Sunday, January 31, 2016

For the "Times" It Ain't a-Changin'

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The venerable New York Times, sometimes referred to as "the Old Gray Lady" of journalism, has endorsed Hillary Clinton in her bid to become the Democratic nominee for President.  That same newspaper made that same endorsement eight years ago when Mrs. Clinton wound up getting her clock cleaned by a young, upstart senator from Illinois.

In its rather lengthy endorsement/opinion piece yesterday, the Times also bled a fair amount of ink ridiculing the Republican candidates.  One of the choicer barbs read:
" . . . the Republican presidential contenders have been bombarding Americans with empty propaganda slogans and competing, bizarrely, to present themselves as the least experienced person for the most important elected job in the world."
 While heaping praise on Mrs. Clinton, the Times noted her qualifications:  she served as senator from a "major" state, was United States Secretary of State, and was on the national stage as First Lady where she served with her "brilliant but flawed" husband, President Bill Clinton.

(I'm not sure what it takes to be considered a "major" state, but obviously I don't live in one.  And I spent too many years working with the DSM-IV not to cringe a bit at the combination of "brilliant but flawed."  Our prisons and psych wards are full of "brilliant but flawed" individuals.)

So pay attention Iowa as you stumble through the corn stubble heading for the caucuses tomorrow.  Those newspaper people out there in New York City think you need to be supporting Hillary - and they're from a "major" state so they must know what's good for you - and for the rest of us.  But, on the other hand, if the Old Gray Lady delivers votes with the same efficiency as she delivers newspapers, Hillary is in a bunch of trouble.

And what is it they say about doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result?

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Tales of Cramped Toes

by Pa Rock
Creature of Comfort

Living in a rural area and being retired both serve to limit the need on my part to get "dressed up."  And that is particularly true when it comes to footwear.  My standard fare is, for most occasions, flip-flops or a ratty old pair of tennis shoes that are used for everything from mowing the yard to doctor visits.  My fashion sense has comfort trumping style every time.

I haven't even bought a pair of shoes since my father passed away six years ago and I found several new pairs in his closet (in my size) that had never been worn.  They lasted through my final few years of work, and now I still have one pair left.  I had worn that pair, a generic set of loafers, on a couple of occasions and found them to be comfortable.  Then, last fall when Gail and I went to Chicago to see her granddaughter perform in an opera, I took those same shoes along.  But that time, as I was getting ready for our big evening out, I discovered that the shoes, the only pair which I had brought along, no longer fit.

Assuming that my feet had suddenly grown, or swollen, or the shoes had mysteriously shrunk, I forced my feet into them and spent the rest of the evening hobbling around in pain.   It was an awful experience.  When I got back home I gave the offending footwear to my son and told him to sell them at his flea market booth.  I didn't ever want to see those shoes again!

A couple of days later Nick brought me a pair thin dress socks.  "You might want these," he said.  "I found them crammed in the toes of those shoes you gave me."  Ouch!

This morning I received an email from my daughter.  Molly, who had no idea about my recent shoe humiliation, found a story that she liked on the Internet and wanted to share it.  The story reminded me of my days as an elementary school principal when I would have to rush out to the kindergarten building any time school closed early (due to things like sudden snow storms, etc) and help the teachers get their students bundled into boots, coats, hats, and gloves.  And it also reminded me of my recent night at the opera.

Here is the tale that Molly shared:
A kindergarten teacher was helping one of her students put his boots on. He had asked for help and she could see why. With her pulling and him pushing, the boots still didn’t want to go on.
When the second boot was on, she was nearly out of breath.
She almost whimpered when the little boy said, “Teacher, they’re on the wrong feet.”
She looked and sure enough, they were. It wasn’t any easier pulling the boots off than it was putting them on. She managed to keep her cool as they worked together to get the boots back on – this time on the right feet.
He then announced, “These aren’t my boots.”
She bit her tongue rather than scream, “Why didn’t you say so earlier?” like she wanted to. Once again she struggled to help him pull the ill-fitting boots off.
He then said, “They’re my brother’s boots. My Mom made me wear them.”
She didn’t know if she should laugh or cry. She mustered up the grace to wrestle the boots on his feet again. She said, Now, where are your gloves?”
He said, “I stuffed them in the toes of my boots…”
 Here's to making your mistakes early in life!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Two Scoops of Bernie's Yearning, Please!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

With each passing day it becomes clearer that the next occupant of the White House, President #45, is unlikely to be a Republican.  Vice President Joe Biden famously quipped the other day that the Republican party candidates are a "gift from the Lord!"  The old adage is that you can't win a race without a horse, and so far every nag in the Republican stable is either too lame to run a serious race, or has headed out of the starting gate running in the wrong direction.

Discounting Martin O'Malley who can't seem to convince anyone that he is a actually a contender, that leaves to two distinct possibilities at this point:  Hillary or Bernie.  Mrs. Bill Clinton and her minions have been pulling out all of the stops in an effort to convince voters that while the Sanders positions on the issues may be admirable, the candidate himself is un-electable.  Sanders and company have fired back that his mountains of small donations from real people, not corporations, would indicate otherwise.

But, even if Hillary does win the nomination and the presidency (beating something as formidable as the Clinton political machine will clearly be no walk in the park), Bernie Sanders has scored one cultural coup that has eluded even Bubba Clinton himself.  That's right - Bernie Sanders has his own Ben and Jerry's ice cream flavor - "Bernie's Yearning."

Put a scoop of that in your morning mocha, Hillary!

Well, to be totally honest, it isn't an "official" Ben and Jerry's flavor, because the Vermont-based company was sold to one of those evil international conglomerates several years ago - but Ben still sits on the advisory board, and it was him and Jerry themselves who created, prepared, and packaged the first forty pints of "Bernie's Yearning" in Vermont - in Ben's very own kitchen.  The company itself, or its corporate overlord, deny creation or ownership of the new flavor.

Twenty-five of those pints have been donated to the Sanders campaign, and the rest are reportedly being held in reserve to be used as contest prizes.

The new flavor consists of a pint of mint ice cream sitting under a milk chocolate disk.  According to the ice cream wizards, the disk represents America's wealthiest one-percent who have received a "huge majority" of the country's economic gains since the end of the depression.  The rest of us are the delicious mint underbelly.

According to Ben, "Nothing is as unstoppable as a flavor whose time has finally come!"

While Hillary may have plans to be the first woman whose head rests on Mount Rushmore, when it comes to real symbolism, she has already missed the lead car in the parade.  Americans know a rock star when they taste one!

Move over "Cherry Garcia," and pass the sprinkles!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Big Win for Planned Parenthood in Texas

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Last summer a couple of surreptitious videos were released that purportedly showed officials from Planned Parenthood negotiating for the sale of fetal tissue. Although the tapes appeared to have been highly edited and basically dishonest in what they claimed to reveal, Republican politicians nonetheless used their release to go on a political rampage against the venerable women's health organization.

Nowhere was the faux outrage louder than in Texas.  One of the hidden-camera films had been made at a Planned Parenthood office in Houston.  The aggrandizing Republican lieutenant governor of Texas, Dan Patrick, who was in a hurry to make political hay, asked the Republican district attorney of Harris County (Houston), Devon Anderson, to initiate a criminal investigation of that local Planned Parenthood.   Anderson, dutifully towing the party line, promptly called a Grand Jury into session.

This week that same Grand Jury, after listening to months of laborious testimony, announced some indictments.  But first, before indicting anyone, they cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing in the matter.


Then that same Grand Jury, instigated by Texas Republicans, God's own chosen, indicted two of the anti-abortion clowns who had been instrumental in making the sting videos.  The Grand Jury said that the videographers had distorted the government record.

Double whoops!

Sadly, in Texas as in most of red meat America, a slap in the face with the swift hand of truth will do nothing to diminish the irrational rage against Planned Parenthood.  These morons are on a mission from God, and truth is irrelevant.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Feds Begin Taking Out the Trash in Oregon

by Pa Rock

They were more than a day late and a dollar short, but last night, at long last, the FBI and officers of the Oregon State Police finally began the difficult process of reclaiming a patch of our public land that has been under the control of traitors and militant terrorists for the better part of a month.

