Sunday, July 31, 2016

The New Territory

by Pa Rock

Jason Pfetcher is a young, progressive attorney living in Chicago.  He is also the husband of my niece, Heidi, and the father of two of my favorite little people, Lauren and Ruby.  Jason and I usually run into each other at family events a couple of times a year, and when we meet the topic of conversation is often politics and the state of the nation.  Jason is blessed with clear insight and a seismic interest in the world around him - and I always benefit from our encounters.

This past June Jason sent me the first issue of a new magazine.   The New Territory is being published by a young friend of his whom he met nearly a decade ago when they were both doing political organizing in Laclede County, Missouri.  Jason describes Tina Casagrand, who was only seventeen at the time they met, as "more self-aware and politically active than most adults I've ever met."

As a novice editor and publisher, Ms. Casagrand's literary endeavor is quite impressive.  The 120-page initial volume is a montage of fiction, geography, history, culture, and science all closely bound with Missouri and the portion of the nation that she refers to as the Lower Midwest.  Her self-defined mission with The New Territory is to "support writers and document the land, people, problems, and possibilities" of the area of the nation that she has chosen to illuminate.

Ms. Casagrand describes the theme of the first issue of her work as being "harboring strength in the earth," and she uses that link to weave together stories and photographs that help to clarify and define the region.  One of my favorite pieces in this first volume is the story of two brothers-in-law who worked to build a "dirt moving" business in Oklahoma.  Writer Bryce McElhaney, a journalism student from the University of Oklahoma, looked at the path to ultimate success that was followed by two young friends who started out in the early 1970's making a living by digging ditches.   They kept moving dirt, buying equipment, and moving more dirt - slowly and steadily making a success of their business and of their lives.

The earth is also viewed through a farming lens with "The 1,000 Year Plan" by "urban farmer" Adam Saunders of Columbia, Missouri, as he looks at a sustainability model for agriculture that would stretch across the current millennium.  Saunders' plan incorporates technology, conservation measures, and more comprehensive land use to meet the needs of future generations.

And there is poetry, fiction, and some beautiful photography in the pages of The New Territory.  I'm still finding delights and treasures in this first issue!

Congratulations to Tina Casagrand and her very talented staff of writers and photographers.  May your hard work and dedication to an idea serve you - and us - well into the future.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Toto Is from Kansas, Tim Kaine Isn't

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Someone I know who lives in the Kansas City area and attends a fair number of live shows and concerts there told me once that visiting performers commonly screw-up during the shows by telling their audiences how great it is to be in Kansas.  Apparently big numbers of people in those Kansas City, Missouri, audiences don't appreciate the fact that their visiting celebrities don't bother to expend minimum effort to find out what state they are in - and the result is often raucous derision and booing.  Not a great way to start a show.

Two years ago I had the great good fortune to be in the audience at the Sprint Center in Kansas City - again, in Missouri - to watch a double-barrelled music extravaganza starring Cher and Cyndi Lauper.  Lauper was the opening act in that huge venue, and she entered by walking through the audience under a trailing spotlight.  Her first line of the evening was, "Toto, I don't believe were in Kansas any more.  In fact, I don't think we've been in Kansas at all."  The crowd roared its approval for the star who had taken the time to find out exactly where she was performing!

Two days ago I read a piece at DailyKos in which a political reporter mentioned that Democratic vice-presidential nominee, Tim Kaine, had grown up in Kansas.  Wrong, Kimosabe.  Senator Kaine grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, and says that he is looking forward to campaigning in the state of his youth - Missouri.

There is a Kansas City, Kansas - and it is a major suburb of Kansas City, Missouri.  It is, however, the Missouri portion of the metroplex that is so well known:   the skyline, the casino boats, the Sprint Center, the Kauffman Center, the Kansas City Royals, 18th and Vine, the Kansas City Star, the American Royal, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, the University of Missouri at Kansas City, Rockhurst University, the Nelson Art Gallery, the Power and Light District, a myriad of Truman landmarks, and the best barbecue in the world.

Kansas City, Missouri, is a happening place, and it's very up-to-date!  It;s the place where Tim Kaine is from, and it will hopefully be the place where he returns for some aggressive campaigning.

Up until very recently many news reports were indicating that Hillary had already written off Missouri and would be ceding our ten electoral votes to Trump.  Hopefully having a Missourian on the ticket will cause her to readjust that calculus and give people in the "show me" state a chance to become part of history and not just another unimportant political footnote.   Voters who are ignored will have other options.

Sam Brownback, Kris Kobach, and Toto the Dog are all from Kansas - and, of the three, Toto is by far the smartest and most likable.   Tim Kaine, on the other hand, is strongly rooted in Missouri.

Friday, July 29, 2016

The Flying Catamite

by Pa Rock
Tedious Typist

I subscribe to two pulp mystery magazine which are actually "sister" publications from the same publisher:   Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine.  I look forward to their arrival each month and enjoy reading the quality stories - often by well known writers.  

The two magazines are very similar and look alike, but there are a few variations.  The Hitchcock pulp, for instance, has a writing contest feature called "The Mysterious Photograph."  Each month an offbeat photograph is presented, and readers are invited to write a story about the odd picture.  The story must be 250 words or less, and it has to involve a crime.    A winning story is selected from all entries, along with nine runners-up.  The winning entry is published in an upcoming issue of the magazine and its author gets twenty-five dollars.  The nine runners-up get their names and hometowns listed in the future issue that carries the winning entry, but their stories are not published.

I entered "The Mysterious Photograph" once about twenty years ago, but my entry did not place.  Then, a few months ago, the bug to submit bit once more, and I entered again.  And while my very short story did not win, I was informed a few days ago that it was selected as one of the nine runners-up.  So, for those who subscribe to Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine or have access to it through your local grocery or bookstore, look for my name in the October issue - due out in about thirty days.

My entry was in response to the mysterious photograph that appeared in the April 2016 issue, a black and white picture of two men on the rooftop of a tall building in what appears to be a large city in the early twentieth century.  The men are on the ledge of the rooftop.  One is standing and watching while the other is balancing on his hands on a the back of a chair that is sitting atop two tables.  The fellow is an acrobatic daredevil, or what was sometimes referred to as a "chair devil."

I was fascinated by the picture and wanted to learn more about it.  I was able to find the photograph on the internet at where I discovered that the acrobat was a fellow named Jammie Reynolds, and his performance occurred in Washington, DC, around 1921. Given that information, I came up with the following story.  There are two crimes included - possession of bootleg liquor during Prohibition and child sexual abuse - as well as a prelude to homicide.

My story, The Flying Catamite, follows.  It is not a cheerful tale, but as a former state child protection worker I can attest to the fact that children do suffer hideous and horrendous abuse at the hands of adults - and sometimes the kids strike back.   Make of it what you will.

The Flying Catamite
by Rocky Macy

I’m a little drunk.

Last night, after Darius and Emil finished with me, I came out here onto the hotel rooftop and walked the entire ledge on my hands.    I was really drunk then, probably the drunkest thirteen-year-old boy in all of Washington, DC. 

Darius calls me their little bed-warmer.  A month ago when my father, Emil, found me living at the City Home I thought things were going to get better, and they did – for him – after he sold me to Darius.  At least the pair of degenerates keep plenty of good bootleg liquor lying around, and they never seem to miss what I take.

Emil says there’s a nice crowd gathering on the street, people dressed up and heading to church or just out for a Sunday stroll.  I haven’t been to the edge and looked over, but I’ll see them all on my way down.  Maybe President and Mrs. Harding are on the street looking up.  Who knows?

