Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Skewed World View of Jeff Sessions

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, III, the Attorney General of the United States of America, appears to be viewing the world from a white, backwater perspective that is mired in pride and ignorance  He hails from a place where good old boys drive their pick-up trucks along the back roads with their guns and Confederate flags on prominent display, a land where skin color in the base determinant of opportunities for success in life.  Sessions has a lifetime of prejudices and pent-up anger at what he sees as the other America, the one where people of color dare to think they can climb the ladder of equality and be just as much in control of their own destinies as he is of his - and now, as attorney general, he is at last in a position to put them back in their place.

Jeff Sessions is rapidly shaping up to be the single most dangerous character in the Trump political sideshow.   

The new attorney general is busy rolling back the clock on the federal government's efforts to assist in bringing rogue police departments under control.  Federal oversight and things like "consent decrees" are now being re-examined through a new lens, one that is far more tolerant of police brutality and much less accepting of public protest.  Sessions and his Department of Justice are hellbent on returning law enforcement to the glory days when it was run by the likes of Bull Connor.

Being a southerner, Jeff Sessions is, almost by genetic design, an ardent supporter of states' rights.  He is from a time when Jim Crow was still in effect in the Deep South, and Blacks were kept in submission through racist laws and brutal police actions.  But then the federal government began to intercede and put limits on the states' abilities to discriminate based on race.  It was an outrage that Sessions never forgot - nor forgave.

Yet now, this aging Alabama cracker finds himself in virtual control of the awesome legal and police powers of the federal government, the entity he once abhorred - and now he is very much into telling states and cities what they can and cannot do when it comes to certain things.

Sessions is on a mission to purge America of folks who don't look and think like him, and his first battle in that campaign is to rid the country of undocumented (he would call them "illegal") immigrants from south of the U.S. border.  One of the messages that the nation's top cop and lawyer is sending is that states and cities which offer "sanctuary" to those he wants to deport is that they will be punished for attempts to block his efforts at making America white again.  The feds will counter the charitable acts of states and cities by withholding federal funds - and they will still come looking for those "illegals."

(States' rights are all well and good, as long as those states and other small political entities agree with positions held by Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, III.   The attorney general is also making noises about limiting the ability of states to legalize the use of marijuana for medical and recreational use.  Sessions once famously remarked that he was a supporter of the Ku Klux Klan until he found out that some of the members smoked pot.  Some, however,  suspect that he still is supportive of hillbillies in hooded bed sheets, whether they toke on the occasional joint or not.)

But if Jeff Sessions is angry with interference form states and cities, he is livid at what he sees as judicial overreach into his and Trump's efforts to ban immigrants from entering the United States.  A few days ago he had this to say regarding a federal judge in Hawaii blocking boss's latest effort to ban Muslims from entering the country:

"I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the President of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and Constitutional power."
How dare a judge have an opinion, particularly one based on the Constitution, a document written by a white privileged class which should forever protect and sustain white privilege!

And how dare a judge in Hawaii, a place as foreign to real Americans as Kenya or Mars, have an opinion on anything at all.  All of that salt water in the Pacific dilutes whatever potency any opinion formed on an island might have - doesn't it?   Republicans have still not gotten over the election of Barack Obama and the fact that he was born in America - in the American state of Hawaii.  They spent eight years trying to de-legitimatize Obama as not being an actual American, and in so doing they formed a floating notion of Hawaii being outside of the United States.

Sessions' slam at the judge in Hawaii was just a case of Republicans coughing up the same old racism - Hawaii as the land of Obama, and therefore Hawaii as a foreign nation.

Well, hear this, Jefferson Beauregard, and hear it well.  I, too, resided on a tiny island way out in the Pacific Ocean.  It was twice as far from the mainland United States as Hawaii is.  I spent four years of my life living on that little island, and the entire time I was there I worked in support of the United States military.  Being there did not cause my patriotism to suffer, nor did it diminish my understanding and love of the Constitution.  I have, sir, even taught the Constitution to college students.

I lived on an island in the Pacific, Mr. Sessions, and yet I still recognize that banning entry into the United States based on religion is an egregious affront to the document that makes our country unique and, as your boss likes to say, "great."  America will not be great for long if we begin to ignore the document that is the very essence of its greatness.

I understand the Constitution and I get why that federal judge saw fit to impede Donald Trump's governance by tweet and tantrum.   He is out of step with the enlightened majority of Americans who recognize the value that diversity imparts onto our nation.  By his campaign bravado and his executive order banning entry to the United States from selected Muslim-majority countries, Trump is appearing to show a national religious preference, something which sounds closely akin to establishing a national religion, something which is specifically forbidden by the Constitution.

Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions have a choice to make:  either they bring their governing into alignment with the Constitution, or they ignore that enlightened document, the cornerstone of our democracy, and continue their sordid attempts to strengthen white privilege in America.  If they choose the latter, it will be at their own peril.

The Constitution has a remedy for tyrants.

Friday, April 21, 2017

If the Creeks Don't Rise

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Spring

Here in the Ozarks one of the ways we gauge the likelihood of something happening is by saying that it will occur if "The good Lord is willing and the creeks don't rise."  Well, the creeks are rising today - but life goes on even in the rain.

This day promises to be a busy one at the Roost.  In addition to the rounds of feeding and watering the animals and the standard trip or two into town, I am also expecting out-of-town company for lunch, and this evening Tim and Erin and the kids will be here - along with Boone, my oldest grandchild, for a weekend visit.  We will be celebrating Boone's upcoming eighteenth birthday.  It should be a wonderful - though very wet - day!

It rained all day yesterday, and this morning it is still coming down in a steady downpour.  The northwest corner of my property, an area that was a pond many years ago, quickly went under water, and one of the routes into town has now been temporarily closed due to a rising creek.

But, it's only water.  It comes, it goes, and life marches on.

The biggest chore on the farm, the mowing, has just been completed, but with all of this moisture, the grass will be ready for another mowing in ten days.  I have a large holly bush sitting in a pot in the front yard that needs to be planted, and the chicken coop is past due for its monthly cleaning.  The garden has been prepared but not yet planted.  When it rains the chores get backed up.

The two new storage buildings arrived this past week. - and they look even better than I imagined they would. (I would hold an open house to show them off if it wasn't for all of this damned rain!) The twelve-by-twenty-four metal structures are impressive.  Both are fitted with plug-ins and light fixtures, but are awaiting connection to a nearby power line.  Shelving also needs to be installed in one before the process of moving the treasure from the house and garage to the buildings can begin.  But it is all on hold until the rain ends.

On a more positive note, it's a great day for staying inside and enjoying the company of loved ones.  Bring on those grandkids!   Maybe we'll take the baby ducks and geese out and let them play in the puddles!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Fox News Continues Cleaning Out Its Pig Sty

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Last summer Fox News reluctantly bowed to public pressure and fired Roger Ailes, the company's longtime CEO and chairman, over an alleged pattern of sexual abuse perpetrated by Ailes against some of the company's female employees.  Now, almost a year later, Fox has  fired on-air host Bill O'Reilly after a report in the New York Times claimed that Fox had paid out $13 million to five women as compensation over their allegations of sexual harassment by O'Reilly.  Rupert Murdoch, the founder and owner of Fox News tried to cast the firing as a moral decision, but some other news sources posited that letting O'Reilly go was more of a business decision - one that was made as sponsors began pulling their ads from his show.

Whatever the reason, ding-dong O'Reilly's gone!

Bill-O found himself in the news last month after he made a snide remark on the air regarding Congresswoman Maxine Waters.  Waters had spoken disparagingly about Donald Trump, and O'Reilly commented to a talk show panel that he had not heard a word Waters had said because he was too focused on the "James Brown" wig that she was wearing.  He later issued an apology, but laughed as he did so.

