Saturday, April 30, 2016

Cuba Dispatch # 2: A Busy Day in Havana

by Pa Rock
An American Abroad

Sunday, 24 April 2016:

It is a beautiful day in Havana, cloudless blue skies and a pleasant breeze.

After a nice breakfast buffet and the Hotel Capri, our group boarded a bus for the Cementario de Cristobal Colon – 138 acres of family tombs and grave sites ranging from simple markers to million dollar structures (by today’s prices).    Over two million people are interred in that cemetery in one way or another – some in elaborate tombs and others just in simple boxes. 

We saw the tomb of Jose Marti’s parents, a few former Presidents of Cuba, and many dignitaries in the fields of politics, art, and entertainment.    Following the revolution in the late 1950's, most private property was seized by the state, but one exception was the old family tombs  whose ownership was retained by the families buried there. 

There was a funeral occurring in the cemetery chapel while we were there.  We were told that about four funerals a day occur at the cemetery – and that there is almost no cost at all for a funeral – just ten pesos a year for upkeep of the grave.  The government of Cuba pays the expenses of the burials.

I did participate in a tradition regarding a woman named Amelia who died many years ago in childbirth.  Her husband would visit the grave of Amelia and their baby each day, knock on the tomb three times with a brass ring, and then exit the site walking backward.  Now tourists and people needing special considerations and dispensations visit the site and perform the same ritual.  After knocking three times with the brass ring, they step up to the monument, touch the sculpture of Amelia and the baby, and make a wish and then exit backward.  My wish was for long and healthy lives for my grandchildren.  Amelia’s grave is the only one in the entire cemetery that is constantly covered with fresh flowers.

Our second stop was at an art museum where a knowledgeable guide gave us a most interesting talk on Cuban art as we toured two floors containing over a thousand paintings.  Some of the more contemporary pop art featured images of people who helped to structure the twentieth century, folks like Ho Chi Minh, V.I. Lenin, and George Harrison (of the Beatles).  The most common visage in the museum was that of Cuba’s iconic revolutionary, Che Guevara – in fact, Guevara’s image is so prevalent in modern Cuba that  is almost impossible to go anywhere without seeing a grinning El Che staring back at you.

A while ago I walked from my hotel to the famous Malecon – or sea wall.  There, on the street between the memorial to the U.S.S. Maine and the Malecon, someone had painted a small portrait of Che.  He seems to embody the true spirit of the revolution – even more so than Fidel and Raul Castro.

Our lunch was at a nice Italian restaurant in a cultural center near the art museum.  I wound up sitting next to Peter Kornbluh, a political author (Back Channel to Cuba with William LeGrande) and writer for The Nation magazine, our trip sponsor.  Peter said that he has made eighty-some trips to Cuba since the early 1990’s – usually flying in by way of Nassau.  He answered lots of questions about Cuba during lunch.  At the point when the conversation was lagging, I leaned over and asked him where Fidel lived.  That seemed to have caught him off-guard.  He repeated the question, and then answered, “That’s a state secret.”   Kornbluh has interviewed Fidel Castro, so I suspect that he knows exactly where El Jefe lives, but that was not something he was going to share with just any old tourist.

After a lunch of salad, pizza, and pasta, we retired to a small bar in the back of the cultural center where we were given a presentation on the history of Cuban music – and featured some wonderful instrumental and vocal jazz.  The twenty-two-year-old keyboardist in the group by the name of Miguel had just returned from playing with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band in New Orleans.  All three instrumentalists, the keyboardist, drummer, and bass player, were amazing.

In fact, most of what I have encountered so far in Cuba is fairly amazing.  The people are very open and welcoming, and they seem comfortable conducting their daily lives among the growing influx of tourists.  One thing we learned over lunch is that there is now officially a beer shortage in Cuba thanks to all of the thirsty Americanos.

The first United States cruise ship will arrive next Monday. 

The times are changing fast in Cuba!

Cuba Dispatch #1: Welcome to Havana!

by Pa Rock
Road Warrior

Saturday, 23 April 2016:

Our plane was in the air exactly fifty-one minutes this afternoon for the flight from Tampa International Airport in Florida to the Aeropuerto Internacional Jose Marti La Habana just outside of Havana, Cuba.  Customs was surprisingly easy and we were soon on big air-conditioned tour buses heading into the city. 

Planes at the Havana airport disembark right on the tarmac and then passengers walk to the main terminal building – not far.  One interesting thing that occurred during the customs check was that the airport security people brought out drug-sniffing spaniels to search for illegal contraband.  Those friendly, tail-wagging customs agents made me really start to miss Rosie and Riley.

There are a few more than seventy in our group traveling with The Nation magazine.  We flew into Cuba on what was called a “chartered” jet since there still is no official direct scheduled flights between Cuba and the United States – but it was a full-sized passenger plane hauling multiple U.S. tour groups as well as many Cuban nationals who had been visiting in the United States.  Most of the Cubans who were flying home were bringing in large consumer goods like flat-screen televisions and computer equipment.  I sat next to a lady who appeared to be a Cuban grandmother.  She was clutching two large teddy bears – and was probably a teddy bear breeder!

On the ride to the hotel we passed interesting sights including the large portrait of Che Guevera that Fox News got so twisted about when someone snapped a picture of President Obama standing in front of it.  (Pictures of El Che are ubiquitous on the island, and there is no way that any U.S. politician could have avoided them all.)  We also went by the small stadium where the Rolling Stones performed last month.

(Why doesn’t Microsoft recognize the name of "Che Guevara"?   Ignorant yuppy, Starbucks-swilling scum!)

We are staying at the Capri Hotel, a recently remodeled eighteen-story affair with a swimming pool on the roof.  Even though it is one of the nicer hotels in Havana, it is still a bit Spartan by stateside standards.  The Capri was built in the 1950’s as a hotel and casino.   The U.S. mafia were the original developers and owners, and it was managed for awhile by George Raft, the actor.  I can see the famous Malecon (sea wall) from my room on the seventh floor.

When Fidel and the other revolutionaries took over on January 1, 1959, the U.S.-backed dictator Batista cleaned out the banks and fled with much of the nation's money.  Ordinary Cubans stormed the Mafia casinos and piled all of their gambling equipment in the streets and burned it.  It took less than ninety minutes for those hardy souls to eliminate gambling on the island.

