Thursday, July 27, 2017

Good News for Kansas

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

In a move that almost smacks of divine intervention, Sam Brownback, the failed governor of Kansas, has found a way to exit his state that doesn't involve tar and feathers - or being tied to a rail.  The Trump administration is offering him the position of Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, a position that, under the conservative Christian leadership of Brownback, is unlikely to promote freedom for many beyond the bounds of Christendom.

Brownback has always harbored aspirations to be President, and, in fact, he briefly ran for the Republican nomination in 2008.  He left the United States Senate after two terms in 2011 to become governor of Kansas, a perch from where he hoped to show his executive skills and take another shot at the White House.  As governor, Brownback aspired to instill some economic growth through the old conservative belief in "trickle down" economics.  He instituted a massive tax cut for businesses, one which failed to generate the growth he anticipated and which left the state in dire economic straits which persist to this day.  He will leave the state with a budget deficit in the range of a billion dollars.

But, free at last, free at last, and all that jazz!  Brownback will be able to leave Kansas under the pretense of being needed elsewhere to do important work in the grand scheme of things.  He can leave that billion dollar budget shortfall for others to worry about.

Over the past few years "religious freedom" has become conservative shorthand for intolerance and hate.   Don't want to bake a cake for a gay wedding - claim "religious freedom."   Don't want to provide your employees with an insurance plan that offers birth control coverage, again "religious freedom."   Somewhere there is a religious tenet just waiting to challenge any basic liberty.  Sam Brownback will now be in a position to help religious fanaticism conquer common sense and moral goodness.

True, Sam Brownback did not secure a major appointment from the Trump administration, but at least he found an exit - and, at long last, Kansas will be rid of him!

Free at last, free at last, and all that jazz!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Government by Twit

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

It hasn't been that long ago when the Republicans had such tight control over Congress that the only available channel President Obama had for advancing his program was through executive orders, a situation which angered the GOP do-nothings in Congress to the point that they accused the President of governing by fiat.

Now, several months later, Congress is still Republican and a member of their party also sits in the White House.  It ought to be a perfect situation for the Grand Old Party, one in which both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue could work together to destroy every advancement secured by ordinary Americans during the Obama era.  Militarism, greed, and hate should be reigning supreme.

But we are barely six months into the Trump administration, and the good times seem to already be over.  Trump's political clout is weakening to the point where many of the right-winged creatures in Congress no longer fear the impact that he could have on their re-election bids, and some are daring to assert independence from their party's leadership.

Trump, too, is no slave to political orthodoxy.  This week he has angered many in his party through his disparaging remarks about the "weakness" of Jeff Sessions, the man Trump himself appointed United States Attorney General earlier this year.  Trump initially attacked Sessions a couple of weeks ago in an interview with the New York Times with remarks some felt were intended to goad Sessions into resigning - ostensibly as a prelude to Donald John being able to appoint a new AG who would fire Trump's nemesis, Robert Mueller, that man leading the independent investigation into the Trump-Russia affair.

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, III, however did not take the bait and remained at his post - so Trump upped the ante.  Yesterday he issued a series of tweets blasting Sessions as being weak.  His tweets, in fact, were so in-your-face as to be tantamount to a request for Sessions to resign.  But the disparaged attorney general appears loathe to take the hint.

Sooner or later Jeff Sessions will succumb to the presidential pressure and quit - or he will be fired - most likely by tweet, because that is how Trump rolls.

(Will this all come to a head on a Saturday night?)

Today in a series of three tweets, Donald John Trump, after noting that he had been in consultation with "his" generals, announced that transgender individuals would no longer be allowed in the Untied States military - some of that government by executive fiat stuff that Republicans used to hate.

Donald Trump has abbreviated the "executive order" process and transformed it into executive tweets.  Is that what passes for leadership in America in 2017 - an angry old man sitting on the can at four in the morning and venting his gastric distress in one-hundred-and-forty-characters or less?

America is overdue for a good flush.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Another Day, Another GOP Attempt to Destroy Health Care in America

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

There will be another vote in the United States Senate today on a Republican attempt to take health care away from millions of Americans.    Today's vote is "procedural," one that clears the way for the Senate to proceed on the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, a law popularly known as "Obamacare." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is using this vote to engage wayward senators in the process that he hopes will ultimately lead to the end of the Obamacare.  McConnell's argument to his reticent colleagues is that they should support today's vote because it doesn't actually do anything other than let the legislative process proceed.  They can always vote against repeal later if Mitch and the boys fail to convince them to drink the kool-aid.