The so called "Bundy Bunch" began its long overdue tumble into the dustbin of history last night when several members of the gang were pulled over as they traveled beyond the confines of their seized sanctuary, the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon.  Initial reports are that shots were fired, one terrorist was killed and another suffered a minor wound, and a total of six were arrested including leaders Ammon and Ryan Bundy.  It is also reported that Ryan Bundy is the individual who was wounded.

The armed group seized control of a government building on the wildlife refuge in early January and have since entertained a growing press corps with their revolutionary hijinks - things like fighting among themselves, using donations to purchase alcohol and then getting good and drunk, and providing lists of the "necessaries" that their group was in need of - things such as vanilla coffee creamer.

The rag-tag group of doofus desperadoes had hoped for public support, but a community meeting in nearby Burns failed to produce anything other than a vote by the public that they pack up and leave.  Opposition to the lawbreakers was also voiced by the local Piaute tribe, the original "owners" of the land in question.

If these criminal cretins are hellbent on occupying a government building, perhaps they should be moved to the Super Max in Colorado where Eric Robert Rudolph resides.  There they could "occupy" concrete cells and revel in their revolutionary glories until their own end of days.  Sadly, though, there probably would be no vanilla creamer.

Thank you, law enforcement, for putting your own lives on the line to rid the country of this pestilence and to reclaim our public lands for all of us - and not just the delusional few.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Fall

by Pa Rock
Television Junkie

I have just finished watching the first season (11 episodes) of The Fall,  a British police drama set in Belfast, Northern Ireland.  The show focuses of the intertwined lives of two ruthless hunters, one a serial killer and the other a cop.  The action begins as the cop, a prominent police detective named Stella Gibson - and played by Gillian Anderson of X Files fame - is called in to lead the investigation into the brutal murder of a young professional woman in Belfast.  Another similar body or two later and it becomes apparent that the detective is looking for a serial killer.

The killer, Paul Spector, is skillfully portrayed by Irish actor Jamie Dornan.    Spector, a bereavement counselor and married father of two young children, is identified to viewers in the first episode as dark and cunning creature who roams the streets of Belfast at night stalking his victims.   He seems to realize that he is on an irreversible downward spiral, and at one point describes serial killing as being a slow form of suicide.

While the main plot is straightforward, the slow and methodical process of a modern police department zeroing in on a serial killer - and the killer's equally methodical process of lengthening his chain of death - the action is kept immediate through a series of subplots that add to the suspense:  a domestic violence case that plays out across Detective Gibson's hunt for the killer - and the killer's struggle to remain free, a pedophile priest, a sixteen-year-old babysitter who aids and is obsessed with the killer, and Detective Gibson's penchant for luring pretty young police officers, male and female, into her bed.

Apparently five more episodes of The Fall have been produced and released, though they have yet to make it to Netflix.  I am glad to see that the show is continuing because it is a very suspenseful and satisfying dramatic experience - one that I highly recommend.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Monday's Poetry: "Winter Night"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Last week was a hard bit the winter, the coldest that we have encountered so far this season with just enough ice and snow on the ground to be a nuisance.  And it has also been a week of starkly quiet solitude with just the radio and the dogs to keep me company.

When I wasn't out tending to the other creatures that live at the farm, scattering feed or busting the ice out of their watering bowls, I was usually inside working my winter project:  the indexing and proof-reading of my two-hundred-and-forty-two genealogy newspaper columns that I penned a quarter of a century ago.  Those columns, which ran in fifteen small Ozark newspapers at one time or another, were built on queries sent in by readers from across the United States who were trying to learn more about their Ozark roots.   At times, over the nearly five years that the weekly column ran, queries would be slow in arriving and I would supplement with tales from my own family's long Ozark history.

The column was called "Rootbound in the Hills."  It is, for the time being at least, still available elsewhere on the internet.  That may change if I am able to secure a publisher for the collected columns.  Anyone desiring a complementary surname index to the columns may contact me through this blog.

As I carefully reread each of the genealogy columns, I come across tidbits of my personal family history, some supplied by people whom I've never even met.    That sets my mind to wandering.  I think that is why I found today's poem, "Winter Night" by Edna St. Vincent Millay so appealing.  As I read it, I could feel the warmth coming off of an old country wood stove, perhaps with a chicken stewing atop it in a well worn pot, and an old lady sitting by the fire and enjoying the quiet solitude of her declining years.  She is, I think, a widow, perhaps a Sreaves, or a Roark or a Pritchard - someone who endured so much, so well, to pave the way for the rest of us.

There is a half-full wood box sitting behind the stove, upon which a cat sleeps soundly.

Winter Night
by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Pile high the hickory and the light
Log chestnut struck by the blight.
Welcome-in the winter night.

The day has gone in hewing and felling,
Sawing and drawing wood to the dwelling
For the night of talk and storytelling.

There are the hours that give the edge
To the blunted ax and the bent wedge,
Straighten the saw and lighten the sledge.

Here are question and reply,
And the fire reflected in the thinking eye.
So peace, and let the bobcat cry.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Third Party, Anyone? How About a Fourth?

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The Iowa caucuses are a week from tomorrow, and the New Hampshire primary eight days after that.  Candidate strength with voters will soon be assessed by actual ballots rather than the educated guesses of pollsters.  Things are about to start being clarified.

Or are they?

True, the press will have some actual winners and losers to focus on, and the large field of candidates, particularly the Republican gaggle, should begin to thin itself out - but will the identification of front-runners actually mean that things are getting simplified?

Anytime we have a hotly (or bitterly) contested primary race, the chances exist for one of the losers to mount an outside run through a third-party candidacy.  Whoever loses in the Hillary-Bernie slug fest will have to be treated with exceedingly soft kid gloves in order to ensure that the failed candidate does not marshal his or her already organized political forces and launch an independent bid for the White House.  The Republican party bosses who would like nothing better than to deny the nomination to Donald Trump are smart enough to realize that Donald of the big ego and big checkbook could finance and lead a helluva third party movement.

Yesterday former New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg, announced that he, too, might enter the presidential race as an independent.  Bloomberg who originally ran for the mayor's post as a Republican, later changed his party label to "Independent."  He, like Trump, is an unfettered billionaire with plenty of strong political views - not all of which are supported by the grassroots of either party.   Bloomberg is very much pro-Wall Street and corporate America, views which don't necessarily resonate well with the democratic wing of the Democratic Party.  But he is also well known for being a gun control activist and pro-abortion,  views which are an anathema to hard-shell Republicans.

Bloomberg said that he will not enter unless he sees a path to victory.  That path, he says, would appear to be open if the Democrats nominate Bernie and the Republicans go with either Trump or Cruz.

Third party candidates haven't run a really strong race since Teddy Roosevelt and his Bullmoosers came in second in 1912, but two notables within the last forty years have been instrumental in spoiling the election for incumbents.  John Anderson, a somewhat liberal Republican who ran as an independent in 1980 did more damage to incumbent Democratic president Jimmy Carter that he did to his own party's standard-bearer, Ronald Reagan.  Many pundits and politicians alike suggested that Ronnie and Nancy were undoubtedly pleased that Anderson decided to pursue a third party bid.

H. Ross Perot, was a billionaire loudmouth who took an independent run at the presidency in 1992.  Perot, who had a strong dislike for the first President Bush, ran from the right and proved to be enough of a spoiler to give the election to Bill Clinton

Today's Republicans are already being dismissive of a potential Bloomberg run, possibly (or probably) because they see his entry into the race as taking votes from the Democrats.    Bloomberg, however, because he is neither completely left or right politically, might take a respectable slice of each party's pie and throw the election into further disarray.

And what about Cruz and Trump?  They can't both be the nominee of the Republican Party - unless one agrees to serve as running mate to the other - and that ticket would lean so far to the right as to be certain of falling over.  Would whoever did not get the nomination quickly form an independent effort?

Iowa and New Hampshire used to give us a fairly good idea of who the ultimate candidates would be, but I don't suspect that will be the case this year.  This looks to be the year of unpredictability.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Coffee Shop America

by Pa Rock
Amateur Cultural Anthropologist

For those of you who have ever lived in or visited small town America, you are more than likely aware of the local coffee shop, a place that opens at the crack of dawn and peddles home-cooked breakfast and hot coffee to the early risers.  Often these places close by early afternoon, with breakfast and lunch being their primary contributions to the life and vitality of the community.