Right now I am sitting with my back to the door so that no one comes rushing out onto the rooftop trying to stop the show.    As soon as Darius gets in position on the chair and begins waving to the crowd, I’m going to stand - like a man - and rush headlong into Emil.    I’ll push him into Darius, and we’ll all go flying off to hell together. 

I’ll look for the President on my way down.

I’m a little drunk. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

All Shameless, All the Time

by Pa Rock
TV Zombie

When I am not busy mowing, reading, writing, hunting ancestors, catering to chickens, or chasing the dogs in or out of the house, I usually try to beat the summer heat by vegging out in front of the boob tube.  And, because I am too cheap and easily offended to subscribe to a cable or satellite television service, my viewing is limited to what is available over the streaming device that I employ - a little gizmo called a Roku.

I am currently involved in a series called Shameless, and by involved, I mean really involved!  I am watching two versions of the same program - the original which is set and filmed in England, and the obligatory American ripoff which takes place on the south side of Chicago.

The original, situated in a fictional public housing authority called the Chatsworth Estates in Manchester, England, began in 2004 and ran through 2013 - a period of time covering 139 episodes.  I watched the first season as it played out on the BBC, and I liked it so well that I bought two sets of the DVDs - one for myself and the other for aspiring screenwriter, Tim Macy.  Moving, or some other misadventure, caused me to lose contact with the program and I wasn't able to reconnect until the Roku entered my life last year.  The series streams on Netflix. 

The American version, which premiered on Showtime in 2011 and is still running, has 71 episodes in the can - the first 48 of which are available on Netflix on the Roku.  Back when I had cable I usually couldn't afford the premium channels like Showtime, so I only caught occasional episodes of the program.  But, I liked it and was pleased when the first four seasons showed up on Netflix a few weeks ago.

As of this evening, I will be watching episode 91 of the British version of Shameless, and the 14th episode of what the Yanks did to the series.

It is a bit disconcerting to see the same family operating in two distinct, yet somewhat similar environments.  The characters are the same, with the same names and general descriptors, but they are played by different actors in different ways.  The show focuses on a family living off of welfare and doing all that they can to survive.  Sometimes their actions are illegal, or disgusting, or sad, or outrageous, but the Gallaghers always manage to pull together and make it from crisis to crisis.

Frank Gallagher is the father, a chronic drunk and illegal drug user, who is far more focused on meeting his own needs than he is of taking care of his six children.  Frank thinks of himself as a hard worker who has been marginalized by immigrants who took all of the jobs he should have had, and an uncaring government - even though his ability to survive is directly dependent on checks from that government.  The only thing of Frank's that actually works is his reproductive system.  The British Frank is portrayed by the exceptional character actor, David Threlfall.  He has also directed many of the British episodes.

The American Frank Gallagher is performed by stage and film actor, William H. Macy.  His take on the useless drunk is as spot-on as that of Threlfall in England.  Macy even wrote one of the episodes that aired on U.S. television.

Frank Gallagher has apparently spent most of his life drunk and on the dole.  His wife abandoned Frank and the kids a couple of years prior and disappeared.  When she finally reappears during the first season of the show, she is living in a lesbian relationship with a black truck driver.

The kids, at the beginning of the first season include the beautiful Fiona, in her early twenties, who is having to hold down part-time jobs while functioning as the surrogate mother, Lip (Phillip), an older teen with a voracious sexual appetite who is also brilliant and on a fast track to either college or prison, Ian, the gay fifteen-year-old who is having an affair with his boss at the convenience store, Debbie, a young adolescent who has an assortment of ways to make money and is always who the others turn to when they need quick cash, Carl, a pre-teen and a bit of a juvenile delinquent who likes to inflict pain, and Liam, the toddler.

Fiona, in both Liverpool and Chicago, picks up a new boyfriend, Steve, during the first episode, and he becomes part of the household as well.  British Steve was played by James McAvoy who left the series after the first season and went on to become a successful film actor (Atonement, The Last King of Scotland).

While the two versions of Shameless were much the same when the series began, as actors left the series the plots began to necessarily diverge.  And now, many episodes later, each series, while still focused on the same family, has spun off in different directions and developed unique story lines.  It's sort of like watching a family gathering through a cracked lens - a bit of a schizophrenic experience.

The Gallaghers are good people, in their own way, but probably not the family that you would want to discover moving in next door.  They are unkempt at times, disorganized, and the cupboards are likely to be bare - but, as Frank is quick to point out, they "do know how to throw a party!"

And isn't that what life is all about?

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Last Stand

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Michael Moore, through his unflinching documentary films, has pulled back the shroud on the seamiest depravities and excesses of capitalism and free enterprise, showing us some of the awful costs associated with American exceptionalism - and author Stephen King has given us monsters so disturbingly vile (and real) that they follow us to bed and claw their way into our nightmares.   Both of these creative geniuses know the pulse of American culture, its flow and rhythms, and both are concerned with the disruptive force that Donald Trump is having on our society.

Moore describes the blowhard billionaire as a "wretched, ignorant, dangerous part-time clown and full-time sociopath," and he is predicting that Trump is going to win the presidency.  He feels that Trump's economic fear-mongering will ultimately prevail, particularly in the Rust Belt (states like Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) where jobs have been steadily disappearing and displaced workers and their families tend to blame international trade deals like NAFTA and TPP.  He also feels that many voters view Hillary Clinton as untrustworthy and dishonest.

The filmmaker sees an element of rebellion in the movement toward Trump.  He says that people will vote for him just because they can - and that they have a desire to "upset the apple cart" and "make mommy and daddy mad."

Michael Moore believes that we should all get used to saying the words, "President Trump," though he, himself, remains dismayed and disgusted at the prospect.

(I tried saying those words together, but my gag reflex kicked in!)

Stephen King recently described Donald Trump in a tweet as a "thin-skinned racist with the temperament of a 3-year-old."  King, while not predicting a Trump  victory as Moore did, does see him as a viable candidate, and feels that he will be more of a threat at the polls in November than some of his Republican adversaries would have been - particularly Ted Cruz.

Interestingly, both men - Michael Moore and Stephen King - describe Donald Trump as being the wall holding back the incoming tide of women, immigrants, and minorities.  Moore labels it "the last stand of the angry white man," and King gets a bit more specific with his description of the Trump rise to power as being "the last stand of the sexist, racist American male."

Perhaps they are right and it truly is the last stand, the final battle in the centuries-old war on ignorance.  Let us hope - and pray (if you must) - that it is a battle in which the forces of hatred and intolerance are finally defeated and put to rest, and that America can right itself and move forward into the light of a more just and equitable tomorrow. 

Donald Trump has taken his stand, but he cannot and will not stand in our way.  Enlightenment beckons.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Wasserman Schultz Gets Her Comeuppance

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Democratic Queen Bee Debbie Wasserman Schultz has had a very bad week.  Her tight web of control over the Democratic Party suddenly began to unravel several days ago when  Wikileaks released a treasure trove of emails pilfered from the inner-sanctum of the Democratic National Committee - emails which show, contrary to prior claims by Wasserman Schultz, that the leadership of the committee had been actively rigging the nomination process and working against the interests of the candidacy of Bernie Sanders - as the Sanders camp had alleged all along.  The emails also showed that Wasserman Schultz had been using the good offices of the Democratic National Committee for personal advantage in her primary race against fellow Democrat Tim Canova in Florida's 23rd congressional district.

Debs had been using her position in the Democratic National Committee to give advantage to Hillary Clinton and to herself - and she had been lying about it.  