Republican senators who have some actual concern for the medical plight of their constituents - people like Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Dean Heller of Nevada, and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia - won't actually be bringing physical harm to anyone with today's vote.

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), an organization representing over thirty-eight million old farts in this country, myself included, is calling bullshit on McConnell's sleazeball tactic and encouraging senators to vote against today's "procedural" vote - and to vote against the ultimate effort to repeal Obamacare as well.

The AARP is right to oppose McConnell's effort to bring his entire caucus into the process of repeal through supporting this seemingly harmless and innocuous maneuver.  If Mitch can win this vote, he will be emboldened to begin bribing and arm-twisting with unbridled ferocity - and eventually some version of zombie Trumpcare will stumble across the legislative finish line and be signed into law by a president who has absolutely no concern for the health and welfare of his fellow citizens.

I telephoned Senator Roy Blunt's Springfield office yesterday regarding today's vote and spoke with a very pleasant lady who assured me that my concerns would be relayed to the senator's Washington, DC, office.  I told her who I was and that I am a member of the AARP.  I also explained that defunding Medicaid, something that seems to be central to all of the GOP "replacement" plans, would cause clinics and hospitals in rural areas to close because much of their revenue streams come from Medicaid.  Then I closed with this:  "If clinics and hospitals in my area close, Roy Blunt is going to own that situation."

And Congressman Jason Smith will own it also!

When clinics and hospitals close health issues will go unchecked and worsen, emergency rooms which are able to remain open will see increases in walk-in clients with non-life-threatening medical issues, more potential revenue for hospitals will be siphoned off by collection agencies trying to collect on those ER bills, and lots and lots of good people - medical professionals, technicians, office staff, and housekeeping personnel - with be unemployed.

Taking affordable health care away from millions of Americans is going to have catastrophic effects.  It's going to be a colossal mess - and Roy Blunt, and Jason Smith, and their hard-headed and hard-hearted colleagues are going to own that mess and all of the suffering it generates.

If ever there was a time to put your senators and members of Congress on speed dial, this is it!

Call Congress today - and keep calling!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Another Year Begins for Nick Macy

by Pa Rock
Proud Father

My oldest, Nick, turns forty-four today.  He was born on a Tuesday afternoon at the Camp Kue  U.S. Army Hospital on Okinawa in 1973.  I remember that Nick had trouble sleeping during his brief stay on Okinawa, but as soon as he got to the United States two months later, where the days and nights were reversed from those of the Orient, he did just fine and slept like . . . well . . . a baby!

I had the opportunity to visit that hospital again in 2011.  It was then a Naval Hospital and has very recently been replaced by a new facility located nearby.  When I stepped off of the elevator and into the visitor's room next to the room where Nick was delivered, I was amazed that it looked exactly like it had nearly forty years before.   In fact, the only difference was that the old television had been replaced with a flat-screen model.

Of my three children, Nick is the one most at home in the outdoors.  He has always lived in rural Missouri and enjoys the things that the country has to offer - particularly hunting and fishing.

One of Nick's biggest successes in life has been his son, Boone, who also enjoys the outdoors.  Boone is now eighteen and preparing to start college in the fall.

Happy birthday, Nick.  May you enjoy many, many more!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Mystery of the Disappearing Fudgesicles

by Pa Rock
Frozen Treat Connoisseur

I have a fistful of college degrees, but that doesn't mean I'm smart,  In fact, I will be the first to admit my inexhaustible supply of stupidity on most subjects.    There are however, a few areas in which I am surprisingly well versed, and one of those involves frozen treats, the kind that help weary yard apes, like me, make it through the long, hot, grueling days of summer

I grew up trusting commercials and figured that if a company had enough money to buy ads on radio and television, then it's products must be superior to the no-name store brands.  Over the past few years, however, as prices have gone up and my income hasn't, I've taken to sampling store brands and have found a few that I really like.

One of the hidden grocery gems that I have discovered is the "Best Choice" brand of fudgesicles - by far the best on the market - and I know because I have tried them all.  Best Choice calls their product "fudge bars," but those of us of a certain age know the frozen, chocolatey treats as fudgesicles.  The ones made by Best Choice are simple.  They taste like a good brand of chocolate milk that has been frozen onto sticks.  That's all, just frozen chocolate milk with nothing added to the mixture to detract from its perfection.

