Monday, November 20, 2017

Monday's Poetry: "Thanksgiving Day"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Today's selection, "Thanksgiving Day" by Lydia Maria Child is an old fashioned verse that captures a Currier and Ives image of a ideal holiday that we would all liked to have experienced.  I particularly appreciated the notion of snow at Thanksgiving which did remind me of two consecutive Thanksgivings when I was a child here in the Ozarks and each was marked with the first snowfall of the season.  Now, thanks to the continual neglect of mankind, the climate has changed to the point that snow in the Ozarks is a rarity.

Like the narrator of this poem, the Thanksgivings that I best remember are those that took place at my grandparent's house - a rural setting with a table heaped high and cousins aplenty!  When it did snow, that just made it better.

Here is a quick glimpse of the prelude to an old-time Thanksgiving.

Drive safely, behave responsibly, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving with people you love - or in the service of others.

Thanksgiving Day
by Lydia Maria Child

Over the river, and through the wood,
  To grandfather’s house we go;
       The horse knows the way 
       To carry the sleigh
  Through the white and drifted snow.

Over the river, and through the wood—
  Oh, how the wind does blow!
       It stings the toes 
       And bites the nose
  As over the ground we go.

Over the river, and through the wood,
  To have a first-rate play.
       Hear the bells ring 
  Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day!

Over the river, and through the wood
  Trot fast, my dapple-gray!
       Spring over the ground, 
       Like a hunting-hound!
  For this is Thanksgiving Day.

Over the river, and through the wood,
  And straight through the barn-yard gate.
       We seem to go 
       Extremely slow,—
  It is so hard to wait!

Over the river and through the wood—
  Now grandmother’s cap I spy!
       Hurrah for the fun! 
       Is the pudding done?
  Hurrah for the pumpkin-pie!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Senator Gillibrand Is Right

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

This week New York Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, the person who was appointed to replace Hillary Clinton in the Senate when she moved over to run the State Department, grabbed some headlines when she told a reporter that Bill Clinton should have resigned the presidency as a result of the Monica Lewinsky scandal.   Gillibrand, whom some see as a potential Democratic presidential candidate in 2020, rattled the cages of more than a few party lions with that unexpected remark.

Bill Clinton, who came to Washington, DC, in the early 1990's with a reputation for extra-marital affairs following him from his time as Governor of Arkansas, was supposedly a fanboy of JFK's sexual exploits in the White House.  Regardless of his motivations, Clinton could not overcome his reckless passions, and his lustful pursuits of a young female intern became the consuming news story in the nation's capital for many months at the end of that decade.

On one level, the one cited by die-hard Clinton supporters, all the poor man did was engage in a sexual act with a consenting adult.  One the other hand, however, Clinton broke his marriage vows and he did so in a place that is sacrosanct in American history, the White House.  And while Clinton's partner in this sex act may have been of consenting age, she was just 22-years-old when she was brought to her knees by the 49-year-old leader of the free world - a barely legal young woman meeting the needs of creep bearing enormous stature and power.   It might as well have been rape.

And Gillibrand is right.  Bill Clinton should have resigned the presidency out of shame - even if he committed no "crime" and the impeachment process was little more than political overreach by the Republican Party.  He should have manned-up and said, "By God I was wrong, and I am ashamed."  But Bill Clinton blamed everyone but Bill.

He was no better than Judge Roy Moore.

He was no better than Donald John Trump.

And he should have resigned.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Steve and Louise Shop for Wallpaper

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

In what was perhaps one of the most tone-deaf moments of the Trump regime so far, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and his wife, an actress named Louise Linton, posed this week with newly engraved sheets of dollar bills - the new ones which bear Mnuchin's signature.  A pair of clueless newlyweds posing with the nation's money supply, with the connotation being that it was theirs to do with as they pleased.  Clearly Steve and Louise don't face the every day pressures that affect most of their countrymen because they print their own money!

Steve and Louise both made their money the old fashioned way.  Steve went to good schools and entered the banking business as an executive and quickly rose even higher.   He was a bigwig with Goldman Sachs for several years, and then joined in a group with other wealthy bankers and formed banking giant One West, an organization which grew enormously and immorally fat on home loan foreclosures.  Then Trump happened and Mnuchin's scandalous banking resume fit right in with what the billionaire tax dodger and his entourage had in mind for Treasury.

Louise, on the other hand, took a more direct route to Easy Street.  The Scottish born actress who had a minimal screen career - mostly as someone preparing to be a victim in fright movies where she earned the appellation "the scream queen," found a sugar daddy and married him shortly after he began signing the nation's currency.  Her eagle had landed - at the damned mint!

As all of the awful photos of Steve and Louise posing with the newly printed sheets of dollar bills began circulating on the web, various sights challenged readers to come up with appropriate captions.    One of mine was Louise saying, "Look Ma, I got me a feller who prints his own money!"  Another thought that flitted through my mind was that the giddy-happy couple looked like they might be shopping for wallpaper.  The sheet they were examining was one-dollar bills, which Louise might feel would be appropriate for the maid's bathroom, and I'm sure Steve had in mind running off some Woodrow Wilson $100,000 bills for the ceiling in the master bedroom - something to encourage heroic efforts in bed.

Whatever their personal agendas, it's good to see a couple of Trump tools fondling small bills - for a change.  Keep it up, you crazy lovebirds!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Feeding and Harvesting Deer

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Fall

Missouri has several different types of seasons for hunting deer, but the big one, the one where orange-clad "sportsmen" with big rifles get to stalk the beautiful and fairly docile creatures, has only recently begun.  In fact, last Saturday was the opening day of gun deer season in Missouri, and hunters managed to "harvest" over a hundred thousand deer in the first two days of the murderous frenzy.  My own county, Howell (Howl) led the state in deer kills with over 2,000 being reported over the bloody weekend.  After brief stops by the newspaper office to pose for trophy pictures, the carcasses are quickly carted off to meat processors and taxidermists where the once proud animals are ground into summer sausage and have their heads preserved to hang on trailer house walls where they will frighten small children and be used as coat racks throughout the coming year.

If it sounds like I take this annual outrage a bit too seriously, it is undoubtedly because I do.  Yes, there are too many deer in our state, and they do require thinning, but to just throw open the woods to a stampede of hunters, many of them drunks and some of them children, seems like madness.  There will be human deaths as a result of the rifle deer season - there always are, but those deaths will be downplayed and minimized.  The important number is always the total of deer killed.

I feed the deer at my little farm.   Actually I feed lots of creatures, and three deer yearlings come by most mornings, before daylight, to share in the grain that is strewn  on the ground.  They are tame, so unafraid that I am often within ten feet of them when we first notice each other.  They scamper away until I finish tossing out the grain, and then slip back up to finish their breakfast.

This week we have all been more on edge as gunshots rip through the sylvan serenity of the countryside during most waking hours.  The young deer normally stay hidden during the daylight hours, but Wednesday one appeared in my front yard in the middle of the day.  He acted disoriented and eventually headed back toward the barn and away from the road - but not before several motorists had slowed and took his measure, and presumably weighed the risks of shooting a deer in their neighbor's yard.

I will be glad when the season for this bloody "sport" comes to a close so me and my friends can get back to the peace and quiet that we cherish.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Is Your Bible Autographed?

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The other day I came across a news tidbit on the Internet which claimed that God's man in the backwoods of Alabama, Judge Roy Moore, occasionally autographs Bibles for his fan-billies.  That was a bit on the presumptive side, I thought, but wanting to be fair to a jurist who has been known for being fair to so many others,  I sought out confirmation of this odd activity - a behavior that some might consider blasphemous.  Unfortunately, the only corroboration I could come up with were a couple of tweets that made the same allegation.

So forget I said anything about it at all.

But tweets are often news themselves. Take for example the tweets of Donald Trump, many of which are total rubbish - yet reputable news outlets tend to repeat them as though they had just come down the mountain with Moses.

So forget that part about forgetting I said anything at all.  I believe the women who have accused Roy Moore of being a child-molesting pervert, so I guess I can also believe that he signs books for God.  It's not that much of a stretch.  Mitch McConnell believes the women, too - and so apparently does Sean Hannity now that he has seen the light - the one shining through his lack of advertisers.

Roy Moore has a long and complicated relationship with God, so perhaps it is possible that the deity wants Roy signing his Big Book.  Moore, a theocrat, believes the United States Constitution is an inferior document to the word of God as presented in the Bible and interpreted by Roy Moore.  In the spirit of the country's best evangelical hucksters, he established a foundation - the Foundation for Moral Law - to promote his views and accept love offerings of cash donations.   Moore has paid himself a hefty salary of $180,000 a year for five years from the money that the group takes in from the rubes.  Moore's wife, Kayla, (fourteen years his junior) is the president of the Foundation for Moral Law.  It is currently unclear just how well Roy Moore and his family are living off of the Foundation for Moral Law because the group is a couple of years behind on filing its taxes - and taxes are a clear example of Man's Law interfering with the Law of God.  Senator Roy Moore could help fix that.