Maxine Waters was not amused.  After news broke this week about the latest round of Bill O'Reilly sexual harassment allegations, Waters said that he needed to be jailed.  When it was announced yesterday that he had finally been ousted from Fox, Congresswoman Waters suggested that the television personality was plagued with psychological issues - and she still thought he needed to be jailed.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, said recently that he regards Bill O'Reilly as "a good person," and added that he does not think O'Reilly did anything wrong.

It would seem that birds-of-a-feather still tend to flock together.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Georgia's 6th Almost Votes Its Ossoff

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Democrat Jon Ossoff came within about three thousand votes of winning a special election to Congress yesterday in a district that has been represented by Republicans for decades.  Georgia's 6th congressional district had been held by Tom Price, but opened up when Price was chosen by Trump to be the new Secretary of Health and Human Services.  That same seat had also formerly been occupied by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Ossoff received 48% of the vote in the primary, and a combined field of eleven Republicans polled fifty percent.  If Ossoff could have broken the 50% mark, he would have won the election outright, but as it now stands he will have to face perennial state candidate and political provocateur Karen Handel in a June runoff election.  Handel took 20% of the vote in yesterday's primary.

This election is important because it is seen as a bellwether for the upcoming congressional elections in 2018, ones in which Democrats hope to make significant gains.  Georgia's sixth is in the suburbs of Atlanta, a portion of the city that is more affluent and better educated than many areas in the South.  Donald Trump carried the district in 2016, but only by one point.

Ossoff, an independent investigative filmmaker and a former congressional aide, ran a smart campaign with a strong cadre of youthful volunteer supporters.  He managed to raise a campaign war chest of $8.3 million, most of it in small donations and from out-of-state, and was able to turn the enthusiasm and cash into a formidable campaign machine.

Karen Handel has lost Republican primaries in Georgia for governor and U.S. senator.  She identifies closely with Christian fundamentalist campaign issues, and became infamous a few years back when she was forced to resign as head of the Susan G. Komen organization after ending that group's donations to Planned Parenthood - a move that proved to be hugely unpopular.  The Komen group later reestablished its ties to Planned Parenthood.

One of the clever campaign signs used by the young Democratic candidate read:  "Get Out and Vote Your Ossoff"  - and nearly half of yesterday's voters did!  Now all of the big political guns - and money - will be trained on Atlanta for June's runoff election.

Give 'em hell, Jon!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Justin Trudeau, True and False

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

My favorite North American leader is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, a dynamic social activist whose whose work on behalf of ordinary Canadians crosses borders and sets examples for governments everywhere.   The image of Trudeau and other Canadian government officials handing out winter coats and hugging new refugees from Syria as they arrived at the Toronto airport stands in stark contrast to the immigrant-bashing vitriol currently emanating from Washington, D.C. and every smalltown coffee shop in the United States.

Lately there has been a bit of buzz about young Mr. Trudeau on Twitter, some of it a bit contradictory to the image he seems to have been crafting.  So I decided to explore those tweets and try to determine which news was accurate and which was fake.

One tweet from environmental activist (and founder of the climate reality group, 350.org) Bill McKibben states that "The world's handsomest leader has an ugly climate record."  It then links to an article in The Guardian which McKibben wrote that blasts Trudeau for his support of pipelines used to transport oil from Alberta's tar sands to the United States, including the infamous Keystone XL.

McKibben's tweet actually had two barbs - one that the young prime minister is handsome (and therefore one might assume that he is a stereotypically 'shallow' pretty-face), and one that his liberal credentials are smirched by support for an environmentally unsound policy and thereby making him a hypocrite.  Beauty, or handsomeness, is in the eye of the beholder, but there have been a couple of photos of Ivanka Trump staring glassy-eyed and slack-jawed at the Canadian Prime Minister.  So, with flies using Ivanka's mouth for a helipad whenever Justin Trudeau is around, it might be safe to assume that McKibben is correct on that count.  Rate it as true that Trudeau is handsome.

It is also true, according to news reports, that Trudeau supports the extraction and transportation of Alberta's tar sands through pipelines.  He does so, he says, for the jobs and economic benefits that the activity generates for the province of Alberta.  That does not necessarily prove the claim in McKibben's opinion piece that Trudeau is  a "disaster for the planet."  The prime minister is decisively moving Canada away from the use of coal.  Piping oil out of Alberta, true.  Disaster for the planet, not so much.

The other area where Justin Trudeau is getting a lot of press is his leadership in the changing world view regarding marijuana.  Twitter claims that Trudeau's government has proposed the nationwide legalization of marijuana for recreational use are true.  The pending legislation would allow Canadians over the age of eighteen to possess one ounce of weed legally, which they would have to purchase from government-licensed distributors.  (The strength of the marijuana would be limited, and the provinces could increase the minimum age for purchase if they so chose.  Individuals would be allowed to grow up to four plants in their homes for personal use.)  True, all true!

What is not true is the other rampant tweet which claims that Trudeau is pardoning all persons convicted of marijuana crimes and plans to expunge their records.  False, totally false - but that's not to say that it isn't a good idea.  Think about it Justin - in for a penny, in for a pound!

All of that - and free health care!


Monday, April 17, 2017

Monday's Poetry: "Lives in the Balance"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

This humble typist has a lot in common with American songwriter and poet Jackson Browne.  Not only were we both seventeen in sixty-five, we also share a healthy disregard for war.   Browne, who was maturing and forming his worldview during the Vietnam War, saw and understood the hypocrisy of the rich initiating wars which were ultimately paid for and fought by the poor.  Now, as Donald John Trump discovers the the unbridled joys of commanding "his" very own military and being a warrior from the complete safety of an exclusive country club in Florida, Jackson Browne's thoughts on war seem more prescient than ever.

As Browne so clearly points out, the "men in the shadows" are never the ones to fight and die.

When wars are fought to actually eliminate things like poverty, disease, racism, sexism, and homophobia, this old man will do everything he can to help the cause - but until then spare me the platitudes that encourage blind allegiance to battles for oil routes, trade pacts, business interests, religion, hateful borders, or press relations.

Here are Jackson Browne's words on war.  May they resonate forever.


Lives in the Balance
by Jackson Browne

I've been waiting for something to happen
For a week or a month or a year
With the blood in the ink of the headlines
And the sound of the crowd in my ear


You might ask what it takes to remember
When you know that you've seen it before
Where a government lies to a people
And a country is drifting to war


There's a shadow on the faces
Of the men who send the guns
To the wars that are fought in places
Where their business interests run

On the radio talk shows and TV
You hear one thing again and again
How the USA stands for freedom
And we come to the aid of a friend
But who are the ones that we call our friends?
These governments killing their own?
Or the people who finally can't take anymore
And they pick up a gun or a brick or a stone


And there are lives in the balance
There are people under fire
There are children at the cannons
And there is blood on the wire


There's a shadow on the faces
Of the men who fan the flames
Of the wars that are fought in places
Where we can't even say the names


They sell us the president the same way
They sell us our clothes and our cars
They sell us everything from youth to religion
The same time they sell us our wars


I want to know who the men in the shadows are
I want to hear somebody asking them why
They can't be counted on to tell us who our enemies are
But they're never the ones to fight or to die


And there are lives in the balance
There are people under fire
There are children at the cannons
And there is blood on the wire

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Babies

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Spring

Except for the never-ending need to mow, spring is a beautiful time at The Roost.  The daffodils, narcissus, and tulips have already bloomed, and now the white lilac and new dogwoods are showing their beauty.  The garden containers are full of fresh soil and just waiting to be planted, and the large holly bush that I bought last week is patiently waiting for someone to dig it a forever home.