As a major political firestorm developed over all of this new information, it quickly became apparent that none of the big shots in the Democratic Party were going to rush to Debs' rescue.  She eventually decided to spare the party unnecessary controversy and resign the chairmanship - kinda, sorta.  Debbie announced that she would vacate the chair at the end of convention week - but that she would still gavel-in and gavel-out the convention and spend the week rolling around in all of her well-deserved glory.

Then she chose to speak to a relatively safe audience.  She addressed a breakfast meeting of the Florida delegation to the convention - a room supposedly packed with her political friends from back home.  She was booed and heckled at that meeting and had to be escorted out by security.

It was another disaster in a very bad week!

Then some of the party brass apparently let Debs know that they didn't want her opening the convention.  America did not need to see the Chairman of the Democratic National Convention being jeered and humiliated during the opening ceremony.   Wasserman Schultz gave up her gavel in complete defeat and boarded a plane for Florida.

Then Politico reported that the Clinton camp was apparently ungrateful for all of the help Debbie had provided.  Politico said that the Clinton people had been wanting to get rid of her for over a year, and that Obama had even wanted her out but had not wanted to go to the bother of removing her from the position.

What an awful, awful week poor Debbie had!

Now she is back in south Florida and refocusing on her primary campaign to keep her seat in Congress - and her opponent, law professor Tim Canova, will undoubtedly use many of Debbie's own emails against her.

Will Debbie's very bad week ever end?

Monday, July 25, 2016

Monday's Poetry: "The Death of the Old Plymouth Rock Hen"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

As the Democrats prepare to open their quadrennial national convention later today, I searched for a suitable poem by a Democratic politician.  And while several Presidents of the Democratic persuasion were accomplished minor poets - including Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama - I did not find any presidential verse that I regarded as particularly appealing.

I did, however, come across the following farm-related poem by sixties' moral icon and peace activist Eugene McCarthy.  Senator McCarthy always spoke from the heart, and his anti-war sentiments still resonate within his Democratic Party  and the soul of his nation today.

Senator McCarthy wrote some verse related to the Vietnam War, extraordinarily good pieces which I will endeavor to include in this blog in the future.  But for today I wanted to go with the farm theme, particularly in this week where we have experienced the unkind attentions of death at The Roost.

This is a poem about being completely used up.

by Eugene McCarthy 


It was tragic when her time came
After a lifetime of laying brown eggs
Among the white of leghorns.
Now, unattractive to the rooster,
Laying no more eggs,
Faking it on other hens' nests,
Caught in the act,
Taken to the woodpile
In the winter of execution.

A quick stroke of the axe,
One first and last upward cast
Of eyes that in life
Had looked only down,
Scanning the ground for seeds and worms
And for the shadow of the hawk.
Now those eyes are covered
By yellow lids,
Closing from the bottom up.

Decapitated, she did not act
Like a chicken with its head cut off.
No pirouettes, no somersaults,
No last indignity.
Like an English queen, she died.
On wings that had never known flight.
She flew, straight into the woodpile,
And there beat out slow death
While her curdled voice ran out in blood.

A scalding and a plucking of no purpose.
No goose feathers for a comforter.
No duck's down for a pillow.
No quill for a pen.
In the opened body, no entrail message for the haruspex.
Not one egg of promise in the oviduct.
In the gray gizzard, no diamond or emerald,
But only half-ground corn,
Sure evidence of unprofitability.
The breast and legs,
The wings and thighs,
The strong heart,
The pope's nose,
Fit only for chicken soup and stew.
And then in March, near winter's end,
When bloodied and feathered wood is used,
The odor of burnt offerings
Above the kitchen stove.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Uncle Nick and the Birthday Guests

by Pa Rock
Proud Father and Grandfather

My oldest, Nick, is turning forty-three today.   Nick's niece and nephew, Olive and Baby Sullivan, came down from the Kansas City area yesterday - with their parents - to help him celebrate.  This trip is the first opportunity that Nick and Sullivan have had to meet.  They seem to be good buddies.

Olive has had nice time running around the farm - collecting eggs, visiting the peacocks, watching the baby chickens playing in their pen, checking out the new baby ducks, and cavorting with Rosie and Riley.  Yesterday evening she got to go to Devil's Backbone and play in the river.  It is a place that she discovered last summer when she and her family spent several weeks here during the filming of Tatterdemalion.

Soon the Kansas City Macy's will be packing up and heading home - and the quiet will be deafening.  It is always fun to have grandchildren come for a visit!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Sad Times at The Roost

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Summer

Rock's Roost has lost some more of its fine feathered guests.  This continues to be a hard year for the farm fowl.

Thursday evening - late - I walked around the farm shutting the chickens in and telling everyone goodnight.  One of the last stops I made was at the garden enclosure where my three remaining Red Jungle Fowl were still scratching for the last of the day's bugs before flying up into their maple tree to roost for the night.   The four black ducklings and little Cosmo, the peacock, were also  grouped up on the ground in the enclosure talking quietly to one another as the evening settled in.  Cosmo had situated himself in the middle of the group.

Early Friday morning as I was stumbling around opening the chicken coop and scattering the breakfast grain, I noticed that the garden spot was unusually quiet.  The three Red Jungle Fowl were still there, though subdued, but Cosmo and the ducks were gone.  There was no sign of a struggle, but the ducks had no feathers so they did not fly over the fence and go on a walkabout.  Something had gotten the personable birds.  Something had eaten very well during the night.

It's all part of farming and the cycle of life - but it's sad nonetheless, and I am sad.

I have two new baby black ducklings living under a heat lamp in my bathroom.  One was born Wednesday and the other Friday.  Tomorrow, while my Kansas City grandchildren are here, I will put the little ducklings out in the chicken coop - in the nursery - with the sixteen baby Rhode Island Reds - where they will remain, caged in safety, until they are very old ducks.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Never Kaine!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Now that the Trump Train has unloaded a big week's worth of racist and sexist vitriol and pulled out of Cleveland, and his legions of redneck morons have gone back to their bunkers to await the Second Coming, the focus of the nation can shift to the Democrats.  Hillary Clinton, who heads into her Philadelphia convention on Monday, will, in all probability, name her running mate sometime over the weekend.

While Clinton has many good people from which to choose, there seems to be an increasing likelihood that she will not select wisely.  Clinton, the corporatist, may throw the Bernie wing of the party to the wolves and double-down on sucking up to Wall Street.  And, as if on cue, one of her favorite candidates for the position, Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, made news this week by firing off a letter to the Federal Reserve Chair, the Comptroller of the Currency, and the FDIC Chair - urging all three to back off of the regulation of big banks.  Kaine also supports that Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement - which is favored by many large businesses but is an anathema to progressive elements in the Democratic Party.

Kaine's lurch to the right comes just days after it was revealed that he accepted gifts of vacations, clothes, and tickets to the NCAA Final Four while serving as Lieutenant Governor and Governor of Virginia.

Tim Kaine is not an acceptable choice for Vice President, and his selection would be a slap in the face to a significant portion of the Democratic Party.  Hillary chooses Kaine at her peril.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

GOP Convention: More Bizarre by the Day

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I haven't been watching the GOP Convention, but I do plan on buying the DVD collection once it's over.  I think my grandkids - or their grandkids - would enjoy watching the highly unprofessional antics that are passing for the official functioning of a major political party - while experiencing the stench of America's underbelly at the start of the twenty-first century.  To say that the toxic sludge being generated in Cleveland this week by the once grand old party is in anyway representative of basic American values - or even Christian values - is as laughable as it is sad.

