Monday, October 31, 2016

Monday's Poetry: "The Headless Horseman Rides Tonight"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Halloween.  A time for glorifying and celebrating some of the strange and creepier aspects of our culture with parties, and costumes, and candy, candy, candy!  Despite its pagan roots, our modern celebration of Halloween  has evolved into a sugar-coated, festive occasion.  The Latin American Day of the Dead, which will be celebrated tomorrow and the next day, is also celebratory, though with trappings a bit more morbid.

This day, Halloween, has evolved through, and been embellished by, ghost stories, one of the more famous of which is Washington Irving's horror classic, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, an eerie tale involving a headless horseman.

Jack Prelutsky, a writer who composes lyrical poetry for children, has used the notion of a "headless horseman" to set a dark and frightening mood, one that befits the encroaching darkness and galloping dangers of a more ancient Halloween.

Trick or treat?

The Headless Horseman Rides Tonight
by Jack Prelutsky

The Headless Horseman rides tonight
Through stark and starless skies,
Shattering the silence with
His otherworldly cries.
He races through the darkness
On his alabaster steed,
The Headless Horseman rides tonight,
Wherever the fates would lead.

And he rides upon the wind tonight,
He rides upon the wind,
Galloping, galloping, galloping on
Out of the great oblivion,
Galloping till the night is gone.
He rides upon the wind, tonight,
He rides upon the wind.

The Headless Horseman rides tonight
Beggared in robes of black,
To bear a being from the earth,
Never to bring him back.
He’s evil, foul, and bottoming,
With laughter on his breath.
The Headless Horseman rides tonight,
The minister of death.

And he rides upon the wind tonight,
He rides upon the wind,
Galloping, galloping, galloping on
Out of the great oblivion,
Galloping till the night is gone.
He rides upon the wind, tonight,
He rides upon the wind.

The Headless Horseman rides tonight,
He rides the wind alone.
Beneath his arm he tightly tucks
His head of gleaming bone.
His voice is harsh and hollow,
It is horrible to hear.
The Headless Horseman rides tonight
To fill the earth with fear!

And he rides upon the wind tonight,
He rides upon the wind,
Galloping, galloping, galloping on
Out of the great oblivion,
Galloping till the night is gone.
He rides upon the wind, tonight,
He rides upon the wind.

The Headless Horseman rides tonight
Upon his fateful trip,
With silvery stiles of steely death
Held fast in boney grip.
He sweeps it swiftly forth and back
As over the earth he glides,
And none in the world is safe tonight,
For the Headless Horseman rides.

And he rides upon the wind tonight,
He rides upon the wind,
Galloping, galloping, galloping on
Out of the great oblivion,
Galloping till the night is gone.
He rides upon the wind, tonight,
He rides upon the wind.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Billy Bush and Carlos Danger Spice Up Campaigns

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

This week it's Hillary's turn to be popping and sizzling on the hot griddle of public scorn, but Donald has spent his fair share of time being burned to a crisp as well.

Donald Trump was well known before the election process even began for being a bully and blowhard, in fact he had a television reality show that was based on those characteristics.  He was also known to have an eye for the women, with two ex-wives, a current wife who came with a portfolio of erotic self-images, and co-ownership of the Miss Universe and Miss Teen USA, and Miss USA pageants.

But then things began to get dicey and heated in the Trump camp when an audio recording was released of him discussing grabbing women by the genitals and being able to get away with it because he was "a star."  Lots of American women were not as amused as was Billy Bush, the giggling interviewer who was speaking with Trump on the damning tape.

Bush, a nephew of former President George H.W. Bush and first-cousin to his potato-brained sons, Dubya and Jebya, was a relatively new employee of The Today Show when the tapes surfaced, but NBC soon cut its losses and terminated his employment.  Donald Trump, clad in the glowing memory of his prep school uniform,  soldiered on, battered but not broken, and faced down a growing number of women who were finding the courage to come forward with tales of being sexually groped and shamed by the Republican presidential nominee.  Trump painted all of his accusers as liars, and most as being too ugly to merit his sexual attention.  He also promised to sue them after the bother of the presidential election was safely in his rearview mirror.

But Donald Trump, aged seventy, with a portly frame and weighing in at well over two-hundred pounds is only as sexually attractive as his bank account enables him to be.  Carlos Danger, a.k.a. former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner, is far more fit and has the photographs to prove it.  Well, he may not be in actual possession of his studly self-images at this exact time because the FBI has seized all of his, and his family's, electronic devices, but plenty of female acquaintances on the internet, including one who reportedly is only fifteen-years-old, have been treated to intimate snapshots of the dashing young politician as he hurtles down the ladder of success.

Weiner, whose internet nom de plume is "Carlos Danger," is the estranged husband of Huma Abedin, a top aide to Hillary Clinton.  He resigned from Congress in 2011 after the first wave of sexting scandals broke around him.  Weiner attempted a political comeback in 2013 with a run for Mayor of New York, but that effort was cut short by more sexting scandals.  In August of 2016 after yet another sexting scandal broke, this one involving a photo of Weiner lying in bed next to his young son, Huma Abedin announced that she was separating from her exhibitionist husband.  A month later the Daily Mail broke a story that Weiner had sent an inappropriate email to a fifteen-year-old girl.

Lurid emails to a minor gave the FBI more than enough latitude to visit the Weiner household and seize all electronic devices - reportedly including their young son's "Speak and Spell."  That, of course, led to whatever it was that FBI Director James Comey feels connects the Weiner investigation with the earlier examination of Hillary Clinton's email situation.

The election that will determine who will be the next President of the United States and the leader of the free world is now only nine days away - that's single digits!    As that day of reckoning draws nigh, it begins to look as though the winner may be the one who is most successful at staying out of the news during those final days - because clearly America already knows far too much about both candidates.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Ugly Choices

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

One ticket is headed by an unregistered sex offender whose irrational and explosive behaviors render him unfit for any political office, much less the presidency of a nuclear-armed nation - and the other ticket is under the leadership of a woman who has spent a lifetime enabling and covering up sexual indiscretions of her spouse and hacking her way through the political jungle in a relentless pursuit of the presidency, no matter who she had to mangle to get there.  Both are draped in scandal, driven by greed, and obsessed with a raging desire for power.

Hillary Clinton will be elected President a week from this coming Tuesday, of that there is little doubt - even with the political stumbling and/or shenanigans of FBI Director James Comey.

Hillary is coming and not every Republican is upset about it.  As Hillary moves back into the White House and begins to sort through her baggage, Republicans in Congress will fire up the investigations and America will have four full years of Congress doing nothing more than harassing the President - just like they've done for the last four years.  The stuff that Hillary brings in with her will be plenty to keep the investigative committees running through her complete first term - just like they managed to do during the entirety of Obama's last term.

Nothing will be accomplished - just day-after-day of dreary headlines based on half-truths, innuendo, and complete falsehoods.  And that doesn't take into account anything controversial that Hillary or her team of paranoids is likely to do from their power perch in the Oval Office.

John McCain has already pulled the curtain back on part of the Republican anti-governing strategy when he let it slip that any judicial appointments by Hillary might not even be considered by the Senate - in the same manner as that august legislative body employed in ignoring the Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland for most of the past year.  The Garland nomination has taught the troglodytes in control of the Senate that they can sit on nominations with absolutely no messy repercussions.   In fact, if the country keeps electing Democratic President's and Republican Congresses, at some point the poor Supreme Court will completely cease to exist.

So far Hillary hasn't done much toward changing the political majorities in Congress, an oversight she will mourn piteously when she moves back into the White House and finds all of those mangy Republican committee chairmen standing around anxious to begin sorting through her baggage - for if there's one thing Mrs. Bill Clinton has plenty of, it's baggage.

Donald Trump is now suggesting that perhaps the election should be postponed.  Too little, too late, Donzo.  What America needs is a do-over of the nominations - as well as a new nominating process - because we've seen the future, and, whichever way you look at it, the future is ugly.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Missouri's Senators Live High on Washington Hog

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Washington, D.C. and its surrounding environs in Virginia and Maryland is a very expensive area in which to live.  Sometimes it can be extremely difficult for members of Congress, particularly those are new to town who aren't independently wealthy, to find suitable housing in safe areas.  My own congressman, for example, Jason Smith of Missouri's 8th, brags that he sleeps in his capitol office because he doesn't want to get "too comfortable" in Washington - when, truth be told, his living arrangements probably have more to do with financial necessity than political idealism.