But coffee shops, particularly those located in small towns, serve a higher function than just being dispensers of pancakes, eggs, and java.  Coffee shops are also were the locals go to swap tales, gather news, and sometimes conduct business. 

Most of these places (and there are two here in West Plains that leap to mind) have a large table near the front door from which a standard set of gossips and coffee drinkers come and go during the morning.   Attendance is primarily male, and strangers know almost instinctively, that there is no place for them at the table - even if the joint is full and empty seats are available at "the" table.  There is no printed schedule or place names at the seats, but everyone knows who belongs to the group, where they sit, and about what time they come and go.  If a regular fails to appear, his absence becomes fodder for the gossip and conversation that wend their way through the remainder of the morning.

I knew that I was making a bit of an inroad in the community when the fellow who bush-hogs for me twice a year invited me to join him  at one of the two morning tables where he maintains a seat.  I declined the initial invite, but may reconsider if he asks again.  I'm sure that Pete and Ed and Joe Bob would enjoy asking about the Bernie sticker on my car's bumper - and then talking about it at the table for another month or so!

This morning, well before daylight, as I was walking back-and-forth between the house and barn carrying feed and water, I got to thinking about the coffee shop.  Mornings on the farm can be cold and lonely, and there is a certain amount of appeal that goes with wrapping one's hands around a hot mug of steaming coffee and listening to some other bleary-eyed farmer giving a mini-lecture on why the new truck his neighbor bought was a big mistake - or the best way to castrate a pig.   (And I don't even like coffee!)

A community orientation and education for the price of a cup 'o Joe - could there be a better bargain anywhere?  Perhaps our local branch of Missouri State University should take over control of the primary coffee tables and award membership through a registration process.  The acquisition of all of that knowledge ought to be worth the price of tuition!

Friday, January 22, 2016

In Praise of the Lautenberg Amendment

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

As noted in this space yesterday, national nitwit Sarah Palin was quick to blame her oldest son's recent outburst of domestic violence as being a likely result of PTSD from his military service in the Middle East.  She then did a quick pivot and blamed that medical condition on what she saw as the President's lack of fervor in pursuing the war that was instigated by his predecessor.

A drunken Track Palin beats up his girlfriend while brandishing a weapon - and the fault of the incident lies with the Muslim, Kenyan usurper in the White House.   Mrs. Palin, the grandmother of three - none of whom were conceived in wedlock - undoubtedly has some convoluted logic at the ready to blame those babies on Obama as well.  One thing is certain, absolutely none of her children's misadventures can in any way be Sarah's fault.

Well, Sarah, here's some good news - a least for your Alaskan neighbors.  If Track gets convicted of domestic abuse, he will lose his guns.  "The Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban," more commonly known as the "Lautenberg Amendment" became effective on September 30, 1996, and remains in effect to this very day.  That law makes it a felony for those convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence to ship, transport, possess, or receive firearms or ammunition.

A Palin without a gun!  What the hell was Congress thinking?

Perhaps Congress was thinking of the victims of domestic abuse, something you neglected to even mention in your defense of Track's despicable actions.  Track's girlfriend was the real victim of his drunken rampage - and she's the one you should be defending.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

He's with Stupid, and So Is She!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

This week billionaire bully Donald Trump made some more headlines when he sent his private jet to Alaska to fetch America's sweetheart grifter, Sarah Palin, and bring her to his traveling Court in Iowa.  Trump brought Palin in to endorse his quest for the presidency, which Miss Sarah, who appreciates traveling in style, promptly did.

There is no word yet on whether the New York real estate mogul had to buy her a new wardrobe for the announcement and subsequent campaign swing on his behalf.

Trump, who has had more bankruptcies than most people have had new cars, is a consummate showman who somehow manages to keep his name displayed prominently in the press, day after day, in news stories - thus saving the costs of running commercials which so belabor other candidates.  Palin, much like Trump, also never misses an opportunity to self-promote.

A  tabloid newspaper, The New York Post, carried a wildly funny cover the following day featuring a large color (photo-shopped) photograph of Trump and Palin standing next to each other and pointing at each other.  The enormous headline accompanying the photo read:  "I'm with stupid!"

No truer words . . .

At about the same time that Sarah Palin was down in Iowa stirring the evangelical voters with with her charm and oratorical prowess, her oldest son, Track, was home in Alaska being arrested for domestic abuse.  The recently divorced younger Palin had apparently beaten his girlfriend and waved around a loaded AR-15, all the while being good and drunk.

According to a piece in today's Daily Kos (, Mama Palin then took her part of the Trump circus to Tulsa, Oklahoma, a day or two later where she commented on her son's bad behavior and put the blame for his actions squarely where it belonged - on President Obama!  (And you know they had to love that in Tulsa!)  The matriarch of the family widely known for being one of the country's most dysfunctional, reasoned it this way.  Track is a combat war veteran who returned to the States "hardened" by his experiences in the Middle East.  And the young people who fought in that war have been let down by a President who failed to properly respect their sacrifices.  So, of course, they have to become domestic abusers.

Or some such drivel.

With people like Sarah Palin, things are always someone else's fault.

If Sarah feels the need to blame someone for the crappy way returning war vets are treated, particularly by their government, then she should focus on the other end of Capitol Hill - in the Capitol Building where the House and Senate continue to under-fund or completely ignore programs to help veterans successfully re-entry society.  And if she's tired of having out-of-wedlock grandchildren, perhaps she should take her abstinence-preaching daughter to a Planned Parenthood clinic where she could acquire some accurate information on birth control.

Sarah Palin and Donald Trump are both a couple of has-been reality television "stars" who couldn't run a hot dog stand at a national park, much less a national government.  An America that sees either of these two as a potential leader might as well cast its lot with a Kardashian, a Duggar, a Bundy, or one of those scary-looking oafs from Duck Dynasty.  And when that doesn't work out, people as intellectually gifted as Sarah Palin will be there to help blame the mess on Obama.

It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Cher (and Others) to the Rescue!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The city of Flint Michigan, as well as much of the entire state of Michigan, has fallen on hard times over the past couple of decades due primarily to the decrease in American car production.  Things became so bad in Flint, a city of around 100,000 individuals more than fifty percent of whom are black and more than forty percent of whom live below the poverty level, that the Michigan legislature declared it to be in emergency economic straits in 2011.

Michigan's governor, a young venture capitalist by the name of Rick Snyder (a Republican who ran for office on the promise of bringing the state's economic crisis under control) appointed an emergency economic director to take charge of Flint's deteriorating financial situation in 2013.  That person, not an elected official, reported to the governor and was not under any direct controls of the citizens of Flint.

The following year in a move to save the city $5 million a year, the new director changed how the city got its water.  The community had been buying water from the city of Detroit, water which ultimately came from Lake Huron.  That method of water procurement was scraped in favor of a less costly plan of taking the water from the Flint River.

Many of the locals began complaining at the outset about getting the city's water supply from a river that was known for its pollution.  There were complaints that water emerging from taps in the city was brown and that it smelled bad, but agents of the state and local government made assurances that it was safe for public consumption.

Then people began getting sick, and yet the official denials continued.  And there were deaths.  Finally, a daring local pediatrician released irrefutable evidence that the lead levels in children she was treating was on the rise.   And, at long last, the wall of government neglect and deceit began to crack.

Governor Snyder has now requested federal intervention to help deal with the new crisis in Flint, this one largely of his making,  and he has apologized to the citizens of the city.  The governor refers to the situation in Flint as being a "disaster" and his "Katrina."

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has called on Governor Sanders to resign, and Hillary Clinton responded more pragmatically by sending a couple of staffers to help Flint's mayor in navigating the crisis.  The Republican presidential candidates have remained largely silent on the medical and social catastrophe that has befallen (or been thrust upon) Michigan's seventh largest city.

The mayor of Flint is suggesting that it will take in excess of a billion-and-a-half dollars to clean up the results of this latest GOP-inspired economic miracle.

So now it's time for the good people of America, of which there are millions and millions, to step forward and provide aid to their brothers and sisters in Flint.  Cher, one of our country's most iconic entertainers, led the way this week with a large donation of bottled water.  The singer, actress, and activist - along with Icelandic Glacial - donated more that 180,000 bottles of clean drinking water to the hapless victims of governmental incompetence.

Also, an American Muslim organization called "Who is Hussain?" donated thirty thousand bottles of water to the Red Cross in Flint this past weekend.