The farm animals are also in the blooming mode.  Fiona, the cat, is pregnant and appears to be looking for the perfect out-of-the-way place to give birth, and the two male peacocks are yelling and dancing and spreading their fans as they desperately try to woo the seven peahens.  The girls should begin laying eggs any day now.

Olive and Sullivan (and possibly Boone) are all coming to the farm next weekend, and I wanted to make sure that they have a good time and learn a few things while they are here.  Yesterday I went to a local animal swap meet to see what farm animals were looking for a new home.  There was a nice selection of many chickens, both chicks and adult birds, as well as a couple of goats and some rabbits.  But it was the birds with webbed feet that caught my attention.

One vendor had a hundred or more baby ducklings of several different breeds swarming in some large tubs.  I told him about my lonely male Cayuga, Hector, and the guy said that he thought he had three little black Cayugas.  It turned out that he had four - and I bought them all.  Then I discovered his goslings.  He had several Toulouse and two White Chinese.  I wound up buying six of the Toulouse - which he sold to me for the price of five.

What could be so grand as a goose from Toulouse?

The ducklings are tiny, especially when compared with the goslings.  All of them are just a few days old, but the goslings are a full three times as large as the ducklings.  I kept them all outside for the rest of the day segregated into a two-chambered cage.  I feared that the big goslings might trample the ducklings.  They became acquainted through the wire divider, and by the time I placed them all in the nursery together yesterday evening the ten were fast friends.  Today they are all playing together and getting along fine.

I have had geese before.  Adult geese tend to be bossy and know no fear.  I suspect that by the time these six Toulouse begin getting big, the three cranky old guineas will no longer rule The Roost!

It's all part of life on the farm!

Happy Easter!  (And for my good friend Valerie who moved to Hawaii yesterday, "Aloha!"  See you this winter!)

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Trump's Military?

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

When Donald John Trump decides to employ his sixth grade vocabulary skills and do some extemporaneous speaking, such as replying to questions from the press, the results can range anywhere from comical to terrifying.  An example of a Trump-sized scary statement  occurred this past Thursday when he was faced with questions from reporters after a speaking event. 

A journalist asked about the MOAB (Massive Ordinance Air Blast - a.k.a. Mother of All Bombs) bomb that was detonated over a warren of caves in Afghanistan earlier in the week.  Trump, in trying to explain that the military had an overall authorization to employ whatever strategies they deemed necessary in the war efforts, began his explanation thusly:

"What I do is I authorize my military. We have the greatest military in the world, and they've done a job as usual. So we have given them total authorization and that's what they're doing and frankly, that's why they've been so successful lately."

The statement taken in its entirety smacks of standard Trump gibberish, but it is the first sentence that is so concerning - the part where he refers to the Armed Forces of the United States of America as "my military."  For anyone who ever feared that Donald John Trump had some dictatorial predilections, there is your proof.  Trump, in Trump's mind, is the owner of our nation's military.  It is his possession, something he can put on a mental shelf with his other trophies - the Trump Tower, the Miss Universe Pageant, Mar-a-Lago, and now the 101st Airborne Division.

Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta looked at the question of ownership from the service members' point of view.  After stating his concern over Trump's massive Freudian slip, Panetta said this:

"He has responsibility obviously, as commander-in-chief, to be able to make decisions with regards to our military. But I think if you ask the men and women in uniform who they are responsible to, I think their answer would be, 'We're responsible to the United States of America.'"

Panetta is right.   By a quirk in the Constitution, Trump is the official Commander-in-Chief with ultimate responsibility on how the military is deployed and used, but it is not his military.  The United States military belongs to each and every citizen of this great nation.  Tin-horn dictators have their own personal militaries - but the President of the United States does not.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Scorpion Flies Business Class on United

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

This past Sunday, the same day that a physician was assaulted and dragged off of a United Airlines flight at O'Hare Airport in Chicago by overzealous security officials, another incident that resulted in bodily injury occurred on a United Airlines flight from Houston to Calgary that was already airborne.  A Canadian gentleman who was a business-class passenger on the flight to Calgary, was just beginning to enjoy his lunch when he felt something land on his head.  He pulled the critter off and discovered that it was a scorpion that had fallen from the overhead bin.  He set the intruder on his plate, and then later as he tried to move it, the scorpion stung him.

United handled this incident much more professionally than the one in Chicago.  The plane crew radioed for medical advice, and a nurse who happened to also be a passenger on board the plane gave the man a painkiller.  Medical personnel were present when the plane landed in Calgary, Alberta, and the passenger was taken to a local hospital for an evaluation.  It was also reported that United Airlines plans on compensating the individual and his wife for the inconveniences that they suffered while on the flight.

And meanwhile a platoon of wannabe screenwriters are pondering the possibilities of "scorpions on a plane."

What does a scorpion sting feel like?

Forty years ago on a hot summer afternoon I was mowing the yard at my home in Mountain View, Missouri, with a push mower when I inadvertently ran over an underground colony of yellow jackets.  I was stung eight times on the arms, legs, and face before I even realized what was happening.  Those stings were the most painful experiences of my life, and I can, to this very day, remember the pain vividly.  It lasted for hours.

Eight of nine years ago while living in a second-floor apartment in Goodyear, Arizona (the Phoenix area) I was suddenly awakened in the middle of the night by a horrible stinging sensation.  As I fought to get free of the sheets, I felt as though my leg was on fire.  When I finally got to the floor and turned on the lights, I discovered a small scorpion sitting squarely in the center of my bed.  He had stung me twice on the leg.

I captured the creature in a small medicine bottle to make sure that he could do no further harm, and then pondered what to do.  Instead of heading to an emergency room, which would have been the prudent thing to do, I chose instead to research scorpions on the Internet.  By the time I finally ascertained that individuals who were unfortunate enough to be stung by a scorpion would either die or not - depending on how allergic they were to the venom - an hour had already passed and I was still breathing.  So I went back to bed and spent the rest of the night in troubled sleep.

The scorpion's sting felt just like the ones that I had received from the yellow jackets all those years before.  The sting of a scorpion is excruciating!

The next morning I was telling my co-workers at Luke Air Force Base about my ordeal with the scorpion, and one old Arizona desert rat told me that the only scorpions to really worry about were the small, translucent ones.  That was a perfect description of the one that had rocked my world the previous night!

United, next time you might want to insure that the vermin are all flying "coach," back in the cheap seats where they belong.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Trump's Tsunami of Stupid

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

There was a political cartoon on the Internet this past week entitled "Suffer the Children."  It was drawn by artist Jen Sorenson.  The cartoon, in four panels, described how Trump policies are having a detrimental effect on children.  One panel showed a little girl complaining that she couldn't breathe as a result of the Trump administration returning to dirty coal and moving to end clean power.  Another showed a child complaining that her mother would no longer be able to afford insurance if Trump was successful in killing the Affordable Care Act.   One other panel had a crop duster in the background spraying chemicals over a field with a notation that Trump's EPA chief had trashed a ban on chlorpyrifos, a pesticide that harms children's brains.  A child in the foreground of that panel was telling Trump, "You are literally lowering my IQ!"

It was that panel, the one about pesticides harming the intellectual potential of children, that particularly caught my interest.  Yes, I'm sure it's true, just as I'm sure that EPA Chief Scott Pruitt is far more concerned with protecting corporate profits than he is in the general health and well-being of the American public that he is supposed to be serving.

But looking beyond a thoroughly evil government policy that poses a direct and extremely harmful threat to a broad spectrum of Americans, and young Americans in particular, I began to wonder if Trump himself wasn't also placing a limitation on the intellectual level of the entire country through his limited vocabulary and inability to speak on a mature level.  His repetitive use of simple sentences (and often just sentence fragments) spiked with nonsensical adjectives like "bigly" and "huge" must be having an impact on the way the rest of America communicates.