Neighboring Congressman Billy Long of Missouri's 7th, a former auctioneer from Springfield, has been in Washington since Roy Blunt left that seat for a spin in the Senate six years ago.  Long, whose net worth is in excess of five million dollars, is probably able to afford his small apartment in our nation's capital.

But life for Missouri's two United States Senators is a bit more grandiose.  Claire McCaskill, who is our senior senator and in her second six-year term, and her husband, St. Louis businessman Joe Shepard, purchased a condo in Washington, D.C. in 2014 for a pricey $2.7 million.  The former cheerleader from Houston, Missouri, appears to be doing quite well for herself, thank you very much!

Our junior Senator, Ol' Roy Blunt, isn't doing so badly either. Blunt and his high-powered lobbyist wife, Abigail Perlman Blunt, own a seven-bedroom, four-and-a-half bath home in Washington where they reside along with their young son.  Blunt also owns a small condo in Springfield, Missouri, which gives him an official address in the state he is paid to represent in the Senate.  (However, utility records indicate that the condo is seldom home to anyone.)

So, Missouri travelers who are planning a trip to Washington, D.C., instead of trying to patch together enough payday loans to stay at the new Trump International Hotel and sleep on mattresses made in China, call one of your United States Senators and ask about bunking at their house for a couple of days.  They each should have plenty of room - and there is nothing quite so relaxing as staying free with friends.

And remember to tell Claire and Ol' Roy that Pa Rock sent you!  

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Height of Sacrilege

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Ulm Minster is a Lutheran Church in the German city of Ulm.  It is currently famous for having the tallest church tower in the world, 530 feet, but that distinction is being threatened on two fronts.  First,a Catholic church in Barcelona, Spain, which has been under construction for years, will be taller than Ulm Minster when it is completed in 2026.  And second, the massive German church is being threatened by destruction from an unlikely source.

The area around Ulm Minster is used as a public gathering place where special events are held throughout the year.  Being Germany, much of the public reveling involves the consumption of beer, an exuberant activity that always results in the need to urinate and sometimes causes vomiting as well.  Traditionally, the men of Ulm would solve the urination issue by staggering over to the church and peeing on the wall and along its foundation.  Some would also vomit on the walls of the old church.

But as the almost constant showering of urine began eating away at the foundation of the church, city officials grew concerned.  They raised fines to around a hundred dollars in order to deter the drunks from relieving themselves on the church, and the city also started pressuring vendors to bring in porta-potties for their events.  (Of course, not everyone enjoys the stench of a porta-potty.)

Expensive renovation on the sandstone base of the church has also recently been completed.

But with all of those efforts at urination reform, the problem still persists - and nature always triumphs in the end.

Water will run its course.

Sooner or later the walls come tumbling down.

The same principal could be applied to border walls and giant, gaudy hotels.

On your mark, get set . . .

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Missouri GOP Cranks Out the Junk Mail

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Yesterday I received two pieces of political junk mail - actual bulk rate mail that arrived in my mailbox.  Both were correctly addressed to me personally - and both were in support of Republican statewide candidates.

The Missouri Republican Party sent out a glossy flyer which bore the stern warning that "Healthcare options are disappearing because of Obamacare."  (As if Republicans give a rat's ass about anyone's healthcare other than their own.)  The flyer was in support of incumbent Senator Roy Blunt, although it was careful not to mention Blunt by name.  Instead of saying anything positive about Ol' Roy, of whom there is not much to brag about, the advertisement was a hit piece on Democratic Secretary of State Jason Kander, the Afghanistan War veteran who is set to knock Blunt from his seat on the Washington gravy train in less than two weeks.

The front of the Missouri Republican Party's flyer urges voters to "Get the facts on Clinton and Kander's plan to take over our healthcare,"  The reverse of the flyer has dark, ominous drawings of Hillary Clinton and Jason Kander along with the standard GOP drivel about the coming ruination of America because of Obamacare and the deadly role that Clinton and Kander will play in taking away people's options.

(Sadly, there was no image of Ol' Roy Blunt who has the face of a worn out basset hound.)

Republican gubernatorial candidate Eric Greitens sent a mailer as well, and his effort also attempted to tie his opponent, Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster, tightly to Hillary Clinton.  One side shows some dark skinned individuals scaling what appears to be a border wall - no doubt heading north to the good life.  The caption reads, "With Chris Koster and Hillary Clinton THERE WON'T EVEN BE A WALL."

Egads!  No wall!  We'll all be run down by taco trucks!

While it remains unclear, at least to me, what role a governor of Missouri would play in constructing a border wall several states away, Greitens persists with his delusion.  He faults Koster for donating money to Clinton's campaign and refers to his opponent as "just another liberal career politician."

Again, like the piece put out by the GOP, Greitens' flyer contains some unflattering photos of Clinton and Koster, and all of the verbiage is about them - and it is, of course, all exceedingly negative.   Greitens never mentions himself of his positions in the advertisement.

So there you have it.  Both Kander and Koster are liberals out to ruin America through (take your pick) healthcare reform or immigration reform - and both are little more than appendages to the monster that is Hillary Clinton.  Nothing positive is stated about the Republican candidates for Missouri Governor or Senator, and recipients of the mailers are left to suppose that they must be better than the awful Democratic choices.

I like political mailers because they are expensive and draw down the financial resources of the senders - and they are not very effective.  Mailers are, in fact, an anachronism in this modern age.  But I will save both of these, because Jason Kander and Chris Koster each have bright political futures and some day, perhaps when one of them resides in the White House, these flaming flyers of flamboyant falsehoods will be good for a laugh.

And just for the record, Hillary Clinton has rarely and barely touched down in Missouri during this election cycle.  I doubt she could find it with a map.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Sixties Are Fading Away

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Two highly significant, yet very different, voices of the 1960's have been silenced, and with their passing the mighty roar from one of the most politically and musically turbulent decades of the twentieth century quietens perceptibly.

Tom Hayden died on Sunday.   Hayden, a founder of the sixty's college radical group, Students for a Democratic Society, was a defendant in the infamous "Chicago Seven" trial of 1969 and 1970.  He and four other national activists (Jerry Rubin, Devid Dellinger, Abbie Hoffman, and Rennie Davis) were convicted in a circus-like court setting of conspiring to cross state lines to incite riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention.  The case was so mishandled by Judge Julius Hoffman, a former legal partner and crony of Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, that all five convictions were later thrown out on appeal.  Two local activists who rounded out the "seven" were acquitted.  An eighth defendant, Black Panther leader Bobby Seale was eventually tried separately and wound up serving four years in prison for contempt of court.

Of the original Chicago Seven, on Rennie Davis and the two local organizers, John Froines and Lee Weiner, survive.  Bobby Seale is also still alive.

Tom Hayden went on to a career in public service as a Democratic assemblyman and state senator in California.  Somewhat ironically, he became ill this summer while attending the Democratic National Convention.  Hayden was married to fellow sixty's radical Jane Fonda for seventeen years, and they had one son, Troy.  Tom Hayden was 76 at the time of his death.

Bobby Vee, a singer who had several hits during the 1960's died on Monday at the age of seventy-three.  Vee, whose real name was Robert Velline, was a native of Fargo, North Dakota, and was only fifteen-years-old on February 3, 1959, when he and his band, The Shadows, were called on to perform at a concert in Moorhead, Minnesota, as a replacement act for Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and the Big Bopper, all of whom had been killed in a plane crash while heading to the Moorhead concert - an event referred to in pop culture as "the day the music died."  Tragic though the circumstances were, it was Bobby Vee's big break.  Future Nobel Laureaute Bob Dylan was a band member with The Shadows and a close friend of Vee's.

In 2013 Bob Dylan referred to Bobby Vee as "the most meaningful person I've ever been on stage with" and said that he always thought of him as a brother.  Dylan described his friend's voice as having a "metallic, edgy tone" and being as "musical as a silver bell."

Songs made famous by Bobby Vee included his biggest hit, "Take Good Care of My Baby" which was written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King,  and a host of others like "Devil or Angel," "Rubber Ball," "The Night has a Thousand Eyes," and "Come Back When You Grow Up."

And so the sixties continue to fade till little is left to hold but memories - or as Simon and Garfunkel said in the sixties:

Time it was,
And what a time it was
It was . . .
A time of innocence
A time of confidences

Long ago . . . it must be . . .
I have a photograph
Preserve your memories
They’re all that’s left you

Monday, October 24, 2016

Monday's Poetry: "Fall, Leaves, Fall"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Today's poetry selection is "Fall, Leaves, Fall" by the 19th century British poet and novelist Emily Bronte.  Bronte, who was best known for her singular novel, Wuthering Heights, was also a poet of considerable regard.