Our group is so large that The Nation had to split us up.  We have a Green Group and a Yellow Group.  (I am a Yellow.)  Tonight both groups met together for a lecture and Q and A session by our leaders, Professor Charles Bittner, and political author Peter Korrnbluh.  Our meeting was down the street at the historic Hotel Nacional.  Afterwards we split back into our two smaller groups for supper, with the Yellows staying at the Hotel Nacional and dining in a beautiful outdoor café in a park-like setting with a view of the Caribbean.  We enjoyed music by a local group while we ate an assortment of Cuban food, and also listened to the screams of a male peacock trying to arouse his ladies – which reminded me of my peacocks back in West Plains who are really into screaming now that mating season has arrived.  Unfortunately, I did not see the peacock on any of the peahens.

(Peter Kornbluh is a regular writer for The Nation magazine, and he is a co-author of Back Channel to Cuba, a book highlighting the secret negotiations between the United States and Cuba during every presidential administration from Eisenhower to Obama.)

On the way back to my hotel, a young Cuban man latched onto me and walked me all the way back to the Capri.    Although his English wasn’t the best, he seemed to be trying to hook me up with one of Cuba’s beautiful young independent working girls.  I declined his matchmaking efforts.  Our group leaders encouraged us to tip the locals whenever possible, so I gave the persistent pimp the Cuban equivalent of a little over a dollar.  He seemed to be pleased.  We exchanged cards, and later when I read his I noticed that it had information regarding a local church – so I guess he was a prostyliznig  pimp – but a very pleasant fellow, nonetheless.

I have met some extremely nice people – in addition to the young man in the previous paragraph - and have particularly enjoyed the company of a retired Methodist minister and his social worker wife from Des Moines.  We became acquainted at Oh Hell Airport in Chicago while waiting on the flight to Tampa.

WiFi service appears to be sporadic and generally awful.  I will write a dispatch each evening and post them sooner or later.

Hasta manana!

Cuba: The Adventure Begins!

by Pa Rock
Traveling Fool!

This Saturday, April 30th, 2016.  I have just arrived back in the States after spending one full week in Cuba.  Unfortunately, I was not able to access the Internet with my computer while I was there, so I wrote a posting each evening  as Word documents and saved them.  I will now begin posting those "Dispatches from Cuba."

Spoiler Alert:  The trip was wonderful and I hope that comes across in these ramblings.  I had expected to be in some sore to bleak and depressed police state, but nothing could have been further from the truth.  The Cuban people were open and friendly - and very used to tourists.  (Although the United States has restricted travel to Cuba for decades, most other countries have had open access the entire time,  During the week we were there I saw less than a dozen uniformed military personnel and only two police cars.

One thing I learned on the trip, something that will rankle some in the United States, is that there is almost no crime in Cuba.  I felt completely safe walking the streets of Havana late at night.  And what accounts for this strange lack of criminal activity?  The answer is that there are basically no privately owned guns on the entire island.   Some might argue that "no guns" make us safer.

Six days in Havana - and one in a rural town three hours outside of Havana called Vilanes.  The following posts tell the story of my week in Cuba.  Please enjoy.  If you have questions or comments, please attach them to this blog and I will respond.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Palm Trees and Mango Smoothies

by Pa Rock
Airport Lounge Lizard 

Friday evening finds me safely in Tampa after a pair of uneventful flights. I did meet some fellow travelers at O'Hare in Chicago this morning who are booked on the same Cuba tour that I am taking - a really nice couple out of Des Moines, Iowa - and enjoyed getting to know them.  My hotel in Tampa, the one that was recommended by the folks at The Nation magazine, is the Airport Mariott, a unique structure located inside of the airport terminal.  The rooms are overpriced, but nice, and WiFi is not free - unless the "guest" wants to join Mariott's "Rewards Program."

I haven't seen any of Tampa except what is showing through the airport and hotel windows.  Palm trees are in abundance, the first that I have seen since leaving Phoenix.  My other experience with a flavor of the tropics came with the mango smoothie that I had with dinner tonight - it was literally to die for - so good - so very, very good!  My evening meal - a turkey burger - was at TGI Fridays inside of the airport terminal.  Service there was excellent.  My table faced the bar, so while I waited on the meal I was entertained by a bartender throwing bottles of liquor and glasses in the air - even behind his back - and catching them - a la Tom Cruise in Cocktail.   Very entertaining - and he didn't drop anything!

Havana tomorrow! 

(I will attempt to blog each day of the trip - Saturday to Saturday - but that will be dependent on the availability of WiFi.) 

Good News, Bad News, and Royal News

by Pa Rock
Road Warrior

This Friday morning finds me sitting at Gate 68 in Terminal C of Kansas City International Airport.  I am early for my midday flight to Tampa, Florida - but I would much rather be early than have to go through the hassle of rushing.

The good news at KCI is that this is easily the most accessible airport in the nation.  I am sitting at the departure gate not more than a hundred yards from where Tim dropped me off a short time ago.  The airport isn't that old - in fact, I can remember when it was new - but the city is already talking about building another one, a bigger, more exhaustive airport where passengers have to walk miles to get from one gate to another.  Of course, that will permit more in the way of airport shopping and commerce which is most likely the real reason they want to screw with something that works just fine like it is - thank you very much!

The other good news at KCI is that the WiFi is free.  I have been in airports where not only is there a robust charge for connectivity, but the process to get on-line is also difficult.  Here it was just one click.

The bad news is that an anal-retentive TSA lackey took away my new  eight-ounce bottle of Listerine mouthwash.  He didn't look like he had a personal affinity for mouthwash, so I assume he was just an over-zealous, low-level government functionary who supplements a modest income with the joys of harassing weary travelers.  I did ask another TSA worker what would become of my unopened bottle of mouthwash, and he told he that it would be thrown away.  They ought to at least find some charitable outlet that could benefit from the piles of confiscated goods that TSA cabbages onto each day.

(I'll bet if it was an unopened bottle of Jack Daniels they wouldn't throw it away.)

Yesterday on the long drive from West Plains to Kansas City the car radio featured wall-to-wall stories about a pair of royals - and not the Kansas City variety.

First of all the Queen, Her Nibs - Elizabeth II of Great Britain - was partying-down in celebration of the ninetieth anniversary of her birth.   Liz, who came to the throne as a mere slip of a young woman while in her early twenties, has recently become the longest serving monarch in British history.  Her family party was yesterday, and today the Obama's are showing up for a leftover cake and tea.

Elizabeth's birthday was the news before noon, but about lunch time a story broke regarding the death of Prince, the singer, songwriter, and pop music icon.  The music legend was found dead in an elevator at his home in Minneapolis.  I listened to two or three stations during the drive, primarily out of Springfield and Kansas City, and each was concentrating on the life and music of Prince.  By the time I got to Tim and Erin's home, I had acquired a substantial amount of Prince trivia - and was humming "Purple Rain" and "Little Red Corvette."  He was only fifty-seven.