Numerous venues for providing aid to the good people of Flint are listed on the Internet.  Much more help is needed.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Signs of Spring

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Winter

It's colder than hell outside this morning, as it has been for the past several mornings, yet even with the unrelenting and unforgiving cold there exists a sense that spring is on its way.  True, we haven't had a winter snow yet, but one will certainly happen before much longer.  A couple of days of playing in the white stuff, being trapped at home by the white stuff, and ultimately growing bored of the white stuff is as much a part of winter as this insufferable cold.

But the signs that spring is coming are unmistakable.  The days are already getting noticeably longer, and now instead of rushing outside to close the chickens into their coop a little before five in the evening, I am now finding that it is almost five-thirty before they are ready to be locked down for the night.  And instead of going outside for morning revelry with the fowl at a quarter-to-seven, I now have to be there pulling open the coop door at six-fifteen - or else all cackle hell has broken loose!  The night is shrinking - on both ends!

The seed catalogues, another sure sign of impending spring, began arriving in my mail box before Christmas - and yesterday I saw the surest sign of all - the "Chick Days" order form was on display and available for pick-up at my local feed store.  That's right, it's time to begin ordering baby chicks for the spring.  Delivery dates are March 29th and April 28th.  Right now I am in the early stages of contemplation regarding the chicks - and would like to order some of everything, but as winter drags on and I keep knocking the ice out of the watering dishes and replacing it with water laboriously carried from the house, my wishes will undoubtedly be tempered.

But still it's fun to think of chicks and seeds and the eventual greening of spring as I sit and watch the redbirds flocking around their feeder.  They, too, know that snow will be coming, and through that blanket of white will burst forth the spring!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Monday's Poetry: "The Cold Within"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Today's poem, "The Cold Within" by James Patrick Kinney, is actually more of a parable that discusses the coldness and disconnectedness among humans and the devastating impact that can have on our very survival.  I chose it for today's selection because of the bitter coldness without (the actual weather) and as a tribute to today's observance of Martin Luther King Day.

James Patrick Kinney was an early civil rights activist.  His son tells the story of the elder Kinney, the poet, and a group of friends from church approaching their local city council in Cheviot, Ohio, asking that a law banning black people from being on the streets after dark be stricken from the books.  The council responded by saying that as there were no black families living in the city, and therefore blacks found on the streets after dark would be up to no good - and they declined to rescind the law.  Mr. Kinney and some of his friends then recruited a black activist family to move into Cheviot and helped them get settled.  The group next approached the council a second time and informed them of the city's new circumstances.  The city council of Cheviot, Ohio, reluctantly agreed to strike the Jim Crow law from the city's ordinances.

Here is James Patrick Kinney's best remembered poem:

The Cold Within
by James Patrick Kinney

Six humans trapped by happenstance
In bleak and bitter cold.
Each one possessed a stick of wood
Or so the story’s told.

Their dying fire in need of logs
The first man held his back
For of the faces round the fire
He noticed one was black.

The next man looking ‘cross the way
Saw one not of his church
And couldn’t bring himself to give
The fire his stick of birch.

The third one sat in tattered clothes.
He gave his coat a hitch.
Why should his log be put to use
To warm the idle rich?

The rich man just sat back and thought
Of the wealth he had in store
And how to keep what he had earned
From the lazy shiftless poor.

The black man’s face bespoke revenge
As the fire passed from his sight.
For all he saw in his stick of wood
Was a chance to spite the white.

The last man of this forlorn group
Did nought except for gain.
Giving only to those who gave
Was how he played the game.

Their logs held tight in death’s still hands
Was proof of human sin.
They didn’t die from the cold without
They died from the cold within.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Marco Rubio: An Increasingly Irrelevant Anchor Baby

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

After all of the ink that has been spilled over Ted Cruz's foreign birth and his subsequent questionable eligibility to serve as President of the United States, it is somewhat surprising that more attention has not been directed toward the other candidate of Cuban descent who is also running for President.   Unlike Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio was born in the United States, and, also unlike Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio did not have an American citizen as a parent at the time of his birth.

Senator Rubio used to speak of his parents being "exiles" from the "thug" Castro's revolution in Cuba.  But as he rose in national prominence, journalists and others began fact-checking the young politician's appealing personal narrative.  It turns out that his parents arrived in the United States in 1956, nearly three years before Fidel Castro and his small, ragtag band of revolutionaries invaded Cuba.

Marco Rubio was born in 1971, fifteen years after his parents had arrived in the United States.  Surprisingly though, the parents had not pursued becoming official citizens of this country in all of that time.  But little Marco, by virtue of the 14th Amendment, arrived in this world as an American citizen.  He was, in the derogatory parlance preferred by Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, and most Arizonans, an "anchor baby."  Rubio's parents did not pursue naturalization as citizens until several years after his birth.

Donald Trump has recently been making a very big deal out of Ted Cruz's Canadian birth.  The fact that he is ignoring an easy shot at Rubio is perhaps more of an indicator of the Florida senator's increasing political irrelevance than it is a reflection of Trump's human side.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Spicoli Does Sinaloa

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

There was a story in the news last week that was, on its face, reportage about drug smuggling out of Mexico and the United States' arcane drug laws.   But the tale, written by actor Sean Penn for Rolling Stone, quickly morphed into a controversy over ethics in journalism.  Penn, it seems, had been spirited to a secret location in the Mexican state of Sinaloa where he was granted an interview with Mexican drug lord, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, who was, at the time of the interview, an escaped fugitive hiding from the Mexican authorities.

Mexican soap-opera actress Kate del Castillo helped to arrange the interview and accompanied Penn to El Chapo's hideout.

The interview with El Chapo occurred October 2nd.   The drug kingpin was recently recaptured and is now safely (?) back in the same Mexican prison from which he escaped months earlier.  News reports indicate that Mexico has yet to seal up the tunnel from which the criminal strolled to his freedom last year.

The government of Mexico, obviously a bit perturbed that a Hollywood film star could waltz into their country and spend hours interviewing their most wanted fugitive, has issued a statement crediting the interview with providing clues that led to El Chapo's capture.  Sean Penn, on the other hand, said that the accusation is nothing more than Mexico trying to save some face after being outsmarted yet again by El Chapo, and that his interview had nothing to do with his eventual recapture.

Penn's article on the interview has been generally panned by critics who see the actor's writing abilities as limited, but it is not the quality of his writing, nor what he had to say, that is generating all of the controversy.   Some critics see the actor's involvement with El Chapo as being some sort of glorification of drug-trafficking.  Senator Marco Rubio, a U.S. Presidential contender, labeled it as "grotesque."

Support came from a surprising source when Fox News commentator Geraldo Rivera said that he would have certainly done the interview if he had been given the opportunity, and that he, too, would have agreed to keep El Chapo's location a secret.  

Sean Penn, however, has a different take on the project, and he views it as a failure because people didn't seem to understand his intent in writing the piece.  Penn said that his purpose was to start a debate on the buying and selling of drugs, as well as to define the actual effects of the war on drugs being carried out by the United States and various other countries.

The interview of El Chapo at his secret hideout, regardless of its literary merit, was certainly a journalistic coup - and no matter what Sean Penn thinks of the ultimate social impact, this much is likely:  Jeff Spicoli would have enjoyed the swirl of controversy, and Mr. Hand would have secretly been proud!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Tim Canova for Congress

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

This morning I received an email appeal for a campaign contribution from Autocrat Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz.  Debs wasn't begging for money for the Democratic National Committee, a campaign organization which she unfortunately heads, but rather she was soliciting for her own Congressional campaign - using, of course, the mailing list of the DNC.  It's probably a good thing for Debbie that she is finally stepping back from her efforts to rig the nominating process for Hillary and beginning to focus on preserving her own place at the public trough, because Debbie Wasserman Schultz has gotten herself saddled with a primary opponent.

That's right - Debs is being primaried!

Tim Canova, the young man who has stepped forward to challenge the entrenched incumbent, is a well-repsected law professor in south Florida who has a background in economics and has been a vocal opponent of Wall Street and certain policies of the Federal Reserve.   He is also a folksy populist who begins his newsletters with "Dear Brothers and Sisters."  He is, in other words, intelligent and human - two qualities not often associated with the incumbent.