I have been watching and enjoying the falling leaves for the past several days.  They are a brown and gold reminder of the cycle of life, first appearing from tiny green buds in the spring, spreading into canopies of cooling shade during the heat of summer, and then fluttering gracefully to the ground in autumn.  By the time winter arrives, most of the trees on my farm will be little more than stark bare limbs reaching desperately to the heavens.

Autumn is the time when trees let go of the vibrancy of life and drift into a peaceful slumber.  With their temporary sleep much of nature's wildlife has  to sharpen their survival skills in order to make it through the winter.  I help as I can - with bird and squirrel feeders up and full, and a salt lick out for the deer up close to what passes for a pond at Rock's Roost.

I'm also beginning to mulch leaves into the lawn as it goes dormant for the winter, and I'll cart bushel after bushel of the dead leaves over to my garden spot where they will work their way into the soil over the winter and help to feed the young garden plants in the spring.  The leaves on this farm are never burned - they work until they are consumed by the earth and are reborn into next year's greenery.

So I am happy watching the leaves as they drift down from the trees because they are an important part of continuing life at the farm.  Fall, leaves, fall!

Fall, Leaves, Fall
by Emily Bronte

Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night’s decay
Ushers in a drearier day.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Jan Brewer Taunts Arizona Hispanics

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

It looks as though the Sand Hag has taken an extra spin or two on her barstool and is now speaking total gibberish.

Former Arizona governor Jan Brewer, one of the few prominent women in America who enthusiastically support Donald Trump for President, told the Boston Globe this week that the Hispanic vote in Arizona is essentially a non-issue.  She is not concerned in the least that Hillary Clinton is leading in some Arizona polls, and feels that Trump will ultimately prevail.  In minimizing the impact that Hispanic voters would have on next month's election, Brewer said:

"Nah.  They don't get out and vote.  They don't vote."
Translation (from the original gibberish):  Hispanic voters in Arizona don't matter.

Brewer's words almost sounded like a taunt.  And there are three old white guys by the names of McCain, Arpaio, and Trump who probably wish Brewer would shut the hell up.   All are facing tight races in the Scorpion State and don't need or want the added pressure of a fired-up Hispanic populace.

Okay, Arizona Hispanics, you've been challenged.  It's time to show the politician who signed the odious SB1070 into law that brown voters really do matter!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Make America Whole Again

by Pa Rock
Ozark Traveler

Much of my yesterday was spent driving along some secondary highways and a few glorified paths of rural Howell and Ozark Counties in southern Missouri.  Leaves were falling and the foliage was just beginning to be tinged with color.  The waters of the White River, which I crossed several times, were calm and clear, and evidence of wildlife was everywhere.  One big buck crossed the road just ahead of my front bumper, and then loped quickly into the trees and up the hill.  The birds were chirping much like they did when spring arrived.

The single most prolific human marker along the roads I traveled was the abundance of political yard signs, more than I have noticed in any previous election cycle, and almost all promoting one particular candidate:  Donald Trump.  I did see a smattering of signs for down-ballot candidates, all Republicans, of course, but Trump signage was everywhere.

Most of the Trump signs were the small plastic ones that fit over wire standards.  One family in a fairly nice house had their yard peppered with these signs - probably twenty or more.  They definitely wanted all passersby to know the depth and ferocity of their support for the rich guy from Manhattan.

I saw a few of the large billboard type signs along the highway, always placed on a good clear spot for maximum viewing, and one very large homemade sign that carried the message:  "Take America Back."  I'm not exactly sure what that means, but the sign's creator obviously feels some degree of disenfranchisement from the current state of the nation.  I guess he wants to take "his" country back from people like me.   I skipped the urge to honk, assuming he would take the sound as a signal of support for his extremist views, but I did salute the sign - with an appropriate digit.

On Tuesday, November 8th, many, many people in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas will cast votes for Donald Trump and Mike Pence.    They will chatter among themselves at polling places and coffee shops, swelled with pride and self-assurance that most of their friends and neighbors who are also out voting - are voting for Trump.  Those same people will spend the rest of the day basking in their sure knowledge that they have just been key players in a movement that will take back their America and restore the white luster of its greatness.

They will be so damned proud.

And then the cold reality of a new day will greet them on Wednesday morning.  Yes, Donald Trump will have carried Howell and Ozark Counties in Missouri, and Baxter County, Arkansas.  Hell, he will have even carried Arkansas and won Missouri by a respectable margin - but he will have lost the national election and the presidency - bigly.  In fact, the mainstream media will go on for days and days discussing what an awful campaign Trump ran - and how Clinton clobbered him - yugggely!

Those first few days following the election will be a critical time in America, a time when we will see if democracy continues to work and reason still prevails.  Will it be a time of healing, or will rampant demagoguery, an under-educated populace, and unlimited access to firearms lead us down a different path?   Will we unite and move forward, or will we continue to be two Americas?

America doesn't need to be made "great" again, or to be taken back - America needs to be made whole again.  Sadly for us all, there are no Lincolns on the political horizon.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Where the Deer and the Coyotes Play

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Fall

I met friends for dinner last night in West Plains - old teaching comrades from Mountain View whom I had not seen in more than thirty years.   After the meal and quite a bit of catching up, we drove out to the farm.  It was getting close to dark as we walked toward the barn and aviary to see the peacocks - when one of my friends noticed several small deer playing on the far side of the pond.  The frolicsome fawns added the perfect touch of rural charm to my little place in the country.

(Sadly the inside of my house, which is in a state of upheaval, was far less charming!)

I walked out to the coops to close the chickens, guineas, and duck up for the night when my friends left shortly after dark.  All of the birds had gone to their appropriate homes as darkness descended, leaving Pa Rock with the simple task of closing a couple of doors and securing them so that they would not blow open during the night..  It's a routine that gets played out every evening.

Usually the most deadly nighttime prowlers are the neighborhood dogs, but owls and raccoons can also be a problem.  Later, however, in the middle of the night, I was awakened by a new sound at The Roost.    Coyotes were yipping somewhere out in the night lands.  I stayed in bed knowing that all of the poultry was safe, but my thoughts and concerns were with the young deer.

I know that coyotes inhabit the local area, but last night was the first time I had actually heard any since leaving Arizona.  Out there even the nicest of neighborhoods can be plagued with nuisance creatures like coyotes. 

A friend of mine was living in a Phoenix suburb when she took her two dogs out for a walk one evening.  She had an older large dog on a leash and a happy little Chihuahua scampering along beside the big dog.  Suddenly a coyote ran through the group on the city sidewalk and grabbed up the Chihuahua in his fearsome jaws.  The predator eventually dropped his prize before fleeing into the neighboring hills.  He left bite marks on the Chihuahua which required the attention of a veterinarian.  (My friend decided that the coyote had abandoned her little dog when he discovered that he really didn't have a taste for Mexican food!)

Another friend was walking along the sidewalk in her very posh suburb of Phoenix when she heard something snort and brush against her leg.  The friend gazed on in shock as a rampaging javelina pushed past her!  And then there are the scorpions!

Close encounters with nature in the city can be surprising, but out here in the woods, where I live, one has to expect the occasional snake to slither across his path.  Life isn't all playful deer and meandering wild turkeys, sometimes there's a skunk in the barn, an armadillo poking holes in the yard, and mice menacing the chicken coop.   Hawks and raccoons also do their share in keeping farm creatures alert.  A small black bear has even been spotted loping around the neighborhood.

But that's nature, and it's a big part of the reason that I chose to live beyond the sprawling concrete and asphalt of the city.   Everything is entitled to a shot at survival, from playful deer, to loathsome predators, to crusty old farmers.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Such a Nasty Man

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I was in town playing pinochle during the first part of last night's presidential debate and missed Donald Trump's refusal to say if he would abide by the election results or not.    The Republican candidate said that he would keep the country "in suspense" regarding his acceptance of the results until after the election.   The implication seemed to be that if he didn't win, then of course the election was rigged.  How could someone as great as Donald J. Trump possibly lose at anything?

Trump's refusal to acknowledge the idea of free and fair elections in the United States seems to be the major takeaway from the debate by news organizations - with many portraying it as a full-frontal assault on the most basic tenet of democracy.  And I missed it.  But there was a moment in the final third of the debate which I felt was almost as revealing about the deplorable character of Donald Trump - and I was in front of the computer to witness that one.