Highlights of the week include comedian Steven Colbert somehow making his way to the podium and high-jacking the microphone, Melania Trump giving a speech plagiarized from Michelle Obama - a woman Republicans instinctively hate, and Donald Trump, Jr, also giving a speech that was, at least in part, lifted from another source.

Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, a man who is himself squarely in the gun sights of federal prosecutors, gave a raucous speech in which he "indicted" Hillary Clinton on various GOP fantasies, and then beamed down upon the little people as they chanted in reply, "Lock her up!  Lock her up!"  Christie was squealing and oinking with delight as he rolled around in his own crap that night, but his good humor came to an end last night when Ted Cruz gave his prime time address.  Cruz not only neglected to endorse Trump, but he also ended his vision of America - and 2020 campaign launch - by telling Republicans they should vote their conscience.  Cruz was booed from the stage, and his Goldman-Sachs wife had to be hustled out of the arena by security.

You're off to a grand start on 2020, Ted.  BTW, you of all people should know that Republicans have no conscience to vote.

The whole Republican Convention has run off the rails and over a cliff.  It is too bizarre for any sort of logical summation in a blog posting.  That's why I'm waiting for the as-seen-on-TV DVD of the whole circus.  Trump undoubtedly owns all the rights, and he will make a killing peddling his product to America's suckers, pigs, and bimbos - and making money was, after all, his primary motivation for running.

Sarah Palin was right all along.

Cash in, Donald.  Cash in!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Global Warming Is Here - and It's a Bitch!

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Summer

While Republicans continue to waddle around in the air-conditioned Quicken Loans arena in Cleveland  sporting their tinfoil hats and denying that climate change is real, the rest of the world, and particularly those of us who have to be outside in the Great Midwest, know better.  Historic temperature records are being smashed, global warming is here and its running amok, and it's a bitch!

Yes, I have endured temperatures that were higher when I lived in Arizona, but that was without all of the humidity.  Yesterday, while pushing the lawnmower around during the heat of the day, I began to liquefy and finally had to come inside.  (And yes, I realize that mowing while the sun is at its peak is dumb - but all of the smart people I know live in apartments.)  (First you take care of everyone else's needs - and then you mow.)

I moved the baby chicks out to the nursery in the chicken coop - a place that is literally an oven - and they are under a constant light to keep them active - and a constant fan to keep them breathing.  So far they are all surviving.

Cosmo, the baby peacock who was living in the nursery with the four black ducklings, moved to the barn where he spent two days in a small cage.  That gave the big peacocks time to look him over without being able to get at him.  This morning I turned him loose with the big birds in the aviary.  Cosmo flies now, so I am hopeful that he can stay ahead of the curious older peacocks.

The four ducklings have a new home in the garden enclosure.    They have water to play in, and seem to really love it there.  Last evening I sprayed them with the hose for about ten minutes.  They all stood up straight and ran in and out of the water.  We had a blast!

It's hot - but maybe if the Republicans keep their tinfoil hats on as they leave the convention hall tomorrow, they will be able to make it to the airport without suffering too much additional brain damage.

And speaking of damaged brains - it's time to mow some more!

(Big Update:  I just returned from taking brunch to my feathered farm guests - where I discovered that Cosmo the little peacock had escaped the confines of the aviary and made his way over to the confines of the enclosed garden area where he has happily reunited himself with his duck brothers and sisters!  Apparently black ducks matter.)

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

GOP Convention Stumbles Forward

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Admittedly, I have not watched any of the Republican convention and don't plan to, nor will I be watching next week's Democratic get-together.   There's really no need to sit glued to the tube for hours on end - because all of the good bits quickly get highlighted on the internet news sites.

The GOP apparently got their brawl on shortly after the show started.  There was a big brouhaha around a proposed rules change that would have freed delegates to vote their conscience instead staying chained to the candidate who had won their support.  Delegations from two states - Colorado and Iowa - angrily walked out when the chair refused a request for a roll call vote on the matter.

Word leaked during the day that the real reason Sarah Palin is AWOL at the convention is that her son Track is in jail over a domestic abuse charge.  The Palin family is always at the forefront of Christian family values that Republicans like to wallow in.

But the highlight of the evening was apparently when Donald trotted out the old ball-and-chain, his young and voluptuous wife, Melania, to give the keynote address.  Mrs. Trump, fully clothed and in white, spoke for several minutes, her words swimming in a rich immigrant accent, and told the world about what a good and caring person her husband was.   It wasn't too long after Melania exited the stage that speedy researchers found that she had lifted (plagiarized) large portions of her remarks from the speech that Michelle Obama gave to the Democratic National Convention in 2008 - much of it word-for-word.

So apparently at least one Republican admires Michelle Obama.

That discovery set fact-checkers to digging, and they soon found another instance of the truth being bent by Mrs. Trump.  Melania and Donald have claimed that she is a university graduate with a degree in architecture.  It turns out that Melania sat through a couple of lectures on architecture while a student at the University of Slovenia - but dropped out of the school during her freshman year.  She is about as much of an architect as Donald Trump is a successful businessman.

It looks like Donald Trump runs conventions about like he runs casinos - sloppy, slapdash, and in a manner that's sure to go bust.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Monday's Poetry: "Love Under the Republicans (Or Democrats)"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

The Republican National Convention kicks off in Cleveland today, and a week from today Democrats will convene in Philadelphia.   To honor this quadrennial catharsis, I have chosen a work by twentieth century humorist and poet Ogden Nash, a piece that I first read as a teenager.  Nash, like Lewis Carroll, often mangled words or created them out of whole cloth to suit his rhyme schemes and colorful imagery - and his finished products were shiny bits of America.

In "Love Under the Republicans (or Democrats)" Nash laments the tarnish and dust that quietly gather over life - no matter how exciting things may seem, monotony is just around the corner.

Love Under the Republicans (or Democrats)
by Ogden Nash

Come live with me and be my love
And we will all the pleasures prove
Of a marriage conducted with economy
In the Twentieth Century Anno Donomy.
We’ll live in a dear little walk-up flat
With practically room to swing a cat
And a potted cactus to give it hauteur
And a bathtub equipped with dark brown water.
We’ll eat, without undue discouragement,
Foods low in cost but high in nouragement
And quaff with pleasure, while chatting wittily,
The peculiar wine of Little Italy.
We’ll remind each other it’s smart to be thrifty
And buy our clothes for something-fifty.
We’ll bus for miles on holidays
For seas at depressing matinees,
And every Sunday we’ll have a lark
And take a walk in Central Park.
And one of these days not too remote
You’ll probably up and cut my throat.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

All Hail the Butt-Wipe Ticket!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

They both have slogans.  Donald Trump promises to "Make America Great Again," with a clear implication that the Obama years have tarnished the country and thrown it into upheaval and disrepair - and Hillary says we will be "Stronger Together" and that she will be "Fighting for Us."  But that's all they are - just slogans - the "I Like Ike's" of our times.   Today's campaigns offer so much more than simple slogans:  They have massive field organizations, web pages, twitter accounts, and a dozen other ways of seeping into the public consciousness which remain completely beyond my understanding.

And they have logos.

Hillary has been out with hers for a long time - A blue capital H with a red arrow pointing to the right as the crosspiece.  It puts one in mind of a European road sign.

Donald's logo was unveiled this week after his formal declaration that Indiana's useless governor, Mike Pence, would be the GOP sacrificial running mate.  The new logo plays on both names, Trump and Pence, and features a large capital T ramming itself down into a large capital P - causing some observers to note in alarm, "What is that "T" doing to that "P"?