Canova had this to say in a recent email as he highlighted differences between himself and Wasserman Schultz:

"This election is about what kind of priorities we want our representative to have. Debbie Wasserman Schultz has received huge amounts of corporate money — from Wall Street, private prisons, big alcohol. Her corporate influence shines through in the policies she supports in Congress, like privatizing prisons, opposing medical marijuana, and voting to prevent Elizabeth Warren’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau from writing rules that would stop racial discrimination in car loans."
A few weeks ago I responded to one of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz's beg-o-grams with a reply asking to be dropped from her mailing list.  Instead of honoring that simple request, her campaign organization responded by ramping up the amount of requests sent my way.  Now, each time I receive another plea for a donation from her camp, I send one (sadly, a small one) to Canova instead - and then reply to the Wasserman-Shultz email by thanking her for reminding me to donate to Canova.

My little protest isn't much, I'll grant you that.  But I do want to do my bit, regardless of how modest that effort may be, to bring democracy back to the Democratic Party.

God speed, Mr. Canova.  May your campaign to return Florida's 23rd congressional district to the people be a raging success!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

A Big Night at the Pinochle Table

by Pa Rock
Card Playing Fool

I have been playing pinochle each Wednesday evening at the local senior citizen's center for over a year now, and while I am a fairly competent player who usually manages to win as many as I lose, last night proved to be my best night ever.

We play pinochle with a double deck minus the nines.  That means each table plays with four aces, four kings, four queens, four jacks, and four tens - of each suit - or a big deck of eighty cards with each player receiving twenty cards with each deal.  A hand of pinochle is played in two stages.  First the players bid and meld - or lay down cards from their hands that meet certain points criteria.  In order for a team's meld to be recorded it much reach or exceed twenty points.  Then the cards are picked back up and played.  At the end of the hand points are again tallied from the tricks that each team took (with aces, kings, and tens each counting for one point).  If a team makes twenty or more points during the playing portion of the game, they get to keep those points as well as the points that they laid down as part of their meld.

Yes, it does sound a bit complicated, but pinochle is a game that is usually learned very quickly - by playing.

One of the best hands that a person can be dealt is called a "double run," or two of each denomination for one particular suit:  two aces, two kings, two queens, two jacks, and two tens.  This combination of cards, which is worth 150 points, does not occur often, and our group may go several weeks at a time without one being dealt.  Last night we had a total of three, which in itself is rather astounding.

One of those double runs came to me, in clubs.  In addition to the ten correct cards in the suit, I had the two additional kings of clubs and one ace in another suit.  I, of course, took the bid for 150, expecting to pull it off (make the needed twenty for it to count) regardless of what my partner had or did not have in his hand.  But, as luck would have it, my partner had a hot hand also, including seven aces - and further including the two aces of clubs that I didn't have.  It was obvious from the get-go that we would make thirty or forty points out of the fifty possible during the playing portion of the game.  (Fifty = 48 actual points plus 2 for taking the last trick of the hand.)

The cards, though, fell surprisingly well and he and I managed to take all of the tricks - something some of the other players present referred to as "shooting the moon."  The old timers said that was the first time in memory that it had happened at Wednesday night pinochle.  We scored 500 points for that master stroke and won the game automatically without having to play the remaining three hands. 

The thing that made the hand even sweeter was that it was dealt by one of our opponents - the Chairman of the Howell County Republican Central Committee!

Yes, Virginia, there is a God, and She has a wicked sense of humor!

(And then I rushed home expecting my luck to carry over into winning the billion-and-a half dollar Powerball jackpot with my one ticket - but that didn't happen.)

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Long Form, Teddy, Long Form!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

After nearly eight long years of listening to Republican politicians and other opportunists piss and moan about Barack Obama's "ineligibility" to serve as President because of their belief that he was born abroad (probably in Africa, of all places) and then had a trumped up United States birth nefariously established so that he could one day run for President, it is an absolute joy to hear people now questioning the eligibility of Ted Cruz to run for President - on the same grounds!

President Obama has been the subject of countless rumors, lies, and investigations regarding the actual place of his birth, and such notables as Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio even sent some of his deputies on a taxpayer-funded holiday investigatory trip to Honolulu to look into the matter.  The local newspaper in Honolulu carried an announcement of his birth at a local hospital, but even though Hawaii was a state at the time of Baby Barack's birth, it wasn't good enough for the lunatic "birthers."

Then Hawaii coughed up an official birth certificate, but that didn't satisfy the miscreants either - as if anything would.  Hawaii gave "investigators" a standard "short form" birth certificate, but the conspiratorists wanted to see the official "long" form.  Finally, after much ballyhooing and bad acting on the part of the poor losers, President Obama handed over his official copy of his long form birth certificate - a document issued by the state of Hawaii.  He had apparently had it all along and sat back smiling while the knuckleheads made fools of themselves.  That devious bastard!

And, of course, years later there are still naysayers out there making speeches and selling books with claims that somehow or another the President managed to hide his African birth and make suckers of us all.

Barack Obama was born in the United States of America and is fully eligible to serve as President of the United States.  Rafael Edward "Ted "Cruz, however, is a different story.  Ted Cruz was born in a foreign country.

Young Teddy, the son of a Cuban father and an American mother, was born in Calgary, Canada - a fact he is unable to deny.  He lived in Canada until the age of four.  Ted Cruz finally got around to renouncing his Canadian citizenship in 2014.  Dudley Dooright, it would seem, has nothing on Calgary Cruz.

Ted Cruz says he meets the Constitutional requirement of being a natural born citizen by virtue of his mother being an American citizen.  Ted's papa was born in Cuba, but mama breathed her first in our nation's first state - Delaware - and it's hard to be more American than that!

Questions persist as to just what constitutes a natural born citizen.  President Obama also had a foreign father and an American mother - but he was born in the United States - whether wackadoodle dentist Orly Taitz or Joe R. Piehole want to concede that fact or not.  Ted Cruz clearly was not born in the United States.  So far the courts have declined to wade into the issue as to just what the term "natural born citizen" means.  However, Constitutional scholar Lawrence Tribe of Harvard feels that Ted Cruz is not a natural born citizen, and, more importantly, so does Donald Trump. 

The Donald says Ted Cruz is absolutely not a natural born citizen of the United States, and Carly Fiorina wonders aloud why it took Ted so many years to renounce his Canadian citizenship.  John McCain, the Republican candidate for President in 2008 was born outside of the United States, but in an American territory at the time - the Panama Canal Zone.  The United States Senate got involved in his eligibility quest by proclaiming unanimously that he was a "natural born citizen," with Senators Obama and Clinton both supporting that declaration.

But now McCain is expressing doubts about Cruz's eligibility to run for President, and Mitch McConnell, the Senate's leading Republican, isn't interested in pursuing a Senate proclamation on the matter.  (Rumor has it that the junior senator from Texas has few friends in the Senate - or among people who actually know him.)

So is Rafael Edward "Ted" Cruz a natural born citizen of the United States - or isn't he?  The Supreme Court would be the final arbiter in the matter, but unless one of the fifty states refuses to put his name on the ballot, a Supreme Court review seems unlikely.  Which means that Ted's race will continue, regardless of what Donald Trump has to say about it - and in the abysmal event that he is elected, a whole new group of birthers will emerge.

And the new birthers will have a much more solid argument to go on than their predecessors did.  Long form, Teddy, long form!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Governor LePage Needs a Codebook

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

People expect to hear racist claptrap from politicians, particularly those of the Republican Party, but in this day and age the public has at least grown accustomed to hearing the political gasbags spew their private, racist feelings in code - a language that, though the intent of the words are clear, a smart candidate can always swear that the meaning was imbued by the listener and not by the actual speaker of the words.  "Thugs," for instance, is political speak for young black men - or sometimes members of a labor union.  The intent of speaking in code is to inflame without being too obvious and later having to own the consequences.

Reince Priebus, the dilettante chairman of the national Republican Party, the man whose ultimate responsibility it is to see that Republican candidates and office holders maintain a certain level of public decorum and electability, has been falling down in the performance of his duties as of late.  In particular, Priebus doesn't seemed to have taken measures to ensure that all of his Republican lemmings understand how to speak in code.

Of particular concern at the moment is the outspoken and marginally functional governor of Maine, a Republican by the name of Paul LePage.  LePage, who was already the target of impeachment over his blatant (and successful) attempt to bully the head of a charter school into withdrawing a job offer to the Democratic Maine Speaker of the House, has again stepped into a pungent pile of dog crap - this time over saying exactly what he meant.

