Monday, February 29, 2016

Monday's Poetry: "Let Me Die a Youngman's Death"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

One afternoon last week while taking a break from typing and playing footman to the farm's poultry, I heard an amazingly insightful poem emanate from the television machine.  The show was one of the later episodes of the British detective drama, Inspector George Gently, and the poem was recited from memory by a young boy who was speaking at the funeral of a friend - an adult with mental issues who had instilled a love of poetry in the boy.

The poem that the boy recited was "Let Me Die a Youngman's Death" by Liverpool poet and performance artist Roger McGough.  In the piece McGough argues his case stepping smartly off of the mortal coil rather than just quietly slipping away.   I was taken with the message and felt it offered something to aspire to - even for an old codger like me.

I hope that it resonates with you as well.  Be of good tumor.

Let Me Die A Youngman's Death
by Roger McGough

Let me die a youngman's death
not a clean and inbetween
the sheets holywater death
not a famous-last-words
peaceful out of breath death

When I'm 73
and in constant good tumour
may I be mown down at dawn
by a bright red sports car
on my way home
from an allnight party

Or when I'm 91
with silver hair
and sitting in a barber's chair
may rival gangsters
with hamfisted tommyguns burst in
and give me a short back and insides

Or when I'm 104
and banned from the Cavern
may my mistress
catching me in bed with her daughter
and fearing for her son
cut me up into little pieces
and throw away every piece but one

Let me die a youngman's death
not a free from sin tiptoe in
candle wax and waning death
not a curtains drawn by angels borne
'what a nice way to go' death

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Arizona Politicians Split on Trump - for the Time Being

by Pa Rock
Former Desert Rat

During the several years in which I called the arid wasteland of central Arizona my home, I was represented in Congress by Trent Franks, a Republican and a member of the "Freedom" Caucus.   Trent was deeply fixated on two things:  keeping the Air Force happy and women's vaginas.   He was, and I sure he remains, one of the most extreme anti-abortion members of the United States House of Representatives.

Now I see where Trent's interests have drifted over the realm of presidential politics.  He would like to see a Republican win the White House, and, more importantly, he does not want to run the risk of the next President coming equipped with a vagina.  Trent, like so many of the other "leaders" of his party, is beginning to sense that Donald Trump is rushing headlong toward the nomination, and that prospect scares the Arizonan because he fears that Trump would lose to Hillary Clinton - and a woman President would be very bad news for the legions of old white men who have built their careers on legislating controls over women's bodies.

Trent Franks came up with a plan that he hopes will derail the Trump Express.  He has drafted a letter to Trump's only two serious rivals, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, asking that they please (and quickly) meet between themselves and decide on one of their number to remain in the presidential race and the other to become the acknowledged running mate . . . a Rubio-Cruz or a Cruz-Rubio ticket.  The Arizona congressman figures that the combined forces of the two kids of Cuban immigrants might be enough to defeat Donald Trump for the GOP nomination - and it might be enough to keep Hillary in the kitchen baking cookies for her grandchildren - as God intended.

And if The Donald goes on to win the nomination despite the skulduggery of of Trent Franks?  Well, in that case, the less-than-morally comitted congressman says that he would support the New York billionaire "robustly."

Two other prominent Arizona politicians, both far better known than Trent Franks, have announced their support for Donald Trump.  Joe Arpaio, the decrepit sheriff of Maricopa County (Phoenix), came out for Trump several weeks ago, and the finger-pointing former governor of the state, Jan Brewer, gave her blessing to the loud-mouthed reality TV star yesterday.

By this November all three - Franks, Arpaio, and Brewer - should all be singing from the same hymnal, and it won't be a pretty tune.  Of course with those three, it seldom is.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Domestic Abusers and Guns

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

In a past life I was a state child protection worker with a responsibility for investigating child abuse and sometimes taking children into protective care.  It was often a hard and ugly job.   Many of our cases necessarily involved police and law enforcement agencies, and as a part of the job I often was called out to ride along with officers when they responded to calls alleging dangerous circumstances in the home, such as the manufacture of drugs, or violence and unsafe conditions.  I know from my personal involvement in those experiences that there is absolutely nothing that most law enforcement officers fear more than incidents of domestic abuse.

Violence in the home is often extreme.  One partner feels ownership of the other, and/or there is a fear of one partner leaving and taking the children.    Threats are made regarding the kids, personal property, and even the safety of family pets.  ("If you leave I'll kill your dog!")  Often alcohol or other drugs have lowered inhibitions and made the conflict even more intense.   A policeman (or a social worker) knocking at the door of a home where abuse is part of the household dynamic never knows exactly what he or she will encounter.

Entering an abusive home is a very dangerous proposition.

Congress passed a law in 1996 whose aim was to reduce the level of carnage in domestic violence situations.  That law, commonly known as the "Lautenberg Amendment" prohibits persons who have been convicted of domestic abuse from buying or owning guns.  It is a law that tends to make people who have a history of being easily angered - even angrier.

Currently two men in Maine have a case that is about to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.  The men, both convicted domestic abusers, are unhappy about not being able to own guns.  They are arguing that loss of gun privileges is acceptable in cases where abuse is premeditated, but should not be used in cases that were spur-of-the-moment - such as when one partner might suddenly strike or slap the other.  The fellows believe there should be a hierarchy of abuse, and not all abuse should warrant the removal of the abuser's guns.

Research has shown that in cases where the abuser has access to a gun, chances are five times greater that a death will occur.

Now, almost at the same instant that the two men from Maine were climbing the front steps to the Supreme Court building to plea their case, comes a story out of Kansas that demonstrates just how dangerous and volatile domestic violence situations can be.  A man who was described as a nice guy by co-workers was viewed in a more dangerous light by an ex-girlfriend who filed for an order of protection against him.  The fellow was served with the permanent order at his workplace on Thursday.  He calmly left the factory, so quietly that the man working next to him did not notice him leaving, went home, got his guns, and then went on a shooting rampage.  The nice guy wound up killing three and wounding fourteen before being killed by a courageous policeman.

Should any domestic abuser be allowed to own a gun?

Hell, no.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Mass Shootings Not an Issue in GOP Debate

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

All five of the remaining Republican presidential candidates - Kasich, Carson, Rubio, Cruz, and Bozo the Clown - are firmly on record as opposing any tightening of America's criminally ineffective gun laws, so it is little wonder that CNN failed to ask a single question in last night's debate about the day's mass shooting in western Kansas - or the other two mass shootings earlier in the week in Glendale, Arizona, and Kalamazoo, Michigan.

No news there, folks, not when we can focus instead on the Great Wall of the American southwest that has zero chance in hell of ever getting built.  Just pile those dead bodies out of the way someplace while the serious debate dialogue continues.  Now, where did the producers put those super-soakers?

Four people died and fourteen more were wounded (ten critically)  in a mass shooting at and near a factory in Hesston, Kansas, yesterday, and yet all of that carnage did not merit a single mention during the debate.  No one, including sleepy Ben Carson, was put on the spot and asked to give a defense to their position in support of lax (or no) controls on the dangerous spread of weapons in the United States.  Three mass shootings this week and somewhere between twenty and forty nationwide this year - and it's only February!

That's disgraceful!

That's despicable!

And I'm talking about CNN's avoidance of the subject as much as I am about the lax gun laws and the shootings themselves.   As long as America keeps its collective head buried shoulder-deep in the sand, the shootings and carnage will keep coming right at us - and we will continue to look for leaders from the likes of that chorus line of meat-heads who danced across the stage in Houston last night.

Deporting the Final Five might be the key to making America great again.   And CNN, you might as well be Fox.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Donald Trump and the American Way

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

It is more than a bit ironic that former Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, who fought tooth-and-nail to keep his tax returns secret in 2012, now favors the major candidates of his party releasing their tax returns.   Romney, who it turns out had paid less than fifteen percent in taxes to the federal government over several years, thinks Rubio, Cruz, and Trump should be a bit more forthcoming than he was.  Romney has even taken a page from the old Harry Reid playbook (the one where Reid claimed Romney hadn't paid any taxes in ten years) and piqued the public interest by stating that the Trump tax returns could be a "bombshell!"