One thing that I did learn through my Bible-signing research is that former Arkansas Governor and Baptist minister, Mike Huckabee, does have a history of autographing Bibles - and there are photographs on the Internet of him doing it!  That might be the basis of a good question for Sarah Huckabee Sanders at the next Presidential press briefing.  Heck, her boss might even want to get in on the act, especially if he could turn a few bucks by doing it.

Autographed Bibles.  I sense an emerging racket!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Al Franken: Giant of the Senate

by Pa Rock

Al Franken rose to prominence as a funny man, experiencing success as both a comedy writer and a comedian.  But Franken also has other passions.   Unlike many in show business, he is still happily married his first wife,  Franni, a union that has lasted more than forty years and produced two fine children and several grandchildren.   He is also an idealist who has an uncommon interest in the survival and well-being of the little people of the world, those who are enjoined in the daily struggle of just getting by.  His concerns for the welfare of the common man are what led him away from comedy and into the realm of public service.

Franken, the junior United States Senator from Minnesota, is the author of six previous books, all with a liberal political bent, and a couple of which launch verbal harpoons at Republican gasbags like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly.  He is now out with book number seven, a modest tome entitled:  "Al Franken:  Giant of the Senate."

The new book is an autobiography that is mainly comprised of sketches of the author's life from his childhood in Minnesota, through his evolution as a comedian - with particular emphasis on the fifteen years in which he wrote for and was featured on Saturday Night Live, to his entry into the political orbit of Minnesota's revered Senator Paul Wellstone, and finally to his own life in politics.  Quite a bit of the book is focused on Franken's experiences in learning to be an effective senator and his constant struggle to work within the arcane senate system while always staying focused on the needs of his constituents back home in Minnesota. 

In many ways this book is a primer on both how to be an effective senator as well as a functioning human being.  It should be read and pondered by anyone who is considering running for office.

The author goes into much detail about the importance of being prepared for the job, citing the extensive reading that he has to do in order to be ready for committee hearings on a wide range of issues - and his sheer delight when his thorough preparations enable him expose fallacies being presented as facts.  Franken also hits, time and again, on the importance of playing well with others.  Not every sitting United Stats Senator is someone that we might want as a next door neighbor - just ask the guy who lives next door to Rand Paul - but if a senator is going to be able to advocate successfully for the folks back home, he will eventually need the support of most of his colleagues, even the odious ones.

The one exception to Senator Franken's tireless efforts to find something to like about each of his colleagues is Ted Cruz.  His disdain for Cruz is noted on the book's jacket and has been repeated on talk shows and almost every published review of the book.  The junior senator from Minnesota famously said about the junior senator from Texas:

"Here's the thing you have to understand about Ted Cruz.  I like Ted Cruz more than most of my other colleagues like Ted Cruz.  And I hate Ted Cruz."
One has to wonder how America's most humorous senator would characterize Senator Roy Moore!

But Roy Moore or not, and Donald Trump or not, Al Franken still views the world in positive terms and beats the drum for hope and change.  Yesterday Senator Franken posted the following "alert" on Twitter.  His importance as a voice for a caring and concerned America is reflected in the fact that it has been retweeted nearly 60,000 times in less than a day:

"RED ALERT: Senate GOP just added provision to their tax plan that would gut ACA & kick 13M ppl off insurance. Yes, it's same tax plan that would add $1 trillion+ to deficit while giving majority of benefits to corporations & the rich. We need you to make your voices heard again."
 We are being called to action by someone who truly cares.

 "Al Franken:  Giant of the Senate" is inspiring - and so is the man who wrote it!  He is the example that everyone who enters public service should strive to emulate.   

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Mnuchin Speaks for Nobody - and Fails

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Last year Donald Trump showed America just how he planned to "drain the swamp" as he appointed a raft of incompetents and people of power and privilege to his inner circle.  One of Trump's more interesting selections was Steven Mnuchin, the man whom he nominated to become the 77th Secretary of the Treasury of the United States.  Mnuchin, a long-time executive with Goldman Sachs who went on to lead a group in the formation of banking giant One West - a foreclosure beast - also headed a Hollywood production company before coming to Washington.  As a new Trump cabinet member he has proven to be one of the more colorful clowns at the circus.

This past summer Mnuchin married his third wife, an actress named Louise Linton, and made headlines when it was learned that he had tried unsuccessfully to commandeer a government plane for their honeymoon - ostensibly so he would have access to good communications equipment.  Later he made headlines when the new wife tweeted about all of her shopping successes while accompanying hubby on some on his government business flights - aboard private chartered jets.

Steve and Louise - just a couple of crazy kids out enjoying life and love - on the public dime.

Steven Mnuchin grabbed a few more headlines this week when he made an odd statement on one of the Sunday news shows.  Mnuchin informed the interviewer that "nobody" thinks Russia influenced the U.S. elections and it was time to move on.  He had this to say on Face the Nation:

“Let me be clear, nobody thinks this has had any impact on the election. So whatever occurred, there was no impact.  So I think the American public is ready to move on to more important issues: tax reform and foreign policy and national security.”
I guess that makes me "nobody" because I damned sure believe that Russia influenced the 2016 U.S. Presidential election - and it did so to such an extent that it was able to install a total incompetent into the Oval Office - one that would appoint somebody like Steven Mnuchin to be the Secretary of the Treasury.

So much for draining the swamp!

That's my two cents worth.  "Nobody" has spoken!

No wait, there's more.  Steven, to paraphrase American master-poet James Carville, "Screw you and the horse you rode in on!"  You may speak for a certain class of individuals, but you will never speak for us - the "nobodies" of the the world.  So just shut up and count your money.

Okay, now I'm finished!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Monday's Poetry: "Return to the House at Pooh Corner"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Yesterday morning as I was enjoying a leisurely drive through the colorful fall foliage of the Arkansas Ozarks - and observing occasional mailboxes that are already decorated for the holidays - a bit of nostalgia came drifting across the radio airwaves.  The song which brought back a rush of sweet memories of when my children were toddlers was "Return to the House at Pooh Corner,"  Kenny Loggins' primer on life in the Hundred Acre Wood as told through Winnie the Pooh and his boy, Christopher Robin - with a comforting conclusion by Christopher's father.

Loggins' tribute to Pooh and his friends was first recorded by by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in 1970 and a year later by Loggins and Messina.  In the 1990's Kenny Loggins added another verse to the original House at Pooh Corner, and it became Return to the House at Pooh Corner - the version which follows.

The composer is so tightly identified with this song that he continues to perform it in his concerts today.

For anyone who has ever enjoyed the Pooh stories of A.A. Milne, this song by Kenny Loggins is a pleasant stroll down memory lane.  He perfectly captures the essence of a troupe of characters who were endearing friends to many of us.

Please enjoy another stroll through the Hundred Acre Wood, this one courtesy of Kenny loggins:

Return to the House at Pooh Corner
by Kenny Loggins

Christopher Robin and I walked along
Under branches lit up by the moon
Posing our questions to Owl and Eeyore
As our days disappeared all too soon
But I've wandered much further today than I should
And I can't seem to find my way back to the Wood

So help me if you can
I've got to get back
To the House at Pooh Corner by one
You'd be surprised
There's so much to be done
Count all the bees in the hive
Chase all the clouds from the sky
Back to the days of Christopher Robin and Pooh

Winnie the Pooh doesn't know what to do
Got a honey jar stuck on his nose
He came to me asking help and advice
From here no one knows where he goes
So I sent him to ask of the Owl if he's there
How to loosen a jar from the nose of a bear

Help me if you can
I've got to get back
To the House at Pooh Corner by one
You'd be surprised
There's so much to be done
Count all the bees in the hive
Chase all the clouds from the sky
Back to the days of Christopher Robin and Pooh

It's hard to explain how a few precious things
Seem to follow throughout all our lives
After all's said and done I was watching my son
Sleeping there with my bear by his side
So I tucked him in, I kissed him and as I was going
I swear that the old bear whispered "Boy welcome home"

Believe me if you can
I've finally come back
To the House at Pooh Corner by one
What do you know
There's so much to be done
Count all the bees in the hive
Chase all the clouds from the sky
Back to the days of Christopher Robin
Back to the ways of Christopher Robin
Back to the days of Pooh

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Eureka Springs, Highs and Lows

by Pa Rock

Our weekend getaway in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, has concluded and Patti and I are back at our respective homes.    To say that Rosie was very glad to see me walk through the kitchen door earlier today would be serious understatement!

