Thursday, June 30, 2016

Trump's Zoo of Zealots

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

When it comes to the practice of religion, Donald John Trump is better known for his moral turpitude than he is for actively spouting or practicing the word of God or teachings of Jesus.  Trump fancies himself to be a businessman, and, as such, his interpretation of "do unto others" usually has more to do with screwing than it does with uplifting.  But now Trump is running for President, and now, by God, he is going to start thumping the Bible and being the best damned Christian in America.

It probably won't be a hard transition - business con man to biblical con man - and many in the Republican Party already think that he represents the second coming anyway, but The Donald is pursuing his conversion to novice holy roller with the utmost seriousness.  And people are beginning to take notice.  Christian radio huckster James Dobson has even gone so far as to label the evolving Trump as a "baby Christian."

Donald Trump is adopting his Christian persona in a business-like manner.  His initial foray into the glories of God involved setting up an advisory board - a group of twenty-six fairly well known individuals, all from the evangelical Christian community.   Presumably this group will keep the candidate up to speed on the correct Christian views on all issues of importance.

There are four black men on the committee, and the remainder are white - a percentage that folds in nicely with accepted racial rates within the GOP itself.  The group also contains three women.  Rumor has it that the candidate prefers his women in G-strings and not taking up positions of power by sitting on boards, but he will probably listen to what they have to say - as long as they say it in a respectful manner.

Some of the big names of Trump's religious (evangelical) advisory board include former congresswoman and presidential candidate Michele Bachmann (who may or may not be getting a divorce), Jerry Falwell, Jr, the president of Liberty University (sic), television pastors Kenneth and Gloria Copeland who preach and pray for prosperity, former GOP lobbyist and Christian activist Ralph Reed, and, of course, James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family who blamed the massacre of children at Sandy Hook Elementary on our country's tolerance of abortion and same-sex marriage.

Trump's zoo of zealots will undoubtedly give him an education in the politics of religion-inspired hate, but it is unlikely that he will learn much about Christian charity and forgiveness from this particular "advisory" board.

Donald, if you really want to learn about this religion stuff, perhaps you should go about it the old fashioned way and start attending church.  If nothing else, it would at least make for some good photo ops.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

A Good Day for Women

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

This past Monday could have been declared "Women's Day" at the U.S. Supreme Court as the justices handed down their final decisions of this Court term.  Two of those decisions dealt with women's health and safety.

First of all in the case of Whole Women's Health v. Hellerstedt, the Court threw out the odious Texas law known as H.B. 2 which claimed to be a protection of women's health by placing extra burdens on doctors and clinics that provide abortions.  The Texas law and similar legislation in more than twenty other states are commonly known as TRAP laws - or,  Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers - and have the intended effect of making it more difficult to obtain abortions and thus reduce the numbers of those constitutionally-approved medical procedures. 

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg took the lead in dissembling the logic behind the Texas law.  In a separate opinion she wrote:

“It is beyond rational belief that H. B. 2 could genuinely protect the health of women, and certain that the law ‘would simply make it more difficult for them to obtain abortions.  Laws like H. B. 2 that ‘do little or nothing for health, but rather strew impediments to abortion,’ … cannot survive judicial inspection.”

In another decision that broadly affects the safety of women, the Court ruled 6-2 in Voisine v. United States that domestic abusers convicted of misdemeanors can be barred from owning guns.  In so doing the Court upheld provisions of the federal Lautenberg Amendment which says that a convicted domestic abuser who persists in owning a gun can receive up to 10 years in jail.  Those opposed to the Lautenberg Amendment argued owning guns was a "constitutional right," and the Supreme Court responded that it was absolutely fine to take that "right" away due to the inherent dangers of domestic abuse.

Women now, it would seem, will have a bit more access to abortions and be somewhat safer in their own homes.  It's not a lot,  but it's a start.  Good work, Justices!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Ding Dong, the Witch Ain't Dead

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The Sand Hag is at it again.

It might be due to the 120 degree-plus heat that the area around Phoenix has been experiencing over the past couple of weeks, unrelenting heat so intense that every desert rat's corn is popping.  Or perhaps it's due to the regular outbursts of bizarre comments, like so much automatic weapons' fire,  coming from the mouth of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.   Whatever the cause, former Arizona governor Jan Brewer has kicked the lid off of her political crypt and crawled back into the slimelight.

Brewer and her BFF, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, are beside themselves with joy over the ascension of Donald Trump to lead the Republican Party.   He is a man, by God, who will finally do something about those filthy Mexicans who storm across Arizona's southern border and pose an on-going danger to public safety and well-being by mowing lawns and cleaning bathrooms.   And The Donald will be the one to finally do something about all of those headless bodies littering the Sonora Desert, bodies that only Jan and Joe seem to have ever seen.

In preparation for her full-throated support of the candidacy of Donald Trump for President, Brewer decided to practice her political diction and voice exercises by attacking President Obama.  She seems to believe that the President has been disparaging Trump - and perhaps Republicans in general.  Jan Brewer said that Obama "always comes tearing after Republicans constantly, calling names, and calling people bigots and racists . . . and it's absolutely ridiculous . . . to see a President speak like that is offensive."

There is plenty of bigotry afoot, Jan, and a great deal of it in Arizona - but most of it seems to be a reaction to President Obama, and not anything promoted by him.  Some people in America, and particularly those out in the sand and weeds where you live, have had a very hard time adjusting to the notion that America elected a black President - twice.  You need to get over it.

Crawl back into your political crypt, Jan, or take another spin on your bar stool.   In a few months your nemesis will be gone and then you can begin spitting your venom on his successor - Hillary.

Won't that be fun!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Monday's Poetry: "What Is so Rare as a Day in June?"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

The month of June is almost over, and with its passing will go one of the more pleasant and hopeful times of the year.  While June usually presents as green and lush, by the time July sets in the grass is turning brown and summer dust begins to ride the hot breezes.  So it becomes important to appreciate the beauty of June while it is still with us.

This June at The Roost has witnessed the arrival of one incubator peacock and four little black ducklings, along with a kitten who now calls the chicken coop her home.  The baby chicks that I bought at the end of April have now been released and spend their days working the yard looking for bugs and morsels.  They appear to be right at home among the big, brown older chickens.   One of the peahens has made a nest in the barn where she patiently sits on seven eggs.  We may have more baby peacocks by the time another week has passed.

The garden is in, and I have already picked one tomato.  There are some cucumbers that will be ready by this evening, and peppers for picking by the end of the week.  As the poet James Russell Lowell says in today's selection, "Everything is upward striving."

It's June, and while the days are getting hotter and the need for mowing has yet begun to taper off, it remains a beautiful month.

What Is so Rare as a Day in June?
by James Russell Lowell

AND what is so rare as a day in June?
Then, if ever, come perfect days;
Then Heaven tries earth if it be in tune,
And over it softly her warm ear lays;
Whether we look, or whether we listen,
We hear life murmur, or see it glisten;
Every clod feels a stir of might,
An instinct within it that reaches and towers,
And, groping blindly above it for light,
Climbs to a soul in grass and flowers;
The flush of life may well be seen
Thrilling back over hills and valleys;
The cowslip startles in meadows green,
The buttercup catches the sun in its chalice,
And there's never a leaf nor a blade too mean
To be some happy creature's palace;
The little bird sits at his door in the sun,
Atilt like a blossom among the leaves,
And lets his illumined being o'errun
With the deluge of summer it receives;
His mate feels the eggs beneath her wings,
And the heart in her dumb breast flutters and sings;
He sings to the wide world, and she to her nest,-
In the nice ear of Nature which song is the best?
Now is the high-tide of the year,
And whatever of life hath ebbed away
Comes flooding back with a ripply cheer,
Into every bare inlet and creek and bay;
Now the heart is so full that a drop overfills it,
We are happy now because God wills it;
No matter how barren the past may have been,
'Tis enough for us now that the leaves are green;
We sit in the warm shade and feel right well
How the sap creeps up and the blossoms swell;
We may shut our eyes but we cannot help knowing
That skies are clear and grass is growing;
The breeze comes whispering in our ear,
That dandelions are blossoming near,
That maize has sprouted, that streams are flowing,
That the river is bluer than the sky,
That the robin is plastering his house hard by;
And if the breeze kept the good news back,
For our couriers we should not lack;
We could guess it all by yon heifer's lowing,-
And hark! How clear bold chanticleer,
Warmed with the new wine of the year,
Tells all in his lusty crowing!
Joy comes, grief goes, we know not how;
Everything is happy now,
Everything is upward striving;
'Tis as easy now for the heart to be true
As for grass to be green or skies to be blue,-
'Tis for the natural way of living:
Who knows whither the clouds have fled?
In the unscarred heaven they leave not wake,
And the eyes forget the tears they have shed,
The heart forgets its sorrow and ache;
The soul partakes the season's youth,
And the sulphurous rifts of passion and woe
Lie deep 'neath a silence pure and smooth,
Like burnt-out craters healed with snow.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Congressman Jason Smith Misses the Mark

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

My representative in Congress, Jason Smith of Missouri's 8th, sent out a newsletter this week that was so full of self-serving hooey that it merits mention.  The very junior Republican member of the House has been in office just three short years, yet in that time he has amassed nearly a million dollars in donations, much of it from lobbyists and corporations with vested interests in how he votes on various issues.