Of course, he could be right.  There appears to be a certain class of Americans who feel that paying taxes is a bit beneath them.  Hotelier Leona Helmsley once famously remarked that only the "little people" pay taxes.   Helmsley went to to leave the brunt of her considerable fortune to her dog.

The Donald, also a hotelier who bears an uncanny resemblance to Ms. Helmsley, flaunts a bit of an attitude regarding taxes himself.  He has noted that he pays as little in taxes as possible because "that's the American way."

The man who has a flaming desire to be President feels that it is perfectly alright to shirk on his financial responsibility to the country that gave him the opportunity to amass obscene piles of wealth.

What if every American shared your penchant for letting the other guy pay the bills, Mr. Trump?   How great would America be then? 

When it comes to supporting America, the IRS Form 1040 is where the rubber hits the road.  You, Mr. Trump, need to put up or shut up.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Senate Judiciary Committee Dances to "Dixie"

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The Republican majority in the less-than-esteemed Senate Judiciary Committee wrote a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell yesterday informing him that they intended to follow his lead and not have a hearing on any Supreme Court nominee put forward by President Obama.  Not only that, the Republican senators also said that they would not even grant any Obama nominee the courtesy of an introductory visit to their respective offices.

There is no word yet on how many crayons the petulant senators burned through in composing their letter.

I did some basic research to determine just exactly who this group of dunderheads is and learned, not surprisingly, that almost to a man (and they are all older white men) they come from the southern United States - and a solid majority represent states that were part of the old Confederacy.

The only Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee from a northern state is its chairman, Charles Grassley of Iowa.  Grassley initially made news by stating flat-out that his committee would not give a hearing to an Obama pick, but then reversed himself and said the committee probably would hold a hearing before voting the appointment down.  Now Grassley appears to have bounced back into line with the party's extremists.  His committee will do, or not do, whatever the hell the Republican majority wants - and the Constitution of the United States of America be damned!

The seven of eleven Republican committee members who are from the old Confederacy include Jeff Sessions (Alabama), Lindsey Graham (South Carolina), David Vitter (Louisiana), David Perdue (Georgia), Thom Tillis (North Carolina), John Cornyn (Texas), and Ted Cruz (Texas).  The remaining three (not counting Chairman Grassley of Iowa) are Jeff Flake (of the old Confederate Territory of Arizona), and Orin Hatch and Mike Lee of Utah.  (Mike Lee's claim to fame is being Ted Cruz's only friend in the Senate.)

So, while the Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee may be completely colorblind when it comes to the President and his appointments, they still have to go home and pander for votes from people who see the world in terms of race.

The ten Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are from the other end of the nation's cultural spectrum, and all, except for the member from California, are from states solidly within the old Union.  They are Patrick Leahy, the ranking member, (Vermont), Dianne Feinstein (California), Charles Schumer (New York), Dick Durbin (Illinois), Sheldon Whitehouse (Rhode Island), Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota), Al Franken (Minnesota), Christopher Coons (Delaware), and Richard Blumenthal (Connecticut).

I would like to think that the Civil War is over and has been consigned to the history stacks in the library, but that pickup truck that just roared down my country lane flying a Confederate flag says otherwise - and so does that Judiciary Committee letter to Mitch McConnell.

It's time for the country to grow up.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Diminishing Returns of the Expectations Game

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

One of the pleasures of being off of the television grid is not having to suffer blood pressure fluctuations as various media gasbags struggle to get me to see the world through their eyes.  Generally I take my news from the internet in small, calm doses, and allow myself plenty of time to digest it sensibly so as not to cause undue heartburn.

This past weekend, by virtue of being away from home and in a household infested with cable service,  I mainlined some television coverage of the Nevada Democratic caucuses and the South Carolina Republican primary.  It was, at best, a disturbing experience.

Camps in both parties were playing the expectations game - with willing and eager complicity from the media.  Bernie lost the Democratic caucuses in Nevada by around five points, but his team was busy trying to paint that as a victory because just months ago they had been trailing by forty points.  To hear them tell it, Hillary lost by not winning big enough.  Two points in defense of that surmise:  first, they were right, and Bernie's team made up much lost ground against the inevitable Hillary - just not enough - and second, Bill Clinton was a master craftsman of the expectations game, so it is kind of fitting that it be used to minimize a Clinton victory.  But, no matter what the expectation was, Hillary still won.

The most egregious assault on public sensibilities, however, came out of South Carolina with Marco Rubio's never-ending self-lauding for coming in second - well behind Donald Trump.  Rubio looked and acted as though he had just won the Big Kahuna itself and would be moving into the White House just as soon as he and the Missus could get their stuff out of storage.  He gave a flat-out victory speech with a stupid grin spread ear-to-ear, with South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley standing (nearly dancing) center in his backup chorus line beaming like the Hatteras Light House.  It was a complete spectacle of pomp, and glamour, and showmanship - and yet he lost.

There are only so many of these little "expectations" victories to be had before the final votes are tallied - and each one rings just a bit more hollow.  The only way to win is ultimately to win - and candidates can't win by constantly coming in second.  Bernie has one big win - New Hampshire - but he damned well better be focused on achieving several more.  Marco has a pocket full of high-dollar endorsements, but he has yet to win squat.

The ability to claim victory over expectations diminishes with every contest.   The race quickens - and very soon claiming victory will require victory.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Monday's Poetry: "Late February"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

The past few days have been beautiful, a most welcome break from cold weather and the ice storm that came through a little more than a week ago, seemingly to punctuate the end the winter.  The ground hog said we were done with winter, and he appears to have been right.

Today's poem, "Late February" by Ted Kooser,  looks at the precise moment when winter scoots out of the way and the world opens itself to spring.

Bring on the warm breezes, and baby chicks, and farmers suddenly appearing in their gardens as unexpected as tulips!

Late February
by Ted Kooser

The first warm day,   
and by mid-afternoon   
the snow is no more   
than a washing
strewn over the yards,
the bedding rolled in knots   
and leaking water,   
the white shirts lying   
under the evergreens.   
Through the heaviest drifts   
rise autumn’s fallen   
bicycles, small carnivals   
of paint and chrome,   
the Octopus
and Tilt-A-Whirl   
beginning to turn
in the sun. Now children,   
stiffened by winter   
and dressed, somehow,   
like old men, mutter   
and bend to the work   
of building dams.
But such a spring is brief;   
by five o’clock
the chill of sundown,   
darkness, the blue TVs   
flashing like storms
in the picture windows,   
the yards gone gray,   
the wet dogs barking   
at nothing. Far off   
across the cornfields
staked for streets and sewers,   
the body of a farmer   
missing since fall
will show up
in his garden tomorrow,   
as unexpected
as a tulip.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Kansas City in the Rearview Mirror

by Pa Rock
Traveling Fool

Rosie and I just returned from a weekend visit to Kansas City.  This time we had no pressing personal agenda for the trip, such as one of those bothersome medical appointments, and spent most of the weekend visiting with Tim and Erin and playing with Little Olive.

Tim and I did something interesting yesterday.  We toured Kansas City's World War I museum.  The museum, reportedly the only one in America dedicated solely to World War I, opened in 1926, at a time when thousands of veterans of that war were still around to share their memories and artifacts with the historical project.  The two buildings house hundreds of weapons including some large cannons and field artillery pieces, uniforms, medals and decorations, flags, photos, an old army ambulance, bi-planes - you name it and if it was part of the war, the museum has one - or a dozen..

The museum also has a gift shop which contains many books - some fiction, some not - about World War I.

A highlight of our visit to the World War I museum was a trip up the observation tower at the center of the complex.  The museum and tower rest atop a hill near downtown Kansas City. and the view from its top is spectacular - taking in the skyline of the entire downtown.

For you old hippies, AC/DC will be at the Sprint Center in Kansas City on February 29th, and tickets for the 20,000-seat venue have already sold out.   Who knew the highway to hell crossed America's heartland - and that it was so well traveled?  Rock on, geezers!