Sitting down at the keyboard this afternoon, I faced a challenge:  should I return to the drudgery of wading through the political trash blowing across the landscape, almost all of it Republican, or should I spend my time more pleasantly recapping the trip to Eureka Springs, my first visit there in over twenty years?  I am opting to say a bit more about "the Switzerland of the Ozarks" and save the political bellyaching for later in the week - although I have enough righteous anger percolating in my aging brain over a couple of Trump and Roy Moore offenses against decency that the resulting rants will literally write themselves - when the time comes.

The ultimate "high" point of the trip to Eureka Springs was obviously the lady who chose to accompany me there.  It's always fun to have someone with whom to share a travel experience - or any experience, for that matter.

A big highlight was the people who gathered in town to celebrate Veteran's Day.  One of the restaurants provided a free meal to veterans on Friday evening, and on Saturday morning as we drove down the hill and into the older part of town we encountered a large group of individuals standing in a park who seemed to be gathered for a Veteran's Day observance.    Many in that group appeared to be biker's and their "old ladies" - and most were clad in black leather and plastic biker apparel, much of it emblazoned with the "Harley" name and logo - and almost all were in my age range and dealing with weight challenges.  But they were a fun group and we encountered many of them as we strolled the streets and gawked and shopped.

Another event that unfolded in Eureka while we were there was a Porsche rally.   Patti was on one side of a narrow street and I was on the other when the first shiny roadster with a Porsche flag flying out of the window came roaring past.  It was followed by (and I am guesstimating here based on the amount of time it took all to pass) three-to-four-hundred others of all makes and models in a vibrant array of colors - all flying their distinctive Porsche flags.   (The last time I had stumbled upon a rally that enthusiastic and with as many participants was years ago in Idaho or Montana while on a family vacation.  That time it was miles and miles of Airstream trailers making their way down the highway -  exactly like the ones depicted in the film "What's Eating Gilbert Grape.")

One store that we visited had a rabbit assisting at the cash register.  Before I paid for an item, the fellow behind the counter told me to get my camera ready.  He had a very large spotted "rescue" rabbit named "Gumbo"  dozing on the counter.  When the fellow was giving change for my purchase he would hand each dollar bill to Gumbo who would take it in his mouth, and then turn his head toward me and drop the bill in front of me.  When he got to the receipt, the rabbit bit off a piece to chew on and gave the rest to me.  Gumbo also gave me the merchandise which I had just paid for.  Later I returned to make another purchase, one that I paid for with a credit card.  Gumbo took my card and gave it to his boss - and then returned it to me.  Again, he took a bite of the receipt for himself!

Gumbo was, according to his business partner, a mixed breed rabbit who was probably a majority "Flemish Giant."  He was a very sweet and docile bunny!

The "low" points were few in number, though memorable nonetheless.   One involved a search yesterday morning for something resembling a standard breakfast - eggs, meat, toast, and maybe a side of hash-browns or grits.  Real food for real people.  We finally settled on a small cafe that had a large sign proclaiming "Brunch" out front on the sidewalk.  The two breakfasty choices were a fried egg sandwich with all sorts of odd ingredients including spinach (Patti had that) - and Fettucini Alfredo with fried egg, which I tried.  My choice proved to be even worse than it sounded, and I suffered the consequences well into the evening.

Another low point was our accommodations.   The first evening I realized that I didn't have the wifi code to get on the internet.  I started to call the motel office to get the log-in information - only to discover that the room had no telephone.   It took a walk to the office to get the code.  While I there I asked the manager about the missing room phone.  The sweet old thing who insisted on calling me "honey" replied that she had recently bought the place and had gotten tired of cleaning the phones - and besides they ran $25 per room, an expense she felt was unnecessary since everyone has their own phones now.

After walking back to the room and trying the wifi code - only to learn that I still could not access the internet - I made another trip to the office.  This time the manager told "honey" that the wifi didn't always reach every room - but she was happy to have me sit in the lobby and type my blog there - which I did.  Always assume that "wifi available" might not actually be available in the room - just somewhere on the premises - like when Eddie Albert had to climb the telephone pole on "Green Acres" in order to make a call!

But heck, tourist town or not, it's still Arkansas.

Rosie calls it "Barkansas!"

Rosie isn't going to like it when I start trying to teach her to make change!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Holding Hands in Eureka Springs

by Pa Rock
Besotted Goat

This weekend finds me in the quaint and hilly hamlet of Eureka Springs, Arkansas, in the company of a lovely lady.  It would be hard for life to get any better than this!

Eureka Springs is a picturesque community that bills itself as the "Switzerland of the Ozarks."  It boasts several old Victorian homes with colorful exteriors and gingerbread trim, and a variety of charming shops and businesses along the main business district that build up the illusion of being in some German or Swiss village a hundred years ago.

Carrie Nation, the famous saloon-smasher of the pre-Prohibition era once called Eureka Springs her home, and in the 1960's the little town was taken over by young hippies, many of whom bought businesses and lived their lives here.  Today those social outlaws - or their descendants - still control much of the commerce of the town and strive to maintain its unique charms.  Some of those newcomers to Eureka Springs in the mid-twentieth century were same-sex couples.  They went on to foster a climate of tolerance and acceptance that prevails throughout the town - but remains somewhat foreign to the surrounding Ozark region.  There have been national news articles, in fact, that refer to Eureka Springs as the "gayest" community in Arkansas and across much of the American south.

At one time Eureka Springs had a very popular jazz festival each September.  I haven't asked about it yet, but I hope that it has survived and is thriving.  The ones that I attended in the past were wonderful, spreading the sweet sounds of jazz throughout the town's parks and many fine eateries.

The streets are narrow, up-and-down, and twisty, making walking the most efficient way to actually experience Eureka Springs.  But the streets and sidewalks here are old, with stretches of pavement that are uneven, slick, or treacherous in other ways - so senior citizens, like me and my lady, have to be extra cautious walking from shop to shop.  The hills can  be a special challenge to walkers  - particularly when ascending - which is why it is always advisable to hold the hand of someone you love while strolling along the streets of Eureka Springs - and I do!

I wish you all a lovely weekend - just like the one Patti and I are enjoying!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Another Day, Another Sex Scandal in America

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

After nearly a year of feeling certain that it would be the emerging Russian scandal that eventually freed America of Donald Trump, there is now at least a glimmer of hope that he may get washed away in the roaring tsunami of sexual allegations being leveled against powerful men by their long-silent victims.  There had been allegations made against Trump before last year's tragic election, and the candidate himself had been heard on audiotape bragging about sexually assaulting women, but post-morality Republicans and Bible-spouting Christians were able to justify voting for him anyway - apparently based on one fact - he wasn't Hillary.

Victims of sexual abuse who have long remained silent due to shame and a near-certain knowledge that they either would not be believed or suffer career-ending retaliation by their abusers are now coming forward with a sense of righteous ferocity.   Celebrities like Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and Louis C.K. are seeing their once prominent careers come crashing down around them, and politicians are also fearing the delayed retribution of people they perpetrated against.

Yesterday the story broke that Alabama Republican senate candidate, Roy Moore, has been accused by four women of sexually perping on them decades ago when he was a thirty-something assistant district attorney.  One of the women was only fourteen at the time that Moore, according to an account provided by her and her mother, forced his sexual attentions on her.  The age of consent in Alabama at the time was sixteen - and it still is.  Moore's actions would have constituted statutory rape - but the time window for prosecution has long since expired.

The woman's story is so detailed and convincing that the Washington Post printed it.  Moore, a devout Christian, says she is a liar, and he is refusing to abandon his senate campaign, opting instead to blame the story on a political plot hatched by the Clinton's and Obama.  Several prominent Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have expressed disgust at the content of the story and said that "if it is true" then Moore should withdraw from the race.  Today, in an inspired example of believing the victim (for a change), two sitting Republican senators, Mike Lee of Utah and Steve Danes on Montana, went so far as to withdraw their endorsements of Roy Moore.

Moore had been leading his Democratic opponent, Doug Jones, by ten points before this controversy broke.  Polls today show that they are now tied at forty-six percent each.

Roy Moore, the Christian jurist who was once removed from being Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court because he had a large monument to the Ten Commandments placed in the judicial center and refused to remove it, appears likely to have busted the commandments about committing adultery and bearing false witness - and likely to have bruised a few others as he scuttles around trying to obfuscate his detestable past.

That religious stuff is always so much easier when you are imposing it on others, isn't it Roy?