$3,000 of that money came from the 2014 donating cycle of the National Rifle Association.

Congressman Smith's newsletter led off with his disgust over this week's sit-in by Democratic members of the House as they tried to draw attention to the issue of easy access to guns in our society.  Smith referred to the sit-in as a stunt and "polical theater," and he said that he was ashamed of the protest.   He parroted his party's line about the problem being "radical Islamic terrorists," rather than guns.

What the Congressman failed to say - and where he missed the mark - was that one of his benefactors, the National Rifle Association, is fighting efforts that would prevent "terrorists" from acquiring guns.  The NRA, which represents gun manufacturers far more than it does individual gun owners, wants everyone to be free to buy all the guns they desire:  the good guys, the bad guys, and even the terrorists.  Those show-boating Democrats sitting on the floor of Congress felt that people who are on the government "no fly" lists - people considered by the government to be potential terrorists - should be banned from buying guns.

Is that so radical, Congressman Smith?  If you are truly incensed about "radical Islamic terrorists," as you claim to be, then why don't you man-up and put forth legislation that would ban potential terrorists from being able to buy guns?   "No fly, no buy" Congressman.

Of course if you did that, the NRA would probably want its money back.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Donald Does Scotland

by Pa Rock 
Citizen Journalist

Flamboyant narcissist and billionaire wannabe Donald Trump, a man who also aspires to be President of the United States (as long as the job doesn't interfere too much with his business enterprises), visited Scotland this week to promote his refurbished golf resort near Aberdeen.  While there he also tried to cash in on this week's British vote to exit the European Union as some sort of revolution that was inspired, at least in part, by him, and one that he would bring back to the United States.

The fact that Trump left the campaign trail to go gallivanting over to Scotland to promote one of his private businesses, says loads about what his priorities really are - and the fact that he was banging on incessantly about the greatness of the British revolt in leaving the EU - not realizing that the portion of Great Britain known as Scotland had voted overwhelmingly (62% to 38%) to stay in the EU - speaks to Mr. Trump's general ignorance of world affairs.

But The Donald wasn't the only one playing to the cameras in Scotland this week.  Several Scottish citizens decided to welcome the racist a-hole attention-seeking loudmouth by flying flags in his honor -  Mexican flags - above their homes and businesses.  Some Mexican flags, in fact, were being flown within sight of the newly refurbished Trump golf resort.

The Old Gringo, whom former Mexican President Vicente Fox routinely refers to as a "racist," probably was not amused.  He is currently in a tiff with local government authorities in Aberdeen over his intention to erect a massive flagpole at his resort - one which officials worry will blight the landscape.  Plans for the flagpole reportedly include placement of a large golden ball on top.  That would be a monumental achievement for a guy with such small hands.

Donald Trump has a long history of generating ill-will in Great Britain.  Last January the House of Commons was forced to debate  whether or not to ban him from entering Great Britain after a petition seeking that action netted more than half a million signatures on social media.

Scotland held a vote in 2014 to separate itself from Great Britain, but that vote failed 55% to 45%.  Now that Britain has voted to separate from the European Union, and Scotland voted by a large measure to remain with the group, many feel that a second vote in Scotland to separate itself from Great Britain is likely to occur - with a strong possibility of a different outcome.  An independent Scotland might pose more difficulties for Trump's glitzy golf resort - but if the venture follows the normal Trump business trajectory, it will have failed by then anyway.

Donald Trump's proud ignorance of world affairs is as scary as it is astounding.   If the Republican National Committee could get him into some GED classes, it would be money well spent.

Meanwhile you bonnie Scots - fly those flags - and Viva Zapata!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Will Hillary Choose Boldly?

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Politico seems to be convinced that Hillary Clinton will name Virginia Democratic Senator Tim Kaine as her running mate, with the notion being that the well-liked politician with little in the way of negative baggage would help her carry the must win state of Virginia - a state in which Kaine was formerly governor.  Of course, other sources note that Mrs. Clinton is unlikely to lose Virginia anyway - regardless of who her running mate is.

Kaine's views on abortion are sketchy at best, and he seems to have spent much of his political career pandering to the pro-lifers on what he terms a religious concern.  Also, while being anti-capital punishment, as governor of Virginia for four years, he oversaw eleven executions, six of whom were black individuals.  On the plus side, he speaks fluent Spanish - and grew up in Kansas City where everything has always been amazingly up-to-date.

Kaine is being described as a "safe" choice for the job, and his elevation out of the Senate to the Vice Presidency would leave a Democratic governor, Terry McAuliffe, in a position to choose his temporary replacement - thus saving the seat for the Democratic Party.  Also, he was vetted for the same job by Barack Obama eight years ago, and seems to have come through that personal investigation with flying colors.

Tim Kaine turned fifty-eight last winter and Hillary Clinton will be sixty-nine in October.  That's an awfully lot of years concentrated in an around the Oval Office.  This would be a golden opportunity to open the door to the next political generation and place a youthful candidate on the ballot.  Julian Castro, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development will be forty-two in September - as will his twin brother Congressman Joaquin Castro.  Both are exciting and dynamic young Democrats, people who could appeal to a broader constituency of both Hispanic heritage and youth.

Congressman Xavier Becerra of downtown Los Angeles is a month older than Tim Kaine, but he, like the Castro's from Texas, would broaden the party's appeal to Hispanics - and what better time to do that than when Donald Trump is knocking around the country demonizing "Mexicans" and threatening to build a big wall.

Elizabeth Warren would also be an outstanding candidate.  While not much younger than Hillary, the inclusion of Senator Warren on the ticket would double-down on the gender issues and demolish the glass ceiling rather than just break it.   Many qualified female office holders in the Democratic Party would be happy to accept the challenge of running with Hillary.

The right candidate for Vice President could not only increase Hillary's election numbers, the right person could also strengthen a significant demographic of the population such as race, ethnicity, gender, or youth.  Giving the nod to yet another older white guy seems redundant, politically unnecessary, and boring. 

This is an election that will be almost impossible for the Democratic candidate to lose.  It represents a golden opportunity to make a bold choice for a running mate, a move that could strengthen not only the Democratic Party, but the country as well.   Here's hoping Hillary doesn't waste it.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Raucous Caucus

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

This has been a helluva week in our nation's capital, one that the Republican majorities in both Houses of Congress are unlikely to forget anytime soon.  Democrats in the Senate pulled a Rand Paul maneuver and had themselves a filibuster - one in which they held the Senate floor for fifteen hours until the Republicans agreed to hold a vote on a couple of gun control bills.  The Republicans were ultimately successful in voting down the bills and protecting terrorists' Second Amendment rights to buy guns without undue harassment - and kill Americans at their leisure.

God love the American flag, Ted Nugent, and Al Qaeda.  Anybody who fears armed terrorists just doesn't own enough guns.

And then yesterday the show shifted over to the House of Representatives where a caucus of insurgent Democrats led by civil rights activist John Lewis of Georgia sat down on the House floor and began chanting "No bill, no break" in their demand to have gun control legislation voted on in the House.

Speaker Paul Ryan, who is quickly proving to be dumber than Trump, shut down the House in order to force C-Span to quit filming, had the Sergeant at Arms issue an order that was intended to prohibit House members from taking pictures with their own phones and cameras, and tried to have the House Wifi disabled.  (Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth of Illinois reportedly hid her personal phone in one of her prosthetic legs to keep it from being confiscated.)  If Ryan would have just acceded to the demands of the Democratic insurgents and held a vote, his people would have prevailed - as the Republicans did in the Senate - and the circus would have been over.  Fortunately for us entertainment junkies, Ryan is not that smart.