Bumper Sticker Update:  It is 275 miles of almost entirely four-lane highway between my house and Tim and Erin's.  I saw one political bumper sticker on the way there - one promoting "Obama 2012," and one Bernie yard sign - both in the Missouri suburbs of Kansas City.  Saturday while we were doing our running around I saw three Bernie bumper stickers on a total of two cars.  I really regard those numbers as fairly anemic for late February of a general election year.  Of course, countless people got to see my Bernie bumper sticker.

Fun Note:  Last night after Hillary won the Nevada caucuses - kinda, sorta, barely - I got an email from her thanking me for my support and saying "I couldn't have done it without you."  If her campaign is dependent on support from me, or people like me, she might as well throw in the towel!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

All Over But the Shouting

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist 

Donald John Trump may have proven his financial chops by mastering the intricacies of bankruptcy court, and shown his leadership abilities by mesmerizing morons from his reality television perch - and when it comes to practicing diplomacy, the Trump standard approach of mocking and yelling seems to also be working well with Republican primary voters.

This week the man with the bad toupee loosed his wrath on Pope Francis after the pontiff questioned the billionaire's basic Christianity.   The Donald called the Pope's remarks shameful.  Then, before the stink from that little tantrum had time to rise and drift away in cloud of lightening and hot air that seems to be constantly enveloping the Republican race to the White House, the imbecilic Trump moved on to another twenty-first century icon, Apple, Inc.  The billionaire blowhard determined that since Apple was refusing to develop a technology that would allow the FBI to unlock iPhones and invade our privacy even further than it already has, good patriotic Americans - like him - should boycott the company.

That's right, America.  Take your pansy little iPhones and throw them in the trash!  Put that in your pipe and tweet it, Tim Cook!

What a man our Donald is - what a man!  He has figured out that you don't have to be smart to be President, or compassionate, or even truthful.  The key to success in politics today is simply this:  be LOUD!  Bash the poor and defenseless, call your opponents names, threaten lawsuits - and do it all very, very loudly.  And if it ever gets to the point where being loud fails to fire up the knuckle-draggers, bring in Sarah Palin and overwhelm them with STUPID!

Loud and stupid.  The Republican party has been slowly sliding into the sewer ever since Eisenhower chose Nixon for his running mate way back in 1952.  Now, sixty-four years later it would seem that the Grand Old Party is neck-deep in its own greedy, racist, misogynistic, homophobic bile and must either begin extricating itself from the loud and stupid, or drown in its own ignorance and float out into the mists of history.

My sense is that the party is ending - and it's all over but the shouting.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Me and the Prez Are Heading to Cuba!

by Pa Rock
World Traveler

President Obama announced yesterday that he will be traveling to Cuba next month, the first sitting President to do so since Silent Cal Coolidge went there in 1928, and Harry Truman stopped by the U.S. military base at Guantanamo on the island in 1948.  Right on cue, certain members of D.C.’s politically entrenched class began wailing over Obama’s flouting of liberty and all that jazz by meeting with a totalitarian despot.  Obama countered that he is visiting the island nation in an effort to encourage Raul Castro and his government to make basic reforms in their treatment of the citizenry.

Obama is going to Cuba to seek reforms from within the nation.  He has replaced Teddy Roosevelt’s big stick with a big smile.   Obama is going to do what Pope Francis encouraged our politicians to do earlier this week – build bridges instead of walls.

The President’s sudden announcement of his Cuban trip provides me with a classy opening to announce my own upcoming visit to Cuba.  I will be traveling there on an educational tour with The Nation magazine from April 23-30.  Our group will spend six days in Havana learning about life in Cuba from a wide variety of individuals, and also have one night in a private residence out in the countryside.

During my life I have been fortunate enough to have visited many exotic locales, a few of which, like Germany, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and Vietnam, shaped much of the news of the twentieth century.  Cuba has long been on my bucket list, and when this opportunity arose, I jumped at it.

But, hear this Big O:  There is still time for me to get my trip money back from The Nation, if you could give me a hop over on Air Force One.  I could take Bo to the beach and for runs along the Malecon while you try to talk some sense into Raul.  And in the evenings we could discuss Supreme Court picks over rum drinks and genuine Cuban cigars!

Think about it.  Us tourists should stick together.

Viva Cuba libre!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Macho, Macho Cruz!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

There is a reason that people, including almost the entire United States Senate, don't like Ted Cruz - and it isn't his pleasing personality or his natural-born Canadian-ness.  The reason folks can't warm up to the junior senator from Texas is because he is so damned mean.  Cruz's macho posturing has led him outrageous positions that offend thoughtful people at every strata of society.

Senator Cruz is an immigrant and the son of an immigrant who opposes immigration and vilifies people who are trying to enter this country for a safe and productive life.  He has a wife and daughters yet stands in righteous opposition to women having control of their own bodies.  He is a graduate of Harvard Law School who interprets the Constitution exactly as it was written, as strict and hard as cement, unless the Constitutional topic at hand is a duly elected President (whom Cruz does not personally like) filling a Supreme Court vacancy.   Senator Cruz is against crime, but gleefully supports policies and legislation that would arm everyone and let them carry weapons everywhere from stores, to taverns, to church on Sunday.

Ted Cruz is one tough hombre.

Now the man who wants to be commander-in-chief is formulating plans to toughen our military.  Cruz has announced that under his leadership the United States military would not be serving any gluten-free meals.   

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that is thought to be genetically predisposed.  It is a reaction to gluten in food that has a particularly devastating effect on the small intestine.  Celiac disease is thought to effect one in 200 people worldwide.   The standard way of combating celiac disease is by avoiding gluten in the diet - a dietary practice that some speculate would be good for us all.

But celiacs beware, there's hate in the air.  Macho Ted ain't having none of that namby-pamby, politically-correct stuff in his military.  His soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines are all going to be tough - like himself.  You won't find any of them walking the aisles of a whole foods store.  Bring on that there gluten!

Never mind that the military doesn't currently allow celiacs to enlist.  Never mind that the military does not now, nor has it ever, served any gluten-free meals to anyone.   Never mind that Generalissimo Ted, the pride of Calgary, Canada, has himself never served one day in uniform for any country - he still knows what's best for the troops - and by God he will have his way!

In an age when sound bites are everything, Ted Cruz bites with the best of them.

It is a small wonder that he is so unloved.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Trump Erupts from Every Orifice

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Donald John Trump is a man unencumbered with statesman-like demeanor, diplomatic skills, or even basic good manners.   The past few days, in fact, have born witness to an almost constant stream of verbal sleaze and bile blasting forth from the Republican presidential front-runner.  Trump continues to pillory the Bush family, recently calling George W. Bush a "liar" over his reasoning for taking the United States into a war with Iraq, and strongly implying the Jebya, as governor of Florida, gave safe harbor to the 9/11 terrorists while they attended flight school in Florida.

When The Donald takes a breather from Bush-bashing, he directs his fire at his most serious opponent for the Republican nomination - Ted Cruz.  Trump calls Cruz a "liar" over his campaign's reckless whispers in Iowa that Ben Carson was about to drop out of the race - and please vote for Cruz instead.  Poor Ben.  Trump is also threatening to sue Cruz over his claim to be a "natural born" citizen and thus eligible to run for President.  Trump claims Cruz is not a "natural born" citizen.

Trump is also now claiming that the Republican Party has failed to live up to its part of an agreement that they had with him because the party is not treating him fairly - and, consequently, the door now appears to be open again for him to run as an independent candidate if he so chooses.

Yesterday Donald Trump broke new controversial ground during an interview with conservative radio host, Michael Savage.  Trump, who is apparently a regular guest on Savage's show, responded in an enabling manner when asked if he thought the death of Supreme Court Justice Anonin Scalia might have been murder - and would he support a Warren Commission type of investigation into the matter? Trump, without climbing completely on-board the Nutville Express, did say that he had heard that Scalia had been found with a pillow over his face - and he noted that was an unusual place to have a pillow.