But, even more disconcerting is the prominence of those specific two letters - "T"and "P" - a pairing that would not escape the notice of most middle schoolers.

Back before "TP" was common parlance for toilet paper, in fact way back in the 1950's - back when people still liked Ike - my mother once sent my father to to store with a shopping list.  Included on her list was "w paper."  Dad, being a simple soul, brought home a roll of wax paper.  He then had to turn around and go back to the store for toilet (wiping) paper.  Mom snickered about that for years.

But today's "T" and "P" are not so funny.  Here's hoping they get flushed!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Right to Vote

by Pa Rock
Determined Voter

I always vote.  I consider it a duty of citizenship, but it is, at the very least, a right.

When I lived in Arizona, a state not known for its progressive values, I registered to vote at the DMV where I also elected to receive mail-in ballots for every election.  The ballots came in the mail several weeks early.   I marked them and then put back in the free-mailer envelopes and sent them in.  For those who did not trust the mailman, they could also take their ballots to their local polling places on election day and turn them in there.

When I moved to Missouri the process was much more complicated and cumbersome.  I first had to go to the DMV and get clearance there - along with new car tags - and then go to the courthouse and register to vote.  Missouri has no mail-in ballot option, so I was assigned a polling place - a fundamentalist church on the far side of town.  Pa Rock was not pleased about the venue or the distance - but yet I manage to show up and cast my ballot in every election.

County governments across much of the nation set up polling places in buildings that have adequate space and plenty of parking.  Schools are commonly used for this purpose, as are government buildings, libraries, and yes, even churches.  Going into a church to cast a ballot is not seen as a collusion of church and state - although it clearly is.

I have often muttered that the little old ladies who crowd in around me on election day would not be nearly so chirpy if they had to walk into a mosque to vote.  Last week, Palm Beach County, Florida, proved me right.

That county government had polling stations set up in a variety of locations including many of a religious nature.  Among other venues, the county had plans for voters to cast ballots in 80 Christian churches, five synagogues or Jewish religious centers, and one mosque.    Then, of course the phones started ringing and all hell broke loose.  Local patriots were up-in-arms over the idea that a godless mosque would be used for something as American as voting - and violence was even threatened.  Ignorance eventually won the day, and the county decided not to use the mosque as a polling station.

Jesus was undoubtedly pleased - and Jesus is, after all, what democracy is all about.

If we must vote  in houses of worship, all houses of worship should be allowed into the process - even the ones that feel alien to us.  Other options, like voting from home, should also be available.  That way, if I do not want to vote in a fundamentalist church, I can mark the ballot in my living room instead.

Voting is a right.  Let people exercise that right, America!   Support policies like universal registration, mail-in ballots, early voting, and weekend elections.  If we truly are a democracy, then everyone should be able and welcome to participate in the process.  Let people vote!

Friday, July 15, 2016


by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Rumors that Donald Trump had settled on Indiana's fairly useless governor, Mike Pence, as his running mate were flying high and wide on the Internet machine yesterday - and though the Trumpster has yet to publicly confirm those rumors, they did not sit well with the heart and soul of the Republican Party - Ann Coulter.  Coulter, herself a strong Trump supporter, said that selecting Pence would be Trump's first mistake of the campaign.

First mistake?  Where the hell was she when he seemed to be deliberately driving away millions of Hispanic votes with his pledges to build a monster wall - or his racist tirades against a "Mexican" judge who was actually a Hoosier?   Or what about those Republican women who will cast their votes for Hillary because they can't abide Trump's frat boy attitude toward women - like when he ridiculed Carly Fiorina over her personal appearance.  Trump is known for making big mistakes - in fact, he seems to revel in it.

Ann posted a series of tweets yesterday that both chastised Trump and offered alternatives to Pence.  Coulter's list of "better VP picks for Trump" included (in this order):  "Kris Kobach, Scott Brown, Pat McCrory, Mike Crapo, David Clark, Mike Tyson, and my next door neighbor . . ."  I'm sure the good people of Kansas, of which there are many, would love to see their secretary of state, Kris Kobach, head off to Washington on the Trump Express.

Free Kansas - Vote Trump / Kobach!

Or better yet:  Free Kansas - Trump / Brownback in 2016!

In another tweet, Coulter noted:  "Trump has twice Bush's IQ.  Why would he pull a Harriet Miers?"

Let's parse that.  If Bush is a quarter-wit (and that's being generous), that would make Trump a . . . yup, that works.  Good one, Annie!

Coulter then goes on to snarl that maybe Trump should run with Harriet Miers.

Or how about this:  Trump and Ann Coulter.  That should bring the Cthulhu vote on board.  Think of the books you could sell and money you could make after the exposure of a national campaign, Sarah Annie!

Trump-Coulter!  Trump-Coulter!  Trump-Coulter!  Make America Hate Again!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

My Mother's Name Reaches into the Future

by Pa Rock
Proud Son

We all leave trails in life, and I think that my mother, who died thirty years ago, would have been very pleased with ways two of her grandchildren have chosen to honor her.

Ruby Florine Sreaves (a.k.a. Mom) was born in rural Newton County, Missouri, ninety-five years ago today.  She was always proud of the fact that she shared a birthday with advice columnists (and twin sisters) Ann Landers and Abigail Van Buren - and I, a history major, was pleased as well to know that my mother was born on "Bastille Day."

Mom died young, the result of a lifetime of heavy smoking, but during the time she was with us she accomplished a lot.  Mom always worked, sometimes in various family businesses, and sometimes on the payroll of others.  She obtained a cosmetology license while in her forties and spent several years working as a "beauty operator."  She also took up painting late in life and left many paintings of nature scenes, most of which have been distributed among her grandchildren.  He other craft skills included sewing and crocheting.

I have written about my mother in this space before, and anyone interested in the family history is invited to look back at the post I wrote (while living on Okinawa) five years ago today.

My intention with this current post is to focus on ways that two of Mom's grandchildren have chosen to honor her memory.   My niece, Heidi Smith Pfetcher, named her youngest daughter "Ruby."  When Heidi gave her baby that name, my Dad said to me, "Your mom would have been so proud." And yes, she would have been!

Last summer a movie was filmed here in West Plains.  The feature-length motion picture was written by my son, Tim, and directed by Ramaa Mosley.  Tim and Ramaa had worked together previously on "The Brass Teapot," a film which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in 2012 and has since played in theatres and was featured on Showtime and Netflix (where it can still be found).

The movie that was filmed here in West Plains is called "Tatterdemalion," and features some young professional talent as well as a few local actors.  One of the central characters in the film is named "Florine," and the family name of the main character is "Sreaves."  I'm fairly certain Mom would have been very proud of that, too!

And the fact that Heidi and Tim both chose to pay homage to their grandmother makes me proud as well!

Happy birthday, Mom.  We all love and miss you!

The Hatchlings

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Summer

I awoke yesterday to the sound of "peep, peep, peep" coming from the kitchen.  There, in the incubator that has been perking on the kitchen table for the past three weeks, was a tiny brown chick (a baby Rhode Island Red) that had just struggled out of his shell.  As the day wore on, his brothers and sisters began breaking free of their shells.  This morning the number of baby chickens stands at fourteen, with nine more chicken eggs still incubating.  The incubator is also home to two peacock eggs and three duck eggs - all of which could begin hatching in one week - on July 20th.