Pandemonium ensued.

A large group of on-lookers and protesters assembled outside of the Capitol Building during the evening hours and joined voices in chanting, "Do your job!  Do your job!"  Some protesters carrying signs that named victims of gun violence made their way into the House Gallery, staffers started bringing in food for the congresspeople sitting on the floor, and some senators came over from their chamber and joined in the commotion.  Congressman Lewis at one point went outside and addressed the people who had gathered there in support of the congressional insurgents.  The joint was jumping!

And their was singing right out of a 1960's songbook.  "We Shall Overcome," was warbled from the floor of the House and the gallery.   (And for the next number may I humbly recommend "If I had a Hammer," followed by "Where Have All the Flowers Gone."  Also, a couple of choruses of "Alice's Restaurant" are always good for the soul!)

Speaker Ryan called the House back into session during the middle of the night and tried to get a vote to override a Presidential veto.  In that vote, Republicans wanted to allow Wall Street to continue selling investment products  based on what is good for the brokers - and not necessarily what is good for the consumer.  Ryan was unable to muster enough votes for the override.  During the vote the legislators on the floor shouted over the Speaker, "Shame, shame!" as did the observers in the gallery.  Sometime later that night the Speaker dismissed the House for its Fourth of July break - eleven days before the actual holiday.

Congratulations to the maverick Democratic members of the House and Senate for finally standing up to the National Rifle Association, Republican obstructionists in Congress, and the abysmal GOP congressional leadership.  You are doing your job, and I, for one, am damn proud of you!

Rock on!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Congress Takes the Floor - Literally!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

In a bold move reminiscent of the 1960's - and led by a man who himself was a well known social activist from the '60's, some Democratic members of the House of Representatives took to the floor today and staged a sit-in.  The members, led by Congressman John Lewis of Georgia - a leader in the civil rights movement that swept across this country a half-century ago, came forward and literally sat down on the floor in front of the Speaker's rostrum and began demanding consideration of gun control legislation - something the NRA bought-and-paid-for House Republicans would never consider - even if the bills were introduced by Jesus.

House Speaker Paul Ryan almost immediately banged his gavel and declared the House out of session, a move which forced C-Span to shut off the television cameras.  The Sergeant-at-Arms of the House followed that up with some sort of order forbidding House members from using their personal cameras.  If all of that sounds a little bit North Korean, that's because it is.

The protesters are declaring that there will be no breaks in their action until there is agreement to produce a bill.  That won't happen, so they have effectively stopped the business of the House.  Of course, this particular House is well known for never conducting any business anyway.

From my senior perspective, it is heartening to see those people finally getting stirred up.  First the Senate did it's Jimmy  Stewart thing and held a filibuster until the Republicans agreed to allow votes on bills designed to keep people on terrorist watch lists from buying guns - and to require background checks on guns sold over the internet and at gun shows.  (Both were eventually voted down by the NRA stooges Republicans in Congress.

And now . . . an honest-to-Pete-Seeger sit-in!

What's next?  A Woodstock-style free concert on the steps of the Capitol?  A love-in on the Capitol Mall?  Nude bathing in the Potomac - or streakers up and down Pennsylvania Avenue?  Tie-dyed patriots getting high atop the Washington Monument?  The possibilities are almost endless!

If Baez and Dylan show up, I'll find a way to get there as well!

Thank you, Members of Congress, for allowing an old man the opportunity to revisit the days of his youth!  May your efforts succeed beyond your wildest dreams - and may the NRA begin to see the first cracks in its fortress of hatred. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Postcards Cometh

by Pa Rock

Yesterday, seven weeks after I began sending a week's worth of postcards from Cuba, they finally started arriving.  The first four cards, sent to four different addresses, all got to their intended destinations - just fifty days after they were mailed in the lobby of the Capri Hotel in Havana.

I can't help thinking that they would have traveled faster if I had put them all into a bottle and cast it into the sea!

I guess I will blame the Cuban government for the unnecessary delay, but I have had some difficult dealings with the U.S. Postal Service in the past.  A friend once sent me a Christmas card which he mailed at the post office in Noel, Missouri - the Christmas City.  I was living in Noel at the time and had my mailbox at that particular post office - so all the clerk had to do was slap a postmark on the envelope and then turn around and place it in my box.  The card got waylaid, however, and arrived a week later with a postmark indicating that it had visited Reno, Nevada, during the trip from the front counter of our local post office to my mailbox just a few feet away.

So Uncle Sam may own some of the responsibility as well - but since another twenty cards or so have yet to arrive, I suspect that the process is bottle-necked in some dusty Cuban government office where a group of be-spectacled bureaucrats are wearing out their dictionaries trying to figure out what island secrets the Yankee tourists sharing with the States.

With censorship that slow, it's no wonder that their internet service is so crappy!

Viva Cuba libre!

Monday, June 20, 2016

To Sullivan Charles Macy on the Day of His Birth

by Pa Rock
Proud Grandpa

Hello Sullivan,

I am your grandfather (your father’s father) and we met briefly this morning at the hospital not long after you were born.  Your daddy handed you to me and I got to hold you in my arms.  I heard you crying before I walked into the room, but you were quiet and peaceful as I held you.

There are things you need to know as you start down the long and twisting road of life.  The most important thing is that you are now part of a very loving family.  Your mother and father and big sister will always be there for you when challenges come your way – and the hills are crawling with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins who will also come running if you need us.  Each and every one of us loves you very much and always will.  Don’t forget that.

One of the most important things you can accomplish in life is to be a good person.  The Golden Rule says to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” or treat other people like you would want them to treat you.  If there was just one law or one rule in the world that people had to follow, I think it should be the Golden Rule.  It’s a good one!

Life isn’t about making money or accumulating things.  Life is about how you get along with others.  My grandfather, Dan Sreaves, was a poor farmer, but he and my grandmother always had their home and their hearts open to anyone in need.   He died while I was in college and his funeral took place at the small country church that he had attended throughout much of his life.  The little church was packed with people hugging and sobbing, and there were so many mourners that loudspeakers had to be set up outside on the lawn for those who couldn’t get into the church.  Granddad probably didn’t have more than a few hundred dollars and the little farm to his name when he died, but I remember thinking as I looked out over that sea of grieving humanity that he was truly the richest man I had ever known.

I hope you become a good man like Dan Sreaves - your great-great-grandfather.

I also hope that you grow up as a man with ideals and convictions – someone who not only knows the difference between right and wrong, but also has the moral backbone to stand up for what you believe in and to support the basic rights of others to live their lives in fair and equitable circumstances.

Don't do things because "everybody's doing it."  Never be afraid to step out of the crowd and do what is right.  Sometimes what is right may not feel like it is in your personal best interest, but remember, life is not just about you, it is about all of us.  Set the example and be the man – the good man, the man who cares. 
Never be a bully.  Bullies are cowards who prey on those they feel are weak - or different.  Every one of us was born of love and hope, and we all have a right to live our lives in our own unique ways without having to cower in fear of people who want to tell us how to live.

Be a kind man.  Compassion is not a weakness – it is a strength.  Find the strength of kindness within yourself and never be afraid to use it.  If you encounter someone who needs a friend, be that friend.

I am sixty-eight-years-old and by the time you are a young adult, I will probably be gone.  But I have faith in you and in your wonderful family, and I know, deep in my heart, that you will make us all proud.

Please come see me on the farm as often as you can.   I want us to get to know each other and to become buddies.

Welcome to our world, Sullivan.  It’s sort of a mess right now, but my hope and prayer for you is that you will roll up your sleeves and help to make it a better place for your grandchildren and their grandchildren.

I am so happy to have met you.

With much love and many good wishes for a long and wonderful life, I am your very proud grandfather,

Pa Rock

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Birthing Season

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Spring

This afternoon finds me in the Kansas suburbs of Kansas City where I am poised to meet my new grandson upon his expected arrival in the world tomorrow morning.  Obviously, I will have much more on that joyous event in tomorrow's posting. 

This has been a week of birth and new beginnings on the farm.  About one month ago I placed nineteen eggs in a new incubator - seven peacock eggs and a dozen duck eggs.  I suspected the peacock eggs might not be fertile because although the males were doing their calls and dances to attract the hens, the hens did not seem to be overly impressed with their shows - and I never witnessed any actual mating.  Of the seven eggs, one has hatched - two days ago - and the rest show no signs of imminent birth. 