The governor, speaking about drug dealers coming into his state to do their business, issued this verbal jawdropper:

“These are guys with the name ‘D-Money,’ ‘Smoothie,’ ‘Shifty.’
These types of guys, they come from Connecticut and New York, they come up here, they sell their heroin, they go back home.

Incidentally, half the time they impregnate a young white girl before they leave, which is a real sad thing because then we have another issue we have to deal with down the road.”

Yup.  He said that.  He might as well have carried a sign reading:  "Black drug dealers are coming to Maine to fornicate with our white women."

LePage's intent was to inflame white voters, to get them out to the polls to elect ardent protectors of white women - such as himself.  But Poor Paul said exactly what was on his mind - without couching it in codespeak mumbo-jumbo.   One has to wonder if he has even been given a codebook.  Perhaps Priebus is no more competent than Debbie Wasserman-Schultz - the Democratic party chair.

And does racist rhetoric like that of Paul LePage actually inflame impressionable people and lead to bad outcomes.  Consider, for instance, the case of Dylann Roof, the very young man who took some of his weaponry into a black church in Columbia, South Carolina, and opened fire on worshipers as they knelt in prayer - killing nine.  Roof allegedly said, as he opened fire,

“You rape our women, and you’re taking over our country, and you have to go.”

The mistreatment of white women by blacks - be it alleged rape or something as simple as making direct eye contact - has been a motivator for vigilante violence since the end of the Civil, and it held a particularly strong influence on American society in the late nineteen century and first half of the twentieth century.  Fourteen-year-old Emmett Till was tortured and lynched in 1955 Mississippi for supposedly "flirting" with a white woman.

Paul LePage was almost seven-years-old at the time of Emmett Till's murder.  A reasonable person would think that all of us would learn something from an incident that horrific - and then maybe underscore the importance of racial tolerance with the vile that Dylann Roof spewed just last summer.  Sadly, if Paul LePage took a message from either of those events - it was the wrong message.

Kudos to the state legislature of Maine for starting the impeachment process.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Monday's Poetry: "Eight Line Poem"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Word is out this morning of the death of British singer, songwriter, and actor, David Bowie, who passed away from cancer just two days after his sixty-ninth birthday and the release of his twenty-fourth studio album.  The works amassed by Bowie during his lifetime are so numerous as to almost defy listing.  He was, and remains, a star of his generation.

The following selection, "Eight Line Poem," was included on Bowie's 1971 album, "Hunky Dory."  It's simple but elegant, much like the artist himself.

Eight Line Poem
by David Bowie

The tactful cactus by your window
Surveys the prairie of your room
The mobile spins to its collision
Clara puts her head between her paws
They've opened shops down the West side
Will all the cacti find a home
But the key to the city
Is in the sun that pins
The branches to the sky, oh, oh, oh

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Ben Carson: The Worst Politician in His Class

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Some journalists are calling it a "gaffe," while others are not being so kind.  They understand that it is rather hard to find either humor or forgiveness in the public humiliation of a fifth grade student.

Carson, the neurosurgeon turned politician, was speaking to a group of fifth graders in front of a campaign rally of five hundred people last week in Iowa when he inexplicably asked the kids from a local Christian school who was "the worst student in class?"  Five or six of the kids, being kids, immediately pointed to one child - a young boy who was not expecting to be dumped on by his classmates - or by a respected political figure.

But dumped on he was.

One journalist described the moment that Carson asked the thoughtless question as a "humiliation bomb" hanging in the air waiting for its target to be identified.

Carson later tried to explain his bone-headed move by saying that he had been the worst student in his class but wound up doing just fine.  He was, he argued, offering encouragement to one and all.

As bad as all of that was, however, it soon got even worse.  Somewhere in the secret Republican playbook for campaigns is a suggestion that all mistakes be blamed on either Hillary Clinton or the liberal media.  Carson told an interviewer after the incident that the media had been looking for something it could "jump on," and thus took advantage of his innocent remark.  It wasn't his fault - it was that danged old liberal media.

The fifth-graders were from the Isaac Newton Christian Academy.  That school has the motto:  "Developing Christlike character and academic excellence."   Perhaps the lesson on casting stones and finger-pointing comes later in the semester.  Dr. Carson was obviously asleep or playing hooky the day it was taught at his school.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Casino Odds Are Much, Much Better than Powerball

by Pa Rock
Lotto Head

Powerball added a bunch of numbers to the game a few weeks back with the intent of creating much bigger winning pots - and it's working.  Tonight's jackpot is sitting at $900 million as I write this, but many people anticipate that it will top one billion dollars by the time of the actual drawing.  Big jackpots bring out the suckers - in droves - and make money for the lotteries.

Tonight's drawing, even if it remains at a paltry $900 million ($558 million cash option), will still be the largest in U.S. history.

I quit playing Powerball on a regular basis when they jacked the price of their ticket to two dollars, but I do make exceptions when the jackpots get crazy high.   I have one ticket for tonight's drawing just in case the lottery goddess feels an intense desire to destroy my life with money.

There was an article in a southwest Missouri newspaper yesterday talking about local interest in Powerball.  One guy told the reporter that he had bought ten dollars worth of the tickets (five tickets).  He justified that purchase by saying that it cost more than that in gas to drive to the casino.  The fellow then said that he will probably buy another ten dollars worth of tickets before the drawing on Saturday because "the odds are the same as the casino."

Wrong, genius.  The odds of winning Powerball are one in 292.2 million.  Some of the very worst odds in a casino are at the roulette wheel - and even there chances of placing that two-dollar chip on the correct number are better than one in forty.

Missouri says that it uses lottery proceeds for education.  Obviously the state needs to think about raising the price of its tickets!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Fox Freaks Over Presidential Tears

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Fox News, a television tabloid platform that proudly boasts being "fair and balanced," continues to reign supreme as the most unbalanced news source in America.  I know this to be true because I was recently subjected to an unhealthy dose of its hateful swill while sitting in the waiting room of a local medical clinic.  Obviously, by the time I finally got in to see a medical provider, I had a throbbing headache in addition the issue that brought me there in the first place.

(The creation of extra stress among patients may be the idea behind piping that crap into the waiting room: more stress equals more symptoms which in turn equals more billing opportunities.  And if I sound a bit cynical, why I blame that on Fox News as well.)

The afternoon that I had to see a doctor (sudden medical issue, no appointment, and thus a long wait in their television torture chamber) was the same afternoon as President Obama had announced his executive orders trying to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.  And while the President's words enraged the good ol' boys up in the hills who have been impatiently waiting the past seven years for the war against that usurping colored fellow to begin, to others of us the President's actions bordered on being too little - way too late.

But at least he had acted - finally.

And Fox, a network that generates its income by whipping malcontents into a rabid froth, was having none of it.  The commentators' main focus of attack during the time I was trapped in the room being subjected to their nonsense was the presidential tears.   Fox ran, and re-ran, and re-ran the short clip of President Obama wiping a tear from his eye as he talked about the murdered first graders at Sandy Hook Elementary.  The commentators seemed to suppose that the presidential tears were fake - just a bit of bad acting on Barack Hussein's part.

Of course all of that bad theater also seemed to be driving up the blood pressure of some of the old farts in the waiting room - good people who were probably incensed that the Godless Muslim would cry over anything!

But cry he did, and Fox was making the absolute most of it!

I cried, too - on the day all of those little kids were gunned down in their classroom.  We heard the news while at an office Christmas party, and many of those present were brought to tears.  Mine lasted all afternoon.

Surely to God, we all thought at the time, something would now be done to reign in the the tide of guns and senseless murder that was sweeping across America.   But the National Rifle Association and other agencies of the gun industry mustered their forces, reminded America that the real agenda remained that Obama was coming to get their guns, and nothing was done - except the loonies up in the hills who were itching to fight (or just itching) and drink more beer - rushed out and bought more guns and ammo.  The gun companies turned a big profit off of the gun deaths of little children, and the suffering public got nothing in return.

And who was the cheerleader for the whole gun-stockpiling frenzy - why, Fox News, of course.

So excuse me if I don't believe that a medical facility is an appropriate place to air television programming from a "news" agency that has no compassion or remorse for dead children - and excuse me if I admire a President who does.