Calling Agent Mulder!  Calling Agent Scully!

One thing that Donald John Trump has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt this political season is that there is absolutely no reason to waste millions of dollars on political advertising.  If a major candidate says bizarre things and behaves in an outrageous manner, the media will promote him, wall-to-wall and cover-to-cover, completely free-of-charge.

Buying television time is for losers.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016


by Pa Rock

Coronet was a magazine very similar to Reader's Digest both in size and in scope that was published from 1936 to 1971.  I recently come into possession of four old issues, two of which were published before I was even born.

The two oldest issues - November of 1947 and February of 1948 - have mailing labels on the back covers addressed to Mrs. Otis Albert of Moffatt, Colorado.  The one from November 1947 has a Norman Rockwell-type of illustration on the cover featuring an old man all bundled up preparing to watch a college football game - undoubtedly featuring his alma mater.  The story highlighted on the cover is "God Was in My Corner:  Barney Ross tells the full inside story of his fight against dope."

The February 1948 issue had another Rockwell-type of cover featuring a young man preparing to give a heart-shaped box of valentine's candy to his girl.  The cover story was "Is Eisenhower the Man for the White House?"  He wasn't - not until 1952.

Coronet appears to have been modeled on Reader's Digest which preceded it into publication by over two decades - with human interest stories, feature pieces on things of importance like medicine and politics, and even sections devoted to jokes and humor.  One place where the two publications seemed to have diverged, however, was in the area of photographic content.  While I don't remember much in the way of photographs in the old Reader's Digests of my youth (if any), Coronet had a hearty reliance on the medium of photography.  Each issue had a special section labeled "Picture Story" in which several pages were dedicated to photographs of a particular topic.

The photo essay in the "Picture Story" of November 1947 was entitled "America's Kid Brother."  It contained over twenty black and white photos of American boys being boys, a la Tom and Huck.  The introduction to the segment read:

"At the bubbling center of almost every household in the land, there is, or was at one time, a boy between the ages of 6 and 13.  We are all familiar with him.  He's a child utterly without fear, a child with boundless curiosity and joyful optimism.  Capturing the essence of this boy's youth, his heart's vibrant happiness and the fresh effervescence of his indomitable spirit, Coronet presents on these pages some of the finest pictures ever published of the boy called America's kid brother."

We had a "kid brother" at our house in the 1980's - one who fit that description very well!

The "Picture Story" a few months later in the February 1948 issue dealt with the realities of a world changing from a footing of war to a time of peace.  It was entitled "The Grim Face of Peace," and as the title suggested, the photos went deeper than just a glance-over of joyous reunions after the war.   The introduction to that photo essay read:

"When peace came in August, 1945, most Americans looked forward to a golden era of ease and prosperity.  But now, after two and a half years, we find ourselves face to face with some of the most perplexing problems the world has ever known.  It is time to look around and see where we are.  To help the average citizen measure the troubled state of the world Coronet this month devotes its entire pictorial section to a stirring forty-page summary of the peace, told with some of the most provocative photographs taken since VJ-Day.  Here you will see what the peace today means to you as an American."

These old issues of Coronet offer, both in words and pictures, clear insight into what America looked and felt like at about the time I parachuted in.  The old magazines convey a bit of the world that my parents knew and experienced as young adults - a trip down memory lane just beyond the reach of my own memory.

(If descendants of Mrs. Otis Albert would like to have her old magazines, please contact me.)

Monday, February 15, 2016

Monday's Poetry: "Pop"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

It may come as a surprise to many, but several of our country's Presidents did, at one time or another, take pen in hand and endeavor to write poetry - and fortunately for our national psyche, most proved to be better at penning poetry than George Dubya Bush is at painting.

This, being President's Day, I felt might be an opportune time to showcase a presidential poem.  I used a couple by Lincoln a few years ago, and today have selected a piece by my other favorite President, Barack Obama.  The poem talks about the relationship between a son and his father.

The Obama's have held several poetry events at the White House over the years, and poetry selections were also read at each of the President's two inaugurations.  President Obama has even, on occasion, referred to himself as a "teen poet."

Here is how President Obama describes the importance of poetry in our lives:

"Poetry matters. Poetry, like all art, gives shape and texture and depth of meaning to our lives. It helps us know the world. It helps us understand ourselves. It helps us understand others, their struggles, their joys, the ways that they see the world. It helps us connect...
I think it's fair to say that if we didn't have poetry that this would be a pretty barren world. In fact, it's not clear that we would survive without poetry."

And now, "Pop" by our Commander in Chief and pre-eminent poetry appreciator:

by Barack Obama

Sitting in his seat, a seat broad and broken
In, sprinkled with ashes,
Pop switches channels, takes another
Shot of Seagrams, neat, and asks
What to do with me, a green young man
Who fails to consider the
Flim and flam of the world, since
Things have been easy for me;
I stare hard at his face, a stare
That deflects off his brow;
I’m sure he’s unaware of his
Dark, watery eyes, that
Glance in different directions,
And his slow, unwelcome twitches,
Fail to pass.
I listen, nod,
Listen, open, till I cling to his pale,
Beige T-shirt, yelling,
Yelling in his ears, that hang
With heavy lobes, but he’s still telling
His joke, so I ask why
He’s so unhappy, to which he replies...
But I don’t care anymore, cause
He took too damn long, and from
Under my seat, I pull out the
Mirror I’ve been saving; I’m laughing,
Laughing loud, the blood rushing from his face
To mine, as he grows small,
A spot in my brain, something
That may be squeezed out, like a
Watermelon seed between
Two fingers.
Pop takes another shot, neat,
Points out the same amber
Stain on his shorts that I’ve got on mine, and
Makes me smell his smell, coming
From me; he switches channels, recites an old poem
He wrote before his mother died,
Stands, shouts, and asks
For a hug, as I shrink, my
Arms barely reaching around
His thick, oily neck, and his broad back; ‘cause
I see my face, framed within
Pop’s black-framed glasses
And know he’s laughing too.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

And Then There Were Eight

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

It was a busy day at Rock's Roost yesterday, a day which included several rounds of farm chores, a couple of trips to town including one long stint at the library, and an hour or two of unwinding in front of the television.  I surfed through the headlines in the morning, harvesting a few nuggets for the blog, and then basically disconnected from the world of news and information.  It wasn't until I was getting ready for bed and checked the internet one last time that learned of the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

That was a shocker!   Scalia, easily one of the most intransigent conservative jurists in the history of the Supreme Court, had left the building - permanently - and at a time when the Court docket was packed with significant cases, many of which were likely to have been decided by a one-vote margin.  This term the Court was looking at abortion, birth control, immigration, unions, and affirmative action.  

The country may have just been spared one of the most destructive terms in the history of the Supreme Court of the United States.

The process for replacing Justice Scalia (I'm sorry, but the term "Justice Scalia" still feels like an oxymoron) is two-fold.  First, according to the Constitution, the President of the United States - that would be Barack Obama - selects a person to nominate to the post.  Then, also according to the  Constitution, that venerable institution, the United States Senate, has to vote on the nominee.  There is, of course, a third option, one not mentioned in the Constitution, and that is for the Senate to delay or refuse to act on the President's nomination until a new President takes office.

Republicans seem to be of the mind that since the President is now in his last year in office (barely) that he should not even sully the process with a nomination, but should rather sit it out and let the next President name the successor - someone sensible like a Trump or Cruz appointee.  Obama short-circuited that plan and has announced that he would be using his Constitutional prerogative and mandate to propose a successor to Scalia.

Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader of the Senate, has already indicated that he and his colleagues won't consider a nomination before the next President is sworn into office, and the Republican clowns who are still left in the Presidential chase are all encouraging the Senate to delay action on any Obama nomination.

Whether the Senate is able to keep the seat on the Court open for a year or more is only part of the equation.  Barack Obama is still likely to have a very good year with the judiciary as the Supreme Court is forced to function with only eight members - and the Republic may just be saved.