Four baby ducks have hatched.  Three of the little black ducklings are doing well, but the other didn't survive.  As I was leaving the house this morning, duck number five had cracked his shell open and was preparing the long struggle to escape its confines.  He, too, appears to be black.

Most, if not all, of the peacock hens (peahens) have been laying eggs, but only one has been showing any maternal interest in the hard work of sitting on a nest, hour after hour, day after day, in an effort to bring new life into the world.  That sweet little hen scooped out a nest in the straw on the barn floor and is currently sitting on seven eggs.  She has been at it a couple of weeks and is probably at about midpoint in the process.  I go in and visit her a couple of times each day and always bring her a treat - bits of bread or sunflower seeds.  I really hope that all of her hard work pays off and she is rewarded with the joys of motherhood.

And tomorrow Erin and Tim will bring another grandchild into the world!

Happy Father's Day to one and all!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Roy Blunt's Bloody Hands

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Ol' Roy Blunt, Missouri's junior senator, is a man of many contradictions.  He is an ardent supporter of America's men and women in uniform and military veterans, yet Roy actively avoided serving in Vietnam and, in fact, never got around to serving in the military at all.  And while Ol' Roy likes to yammer on about Missouri values, he has a great affection for lobbyists and the campaign cash that they line up to slather on him.

I commented in this space a few weeks ago about Blunt's refusal to return an $11,000 donation to the PAC of former House Speaker Dennis Hastert.  Hastert, a Washington, D.C. area lobbyist who understands how Congress really works, is also an acknowledged child molester - a fact that, when made public, should have caused honorable individuals to return cash gifted to them by Hastert - and, in fact, some did.   Another option would have been for recipients of Hastert's sticky money to give it to a charity.  But Ol' Roy wanted to keep his.

Roy Blunt has also been criticized in the past for slipping provisions into legislation that benefited companies represented by his lobbyist son, Andrew - companies which ponied up nice contributions to the senator.

In 2003 Ol' Roy Blunt divorced Roseann, his wife of thirty-six years and the mother of his four grown children.  That same year he married Philip Morris (Altria) lobbyist Abigail Perlman, a younger woman described by some as Blunt's "trophy wife."   He had been criticized while they were dating for slipping an amendment into a major bill that would have benefited Ms. Perlman's employer, a company which had provided Blunt with large campaign contributions.

So Ol' Roy likes lobbyists (to the point of even marrying one) and he likes their cash (to the point of refusing to part with it - even when it was provided by a pedophile).  With that background, it shouldn't come as a surprise to many that when The Nation magazine yesterday released a list of the top twenty congressional recipients of cash from the National Rifle Association, Ol' Roy was at the very top of the list.  Between 1998 and the present, Roy Blunt received more cash donations from the National Rifle Association than any other current member of Congress - a whopping $60,550!  During those same years the National Rifle Association has doled out over $3.8 million in "donations" to members of Congress, money some wags might look upon as bribes. 

(Those Missouri Values just keep piling up, don't they Roy?)

And, during those same years, mass killings in the United States have increased in scope and frequency to the point that American's have become numbed to the horror.  Forty-nine dead people in a blood-drenched nightclub is just another day in America.  Congress steadfastly refuses to pass any commonsense gun legislation for fear of offending their benefactors at the NRA - and the blood keeps flowing - even the blood of little children, like those gunned down in their classrooms in Newtown, Connecticut.  Very few in Congress want to risk offending the National Rifle Association and its checkbook.

Full-scale automatic weapons like the AR-15 are not used for sport, thirty-round clips aren't necessary to hunt deer, guns do not belong in public places like schools, churches, stores, and bars, and certain groups of individuals like domestic abusers, felons, the mentally disabled, and people on terrorist watch lists, should be banned from buying or owning firearms - and gun owners, like  car owners, should be insured and registered.  Members of Congress could write laws to bring commonsense changes to our gun laws - if they were of a mind to - and if they were not so heavily beholden to the largess of National Rifle Association.

Elected officials who have NRA cash stuffed in their pockets have the blood of innocents on their hands - and like the blood that Lady Macbeth dealt with, it is a permanent stain and will not wash off.

I am ashamed for them.

Friday, June 17, 2016

It's a Peacock . . . and a Duck!

by Pa Rock
Poultry Provacateur

Pa Rock is pleased  to announce the birth of Cosmo the Peacock who arrived in the incubator on top of Pa's Rock's kitchen table at approximately 7:00 a.m. this morning.  Cosmo is the very first farm fowl to be conceived and born at Rock's Roost since Pa Rock settled here way back in March of 2014.

Cosmo was joined in the incubator four hours later by Sparkle the Duck as he (or she) kicked its way out of its own egg shell.  Sparkle is a little black duckling.  Sparkle and Cosmo have already become fast friends!

This is day twenty-seven of what should have been a twenty-eight day gestation period, so both new farm babies are early arrivals.  The incubator contains six more peacock eggs and eleven additional duck eggs.

Is there anything more magical than springtime on a farm?

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Flag Politics in Missouri

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

A Missouri friend who is currently living in Texas sent word yesterday about a travesty here in the "show me" state of which I was unaware.   After President Obama ordered flags lowered to half-staff at all federal facilities this week to honor the victims of the Orlando mass murder, most other government entities followed suit.  The presiding commissioners of Cole County, Missouri, however march to their own drummer and voted two-to-one not to lower any flags under their jurisdiction.  The commissioners felt that flags were being lowered too often, and that cheapened the meaning of the tribute.

That back-handed insult to America's gay community and victims of gun violence might have not received much attention were it not for the fact that Cole County is home to Jefferson City, the capital of Missouri.  The public and political outcry was so great that the once testy commissioners slunk back to the table and reversed their bigoted decision the very next day.

I had planned to draft a petition and post it on this blog today - a petition requesting that the state legislature begin deliberations to move the state capitol complex, governor's mansion, state penitentiary, and any offices involved in the licensing of state professionals away from Cole County.  Without the largess of the state, the County of Cole would be little more than a muddy slope along the Missouri River where locals could gather, commiserate, and watch the state's prosperity float on by.

But the county commissioners quickly realized the folly of their ways and relented - and so have I.

(I had a political science professor in college who would ask this question each year on one of his exams:  The capital of Missouri is:  A.  St. Louis   B.  Kansas City   C.  Jefferson City   D.  Peculiar.  He would count both Jefferson City and Peculiar (a city near Kansas City) as correct.)

While reading up on that Missouri flag story, I came across another.  The commissioners in Dent County, Missouri, voted last summer to lower the flags on their courthouse and law center to below half-staff on the 26th of each month to mourn the Supreme Court's decision legitimizing gay marriage.  That piece of county-sanctioned bigotry has also been rescinded.

Those on the road to enlightenment who find themselves in Missouri have probably taken a wrong turn!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Running Mate Roulette

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

With the Republican National Convention set to begin just four weeks from next Monday, and the Democrats convening the following week, it amazes me that neither presumptive candidate has yet to name a running mate. 

Hillary at least appears to be vetting candidates,  I read a piece on the internet this morning which listed several people that she is reportedly considering.  Her front-runners, at least according to that source, are former San Antonio mayor and current Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Julian Castro, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, former Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, and a few stodgy old white guys including Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner of Virginia and Sherrod Brown of Ohio.

I personally favor Castro, Warren, or Booker for the position, but would also enjoy seeing it go to Senator Al Franken of Minnesota.   Al would add a bit of intelligent fun to the ticket - and he would go a long way toward humanizing Hillary.

Good choices abound for Hillary, but that doesn't appear to be the case with the Republican's albatross, Donald Trump.  Trump is having trouble getting his fellow Republicans to endorse him, much less agree to serve on the same ticket with him.  So far there have been no hints from the candidate, and he is not releasing any definitive word in how he will go about selecting a running mate.  Will he have his staff vet and do background checks?  Or might he instead opt to just throw the whole process open to some national call-in-and-vote reality show?  Will it be a deliberative process, or another Trump exercise in shooting-from-the-lip and anointing whatever smutz  leaps into Trump's malignant brain at the time he opens his mouth to make the announcement?

Two names are due out.  One will go on to become (at least) a Vice President of the United States, and the other will achieve footnote status in the annals of American history - and both will serve as grist for countless 2016 political news stories - everything from tales of dedicated public service to salacious family gossip.