Hillary had been talking about the importance of pumping more money into the Social Security fund, and said she would do that by increasing taxes on the rich.  She noted that meant she would pay more in taxes and so would Trump - unless he figured out a way to avoid it.  Trump interrupted at that point and said (about Hillary), "Such a nasty woman."  Well, to be completely honest, his words were more of a snarl than a statement.  Not only did the word "nasty" have a strong perjorative sting to it, but so did the word "woman."  Hillary was being "nasty," and she was a "woman"  - a strong double negative in Trump-speak.

Trump's "nasty woman" comment was more than just bad manners, it was yet another example of his male arrogance and active disdain of women. 

The only nasty thing on that stage last night was Trump himself.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Waiting for Hillary

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

One of the things that I most dislike about Hillary Clinton is her almost maniacal obsession with fundraising.  Yes, I understand that money makes the world go round and it is also the lifeblood of elections - particularly in the United States of Graft and Greed, but at some point enough should be enough, and the candidate should come forward, like traditional politicians, and begin wading through crowds and pressing the flesh.   Poor Hillary, however,  seems to be giving dollars more weight than votes, and sees victory as being represented by a gigantic number preceded by a dollar sign.

Hillary, there are more babies to be kissed than just your grandchildren.

My other concern with Hillary is that she continues to basically ignore my state - Missouri - and seems to have written it off to Trump.  Yes, I know that last week her campaign promised to split a million dollars between Missouri and Indiana in the slightest of nods to those two red states, and I'm certain that our statewide candidates appreciate every Democratic dollar that comes into the state, but a portion of a million dollars is a pittance in a national election, an insignificant sliver of what Clinton has taken out of the Show-Me state.

Whichever candidate carries Missouri gets its ten electoral votes - all of them.  If Hillary concedes the state to Trump, what is my motivation for voting for her?  He will get the ten electoral votes regardless of how I vote - unless, of course, Hillary has a change of heart and decides to really work the state like an earnest candidate.

But Team Clinton has gotten ahead of me on that train of logic.  Now, with the election safely in hand as far as electoral vote totals go, Hillary and her people are out addressing the next big contest - the one where Trump the Loser storms in to question her legitimacy - because of "rigged elections" and all that conspiracy stuff that Republicans do so well.  One way they see for her to combat that is to win over fifty-percent of the popular votes, hopefully with a number so big and convincing that rational people will have no recourse but to accept the results.  If the emphasis is on popular votes, then my vote is as important as that of anyone else.

So now my vote suddenly is important in the popular vote scheme of things.  Donald Trump will not get my vote, but beyond that I have made no decisions.  It would help Hillary's case, however, if she would quit begging cash from lobbyists and Wall Street long enough to stop by the farm and solicit my vote in person.  (I'm waiting on the front porch, Hill.)  When that happens - or when she shows any interest at all in winning Missouri - my vote will go to Hillary Clinton.  

Until then, Jill Stein still looks mighty fine.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Economic Wall Around Cuba Is Falling Fast

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The once formidable economic embargo that the United States instituted against Cuba after the missile crisis more than half century ago is finally beginning to collapse - much to the chagrin of certain American politicians who have built their careers on vilifying the socialist mainstay of the Caribbean.

Many Americans have openly flaunted travel restrictions to Cuba by flying in via Canada or Mexico - or through other countries - for years, and this past March the visitor's door to Cuba was kicked wide open when the Obama family landed on the island for the first visit by a sitting U.S. President in decades.  Within a month of the President's visit, American cruise ships began stopping in Cuba, and next month, on November 13th, Southwest Airlines will begin regularly scheduled flights to the island nation.

With just three months left in office, President Obama has chosen to twist the tails of Cuban hardliners like Little Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz one more time by lifting the decades-old embargo on Cuban cigars and rum.  Effective next Monday American citizens who travel to Cuba will be able to bring home the famous cigars and rum in unlimited quantities - for personal use only.  The catch is that those wanting the smokes and booze must go to Cuba in person to make the purchases.   Internet sales are not permitted. 

All of which sounds likes a good reason to visit Cuba.  Twist, twist, twist!

Journalist Peter Kornbluh tells an interesting tale of Cuban cigars and the U.S. Presidency in his book, Back Channel to Cuba:  The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana.  It seems that President John F. Kennedy was a big fan of Cuban cigars.  The night before Kennedy signed the comprehensive economic embargo of Cuba in 1962 he summoned his press secretary, Pierre Salinger, and instructed him to get out into the community and buy up all of the Cuban cigars he could find.  The next morning Salinger reported back to the President with 1,200 of Cuba's finest.  The satisfied Kennedy then signed the embargo making it illegal for other Americans to enjoy the world's best cigars - like the ones he was hoarding.

Peter Kornbluh was one of the guides on the trip that I took to Cuba with The Nation magazine last April.  I enjoyed hearing him repeat the Kennedy cigar story over a late lunch one afternoon in Havana.

And, at the risk of repeating sentiments from earlier blog posts regarding my visit to Cuba, I found the Cuban people to be friendly, courteous, hospitable, and as curious about their neighbors in the United States as we were about them.  They were warm and welcoming human beings - and it is high time for the embargo to be gone.

Viva Obama!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Monday's Poetry: "Mr. Tambourine Man"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

It was announced last week in Stockholm that American songwriter and folk artist Bob Dylan had won the Nobel Prize for Literature.  The committee cited Dylan for "having created new poetic expressions within the American song tradition."  It is an honor that is both well deserved and long overdue.

One of my college professors, a lady who was steeped in the works of the romantic poets of an earlier age, once lamented that there were no poets currently capturing the essence of the world in the way the Byron, Keats, and Shelley had done.  She had her nose far too deep into the Norton Anthologies and wasn't listening to the music of her own time - much of it written by twentieth poets like Woody Guthrie, Jimmie Rodgers, Pete Seeger, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, Elton John, Carole King, the Beatles, Carly Simon, Kris Kristofferson, and perhaps the most prolific and enduring of them all, Bob Dylan.  There was poetry a-plenty being written, but the sad old professor wasn't listening.

Last Christmas I bought my musician grandson, Boone, a copy of the Bob Dylan Songbook.  That sucker was over two-inches thick!  Dylan's music, much of it tied to the civil rights movement and war protests of the mid-twentieth century, was the soundtrack of America in turmoil as the country struggled to establish it's post World War II identity.   Bob Dylan, perhaps more than any other artist, helped us to grapple with the questions of who we were and where we were heading.

Over the years I have highlighted the lyrics of three Bob Dylan songs in this space:  "Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues" on 6/28/10,  "Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie" on 7/9/12, and "Only a Pawn in Their Game" on 2/24/14.

Selecting one song to identify with Bob Dylan's poetic genius is a nearly impossible task.  The Nation magazine published a list of the top ten protest songs of all time (compiled by Peter Rothberg) several years ago.  That list had Dylan's "The Times They Are a-Changin'" as number six.  "Like a Rolling Stone,""Subterranean Homesick Blues," and "Rainy Doy Women #12 and 35" are all quickly recognized by people of a certain age.  (I had the good fortune to attend a Dylan concert at an outdoor venue twenty-five years ago where much of the crowd joined in singing along with the artist who had penned the words and music.  It was a sheep-and-shepherd spiritual experience!)

To honor Bob Dylan's ascension to the heights of Nobel Laureate, I finally settled on one of his most recognizable pieces, one that while easy to remember and sing along with, is nevertheless steeped in"new poetic expressions within the American song tradition."   Please enjoy reminiscing to Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man."