One of the peahens has been sitting on ten eggs in the barn for the past several weeks.  I had almost given up on her efforts - and so, I think, had she - when yesterday morning the dedicated nest-sitter introduced me to her new peachick.  Sometime later in the day she quit the nest and took her baby to live in the far side of the barn.  The mother appears to be very pleased with herself - and very protective on her baby.

Cosmo, the peachick who hatched in the incubator on June 17th, is still in the nursery with his four duckling siblings.  The fuzzy ducks are giants compared to Cosmo.  Yesterday the little peacock put up his small fan of tailfeathers for the first time - so the baby is growing up!  The new chicks will be ready for the nursery in a few days, which means that Cosmo and the ducks will have to move to new quarters.  I'm going to try to get the ducks to mix with the chickens, and I am going to put Cosmo in a special cage inside of the peaccockery so that he and the others can get used to each other before he joins the general population.

On the negative side of the ledger, I have recently lost several of the new chickens that I bought last spring to predators.  Of that group, I am down to one surviving banty hen and four Red Jungle Fowl.

So goes life at Rock's Roost!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Prominent Republicans Will Skip Convention

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The Republican National Convention is set to begin next week in Cleveland, and as the gathering nears, the list of GOP political dignitaries who won't be attending seems to be outpacing the list of those who will.

There are only two living former Republican Presidents - George H.W. Bush and his dimwitted son, Dubya - and both of them are giving Cleveland a pass.  Also not attending will be the last two Republican presidential nominees - the ones Obama beat - John McCain and Mitt Romney.  (And if McCain's skipping, so too will Senator Lindsey Graham.)

Of the fifty-four current Republican senators, sixteen have said publicly that they won't be going to the GOP convention, and another six are still mulling it over.  Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona won't be attending due to a pressing need to mow his lawn, and Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska plans on using the convention week to spend time with his kids watching dumpster fires.

Even Missouri's Senator Ol' Roy Blunt, a man who hasn't missed a Republican convention in the past sixteen years, won't be attending.  When pressed as to why he will be a "no show," Blunt babbled a bit of nonsense claiming conventions really weren't all that important to him.

More likely, Blunt, who is facing a credible challenge to re-election this November, doesn't want to run the risk of having his picture snapped with Donald Trump, or to have Missouri's growing Hispanic population see him as complicit in the Trump plans to deport eleven million immigrants or build a two-thousand-mile, thirty-feet high, wall along our country's southern border.

The good news is that people traveling to Cleveland next week for reasons other than the convention ought to be able to find rooms.  Those not interested in going to Cleveland for any reason, might opt instead to head to Nebraska and check out the dumpster fires.  They reportedly can be spectacular this time of year!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Pa Rock's Veep Predictions

by Pa Rock
Political Prognosticator

A week from today the Republican National Convention will already be up and running in Cleveland - and one week further out will find the Democrats holding their quadrennial get-together in Philadelphia.  The national political conventions are upon us - and still neither "presumptive" candidate, The Donald or Hillary, has seen fit to name man or woman who would stand in their shadow patiently awaiting the demise of the boss or the occurrence of a tie vote in the Senate.

It is a lackluster job, one which a former Vice President, John Nance Garner, famously described as "not being worth a bucket of warm spit" - or a colorful variation thereof.

And while the position may lack the glamour and power of the presidency, it is still mandated by the Constitution, and there are people who would like to have it.

Donald Trump seems to be having difficulty in finding people who want to run on the same ticket with him.  If he goes down as disastrously in November as many expect he will, having one's name attached to the SS Trump could be a political career-ender.  The two possibilities who seem to be openly seeking the position, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, both seem to have reached their "use by" dates anyway and have little viability left on the political horizon - so either could afford to gamble that a run for the vice-presidency might harbor some personal benefit.  Governor Mike Pence of Indiana also seems to be a possibility, and like the other two, Pence's future in politics looks to be exceedingly sketchy.

Trump ought to take Indiana anyway, so adding Pence to his ticket wouldn't bring much advantage.  By the same token, it seems unlikely that he would win New Jersey - a state where Trump is already too well known and Christie isn't particularly loved, so bringing Christie on board might be a wasted move.  Gingrich is from Georgia, a state that Trump ought to carry, but Gingrich is also more well known as a national politician than the other two.

Christie, like Trump, is a bully - and Newt, like Trump, is somewhat of a philanderer.  My best guess is that Trump will gravitate to his comfort zone and choose to run with a fellow womanizer, Newt Gingrich.  They may not win, but the escapades on the campaign bus should be memorable!

Hillary is a more pragmatic politician and semsible person than Donald Trump - and while Trump might pull a John McCain and grab a nobody out of thin air, Hillary will have carefully vetted and re-vetted all of her possibilities.  There will be no Dan Quayle's or Sarah Palin's on her ticket - and there will be no surprises once the candidate is named.

I have felt all along that HUD Secretary Julian Castro would be a strong contender, and I still think he is a possibility.  Most of the buzz this week has been around another Cabinet member, also an Hispanic, Labor Secretary Tom Perez.  Perez is apparently a close friend of both Hillary and Bill, a bit of a policy wonk, and exceedingly bright.   Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has also been bandied about, particularly by supporters of Bernie Sanders who would like to see a bit of his progressive revolution cemented onto Clinton.

Clinton, by becoming the first female nominee of a major party in U.S. presidential history, sort of nullifies the gender issue, so there would be little to gain by her running with another woman.  It would make more sense to align with a strong Hispanic politician like Castro, or Perez, or Becerra, and stike Trump all the harder in that demographic.

Or would it?

Trump is getting clobbered in the Hispanic communities, and Hillary might have little to gain by going after a constituency that already belongs to her anyway - much like with the female vote.  The block that she does not own yet is the one containing the die-hard Bernie supporters.

My prediction is that she will go with Elizabeth Warren.  Warren helps to negate the feeling that Hillary is too pro-Wall Street.  Warren understands business and banking from a regulator's perspective, and she understands and can give voice to the impact that these enormous business institutions have on the lives of real people.  Also, Warren gets extra points for her ability to go full-Pocahontas  on Trump.  She bugs the hell out of him - relentlessly!   Elizabeth Warren could (and would) keep Donald Trump so wound up during the campaign that he would have time for little else than verbally sparing with her.

Those are my guesses:  Trump and Gingrich versus Clinton and Warren - with the ladies pulling a minimum of 350 electoral votes come November.  Better stand back - there's a landslide coming!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Monday's Poetry: "The Old Swimmin' Hole"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

I had a teacher in college who dearly loved to quote verses from memory by Hoosier poet James Whitcomb Riley, and Woody Mason passed that appreciation of the American humorist and poet on to me.

James Whitcomb Riley practiced his writing craft in post-Civil War America where created a unique panorama of America in his poems, a nostalgic look at a time that was quickly passing.  He captured America in verse in much the same way that artist Norman Rockwell would later define it with his unique paintings and magazine covers.   Both struggled to forge a lasting link to an ideal past, a time they remembered as being harmonious and innocent.

As summer drags on, I was drawn to this piece by Riley in which he looks back at the "old swimmin' hole" of his youth.  I, too, had a special place on the river where care and troubles were happily splashed away.

This would be a good day to go to the creek!

The Old Swimmin' Hole
by James Whitcomb Riley

     Oh! the old swimmin'-hole! whare the crick so still and deep

     Looked like a baby-river that was laying half asleep,

     And the gurgle of the worter round the drift jest below

     Sounded like the laugh of something we onc't ust to know

     Before we could remember anything but the eyes

     Of the angels lookin' out as we left Paradise;

     But the merry days of youth is beyond our controle,

     And it's hard to part ferever with the old swimmin'-hole.