It's time, Hillary and Donald.  Name those veeps and then scoot over so there will be room for them to roll around in the muck with you.  Americans expect nothing less than the full show.  Bring it on!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

No, the House Will Not Be Silent!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

House Speaker Paul Ryan is quickly proving to be as ineffective as his predecessor, Orange John Boehner.  Yesterday Ryan called for a "moment of silence" in the House to pay respect to the victims of the Orlando shooting that killed forty-nine people and wounded more that fifty others - with six of those still lingering near death in intensive care.  Over the years a "moment of silence" has become the standard House response to the almost constant stream of death inflicted upon Americans by troubled and crazy people with guns - often big automatic weapons intended for military use.

By having a "moment of silence" Congress has acted, shown its solidarity with victims, and can move on - without really having done anything.  A "moment of silence" does nothing to slow easy access to guns in America, and it does nothing to offend the offend the NRA and gun lobby as they continue to slather cash on their mindless supplicants (mostly Republicans) in Congress.  By having a "moment of silence" Congress is saying that sixty seconds of quiet makes everything better.

All of that nonsense came to an abrupt end yesterday, however.  Instead of being silent, many Democrats walked out on the charade, while others became quite noisy - raising a ruckus and demanding to know why House leadership had never acted on the gun control bills that were put forth last summer after the mass shooting of people kneeling in prayer at a black church in Charleston, South Caroling.  The chant, "Where are the bills?  Where are the bills?" rang out through the halls of Congress.

Ryan couldn't contain the noise or the turmoil from the Democrats - in much the same way as he can never contain the seething rebellions of the right-wing Republicans.

The Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, needs to vacate his position of leadership.  Perhaps there is a doberman or a pit bull for sale on Craig's List that would be willing to take on the challenge of keeping the House in order and moving legislation forward.  God knows any old street cur would make a better leader than Paul Ryan.

And as for the odious slaughter-enablers at the National Rifle Association:  Yesterday Samantha Bee uttered a prayer to God (regarding the Orlando shooting) that was reported in the press.  She closed her entreaty to the deity by requesting that a plague of boils be sent to the NRA.  Amen to that, Sister Bee.  Amen!

And I would like to request one additional boil for Paul Ryan - nose or ass, I don't care - so that he can begin to empathize with Americans who are in pain.  He might not be able to sit on his boil in silence.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Stay Strong, Orlando

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist 

I've known all along that I would probably wind up voting for Hillary Clinton this fall, but I at least hoped that it would be an act of great introspection laced up with a bit of karmic pain.  Sadly, as each day passes, my automatic, knee-jerk support of the third Clinton term becomes more assured.  The terrifying image of Donald Trump, the repugnant racist and consummate con-artist, hovering above the Oval Office like a buzzard on a perch, will stampede me and millions of others to the polls in November.  The country must be saved - even if it is by a corporatist like Hillary.  She, at least, has a soul.

Early yesterday morning the worst mass shooting in U.S. history occurred at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.  The killing spree, carried out by a young American Muslim, killed at least forty-nine and left over fifty wounded.  It was a slaughter of horrific proportions.

The motives of the shooter remain unclear more than twenty-four hours after he began mowing down patrons at the club.  The young man's father said that he was reacting to the outrage he felt when he witnessed two men kissing in Miami.  (That motive would make the mass shooting a hate crime.)  But sometime during the carnage, the shooter dialed 911 and reportedly pledged his allegiance to ISIS - which would have made his killing spree an act of terrorism.

Hate or terrorism - or some bloody blend of both.  One bullet tearing through flesh is just as deadly as any other, regardless of the motive behind its discharge.

Donald Trump, an animal whose primary goal in life seems to be generating free media attention through controversy, immediately took to twitter to congratulate himself on warning America about the dangers imposed by Muslims.  It was the perfect time for Donald to speak boldly and courageously - of himself.  Trump then did some cheap saber-rattling and called on President Obama to resign because he had failed to use the term "radical Islam extremists."  Later, on Fox (of course), he went to to clearly imply that the President might harbor sympathy for Muslim extremists.

What Trump did not say was anything in the form of condolences or sympathy for the gay community in Orlando.  What Trump did not mention was anything to rebuke the ill-feelings and open hostility that big portions of the populace feel toward LGBT people - feelings that have often been generated and cultivated by prominent members of his own party.  What Trump also failed to utter was any form of support at all for sensible gun legislation - such as a law that would reinstate the ban on large assault weapons like the AR-15 that was used in the shooting in Orlando.

No, none of that was mentioned.  Donald wanted to talk about Muslims - and himself.  It was not about carnage, or threats to gays, or an out-of-control gun culture - it was about Donald.

Which all goes to make voting for Hillary this fall a no-brainer.   But for me, at least, that vote won't be about her, it will be about Donald.

Stay strong, Orlando - America loves you.  All of you!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Know-Nothings Prepare for a Second Political Extinction

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

It was a turbulent time in our nation's history.  One of the country's two major political parties was in its death throes, and a major faction of that party was separating and trying to establish its own identity - a group espousing nativist American values of Protestantism and anti-immigration - particularly against the German and Irish Catholics and the Chinese.

As the Whig Party lay gasping over the deep concerns brought about by competing desires to expand and contain (or eliminate) slavery, an angry fringe element began emerging.  This new coalition, originally called the Native American Party (referring to Protestant European whites who had been in America for generations), later changed its name to the American Party.  Because some roots of the new party sprang from a secret organization, members were instructed to answer questions about the new political party with "I know nothing."   It quickly became known as the Know-Nothing Party.

Membership in the Know-Nothing Party was limited to white protestant men.  The party formed in the late 1840's and was politically active across much of the country for a decade.  In addition to fanning the anti-immigration fires, Know-Nothings also put forth the idea that many people voting in U.S. elections were non-citizens.

The stain of foreign immigration on white America, the growing strength of a scary religion, fears of massive voter fraud - and an angry subset of extremely patriot citizens determined to right those wrongs.  Sound familiar?

The contentious and bitter reality of slavery which brought an end to the once venerable Whig Party also did in the Know-Nothings.  The party was at its brief zenith in 1856 when they fielded a former President, Millard Fillmore, to run for the presidency on its ticket.  He lost to James Buchanan.  The following year the Supreme Court handed down the Dred Scott decision, a move which so inflamed anti-slavery activists, that those in the Know-Nothing (American) Party who were of the anti-slavery mindset, left the party and joined the new Republican Party.

By 1860 the Know-Nothing Party was swept aside by the chaos directly preceding the Civil War - and had basically ceased to exist.

Fast forward to today.  The Republican Party (sadly a hoary vestige of the once proud political group that was formed in the 1850's and put Lincoln in the White House) is, regardless of its current composition and character,  wobbling on its last legs as a serious political entity.  The "Grand Old Party" has, at least since the days of Nixon, slowly been tilting more and more to the right.  While clearer minds have tried to prevail and hold sway over the teetering political dinosaur, this year, with the ascension of Donald Trump to the party throne, seems to clearly foretell the complete and utter demise of the Republican Party.

The new Know-Nothings have seized the party machinery and are in control.  The inmates are in charge of the asylum and those with any remaining sense of honor - or decency - or reason - are fleeing.  Meg Whitman says she may just vote for Hillary.  Senators Sasse and Kirk say they will not vote for their party's nominee.  Speaker of the House Paul Ryan uses the word racist when remarking about his party's presidential nominee.  John McCain and his BFF Lindsey Graham are not happy.  The Bushes, George Dubya, Jebya, and Pappy, can't even come up with a coherent statement on what they will do come November.  Mitt Romney, the last presidential nominee of the Republican Party, is hosting a special conference of party bigwigs to try and formulate a plan of how to the handle the Donald Trump situation.  Mitt laments that if Trump bullies his way into the White House, the nation is likely to begin suffering from "trickle-down" racism.

This morning on Face the Nation, Arizona Republican Senator Jeff Flake apparently called on his colleagues in the Senate to withhold endorsement of Trump.

The Republican Party is in free-fall.  If it lets the racist, misogynistic Trump take the nomination, the vote in November will be a catastrophic tidal wave that will sweep the party, including its Know-Nothing captors, into oblivion.  If the party establishment seizes control and rewrites the rules to deny Trump the nomination, the party will fall in upon itself with a blood-letting that will be analyzed and taught in history and political science courses for centuries.

Regardless of how the next few weeks play out, the Republican Party of today is suffering from wounds that are likely to prove fatal, and it's lunatic fringe, today's Know-Nothings, will soon find themselves being a parasites without a host.  Years and years of sticking hat pins in the elephant are about to finally pay off with the death of that elephant.  Then Donald, and Sarah, and Ted, and Marco, and Little Ricky, and Huckabee, and so many other suicidal dumb-asses - what will you have left?