Mr. Tambourine Man
by Bob Dylan

Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I'm not sleepy and there ain't no place I'm going to
Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I'll come following you

Though I know that evenings empire has returned into sand
Vanished from my hand
Left me blindly here to stand but still not sleeping
My weariness amazes me, I'm branded on my feet
I have no one to meet
And the ancient empty street's too dead for dreaming

Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I'm not sleepy and there ain't no place I'm going to
Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I'll come following you

Take me on a trip upon your magic swirling ship
My senses have been stripped
My hands can't feel to grip
My toes too numb to step
Wait only for my boot heels to be wandering
I'm ready to go anywhere, I'm ready for to fade
Into my own parade
Cast your dancing spell my way, I promise to go under it

Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I'm not sleepy and there ain't no place I'm going to
Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I'll come following you

Though you might hear laughing, spinning, swinging madly through the sun
It's not aimed at anyone
It's just escaping on the run
And but for the sky there are no fences facing
And if you hear vague traces of skipping reels of rhyme
To your tambourine in time
It's just a ragged clown behind
I wouldn't pay it any mind
It's just a shadow you're seeing that he's chasing

Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I'm not sleepy and there ain't no place I'm going to
Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I'll come following you

Take me disappearing through the smoke rings of my mind
Down the foggy ruins of time
Far past the frozen leaves
The haunted frightened trees
Out to the windy bench
Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow

Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky
With one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea
Circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate
Driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow

Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I'm not sleepy and there ain't no place I'm going to
Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I'll come following you

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Write a Novel in a Month

by Pa Rock
Hardcore Typist

November is National Novel Writing Month - and an international writing group challenges its members to do just that during the thirty days of each November.  There is no fee to join NaNoWriMo and anyone with a desire to work that long-dormant novel out of their system is encouraged to become a member and chase the dream.  People who accept the challenge are expected to crank out a novel of 50,000 words or more between November 1st and 30th.

NaNoWriMo is divided into many geographic regions, each with several thousand members.  While I have never chosen to participate in the group's annual challenge, I did officially join the Japan region several years ago while I was living in the Orient.  Being a member gets me onto their email list, and it is an annual reminder that life is slipping away without benefit of the powerful novel that I always intended to write.  This year I am once again thinking of taking the challenge.  I have been studying the group's materials and writing tips on their website, as well as digging into advice from other members.

NaNoWriMo has several regions within the United States.

In addition to offering a constant stream of support, NaNoWriMo monitors each writer's progress through the self-reporting of word counts.   At the end of the challenge writers are invited to post their work on the group's website.  Writers can also offer support to one another through the website.   A local coffee house in my community features an array of books by local authors, and I happened to notice that a couple of those on display had received awards from NaNoWriMo.

Fifty thousand words is a lot to crank out in thirty days - although I have probably hit that mark with this blog during some thirty-day spreads.  For me to be successful at the project, I would need a story idea, an overall outline, a scene-by-scene outline, and summaries of the main characters which detail their motivations, histories, and quirks - all prior to facing that first blank page of the novel.  In other words, a minimum of two weeks of pre-novel work - which would begin about tomorrow!

With that self-imposed deadline looming, I may do some pre-pre-novel work today.

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can!

If anyone would like to join me in this rigorous bout of self-flagellation, the website is  Who knows - maybe this time next year we'll be signing books at Barnes and Noble!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

If Trump Can't Win, then Nobody Can

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Donald Trump, a man obsessed with beauty, is hellbent on turning the 2016 presidential election into the ugliest political contest in the history of our republic.  Trump, through his own deliberate words and actions, has gotten himself into a place from which it would be virtually impossible to win the election - a big electoral hole, and, as the old joke goes, he just keeps on digging.

The absolute backbone of the GOP over the past several elections has been white men without college degrees and white suburban women.  Trump's appeal among the lesser educated voters appears to remain strong, but his unfettered and bizarre rants against women have left that once mighty GOP block of votes in disarray, with many fleeing the party altogether to support the nation's first female presidential candidate.

This probably wasn't the Republican Party's optimal election cycle in which to nominate a raging sexist.

The Trump campaign suffered an apparent mortal wound last week when a "hot mic" tape surfaced which revealed that ten years earlier the candidate had talked about women to an interviewer in extremely lewd terms, a conversation that stressed how easy it was for him to force his way on women, sexually, and get away with it because he was "a star."  It was a pig narrative delivered by a pig.  That revelation came on the heels of his public shaming of a former Miss Universe over issues of her weight and appearance - and it was followed by a series of women coming forward and revealing that they had been insulted, groped, and/or otherwise sexually assaulted by the billionaire blowhard.

But the pig keeps digging.  Trump has shot back that not only are these new accusing women a pack of liars, but they are ugly as well.  Take that, bimbos!  Donald Trump, Jr. has even seem fit to add to his father's defense by declaring that women who can't handle harassment don't belong in the work force.  Dig, dig, dig!

It's no small wonder, one must suppose, that some news sources are giving Hillary over a 90% chance of winning the presidency.  Several states are already voting and the election itself is just a little over three weeks away.  The odds of Trump pulling a come-from-behind win decrease daily and are now literally almost non-existent.

The election train is barrelling down the tracks and at this point it has to be obvious to even The Donald himself that the man who always sees himself as a winner is not going to win this one.  Donald Trump in all of his bluster and bombast is heading into the history books as little more than a footnote.  He's going out, but he will not go quietly.

This morning at 7:23 a.m. Trump was back at his keyboard banging out tweets and desperately trying  to right the world.  The man who threatened Hillary Clinton with investigation and jail if he becomes president, knows he is about to be beaten by a woman - and he is furious - and he is still digging.  The Donald tweeted this:

"Hillary Clinton should have been prosecuted and should be in jail.  Instead she is running for president in what looks like a rigged election."

Morons arise!  If Hillary wins it is because the election was rigged.  It will be as outrageous as when that Kenyan Muslim was illegally elected President of the United States.  Obama's presidency wasn't legitimate - and Hillary's won't be legitimate either.

Donald Trump will lose the presidential election, he knows that.  The objective now is to delegitimize Hillary's victory - to convince a large block of Americans that she stole the election.  The people who will believe Trump and wallow in his delusions are angry, well armed, and easily manipulated.  They won't be any more accepting of Hillary's leadership than they were of Obama's. 

Trump will lose, but he and his rabble may ultimately prevail by insuring that nobody really wins. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Local Eateries

by Pa Rock
Tour Guide

My company left about noon and at last report had arrived safely at the airport in Springfield.   The house is quiet, and the dogs are bereft at the sudden loss of attention that they had been basking in all week.  Rosie, who had met Daniel and Valerie each on a previous visit, was particularly sad to see them go.

We stayed in the local area the whole week with outings to Hardy, Arkansas, and Mountain View, Missouri, being our furthest outreach.  The last time each visited we went to several of the scenic local mills.  This time we were  more content to just sit around the house and visit.  We had several home-cooked meals - Valerie likes to cook and Daniel and I like to eat - and had some good dining-out experiences as well.

We had two meals, a breakfast and a late lunch, at Grump's Grub in West Plains.  Grump's is the former Brenda's Cafe, and I am happy to report that the food is every bit as good as it was when Brenda was cooking.  Three people can eat very well on a twenty dollar bill.

One of our evening meals was at T.J.'s Hickory House just south of West Plains on Highway 160.  T.J's has a nice variety of dinner selections.  I had the evening's special which was a large portion "chicken fried chicken" served with mashed potatoes and gravy and some wonderful green beans - plus a trip to the salad and soup bar - literally more than I could eat.  My friends had two different varieties of fish.  T.J.'s has a full bar for those who want to wash down their meal with something a bit stronger than water or iced tea.  I've eaten their several times and always been pleased with the food and the service.

We also tried to dine at the Three-Legged Mule in Caulfield, but sadly hit on one of the several nights a week that it is closed.  The Three-Legged Mule doesn't have much floor space or many tables, so hungry diners might have to sit at the counter - but the grub is good!  It's just off the highway, easy to find - one of only a handful of businesses in Caulfield.

Valerie lives in Phoenix which is home to some great Mexican food, and Daniel has been in the Orient for so many years that he has developed a fondness for rice and fish dishes - but both seemed to enjoy our home-style Ozark fare.  All of that - and the meals we had at home always included farm fresh eggs!

Pa Rock knows how to show his guests a gastronomical good time!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Humpin' the Devil's Backbone

by Pa Rock
Local Tourist

My out-of-town company and I have spent the past couple of days exploring West Plains and the surrounding area.  Yesterday we visited Howell County Democratic Headquarters in West Plains where I managed to come away with a yard sign for Jason Kander, Missouri's U.S. Senate Democratic candidate.  Murphy found a bumper sticker with the message, "I'll know corporations are people when Texas executes one!"  That represents a powerful truth.  We also spent time in one of the local flower shops ordering flowers for a friend of ours from our years on Okinawa who recently lost her brother.  Nefredia, our friend, is staying with family in New York City this week.

Yesterday evening Murphy and Valerie went to the gym in our local civic center for a workout while I stumbled around in the rain trying to convince the chickens to turn in early.  Eventually they cooperated.  I probably got more of a workout than Murphy or Valerie.