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Erasing Kevin Spacey

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

A couple of weeks ago American actor and director Kevin Spacey outed himself as a gay man, and, in almost the same breath, went on to publicly apologize to a young man who alleged Spacey had made unwanted sexual advances toward him when the victim was a minor.  It wasn't Spacey's finest hour, and the combination of remarks served to strengthen an old and dangerous myth that gay men are pedophiles.

Spacey, however, was not owning any pedophilic actions or tendencies - which would have, by definition, involved an interest in children who had not reached the age of puberty.  What stoked his particular sexual appetite was teenage boys.  And Mr. Spacey, like Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, had way too many unguarded moments in which to pursue his lascivious desires.

Now the number of young men who have come forward to tell of being sexually harassed or pursued by Spacey when they were teenagers has reached double digits, and the sudden, but righteous, furor which has followed these revelations has begun to seriously impact the actor's work status and his professional standing in show business.  Netflix has either suspended or fired Kevin Spacey from its hit television series, "House of Cards," and the show's writers are reportedly looking at ways to salvage the project - perhaps by killing off Spacey's character.

But as if all of that sudden negative attention wasn't enough, word was released yesterday that veteran actor Christopher Plummer has been hired to replace Spacey in a role that he had already completed.  Spacey played billionaire J. Paul Getty in a soon-to-be-released film entitled "All the Money in the World."   The film was already "in the can" and awaiting release in theatres,

Kevin Spacey is being erased from the project, air-brushed out.  What a shame we don't have the same option when politicians are revealed to be sexual predators.

It's time to step forward, Mr. Spacey, and be the man you are capable of being.  Honor your victims by confirming their stories, and do everything you can to atone for your grievous actions and to facilitate the recoveries of those young men.  The rest of your life is just beginning - make it count for something good in the world.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Rand Paul and the Price of Freedom

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky suffered serious injuries last week when he was attacked by a neighbor.  The incident reportedly occurred just as Paul finished mowing his yard and was getting off of his riding lawnmower.  The neighbor tackled him from behind and threw the senator to the ground.  Paul suffered five broken ribs in the ensuing melee as well as bruised lungs and cuts to his face and neck.  He was apparently wearing noise-cancelling headphones at the time of the attack and did not hear his neighbor approaching.  The neighbor was booked on a misdemeanor assault charge and released on $7,500 bail.

Paul, a former opthamologist, and his neighbor, a retired anesthesiologist, at one time worked at the same hospital and now have adjoining properties in a very exclusive gated community south of Bowling Green, Kentucky.  Neighbors indicate that the dispute may have been a result of the attacker's unhappiness over the state of the senator's yard.  Rand Paul, a devout libertarian, is believed to have a high regard for the rights of property owners and almost no regard at all for bureaucratic agencies which attempt to set limits on the use of one's property - agencies like homeowner's associations (H.O.A.'s) which establish and enforce community standards for neighborhoods.

Some of the residents of the neighborhood suggested that long-term unpleasantness might have existed between the attacking neighbor and Rand Paul over the senator's leaves not being raked, saplings growing willy-nilly on his property, and the pumpkin patch and compost pile in his yard.

There may have also been a communication issue.  Senator Paul said that he and the offending neighbor had not spoken in years.  They will be speaking now, albeit through lawyers.

Rand Paul, a fierce advocate for individual liberty, probably realizes by now that freedom is never free.  The neighbor most likely kicked the crap out of the senator once he had thrown him to the ground - as the five broken ribs would indicate - and the people who have probably fantasized about doing something similar to the show-boating libertarian politician could probably fill the Bowling Green Walmart.   But physical violence never resolves anything - not in wars, not in families, and not in neighborhood disputes.

A better approach would have been to fire up the other neighbors, take the grievance to the HOA or its equivalent, or hire lawyers to sue - rather than to defend after the damage has been done.

Either that, or jump the fence late at night and smash his pumpkins!

Get well, Senator Paul, and forgive your neighbor his trespasses!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Air Force Has Ownership in Texas Massacre

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Twenty years ago Congress passed an amendment to Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act of 1997 that went on to impact both the sale of guns and the functioning of the United States military.  The amendment, commonly known at the "Lautenberg Amendment" for its author, Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, was actually titled the "Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban."  It bans access to firearms and ammunition by people convicted of domestic violence.

The Lautenberg Amendment is good legislation, perhaps the last sensible effort to address the indiscriminate flooding of American society with guns.  Domestic abusers are often violent and irrational, conditions which make them unfit to possess firearms.  A report out today on National Public Radio (NPR) states that "in a majority of mass shootings, the shooter's current or former partner, or another family member, is among the victims."  A well-armed domestic abuser is a tragedy waiting to happen.

Members of our armed forces are trained in the use of weapons, and they are expected to be ready to use weapons in the service of their country.  The Lautenberg Amendment made no exceptions for military service men and women.  Any member of the military convicted of domestic abuse is, by law, banned from having access to firearms - and that is as it should be.   Consequently, those military personnel are normally put out of the service because they can no longer perform the most basic aspect of their military duties.

I worked as a civilian social worker with the military from 2005 until 2014, and a portion of my duties involved working with domestic abusers and their victims.  I can strongly attest to the fact that there was much resentment in the military toward the Lautenberg Amendment, particularly by commanders, and there was constant pressure to minimize domestic violence so as to preserve the expensive assets of personnel who were already enlisted and trained.   Once domestic violence was alleged and adjudicated, the units were denied the use of individuals who were well trained and battle-hardened, people whose displacement would eventually result in the hiring of more raw recruits.

Among senior officers and NCO's, the Lautenberg Amendment was often mocked and reviled.

Imagine my lack of surprise when I read yesterday that the shooter at the Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Devin Patrick Kelley, had been able to legally purchase the guns that he used in the massacre because the Air Force had neglected  to enter his domestic abuse conviction into the National Criminal Information Center database - an entry that would have produced a red flag when he attempted to buy a gun or ammunition from licensed dealers.  Kelley, in fact, passed two background checks by gun dealers.

The Air Force is blaming this screw-up on the Office of Special Investigations at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico where Kelley was stationed at the time of the incident and where he fractured the skull of his infant step-son.  He should have been entered into the NCIC database for two reasons:  first, he was convicted of a crime for which a penalty of more than a year in prison could have been imposed;  and second, he was convicted of the specific crime of domestic abuse.

Two reasons to be entered into the NCIC database and denied the ability to legally purchase guns, yet there was an "oversight" and Devin Patrick Kelley was able to buy guns and annihilate a large group of people at the little church where his ex-wife and in-laws regularly worshiped.

Even the Air Force is able to recognize the pungent odor of pig manure, and it has called on the Pentagon's Inspector General to to snoop through the reporting habits of all of the branches of service to see if these "oversights" are, in fact, common practice.

I'm betting that will be another case where the results don't surprise me.

The United States Air Force owns some of what happened in Sutherland Springs - and so does the  leadership of the entire U.S. military for its sustained antagonism toward a piece of sensible and necessary gun legislation.

Wearing a uniform does not exempt anyone from following the law.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Bad Cholesterol Kills Twenty-Six at Texas Church

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

An outdoor concert in Las Vegas Nevada,  a student bar zone in Lawrence, Kansas, a Walmart in Thornton, Colorado, and now a Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas - four diverse scenes of mass shootings in the United States in the last few weeks - places where people were going about their daily lives one moment, and were dodging bullets the next.  Eighty dead and numerous individuals wounded, some with injuries that will be evident for the rest of their lives.

Also during that same period there was a "terrorist" incident in New York City in which a Muslim extremist drove a truck onto a pedestrian walkway killing eight and injuring twelve.

Donald Trump kept relatively calm about the four mass shootings, prattling on about the obvious mental health issues of the shooters but offering no money or proposals to deal with the burgeoning issue.     However, the Muslim man mowing down pedestrians with a vehicle was a different story.  Trump was in his full raging glory as he recommended that the guy get both the death penalty as well as a room at Guantanamo.

Trump's reasoning was simple.  An act of mass murder committed by a Muslim is terrorism, but mass murders, particularly those involving guns, which have white, good-old-boy shooters, are mental health issues.  The shooter in Thornton, Colorado, a white man who had a "stack" of Bibles in his otherwise nearly barren apartment, carefully shot and killed three people, all Hispanic, in the checkout line at his local Walmart - and did not earn even a mention from the finger-pointer-in-chief.

Trump did respond to yesterday's shooting in Texas which killed twenty-six people as they stood outside of their church.  He said it was not a "guns situation."   Of course it wasn't.  Those folks probably died of bad cholesterol!

Thank God that shooter wasn't a Muslim, or Trump would have likely loosed his nukes!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Welcome to Kenya!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

George Washington, our nation's first President, reportedly never told a lie, and now, a mere two-hundred-and-twenty years later, we have a fat blowhard in the White House who seldom, if ever, tells the truth.  One of Trump's better known lies, in fact, pre-dates his selection by the Electoral College to lead our beleaguered nation.  That lie, borrowed from Trump's mentor and racist idol, Joe Arpaio, asserted that Barack Obama had not been born in the United States and had, if fact, been born in Kenya.