Like their xenophobic and bigoted forebears, today's Know-Nothings rushed forward whipping up nationalist fervor and hysteria, and like their forebears they have quickly set the stage for their own extinction.  They will be swept aside by a saner, calmer, and much more intelligent populace that represents modern America in a modern world.

The Know-Nothings are heading into the tar pits of time - again - and they won't be missed.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Vultures Dressed Like Liberace

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Spring

The rains have finally stopped but their effects linger on in the rapidly growing green grass of late spring.  Yesterday, I began the sixth mowing of the season here at Rock's Roost.  I believe that last year's total was twelve, which means the mowing season is now at about the halfway mark.

The baby guineas who went on sabbatical last Saturday while I was away attending my high school reunion have not returned.  Well, two came back but have since disappeared again.  It would be nice if one day they came marching out of the tall weeds surrounding the farm - as young adult birds who had somehow survived and matured on their own - but that outcome, I fear, is very unrealistic.  What is more likely is that they have been martyred by several of the many predators who roam the nearby countryscape.

The new little chicks that arrived while I was in Cuba are getting bigger and developing personalities.  The young roosters are working on their abilities to crow, and in the process sound much like adolescent boys squeaking and squawking during the times that their voices are changing.  The chicks are still completely penned up, and I will probably release them into the general fowl population in about two weeks.

The peacocks, who are turning two this spring are busy learning how to be adult birds.  The six hens have laid several dozen eggs and promptly abandoned almost all of them.  Motherhood does not seem to be a priority on their lists of things to accomplish this season.  I do have a few peacock eggs warming in an incubator - along with some duck eggs.  They should begin hatching in one week. And, last week one of the hens scooped out a nest space in the straw on the barn floor and began setting.  She now has six eggs under her and seems intent on riding out the twenty-eight days that it will take to hatch her chicks.

I always make a special effort to provide the expectant mother with her own supply of feed - sunflower seeds, dry dog food, or pieces of bread - so that she does not have to leave her nest too often to go in search of food.

One thing that I am noticing about the peacocks this spring is their sudden development of personalities.   One hen, in particular, seems to be becoming the boss of the coop, quickly and sternly bending the other birds to her will.  And one of the males has decided to make me his project.  When I am out there feeding, he wants to eat food out of my hand and try to make off with any food containers that I might be holding.  He also likes to suddenly reach out and grab one of my fingers in his beak.

In some ways that big birds remind me of vultures.  A cardinal got trapped in the aviary last week and died there before he could find his way out.  The peacocks made quick work of the corpse.  They also look like vultures the way they lower their necks and raise their shoulders while sitting on the roost.  The hens, in particular, look as though they would be right at home fighting over a mouth-watering piece of roadkill - and the males, while also effecting a vulture countenance, do so as ones dressed like Liberace.  They dine formal.

It's nice to have other things to focus on besides Trump and Hillary!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Ol' Roy Blunt Blathers On About Vets

by Pa Rock

When Missouri's junior United States senator, Ol' Roy Blunt, writes to me, as he often does, he never fails to bring up his unswerving support for America's military veterans.  Why, to hear Ol' Roy tell it, his whole political career has revolved around working to meet the needs of the men and women who wore our country's uniforms and dedicated their energies to keeping America free and safe.  Ol' Roy stands in absolute awe of veterans - saluting, waving the flag, and marching at the front of their parades.

The only thing wrong with that picture, of course, is that it is all horseshit.

First, our blathering senator always forgets to mention that he, himself, is not a veteran.  Roy was in college, like myself, during the Vietnam War, and, like myself, he stayed in college through the grace of multiple student deferments.  In fact, the only difference between us in that regard is that I did serve in the Armed Forces after college, while Roy Blunt went on to graduate school and then elected to hit the civilian job market.

But that's all right, because military service was not for everyone.  In fact, it wasn't an option of interest for most of the leaders of today's Republican Party, the political party of Ol' Roy Blunt.
But still Ol' Roy waves his flag and loves them vets!

Except, of course, up until it comes to spending money on veterans - then Ol' Roy puts his Republican hat back on.  As noted by a group of actual veterans' supporters called VoteVets, Blunt's voting record on real veteran's issues is fairly abysmal.  The group cited Ol'Roy's disdain of real veterans in the following three instances:

  • Blunt voted for a Republican continuing resolution that cut $75 million in housing vouchers for homeless veterans.
  • He voted to block a $21 billion veterans' bill that included major expansion of veterans' health care, as well as foreclosure protections for veterans, and reinstatement of the cost of living adjustment for the pensions of working age military retirees.
  • And - he voted for a VA-Military Construction funding bill that cut veterans care by $857 million, and was opposed by the American Legion. 
(Blunt has also voted against jobs bills that would benefit veterans.)

But those votes came at a different time in Ol' Roy's political life, one when he was living large and not really worried about the actual effects of voting his political orthodoxy.  Now, however, he is in a tight race for re-election, against an actual, honest-to-god war veteran, and now he is back to waving his flag and praising veterans - as if he was one himself.

It was announced this week that One Nation a political money pac run by the nefarious and evil Karl Rove, is spending a million-and-a-half dollars here in Missouri to re-elect Ol'Roy Blunt to his gravy train job in the Senate.  The Rove people are channeling that big wad of cash into two ads, both depicting Ol' Roy as being a friend of veterans.

Tell a big lie long enough and sooner or later people will start to believe it.

People in Missouri who are veterans or who have a sincere interest in the dignity and welfare of our veterans, might do well to consider voting for Ol' Roy's opponent this November.  Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, Blunt's Democratic opponent, served with distinction in the Afghanistan War and came home determined to continue serving the public.  He is currently the youngest statewide office holder in the nation - and stands a very good chance of becoming Missouri's next United States senator - one who actually understands and appreciates the service and sacrifice of our veterans.

Jason Kander would work for the citizens of Missouri - and not for lobbyists and the types of people who fund Karl Rove's super pacs.

Ol' Roy, you'd better get that claptrap campaign bus of yours out of the way - because Jason Kander, a real vet, is coming through!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Rugged Individuals

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

This past January several angry protesters stormed a closed federal wildlife reserve in rural Oregon and "occupied" the place.  Two of the armed "patriots" involved in that takeover of an empty building were Ammon and Ryan Bundy, sons of deadbeat Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy who had had his own "standoff" with the federal government the preceding year.  Pappy Bundy had been angry with the government because they expected him to pay for the privilege of grazing his cattle on federal land.  He is reportedly more than a million dollars in arrears on his grazing fees.

The Bundy boys were also protesting federal ownership of public lands - as well as defending a couple of local arsonists who had set some dangerous brush fires.

Ammon and Ryan Bundy's gang, a group calling itself "Citizens for Constitutional Freedom" did not seem to be very well prepared for their armed rebellion and seizure of a public facility.  Less than two weeks into the takeover, their mother, Carol Bundy, issued a public plea for people to send war supplies to her heroic sons and their comrades in arms.   Carol said the hillbilly patriots were in dire need of sleeping bags, wool socks, cigarettes, toiletries, food, coffee, and French Vanilla creamer.

Eventually, the federal government tired of the dog-and-pony show and rounded the guys up.  One of the protesters was killed as the siege ended, but the rest were marched quietly off to jail - where they remain today.  Ammon and Ryna were denied bail.

Not surprisingly, these freedom-loving individuals do not seem to be enjoying their time behind bars, and the Bundy brothers are beginning to kick up a fuss.  In particular, they feel their constitutional rights are being trampled.  Ryan Bundy has noted that he is being denied his Second Amendment right to bear arms, a right that he never waived.  He also feels that their freedom of assembly is being infringed upon because they brothers aren't being allowed to meet with each other or with their fellow jailbirds - and they can't move about freely.

The Bundys are also demanding access to electronic media and the Internet so they can do research for their defense.  In addition to Internet access, their demands include a cordless printer, scanner, external hard drives, and Microsoft Movie Editor.

The local sheriff has noted that the jail does not have Wifi access - but the prisoners do have use of the law library.

There is no word on whether the sheriff is providing his prisoners with French Vanilla creamer for their coffee or not.

Life behind bars - the horror, the horror!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

GOP Rats Are Jumping Ship

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Yesterday in this space I noted that Senator Ben Sasse, a Republican from Nebraska, has said that he will not vote for Donald Trump in the general election, and he recently published a tweet in which he assailed Trump's comments regarding a federal judge as racist.