Today we had breakfast at a neighborhood coffee house and then took off to explore some of the area scenery.  Our first stop was at a state park fifteen miles west of West Plains in Ozark County.  The place is called Devil's Backbone.   We enjoyed a good time exploring the park and walking the hiking trail along the riverbank.  Devil's Backbone is where little Olive likes to go to swim when she visits Pa Rock.  This afternoon we explored Mountain View, Missouri, an excursion that wound up with a trip down a lonely dirt road to a place called Blue Spring.  My family used to do outings at Blue Spring when the kids were little.

Tonight we had planned to have a cookout at the fire pit in the backyard, but the weather was so cool and rainy that we elected to bring in some Little Caesar's pizza instead.   We dined in front of the television while enjoying streamed episodes of Stranger Things.

Valerie and Daniel will leave in the morning.  They are catching a plane in Springfield in the afternoon where they will both fly to Texas.  From there Valerie heads home to Phoenix and Daniel is off to see friends are relatives in Nashville and Indiana.   He will be back at work in Tokyo at the end of the month.

We have had a great visit - and old friends continue to be the very best!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Ol' Roy Blunt: The Worst of Washington

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Senator Roy Blunt, a Republican of Missouri and patriarch of a family of Washington lobbyists, had been expecting to stroll to re-election this fall in a cake-walk, but Blunt's easy path to victory has been complicated by the emergence of a strong and very popular opponent.  Jason Kander, Missouri's secretary of state and the youngest statewide office holder in America, is giving Ol' Roy the run of his political career.  Now, in fact, most reputable news sources are labeling Missouri's hotly-contested senate race as a "toss-up," and some are even giving the edge to Kander.

Jason Kander volunteered for service in the Afghanistan War.  Roy Blunt, who was of military age during the Vietnam War, demurred from wearing his country's uniform through acceptance of multiple deferrals.

The political sands began shifting a few weeks ago when Kander put out a brilliant ad in response to the NRA endorsing Blunt.  The Kander political commercial featured him assembling an automatic weapon - blindfolded - while he discussed his patriotism and military service.  Blunt and the NRA were left firing blanks, almost literally.

Today a new political ad emerged in support of Jason Kander.  It discusses the fact that Kander volunteered to serve his country, and that Roy Blunt's contribution to the war effort was to slip an amendment into the Homeland Security Bill to benefit a tobacco company - Phillip Morris - which was the employer of his lobbyist wife and one of his lobbyist adult children.

Kander served in uniform in an active war situation - while Blunt tried to make a buck.

The ad concludes by saying that Jason Kander represents the best of America - while Roy Blunt is symbolic of the worst of Washington.

Voter registration ends today in Missouri.  Signing-up to vote is the first step in the process to remove Ol' Roy Blunt and his family of greedy lobbyists from the hallowed halls of Congress.

Jason Kander represents the future of Missouri and America, while Ol' Roy Blunt represents self-interest and the world of Donald Trump.

The choice could not be clearer.  

Forward, Missouri!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Magnificent Three Ride into Hardy, Arkansas

by Pa Rock
Tour Guide

My visiting guests and I enjoyed a beautiful fall drive down to the quiet community of Hardy, Arkansas, yesterday.   Hardy is a small town consisting primarily of a short Main Street.  Like so many towns in rural America, the family businesses that had built and sustained the struggling community all began shutting down as the Walmart cancer devoured America.  Now, those unique old buildings are being converted to flea markets and craft stores. 

We visited several of Hardy's flea markets and chatted with some of the locals.  Daniel came back from the outing with a unique Christmas ornament, something that will travel back with him to Japan - and I found something that I needed - a walnut and oak cutting board.  Valerie put the cutting board to good use this morning when she fixed us all delicious veggie and egg scrambles for breakfast.  You just can't beat those farm-fresh eggs, especially when they are whipped into shape by a master chef like Valerie!

Last night we went to the local movie theatre and watched the remake of The Magnificent Seven.  It's a real shoot-em-up, something my Dad would have loved!  Movie selections right now are rather thin.  After returning home late in the evening our efforts were focused on trying to find complete episodes of Green Acres on some of the streaming sites!

Most of the conversation between the three old friends focused on the current national political situation, and the dark and foreboding presidential debate from Sunday evening.  As of this morning we are each talking about writing ourselves in for President.

Today we will be out and about exploring more of the Ozarks in this beautiful fall weather!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Old Friends are the Best

by Pa Rock

Two of my best friends from the years on Okinawa are at the farm for a visit.  Valerie Seitz, a social worker who now lives and works in the Phoenix area, and Daniel Murphy, a psychologist who still works with the military - now on mainland Japan, arrived late last night and will be here most of the week.  Each visited The Roost individually two years ago, and this trip is the first time that the three of us have been together since Valerie and Daniel drove me to the airport in Naha, Okinawa, in July of 2012 for my return flight to the United States.

So we have a lot to catch up on!

My company arrived last night while the bitter presidential debate was in progress.  Daniel, in particular - and due to living overseas, was astonished at the sordidness of the current political situation.  And he is right - it does seem like we are circling the drain and heading into the sewer.

More on the debate later.

Welcome friends!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Ol' Roy Blunt Stands by His Man

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Things are happening fast in the U.S. political arena, almost too fast for comprehension.  I half expected to wake to news this morning that Donald Trump had dropped out of the presidential race, but, alas, that is not the way narcissists and bullies roll.  He's still running, he will not quit - and the fun continues!

There has been a sizable contingent of Republicans who have stood up to the bully since almost day-one of his campaign.    Many in that force for sanity are now calling on him to drop out of the race.  These hardcore Republican anti-Trumpers from the U.S. Senate include the likes of Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona who preferred spending time with his lawnmower over supporting Trump, and Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska whose druthers included taking his children on a tour of their home state to watch dumpster fires.   Other Republican Senate defectors from the get-go include Mark Kirk of Illinois, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Ted Cruz's faithful right hand - Senator Mike Lee of Utah.

Nine Republican House members of the current Congress have also been on record as opposed to the Trump candidacy, even before the latest catastrophe landed in the press.  For the record, those representatives include Mike Coffman of Colorado, Barbara Comstock of Virginia, Fred Upton of Michigan, Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, Frank LoBiondo of New Jersey, Will Hurd of Texas, John Katko of New York, Erik Paulsen of Minnesota, and Pat Tiberi of Ohio.

Then this week happened and the nation reeled after watching an old tape of the Republican presidential nominee talk of sexually assaulting women and discussing them in lewd and disgusting terms - the worst of which were repeated verbatim in the national press.  The emperor was standing on the stage buck naked as the whole world looked on.  It was suddenly impossible to minimize his vulgarity, arrogance, or ignorance of common decency.  The real Donald Trump was exposed, fully and completely, as a shocked world looked on.

The list of Republican officials eager to climb out of the Trump train wreck began to immediately swell.  Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah bailed first, and had, at last count, been followed by an additional ten members of the House of Representatives.  Additionally, nine Republican senators quickly joined their five smarter colleagues who had already sworn off of Trump.  Senator Kelly Ayotte, who had struggled to regain her political footing all week because of her statement that Trump was "absolutely" a role model for children, had finally had enough - way too much, really.  John McCain, who is in a tough reelection fight with a female opponent in Arizona, also publicly dumped Trump.  Other senators who were quick to run away from their presidential nominee include Mike Crappo of Idaho, John Thune of South Dakota, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Deb Fischer of Nebraska, Dan Sullivan of Alaska, Cory Gardner of Colorado, and Rob Portman of Ohio.

Republican governors Gary Herbert of Utah, Dennis Dauggard of South Dakota, and Robert Bentley of Alabama have also bailed in their support of the controversial candidate.

And then, to frost the cake, Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus announced that the national committee was pulling out of their joint fundraising effort with Donald Trump - an effort labeled the "Trump Victory Fund."

Republican office holders in my home state of Missouri are remaining oddly silent on the Trump situation - with the lone exception being Rep. Ann Wagner of Missouri's 2nd congressional district.  Wagner, a former State Republican Party chair, is openly disgusted with her party's nominee and calling on him to withdraw from the race.  Missouri Republican gubernatorial candidate Eric Greitens is keeping mum on his party's seeming disintegration, as is my congressman, Jason Smith of the 8th district.