Tampa today, Havana mañana!  Adios, amigos!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Debbie Wasserman Hypocrite

by Pa Rock

Florida congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the current chair of the Democratic National Committee, puts out an email newsletter called "The Curl," a play on her distinctive hairdo.  A more fitting name for the screed would be "The Whine."  Debs is quickly becoming one of the most unhappy denizens of D.C.

Wasserman Schultz has served in the United States House of Representatives from south Florida since 2005.  Before that she served in both houses of the Florida State Legislature.  In 2008 she was a co-chair for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, and, as the current chair of the DNC, has been accused by many of rigging the party's debate schedule to favor Clinton over Bernie Sanders.  Wasserman Schultz also has a record in both the Florida Legislature and the U.S. House as being oddly protective of the scumbag payday lending industry, a group of loan sharks who feed off of America's most desperate.

After more than a decade of doing the bidding of the lobbyists who swarm the halls of Congress, Wasserman Schultz has encountered the first serious obstacle to maintaining her privileged life on the public gravy train.  This year she has a very credible primary opponent in the person of Tim Canova, a progressive law professor who isn't afraid to point out the incumbent's many flaws.

Wasserman Schultz uses the DNC's email list to send out appeals for money - usually for her campaign rather than for the party.  As the primary season has progressed and she has seen the growth in the Canova campaign, her emails have become increasingly frantic.  Today she sent one revealing that her opponent was being financed by "outsiders," or people living beyond the borders of Florida.  The email that I received, in Missouri, and that my friend received, in Kansas, asked for us each to rush her some money to help stem the tide of money flowing into Canova's campaign from "outsiders."

Debbie Dearest, my friend and I are each sending ten more dollars to Tim Canova.  Thanks for reminding us about the urgent need to get you out of Congress.  If your campaign is short on cash, may I be so bold as to suggest that you borrow some cash from your loan shark buddies.  I'm sure they would give you a deal - much like the deal you have been giving the Democratic Party!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

New York's Closed Primary Goes for Hillary

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

For an old Bernie supporter like me, yesterday's Hillary victory in New York was disappointing, though not surprising.  It was one she had to win - a loss there would have been catastrophic, a clear signal that her showboat was sinking.

But she won - and won big - breaking a long streak of Sanders' victories in smaller states.  (Donald Trump, the "other" New Yorker in the race, handily won the Republican primary.)

In other years with a different field of candidates, this ballot battle in the vote-rich Empire State might have foretold the end of the race for the Democratic nomination, but Sanders appears to be hanging tough and is stating a determination to plod on to the convention.  His supporters, many of whom are young and enthusiastic novices to the political process, have worked hard to make their candidate a viable alternative to Clinton's expected nomination, and they deserve to reap the reward of seeing Bernie's name put in nomination at the Democratic National Convention this summer.  Anything less would be a betrayal of their enthusiasm and valiant efforts.

Assuming that Hillary is not derailed by any surprise scandals and becomes the nominee of the Democratic Party, I will vote for her in November.   It would be lunacy not to - or to vote for someone like Trump, Cruz, Kasich, or Ryan - but my vote for Hillary is likely to be the extent of the support that I throw her way.   I can't bring myself to send money to someone who has become a multi-millionaire solely as a result of being involved in the American political process.  That just does not feel right.

My car bumper and tree-shaded front yard will be used to promote some down-ballot candidates.  Missouri has an excellent chance of maintaining a Democratic hold on the governorship by electing our current attorney general, Chris Koster, to that position, and our young secretary of state, Jason Kander (the youngest statewide officeholder in the nation), is giving Senator Ol' Roy Bunt cause for concern as he runs against Blunt for his senate seat.  I have already donated to both of these fine Democrats and will again.  There is also a top-flight independent candidate running to oust our current Republican state representative - and as there are no Democrats in that race, I am supporting her- enthusiastically!

New York's primary results would have probably been a lot different if Independents had been permitted to vote in the Democratic and Republican primaries - as they were in some of the more politically progressive states.  Chasing after those Independent votes will likely be very high on Hillary's "to-do" list this fall.

Good luck with that, Hill.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A Pair of Saints in the Making

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Matthew 25:40
The King will reply, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."

In these days of anger and rage when most of our religious and political leaders appear to be little more that saber-rattling demagogues focused on building walls and keeping us divided and steeped in hate, it is a happy revelation to come across a couple of people who are moving forcefully in the other direction.  Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada, and Pope Francis, the shepherd of the world's Catholics, are busy leading by word and deed as they demonstrate to the world the very core of Christianity:  treating others as we would have them treat us.

Immigration is a red-flag topic both in the United States as well as in Europe.  As the world economy stagnates and ruthless dictators impose their will on the suffering masses, economic and political refugees begin seeking out better and safer lives beyond the borders of their home nations.  Sometimes they are fortunate enough to encounter safe harbors, but more often than not what they find instead is hostility and aggression. 

Here in the United States politicians have spent years cultivating hatred toward immigrants, particularly those out of Latin America who are trying to get a fresh start north of the border.  Some, like Arizona's Joe Arpaio, Colorado's Tom Tancredo, and Iowa's Steve King have built their careers on creating and stoking this fear.  They have paved the way for some of this year's GOP presidential candidates to pander for votes with shouts about building walls and mass deportations.

With that horrid backdrop to immigration here in the United States, it was absolutely refreshing last December to see the leader of our neighbor to the north behave so differently.  Canada's newly-elected Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, personally showed up at the Toronto's Pearson Airport to welcome the first planeload of refugees from war-ravaged Syria.  One-hundred-and sixty eight men, women, and children stepped off of the plane that night, desperate souls in a strange land, and were welcomed into the open arms of Trudeau and members of his cabinet.  As Trudeau hugged the new arrivals, he told them warmly and happily, "You are home now!"  Canada is accepting upwards of twenty thousand refugees from Syria - an act of international kindness that will enrich the nation beyond measure.

This past week Pope Francis flew to the Greek island of Lesbos for a first-hand view of a Syrian refugee camp.  His Holiness then went beyond just seeing to doing.   He gathered up twelve of the refugees, including six children, and took them back to Vatican City with him where they will begin new lives as a free and safe people.

The world has Justin Trudeau and Pope Francis, while here in the United States we plod along with the likes of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

We can do better.

We must do better.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Monday's Poetry: "A Sincere Man I Am"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator 

The time to fly draws near.