Trump loved that lie.   With one quick stroke he questioned Obama's legitimacy to hold the office, challenged his patriotism and loyalty, suggested he was likely a Muslim, and reminded all of America's bigots and haters that Obama was, is, and always will be - black.

Crooked Hillary and Obama the black Muslim from Kenya - Trump's political ideals in action!  Snarl, tweet, and keep the morons stirred up.

Valerie is a good friend of mine with whom I have worked in Arizona and on Okinawa.  She currently lives and works in Hawaii.  She called Friday afternoon (Hawaii time) and said she was headed home early to avoid a major traffic tie-up.  Trump, she reported, was due to land in Honolulu in an hour and roads would be blocked and traffic rerouted for his motorcade.  She was anxious to get home and avoid the mess.  We visited for awhile as she drove home, and she finally made it safely just before Air Force One landed.

I saw on the internet the next day that a some of the protest signs that greeted Trump in Honolulu read "Welcome to Kenya!"  Despite all of Trump's unfounded claims to the contrary, his predecessor in the Oval Office, Barack Obama, had been born on the island of Oahu in the state of Hawaii - way back in 1961.

The signs were humorous, but the odds of them actually teaching Trump anything were very low.  Donald Trump creates his own reality and is quite happy residing in his alternate universe.

Fortunately for the good people of Hawaii, Trump did not stay in Kenya very long.  He is now in Japan and has already gotten in a round of golf.  Being President is a tough job, one that a Kenyan obviously wouldn't be able to handle.

Saturday, November 4, 2017


by Pa Rock
Lovestruck Duck

Last year at this time my best friend of too many years to count, James Steven Carroll, passed away unexpectedly.  He left behind his wife, Patti, and two grown sons.   The Carroll boys had grown up around my own children and their lives had crossed and interacted many, many times over the years.

During the months since James' passing, Patti and I have had many interactions for a variety of reasons, even though we live more than two hundred miles apart - each in our own homes with a full plate of responsibilities and obligations in our separate communities.  Recently it started becoming obvious to both of us that our longtime friendship was blossoming into something more - and for the past several weeks we have been enjoying and exploring that new-found mutual attraction.

Patti is a marvelous woman, and so far the only real friction to our emerging relationship is from her close friends and family who seem to fear that I may spirit her away to strange lands far beyond Springfield where she will morph into some gingham-wearing farm wife! 

Patti is a positive force in her community.  She helped to organize and start the county's first day care center, a facility sponsored by her church, and still serves as a director of that organization - and each Sunday she plays piano in that same church.  James served a couple of terms as the town's mayor, so Patti was the official First Lady of her community.  If I were convince her to move to my little town, her little town would never forgive me - nor should they.

So we have lots of things to figure out.

One aspect of our relationship which is working out nicely is that our five grown children already know and like each other, and they each also seem to like us as a couple.

This feels as though I am entering a growth phase, one in which my life is destined to change in many good ways.  I  hope that the new found happiness that Patti and I are enjoying will spill over onto the stuff that I pen in this blog, and some of the bitterness and rage that occasionally surface in what I write will be tempered by her kind touch.

Pa Rock is happy, happier than he has ever been before - so please be happy for Patti and me as we begin our long, blissful stroll into the future.   And if you begin to notice a some moderation in my bitter tone, now you know the reason.

Life is simple - all you need is love!

Friday, November 3, 2017

Ten Years Just Flew By!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Today marks the end of my first decade writing Pa Rock's Ramble, an effort that I began on November 4th, 2007, shortly after moving to Phoenix, Arizona, while I was looking for a mental challenge to occupy my evening time.  During the ensuing ten years, I have posted something almost every day, and multiples on many days, with today's posting being number 3,768.  (I tried skipping occasional days early on, but Tim, my youngest son, would always telephone and check on me when there was no daily entry - so I decided it was less bother to just get something posted!)

The first blog article was entitled "Obama '08!," and I used it to discuss why I lean strongly toward the Democratic Party and why my  preference for the 2008 nomination was Senator Barack Obama over the front runner at the time, Senator Hillary Clinton.  Obama went on to capture the nomination, and he won the presidency exactly one year after that first blog posting appeared.  Over the intervening decade I have written many positive pieces about Barack Obama and his family - and I am still not a fan of Hillary - a fact for which I take regular criticism from some readers of this blog.

The early blog postings contained what I refer to as "writing scraps," things that had been stuffed in desk drawers gathering dust over the years.  There are some sonnets and other poetry that I had written hidden among the earlier entries, along with a few original short stories.  My "Rusty Pails" collection featuring the adventures of the bard of Sprung Hinge, USA, and his ne'er-do-well buddies made it into The Ramble along with several new episodes that revealed themselves to me over the years.  There are more that fifty odes to Rusty and the gang scattered around in this blog.  I also included some assignments that I wrote in grad school including a couple of book reviews - and several articles that I published in national historical and genealogical journals.

At one time during the early years of the blog I began penning a fictitious account of a homeless man living under my mobile home in Phoenix.  I meant it to be humorous and obviously fictional, but it threw two of my children into panic mode!  (As if I couldn't handle a derelict sleeping under my house!)  There were lots of other grins along the way!

The blog also became home to some letters to my children and grandchildren, especially on their birthdays, as well as several remembrances to friends that I have made and cherished over the years.  Some of my favorites include memorials to my parents, sketches of the lives of my maternal grandparents, and remembrances of old friends like Lee Nida, Fred Blue, and my best friend of a lifetime -  James S. Carroll.

I wrote this blog from a hospital in Amarillo, Texas, every day for a couple of weeks as members of our family gathered around the bedside of my nephew, Reed Smith, after he was nearly killed in a car wreck on New Year's Eve in 2009, a wreck in which his father, Bob Smith was killed.

Over the years this effort followed me along to several states beyond Arizona including Missouri, Arkansas, Texas, California, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, Indiana, and Alaska.   It has been typed on foreign soil as well in places like Okinawa, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, Guam, Canada, and Cuba.  Most of those overseas postings occurred without incident, but once, when I tried to get on the blog at a U.S. Army hotel in Seoul, South Korea, I was denied access because the army deemed my blog a "hate" site!  That was rich, I thought, coming from the army!

Ten years have flown by and this would probably be a good time to retire the effort - and some days it is a major effort!  But I think I will give it ten more years just to see if I begin to mellow.  The first step in that process will be living beyond the god-awful Trump presidency!

Thanks for the feedback over the years, positive and otherwise.  It was always heartening to see a response to something I had written and know that somebody was out there reading my efforts and reacting.   Also, I really enjoyed making so many new friends through this blog.  You all are a diverse and very spirited group!

So, bear with me as I keep typing - and be sure to check in tomorrow as I begin the second decade of Pa Rock's Ramble with an introduction Miss Patti, the best thing to happen to my life in the past several decades - or forever!  She is slowly but surely turning me into a human being!

My very best to you all!  

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Opioid Crisis Hits Close to Home

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

A week or so ago Donald Trump gathered some reporters and finally addressed the national health crisis posed by opioid addiction.  Trump acknowledged the pervasive danger of the problem and declared it a "public health emergency."  Trump's emergency declaration, a toothless and unfunded rant about a true health crisis, made for a day of headlines but little else.

The opioid crisis has captured the attention of Americans because it crosses the economic and color lines that continue to divide the country into "them" and "us.".  It is a crisis that spreads into the nation's better neighborhoods, places where people tend to contribute to political candidates and vote.  As these engaged citizens get caught up in the epidemic through their own addictions or those of friends and relatives, politicians necessarily begin to pay attention.  The complainants are not "those" people, they are us.

So Donald Trump has spoken, and tweeted, and played another round of golf.  He has tipped his hat to a problem, one of several, that is breaking the underpinnings of American society and quickly retreated into his fortress of privacy and privilege.  Opioid addiction is a national crisis, he proclaims, problem solved.

There is much that the federal government could be doing to address and reign in the growing opioid crisis:  tougher regulations and restrictions on physicians' abilities to prescribe opium-based products, better tracking procedures of patients who use multiple medical providers to obtain prescriptions, more money for public education on the dangers of the drugs, more available and better treatment programs, and programs to eradicate illegal opioid production.

Afghanistan is one of the world's major growers of opium poppies.  American troops have been stationed and fighting in Afghanistan for the past decade-and-a-half, and during that time large portions of the country have been razed by the actions of our military.     The abundant poppy fields, however, are apparently sacrosanct and never threatened by the troops of a nation slowly being destroyed by their opium.  Just saying . . .