Barack Obama is the person we should all aspire to be, and if he feels the need to cry, perhaps we all should cry as well.

Thank you, President Obama, for having the balls to just say no to the NRA.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Why the Democrats Need More Debates

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

A group of armed terrorists - or traitors - or terroristic traitors (take your pick) took over a government building in eastern Oregon this past weekend, and I, for one, want to know how each of the presidential candidates feel about that.

So far the media has focused on the Republican candidates, and only three have had the cajones to say anything at all on the matter.   Candidates Cruz, Rubio, and Paul each gave mealy-mouthed responses to the effect that while the motivations of the armed protesters might be honorable, there are more appropriate ways to air their grievances than a hostile takeover of a government facility.  The other ten or so vying to take the Republican crown and ultimately become the leader of both the federal government and the free world have kept ominously quiet on the matter.

But where do the Democratic candidates - Clinton, Sanders, and O'Malley - stand on this situation?   The media is obsessed with Republican reaction - but entirely ignoring what the Democratic candidates might be thinking on the issue of private citizens pulling stunts like the one in Oregon.  Is that because they sense that the Democrats would oppose lawlessness - no story there - while the real dilemma in how to respond lies with the Republican goose-steppers who know the takeover is both dangerous and illegal, but have to worry about not upsetting their rabid tea-bagger base?

If either side had a debate scheduled this week, this hot topic would undoubtedly be discussed and candidates would be forced to take some sort of a public stand.  The next scheduled debate among the Republican candidates will be next week on January 14th.  Republicans have ten more debates scheduled through March.  Democrats will debate the week after next - on January 17th, and have only three debates scheduled between now and the end of March.

Maybe the beer-addled hillbillies who are mounting their insurrection in Oregon will still be in the news over the next two weeks and America will be able to learn, candidate by candidate, exactly how the presidential wannabes view the situation.  Whether the terrorists are still holed-up in the wildlife center or not, Republicans will be undoubtedly be asked to comment on the situation - because they (the Republicans) can be relied on to give outrageous answers on almost any subject. 

But what about the Democrats?  I haven't had a campaign email from any of the three candidates expressing their views on this significant matter of national security - and they don't seem to be filling the airwaves with angry indignation over the matter either.

One thing that a debate does is to drop current hot topics right in the laps of those aspiring to become our fearless leader.  They are forced to cough up an answer - on national television - while America studies their sweat patterns and body language in an effort to gauge sincerity and truthfulness.    It is much harder to get away with a carefully crafted canned response with the whole world watching.

If the press won't aggressively go after the candidates - all of the candidates - on issues that America needs to know about, having more debates may be our best solution to expanding the narrative.  Right now we are hearing what the Republicans think on almost everything, but the Democratic message remains highly measured and controlled - and not everything can be conveyed in a tweet.

Open up the process, Debs.  Let our people be heard!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Ol' Tom Gets a Taste of Blood

by Pa Rock
Poultry Provocateur

I love to feed the birds, all of the birds. from the tiny titmouse that clings to my feeder to the three enormous tom turkeys that call Rock's Roost their home.  I keep the bird feeder outside of my front window stuffed with seed, and it gives me no end of pleasure throughout the day.

The domestic birds, however, eat more or less on a schedule, particularly in the winter when bugs are scarce.  I scatter feed for the chickens, guineas, and turkeys each morning when I open the coop at daylight, and it is at that time that I fill the peacocks' feed pans as well.  A little before noon I make a trip across the yard tearing off small bits of bread and scattering it on the ground.  All of the free birds rush forward to enjoy their daily bread treat.  Eventually I work my way back to the aviary by the barn where I cap off the morning by feeding the peacocks their bread.

In the evening the peacocks get sunflower seeds and dry dog food scattered in their area.  They particularly love the handful of dog food and go for it before the sunflower seeds.

Yesterday morning there was a problem with the bread-feeding that impacted my interactions with the poultry over the rest of the day.

The three old tom turkeys, and they are actually only about nine-months-old but wobble around appearing to be closer to senior citizen status, are growing increasingly mean and cranky - a bit like John McCain when Lindsey forgets to give him his Metamucil.   I have separated one into a pen after his two brothers tried unsuccessfully to kill him with their beaks, but the other two remain free - and they always come-a-wobbling when they see me feeding bread to the chickens and guineas.  Because the turkeys are cumbersome and slow, they are usually unable to get any bread from the ground before the smaller fowl grab it up.  With that in mind, I have taken to feeding each of the turkeys a few bites by hand - and even then chickens will sometimes jump up and snatch it from the gobblers' beaks.

One of the Tom's is a bit near-sighted, or extra malicious, and occasionally bites my finger while he grabs for the bread - and it hurts!  Yesterday he appeared to be overly excited as he lunged forward and managed to grab most of my thumb in his beak.  And it hurt - damn Sam did it hurt!  By the time I extricated my poor thumb from the beak of the felonious fowl, it was bleeding quite profusely.   I wasn't even able to complete the feeding because the slices of bread that I was carrying were soaking up blood and turning bright red and soggy.

I turned the remainder of the day's domestic chores over to my son and spent four hours trying to stop the bleeding - but to no avail.  Finally, late in the afternoon, I gave up and went to my doctor's office without an appointment.  It was after five in the afternoon when a nurse practitioner finally was able to get my poor thumb taped up.  It turns out that the Plavix and baby aspirin that I take for blood-thinning purposes actually do work!

Today the thumb is bleeding again - and I am thinking how delicious a turkey roasting over an open fire in the backyard would smell!  Ol' Tom has his defenses - and I have mine!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Google Rules Us All

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Each day that we sit at the computer typing and searching we are, to a large extent, penning our autobiographies - for every key that we hit makes a mark on our story that drifts off to a "cloud" somewhere where it lives in infamy - forever.  And then there are our government-amassed telephone records.  Researchers a thousand years from now will have more ready data on the people of today than they can possibly absorb.

The magazine, Mother Jones, recently published a graphic which shows the topic that each state googled more than any other state in 2015 - and it gives a fascinating insight into the things that are of interest to people.   Guns, for instance, were a big item.  Here in Missouri our hot Google topic was "Right to keep and bear arms."  Floridians zeroed in on "Concealed weapons permit," while Tennessee was focused on "N.R.A." - and my buddies out in Arizona wanted to know more about the "2nd Amendment."  (I hope they actually read the 2nd Amendment after they pulled it up.)

Only two states seemed to be focused on the presidential race.  The folks in Mississippi wanted to know more about "Ben Carson," while the topic of interest in South Carolina was "Trump for President."   Alaskans googled "Barack Obama" more than any other state.  Perhaps they are planning on putting a statue of him across the street from Sarah Palin's house.

Technology was important to people in South Dakota who wanted to know more about the "Fitbit," and Hawaiians who had an interest in "Apple Watch."  Science came into play with the citizens of Washington State who were seeking information on "Leonard Nimoy," and those of New Mexico with their interest in "Pluto."

Laid-back Ohioans were googling "Legalize weed," while tabloid-sated New Yorkers wanted to know more about "Charlie Sheen HIV."

Kansans were focused on the "World Series" - no surprise there, and the folks in North Dakota also displayed an interest in sports by enquiring about the "NFL Draft."

And then there was the interest in sex, not surprisingly (at least to me) all coming from very conservative states.  People in Mississippi wanted to know more about the cheating site "Ashley Madison."  The folks in Utah were concerned with the term "transgender," and Oklahomans just had to know more about "Caitlyn Jenner."   West Virginia might also be lumped into this section with it's fascination regarding "Magic Mike XXL," as well as the citizens of Iowa who were searching for information on the television show, "Bachelorette."

Hail to "the google" folks, it rules us all - and oh what a record it is compiling for our descendants!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Monday's Poetry: "Out of Respect"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

President Obama appears to finally be preparing to make some moves against America's gun insanity.  He has started to at least speak out on the topic, and he is planning a town hall type of meeting to focus on gun control.  He is also making noises about issuing executive orders that will make it harder for criminals and deranged individuals to arm themselves.  This, of course, has conservative politicians up-in-arms (pun intended) as they rush to microphones to complain bitterly about the President's unlawful power grab.  Everyone from Mitch McConnell to Charlie Sheen is pissed off at the President's uppity-ness in daring to address the subject of guns.