This coming Saturday I will board a charter jet in Tampa for a short flight to Cuba.   Our travel group, organized by The Nation magazine, will land at the Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, a facility named for Cuba's best known poet - a man who became an inspiration for freedom on the island of his birth.  Today's poetry selection, "A Sincere Man I Am," comes from the pen of that nineteenth century Cuban poet, Jose Marti.

"Guantanamera," is a Cuban patriotic song that is familiar to many of us here in the United States.  It is a composition with several fathers.  The tune was most likely written by Cuban radio personality Joseito Fernandez in the late 1920's, but another Cuban, Herminio "El Diablo" Garcia Wilson also claimed to have been the composer.  And although a Cuban court finally awarded the songwriting credit to Fernandez, controversy lingers.

In 1963 folksinger Pete Seeger took the song and reworked it using lines from some of the poems of Jose Marti  (lines from the collection known as "Versus Sencillos" or "Simple Verses") as the lyrics.  Seeger wanted the song to be used by Americans and Cubans as a peaceful protest to the Cuban Missile Crisis.  It became a hit after being recorded by a group called "The Sandpipers."  Other artists who have recorded "Guantanamera" include Joan Baez, Tito Puente, Bobby Darin, Jimmy Buffett, and Trini Lopez.

My favorite memory of this song is from a night several years ago when my friend, Millie Crossland, and I were riding a city bus in Cancun, Mexico.  A young boy, around the age of twelve or so, boarded the bus and proceeded to sing "Guantanamera" in a clear and pleasing voice.   He was rewarded well with tourist pocket-change for his most welcome musical interlude.

The first line of "Guantanamera" is "Yo soy un hombre sincero," or "A sincere man I am."  Please enjoy this classic by Jose Marti.

A Sincere Man I Am
by Jose Marti

A sincere man am I
From the land where palm trees grow,
And I want before I die
My soul's verses to bestow.

I'm a traveller to all parts,
And a newcomer to none:
I am art among the arts,
With the mountains I am one.

I know how to name and class
All the strange flowers that grow;
I know every blade of grass,
Fatal lie and sublime woe.

I have seen through dead of night
Upon my head softly fall,
Rays formed of the purest light
From beauty celestial.

I have seen wings that were surging
From beautiful women's shoulders,
And seen butterflies emerging
From the refuse heap that moulders.

I have known a man to live
With a dagger at his side,
And never once the name give
Of she by whose hand he died.

Twice, for an instant, did I
My soul's reflection espy:
Twice: when my poor father died
And when she bade me good-bye.

I trembled once, when I flung
The vineyard gate, and to my dread,
The wicked hornet had stung
My little girl on the forehead.

I rejoiced once and felt lucky
The day that my jailer came
To read the death warrant to me
That bore his tears and my name.

I hear a sigh across the earth,
I hear a sigh over the deep:
It is no sign reaching my hearth,
But my son waking from sleep.

If they say I have obtained
The pick of the jeweller's trove,
A good friend is what I've gained
And I have put aside love.

I have seen across the skies
A wounded eagle still flying;
I know the cubby where lies
The snake of its venom dying.

I know that the world is weak
And must soon fall to the ground,
Then the gentle brook will speak
Above the quiet profound.

While trembling with joy and dread,
I have touched with hand so bold
A once-bright star that fell dead
From heaven at my threshold.

On my brave heart is engraved
The sorrow hidden from all eyes:
The son of a land enslaved,
Lives for it, suffers and dies.

All is beautiful and right,
All is as music and reason;
And all, like diamonds, is light
That was coal before its season.

I know when fools are laid to rest
Honor and tears will abound,
And that of all fruits, the best
Is left to rot in holy ground.

Without a word, the pompous muse
I've set aside, and understood:
From a withered branch, I choose
To hang my doctoral hood.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Alice Buys Her Way into Wonderland

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Last December Walmart heir Alice Walton wrote a check to Hillary's DNC Victory Fund in the amount of $353,000 - which just happens to  have been the required level of donation for guests to have been seated at a table with Mr. and Mrs. George Clooney at a fundraiser held in San Francisco earlier this week.  I don't know if Alice actually sat with the Clooneys or opted instead to spend the evening leaning on the bar - but the important thing is that she was entitled to schmooze with the celebrities thanks to her most generous donation.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, Walmart employees are struggling to get by on low wages which often have to be supplemented by taxpayers through the various forms of public assistance.  One Walmart store a couple of years ago even collected canned goods and food items in the employee's lounge so that their workers could enjoy a hot Christmas meal at home.

All of which sort of makes Alice royalty - a welfare queen.

Yes, it's a bit odd that a representative from one of America's wealthiest and least charitable families donated over a third of a million dollars to Hillary's organization, but in the grand Walton scheme of things, it's only chump change - and even the most insulated of billionaires know which way the political winds are blowing.  Might as well start greasing that wheel now - while the price of grease is still cheap.

And, of course, Hillary is the former First Lady of Arkansas who sat on the Walmart Board of Directors for six years.    She's damned near family herself.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Harrisonville Detour

by Pa Rock
Road Warrior

Rosie and I have arrived safely at home after our weekend jaunt to Kansas City.  The trip would have gone without incident had it not been for a very strange detour at Harrisonville, Missouri. 

The suburban city of Harrisonville is located twenty miles or so south of Kansas City proper, and it is usually the point at which I turn from south to east as I work my way across the Show Me state.  Normally I take Highway 7 South (though it is actually goes due east) just below Harrisonville and then drive to Clinton, Missouri, where I again turn south and go to Springfield.  Today, however, I ran into a detour sign for "7 South" just before I got to town.  I took the turn which headed due east out onto "7 North."  Several miles later signs told me to turn north.  Those were followed a few miles on by more signs directing me to turn West.  The next set of signs pointed me south, toward Harrisonville.  The re-routing took thirty minutes and added twenty miles to my trip.  I finally got back to Harrisonville, just a few yards from where the odyssey began.

Perhaps it was an April Fools gag from the city - and they haven't gotten around to taking down the signs yet.  Whatever the reason, Pa Rock was not amused.

As previously mentioned, the dogwoods were in their full glory this weekend, and the blossoming trees were especially striking in and around Kansas City.  Tim and Erin have a beautiful white dogwood right in front of their house.  I planted five young dogwoods here at the farm in West Plains a couple of weeks ago.  When I got home today, I found that all have begun to leaf out, and the white ones have some small blooms.

Spring has sprung!