The suffering and death wrought by opium-based medicines and drugs, things like codeine cough syrup, Oxycontin, hydrocodone and Vicodin - and many others, is pervasive across the United States, extending even into isolated and remote rural communities.  Yesterday my local newspaper, The West Plains Daily Quill, ran a front page article which revealed that the county where I reside, Howell County, ranks 30th in counties nationwide for the saturation of prescription opioids - and first for the state of Missouri.

My county's prominence in the opioid epidemic is sad, but it also a bit shocking.  Despite my occasional tirades about all of the local knuckle-dragging Trump supporters, Howell County is a fairly decent place to live with several good medical centers, public schools rated above the state average, a four-year branch of a large state university, cultural outlets, multiple newspapers, good libraries, theatres, an exceptional civic center, beautiful parks and outdoor centers, recreational activities, and programs for seniors - and yet, when it comes to opioid use within the state - we're number one!

If the opioid epidemic is raging here, it is raging everywhere - and defeating it will take more than a few words from a disengaged politician.  The problem is real, and it will take a real effort and hard cash to defeat it.  It's time for the federal government to step in with something more substantial than mumbled banalities and tweets - because people are dying.

Donald Trump and Congress - quit posturing and do your jobs!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

JFK and Kennedy are not Amused

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Former Quachita Baptist University student Sarah Huckabee Sanders, is currently employed as a pit bull for Donald Trump's White House, and, as such, she doesn't have to be overly concerned with telling the truth or understanding history.  Her lies on behalf of Trump are as rhythmic and regular as her breathing, but her shallowness in the field on American history did not become evident until yesterday when, reading from prepared notes, the irritable and often explosive presidential press secretary snapped off a list of American presidents who had "flaws."  Her list included:  "Washington, Jefferson, JFK, Roosevelt, and Kennedy."

The meanies who hang out on Twitter, Donald Trump's cyber vacation home, were quick to point out that the press secretary to the President of the United States probably should have enough grounding in American history to know that JFK and Kennedy, when identified as presidents, are one-in-the-same person.  A gracious person would excuse the error as being a slip-of-the-tongue, but, again, she was reading from notes that either she or someone else in the Trump camp had prepared - so snark ruled the day.

Huckabee Sanders finger-pointing at past presidents came about as part of her defense of White House Chief of Staff John Kelly who had recently lamented that the Civil War could have been avoided through compromise - and that Confederate General Robert E. Lee, a slave-holder and purported slave-torturer, was a "patriot."  A hallmark of the Trump administration seems to be if you can't lie your way out of an embarrassing situation, then loudly proclaim that others have done the same thing!

Classic misdirection.

Huckabee Sanders is the daughter of former Arkansas minister - and governor - Mike Huckabee, also a graduate of Ouachita Baptist University.  And while it might be easy and tempting to blame her scattered approach to history and human decency on a home-schooling background, it appears that Sarah was a product of the Arkansas public school system - during the years Bill Clinton was governor.

The faux pas of Trump's press secretary was a minor affair when compared to the shit storms that The Donald intentionally serves up most days.  Her splitting of John F. Kennedy into two distinct personages is but a passing grin in contemporary politics.  Kennedy's successor in the White House, Lyndon Johnson would have probably thought it funnier than lifting a beagle by its ears, though his doppelganger, LBJ, might have been offended by someone working in the the White House who doesn't know basic presidential history.  And what would Franklin Roosevelt and FDR have thought about the whole mess?

Sarah Huckabee Sanders may yet have a lot to teach us.

Please pass the popcorn.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

War Without Boundaries, War Without End

by Pa Rock

All war all the time seems to be the continuing geo-political reality for the United States of America and its armed forces.  Way back in 2001, when a couple of dozen young Saudi Arabians shattered America's myth of impenetrability - and George W. Bush promptly pulled on his big boy pants and began wars of retaliation in Iraq and Afghanistan, nobody would have supposed that the ensuing mayhem would still be taking lives, destroying families, and burning through U.S. "defense" dollars nearly twenty years later.

Not only are Bush's ill-advised wars still continuing with no end in sight, they are also spreading.  As Al-Qaeda or ISIS or whatever our enemies de jour are calling themselves today are defeated in one location, they promptly pop up in three others.  The Middle East wars are now percolating in places as far-flung as Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia, and, as we learned in the past few weeks, Niger.  Wherever these Islamic "terrorists" emerge, Uncle Sam quickly rushes in to join the fight.

When the founding fathers drafted the documents that formed our great nation, they carefully crafted several checks and balances to try and keep any one of the three branches of government (executive, legislative, and judicial) from eventually overpowering the others.  One of those checks was involved the pursuit of war.  The President (executive branch) serves as the commander-in-chief and has the power to direct our war efforts, but the President does not have the constitutional authority to declare a war - that rests with Congress (the legislative branch).

So who declared the damned war in Niger - and how did we wind up sacrificing the lives of young Americans there?

Sadly, it all goes back to Congress who, in its infinite wrath and malignant stupidity after the 9/11 attacks by those Saudi boys, passed a war act in 2001 that essentially gifted their powers of declaring war to the President, something the framers of the Constitution had diligently sought to avoid.  The Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) gave free-rein to Dick Cheney, the puppet-master of George W. Bush, to pretty much send American forces to fight wherever and whomever he damned well pleased.  More sadly, that act is still in force two Presidents and sixteen year later.  And, most sadly of all, a blithering mongrel who conducts diplomacy through Twitter, is now in control of all of that unfettered power.

But now American forces are fighting and dying in places far beyond Iraq and Afghanistan, and now a few thoughtful individuals in Congress are beginning to ask why?  Why are we fighting in places like Niger, and how in the heck did we get there?  Who authorized it?  How can Congress take the power to wage war back from a clearly incompetent executive?

There is an effort brewing in Congress, albeit modest so far, to rein in the never-ending AUMF and perhaps even bring it to a close.   Predictably, the idea of ending war is not sitting well with America's most ferocious patriots - the armaments industry - and they are pulling out all of the stops to insure that Congress does nothing that would harm their corporate bottom lines.  With a pliable fool in the White House, now is not the time to mess with his ability to spread America's economic global interests through ever-expanding wars.

The military-industrial complex has opened another front in their war the peace and stability of the world.  The new assault is against Congress and its objective is to protect profits through preserving the standing AUMF that has been the legal pretext for the military engagement of all American troops since 2001.  The two leaders of this assault on democracy are Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson - both Trump appointees.

Mattis and Tillerson are arguing that Congress should keep the current AUMF in place, and if they change it, that should only be in way's that would increase the powers of the executive branch.  Mattis and Tillis want to insure that any new Authorization for the Use of Military Force would not have limitations of time and geography. 

Mattis and Tillerson are carrying water for the arms industry, a group that often pockets a profit from both sides when mankind begins killing one another over critical things - like religion.  They argue that the President should be free to put our young men and women in harm's way in perpetuity - and anywhere he pleases.  After all, it's what the founding fathers would have wanted, if they had anticipated anyone as grand as Donald Trump ever holding the office - just ask Sarah Palin, a noted expert on the founding fathers.

Trump, after all, did wear a uniform in prep school.

America's military involvement in the Middle East is feeding and spreading Islamic radicalism.  It didn't work sixteen years ago, and it is not working today.  It's time for Congress to reclaim its authority to wage war.

Congress, do your job! 

Monday, October 30, 2017

Monday's Poetry: "Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

To every thing there is a season - turn, turn, turn - and all that stuff.  Here in the Midwest there are two seasons for dead skunks along the roadway:  a week or two in early spring, and a week or two in the fall.  Skunks get run down in the spring as they are concentrating on mating and not paying attention to the cars, and, I suspect, that in the fall they are scurrying around looking for places to burrow down and spend the winter - and dream of mating in the spring - while completely forgetting about those danged cars!

Today as Miss Patti and I were motivating from her home in southwest Missouri to my little place in the south central part of the state, we encountered a bunch of dead skunks along the highways and byways of northern Arkansas - five to be exact.  We also came upon two dead raccoons and two deceased opossums.  All of that roadway carnage put me in mind of Loudon Wainwright III's briefly popular "Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road."  (For Judy Garland fans, Loudon Wainwright is the father of singer/songwriter Rufus Wainwright, one of whose claims to fame was his own performance of Judy Garland's famous concert at Carnegie Hall - a concert in which he sang the original score that Judy had sung in the same venue decades earlier.  It was a very campy tribute to the legendary American vocalist and movie star.)

Who is Miss Patti, you ask?  We will cover that happy development in Pa Rock's life in a future blog post.