It wouldn't be too much of a stretch to argue that as America transforms from the intellectual highs of listening to the eloquence of Barack Obama and sinks into the reality show drivel of Donald Trump that our ability to communicate necessarily begins to erode in the process.

In exploring Trumpisms and adjectives often used by Donald Trump, I came across a list purporting to be Trump's favorite (most used) words and terms.  Not only do the following sound like Trump, they also reflect the limited intellectual playground on which he operates.

Donald Trump's most used words:  win, stupid, weak, loser, we, they, politically correct, moron, smart, tough, dangerous, bad, lightweight, amazing, huge, tremendous, terrific, zero, out of control, and classy.

Most of those words would be more likely to appear in episodes of Duck Dynasty than they would in Supreme Court decisions or United Nations resolutions.  

Surprisingly, "bigly" and "nasty" did not make the list.

The kids in the cartoon were right.  Some of the environmental policies of the Donald Trump administration are posing health risks to children and even limiting their intellectual development. But beyond his dangerous and greed-based policies, Trump just flapping his jaws creates a very real risk of submerging America's intellectual potential under a tsunami of stupid.

It shouldn't hurt to listen when a President speaks.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Alternative Facts on Hitler

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The Trump press strategy used to be that when Press Secretary Sean Spicer said something especially stupid to reporters, presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway would rush out and try to salvage Spicer's comment.  For instance, when the Spicer reacted to media reports that claimed the crowd size at Trump's inauguration was smaller than those of other recent presidential inaugurations, he charged that the media had deliberately underestimated the crowd size.  Trump's swearing-in, the erstwhile flack contended, had drawn the "largest audience to ever witness an inauguration - period -  both in person and around the globe."

Spicer's boast was easy to prove false, and when Chuck Todd questioned Kellyanne about the press secretary's bold-faced lie on Meet the Press, she responded that his statement was based on "alternative facts."  Todd quickly countered by saying that "alternative facts" were "falsehoods," and Conway got in a snit accusing the host of the show of trying to make her look "ridiculous."

Well, she was being ridiculous.

Now, nearly three months later, Sean Spicer is still Trump's press secretary, though God and Donald Trump alone know why, and he is still bumbling his way through scrimmages with reporters.  Yesterday, in an attempt to defend his boss's missile attack on Syria, Spicer was commenting on the sinister nature of Syria's leader, Bashar Al-Assad, when he noted that Assad's use of chemical weapons on his own people was an unprecedented atrocity.   Spicer said that even Adolph Hitler had never used chemical weapons on his own people.

That statement, coupled with the historical reality of the deaths of more than six million Jews in Hitler's gas chambers, left much of the world sputtering in disbelief - and Kellyanne Conway did not rush out to try and save the day.  Later, in trying to clarify his remarks, Spicer said that Hitler had not killed his victims in the same manner as Assad, but had instead sent them to "Holocaust centers," a term so vague and inoffensive-sounding as to almost make one think of "visitor centers."

Today the bumbling White House press secretary is apologizing.

There are at least two schools of thought on why Spicer said what he did.  The first is that he lacks the educational background to be fully cognizant of history - or the "he is just too damn stupid to know better" defense.  By that logic, the presidential spokesman is someone who would have difficulty passing a comprehensive junior high American history exam.

Another option would be that the press secretary does have a passable knowledge of World War II, but that he does not consider European and German Jews to have been Hitler's people.  That ideology is something likely to have germinated or festered-up in the Steve Bannon wing of the White House, a place where a purer sense of German identity and Nazi philosophy is apt to be fostered.  Those troublesome Jews were not, from an alt right perspective, Hitler's people - and therefore he never gassed his own people.

Are we listening to Stupid Sean Spicer, or is Trump being represented by Sinister Sean Spicer?  Neither version should be acceptable in a modern and enlightened world.  If the White House press secretary doesn't have the strength of character and common decency to resign, he should be fired.

And after Spicer exits the White House, perhaps he should consider going back to school where a whole world of actual facts await his discovery.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

America's Airports: The Front Line of Fascism

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

"Know this, United Airlines:  I am sixty-nine-years-old, the same age as the doctor that your security thugs physically and ruthlessly drug off of that plane in Chicago Sunday night.  If I am ever seated and buckled in for one of your flights and your agents try to remove me - I, too will fight!  Your company's behavior was disgraceful!

My name is Pa Rock and I approve this message."
Every time I have occasion to take a commercial flight in this country, I return from the experience swearing that the next time I will take the more expensive, more time-consuming, but much less stressful train.  I have had a few (damned few) good experiences at airports and on commercial flights, but they are eclipsed by the traveling horrors that seem to be the mainstay of U.S. airports and commercial air flights.

Sunday night Dr. David Dao boarded a United Airlines flight in Chicago for a short hop to Louisville, Kentucky, where he reportedly had patients awaiting his care the following day.  After getting seated and buckled in, flight attendants announced that the flight was overbooked and asked for four individuals to give up their seats.  Even though compensation was offered, no one volunteered to go - probably because the next flight to Louisville wasn't until the following afternoon.

The airline was "overbooked" because United suddenly realized that it had to shuffle four employees to Louisville in order to keep a flight there from being cancelled.

The airline employees then initiated a process that resulted in four "volunteers" being selected by the airline based on several factors.  Three of the randomly chosen "volunteers" reluctantly agreed, but Dr. Dao did not.  The doctor expressed his view that he had been racially profiled due to being Chinese, and insisted that he had patients to serve in Louisville.

He became irate.

The airline employees called in security and the old physician was removed, dragged from the plane, a process that left him with a busted and bloody lip.

Score one for corporate America.

But the victory of United Airlines was short-lived and very, very Pyrrhic.

Twenty years ago a multi-national airline would have gotten away with that kind of outrageous behavior, but not today.  In this day and age when a corporate bully decides to humiliate a little guy, out come the cell phones.  In addition to yelling their strong disapproval at what was happening to their fellow passenger, many began video-taping the incident - and most of those videos were posted to the Internet before the plane was even in the air.

The whole world saw what happened - and now United Airlines is in full grovel mode.  The corporation's president issued a letter to United employees saying that even thought the incident was regrettable, it had been handled correctly.  His cavalier attitude fueled another big surge of resentment against the suddenly beleaguered airline.  Then one of the security guards involved in the incident was fired.  So much for being "handled correctly."

And those pesky videos were viewed hundreds of millions of times.  A news story on NPR this morning talked about outrage in China regarding the incident.  One Chinese viewer of the video asked if it was an example of "human rights" in America.

Sadly, it is.  Fascism was already well established in the land of the free and the home of the brave - even before the arrival of Donald Trump.  It took root in our airports - where paying passengers are routinely lined up, processed, de-shoed, de-belted, searched, relieved of property, sometimes patted down and even undressed, and made to suffer rude treatment -  and has spread from there.

Don't "Fly United."  In fact, don't fly at all!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Monday's Poetry: "Blues"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

A little more than twenty years ago I set sail on a "bicycle cruise" across the Caribbean Sea.   I traveled with a group of thirty or so adventurous individuals on a regular cruise ship, but our small segment of passengers brought along bicycles - which we picked up especially for the trip from a bike shop in Puerto Rico.  The shop owner also came along to act as our emergency mechanic.  The ship sailed at night, and each morning when the big boat docked, our group went ashore and began the day's planned ride.

We did, I believe, eight islands in ten days.  Usually we rode as a group, but on long rides we tended to get spread out.  Our tour guides, a couple who owned a travel agency in Washington state, arranged for a sag (support and gear) wagon to follow along and pick up anyone having difficulty with the ride.