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Pedophile's PAC

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

A couple of days ago I wrote about the reluctance of one of my U.S. Senators to give back a donation he received from the political action committee of a man who the FBI says had inappropriate sexual relations with at least four underage males when he was their high school wrestling coach.  The pedophile in question is former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, and the senator desperately clutching at the $11,000 political gift is Ol' Roy Blunt of Missouri.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Hastert's PAC, a shell organization called "Keep Our Mission" whose "mission" is to transfer money from businesses and big donors to worthy Republican "officials, candidates, and former members," has pumped money into the campaign coffers of several GOP members of both the House and Senate, career politicians hoping to keep their seats on the gravy train.

One aspiring Congressman on the Republican primary ballot in 2010 was a young lawyer from Illinois by the name of Ethan Hastert, Denny's son, who made an unsuccessful run at his father's old seat.  "Keep Our Mission" shelled out $15,000 to boost Ethan's chances.

Senator Ol' Roy Blunt got his cash in two installments:  $10,000 in 2010 and $1,000 in 2014.  Kansas Senator Pat Roberts pulled in a respectable $2,000 from that same PAC in 2014, a year in which he was in an unexpectedly tough re-election campaign after it was discovered and reported that he did not even have a residence in Kansas.  Other senators who drank deeply at Hastert's cash trough included John Boozman of Arkansas ($5,000), Dan Coats of Indiana ($10,000), Mark Kirk of Illinois ($10,000), and Rob Portman of Ohio ($5,000).

There is no word yet on who is keeping the cash and who is giving it back - other than Ol' Roy's seeming intention to keep his.   One can only hope that these august beings, these god-like United States senators, will do the right thing and shed themselves of Denny's dirty dollars.  If they are reluctant to return the money to a man who sexually perpetrated on children, there is always the option of giving it to charity.

No, wait.  These are Republicans we're talking about.  My bad!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Blue Skies and Warm Breezes

by Pa Rock
Road Warrior

Blue skies and warm breezes - a perfect day for Rosie and I to hit the road to Kansas City.  The peacocks screamed when they saw us leaving the farm at first light this morning, but leave we did.  One highlight of the trip was the beautiful dogwoods, some bursting with white blooms and other pink.  The ones we came across in Kansas City's quiet neighborhoods this Thursday morning were especially lovely.

The little dogwoods that I planted at the farm two weeks ago (three whites and two reds) are beginning to leaf out.  I am hopeful that next year by this time they will be blooming.

Tomorrow I have a doctor's appointment here in Kansas City, home on Saturday, and then back to KC next Thursday to begin heading toward Cuba on Friday.  I'm too old to be this busy!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Guinea Egg Mystery

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Spring

Last week while giving my large yard its first mow of the season, I came across two or three individual eggs that had been laid in the grass in various locations.  Normally the hens lay their eggs in nesting boxes in the hen house, so I thought the appearance of the eggs on the lawn very strange.   Having no way of knowing how old the eggs were, I chose to run over them with the big riding mower rather than risk making someone sick off of a bad egg.

Yesterday while I was out feeding the peacocks, I found another egg on the ground - this one lying right in front of the door to the peacockery.  That egg was still warm.  It was the same color as the eggs the hens lay, but only about a half to three-quarters the size of a hen's egg.  I had the suspicion that it might have been the fait accompli of one of my five remaining young adult guineas.

I had never seen a guinea egg before, but I had always assumed they would be speckled, or green or blue, or be somehow more exotic than ordinary chicken eggs.   I hit the google where I learned two things:  the fresh egg that I had in my possession was indeed a guinea egg, and guinea eggs are fairly expensive.  I determined to try and find a small hobby incubator and hatch the thing.

Then, late in the afternoon, something strange occurred.  As I was stumbling about the house doing various chores, I came across a second guinea egg - this one sitting next to a pillow on the couch.  It was still slightly warm.  I set it aside with the first, ready to raise a pair of young guineas.

I asked my son this morning where he had gotten the egg that he left of the couch.  He replied with a straight face that he didn't know what I was talking about.  If Nick was being truthful, and his genetics would indicate that he has an innate ability to falsify with impunity, that would leave two possibilities:   either Nick's Boston Terrier, Riley, brought the egg into the house in his mouth and deposited it on the couch as a gift for me, or one of the guineas gained entry to my living quarters and laid the egg - perhaps while watching television.

Both of those scenarios would serve as an indictment of my housekeeping skills!

Today I am looking for a small incubator - and taking great care to watch where I step and sit!

Farming is a never-ending adventure!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Ol' Roy Blunt Is Reluctant to Part with Money from Child Molester

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Senator Ol'Roy Blunt of Missouri, a Republican (of course) is taking a bit of criticism over a campaign donation that some feel should be returned.  The donation, $11,000, came from the PAC of former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, now a Washington D.C. lobbyist and accused child molester. 

Hastert is facing trial over illegal banking activities initiated to pay hush money to a man whom he had reportedly sexually abused when the victim was a high school student.  Federal prosecutors recently announced that it now appears as though Dennis Hastert sexually molested four boys back during his days as a high school wrestling coach - with one being only fourteen-years-old.

Lobbyists, like Hastert, routinely donate to political figures as a way of securing influence with the office holders.

Blunt, in response to questions and concerns regarding the $11,000 campaign donation, indicated that he currently has no plans to return the money.  He said:

"Returning donations gives some sense that you are going to look at the behavior of everybody who gives money to a campaign.    I don't know if I have time to do that, and I would expect not to be returning donations to anybody."
Blunt logic.  It would take too much time and effort to look at the behavior of the donors - no matter how odious the behavior.   Besides, pedophiles have as much right to buy influence as anyone else.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Monday's Poetry: "Matters of the Sea"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Poet Richard Blanco's work was first featured in this blog on January 20th, 2013 - the day Barack Obama was sworn in for his second four-year term as our President.  The President had invited Blanco to read a poem at the inauguration, and the poet wrote "One Today" especially for the occasion.  I was able to get that poem onto this blog before the applause for Blanco's recitation died away at the Capitol.

Last year Richard Blanco was again called on by his government to offer up another original poem for a special occasion.  This time the celebration centered on the re-opening of the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba.  Blanco, who was conceived in Cuba to Cuban parents, born in Spain, and took his first steps as a new resident of the United States, identifies as a Cuban-American.  Standing next to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Blanco read the following poem which he had written especially for the occasion. 