But Senator Sasse seems to be merely the foreshadow of a gaping maw that is growing between Republican elected officials and their "presumptive" nominee for President.

Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House, grabbed a few headlines early on by not rushing forward to endorse Donald Trump, even after it became obvious that he had the nomination sewn up.  Last week, though, Ryan finally climbed down off of his high horse and gave the flamboyant candidate a tepid endorsement.  Then came Donald Trump's scathing (and racist) remarks about Judge Curiel Gonzalo, a native of Indiana who happens to be of Hispanic heritage.  Ryan, who apparently still supports Donald Trump, nevertheless said that the Trump remarks on Judge Gonzalo were "textbook definition of a racist comment."

Mark Kirk, the Republican senator from Illinois who is in a very difficult race for re-election, has backed off of his previously stated support for Trump - but he still wants people to know that he doesn't like Hillary either.  Kirk is now saying this:

"While I oppose the Democratic nominee, Donald Trump's latest statements, in context with past attacks on Hispanics, women, and the disabled like me, make it certain I cannot and will not support my party's nominee for President regardless of the political impact on my candidacy or the Republican Party."

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is also putting distance between himself and the Trumpster.  Walker has announced that he will withhold "commitments" to Trump until after next month's convention.

(Kick that can on down the road, Scotty.  Maybe the world will end in the meantime.  One can only hope!)

The SS Donald Trump may be nothing more than a garbage scow, but it's a sinking garbage scow - and the rats know it!

Stand clear - it's about to start raining rats!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Hey Donald, You Can Shove that Wall Where the Sun Don't Shine!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

While most politicians (and journalists) in America seem to be cowering in fear of Donald Trump, the bellicose and obnoxious "presumptive" GOP nominee for President, at least a couple of public servants have stepped up and taken the bold step of calling Trump out for what he really is:  a racist.

U.S. Representative Filemon Vela of Brownsville, Texas, penned an open letter to the blowhard Trump yesterday in which he pointed out that his own family was in the United States long before the paternal forebears of The Donald.  Vela, a Democrat, noted that his grandfather and his grandfather's brother had served in World War I and World War II, and that Vela's own father had served in the Army prior to becoming one of America's first "Mexican" federal judges.

And Vela had this to say about Trump's proposed border wall:

"While you would build more and bigger walls on the U.S.-Mexico border, I would tear the existing wall to pieces.  Why any modern-thinking person would ever believe that building a wall along the border of a neighboring country, which is both our ally and one of our largest trading partners, is frankly astounding and asinine."

That was followed by the coup de grace:

"Mr. Trump, you're a racist and you can take your border wall and shove it up your ass."

Well, said, Congressman Vela, well said!

Then there was this truthful tidbit that was tweeted by a sitting Republican United States Senator in response to Trump's continued attack on a judge who is handling fraud charges against the finger-pointing, name-calling conman.   Trump is trying to paint the judge as personally biased against him because of his strong stance for the wall - and the judge's "Mexican" heritage.

Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, a man who has stated that he will not vote for Trump under any circumstances, tweeted this:

Public Service Announcement:
Saying someone can't do a specific job because of his or her race is the literal definition of "racism."


Sadly for Trump, his remaining fellow Republicans are either offering mild rebukes to his racist snarling, or remaining silent.  Most seem to have put their white sheets back in the linen closet for the duration of the campaign, leaving The Donald to bay at the moon alone.

And it couldn't happen to a nicer guy!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Monday's Poetry: "Hunger"

by Pa Rock
Concerned Citizen

Yesterday in this space I paid a bit of homage to Jon and Dorothea Bon Jovi, a pair of humanitarians who have started two "pay-it-forward" restaurants in New Jersey with the intent of feeding the hungry and offering a restaurant experience to people who would otherwise seldom (if ever) have the opportunity to dine out.

Today, using poetry as a platform, I would like to continue exploring the impact that hunger has on our country, a nation which many believe is one of the better-fed places on earth.  Many of us here in the United States eat very well, but that does not mean that hunger within our borders is not a serious impediment to the health and lives of many of our fellow citizens.

Here are just a few facts that I gleaned from an internet search regarding "food insecurity" in the United States.  Overall it appears that about one in seven Americans is impacted by hunger on a more-or-less regular basis.

Between 2012 and 2014 the national average for food insecurity among all Americans was 14.3 percent.  During those same years, fourteen states exhibited statistically significant higher household food insecurity rates than than national average.  That roll of shame includes:

Mississippi  (22%), Arkansas (land of the Walton billionaires) (19.9%), Louisiana  (17.6%), Kentucky  (17.5%), Texas  (17.2%), Ohio  (16.9%), Alabama (16.8%), MISSOURI (16.8%), North Carolina (16.7%), Oklahoma  (16.5%), Tennessee (16.3%), Maine  (16.2), Oregon (16.1%) and Kansas  (15.9%).

(My home state of Missouri had the double indignity of not only making the list, but also of tying Alabama!)

Here, to memorialize this national disgrace, is a poem by the late British poet Robert Laurence Binyon, entitled simply "Hunger," which personifies the quiet and determined killer.  May heroic patriots like the Bon Jovi's eventually put an end to his persistent reign of pain, suffering, and death.

by Robert Laurence Binyon

I come among the peoples like a shadow.
I sit down by each man's side.
None sees me, but they look on one another,
And know that I am there.
My silence is like the silence of the tide
That buries the playground of children;
Like the deepening of frost in the slow night,
When birds are dead in the morning.
Armies trample, invade, destroy,
With guns roaring from earth and air.
I am more terrible than armies,
I am more feared than the cannon.
Kings and chancellors give commands;
I give no command to any;
But I am listened to more than kings
And more than passionate orators.
I unswear words, and undo deeds.
Naked things know me.
I am first and last to be felt of the living.
I am Hunger

Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Bon Jovi's Shine a Light on Hunger

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Singer Jon Bon Jovi and his wife, Dorothea, are busy showing the world how to put celebrity to good use.  The Bon Jovi's have just opened their second New Jersey restaurant, places called "Soul Kitchens," in an effort to bring attention to the problem of hunger while doing something about it.

The restaurants, which look like ordinary eating establishments, are intended to provide meals to anyone, whether they can afford to be dining out or not.  People who eat at the Soul Kitchens may pay for their meals in the traditional manner and then purchase a "pay it forward" certificate to help fund for the meal of another diner - or they may work off the cost of their meal by volunteering in the kitchen.  The end result is that many people are  able to enjoy the experience of dining in a restaurant.

Not every old rocker is blessed with a conscience or the desire to do good for others - Ted Nugent leaps to mind - but Jon Bon Jovi is out there setting a very high standard in the field of human kindness and caring.   He and his wife are the good Americans we all should strive to be.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Guineas Go on Sabbatical

by Pa Rock
Poultry Provocateur

This was a long, hard day on the road.  I left home at daylight and drove nearly four hours west to Noel, Missouri (the Christmas City) to attend our all-school reunion.  These are held annually, but I haven't been in several years.  This year represents not only the 50th anniversary of my class's graduation,  it also marks fifty years since the little high school closed its doors and student's started attending a county-wide monstrosity.  So I did the long drive over and back.

A few of my old classmates were there:  Abe Paul, Mike Carr, Fred Puryear, Jim Riggs, Anna Harmon (and her mother, Mert), and Jim Durham - as well as several others from classes that were close to ours.  It was good seeing all of those guys.

My sister, Gail, was also at the reunion.  She and I skipped out at lunch time to go for burgers with friends James and Patti Carroll.

It rained hard most of the way to Noel, which made the trip that much more tedious.  There was a bit of rain on the way back, but now that I am home the skies are fairly clear - finally!  Hopefully I will be able to finish mowing tomorrow.  I started the current pass on the yard a week ago tomorrow, but there have been many interruptions due to rain.

I had nine dozen eggs ready to take to Noel, but got distracted after loading just three - so some people had to do without.  The good news is that my pinochle friends will benefit from that error when I take to leftovers to pinochle Wednesday evening.

A few weeks ago when I drove to Kansas City for my trip to Cuba, all of the radio news on most stations centered on the death of Prince.  Today, there was a constant stream of news on Muhammad Ali who died last night in Scottsdale, Arizona.   He was "the greatest" and he will be missed by many.  Rest in peace, Champ.

The big news at the Roost is that my little flock of thirty young guineas disappeared while I was gone today.  Guineas practically raise themselves - for everyone but me!  This is my third attempt since moving here - and will probably be the last.   I will check at dark to see if they returned from their walk-about, but am fearful that something(s) may have dined on them.