I usually tried to stay within the main body of the group, but a couple of times I wandered.  I remember taking off by myself on the island of Martinique when, for a reason that now escapes me, I decided to return to the ship early.  Traveling through the busiest part of the port city on a bicycle was a challenge - but it was also a chance to see the island in a way that few tourists traveling by ship ever get to experience.

The other time that I had a solo bicycle adventure was on the beautiful volcanic island of St. Lucia.  St Lucia is a paradise of lush greenery and charming inhabitants.  Our trip began at the port in the morning and we bicycled across town and up into the hills.  Our first stop was at a little school where a native of St. Lucia was busy whacking the tops off of coconuts with a machete and offering thirsty tourists a taste of the milk.   He worked for tips.

A few miles later we came upon a drink stand and a telephone booth across the road from a set of outdoor bleachers.  Those were pre-cell phone days, and one young man in our group wanted to stop and try to contact his girlfriend back in the States.  I busied myself visiting with an older man who was lounging near the drink stand.  "What are the bleachers for?" I asked.  The old man smiled and replied that the person who owned them had one of the only television sets in the area.  "So, you sit on the bleachers to watch television."  I surmised.  "No," he replied.  "The women watch the television when they do aerobics - and the men sit in the bleachers to watch the women."

As we biked along, we began to get spread out, and I found myself biking alone out of view of the rest of the group.  It was then that I had a flat tire. While waiting patiently along the side of the road for the sag wagon to arrive, a couple of young men in a large furniture delivery truck pulled up and asked if I wanted a ride.  It was still several miles to our destination, so I said "Why not?"  As I was riding in the open back of their large truck, we passed several members of my group, and I was quick to wave and shout greetings to one and all.  The good Samaritans in the truck dropped me at a rural intersection close to the beach that was the destination of the morning's ride.

While I was waiting on the bicycle group to catch up with me, I struck up a conversation with an old man who happened by.  By this time I was becoming very fond of beautiful St. Lucia and its friendly people.  I asked the fellow about the price of houses on the island.  We were standing near a nice, yet fairly modest home.  "What would this house sell for?" I inquired.  He responded that it would probably go for about $40,000.  A home in paradise for just $40,000.  I was intrigued.  "And what about taxes?"  "Oh," he responded, "We have no taxes."

It would have all been so simple, yet here I sit, twenty years later, retired in West Plains, Missouri, mowing most of the year - and paying taxes to do it!

Today's poem, "Blues" by St. Lucia native and Nobel laureaute Derek Walcott, describees a street scene and some rough activity that the poet encountered while living in the artsy section of New York City known as Greenwich Village.  Walcott also lived for several years in England where he was a university professor.  He passed away last month on St. Lucia, and with his passing that island paradise lost one of its many treasures.

Please enjoy "Blues" by Derek Walcott while Pa Rock reflects on the green serenity of St. Lucia and ponders what could have been.


Blues
by Derek Walcott

Those five or six young guys
lunched on the stoop
that oven-hot summer night
whistled me over. Nice
and friendly. So, I stop.
MacDougal or Christopher
Street in chains of light.

A summer festival. Or some
saint's. I wasn't too far from
home, but not too bright
for a nigger, and not too dark.
I figured we were all
one, wop, nigger, jew,
besides, this wasn't Central Park.
I'm coming on too strong? You figure
right! They beat this yellow nigger
black and blue.

Yeah. During all this, scared
on case one used a knife,
I hung my olive-green, just-bought
sports coat on a fire plug.
I did nothing. They fought
each other, really. Life
gives them a few kicks,
that's all. The spades, the spicks.

My face smashed in, my bloddy mug
pouring, my olive-branch jacket saved
from cuts and tears,
I crawled four flights upstairs.
Sprawled in the gutter, I
remember a few watchers waved
loudly, and one kid's mother shouting
like 'Jackie' or 'Terry,'
'now that's enough!'
It's nothing really.
They don't get enough love.

You know they wouldn't kill
you. Just playing rough,
like young Americans will.
Still it taught me something
about love. If it's so tough,
forget it.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

U.S. Military Struggles to Adapt to Trump

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

In the not-too-distant past communicating with the President of the United States was a more complicated process than it is today.  What once required a trip to our nation's capital and an assist from someone with the right connections, now can be accomplished by simply including the President's Twitter logo (@realDonaldTrump) on a tweet.  Chances are he won't read it personally, but you can be sure that some flunky at some desk in basement of the White House or the Executive Office Building  is tasked with reading everything directed at the POTUS - and flagging anything of interest for further scrutiny.

What I didn't realize until recently was that the U.S. military now has a major presence on Twitter.  Perhaps that is their most effective way of staying in contact with the Commander in Chief.  The main branches of our nation's military tweet at the following:  Army (@USArmy), Navy (@USNavy), Marine Corps (@USMC), Air Force (@usairforce), and Coast Guard (@USCG).  Additionally each of the branches have special twitter accounts for their recruitment efforts, sports teams, and other specialty areas that they wish to highlight.

But it doesn't end there.  Some of our nation's most sensitive military activity centers also tweet.  As an example, the Air Force Global Strike Command has a Twitter account (@AFGlobalStrike), one supposes as a way to collect suggestions on where to launch air strikes.

There was a story in the news this week about the U.S. Strategic Command, a branch of the Department of Defense that is in charge of our nuclear arsenal.  Strat Com tweets at  @US_Stratcom.  Yup, when those guys aren't busy counting and recounting our nuclear weapons, they can while away their time posting tweets.  The news story noted that the U.S. Strategic Command had recently tweeted a link to an article by Breitbart News, a thinly veiled right-wing extremist site accused by many of having a decided tilt toward a neo-Nazi philosophy - and the former employer of Trump aid, Steve Bannon.

The article in question was headlined:  "Nearly All Elements of Nuclear Triad Outdated," a notion that Strat Com apparently wanted to push - and what better way to get the President's attention than to highlight it on Twitter.  In addition to an important component of the military lowering itself to grovel for money on a commercial web site, the fact that the agency associated itself with Breitbart also raised eyebrows - and anger levels.

Last week the Pentagon also sought to enhance contact with the White House by inviting unpaid presidential aid (and Trump son-in-law), Jared Kushner, to visit the troops in Iraq.  Kushner traveled to the war zone with Marine General Joseph Dunford, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  It was a trip that appeared to be designed as much for photo-ops as it was for learning about the never-ending conflicts in the Middle East.

Unfortunately, as far as photo-ops go, Kushner was probably not the best choice for the trip.  One photo of him that got a lot of press attention showed the diplomat-by-marriage looking all Ken Doll in a shiny dark suit that was over-laid with a desert cammo flak jacket.  It was a sadly comical prissy-boy-tough.  The only way he could have looked sillier would have been if he was wearing a tiara - and that wouldn't have been by much!

But give the military its due as it struggles to be prepared for any contingency.  Always before they have had to deal with crafty politicians, but those sands have shifted, and now suddenly the generals find themselves working for rich celebrities.   Today they are fighting Muslims in Iraq, but tomorrow they may find themselves trying on uniforms designed by Ivanka.

War is hell.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

The American Potentate

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Donald John Trump is on the road again.  America's Dear Leader and his faithful entourage of sniveling "yes" men are holed up at Trump's Mar-a-Lago private and very expensive club in Palm Beach, Florida, where the politician is dining on steak and lobster between rounds of golf.  This time he is also entertaining Xi Jinping, the Secretary General of the Communist Party of China - so it goes in the books as a "working" vacation.

As Americans we should be very proud, I suppose, to have the opportunity to show those godless Chinese how much more glamorous life can be in the "free" world, but the sad truth is that darned few Americans can afford to live life like a Trump.   We can take some consolation, however, in the fact that we all get to help pay for Trump's lavish lifestyle.