The presidential election of 2016 has suddenly become about the Supreme Court, a body that, as of late, could certainly stand some prolonged public scrutiny.  President Obama will name a nominee, someone with a sound judicial mind and impeccable credentials, and that person will go through a thorough vetting process.  If the Senate refuses to act or rejects the candidate, that will say far more about the Senate than it does the judicial nominee - or the President, for that matter.

And then there's this possibility:  If McConnell and his GOP obstructionists in the Senate thwart the President's Constitutional right to name a successor to fill Scalia's vacancy, come next January President Sanders or President Clinton might just nominate Barack Hussein Obama, a gifted Constitutional scholar, to sit on the Supreme Court.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Mitch!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The GOP Really Is the Stupid Party

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

This coming Monday, the day after tomorrow, is President's Day, and to help mark the occasion a former President will be making a speech in Charleston, South Carolina.  No, it won't be a grandiose verbal tribute to the history and glory of America's past Chief Executives, nor will it be any type of memorial to the nine black Christians who were shot to death while praying in a Charleston church last summer.

No, the speech that former President George W. Bush will be giving will be a family-self-promotional affair intended to revive the flagging presidential candidacy of his younger brother, Jebya.  That's right.  George W. Bush, a man who, if there was any justice in the world, would be standing, chained and shackled, before a war crimes tribunal at The Hague, will instead be trying to convince a state packed with bigoted religious zealots that his baby brother is every bit as extreme as Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

It will be a tough sell, but if there is one person who could proudly carry a flag of stupidity into Dixie without having a clue as to what a joke he is out in the real world, that person would be George W. Bush.  He's the logical choice, and a blood relative, and besides, Sarah Palin is already committed to Trump.

Hey South Carolina, never trust people with an IQ of over one hundred.  They'll fix your roads and bridges when you aren't paying attention, make your employers provide living wages and safe working environments, and try to give you health insurance!  Protect your liberties and support the Stupid Party!

People like George and Sarah know what's best for you - yes they do - you betcha they do!

Friday, February 12, 2016

A Special Place in Hell - Where the Boys Are

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Hillary Clinton won two demographic groups in the primary election in New Hampshire earlier this week:  people making over $200,000 a year, and people over the age of sixty-five.  One important demographic that she did not win was that of women.  Bernie Sanders won fifty-five percent of the women's vote - primarily due to his popularity among young women.

Two nationally prominent women, both of whom fit into each of the demographics that Hillary won, had some rather unkind things to say about those young women who supported Bernie.  Madeline Albright, the first female secretary of state in our nation's history, snapped that there is a "special place in hell for women who don't help each other," and feminist icon Gloria Steinem postulated that the young women had flocked to support Bernie because "that's where the boys are."

Neither the 78-year-old Ms. Albright nor the 81-year-old Ms. Steinem  seemed to have much respect for the younger women's abilities to make sound judgments on their own, and their anger over this perceived lack of commitment to achieving a major feminist goal seemed reminiscent of the wrath expressed by Geraldine Ferraro when she learned that her daughter had voted for Obama in a primary in 2008 - again to the detriment of Mrs. Clinton.

Ferraro's daughter said that Obama had inspired her, and, regardless of where the boys are, one suspects that Bernie also inspired many of the young women who voted for him.  Perhaps instead of trying to corral and correct the course of their younger sisters, Ms. Albright and Ms. Steinem should step aside and let the youthful energy lead us into the future.

Madeline, Gloria, there's a special place for you at the pinochle table.  It's where us old men are.

Bring your own seat cushions!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The High Cost of Ancestoring

by Pa Rock
Amateur Genealogist

I became involved in digging through my family roots nearly forty years ago.  At that time records had to be meticulously and laboriously entered into forms with a typewriter, and most government records had to be accessed through the mail - for a fee.  Today, of course, it is much easier.  Scads of stuff is now available on the Internet, and computers make collecting and storing information much, much easier than it used to be.

But there is still a greedy troll hiding under the bridge to the past, and he is much more aggressive at shaking time-travelers down for money than the government ever thought about being.

The troll, of course, is, a large corporate entity that has assembled a multitude of handy records and made them easy to navigate over the Internet.  Ancestry also shares the family trees of most of its members with other members.  The result is that anyone can come to the Ancestry site and, with just a little bit of patience, find a great deal of information on their family history.

But that easy access to one's personal heritage comes at an eye-popping price.   Access to U.S. records on Ancestry - along with the family trees of others - is a pricey $198 for a year.  A "World Explorer" membership, with includes Ancestry's U.S. and international records is a hundred bucks higher at $298 per year, and an membership in their Cadillac "All Access" program which includes all of the above plus entry into three other programs that Ancestry owns is a whopping $398 a year!

When I started slipping back into genealogy a few years ago I subscribed to   I realized at the time what a gold mine it was - for the owners - and looked into buying a few shares because it was being publicly traded.  Before I could get my purchase made, however, it was bought out by others who also recognized the company as being a grand champion cash cow - and taken private.  The money was so lucrative that they did not need the pennies of peasants and outside investors.

Today Ancestry is everywhere.  Google any name on the Internet, and it is almost inevitable that some of the choices generated by the search engine will be connected to - and the company will provide just enough information to entice the researcher to "join" so that he can get the remainder of the material he is seeking.

One problem that I have with Ancestry is that it accepts anything that its members cough up in the way of family tree material - and then shares that information - sometimes flawed - with anyone who shows a connection.  I found an instance once where a mother's date of birth was more recent than that of her child, an egregious error that was sopped up by a bunch of other researchers, without question, and then incorporated into their trees - leaving me to face information from a half-dozen trees or so that was all built on the same basic error.  Garbage in, garbage out.

Another concern that I harbor is that when something good in genealogy comes along, it tends to get gobbled up by Ancestry.  I spent lots of time sorting my dead relatives into a software program called "Family Tree Maker."  It was the best on the market, so good that just had to have it.  As the yearly updates came out, I was again sending more money to Ancestry.

I recently began going to our local library to do a bit of family tree research.  When I asked a lady in the genealogy room about census records - she referred me to the public computers and told me to get on the bookmarked "Heritage Quest" site.  The was both exciting and nostalgic for me because thirty some years ago when "Heritage Quest" was a new family tree-oriented magazine with a national circulation, I had sold them a few articles, including one which was featured on their cover.  The library subscribes to "Heritage Quest" now for a fee, and it is a basic research site.  It does things like root through the entire United States Census and dig up dead relatives that years ago would have taken weeks to unearth.  That afternoon I found several who had been misplaced for generations, e-mailed those census forms to my home computer by an easy feature on the site, an then went home to print out my finds.  When I got home and pulled up the results, an emblem on the screen and on the printouts told me that "Heritage Quest" is now a part of!

It's everywhere!  It's everywhere! is an excellent resource for research, much like Walmart is an excellent resource for shopping for day-to-day necessities - and gradually each is becoming the only game in town.  Ancestry is priced way too high, and for that it should be dutifully ashamed, and it harbors much personal genealogy that has not been carefully fact-checked and is therefore dubious at best.  But, for those who can afford it's services,, is a great place to start the hunt for those elusive ancestors.

I'm sure at some point I will have to suck it up and rejoin.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The News from New Hampshire

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The New Hampshire primary, part of America's electoral early warning system, is over - and the surprises this year were few.  Bernie Sanders was expected to win the Democratic primary - and he did, big.  Donald Trump was anticipated to win the Republican primary, and he also did, big.

The Sanders win was wide as well as deep with the candidate winning just about every demographic - including women!   (Clinton apparently did win with voters over the age of sixty-five and those making over $200,000 a year.)   It was such a thorough and convincing victory that here I sit, fifteen or so hours after the polls closed, without a single email from Bill, Chelsea, or James Carville trying to convince me that Hillary beat expectations.  She didn't.  Hillary did send out a nice email saying she would fight on.  And she will - and it will still be a very long and tough race - just like 2008.