But for today, please join with me in enjoying Loudon Wainwright's ode to the skunks that failed to make it all the way across the road.  It ain't Shakespeare, but I suspect the Bard of Avon would have fancied the lyrics and perhaps sung along!

(Now, if you are living in a twenty-first century home, repeat after me:  "Alexa, play 'Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road' - level five!")

Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road
by Loudon Wainwright, III

Crossing the highway late last night
He shoulda looked left and he shoulda looked right
He didn't see the station wagon car
The skunk got squashed and there you are

You got your dead skunk in the middle of the road
Dead skunk in the middle of the road
Dead skunk in the middle of the road
Stinking to high heaven

Take a whiff on me, that ain't no rose
Roll up your window and hold your nose
You don't have to look and you don't have to see
'Cause you can feel it in your olfactory

You got your dead skunk in the middle of the road
Dead skunk in the middle of the road
Dead skunk in the middle of the road
And it's stinking to high heaven

Yeah, you got your dead cat and you got your dead dog
On a moonlight night, you got your dead toad frog
Got your dead rabbit and your dead raccoon
The blood and the guts, they're gonna make you swoon

You got your dead skunk in the middle
Dead skunk in the middle of the road
Dead skunk in the middle of the road
Stinking to high heaven
C'mon, stink

You got it, it's dead, it's in the middle
Dead skunk in the middle
Dead skunk in the middle of the road
Stinking to high heaven
All over the road

Oh, you got pollution
It's dead, it's in the middle
And it's stinking to high, high heaven

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Ending the Trump Terrors

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

William Rivers Pitt, the lead columnist at and one of the best political writers in America today, has a new op-ed out which says, in essence, that nobody will change the minds of Trump voters, so the appropriate focus should be on beating them at the polls.   His article, "Stop Trying to Convince Trump Voters.  Start Trying to Win" basically acknowledges that the people in the MAGA ball caps and tee-shirts are so mired in their intolerance and low expectations that they are beyond educating - and the only way out of the swamp of ignorance is through the power of the ballot.

I concur. 

Now with rampant gerrymandering and states "cleaning up" their voter registration lists by purging voters who occasionally miss elections, it is more important than ever for each voter to check on his or her registration status and exercise that most important democratic franchise every time there is an election.  Now is the time for sparring with county clerks and election officials - and not waiting until election day itself to learn that there is a problem. Now is also the time to be calendaring future elections and studying the issues.  Every election plays a part in the grand scheme of things.

Every vote counts - and every missed opportunity to vote makes the other guy's voice just a bit stronger.  It's all about numbers, and the causes and candidates that generate the biggest numbers define America to its citizens and to the rest of the world.   It's going to take big numbers to take America back from the dark forces and images of Donald Trump, but if we all march to the polls for every election, it will happen.

Get involved in democracy and stay involved.  No more Trump terrors!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Congress Continues to Work in Secret

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Vampires and maggots do their best work in the dark, and apparently so do Republican legislators.  Neither the United States Senate nor the House of Representatives can seem to produce legislation in the bright light of day.  And while Congress might have been open to public input back in the time when Eisenhower was in the White House, nowadays senators and representatives waste no time on the concerns of the little guy.   The current process revolves around gathering money and advice from the army of lobbyists who run Capitol Hill, writing a bill in complete secrecy, and then trotting it out for a quick vote before public interest groups have time to digest the proposal and organize any effective opposition.

The recent Republican attempts to dismantle Obamacare illustrate the point and the process.  The amount of secrecy and subterfuge involved in that bit of criminal chicanery hadn't been seen around Washington, DC, in a  half century or more - at least since the Manhattan Project.   While the House fosters little humanity on the GOP side of the aisle, the Senate did stop the madness through the courage of a couple of GOP members with Christian tendencies and a wrathful John McCain.

Now Obamacare appears to be on the shelf, at least temporarily, while Congress shifts its focus to lowering taxes for the richest Americans and in the process cuts services - and benefits - to the poorest segments of the population.  And while this redistribution of wealth probably seems fair to rich freeloaders, the people who actually have to work to fund the government are not going to see it that way - especially if there is some debate and illumination on the subject.

So once again the GOP members of Congress are drafting a pivotal piece of legislation, one which will go a long way toward gutting of compassion and fairness in America,  and they are committing this crime against humanity in the darkest recesses of the Capitol.  Sometime next week Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, will let the members of that tax-writing body, see the product that he and his staff - and an army of self-serving lobbyists, have crafted in total secrecy.  It will be quickly applauded and passed on to the full House which will likely rubber stamp the effort - and then it will go on to the Senate.

America must hope that all of the Democratic senators stand firm against he lobbyist swarm that will be running amuck in the Capitol slinging cash like drug-addled ATMs - and that Collins, Murkowski, and maybe even Rand Paul put serving the public above service to the greed of the billionaire class and the nation's corporate overlords.

And America must also hope that John McCain is still pissed off.

Give 'em hell, Johnny Mac!

Friday, October 27, 2017

JFK Shooting: Keeping Secrets After All These Years

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

It's one of those cases where the real news was buried in the footnotes.  After nearly fifty-four years since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the government was finally set to release the remaining "secret" documents related to one of the most memorable crimes of the twentieth century.  Congress, in fact, passed a law in 1992 mandating that the documents be released in no more than twenty-five years.  The deadline was yesterday, and the result was far from an adherence to the law.

Trump had been trumpeting the imminent release of the secret documents for several days.  He personally was going to turn over those files to America.  Big Daddy was about to take some significant action.  But, of course, at the last minute Trump clutched.

Thousands of documents did make their way to public light, and America will be fascinated with learning more about the intricacies and possible conspiracies that were hidden in their pages.   It will also be intriguing to see what has been withheld and then mulling on the possible reasons that those facts were chosen to be hidden from public view.  There is so much to sift through and ponder.

But other things have been learned from this historic document dump.  It has been revealed, for example, that some papers and files have "disappeared" over the years.  How does that happen with documents supposedly under the control of the National Archives, the same agency responsible for protecting our Declaration of Independence and the original Constitution?

Another thing that we have learned in the last day is that the CIA and FBI are still focused on keeping parts of the files on the JFK assassination secret from their employers - the American people.   Due to badgering from those two agencies, Trump has extended the deadline for release on some documents for 180 days to give the CIA and FBI more time to comb through the papers and further redact information in them.

Two questions:  First, the CIA and FBI have had more than half a century to clean up their mess and redact facts.  Why this sudden last minute push to purge?  And second, what in the hell can possibly exist in those files that still needs to be hidden from Americans fifty-four years later.  Are some of the sources of information still alive and require protecting?  That is laughable on its face.  Tell us who they are and let the journalists have at them - for the sake of illuminating and preserving history.  Or, as has been widely implied, are these papers being kept secret to protect the methods that intelligence agencies use?  If the CIA and FBI are using intelligence-gathering techniques that are more than half-a-century old, well . . . that explains a lot about the state of foreign intelligence today and the reason for wars that never end.

The JFK assassination documents belong to America.  Trump and the "intelligence" agencies need to quit playing games and follow the law.  Release the damned files - all of them!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Electoral College Vomit

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Ron Reagan, the son of the former President of the same name, is possessed of oratorical skills that may even exceed those of his late father.  Young Reagan, himself a news commentator, was in rare form earlier this week when, in a discussion with MSNBC commentator Chris Matthews, Reagan cut loose on the current occupant of the White House:  Donald John Trump.

Reagan, who sounded as though he has more than a passing familiarity with the DSM-5, told Matthews that Donald Trump "is a deeply damaged human being.  He is a sociopathic, malignant narcissist."  The former President's son went on to call for lawmakers to remove Trump from office with this bit of memorable imagery:

“The Electoral College has sort of vomited this thing up and it landed in the Oval Office, and it needs to be removed. It’s a stain. It’s a big glob on the carpet there. It needs to be removed. And that means impeachment or the 25th Amendment.  This man is a danger to the world.” 
Donald Trump as a stain and a blob on the Oval Office carpet?  Yes, I think that works - and it is certainly more palatable than Donald Trump as a world leader with the ability to launch nuclear war.  A stain can be cleaned up - and so can Electoral College vomit.

Congress, do your job!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Corker and Flake Give Up and Then Fight

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Now there are two Republican senators who have chosen not to seek reelection due to the promise of raving hyenas challenging them in primaries - and a third sitting Republican senator has already been retired by a raging bigot and homophobe in a primary election.

Bob Corker of Tennessee announced a few weeks ago that he would not stand for reelection, thus opening the door for a wide array of Volunteer State slime, like Marsha Blackburn, to ooze itself into the race.  Corker, ever the gentleman,  chose to remove himself from the political equation apparently so that he would then be free to tell America what he really thinks of Donald John Trump.  Just a day or so ago he predicted that Trump's legacy would be the "debasing" of America.