Conservative estimates are that each time The Donald and his minions weekend at Mar-a-Lago, U.S. taxpayers shell out in excess of three million dollars.  This weekend marks the seventh time that Trump has gone to his Florida resort to get away from the rigors of Washington - the seventh time in just eleven weeks!

Every time Trump visits Mar-a-Lago, not only does he make money off of the government, he also generates vast amounts of free publicity for his business.

(Remember when candidate Trump used to complain about Obama's vacations and lament that when he became President he would be too busy to take vacations?)

Melania Trump and Trump's youngest son, Barron, still reside in Trump Tower in New York City.  That also requires that the Secret Service rent rooms in the Trump building in order to protect the wife and son - and to be close at hand when the President is visiting.

The Secret Service has recently asked Congress to increase its appropriations by another $60 million for this year alone - much of it to be used in protecting the President, his spouse, five children and three of their spouses, and seven grandchildren.   And the Trumps live life large, requiring a great deal of protecting.  Two weeks ago the adult Trump children along with their spouses and children, all flew off to Aspen for a skiing holiday.  That little family get-together required the presence of nearly one hundred secret service agents!

The two Trump adult sons, whom some wags have tagged "Uday" and "Qusay" for patently obvious reasons, are also taking business trips abroad and dragging along taxpayer-funded protection.  One recent trip was to Uruguay - a place that secret service agents probably don't often get to visit.

Our country has a long history of offering around-the-clock protection to the President and his family, and we should not do anything that would place these people in harm's way.  But up until the ascent of the Trump family, the occupants of the White House always bore some resemblance to ordinary people.  Now suddenly we find ourselves in the odd position of being lead by an individual who behaves as though he and his family are royalty, and, as such, entitled to all that the country can offer - and then some.   We have, it would seem, an American potentate.

America should cough up one dwelling for our Chief Executive and his family, flights and accommodations for legitimate business matters and affairs of state, and basic protection for him and his immediate family.  We should not be sending platoons of secret service agents off to ski resorts
 to watch over children of privilege frolicking in the snow, nor should we be paying through the nose to house government employees in facilities owned by the President and his family.

Donald Trump should not be allowed to rent rooms or sell meals to employees or agencies of the government he heads.  Nor should he be allowed to promote his personal businesses through official government activities - such as hosting the head of China at his Florida resort.

If he wants to spend his days playing golf and his nights gorging on rich foods, let him - but let him do it on his own dammed dime!

This taxpayer resents being robbed by the rich!

Friday, April 7, 2017

Trump Commits an Act of War - Between Rounds of Golf

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist


Donald John Trump, the aging blowhard who became President not through a majority vote of the American electorate but rather through a quirk in the Constitution, might do well to sit down and carefully read that fragile old document which propelled him to the highest office in the land.  It is the Constitution, after all, which defines how our government must operate.  It grants authority for each of the three branches of government to do certain things, and it sets strict limits on the powers of those same three branches.

One thing that the Constitution is quite clear about is who has the authority to declare war.  Our founding fathers did not want that awesome responsibility resting with just one individual, someone who might let petty vindictiveness overpower reason and sound judgment.  James Madison the other good fellows who penned and ratified the Constitution gave the power of starting wars to Congress – and Congress alone.

Congress will occasionally defer and give the President latitude in pursuing war policies, such as they did with the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in the 1960’s that gave LBJ the authority to pursue a war in southeast Asia, and more recently when it allowed George W. Bush to use his best judgment to retaliate for 9/11 by chasing his demons across the Middle East.  But at no time did Congress give up its Constitutional power and prerogative to initiate a war.

What is a war?  War happens when one sovereign nation deliberately and with malice aforethought attacks another nation.  Last night Donald John Trump committed an act of war when he ordered the bombing of an air base in Syria.  Trump would argue, one suspects, that he did not take our country into war because his intent was that the bombing would be strictly a one-time thing in retaliation for Syria using chemical weapons on its own people.

One could also argue that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was a one-time thing, but it quickly escalated to war throughout the Pacific.

No one is saying that the President doesn’t have the right to retaliate whenever our country is attacked, because clearly, as Commander in Chief, he does.  But Syria attacked its own people – not the United States of America – and if that chemical attack warranted a fighting response from us, then clearly it should have been as a result of a deliberative process in the appropriate body – Congress.  If the bombing of Syria was that critical and necessary, then Congress should have had the opportunity to weigh in on the matter and to make the ultimate decision.

Bombing a sovereign nation is an act of war.  If the intricacies of the Constitution are going to prevail in an election over the clear will of the people, then the demands of the Constitution should also take precedence when our nation lets loose its bombs on another country.

We did not elect a king, regardless of how His Nibs views the matter.  The powers of starting a war rest with Congress, not with some posturing aggressor who has the temperament and emotional stability of a junior high bully.

Congress, do your job!

Next question:  If we, as a civilized people, are so outraged at the idea of Syria gassing and killing civilians, including women and little children, why the hell are we so steadfastly refusing to grant these targets of genocide refugee status in America?   Would that not be the ultimate act of unfettered Christian charity?

If the situation is so horrendous that it calls for an act of war on our part, then certainly the tragedy befalling the people of Syria merits our country opening its doors and its hearts and accepting those who are fleeing the carnage.

God bless Justin Trudeau and the good people of Canada for showing the rest of us what Jesus would do.

And meanwhile, back at Mar-a-Lago, more golf, more steaks, and more luxury living - all on the public's dime.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Tornado Pummels Goodman School

by Pa Rock
Former Goodman Student

I'm not completely off the grid, but the fact that I don't have access to television as a news source means that I occasionally miss a story that that otherwise would have consumed my attention had I known about it.  That chicken came home to roost last night when a friend at the weekly pinochle game started talking about the big tornado that had hit the little town of Goodman in extreme southwest Missouri on Tuesday night.  He added that the town's elementary school had been destroyed in the storm.

That left me sputtering.  I get ninety-percent of my news from the Internet and the rest from our little daily newspaper, and nowhere had I heard about the Goodman tornado.  Having lived in and around Goodman from the age of four until I was ten - and having attended the school there from first through fourth grade - I had a lot of my personal history mixed in with the debris left by the tornado.

The sirens went off here in West Plains on Tuesday night, nearly two hundred miles east of Goodman, but I slept through them.  Fortunately, all our area got was a lot of wind and rain.

But Goodman, of course, was not spared.  Today I have been scoping out the damage on various Internet sites, and it does look as though my old elementary school took a direct hit.  That school became part of the Neosho School District back in the big consolidation push of the 1960's, and I was an administrator with Neosho Schools in the early 1990's.  That job, as well as a later position with the State Children's Division, brought me back to the old Goodman School on numerous occasions.

At one point several years ago while I was living and working on Okinawa, I posted mini-biographies of my first three teachers at the Goodman School on this blog.  Those hard-working and dedicated teachers were Helen Hubbard (1st grade), Cora Gum (2nd grade), and Melva Foley (3rd grade).  Those ran in July of 2011 and are still posted on The Ramble if any former students would like to go back and add their comments.

Mother Nature gives every area its cross to bear, and here in the Midwest we have grown accustomed to the savagery of floods and tornadoes.  They are a part of who we are and help to shape our resilience and resolve.  Nevertheless. it's hard to be truly prepared for something as devastating as a tornado.

Godspeed in your recovery, Goodman.  May your teachers and students (and parents) find the strength to navigate through temporary quarters for the next few weeks, and may those school bells be pealing proudly as a rebuilt facility opens in the fall!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Tent City Prepares to Fold

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Tent City, an unholy publicity stunt thrust upon humanity by Joe Arpaio, the former Dufus Maximus (Sheriff) of Maricopa County, Arizona, will soon be closed.  The reason:  there's a new sheriff in town, and this one is focused on law enforcement rather than showmanship.