The Republican surprises were among the also-rans.  Governor Kasich of Ohio, perhaps the least loony and dangerous of the entire field, came in second.  Ted (Joe McCarthy lookalike) Cruz finished third, Jebya barely slipped into fourth, fifth was Marco Rubio, and Chris Christie was sixth.  Some opinionators are labeling Christie's debate performance this week as a murder/suicide mission where his goal was to destroy Rubio.  He seems to have been successful both with a political murder and a political suicide.  Christie is apparently on the verge of dropping out, and Rubio, much like Bush, is too stunned and incoherent to be much of a threat to anyone.  And then there's Carly Who.

The Democrats are likely still headed toward the eventual nomination of Hillary, though Bernie's chances grow - however incrementally - every day.  The road to the nomination will be anything but a cakewalk regardless of who finally grabs the crown.

The Republicans seem hell-bent on nominating a xenophobic, homophobic, misogynistic, racist, billionaire bully - and fortunately for them one has stepped forward to grab their crown - and there seems to be nothing that ordinary conservatives can do to stop the Trump juggernaut. 

But, it's still a very long way to November, and the road to the White House is pocked with many potholes.  The eventual winner may have not even announced yet.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Black Lives Really do Matter

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The Republican response to the rising "black lives matter" movement was to label it racist and anti-police - and to counter with "all lives matter."   Sanctimony aside, all lives do matter, but if the gun-toting, flag-waving, saber-rattling hard right edge of the Republican Party had believed that all along, there would be no need for the current emphasis on black lives mattering.   Black lives really haven't mattered to to the basest of the GOP base in over fifty years.  They wrote that vote off long ago, and with it any and all responsibility for the safety, health, and welfare of black Americans.  The only responsibility that segment of society felt toward black Americans was the responsibility to police them and keep them "in their place."  Black lives were not a pressing concern of many in the once proud party of Lincoln.

When the "black lives matter" movement began to take hold, primarily as a response to brutal police assaults on young black people, many of which ended in death for protest behaviors and crimes against property, the Republican response was to obfuscate, to bury the issue in a tsunami of right-wing ravings, to make it an us-against-them thing.

Then this water crisis happened in Flint, Michigan.  The city's population, largely black, had it's relatively safe water supply interrupted by a Republican governor and his administration and replaced with one that was dangerously unsafe - a water supply that exposed the population and many children to high levels of lead contamination.  It took nearly two years for the state officials of Michigan to even admit that there was a problem, much less one of such critical and deadly proportions.

One of the oversight committees of the current Republican Congress held a meeting to look at the situation in Flint, but that committee failed to either subpoena or invite Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, a Republican, to testify.  When angry Democrats on the committee issued a minority invitation to the governor, he declined due to a prior appointment.  The governor obviously had something more pressing that dying Michiganders on his calendar.

Now it falls to Democrats, once again, to point out that black lives also matter.  Bernie Sanders called on Governor Snyder to do the right thing and resign.  True, that wasn't much of a response to the crisis - and it is a crisis of epic proportions - but it was something - and more than has been voiced by any of the Republican presidential contenders who are, by-and-large, ignoring the issue entirely.

Hillary Clinton moved past the vocal outrage - though she had plenty of that - to actually making a trip to Flint to view the man-made disaster first hand.  Her staff has been working with the staff of Flint's mayor for several weeks in a common effort to determine how much harm has been done and to seek solutions.  Mrs. Clinton is behaving very presidential - and, of course, her efforts are not going unobserved by the state's Republican politicians, cretins who have risen in righteous anger to declare that Hillary is "politicizing" the situation.   Well, yes she is.  Politics created this poisonous problem, and it will absolutely take politics to fix it.

(And not to give President Obama a pass - he should be out walking the streets of Flint as well.  But as soon as our black President comes to town, out come the pick-up trucks with the Confederate flags, gun-rights morons, Fox News reporters, and every other clown in the circus - all stoking the old us-against-them fears of white America - and strengthening the hand of the politicians who created the problem in the first place.  Obama undoubtedly senses that he can get more done by staying away.)

The shouting about "politicizing" and "all" lives mattering is meant to do little more than take the onus off of the bigots.  Children are dying at the hands of overzealous policemen, and children are dying as a result of calculated decisions by politicians - and more often than not those children are black.  And those lost lives cannot be overlooked or swept aside simply because of the color of the victim's skin.  Black lives really do matter.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Monday's Poetry: "Fire and Ice"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Monday morning - and a very light snow is beginning to drift by my window here in the Missouri Ozarks.  Tomorrow is the much-ballyhooed New Hampshire Primary.

My intent today was to select a poem focused on the cold hardness of New England, and to pay a bit of homage to New Hampshire as the state herds itself to the polls in an effort to tell the rest of the nation who should be our next leader.  Robert Frost, once a citizen of neighboring Vermont, immediately came to mind as someone who had undoubtedly written many poems that would fit the bill.

A bit of research led me to "New Hampshire," an extremely long, free verse poem by Frost that meanders across several states.  "New Hampshire" was the title poem in a volume of poetry penned by Frost in 1923, a little book that went on to win the Pulitzer Prize.  Three other very famous works by the New England poet were also part of that volume:  "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," "Nothing Gold Can Stay," and today's selection, "Fire and Ice."

While unlike "New Hampshire," "Fire and Ice" is exceeding brief - but it is highly descriptive and somewhat appropriate as this year's crop of national political blowhards scurry across the rocky landscape spewing their gases in a vain attempt to warm the cold and flinty hearts of a people who pride themselves on their independence and ruggedness.  A bit of fire, a bit of ice.

Fire and Ice
by Robert Frost

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Stay strong, New Hampshire - they're almost gone!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Queen of the Chimenea

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Winter

Chickens have a reputation for being dumb, but I'm here to tell you that's just propaganda put out by duck people.  Chickens are born smart - or at least with a good set of survival instincts - and as they get older they get craftier.

It's ducks that are dumb.

Two years ago I started the spring with two dozen baby chicks, a couple of feeders and waterers, and a big bag of feed.  There were no adult chickens at The Roost to show these one-or-two-day old babies what to do, yet they instinctively knew to eat at the feeder, drink at the waterer, and take long naps under the heat lamp.  As they got older and began wandering out into the yard in search of bugs, the young chickens knew to run for cover whenever a strange dog appeared or the shadow of a hawk glided across the lawn.

I had ducks once that would let the big farm dogs carry them around in their mouths.  That is just begging to be eaten!

But a hen's real intelligence shines through when they are about five-months-old and begin to lay eggs. Without a single older hen around to show them the process, mine knew to hop up into one of the straw-filled nesting boxes nailed to the inner wall of the coop, and deposit their eggs there.  At a time when their world was open to ten acres of farm land with plenty of trees and brush piles, somehow they knew exactly where those big, and undoubtedly painful, eggs belonged.

By the following spring when the girls had figured out that the farmer would always find their eggs in the hen house and take them, a few began getting sneaky.  Some days egg production would appear to have suddenly dropped to half of what it normally would be.  It was then that the farmer knew to get out and start looking for hiding spots.  One hen would find a nice place to scoop out a nest at the base of a brush pile, or behind a stack of boards, and deposit her daily duty there, and others would soon figure it out and begin hiding theirs in the same spot.  But eventually the persistent old farmer would find them and clean it out - throwing the eggs away because he couldn't be sure how old they were.  Then the girls would dutifully head back to the hen house and resume doing their business in the nesting boxes.

One afternoon last week as I headed out the back door, I spotted, out of the corner of my eye, a fat brown hen hopping into the chimenea that sits on a corner of the back deck.  Checking later I found that she hadn't left an egg there, but I had suspicion that it was on her "to do" list.  The next day I put some straw in the unused clay chimenea - and the following day was rewarded with an egg for my efforts.

That's pretty handy.  The little hen gets to feel like a rebel, and Pa Rock has breakfast delivered almost to the kitchen table.

I'd like to see a duck do that!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Corporate Vultures Snack on Local Steak House

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

It almost seemed like one of those tales of venture (vulture) capitalism that were bandied about during the Romney campaign of 2012 - the ones where a group of corporate raiders (politely called venture capitalists - like Romney) would buy up successful businesses, sell their assets, raid the pension fund, and then declare bankruptcy and sell what was left of a once-profitable business for pennies on the dollar.  Nobody made money except for the thieves at the top.