     Oh! the old swimmin'-hole! In the happy days of yore,

     When I ust to lean above it on the old sickamore,

     Oh! it showed me a face in its warm sunny tide

     That gazed back at me so gay and glorified,

     It made me love myself, as I leaped to caress

     My shadder smilin' up at me with sich tenderness.

     But them days is past and gone, and old Time's tuck his toll

     From the old man come back to the old swimmin'-hole.

     Oh! the old swimmin'-hole! In the long, lazy days

     When the humdrum of school made so many run-a-ways,

     How plesant was the jurney down the old dusty lane,

     Whare the tracks of our bare feet was all printed so plane

     You could tell by the dent of the heel and the sole

     They was lots o' fun on hands at the old swimmin'-hole.

     But the lost joys is past! Let your tears in sorrow roll

     Like the rain that ust to dapple up the old swimmin'-hole.

     Thare the bullrushes growed, and the cattails so tall,

     And the sunshine and shadder fell over it all;

     And it mottled the worter with amber and gold

     Tel the glad lilies rocked in the ripples that rolled;

     And the snake-feeder's four gauzy wings fluttered by

     Like the ghost of a daisy dropped out of the sky,

     Or a wownded apple-blossom in the breeze's controle

     As it cut acrost some orchard to'rds the old swimmin'-hole.

     Oh! the old swimmin'-hole! When I last saw the place,

     The scenes was all changed, like the change in my face;

     The bridge of the railroad now crosses the spot

     Whare the old divin'-log lays sunk and fergot.

     And I stray down the banks whare the trees ust to be—

     But never again will theyr shade shelter me!

     And I wish in my sorrow I could strip to the soul,

     And dive off in my grave like the old swimmin'-hole.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Trump Con: Running to Lose

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Yesterday I referenced a piece that was appearing in The Huffington Post which suggested that Donald Trump was not seriously seeking the presidency, but that he was just trying to hype his name and sell some product:  steaks, taco bowls, hotel rooms, etc.  The article was written by Paul Vale, the front page editor at The Huffington Post.  It was titled "Relax, world.  Trump isn't going to be President.  But he'll rinse some cash from his run."

The writer argued that the act of running for President has become, for many candidates, more about making money than it is about actually pursuing the position.  He used Sarah Palin as an example.  Palin was officially in the public eye just a couple of months, but she used that national notoriety as a launch pad to sell books, land work on television, and become a highly paid speaker.  That bothersome campaign made Sarah a highly marketable commodity.

What Vale didn't explicitly say was that Sarah Palin actually showed no interest in getting elected and holding down a job.  In fact, she went on to quit her job as governor of Alaska after serving only half of her four-year term.  Running for office wasn't about going to work every day and actually holding down a job with a defined set of responsibilities.  Running for office was about increasing the fame quotient, the marketability, and then cashing in.

The author of the article, Mr. Vale, painted Trump as a candidate with little or no desire to win the presidency or serve in that difficult position.  Trump will lose - and make some money in the process.  Vale noted that Trump is spending almost nothing so far on the campaign, and that his entire national staff could come close to fitting in an elevator.

But for this marketability scam to work, Vale noted that Trump must at least run a respectable race.  He can't front such a disaster that the Republicans get washed out of Congress in the process.  Yes, the candidate knows he will lose, but he can't lead the party off of a cliff - such a disastrous outcome would be bad for the Trump brand and the marketability of his products.  It's one thing to lose an election, but quite another to lose market share.

Donald Trump is running to lose the presidency, but to do so in a respectable manner.  Every day that his name and face get flashed around in the press is a good day for Trump business, but if he ever slips across the line from "serious" candidate to sad joke or national embarrassment, taco bowl sales will plummet.  For the time being, at least, he has to appear to want to get elected.  It is a con job by the consummate con man.

Of course, cons have been known to backfire, and in that case America would be the loser.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Ted Cruz Is Already Campaigning for 2020

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Ted Cruz, a man who two months ago openly loathed Donald Trump, has now apparently gone begging to the business charlatan, hat-in-hand, asking for a speaking spot at next week's Republican National Convention - and Trump has inexplicably given him a place at the podium.  Cruz, no doubt remembers well that Obama's speech at the Democratic Convention of 2004, given at a time when he had yet to be even elected to the Senate, was key in propelling him to the White House four years later.

It's probably safe to assume that Ted Cruz won't really be speaking for the candidacy of Donald Trump, a man expected to lose anyway.  Cruz is a man who has more crude ambition than Richard Nixon in his prime.  He will be giving America a long, solid look at the candidate who hopes to defeat the incumbent President Hillary Clinton in 2020.  He will give a barn-burner of speech - the one speech that delegates and ordinary Americans will remember long after this convention shuts down and Trump has been politically pulverized by Hillary Clinton.

2020 will be a tough race for Republicans with an incumbent Democrat sitting in the White House - just ask Mitt Romney about the power of the incumbency.   Cruz, however, is counting on Hillary to be up to her neck in Clintonesque scandals by that time.  And if she isn't - if she is doing an exemplary job and the country loves her, he will still be young enough to spend four more years flitting about the Senate and the country and keeping his name in the news until 2024.

I read an interesting piece on the Huffington Post this morning which speculated that Donald Trump really isn't invested in winning this election - he is just running to increase his brand recognition and make money - like Sarah Palin did in marketing herself after losing the Vice Presidency in 2008.  And that's probably right because this election already has the look and feel of a GOP forfeit.

But Ted Cruz won't be running to lose.  He wants to be President in the worst way possible.  Look for the candidate to begin the 2020 campaign next week with a spellbinding speech that will leave God-fearing Americans hungry for his leadership.  Ted Cruz will be pushing his way forward to lead America, whether he's needed or not - and he doesn't have time to waste!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Mice on the Menu

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Summer

Over the past year the chicken coop and surrounding area has become home to an rapidly increasing number of mice, fat little rodents who live well off of all the grain scattered about for the benefit of the poultry.  I didn't want to set out regular traps for fear the chickens would  injure themselves trying to claim the cheese treats.  I used some of those "sticky" traps for a few days, but finally quit because I didn't want to see the nuisance mice suffering unnecessarily.

So I began looking for a "natural" cure.  My neighbor gave me two kittens, one of whom quickly disappeared, while the other proved to be well suited to the job at hand.  The new kitten, still without a name - but answers to "Get the Hell Out of My Way!" - stays in and around the chicken coop and never strays up to the house, a huge plus.  She also does not bother the chickens.   She had seemed to be ignoring the mice until one afternoon last week when I discovered her playing with one that she had captured.  She tormented the poor thing for at least an hour before the exhausted rodent finally disappeared - most likely into the belly of the beast.  Yesterday morning the kitten was playing with another mouse which, too, disappeared.

I also heard that ducks are ravenous for mice, so I hatched out four in my new incubator.  They are currently living in the nursery which is adjacent to the chicken coop.  I have seen a mouse or two scurry across the floor of the nursery, but so far the ducks haven't engaged.  I am hopeful that they will develop a blood lust by the time I turn them loose into the general farm population.

When the black ducklings were born (June 17-19), they were small enough to fit comfortably into a teacup, individually.  Now they are so large that only two, or perhaps three, could snuggle up together in a bread box.  And, they are still covered in fuzz.

Little Cosmo, on the other hand, the peacock who was much larger than the ducklings (and feathered) when he was born in the same hatch, is now tiny compared to the monster ducks.  He is about a quarter in size of any one of the giant fuzzy ducks.