Paul Penzone, the incoming sheriff of Maricopa County, has announced that the outdoor jail complex, known nationally at "Tent City," will soon drop its flaps and be no more than an ugly footnote in the history of the American southwest. 

Joe Arpaio, who was first elected sheriff of Maricopa County in the fall of 1992 and went on to serve six terms before being ousted by Paul Penzone in November of 2016, was a master manipulator of the media.  During his first year as sheriff, Arpaio opened the outdoor jail facility as a way of generating publicity and showing his constituents how "tough" he was on criminals.

The seven-acre facility utilized seventy vintage Korean War tents to house as many as 1,700 inmates.  But just keeping his jailbirds outside in the blistering Phoenix sun was not enough for Arpaio.  As the novelty of that wore off and headlines wained, the attention-seeking lawman stirred more news coverage and controversy with stories about how he was feeding his inmates for just pennies - usually two meatless meals a day which the inmates had to eat while watching the Food Channel on television.   At other times the meals consisted of "green" bologna sandwiches.   Arpaio also made sure that the press knew he limited convicts' television viewing to educational and church programming, and made the them wear pink underwear.  Mistreatment and humiliation were staples in Joe's toolkit of correctional measures.

Arpaio had a neon sign placed his above the facility which flashed a one-word taunt:  "Vacancy!"

With Arpaio, it was one outrage after another - and his public ate it up!

Over recent years the number of inmates housed at Tent City dropped to around 800, but operating expenditures were never able to come down.  The county tried to close the facility to save money and to help offset the enormous court judgments (several millions of dollars) that were being levied against the county due to Arpaio's mismanagement and corrupt practices, but the old sheriff stubbornly refused.  He opted instead to save money by forgoing raises for his deputies and staff.

But now that is all history.  Joe Arpaio has ridden his military surplus tank off into the sunset and Paul Penzone has begun cleaning up the mess Arpaio left behind.   And closing Tent City will go a long way toward closing the book on Joe Arpaio.

Bring on the bulldozers!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Congressman Scott Peters, an Arrogant Annoyance

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Democratic Congressman Scott Peters of California's 52nd congressional district is, by most accounts, an effective legislator who is fairly consistent in his support of a progressive agenda.  Peters, whose district represents the pricey areas of northern San Diego and Coronado, lives in La Jolla, the seaside community where Mitt Romney had his famous home with the car elevator, and he is reported to be the sixth richest member of Congress.

By most measures, the Democratic Party is undoubtedly lucky to have someone of Mr. Peters background and prominence as a member of its caucus.   Nevertheless, Pa Rock is not a fan.

As someone who occasionally contributes (very modestly) to select political candidates, I understand that party functionaries like Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Nancy Pelosi, and Chuck Shumer eagerly collect donor information and spread it far and wide to candidates in need.  During an election cycle my email inbox begins filling with with pleas for campaign donations from Democrats in every corner of the country.  Once or twice a cycle I set aside a couple of hours and very patiently go through those unwanted solicitations and "unsubscribe" from communications which I never "subscribed" to in the first place.

It takes a lot of work to unsubscribe from a raft of unwanted emails.  The print on the process is always small, and sometimes it takes a very careful reading to determine the exact place to click in order to sever the relationship.  But still I persist - and usually my efforts are met with an honorable response.  Last summer, for example, I "unsubscribed" from Hillary's campaign after tiring of the unrelenting barrage of begs from Hill, Bill, and Chelsea imploring me to send "just a dollar" to be an active part of her campaign.  Hillary's people responded to my unsubscribe request by immediately dropping me from her mailing list.  (Of course, they had McCaskill start sending requests for cash for Hillary the very next day - but the important thing is that they stopped asking directly - and to this very day I still do not receive emails from any of the Clintons.)

The Hillary campaign proved itself to be honorable - as did all of the other campaigns to which I unsubscribed.  All, that is, save one.

Scott Peters, the rich congressman with a family net worth in excess of a hundred million dollars and a man who could easily afford to self-fund his candidacy, even in an expensive market like San Diego, will not honor my repeated request to "unsubscribe" from his mailing list.  I have, over the last few months, requested an end to our relationship over fifteen times, yet still he arrogantly and annoyingly persists in sending me emails begging for money.  In fact, the volume of emails that I get from Scott has increased since I began my ill-fated campaign to remove him from my inbox.

Every day I get at least one email entreaty from Scott Peters asking for a donation,  and other days multiple begs arrive.  Some are brisk and businesslike, while others are more personable - often with a photo of his Stepford family that would look great on any upscale dentist's brochure.  And almost every day I reply with a request to "unsubscribe."  Those requests are always followed up with acknowledgments that my request has been processed - and the next morning I again find Scott lounging in my inbox!

Here is Scott's message from yesterday:

With your outstanding help, we hit our end-of-quarter goal.
I’ll be honest, I was worried we might fall short. Thanks to grassroots activists like you, we hit our all-important end-of-quarter goal.
With the generous support of friends and neighbors, our team will be able to continue to build up our campaign so we can continue to fight protect and preserve our Democratic values that are directly under threat from the current administration.
Thank you again for being a part of this team,
Scott
(Just imagine how gushy that might have been if I actually had sent a donation!)

Will someone not rid me of this meddlesome politician!

Scott, if this campaign is any indication of your management skills, the people in California's 52nd could do a heck of a lot better.  If your campaign needs money, write a check - but leave me alone.

Please cease and desist  - and stay the heck out of my inbox!

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Dionnes, a Family Exploited

by Pa Rock
Student of History

There was an article on the Internet this morning regarding the once famous Dionne quintuplets of Canada.  The five identical little girls were born to very surprised parents in a remote corner of Ontario on May 28th, 1934, the first known set of quintuplets to all survive birth.

The baby girls were named Yvonne, Annette, Cecile, Emilie, and Marie.   They had five older siblings at the time of their birth.

As a youngster I remember stories about the Dionne quints and references to them both in conversation as well as through the popular culture.  They were still an oddity as they reached adulthood in the 1950's.  Then, of course, with the development and use of fertility drugs, multiple births started becoming more commonplace, a medical trend that ultimately led to the reality star-wannabe "Octomom" who had eight fertilized eggs implanted in her womb and gave birth to octuplets in January of 2009.  What had once been an accident of nature had evolved into a calculated publicity stunt.

The current news regarding the Dionne sisters is that the city of Northbay, Ontario, is attempting to sell their family home (which has been relocated twice since the girls lived in it) to a developer who will remove it to a fairground.  The two surviving sisters, Annette and Cecile, are opposing that sale.  The article contained a sweet photo of the two frail-looking older women standing together and holding hands.

The news article also referenced the exploitation that the girls endured both at the hands of their parents and of the government.  A Chicago exhibition company was in talks with the parents when the girls were just a few months old.  The company was apparently going to use them in a traveling exhibit, something on the order of a P.T. Barnum show.  The Canadian government interceded when the babies were just four months old and took them into protective custody to prevent the parents from profiting off of them.

The government built a special nursery and hospital for the little girls across the road from the family farm, with monetary assistance from the Red Cross.   That facility soon became a tourist attraction itself, and as people started arriving to get a glimpse of the quints, the facility was expanded to allow for easy viewing.  The complex soon included an outdoor playground with a viewing stand for the tourists.  At one point more than six thousand people a day were arriving to watch the quintuplets enjoy their  "normal" life - and several millions saw them over the nine years that they lived in the hospital / nursery.  At one time, "Quintland" as it came to be called, was the largest tourist attraction in all of Canada, and one of the most visited places in North America.

Even with the "protection from exploitation" by the government, the family still profited.  The father ran a souvenir shop across the road at the family home where, among other things, he sold rocks from the family farm that he advertised as magical "fertility" stones.