But the biggest disappointment has to be our Republican senator, Roy Blunt.  Senator Blunt, the patriarch of a family of lobbyists, is in a very tough re-election campaign and very much resembles a Missouri deer caught in the headlights of an approaching mack truck.  The normally very pious Blunt, a man who graduated from Southwest Baptist College in Bolivar, Missouri, and later served as the school's President, can't be happy with the image that Donald Trump is blatantly showing to the world - but - Trump is still leading in polls of Missouri, and lots of relatives are depending on Ol' Roy to keep his seat on the government gravy train.

Missouri is home to a bunch of damned deplorables, and nobody knows that better than Roy Blunt.  The other rats may be racing down the gangplank and onto the shores of sanity, but not Ol' Roy.  He'll stand by his man, thank you very much, and hope the votes are there for another term at the government trough.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Race to the Bottom

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

It's literally been years since I have cast a general election ballot on election day itself, but it looks that is what will happen this year.  I was living in Arizona in 2008 and 2012, a state where I was able to cast my ballot weeks before the election - by mail, no less.  I remember voting by absentee ballot at the McDonald County courthouse in Pineville in 2004, probably more as a matter of convenience than anything else - and elections before that are lost in a fog bank of hazy memories.

Being sixty-eight-years-old, I was sorely tempted to vote absentee this year - as a countermeasure against my possible demise in the days before the election.  I would hate to think that I got this close and failed to cast a vote against Trump, the racist sex pig.  I even pulled down an application to vote absentee off of the internet, but never got around to filling it out.

The problem?

This year I know who I am against, that isn't an issue.  The question still looms, however, as to whom I am for?  Sadly, both of the major party candidates are seriously flawed.  Yesterday, just as the most immediate example, the Trump "hot mic" tapes were released by the Washington Post and minutes later Wikileaks coughed up emails from Hillary's campaign manager that offered a look at some less-than-positive remarks from her paid speeches to Wall Street.  While Donald Trump  remains a total anathema to human decency, Hillary has trouble elevating herself above the level of common grifter.

Senator Kelly Ayotte may have hit the nail on the head as she struggled to regain her political footing after declaring Donald Trump was "absolutely" a role model for children.    Ayotte came back with a statement that she had "mispoken" and that not only was she not perfect, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were neither one acceptable role models.

I have a friend who lives in a hotly-contested battleground state who says he is going to leave the presidential portion of the ballot blank.  I can't go that far, but neither do I feel morally mandated to choose between the lesser of two evils.  A vote for a third-party candidate is not a wasted vote - it sends a message also.   That message is for the national parties to quit presenting us with crap candidates. 

I will undoubtedly vote in the general election - in person, at the polls, on election day.  Chances are excellent that I will cast my first vote for a woman for President - and I feel privileged to have lived long enough to do that.  The question remains, of course, which woman?

Friday, October 7, 2016

Holy, Moly - People are Already Voting!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

While Donald Trump stumbles around saying what he pleases, when he pleases, and where he pleases, the Clinton team, by comparison, is following a solid ground game where everything is planned, scripted, constantly evaluated, and tightly controlled.  Hillary has a war room set up in her Brooklyn headquarters which has a focus on things like voter registration deadlines and the first dates of early voting in the various states.  Clinton has a firm grip on the process of voting.  Trump has instinct and bellicosity.

Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia allow some type of early voting - and, in fact, voting in this year's general election has already begun in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.   That's right.  People have already been casting ballots in ten states.   Seven more - Arizona, California, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Montana, and Ohio - will follow suit within the next week.  The election of 2016 is being played out in America's living rooms and voting booths right now, well ahead of the scheduled election on November 8th.

It is possible to cast "absentee" in-person votes in six other states if the voter can provide their county officials with an appropriate excuse for doing so - such as "I will be out of town on election day."  (I used that excuse, verbatim, with a county clerk in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, once and was met with a very uncooperative response.  She eventually relented and let me exercise my rights as a citizen.)  Those states where a voter can cast an early ballot if he or she isn't above lying to a county official are:  New York, Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina, and Mississippi.

Additionally, seven hardcore states do not allow any form of early voting or in-person absentee voting:  Those include, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Delaware, Connecticut, and Alabama.

Florida's right-wing governor, Rick Scott, has made news this week by vowing that the voter registration deadline of next Tuesday will not be extended - in spite of the fact that Hurricane Matthew is tearing up his state at this very moment.  Republicans, like Governor Scott, have a real thing about controlling access to the ballot boxes - and a real fear of too much democracy.

And then there is The Donald.

Donald Trump has reportedly encouraged his supporters who are suffering from terminal illnesses to "hang on" until election day.  Sadly, some may wish they hadn't waited around to see the headlines on the morning after the election!

Democracy flourishes when people have the opportunity to vote.  Instead of making the process more difficult as many Republican legislatures and governors seem hellbent on doing, the process needs to become easier and more inclusive.  Things like early voting, weekend voting, and making election day a national holiday would provide opportunities to vote for many people who currently can't get to the ballot boxes due to work schedules and long lines at the polls when they do get off of work.  It's time to bring on ideas like universal registration, mail-in ballots, extended voting periods, and ultimately even internet voting.

Democracy describes who we are as a nation, or, at the very least, who we aspire to be.  Democracy is a good thing and it is fed and nourished by voters casting ballots.  Disenfranchisement of voters weakens, and ultimately kills, democracy.  It's time for America to retake the moral high ground of having a government of and by the people - all the people and not just the privileged few..    It's time to let people vote!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Paul Babeu, the Other Arizona Sheriff

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

For those who think Joe Arpaio is the most interesting lawman in Arizona (or west of the Mississippi, for that matter), you might want to take a gander at the current sheriff of Pinal County, Arizona, and then think again.

In 2011 the National Sheriff's Association named Paul Babeu, the sheriff of Pinal County, as the organization's "National Sheriff of the Year."  That was fairly heady stuff for the young lawman who had only been a sheriff for three years and had less than a decade of law enforcement experience under his belt.

Babeu, who grew up in Massachusetts and had a background in local politics and running a private school for troubled teens, showed up in Arizona as a member of the National Guard with service experience in the Iraq War.  His Guard duties in Arizona brought Babeu into the realm of border security and honed his rhetoric as a spokesman against loose immigration policies.  By 2008 Paul Babeu had sharpened his anti-immigration message to such a fine edge that he was able to use it as a jumping-off point in a successful campaign for sheriff of Pinal County.  Three years later, after serving as an officer in the National Sheriff's Association, he reaped the benefits of his dedicated work for that organization when it named Babeu as the National Sheriff of the Year.  His political experience was proving invaluable in climbing the ladder of law enforcement celebrity.

The next step in Paul Babeu's ascension to the political heights was to run for federal office.  He filed as a Republican candidate for Congress in Arizona's 4th congressional district in 2012.  However, not long after that bold political stroke, the candidate's personal life began to get dicey.  A spurned lover who was also an illegal immigrant revealed that Babeu had threatened to deport him if the lover went public with their relationship - which he did anyway.  Babeu steadfastly denied that he had threatened to deport the man, but he soon bit the bullet and admitted that he was gay.  He withdrew from the Congressional race and was re-elected sheriff of Pinal County by a comfortable margin.  One of his allies in that race was Senator John McCain who declared Babeu to be a "friend" of his.

During that tumultuous time there were also allegations that the state of Massachusetts had investigated the school Babeu had led over alleged physical abuse of students, and Babeu's sister said that he had been romantically involved with a male student at the school.  Babeu denied any knowledge of physical abuse of students at the boarding school for at-risk youth, but recently a private video has emerged in which he reportedly boasts of being involved in the abuse.  Former students are also speaking out and accusing Babeu of perpetrating physical abuse against students at the school.

Now Paul Babeu has again filed to run for Congress, this time in Arizona's 1st district, the spot being vacated by Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick who is trying to unseat John McCain.  Babeu won the Republican primary in August by taking 32% of the vote in a heated six-way contest.  He now faces another lawman, Tom O'Halleran, of Sedona in the general election.  O'Halleran, running as a Democrat, was once a Republican state legislator in Arizona.

Paul Babeu's sisters have endorsed O'Halleran in the upcoming congressional race.

Joe Arpaio and Paul Babeu are both natives of Massachusetts who relocated to Arizona and made names for themselves in the field of law enforcement - names so big that they resonate well beyond the borders of their desert fiefdoms.  Both are accomplished glory hogs and both have generated more than their fair share of tawdry publicity.  Now Arpaio and Babeu are both entangled in tough election battles that may ultimately spell the end of each of their political careers.