The following poem from writer and storyteller Dylan Brody was penned in the days just following the horrific shooting of the first-graders and their teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown.  In his poem Brody decries the awful impact that silence has on our lives.

President Obama, you have just twelve months left in office.  Please make them count!

"Out of Respect"
by Dylan Brody

Out of respect for the children
let us not speak of gun control.
Let us grieve in silent outrage
lest one of those small figures
carrying memories of fearful
moments, cupboard cuddled,
waiting with a teacher for an
end to either deadly shootings
or themselves think this horror
might have been averted
had we all been willing, even once
to dream beyond heroic violence
to the far more challenging, more
courageous, more inspiring vision
of heroic peace.

Out of respect for the victims
let us not speak of mental health
but rather, soothe the conscience
of a country with simplistic categories,
good guys, bad guys, innocent and
guilty, lest we lose to shades of gray
our mindfulness that a culture closed
to those who most need help,
who least are able to afford much-
needed meds, who cry and stamp and
tantrum, is not to blame, but only those
who once cast out and told they can’t
be saved return in blazing rage inhabit shadow
and all the rest the pious light.

Out of respect for the soldiers
let us not speak of peace.
For if a world of diplomatic, thoughtful
problem solving is a possibility, why then
how dare we send our loved ones out
to die, to strive in terror and privation,
to sacrifice their bodies and their minds,
their limbs and senses to explosive conflict
far away, outside the rules of civil conduct
where to kill is just as much a job as filing,
cleaning rooms or sliding cans
past bar-code scanners.

Out of respect for our history,
speak not of genocides committed,
of infected blankets given out,
of trails of tears and wounded knees,
of treaties broken, promises abandoned,
reservations cordoned off and redefined
as minerals emerged and unexpected
resources came to light and seemed
more valuable than earth or sky
or human beings.

Out of respect for tradition
let us not speak of change.
Out of respect for the dead
let us all still our tongues.
Out of respect for the past
let us never speak of the future.
Out of respect for the wealthy
let us not speak of the poor.
Out of respect for the poor
let us not speak of the economy.
Out of respect for the worker
let us not speak of unions.
I am out of respect.
Let us now observe
not a single moment of silence.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

More Treason Out West

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

It's been a little less than two years since Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy caused a national uproar by instigating an armed confrontation with agents of the federal government over cattle grazing fees - fees which he rightfully owed but did not want to pay.  Bundy had been illegally grazing his cattle on federal lands for twenty years and owed fees to the government in the neighborhood of a million dollars.

Armed hillbillies calling themselves "militias" rushed in to defend Bundy's illegal use of the land and to demand the return of his cattle which the government had "gathered."  After brief negotiations, the cattle were returned.  The hillbillies hung around for a few days posing for photographers, and then most of them headed home.  Cliven Bundy made the circuit of right wing talk shows and was the darling boy of conservative politicians until he started talking too much and drifted into the subject of race - and quickly proved to be more of a political embarrassment than he was an asset.

That was in April of 2014.  Less than two months later a young couple who had been at the Bundy ranch supporting the standoff shot an killed two Las Vegas policemen as they were eating lunch - and then killed themselves.

Now, almost predictably after the lack of consequences for their last law-breaking spree, the Bundy family is back in the news.

A group of activists and "militiamen" have taken over a federal building in rural southeastern Oregon in retaliation for the impending imprisonment of a pair of ranchers who illegally burned government land.   The protesters are calling for other "militiamen" to rush out and join them in their act of civil disobedience.  Two of the protesters are sons of Cliven Bundy.

Ammon Bundy posted a video on Facebook which called on members of different militia groups to join in their protest.   "This is not a time to stand down," Bundy said.  "It is a time to stand up and come to Harney County.  We need your help and we are asking for it."

The Bundy family characterizes the issue as a battle over land and resources between the federal government and "the American people."  They stress that they are occupying a building and that the government should not contemplate bringing physical harm to people solely over a building.   The Bundy brothers did state, however, that they would not rule out violence if law enforcement personnel attempted to remove them from the building that they are occupying.

Ammon Bundy described that building as being a tool in the "tyranny" that the government has placed on the family who admitted to, and have been convicted of, burning government land.  Bundy said that he planned to remain in that building "for years."

The FBI is currently "aware" of the situation and presumably monitoring it - and local law enforcement has the responsibility of actually dealing with it.  The feds chose the same path of avoidance last time as they attempted to not turn Cliven Bundy into some sort of martyr, but people like Beck and Hannity managed to do that anyway.  Avoiding the issue didn't work then, and it won't work now.

Here are my humble recommendations for resolving this current standoff:

1.  Immediately cut off any federal government checks that are going to the protesters.  Gramps may decide that his social security is more important than sleeping on the floor of some backwater government building.

2.  Throw up a traffic blockade.  See how many "years" they can survive without groceries.

3.  Shut down utilities at the facility.  Nothing says surrender quite as effectively as a toilet that won't flush.   And,

4.  If Ammon Bundy wants to occupy a government building for "years," perhaps he should be offered one of the federal prisons in neighboring California - Atwater, Lompoc, or Victorville.  Not only would he get free room and board, there would undoubtedly also be numerous conversations about the "tyrannical" government in which he could participate.

Let's call it what it is.  Armed defiance of the federal government is treason, plain and simple.  It's past time for our government to act - and this time they need to get it right.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Election Year Begins!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

It's seems hard to believe, but 2016 is finally here.  Let the election games begin!

Oh, wait, they have already been in high gear for nearly a year now.  We have been inundated with announcements, accusations, endorsements, poll results, debates, political posturing, and fundraising to the point of nervous exhaustion - and yet not one vote has been officially cast by anybody for anybody.  The press has told us who's up and who's down as they tried in vain to capture and analyze the political will of the American populace, all without the benefit on any election results.  Candidates have gone on talk shows, sold  books, kissed babies, posed for selfies, and begged for donations.  Some have already left the race - and yet no votes have been cast.

Iowa will hold the nation's first 2016 presidential caucus a month from yesterday, and then the caucuses and primaries will begin in earnest.  The wisdom of the pundits will begin to be measured not by the thickness of their mother's scrapbooks, but by actual votes cast.  It's about to get real!

And a year from now the results will be known and America will be preparing for the inauguration of the forty-fifth President of the United States.  Let us hope that person will be someone who is calm, and wise, and caring - and who will make us proud - someone like our forty-fourth!

Friday, January 1, 2016

On the Road New Year's Day

by Pa Rock
Road Warrior

Today I took a road trip to Fayetteville, Arkansas, to see my sister Gail and all of her kids and grandkids.  It was a long day on the road - 250 miles each way - but well worth the time and effort.  Gail has four wonderful children and seven beautiful and very smart grandchildren.  It was so nice seeing them all on this first day of 2016!

Today I met my newest grandniece, Landry Elizabeth Smith, for the first time.  She smiles constantly and is cute as a button!  Her parents are Justin and Lisa Smith, and Graham is hr proud older brother.

Congratulations to my nephew, Reed Smith, who will receive his teaching certificate at the end of the spring semester.  Reed's wife, Jamie, is also a teacher, and together they are destined to bring education and inspiration to thousands and thousands of young people over the next couple of decades.  Uncle Rock is very proud of them both.

My niece Tiffany Burke was there with her three small children:  Brieanna, Brittany, and Aidan.  Like most children, they are growing up much too fast!

Jason and Heidi Pfetcher were in from Chicago with their girls, Lauren and Ruby.  Gail and I rode the train to Chicago in November to visit the Pfetchers and watch Lauren perform with the Chicago Lyric Opera.  I always enjoy talking politics with Jason - he and I agree on most candidates and issues.

Gail made a big pot of chili while we were all there, and, of course, it was delicious.  All of the guests except one moocher (me) brought snacks and other things to share, so there was a nice holiday spread to increase one's holiday spread!  Gail sent home a new bed for Rosie - and she will be thrilled when she discovers it later tonight!

Observations from the road:  Traffic was light and most tourist-oriented businesses along the way appeared to be open.  A small portion of Route 60 East (just east of Springfield) was closed with water still across the road.  I paid $1.59 a gallon for gas in Mount Vernon, Missouri - which makes me feel so bad for the big oil companies!  And, I didn't see any bumper stickers along the way - political or otherwise - but lots of people got to see my "Bernie" sticker!

Happy New Year to one and all!