousand Rambles Later

by Pa Rock
Tireless Typist

Today's posting marks a milestone of sorts - it is my three-thousandth entry into this blog.  The effort began on Sunday,  November 4, 2007, in my apartment in Goodyear, Arizona.   The first entry was a political piece entitled "Obama '08," in which I made an argument for supporting the freshman senator from Illinois over the more seasoned Democratic front runner, Hillary Clinton.   As it turned out, Senator Obama went on to be elected President exactly one year to the day after that first Ramble was published.

And now, nearly eight years later, here I am again gnashing my teeth over the real possibility that we are on the verge of putting another Clinton or Bush in the White House.  Big chunks of what I said then are just as appropriate and as sad today as they were back in 2007.

So, not wanting to go through the effort of reinventing the wheel, here is that original column - with a tip of the hat to Hillary and Jeb.  America can and must do better than the two of you!

Obama '08 
by Pa Rock   
First, let me clear the air on the question of my political leanings: I am a Democrat, a proud, totally-tilted-left, and, not ashamed to wear the label, liberal Democrat! I wasn't born into the party. My mother and father were Republicans, and I suspect that all of their forebears were also, probably as far back as Lincoln. My eighty-three-year-old father still likes to rail on unions as being "the ruination of America," and any positive mention of FDR will also send him into a sputtering tirade.  

So, with this fine conservative background, where did I begin to stray? Easy answer: Nixon. Yes, Richard Nixon made me a Democrat. (Opening China to the West, lowering the national speed limit to fifty-five, and causing Rocky Macy to make a sharp left turn in his political life were undoubtedly Tricky Dick's top three achievements - meeting Elvis and giving Okinawa back to Japan were numbers four and five.) Okay, it wasn't only Nixon. Attending college in the sixties had a major impact on my political thinking as well, whether I admit to inhaling or not! 

While I am very comfortable identifying with the Democratic Party, I will split my ticket on those rare occasions when I know that the other party has the better candidate. Thankfully, those situations are rare. All things being equal, I stand comfortably with the Party that historically, at least since FDR, has been focused on those in society who haven't been invited to the table for their slice of the American pie. 

So why am I supporting Obama when Hillary clearly seems to stampeding the Party? Is my reluctance to tumble into the landslide some "anti-woman" thing? I really don't think of myself as being sexist, though my age and gender might lead some to speculate otherwise. I was one of the participants in this year's third annual MS Magazine Cruise, and I made if from Tampa to Belize to Guatemala to Mexico and back to Tampa without being thrown overboard or being forced to walk the plank, and I managed to take in most of their workshops along the way. America could definitely benefit from a leader whose perspective and values are something other than those of a morally stymied, white, male frat boy.  

No, it isn't that Hillary is a woman, she is just not the woman to lead our nation out of the Bush morass. She very likely could win the Presidency, but she is such a lightening rod that every greed head and fundamentalist goober in the country would turn out to vote, and a lot of good Democratic congressional candidates would be defeated - in a year that should see a massive Democratic majority in both national houses and many state legislatures. What a shame to let the country submit itself to eight more years of gridlock, when it is clearly time to pull ourselves out of the muck and move on. 

The true picture of Hillary developed at last week's debate in Philadelphia when she was asked about releasing her correspondence with Bill while she was First Lady. Instead of a definitive "yes" or "no," she equivocated grandly, trying to serve up some mishmash that said it couldn't be done because the National Archives works too slowly. Never mind that Bill had written a letter to them asking that those records not be released until 2012. George, Bill, Bill, Shrub, Shrub, and now Hillary, Hillary. What goes around comes around - and it just keeps coming! (Is anyone naive enough to rule out Jeb, Jeb, Chelsea, Chelsea, and then maybe Jenna, Jenna?) I am so tired of the Bush's and the Clinton's and their endless drama! And don't even get me started on Hillary's shameless milking of the health care lobby! It's long past time for national health care. Hillary can be most effective in bringing that about by getting out of the way! 

So why Obama? He talks about ideas, as outlined chapter and verse in THE AUDACITY OF HOPE. He recognizes problems and puts forth challenges, rather than the feel-good pabulum that has been our national staple for years. He is new enough to the political scene that his soul is still his own, and not the personal property the lobbyists and corporate scumbags who regard government as their personal property and operate unchecked and unencumbered by conscience or the will of the people. Barack Obama is not only a fresh face, he is also a new voice with the potential to make bold moves and actually lead instead of being led. He is an eloquent visionary whose coattails will bring congressional majorities large enough to actually govern. Obama is the leader who truly has the potential to take us beyond the self-serving politics that have been the norm since Reagan. 

Most importantly, Barack Obama is the only top tier candidate in either party who is younger than me - and I know that I am too damned old to be President!

"Vote early and vote often." -- Al Capone