Cosmo gets along well with his duck brothers and sisters, but there are times I will find him sunning alone in the nursery.  He seems to instinctively know that he is the ugly duckling.

Just you wait, Cosmo.  Just you wait!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The System Is Rigged

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Donald Trump is finally right about something:  the system is rigged.  He was referencing politics, gnashing his teeth over the emerging fact that nobody is going to indict Hillary for anything.  He's right.  Polls suggest that many Americans regard the presumptive Democratic candidate as untrustworthy, a feeling rooted further back in time than just the current flap over proper email protocol.  She is free and favored to walk back into the White House because the system is rigged.

But people also look at Donald Trump and feel the system is rigged.   Trump is a man that the majority of Americans neither like nor trust, yet he too is the presumptive nominee of his party.  With so many better alternatives in both parties, America winds up with a choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  The system is most definitely rigged.

And the system is rigged in other ways as well.

A toothless hillbilly can waddle through a major department store with a fully automatic weapon strapped to his back, and decent people have to scurry out of the way because a "patriot" is coming through.  But change that patriot's skin color from white to black, and a whole different scenario opens up.   This Tuesday a black man, reportedly unarmed, was shot and killed by police in Baton Rouge while selling CD's in front of a quick stop.  The owner of the shop said that he had never objected to the man selling his wares in front of the store - yet the police shot him multiple times.  Last night, another black man was shot multiple times by police in St. Paul, Minnesota.  His crime:  driving with a broken tail light.  That black man had a gun, and he reportedly told police that - and he also told them that he had a permit to carry his gun - but as he reached for his wallet, the two white cops fired four rounds into him.  A black man carrying a gun, even with a permit, is not a patriot.

And Allah help the poor Muslim who believes that he has any Second Amendment rights at all.  Jesus didn't write the Second Amendment for people like that.

The system is rigged.

I would like to see Congress and the state legislatures pass some common sense gun laws that would actually protect people and make us safer, but I don't have the access or influence to sell that idea to any of my senators or representatives.  I'm just a small caliber, spent shell.  My Republican United States senator, Ol' Roy Blunt, has taken over fifty thousand dollars in influence money from the National Rifle Association.  That is far more "influence" than I will ever be able to muster.  My Republican congressman, Jason Smith, has taken three thousand dollars from the NRA, a level of influence that is also beyond my means.  The National Rifle Association understands that the fine art of legislating has more to do with a checkbook than it does with a concerned citizen.

I read once that cocktail waitresses in Las Vegas have to bid on their jobs and purchase them because the tips are so lucrative.  It looks like members of Congress work on the same principal.  It has nothing to do with salary - it is the "tips" that carry the day - and the influence.

The system is rigged.

Highly qualified students can't get into the top schools because spots are reserved for a backwash of genetic residue called "legacies."

The system is rigged.

American companies that send thousands of jobs overseas are still rewarded with preferential tax breaks.

The system is rigged.

Businessmen routinely take advantage of bankruptcy laws to cheat employees and contractors out of money owed to them.

The system is rigged.

Minor drug offenders are warehoused for years in prison hellholes while white-collar criminals remain free or serve minimum sentences in "country club" prisons.

The system is rigged.

So, congratulations to the racist, xenophobic, homophobic, anti-Semetic, money-grubbing, thin-skinned, self-absorbed blowhard and presumptive Republican presidential nominee for finally getting something right.   The system is definitely rigged - and it is a system that a President Trump would gleefully fight to preserve.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Sebastian is Nine, and Mighty Fine!

by Pa Rock
Proud Grandpa

My second oldest grandchild, Sebastian Files, turned nine yesterday.  He lives in Oregon with his mom and dad - and his little brother, Judah, and his little sister, Willow.  Pa Rock does not get to see his Oregon grandchildren nearly enough.

I tried to call Sebastian twice yesterday with no luck, and he finally called me back late in the evening.  Sebastian said that he had a very busy birthday.  He talked about some of his presents, his birthday party, and also said that he spent part of the day being tutored in Spanish.  Pa Rock was glad to hear about the tutoring because he believes that every young child should be fluent in at least two languages.

Sebastian missed being born on the Fourth of July by just one day, and his older cousin, Boone, missed being born on the Mexican independence day, Cinco De Mayo, by less than two hours. Both are independent-minded lads!

I told Sebastian that I would try to come see him later this summer - and that I might arrive by train like I did on my last visit.  Sebastian and Judah and Willow all like trains.  Sebastian said that he knows a spot on a bridge where he can stand and watch my train come in.

So the ball is in my court and I need to get to Oregon to see my grandchildren.  Sebastian is nine - but he will quickly be thirty!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Obama Has Brought About a New Day in America

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The Defense of Marriage Act, which said for federal purposes marriages would only be recognized if they occurred between one man and one woman, passed both houses of Congress by wide margins in 1996 and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.  Less than two decades later that law had not only been found to be unconstitutional by the courts, but the Supreme Court of the United States had established the legality of same-sex marriages.  All of that in less than twenty years.

When Barack Obama first ran for President in 2008, the rights of same-sex couples was not at the top of his campaign list - far from it.  Back in 2008 states were still busy passing bills that specifically and adamantly denied the right of gay couples to marry - measures that were guaranteed to bring conservatives to the polls.  The wind was still blowing the other way.

But something happened during the Obama presidency.  The winds on that particular issue began to shift, and once that occurred changes that many believed would never come began happening quickly.  Whether Barack Obama had intended to be the President who ushered in a new era for gay Americans or not didn't really matter.  He was in the White House and he was open-minded.  As the country's mood on gay rights began shifting, Obama met those changes with warmth, acceptance, and his big toothy grin.  No longer was there hatred and bigotry emanating from the White House over a social issue.  The times were changing fast, and there was a person heading our government who was not afraid to reach out and grab those changes on behalf of an evolving nation.

One of the most vivid and enduring images of the Obama presidency was that night-time photo of the White House bathed in rainbow colors - a move that celebrated the Supreme Court's recognition of the right of same sex couples to marry.  By lighting up the White House like a gay pride flag, President Obama told the world that he and his administration stood proudly with America's LGBTQ community.  Then, a few weeks ago when he declared the Stonewall Inn to be a national monument, the President added an exclamation point to his support of gay rights.

And now the presumptive Democratic nominee for President - the wife of the President who signed the Defense of Marriage Act twenty years ago - has shed the shackles of bigotry and marched in New York City's Gay Pride Parade.  And now Canada's young and dynamic Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, has rolled up his shirt sleeves and marched, quite boisterously, in Toronto's Pride Parade.  And now people are free to marry the person they love - even in social backwaters like Kentucky.

The times are changing, and much of the change on gay issues has come about because we no longer had a hater in the White House ready and eager to cheer on every backward proposal put forth by the states.  Barack Obama oversaw this important social transition in America - whether he intended to or not, and his smiling acceptance of those changes opened doors that will remain open as long as freedom and liberty reign in America..

Last week while he was in Ottawa, Canada, for what the press has dubbed the "Three Amigos" summit (Obama of the U.S., Pena Nieto of Mexico, and Trudeau of Canada), President Obama was invited to address the Canadian Parliament.  He looked genuinely surprised (and more than a little pleased) when most of the members of Parliament stood and began chanting "Four more years, four more years!"

Compare that spontaneous outburst of joyfulness to the time, less than a decade ago, when his predecessor, George W. Bush, was addressing a gathering of Iraqi journalists and a reporter began hurling shoes at him!

America is enjoying the warm light of a new day - and we have Barack Obama to thank for it.  The Canadian Parliament, it would seem, speaks for many of us!