But the dust never settles in Arizona, so who knows?   One thing is certain, however:  law enforcement hasn't been this entertaining in the Scorpion State since the Earps ran Tombstone!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Best Campaign Question Ever!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

This past Monday evening at a debate in New Hampshire, Senator Kelly Ayotte, a Republican who is struggling to keep her seat on the gravy train, got a surprise question - one that sent her sputtering into near incoherence.  Senator Ayotte was asked if she would describe Donald Trump as a role model, and would she tell children to be like Donald Trump?  After regaining some semblance of composure, she spit out that she "absolutely" would describe Trump as a role model for children.  Later when social media deep-fried her for that response, Senator Ayotte tried to wriggle out of the hot grease by saying that she had "misspoken."

"Mispeaking" was coined during the Nixon years as a euphemism for "lying." 

The crux of this story isn't that a seasoned politician got caught with a "gotcha" question, although she certainly did, the real story here is the question itself.  It cut across the cat crap of canned campaign talking points and came to rest on something vital:  Is Donald Trump the type of person that we would want our children to emulate?  Surely that would be difficult for any parent to answer in the affirmative.  Most people, regardless of their political orthodoxy, do not want their kids to grow up to become narcissistic loud-mouthed bullies, serial philanderers, greed-heads, racists, and misogynists. 

Every politician in America ought to be measured against the standard of whether he or she would be a good role model for children.  Senator Ayotte said, upon reflection, that Trump would not be a good role model for children - and neither would Hillary Clinton, and many would concur in that opinion, this poor typist included.  But the parties have made their selections, and now the voters must decide which of the two is the better role model for children as well as for the nation.

Somehow I suspect that deep in her gut even Senator Ayotte knows the answer to that one.

A person who would be unfit to teach in an elementary school would absolutely be unfit to serve as President of the United States.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Trump's Free Ride

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The late New York City hotelier, Leona Helmsley, once famously said "Only the little people pay taxes."   Now, decades later, another New York City hotelier is proving her right.

Donald Trump, who a mere four years ago was goading Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney to release his tax records, is now in the spotlight himself as a Republican presidential nominee who, like Romney, would rather not share his tax strategies with the little people - the ones who actually do pay taxes.

But last week a crack developed in the Trump tax dam.  Some nefarious soul - possibly wife number two or the offspring of wife number two - gave the New York Times a copy of Trump's 1995 tax return - a document showing that his businesses lost an amazing $916 million that year.  Tax analysts were quick to point out that if Trump took full advantage of the tax code, that loss could have resulted in him paying no taxes at all for up to eighteen years.

After the blowhard's initial fury at the unauthorized peek into his private finances subsided, he seems to be warming to the idea that avoiding taxes is a measure of his business cunning, and that ordinary people admire bigshots who openly shirk their responsibility to help fund the government that has already given them so many breaks.  Governor Chris Christie, a man who is Trump's equal in body fat, and former NYC mayor, Rudy Giuliani, a man who is Trump's equal in philandering, both seized on the developing tax story and tried to re-label it at a sign of the presidential candidate's "genius."  Trump himself told a group of knuckle-draggers in Colorado yesterday that he had "brilliantly navigated the tax code."

Trump also responded to Hillary Clinton at the debate when she asserted that he hadn't paid taxes with "That makes me smart."

(Just how smart is a fellow who could lose $916 million in a single year?)

But Trump thinks he's smart, and Christie and Giuliani consider him a genius - and they are probably all three right.  Donald Trump takes full advantage of everything the government has to offer, and he makes a practice of paying as little as possible for the use of those benefits.  He is a moocher, a freeloader, and a big, bloated welfare king.  Us little people pay taxes and keep the country running so important people like The Donald don't have to.  We perform our civic duty, and he reaps the rewards.

The U.S. tax code is a patchwork of crazy loopholes and special exceptions that was pieced together over many years by legislators looking out for their own peculiar self-interests as well as those of their rich constituents.  It is a gilded tribute to the power of wealth and privilege - and a hoary testimonial to the fact that Leona Helmsley was right.

I am proud to pay taxes and do my fair share to keep our country functioning, even if that makes me a little person - and I am ashamed of Donald John Trump.  He represents little more than our basest instincts.

Trump is taking a free ride while the rest of us pull the wagon.       

Monday, October 3, 2016

Preparing for Old Friends with a Big Mow

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Fall

Yesterday I began the 13th lawn-mowing of season.  Hopefully it will be the last.

My yard is huge and I mow six acres or better, most of it with a rider, but some of the trickier areas have to be trimmed with an old fashioned push mower.  I did the hard stuff yesterday, moving some yard furniture around and then mowing all that requires the push mower.  This afternoon I will climb on the rider and begin to tackle the rest.  The riding portion will take up a big chunk of three or four days.

It's been three weeks or more since the last mowing.  The unusually long delay between mows was brought about by damage to the rider on the last mowing that resulted in it being sent in for repairs - and some family emergencies. Fortunately, fall was beginning to set in and the growth of the grass (and weeds) slowed noticeably during that time.  That is why I am hopeful that I am heading into the last mow of the season.

Company is headed this way next weekend, and that is my primary motivation for wanting the place to look nice.  Two old friends from my recent time on Okinawa, Daniel and Valerie, will be arriving next Sunday evening.  Both have been to the Roost one time previously, but on separate occasions.  This will be the first time that we've all been together since the morning that they took me to the airport in Naha, Okinawa, for my final trip home.  That was in July of 2012.

Daniel Murphy will be flying in from his current work station in Japan, and Valerie will be coming from her new home in the Phoenix area.  They will meet at the airport in Springfield on Sunday and then drive to the Roost where we will have a week together of exploring the beautiful Ozarks.

Old friends are the best!

Needless to say, I am also busy cleaning house!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Two Little Deer

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Fall

Two young deer have been visiting Rock's Roost on an almost daily basis.  They come up close to the farm buildings in search of food just as dawn is breaking and during the last light of dusk, dining on the grain that the farmer has scattered for his chickens.    With each visit they become braver and a bit more comfortable in the farm surroundings.  The little deer are as observant of the farmer as he is of them, and they show almost no concern as he putters about doing his chores.

The deer have eaten the pears that have fallen from the farmer's pear tree, and when there isn't enough fruit on the ground to satisfy their hunger, they butt their heads against the tree trunk trying to get more pears to drop to the ground.  They also stop by the salt lick that the farmer set out just for them, and there is enough water in the pond to quench their thirst.

The other day the farmer had to drive to town to do some errands.  The two deer, standing at the edge of the wood, saw him leave and decided it would be a good time to visit the farm in daylight.  Some people on the adjoining property watched them scamper up to the chicken coop and begin to eat out of the hen's feed pan.  Suddenly the deer jumped away, then returned to the pan, and then jumped away again.  As the neighbors watched they finally were able to see what was occurring.  Fiona, the cat, was guarding the feed and would jump at the deer as they got close.  It turned into a game with the deer darting in and out of Fiona's area of dominance and getting what food they could.

Silly cat!

Most creatures at Rock's Roost eat well every day, and the little deer are welcome to what they can forage, regardless of how Fiona feels about it.  (Rosie also enjoys giving them a merry chase when she is outside.)  Times are good, and the farmer hopes that the hunters don't figure just how tame the little deer are because they are important members of the little farm community.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Landry Elizabeth Smith

by Pa Rock

My nephew, Justin Smith, and his wife, Lisa, spent last weekend unpacking into their new home, a beautiful stone showplace on a corner lot in a nice part of Fayetteville, Arkansas.   It was the "forever" home of their dreams.  Sadly, tragedy struck the young family just a few days later - before the boxes were even empty.

On Monday evening their little daughter, Landry, suddenly became so ill that her parents rushed her to a local emergency room.   To everyone's shock and horror the youngster passed away in the early morning darkness of Tuesday.  She was just sixteen-months-old.

The next day, Wednesday, September 28th, Landry's only sibling, her older brother Graham, turned five.

Last night there was an emotional visitation for little Landry at a funeral home in Fayetteville.  Family and friends hugged and cried and thought of the Smith family as a slide show of happier times played above her small, open casket.  The funeral was this morning at the Main Street Baptist Church in Farmington, Arkansas, followed by burial at the Farmington Cemetery.  Two pallbearers, Landry's uncles, Reed Smith and Jason Morgan, brought the casket to the graveside.

As another uncle told me at the cemetery, it's just wrong when a casket is so small that it can be handled by two pallbearers.

And it is just so wrong when a child dies - and so very, very heartbreakingly sad.

Rest in peace, Beautiful Child.