The ink on the "debasing" comment was hardly dry when another senator rose to announce his retirement and then proceeded to deliver his own eloquent attack on the walking personality disorder that is Donald Trump.  Jeff Flake of Arizona, in a floor speech that was both eloquent and poignant, noted that behaviors emanating from the Executive Branch (presumably Trump himself) have been "reckless, outrageous, and undignified" and have by-and-large "been excused."  Senator Flake, in speaking out, observed that "silence equals complicity."

Comedian Stephen Colbert noted last night that Republican senators only speak up when they are not involved in reelection campaigns, a fact he spit out with just a tinge of bitterness.  Colbert observed:

"First McCain, then Corker, now Flake — why is it that Republicans only speak up against Donald Trump when they know they're not running for re-election?  They finally grow a set, then they say, 'I'm taking my balls and going home.'"

Senator Flake has vowed to be"silent no longer," but in a mere fourteen months he will have lost his national pulpit and being heard will be considerably more difficult.  Perhaps he and Senator Corker will both continue to pose challenges to Donald Trump's debasement of America and his continuous assault of reckless, outrageous, and undignified behavior upon the nation and the world - and we have to hope that they will.  But in the meantime it feels as if they have both taken the easy way out and left the rest of us to deal with the train wreck.

Stay strong, Senator Corker and Senator Flake, and don't slide into complicity through silence.   America is depending on you.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Everybody Hates Donald

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Donald Trump is quickly becoming the Rodney Dangerfield of modern American politics - the man can't seem to get any respect.

Just this past week a lowly Florida congresswoman with a penchant for wearing colorful cowboy hats tore into him repeatedly over insensitive comments that he made to a war widow, and the string of lies he told in trying to cover up those insensitive remarks.   Then John McCain castigated Trump with an off-the-cuff comment about rich boys who dodged the draft with bone spurs.

The broadsides were also coming in from overseas.   Nicholas Soames, a member of the British Parliament and Sir Winston Churchill's grandson, fired a shot back at Trump after he belittled the British Commonwealth and said the key to keeping America safe was controlling Islamists.  Soames suggested that gun control might also be a good place to start.  And in his tweet back at Trump, Nick Soames called The Donald a "daft twerp."

Everybody hates Donald - even the Brits!

And now Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, the man who took Trump to the woodshed a couple of weeks ago when he referred to the Oval Office as an adult daycare center and said that he thought Trump's behaviors could bring about World War III, is back with more incendiary comments about the leader of the Republican Party.  Today Senator Corker told CNN that he believes Trump's ultimate legacy will be the "debasement of our nation."

The retiring Tennessee senator lamented:

“He’s obviously not going to rise to the occasion as president.  I think at the end of the day, when his term is over, I think the debasing of our nation, the constant non-truth-telling, just the name-calling ― I think the debasement of our nation will be what he’ll be remembered most for. And that’s regretful.”
The Tennessee senator also referred to Trump as a "serial liar" and said that he regretted supporting him in 2016.  Trump, being Trump, fired back several bullshit-laden tweets attacking Corker, proving to anyone paying attention that he (Trump) is not the least bit presidential.

But we all know there is more to Dear Leader that lying and name-calling.  There are also endless rounds of golf and his almost constant efforts to turn a personal profit off of his position in government.

It's more than just regretful, Bob.  It's sadistic, and in some cases it's criminal.

Donald Trump makes Nixon look presidential.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Monday's Poetry: "Rich Man's War"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Say and think what you will about crusty old John McCain, the senior Arizona senator is really good at a couple of things:  holding a grudge and saying whatever he damned well pleases.  If Donald Trump possessed even half-a-brain, he would not have needlessly and carelessly impugned McCain's military service record during last year's campaign.  Trump's joking remarks about McCain's capture by the North Vietnamese did not escape the senator's notice.  Now Johnny Mac is serving up some sweet revenge, albeit a bit cold.

McCain's first shot across Trump's bow came when he helped to kill the Senate's efforts to repeal Obamacare, voting against a measure supported by Trump and nearly every other Republican member of the Senate. Now McCain has lobed another shot at Trump - and it was a doozy!

Johnny Mac, while speaking to CSPAN about the new Ken Burns' documentary on the Vietnam War, had this to say about those who served and those who did not:

“One aspect of the [Vietnam] conflict, by the way, that I will never ever countenance is that we drafted the lowest-income level of America, and the highest-income level found a doctor that would say that they had a bone spur.  That is wrong. That is wrong. If we are going to ask every American to serve, every American should serve.”
Donald Trump, a social dilettante who was of prime draft age during the Vietnam War, did not serve.  Trump had a total of five deferments, one of which was for "bone spurs."

And while those nasty old bone spurs must have been painful, McCain's criticism undoubtedly hurts worse.

So far The Donald has resisted the urge to go on Twitter and fire back at the cranky old veteran.   That is probably a smart tactical decision on his part because McCain, like Trump, does not like losing.

Here are some of Steve Earle's thoughts on who starts wars and who actually fights them.

Rich Man's War
by Steve Earle

Jimmy joined the army 'cause he had no place to go
There ain't nobody hirin'
'Round here since all the jobs went
Down to Mexico
Reckoned that he'd learn himself a trade maybe see the world
Move to the city someday and marry a black haired girl
Somebody somewhere had another plan
Now he's got a rifle in his hand
Rollin' into Baghdad wonderin' how he got this far
Just another poor boy off to fight a rich man's war

Bobby had an eagle and a flag tattooed on his arm
Red white and blue to the bone when he landed in Kandahar
Left behind a pretty young wife and a baby girl
A stack of overdue bills and went off to save the world
Been a year now and he's still there
Chasin' ghosts in the thin dry air
Meanwhile back at home the finance company took his car
Just another poor boy off to fight a rich man's war

When will we ever learn
When will we ever see
We stand up and take our turn
And keep tellin' ourselves we're free

Ali was the second son of a second son
Grew up in Gaza throwing bottles and rocks when the tanks would come
Ain't nothin' else to do around here just a game children play
Somethin' 'bout livin' in fear all your life makes you hard that way

He answered when he got the call
Wrapped himself in death and praised Allah
A fat man in a Mercedes Benz drove him to the door
Just another poor boy off to fight a rich man's war

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Karma's a Bitch, Mitch!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The political news magazine, "The Hill," recently polled nearly two dozen Republican Senate hopefuls on whether they would be supportive of Mitch McConnell as the Senate's Majority Leader or not - and "not" seemed to carry the day.

McConnell, a Kentucky slug who poses as a turtle, made his political reputation by having a stated agenda of keeping President Obama from passing any legislation, regardless of the impact that this obstinance had on the lives of his fellow Americans.  He also speaks with pride about blocking Obama's final appointment to the Supreme Court for nearly a year and then handing that important decision over to a blowhard reality television "star."

Mitch was thought to be moving into his glory days this year with a Republican (of sorts) in the White House, a Republican House, and a Republican Senate - but as the year draws to a close all the current Congress seems to be able to agree on are votes to adjourn.  Trump failed to provide any sort of program or master plan to move America forward, and without executive leadership, Congress didn't accomplish anything of note.

Trump's brain dead supporters know, they KNOW, that Trump is not at fault for yet another year of nothing changing in Washington, DC.  Trump has brought the polluters back to town, he has appointed white nationalists to his inner-circle and put an old-school segregationist in charge of the Justice Department.  He has defended the free speech activities of Nazis and bigots while never missing an opportunity to ridicule outspoken black individuals - and he jokes about people who joke about hanging gays.  And if all of that isn't enough to bind his supporters to him forever, Trump desperately wants to build a big, impenetrable wall to keep out those toilet-cleaning, lettuce-picking, motel room-cleaning Mexicans.

Donald Trump is a godsend to America's tattooed, pot-bellied, dentally-challenged master race, and Congress needs to step up and help him spread his glory across the entire nation.

But Congress is failing our Glorious Leader, and Mitch McConnell, in particular, is the goat who is destined to be scaped for the continuous missteps of the Trump administration.   Trump's people KNOW it's not Donald's fault, and the Democrats are in the minority in both houses of Congress so it's hard to effectively blame them for the constant string of failures.  That leaves McConnell to eat the blame - and hopefully Paul Ryan, too.

So when "The Hill" spoke to more than twenty senate hopefuls, they found none - zero - who would state their support for Mitch McConnell.  There are outside forces, people like former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, who are openly encouraging and supporting senate candidates who will oppose the continued leadership of McConnell.  While most kept quiet on the issue or tried to sidestep it, a few stated their open opposition to McConnell and tried to tie their opponents to him.

For the time being at least, it sucks to be Mitch - and he so deserves what he is getting!