No matter the anthems we sing or the things we recognize as borders, the sea and the stars bind us all to our planet and to each other.  Richard Blanco recognizes this unity of humanity in his very powerful poem.
Matters of the Sea

By Richard Blanco

The sea doesn't matter
What matters is this
We all belong to the sea between us, all of us
Once and still the same child
Who marvels over starfish
Listens to hollow shells,
Sculpts dreams into impossible sand castles.

We've all been lovers holding hands
Strolling either of our shores
Our footprints,
Like a mirage of cells
Vanished in waves that don't know their birth

Or care on which country they break, they break
Bless us and return to the sea

Home to all our silent wishes.

No one is the other to the other to the sea
Whether on hemmed island or vast continent
Remember our grandfathers
Their hands dug deep
Into red or brown earth
Planting maple or mango trees that outlive them
Our grandmothers
Counting years while dusting photos of their weddings
Brittle family faces
Still alive on our dressers now.

Our mothers
Teaching us how to read in Spanish or English
How to tie our shoes
How to gather fall’s colors or bite into  guavas
Our fathers
Worn by the weight of clouds clocking in at factories
Or cutting sugar cane
To earn a new life for us.

My cousins and I
Now scouting the same stars
Above skyscrapers or palms
Waiting for time to stop and begin again
When rain falls
Washes its way through river or street
Back to the sea.

No matter what anthem we sing
We've all walked barefoot and bare soul
Among the soar and dive of seagull cries
We've offered our sorrows and hopes up to the sea
Our lips anointed by the  same spray of salt-laden wind
We fingered our memories and regrets
Like stones in our hands that we just can't toss
Yet, we've all cupped seashells to our ears
Listen, again to the echo
Today the sea still telling us
The end to our doubts and fears
Is to gaze into the lucid blues  of our shared horizon
To breathe and heal.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Big Dog Snarls and Barks

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Former President Bill Clinton, much like his New York cousin, Donald Trump, damned well likes to be the center of attention when he is in a room, and he does not take kindly to being interrupted.   Both learned early on that the way to take control of a confrontation is to become the loudest voice in the room.  Trump, of course, carries his narcissism a bit further by having protesters at his rallies pushed around and thrown out.

Bill got a bit testy with a group from "Black Lives Matter" in Philadelphia last Thursday when the group pointed out, accurately, that a signature policy of his administration, the "1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act," had resulted in thousands more young black people being put behind bars - and was a contributing factor in the current tensions between police officers and black communities.  As the group members voiced their displeasure with the effects of the law and Bill Clinton's role in its enactment, the former President grabbed his microphone and began shouting them down.

Bill Clinton said the next day that he regretted his action, and then added rather patronizingly, "I know those young people were just trying to get good television."  And he wasn't?

All of this speaks to the awkwardness of having a former President of the United States functioning in the role of a First Spouse, especially a former President as outspoken and hard-to-control as Bill Clinton.  If Hillary Clinton does get to move back into the White House, her first challenge may well be what to do with Bill.  Big Dog will be hard to muzzle and control, and it will likely be just a matter of time before he tries to bite, or lick, someone.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Hundreds Protest at Local Walmart

by Pa Rock
Main Street Shopper

Many of the good people of West Plains, Missouri, are hopping mad - at Walmart!

News began spreading around the community this past Monday that a much-loved and well-respected area resident had been fired from his job at Walmart.  That man, Frank Swanson, a cashier at the local Walmart, was within three weeks of celebrating his twentieth anniversary with the store when he was notified by management that his services would no longer be needed at the hub of West plains commerce and social activity.

A Facebook page was set up honoring the ex-employee of the merchandising giant on Monday, and by Wednesday over 900 people had engaged on the Facebook page of the local newspaper, The West Plains Daily Quill, regarding his abrupt dismissal.

The West Plains Daily Quill ran a front page story on the firing on Wednesday, a story which contained a mention of a planned rally in support of Frank Swanson in front of the Walmart on Saturday morning.  That rally occurred this morning (I was there), and, by small town standards, it was hugely successful.  Several hundred people were gathered in a show of support for Frank.  Some were wearing special tee-shirts that had been designed by a couple of other area businesses especially for the occasion.  Many people were carrying signs, some homemade, and others which had been professionally printed.  The fired employee was on hand meeting and hugging his supporters.

The event was called "Hugs for Frank," so named because one of the reported allegations against the individual was that he has left his register on occasion to hug customers who were dealing with personal loss.   He had apparently been cautioned for that behavior by store management on a previous occasion.

Walmart, being Walmart, was a bit more negative in its public response to the firing.   A company spokeswoman told the Quill that the reason had more to do with store revenues:  "Part of being a cashier is making sure customers are paying for their merchandise before they leave.  In many instances that was not happening, so Frank Swanson was let go."   Swanson's sister, herself a former Walmart supervisor, told the Quill that her brother was told that he was being fired for "excessive price matching."  He was supposedly a bit too eager to help customers find lower competitor's prices which Walmart bragged they would "match," even when the customers were initially unaware of the other stores' bargains.

The Quill article also mentioned that Frank Swanson has received an award from a local school for supplying school supplies for kids in need - out of his own pocket - and that he had also given items to other schools as well.

One of the ladies in my pinochle group recently lost her husband of sixty-eight years.   She told me that when Frank heard about it he had given her a hug as she was checking out at Walmart.  She found his action to be very comforting.  The lady lamented, "Now, I will never go back in that store again."

Neither will I.

Friday, April 8, 2016

An Old Review of "Bus Stop"

by Pa Rock
Happy Typist

A quarter of a century ago this very month I was a busy man.   Not only was I learning to function as a single parent, I was also a full-time school principal and in my spare time trying to earn pin money as a freelance journalist.  I had articles appearing fairly regularly in a handful of national genealogical and historical magazines, and my newspaper genealogy column, "Rootbound in the Hills" was in its fourth year of publication and appearing in several local newspapers.

The largest newspaper carrying "Rootbound" was the Neosho Daily News, and Neosho also happened to be where we resided at that time.  One afternoon as I was dropping off the next week's column, I approached Anne Cope, the editor of the Daily News and told her that I was planning on attending a dress rehearsal of the local community college's production of William Inge's classic American play, Bus Stop.  Would she, I asked, be interested in a review of that production?  Anne knew that I could write, but she still expressed a bit of caution, noting that the newspaper made an effort to treat all local endeavors in a positive manner.  I assured her that I liked this particular theatre troupe and would not be penning a hatchet piece.

(Full disclosure:  Many people in the Crowder theatre department were friends of mine.  My young son, Tim, and I had recently been in their production of "Our Town," and the group subsequently went on to produce a play, "Love Among the Armadillos," that I had written.)