The parents won back custody of their daughters when they were nine-years-old.  They controlled the girls' lives and activities until the quints reached the age of eighteen at which time they left home.  They had little contact with their parents after they moved out.  Two of the sisters died young, Emilie (who was becoming a nun) passed away from a seizure at the age of twenty, and Marie died in 1970.

In 1997 the three surviving Dionne sisters wrote a letter to Bobbi and Kenny McCaughey, the parents of a set of septuplets born in Des Moines, Iowa.  It read:

Dear Bobbi and Kenny,
If we emerge momentarily from the privacy we have sought all our adult lives, it is only to send a message to the McCaughey family. We three would like you to know we feel a natural affinity and tenderness for your children. We hope your children receive more respect than we did. Their fate should be no different from that of other children. Multiple births should not be confused with entertainment, nor should they be an opportunity to sell products.
Our lives have been ruined by the exploitation we suffered at the hands of the government of Ontario, our place of birth. We were displayed as a curiosity three times a day for millions of tourists. To this day we receive letters from all over the world. To all those who have expressed their support in light of the abuse we have endured, we say thank you. And to those who would seek to exploit the growing fame of these children, we say beware.
We sincerely hope a lesson will be learned from examining how our lives were forever altered by our childhood experience. If this letter changes the course of events for these newborns, then perhaps our lives will have served a higher purpose.
Sincerely, Annette, Cécile and Yvonne Dionne
The surviving three won a settlement of $2.8 million from the Canadian government in 1998 for the time that they were exploited as a tourist attraction.  Cecile's son stole her share of the settlement and disappeared, never to be seen again.   Yvonne passed away in 2001, and the two surviving sisters, Annette and Cecile, live in relative obscurity.

Except that they are now stepping forward in an attempt to save the family home, a little shell of a building that probably symbolizes the closest thing to normalcy that they ever experienced while growing up.   The two remaining Dionne quintuplets are struggling once more to stave off the exploitation that has been a sad constant through much of their lives - and to claim a small chard of their lives for themselves.  

Stay strong, ladies.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

McCaskill Gets It Right on Gorsuch

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Claire McCaskill, Missouri's senior United States Senator, is gearing up for a re-election campaign in 2018 that is certain to be a tough haul.   She is a Democrat in a state in that gave Donald Trump a resounding victory in 2016.

Senator McCaskill has been in the news lately as she pondered what to do on the confirmation vote for Neil Gorsuch to sit on the Supreme Court.  Most Democratic senators had already committed to a filibuster of the Gorsuch nomination, but Claire and a handful of others who face imminent reelection bids in red states were remaining silent on their intent - perhaps in the hope that something like the apocalypse would intervene and they wouldn't have to make the tough decision after all.

But over the last few days the holdouts began declaring themselves.  Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia both came out and said that they would vote in favor of Judge Gorsuch.  McCaskill teased the situation for awhile, reminding some of her more vocal constituents that if Gorsuch was not approved, the next nomination could be worse - but in the end she bit the bullet and announced that she would vote against the jurist.

Claire, a former Missouri State Auditor, knows how to count.   If she had seen an easier path to re-election victory by voting for Gorsuch, I have no doubt that she would have chosen that option.  I think she did a careful analysis of the voter situation here in Missouri and decided that the Trump people would be voting against her regardless of her position on Gorsuch, and that siding with the nominee would offend some in her own party to the point where she could actually lose votes.  In the end she chose to protect what she had.

Claire McCaskill is a very hard campaigner, and it would be a mistake to write her off.  Six years ago she also faced a tough re-election bid, but the GOP came to her rescue by nominating a weak and flawed candidate to run against her.   (Some here in the "show me" state believe that clever advertising by Claire helped channel Republican primary votes to Todd Akin, the beatable candidate.)  Whoever the Republicans nominate this time around, that person will go into the general election facing a most formidable opponent - and it will be, as we like to say here in Missouri - a real horse race!


Saturday, April 1, 2017

"Eating for Six" and Other Farm Tales

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Spring


Here I Mow Again:

Regular readers of this effort know how I tend to piss and moan about the rigors of keeping my massive yard mowed.  Yesterday, the last day of March, I got out the push mower and spent a couple of hours trimming and getting ready to attack the yard with Big Orange, my Husquvarna riding mower.  This afternoon Pa Rock will ride again!

I did have a nice surprise while mowing yesterday.  As I was plowing through the tall grass near the road, I happened to come across a folded five-dollar bill lying among a cluster of leaves.   I think I will use it as seed money for a fund to buy my next new mower.

I mow about six of the ten acres that comprise the Roost, and hire a neighbor to bush hog the rest twice a year.     A normal mowing cycle takes about four days to complete – at two or three hard hours per day.  What kind of idiot creates a retirement where he has to mow day, after day, after day?

The year before last I mowed twelve times, and last year that number increased to fourteen – and that was starting in April.    This year, with all of the rain we have had so far, I anticipate fifteen or more.  While my meth-addled neighbors with their knee-high weed patches believe climate change is a hoax (because Donald Trump told them it was - and he’s a business genius), Pa Rock knows better.  For the past several years we have had essentially no snow here in the Ozarks, and each mowing season is longer than the last.

I suspect that by the time I retire from mowing, the mowing season will last the entire year.  (My retirement from mowing will be announced via a toe tag!)

Eating for Six:

Fiona, the barn cat here at Rock’s Roost, has recently taken to roaming the neighborhood at night, and today I noticed that she is developing a bit of a pudgy tummy.  I suspect by the time Mother’s Day rolls around she will be wishing that she had spent more of her evenings here at the farm.

Fiona, whose tail sticks straight up in the air in the form of a long, thin question mark, was named after Fiona Gallagher, Frank’s oldest child on Shameless and the de facto mother of the family tribe.  That Fiona is another cat who is always prancing around with her tail in the air!

The peacocks are also beginning to ponder procreation.  The two males have renewed their annual bouts of yelling – so loudly that I could hear them at the far end of the farm yesterday over the noise of the lawnmower – and they are also spreading their massive  sets of tail feathers (spanning about six-feet each) and doing their mating dances which have a whole lotta shaking going on.  I anticipate the seven hens will begin laying their eggs soon.    They will sit on some and ignore others.  The orphaned eggs will be placed in an incubator.

Pecking Order

One thing that I enjoy about farm life is observing how the eclectic assortment of farm animals interact with each other.  A major concern that they invariably address is “Who’s the boss?”  When the farmer is slinging feed, of course, they all gather and pay him homage, but when left on their own, a distinct pecking order emerges.

The three feisty guineas seem to be in charge.   They are noisy and physically aggressive – chasing the chickens, the duck, and even the cat.    When the dogs are outside, the guineas will take a run at them as well.    One little rooster, a Red Jungle Fowl by the name of Bobby, will occasionally fight back, but he is the exception.  The larger roosters, who aren’t shy about keeping Bobby in line, are quick to run from the guineas.

Hector, the duck, is the coward of the county.  He turns and runs whenever anything out of the ordinary happens, and an angry guinea will make him absolutely apocalyptic.  Hector will push back against the roosters and hens when he is eating his afternoon treat of dry dog food, but if the guineas happen by while he is eating, Hector abandons the food and flees in terror.

The peacocks don’t figure into the power calculations because they are penned in their own enclosure.  When other farm fowl gather outside of the aviary, the visitors and peacocks peer through the wire at each other, with both groups undoubtedly assuming that they are the ones visiting a zoo.  If the peacocks were ever released into the general population, I have no doubt that the seven formidable hens would rule over everything.   The males may have the plumage, but it is the peahens who wield the power!

This spring I hope to acquire a few goslings.  It will be interesting to see how geese will elbow their way into the pecking order.

It's all about adaptation and survival - at Rock's Roost as well everywhere else on the planet.