Farming, much like life itself, is full of risks.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Sloganeering with the Trump Brand

by Pa Rock
Campaign Stylist

Yesterday I came across a couple of Trump slogans on the internet that set me to thinking about other clever sayings that might ignite the Trump campaign - or burn it down.  The two that caught my eye on-line were "In Your Guts You Know He's Nuts" and "Lord of the Lies."  And while The Donald probably wouldn't choose either of those to fuel his juggernaut to the White House, his last name lends itself to so many rhyming possibilities (Dump Trump) and alliterative alternatives (Trump Trash), that if he doesn't choose to avail himself of some of them, his opponent and detractors surely will.

In the spirit of being helpful, I have decided to come to Donald Trump's aid in creating some slogans not only for himself, but for his prospective First Lady and running mates as well.  Here are a few humble suggestions:

First, as to the candidate himself, the Big Kahuna.  USA Today recently reported that Donald and his various businesses have been involved in over three thousand legal actions in the last three decades - with more than 1,900 of those being as being the plaintiffs and over 1,300 as the defendant.  Donald loves his days in court!  With that background, may I suggest "Vote for Trump or He'll See You in Court"?  I think that speaks well to his beloved bullying nature.

Or, in a lighter vein, "Trump?  Hair Yes!"

I also tried to work up something using "Draft dodger, tax dodger, and artful dodger," but couldn't get it into a presentable package.

One for Melania, the beautiful Mrs. Trump:  "A Babe in a Thong Can't be Wrong."  That one was so easy I expect buttons have already been printed and are waiting in boxes somewhere to be sold at the convention in Cleveland. 

But it is in the arena of Veep choices where great possibilities abound.

While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would undoubtedly be loathe to give up the big corner suite in the Capitol that he has lusted after these many years, it could be taken from him anyway when if the Trump campaign goes down in flames and he drags a few senators out of office as he free falls.  So McConnell might be smart to start campaigning for a place as Trump's running mate.  How about, "Put a Tortise on the Ticket"?  Catchy, right?  Then in the general election every lobbyist in Washington could break out buttons and bumper stickers declaring, "I Itch for Mitch!"

And if that itch for Mitch goes unrequited, eager voters might instead "Scratch for Hatch."  Old Orrin has been in the Senate a generation or two too long anyhow, and might want a promotion to Vice President himself.

"Free Kansas - Brownback for Veep" works on a couple of levels, as does "Make Arizona Great Again - Arpaio for Veep!"

Other longshots could include:  "Don't be Rotten, Vote for Cotton," or more simply, "Pick Cotton."  "Oh, Susana" (Martinez), "Rage with LePage," "Make America's Day:  Clint for Veep," "Locked and Loaded, Ready with Teddy" (Nugent), or "None Greater than the Terminator:  Arnold for Veep!" and "Add Hannity to the Insanity."

And then there are the better-knowns:  "Sarah Palin Will Keep an Eye on Russia," "Rubio - Because Size Matters," "Launch that Cruz Missile," "Ben Carson:  Incoherence is a Virtue," Jeb:  More Baggage than Ringling Brothers," "Reptile Power:  Dick Cheney for Veep," "Scott Brown for Under-Clown," and "Paul Ryan is a Lion (SOB)."

That's more than enough for now - at least until that cold winter morning when Santa finds a g-string hanging on the White House Christmas tree!

"Eleanor, Mamie, and Melania - Oh My!"

Now, please excuse me while I answer the phone.  Donald's lawyers are on line one!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

What Trump Is Looking for in a Veep

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Fruit ripens in various locations at various times of the year, making picking seasons almost constant - just about any day of the year something is being picked somewhere.  Traditionally, the veep picking season begins in June of leap years and can possibly run into early July.  Veeps are almost always vetted and selected by the presumptive nominees before the convention so as to avoid any unseemly surprises on the convention floor in front of the rolling cameras of the national media.

The GOP convention is scheduled to be held in Cleveland from July 18th through the 21st, and the Democrats will meet the following week in Philadelphia on July 25th through 28th.  That means the time is ripe for both parties to get serious about floating a few names and making selections.

Poor Hillary, however, is still trying to figure out how to gracefully nudge Bernie aside without inflaming his ardent supporters, so she may demure a trifle longer.   But Trump, who already has his nomination seized, and whose convention is first, needs to get moving.

The Trump deliberations and selection of a running mate are likely to involve some high political theatre.  First, his campaign has been marked by disorganization and a candidate who seems to be incapable of keeping his thoughts on anything to himself.   There are many who believe he has no path to victory in November, a reality that probably places limitations on the pool of potential veeps who would be willing to run on the ticket with him.  Add to that the fact that Trump has already pissed off several big GOP names - like Susana Martinez, Carly Fiorina, Jeb Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney - and the field of candidates who might actually be able to help the bombastic reality television star shrinks markedly.

This past week Paul Manafort, Trump's "campaign chairman" and "chief strategist" (as opposed to Corey Lewandowski, his "campaign manager" and chief muscle against pushy women) had a few things to say about the Veep selection process that the campaign will employ.  Manafort said that Trump sees himself more as a "Chairman of the Board" when it comes to governing and will be looking for someone who can get in and actually perform the nitty-gritty of running the country.  Trump will be a bit above it all.

Manafort also said that he suspects his boss will choose a white male for the position because choosing a member of a minority group or a woman would come across as pandering.  (Remember when some in the press referred to Bill Clinton as a "pander bear?"  It's all starting to come around again!)

So if Manafort's instincts are any indication, Ben Carson is out and so is Sarah Palin.  Carly Fiorina has been out all along because The Donald, a great admirer of women (in thongs), didn't like her looks.  Susana Martinez likely has too much class to accept even if she was asked, resulting in nothing being left but a few dozen old white men anyway.

Chris Christie might be a possibility.  As an "extra" duty, he could be the "Czar of Vengeance" and dish out swift retribution whenever anyone dared to thwart the actions of the administration.  Sam Brownback might also fit the bill.  Besides being God's gift to government administration, Sam could also fill in as the administration's "Economic Czar."  Just a few tweaks here and there, and Brownback could introduce the whole nation to the Kansas economic miracle.  And crazy Dick Cheney might also be up for another stint of playing President.  He could move his office to the Pentagon and have his hands within reach of all kinds of buttons.  Cheney might not be as effective this time around, however, because he now has a functioning heart.

When it comes to old white men, the GOP options are almost limitless.  Better pick one soon, Donald.  It smells like they're starting to get ripe!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Doing the Cattle Call

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

As Bernie's campaign fades away, as indeed it is doing, and Hillary's tries to rev up and pivot toward the general election, all the while dodging subpoenas and the ghosts of twenty-year-old scandals, many good Americans are struggling with the question of how much of our integrity and self-respect should we be willing to abandon in order to keep Donald Trump out of the White House.

How long should Americans be content with a political system that seems to continually force us to choose between the lesser of two evils, a major grifter versus a moderate grifter?

The Republican race is over, and impossible as it seems, the Grand Old Party has settled on nominating one of the most repugnant candidates in the nation's history.  The Democrats are poised to be the first major political party in the United States to nominate a woman for the presidency, and despite that woman's many, many flaws, it still represents a seismic, ceiling-shattering event of historic proportions.

Sadly, Mrs. Clinton elbows her way to the throne primarily by force of entitlement.  It is "her" throne, eight years delayed, and now hers for simply having the stamina to wait out history.   America is long overdue for leadership by a woman - but why that woman?  With over half of the nation's population being women, why do we have to settle for Hillary as the only option?  Former Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis would be a remarkable candidate, as would Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Patty Murray.  Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor would also be an exceptional choice.

But nobody can get past Hillary.  It's her turn, and like the Titanic's iceberg, she ain't moving out of the way for anybody.

Hillary's bitter supporters, the ones who snort that she could have had the nomination in a cakewalk if Bernie had been a gentleman and stepped aside as it became apparent that he could not win, are now wondering aloud what Bernie will do to "deliver" his supporters to Hillary.  The Bernie camp has responded, rightly, that effecting that shift in support is her problem, not his.

Bernie's people aren't cattle waiting stupidly to be driven from one campaign to another.  If Hillary wants them, she has to figure out a way to bring them into her herd.

We must be earned, Hillary, not gifted.

It's still a long slog between here and November, and the road ahead will fork many times.  It's going to take a lot more than entitlement to corral this herd and get it to market.