A day or two later I submitted the piece which follows.  Not only was it printed word-for-word as originally written, it was featured on the front page, and the entire review was placed on a blue background allowing it to stand out from the rest of the day's news.  I guess Anne liked it.

Recently, again while sorting treasure in the garage, I came across that old newspaper.  I am reprinting the review here as a way to preserve it for future enjoyment.  I'm sure I'll want to read it again when I get old!

Crowder Production of "Bus Stop" is Exceptional!
by Rocky Macy
(April 25th, 1991)

The 1950's evoke memories of simpler times:  Ike and Mamie, the nickle cup of coffee, and family outings during that brief interlude when neither radio nor television seemed to dominate out lives.  And one of the most popular diversions of that era was the drive-in theatre.

It was at Neosho's Edgewood Drive-In where most of us were first introduced to the riveting works of playwright Williams Inge.  It would be hard to forget Marilyn Monroe under any circumstances, but her superb rendition of Cherie, the country singer with questionable talent who was trying to escape her obsessive, yet naive, boyfriend, insured that Inge's "Bus Stop: would become an American masterwork.

"Bus Stop" is making a return engagement to Neosho, this time as a stage production of the drama department at Crowder College.  The play, under the direction of Rebecca Daniel, will be presented at the Elsie Plaster Center this weekend with showings on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:00 p.m.

The Crowder troupe, coming off an impressive season which included "Our Town," "The Magician's Nephew," and "Nunsense," will enhance their already formidable reputation with this production because it is, in a word, exceptional!

The story unfolds in Grace's cafe, a well-kept and decidedly small-town eatery that serves as a bus stop on the highway between Kansas City and Topeka.  The late bus arrives, only to be greeted with the news that the roads have been closed by snow and probably wont open until morning.  As the night swirls on, passengers and locals mingle, and in the process several tales are told.

All of the cast are veterans of previous Crowder productions with two exceptions.  Glen Heffner, a freshman from Monett, makes his debut performance as Will Masters, the local lawman.   The other newcomer is Curt Gilstrap, a Neosho High School senior who portrays Bo Decker, the lovesick cowboy who can't understand the subtlety of romance.  One of the more intense moments of the show occurs when these two young men enter into a physical confrontation on the stage.  Their characters, and the action, are well defined and believable.

Grace, the proprietress, is played by Regina DeGroat, and Richelle Sink is her inquisitive and trusting waitress, Elma.  The worldliness of the former contrasts nicely with the innocence of the latter, giving both actresses good opportunity to show their abilities - and they do it well.  

Mike Slawter, another regular of the group, brings Virgil Blessing to life.  Mike's character has the very difficult task of keeping Bo reined in and headed toward maturity.  And the teacher even gets into the act.  David Sherlock, drama instructor at Crowder, tackles the role of Carl, the bus driver.  His performance is first-rate and definitely not a surprise to anyone who saw his earlier work in "A Walk in the Woods."  

Every show has its moments, and many of the most memorable ones in this version of "Bus Stop" come from Jonathan Peck and Jana Wilson.  Peck, as the eloquent and increasingly drunk Professor Lyman, shows an astounding range of ability as his character bounces from levity to pathos and back again.  The "Romeo and Juliette" scene which he shares with Richelle Sink is absolutely mesmerizing.

Jana Wilson is consistent - consistently great!  Wilson brings an electric intensity to any role she tackles.  Her Cherie, the nightclub singer whose brass has begun to tarnish, would make what's-her-name from the movie version sit up and take notice.  The role was made for Jana.  She knows it and she shows it.

The success of any dramatic endeavor rests with the director.  This play works.  Thank you, Rebecca Daniel!

Ike and Mamie are gone, as is Marilyn.  And the Edgewood Drive-In has long since fallen beneath the bulldozer's blade. But "Bus Stop" lives on.  It's great literature, it's Americana, and it's at Crowder College this weekend.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Merle Haggard Exits on His Birthday

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Country music legend Merle Haggard passed away yesterday at his home in California.  He died of complications from pneumonia.  He had just turned seventy-nine - that day.  Haggard was also born in California, to parents who were true Okies and had moved with his older siblings from Oklahoma to California a couple of years before Merle's birth.  The impoverished Haggard family was motivated to leave Oklahoma when their barn burned.    They settled in California's Central Valley where Haggard's father found work with the railroad - and for a time the family lived in a boxcar that the father had remodeled.    It was a hard existence that could have been penned by John Steinbeck.

Merle Haggard burst onto the national music scene in the mid-1960's with a song called "Swinging Doors."  By the time I was in college in the late 1960's he had a couple of monster hits on the country charts - a pair of angry redneck anthems - "Okie from Muskogee" and "Fightin'  Side of Me" - which crossed over to the pop charts where they were both revered and reviled.  His redneck bonafides gained Haggard entrance to the White House on two separate occasions.  In 1974 he performed at Pat Nixon's birthday party - where President Nixon famously quipped, "I'll bet there aren't any Jews in Muskogee either."  In the 1980's Haggard was invited back to the White House to perform for the Reagans.

The famed country music star was an ex-convict who served time for burglary at California's San Quentin prison.  He was incarcerated in San Quentin in 1958 at a time when Johnny Cash performed a concert there for the inmates, an occurrence that helped Haggard set some direction for his life after parole.  California Governor Ronald Reagan pardoned Haggard for all past crimes in 1972.  (Haggard had an arrest record going back to the age of eleven when his mother turned him over to authorities for being "incorrigible.")  Mama tried.

In later years Merle Haggard abandoned some of his hard conservative orthodoxy and became part of the country music "outlaw" movement joining the likes of Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, and Hank Williams, Jr.  By that time people undoubtedly were smoking marijuana in Muskogee - and lots of it! 

Some of Merle Haggard's more famous songs, many of which he wrote himself, include:  "Mama Tried," "Today I Started Loving You Again," "Silver Wings," "The Bottle Let Me Down," "If We Make It Through December," "Sing Me Back Home," "Hungry Eyes," and "Pancho and Lefty" - a duet with Willie Nelson.

About twenty-five years ago Merle Haggard was playing a regular gig in Branson.  He and Willie Nelson shared a theatre on the strip where Merle did afternoon shows and Willie gave the evening performances.   Tim and Molly (my two youngest) and I went to one of Willie's shows, but we didn't make it to see Merle.  That was our loss.

Somewhere out on the Internet is a list of famous people who died on their birthdays - I've seen it - and Merle Haggard's name can now be added to that list.  The last I heard they weren't holding regular meetings.