Tales like that took a personal turn yesterday morning when employees at the local Ryan's Steak House showed up for work only to find that they -  and the customers - had been locked out.   The joint had closed, without notice, leaving forty to fifty poor souls jobless - some of whom had worked at the restaurant for nearly twenty years.   The diners were left with options of scurrying across the boulevard to grab a buffet plate at KFC or heading home to deal with leftovers.

The sign on the door told customers to check out the Ryan's website to find another location, and employees were instructed to come by between two and six in the afternoon to collect their final paychecks.  Hasta la vista, baby.

I am not a fan of Ryans, or Golden Corral, or Luby's, or any of those other cafeteria-type places where people have to lean in over the food and try not to cough, or sneeze, or drool while serving themselves.   I like my meal to come to the table straight from the kitchen where I don't have any direct knowledge of who did what to the food before it landed in front of me.  So the closing of the local Ryan's won't negatively impact me - other than being an insult to my adopted community and decreasing our local economic base - and thus making life here just a wee bit harder for everyone - and much harder for the displaced food service workers.

Ryan's had been owned by a company called Ovation Brands until last August when the entire chain was sold to an outfit called Food Management Partners.  Yesterday, the corporate weasels at Food Management Partners announced they were closing seventy-four stores nationwide - all without prior notice.

This, folks, is exactly how Mitt Romney made his fortune!

Friday, February 5, 2016

GOP Regresses Toward Its Mean

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Okay, it's the Republican Party after all.  Yes, they got a little press attention this year when both a woman and a black man declared as GOP candidates for the nation's highest office, but that was then - before things started getting serious.   Now, when votes are actually being counted, and every vote is critical, it's time to jettison the outliers and get down to the serious business of deciding which white man should be selected to run the nation.

Though Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson are quickly being shunted aside by the party regulars, the bosses deserve a bit of credit for keeping the welcome mat out for two prominent Cuban Americans - again, men.  They would like a way to tap into that potential Hispanic vote without appearing too open to the immigration issues of Mexican Americans.

Fiorina is being kept off of Saturday's night's debate by the host, ABC News.  Even though enough Republicans have already dropped out of the race to where room on stage shouldn't be an issue, ABC had criteria in place - and Fiorina failed to pass muster.  The criteria included placing in the top three in Iowa, or placing in the top six in national polls, or placing in the top six in New Hampshire polls.  Those who will be in the New Hampshire debate on Saturday include:  Trump, Bush, Kasich, Christie, Carson, Cruz, and Rubio.

Carly Fiorina said that her exclusion from Saturday's debate was "an insult to voters."  Trump has said that he "wouldn't mind" if she was in the debate, but the other good old boys on stage are keeping quiet.

Ben Carson, who is in the upcoming debate, will likely use as much of his microphone time as he can to rail against Ted Cruz.  Carson feels that he was punked by the Cruz campaign in Iowa which reportedly spread the word at caucus meetings and over the internet that the neurosurgeon was on the verge of dropping out of the race.  Don't waste your vote on Ben when Ted needs it.  Cruz has apologized to Carson over the dirty trick and blamed it on rogue staffers.  Carson, who complained of feeling "robbed and violated" by the Cruz campaign, says he won't be satisfied until those responsible are fired.

So while a couple of candidates felt they had seen at least an outline of a welcome mat at the Republican Party door, that mat has been yanked as the party quickly reverted back to its mean (average) and its mean (nature).  The best hands that Fiorina and Carson can hope to be dealt by the GOP in 2016 will consist of little more than victim cards.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The NRA Wants to Give Me a Gun!

by Pa Rock
Civil Libertarian

I'm not sure why, but for the first time in my nearly sixty-eight years I have received a piece of junk mail from the bullies and bigots at the National Rifle Association.  Perhaps they send mail to everyone of a certain age who resides on America's back roads, I don't know, but they have for some reason or another finally found me.  The letter, signed by that great enabler of school-shooters everywhere, Wayne LaPierre, literally begs me to enter their contest and win some wonderful prizes in the realm of guns, gear, and hunts.

(Have you ever thought about the name "LaPierre?"  As an amateur genealogist and a student of surnames, I would suspect that Ol' Wayne's paternal descent may have dribbled from a flacid line of cross-dressing souffle-whippers, but I don't even own a gun, so what could I possibly know?)

But, back to the message in hand, the NRA is sponsoring a contest where they will give away a bunch of guns (grand prize is a collection of 24 and includes a gun safe - who even knew they believe in gun safes?), some great gear including the big prize of a Chevy Silverado pickup (nothing says macho like a pickup truck with a gun rack and tobacco stains on the driver's door), or a big game hunt where the winner can travel to Alaska and kill a mama bear tending her cubs and a grazing moose.

Glory, glory, glory!  Can I have an Amen!

The NRA really, really wants me to win one of their prizes - and they would also like for me to join their fine fettle of fascists and send them some money.  Oh, they say that I don't have to join the NRA in order to be a winner, but why in the name of Sarah Palin and Jesus Christ wouldn't I?  They have reduced their prices and will sell me a year's membership for the unbelievable low rate of just twenty-five dollars - or I can sign-up convenient longer terms - up to five years for one-hundred dollars! 

The price of membership also includes $7,500 in insurance coverage for the member and his guns.  (So if you are ever accidentally shot by an NRA member while strolling the aisles of Walmart, sue, sue, sue!)

In begging for my money, Ol' Wayne fanned the flames of paranoia in his classic style:

"Remember, we're fighting powerful gun-hating politicians in Washington, DC and in the state legislatures . . . anti-gun judges . . . U.N. global ban diplomats . . . anti-gun billionaires . . . and freedom-hating media elite." 
 Okay, I'm almost convinced to send in the entry.  But Wayne, I do have one non-negotiable demand in regard to your contest.  If I win a gun and you dispatch Ted Nugent to deliver it, make sure he arrives wearing an adult diaper.  Otherwise he will have to remain on the porch.

Praise Jeezus and pass the ammunition!  Can I have another Amen!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016


by Pa Rock

Zealot, the Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth was written by biblical scholar Dr. Reza Aslan over two years ago.  The book, which chronicles the historical Jesus (the man) rather than the religious Jesus (the Christ), would have probably quickly landed  in the remainder bins of some large book retailers if it had not been for the sudden boost in sales that it got through an awkward and very slanted interview on Fox News.

Fox wheeled out one of its pretty blondes to interview Dr. Aslan, and it quickly became apparent that she likely had not read his book, and the focus of her interview was going to be on informing and  reminding America that the author was a Muslim.

It started off like this:

"This is an interesting book.  Now, I want to clarify:  You are a Muslim, so why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity?"
Reza Aslan:
"I am a scholar of religions with four degrees, including one in the New Testament, and fluency in biblical Greek, who has been studying the origins of Christianity for two decades, who just happens to be a Muslim.  So it's not just that I'm some Muslim writing about Jesus.  I am an expert with a Ph.D. in the history of religions."
"But it still begs the question:  Why would you be interested in the founder of Christianity?"
 And from there it just went downhill!

Dr. Azlan sold truckloads of his historical tome as a result of what some journalists dubbed the "most embarrassing" and "dumbest" interview in television history.  Suddenly everyone wanted to read for themselves the history of Jesus as seen through the eyes of a (highly educated) Muslim.  I bought my copy back during the controversy and finally got around to reading it last week.

I was impressed.

First, through Zealot, I got a feel for the turbulent times in which Jesus lived.  His hometown of Nazareth  was a small, impoverished community, many of whose residents worked as day laborers for wealthy Jews and Romans in the larger cities.  There was dissension and some revolutionary fervor among the struggling masses, many of whom lived with the expectation a messianic intervention and the creation of God's kingdom on earth - a kingdom that would reunite the twelve tribes of Israel, drive the Romans from the holy land, and rid the temple of the corrupt priests.  To that end, there were several individuals who called themselves "messiah" and traipsed across the countryside trying to bring about revolution prior to the arrival of Jesus.