A true American legend has left the stage.  Rest in peace, sir - and give our love to Mama.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Corporate Elitist Democrat Finger-Points

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Hillary Rodham Clinton, the darling of the moneyed and elder denizens of the Democratic Party, has been relatively quiet, polite, and reserved toward her sole remaining challenger for the Democratic presidential nomination, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, but that appears to be changing.  Sanders, who is a couple of years older than the former Secretary of State, has nevertheless shown strength among the younger and more progressive elements of the party - and has won seven of the last eight nominating contests.  Now it appears that the equanimity of Mrs. Clinton is finally beginning to wear a bit thin.   Yesterday after Sanders picked up yet another win, this time in Wisconsin, a state that had been thought until very recently to be firmly in the Clinton camp, Hillary began wondering aloud if Sanders was even a Democrat.

Well, let's see.

Bernie Sanders has a long history of supporting the nation's poor and disadvantaged.  He promotes the idea of free college for all, and is steadfast is his support of a woman's right to choose, believing it is a decision that should be left to the women involved and their physicians.  He supports universal background checks on gun purchases.  Sanders is for comprehensive immigration reform, something that will provide a path to citizenship for the eleven million undocumented immigrants currently living in this country.  He also believes that banks and corporations should pay their fair share of taxes and not exist on corporate welfare.  And, over ninety-nine percent of his campaign contributions are in form of small, individual donations - and are not rooted in corporate treasuries or Super PACs.

Yep, he sounds like a Democrat to me.

Mrs. Clinton, while being on the Democratic side of most of the major issues, is much more open to corporate and lobbyist cash and a bit more beholden to entrenched party bigwigs, many of whom will go to the convention as "super delegates" without any public vetting for that particular honor.  As a former six-year veteran of the Walmart Board of Directors, she has a familiarity and comfort around America's boardrooms that would be an anathema to people like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Hillary is currently leading in pledged delegates, but she does not have the nomination sewn up.  While she did win a string of victories across the cracker south, none of those states will support her in the general election.  Sanders has won seven of the last eight Democratic contests - in places where Democrats can and must win in the fall.  He appears to be the candidate that the party base is turning to, and no amount of finger-pointing and name-calling is likely to change the direction of that prevailing political wind.

The primary in New York state in two weeks will be the big kahuna.  If Hillary loses her adopted home state, the state that sent her to the U.S. Senate twice, then she should pack it in and let the public will prevail.  The Democratic party should pick its nominee based on the desire of the people and not on the rusticated party machinery grinding along under the tight control of entrenched party hacks, like Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and hoary old "super delegates."

Bernie is about the future - and unfortunately Hillary appears to be more about business as usual.  They are both Democrats, and either would be preferable to what the Republican Party seems ready to cough up for the 2016 election, but only Bernie is expressing a clear vision of what America really could be.

Not only is Bernie Sanders a Democrat, he is a damned fine one!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Obama Screws Up Big Time - Or Does He?

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

In an announcement last week that left some political observers more than a little dumbfounded, President Barack Obama endorsed the re-election bid of Florida congresswoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, an outspoken corporate shill who also happens to head the Democratic National Committee.  Wasserman Schultz is facing strong opposition in Florida's Democratic primary from Tim Canova, a progressive law professor.

Wasserman Schultz has recently made news with her attempt to gut the reform measures put forth by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to rein-in the excesses of the reprehensible payday lending industry.  While the incumbent member of Congress is comfortable taking donations from corporations, banks, and glorified loan sharks, Canova is not.  He has built his campaign on small contributions from individual donors.

When Obama, himself a progressive former law professor, made his surprise announcement endorsing Wasserman Schultz over Canova, the grinning congresswoman rushed to have her picture taken next to the popular President - perhaps to prove, at least to herself, that she remains a real Democrat. 

Tim Canova, passed on the opportunity to grab a few headlines by decrying the President's inexplicable endorsement.  He didn't have time for a political brawl anyway because Canova and his staff were too busy opening contribution envelopes.   Canova may not have risen to the bait and gotten fighting mad, but his supporters certainly did - and the checks started flying in!  The Canova campaign pulled in over $100,000 in small donations in the four days following the President's endorsement of his opponent.

Not only has Wasserman Schultz worked to gut legislation aimed at reining-in predatory payday lenders, she also led the Democratic National Committee into reversing its ban on donations from federal lobbyists, and she appeared to have a hand in causing the Florida Democratic Party to deny Canova access to it's voter database.   The Canova campaign reported spikes in donations each time one of those outrages occurred.

During the first quarter of 2016, Canova's campaign took in $557,000 from a total of over 15,000 individual small donors .  With Barack Obama's well-known shrewd political instincts and abilities, it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to imagine that he knew he was firing up Canova's base when he endorsed Wasserman Schultz. 

Wasserman Schultz may be grinning, but Canova is too busy to care.  He is working hard to bring a bit of honesty and integrity back into Congress - and he's doing it without the aid of loan sharks and banksters.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Monday's Poetry: "All the World's a Stage"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Something got me waxing philosophical this week, perhaps the sudden and unexpected death of the mean old Tom turkey who had as much, if not more, claim to this little farm as I do, and as I pondered the meaning of life, my thoughts turned to the roles I had played during my brief stint romping across its stage.  That, of course, brought me to the famous thoughts that the Bard of Avon had on the subject.  William Shakespeare, best known for writing plays, used his quill at one point to bring forth a famous poem that describes life in terms of being a play.  He then inserted that poem into one of his plays as lines of dialogue.

I have been around just a little over sixty-eight years, a very brief encounter with the stage upon which life exists when measured against the grand scheme of things.  My minuscule time here has witnessed me playing the role of a son, student, friend, husband, father, and grandfather - as well as a host of roles carried out in the workplace.  Life has cast me in motion viewing much of the planet on foot, as well as in cars, on trains, planes, and boats.  I have lived in the Ozarks and the Orient,  hitchhiked across Moscow, bicycled across the Caribbean, celebrated New Year's at a street party in old Hanoi, been a nocturnal visitor to the White House kitchen, seen five U.S. Presidents and the stuffed remains of V.I. Lenin and Ho Chi Minh, and fed about a million birds.  Now I sit at the far edge of the stage, partially hidden by the curtain, peacefully napping but occasionally snapping awake to shout something rude to some bothersome actor who is causing a commotion nearer to center stage.

If life were a book, I would be organizing the footnotes. 

But it's not, it's a stage.  Jaques said so to Duke Senior in As You Like It:  Act II, Scene VII.

All the World's a Stage
by William Shakespeare

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.