Most of the historical record regarding Jesus was written in the decades following his death, and much of that seems to have been penned with the purpose of codifying and clarifying the emerging religion.  Jesus, as a young man, probably did work as a carpenter with his father, and, as such, got to see life beyond the small town of Nazareth.  His involvement with religion seems to have begun when he was baptized by John the Baptist.  Jesus, initially a follower and disciple of John, eventually took over the role of itinerant preacher himself after the Baptist was executed.

As Jesus walked the dusty paths between the small towns of Judea, the number of his disciples increased and his following grew as word spread of his powers as a healer.  By the time his traveling band made it into Jerusalem, his reputation as a healer and a defender of the poor and downtrodden had earned him enemies among the city's Jewish elite and its Roman overlords.

While Dr. Azlan questions the biblical accounts of Jesus's birth - and even the location where it was reported to have occurred - he does see his eventual crucifixion as having actually happened.  Rome, at that time, used crucifixion for crimes against the state, and Rome as well as the Jewish elite would have seen the foray of Jesus into the temple in Jerusalem (where he put the money-changers into such disarray) as being seditious in nature.

Dr. Aslan also spends time in this volume discussing the formation of the religion following the death of Jesus.  Much of that focuses on the struggle for control between Paul, the self-appointed apostle, and James (the Just), the younger brother of Jesus.  James won that struggle in the short term as he managed to force Paul t recant much of his theology and ostracized him to Rome.  But, in the long term, Paul's view of Jesus as the Christ, completely free of Jewish law and trappings, won out as Rome eventually adopted and shaped the growing religion.

I'm admittedly not much of an expert on religion, but I did feel that Dr. Aslan presented his account of the life of Jesus in a fair and balanced manner that was both thorough and interesting.  His work contained over fifty pages of end notes and a bibliography of more than twenty pages, leaving the reader able to quickly zero in on the scholastic and historic fundamentals of any claim which might foster controversy.

Zealot is definitely a work of praiseworthy scholarship.  Thank you, Fox News, for causing me to read it!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Cruz Oozes to the Gop Top

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Some among the internet press seemed shocked by last night's election results in Iowa, but I failed to sense any seismic disturbances.  Yes, America's most obnoxious blowhard bigot lost the Republican caucuses, but he lost them to an almost equally obnoxious bigoted blowhard - and neither Tweedle Dee nor Tweedle Dumb are likely to ever be given the keys to the White House.  Four years ago the party's "moderate," Mitt Romney, (and the sycophantic press) declared himself to be the winner, and then hurriedly got the hell out of Ft. Dodge before the remaining votes were counted and it turned out that Little Ricky Santorum had actually won.  Fundamentalist Christian Iowans like their candidates to be like Little Ricky, mean and white with plenty of negative opinions about vaginas.  Trump versus Cruz had to be a very, very hard choice for most of them.

And while I'm not a fan of Mrs. Bill Clinton, I did feel a bit sorry for her as the press carefully crafted a box around her in which anything less than a decisive win was going to be viewed as a loss.  It certainly took the shine off of her hair's breath victory in a state she lost to Barack Obama eight years earlier.  Husband Bill, long the acknowledged master of the expectations game, is already out there this morning trying to put Bernie in that same box in New Hampshire.  If Bernie doesn't win big there, then it will be another shocking "comeback" for Hillary.

Here's my unsolicited advice for a few of the candidates:

Donald John Trump:  Swallow your prideful rage against women and announce today that if you get the Republican nomination your running mate will be Kentucky courthouse clerk Kim Davis.  Forget about the seven spouses that you've had between the two of you and focus instead on your appealing Christian values.  And spice up your speeches with some of that Corinthians stuff.

Ted Cruz,:  Work on your interpersonal skills and try to make a friend or two - and quit trying to look and act so much like Joe McCarthy.  America has moved past him, albeit barely.

Marco Rubio:  Wipe that stupid grin off of your face.

Ben Carson:  Try getting your beauty sleep before, instead of during, the debates.

Jebya:   Keep spending that corporate super-pac money like it was (clean, non-Flint) water.  It may not be doing you an ounce of good, but its great for the economy.

Bernie:  Be prepared to defend democratic socialism and Judaism to people who can barely remember where they parked their cars - or left their loaded guns.  And remember, they don't suffer intelligence kindly.

And as for you, Mrs. Clinton, when Hillary '24 rolls around - skip Iowa!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Monday's Poetry: "An Ocean for Iowa"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Today being the long-awaited and much-anticipated "Iowa Caucuses," I felt that a poem focusing on the state of Iowa might be appropriate - and there are a few scattered out along the side-roads of Internet.  The one I have chosen is a speculative piece by Minnesota poet Todd Boss which ponders what Iowa might be like if it had its own ocean - not a major one, but something on the order of the world's eighth-largest body of water - filled by the Missouri River.

Mr. Boss's poem performs a worthy overview of the state, identifying many of its distinctive features - including the caucuses.  He read the piece on National Public Radio on December 30th, 2011 - not too long before the caucuses of 2012.

Consider this a mini-vacation to the great state of Iowa, but don't bother packing swim trunks and surf boards.   At the present time the most Iowa has to offer tourists is corn stubble, coffee shops, and a plethora of haggard Presidential candidates.

An Ocean for Iowa
by Todd Boss

I don't know why. Oh, why
not, though? Don't Iowans
deserve an ocean as much as
Rhode Islanders or New
Zealanders do? We'll make it
a little one if we have to, like
the Indian. The Missouri
will fill it, and we won't
displace anyone--no farms
will be harmed in the
pouring of this ocean--
we'll simply make a little
room in Pottawattami or
Union County between
formerly neighboring towns
like Anita and Atlantic,
Manning and Manilla, or
Dunlap and Defiance.
I'm thinking mostly of
southwestern Iowa, because
then Kansans and Nebraskans
can come for an afternoon
and still get home in time
for church supper or choir.
Some farmers will become
lobstermen, and who could
blame them? Others, going down
to its shores between chores
will bring home again strings
of deliciously white-fleshed
ocean-fresh poems. And
the women, let's not forget
the women. They're going
to adore the ocean. It will
inspire them to do more
lovemaking, and if there's
anything Iowa needs, God
knows it's more lovemaking.
I want Iowan women, when
they're sick of looking at corn
on every horizon, to be able to
climb into the seats of their
husbands' stick-shift
Silverados and drive all 45
dirt miles of State Hwy 30
through Glidden, Ralston,
Scranton, Jefferson,
Grand Junction, Ogden,
and Jordan, come at last
to a dust-cloud stop there
where the cornfields end
on the bluffs overlooking
the Cape of Des Moines
or Omaha Bay, rest their
misted soft trusting
Delft eyes awhile on the
lapped whitecapped quilt-
work of the Iowan Ocean,
then go home and love their
husbands with a rocking motion.
Oh, sure, there'll be some
whose stubborn German
pride will rear at the mere
suggestion: We don't need
no stinking ocean, we're
Iowans, not Californians.
California's got an ocean,
what good's it done them?
And they'll have a point:
The ocean's largely wasted
on Californians. Also New
Yorkers and Floridians. No,
an ocean's a prize uniquely
commensurate with being
Iowan: for plying the sea
of tallgrass in glass-cabined
crafts, staring deep into green;
for a lifetime's attention
to the singularly homely
flowering and fruiting of
the lowly soybean; for
shameless ministration to
the nameless and unseen--
We hereby christen this
ocean the Iowan Ocean, 8th
biggest water mass on Earth.
May it bring joy on an order
of magnitude equivalent to
the sea of corn sweetener
her refineries pour into
the food and drink factories
of the world. May it scrub
the stench from every hog
barn; dilute the pollutants,
soften every stubbornness;
un-govern every caucus.
May a new spirit
move upon the face of the
waters and wash across the
wheat fields, filling with a
newfound joy every sower,
crop-duster, and reaper.
And may the sky, bluer
than the blue from any
prism, fill them with a truly
nondenominational new
evangelism, truer than any
truism, and worlds deeper.