Several months ago I was digging through the freezer at my sister's house when I discovered that she, too, had a couple of boxes of Best Choice Fudge Bars.  I commented to her about the fact that those were my favorites, and she said, "They're the best, aren't they?"  Yes, they are, and they are also among the least expensive.  Since then I have run into a couple of other people who have also gravitated to that brand of fudgesicle.

With that background, imagine my horror a few weeks ago when the local grocery was suddenly out of this delicious treat.  My hopes that the situation was only temporary were crushed when several days went by and still no Best Choice Fudge Bars.  Finally, I became assertive and asked one of the stockers about the issue, and she told me that the store had been unable to get them from "the factory," and that other customers were complaining also.

Egads!

This past weekend I was back at my sister's in northwestern Arkansas, and I asked her if she was still able to get her fix of the good fudgesicles.    She became very agitated and told me that her store had quit carrying them, so she tried several other stores in Fayetteville, and none of them had Best Choice Fudge Bars either.

It's the height of summer and there isn't a decent fudgesicle to be found anywhere in the Ozarks!  It's outrageous!  It's insufferable!  It's diabolical! 

I blame Trump.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Art of the Pardon

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

As former FBI Director Robert Mueller begins his careful and methodical investigation into the Russian intrigues of Donald John Trump, his political associates, and his family, the level of paranoia in and around the White House seems to be skyrocketing.  Not only have reports surfaced over the past two days indicating that Trump's people are actively investigating the investigators by looking for conflicts of interest and any embarrassments that might stick to the Mueller team,  but stories are also circulating which suggest that Trump's lawyers are researching the notion of presidential pardons.

One thought is that if an individual associated with the Trump-Russia scandals was preemptively pardoned, that person could no longer be the subject of an investigation.  By that same logic, however, the pardoned person could still serve as a witness and provide information, and by being pardoned he (or she) should no longer be able to (or have a need to) plead the Fifth.  A person who has been pardoned should have no legal fear of self-incrimination.

But, I am not a lawyer - nor do I play one on television.

The other intriguing question that has been kicked around this week is this:  Does the President have the ability to pardon himself?

The idea of a mere mortal, even one who was elected president by the mighty Electoral College, pardoning himself for any and all crimes and misdemeanors that he may have committed against federal law is so outrageous that even America's slimiest president, before Trump, Richard Nixon, did not go there.  (Nixon had the successor that he selected, Gerald Ford, pardon him after he resigned in disgrace.)

But Donald John is at least mulling over the notion of cutting out the middle man and pardoning himself.  What the hell's the point of being president if a guy can't take full advantage of the perks that come with the office?

So as Russiagate continues to unfold and back the Trump administration further and further into a corner, don't expect them not to fight back with every weapon they can muster.  Their narcissistic generalissimo will not go gently into that dark night.  He will bully the Mueller team and try to discredit those good public servants with all of the trash his people can unearth or manufacture, and if he cannot beat the Mueller team into submission, Trump will try to kill it by cutting off its head - firing Mueller.  Donald John will pass out pardons like cake at a birthday party, and at some point he will even pardon himself - in fact, he might make it a weekly event just to keep up with his rampant crimes and misdemeanors.

Don the Con is not about playing fair, playing fair is for losers.

The courts are about to get overwhelmed with cases so important that they will shape the future of our country for generations to come.

We live in interesting times.



Friday, July 21, 2017

Blazing Trails Across the Ozarks

by Pa Rock
Road Warrior

Today I have been on the road driving across southern Missouri and down into northern Arkansas.  It's been a long day - with some interesting stops to see friends along the way - and it has also been one helluva a hot day.  But even in this killer heat - near 100 degrees - I persist, cool in the knowledge that my friends in Phoenix are stumbling around in their oven which is twenty percent hotter than mine.

I left Rosie at home today, and she was very unhappy about that, but she is safe, and well cared for, and in a cool, cool house!

Tonight I am at my sister's home in Fayetteville, Arkansas, from where she and I will venture out later this evening to a social soiree at the home of my nephew, Reed Smith.  Tomorrow evenig the family is gathering at a local church to attend a ceremony as my niece Tiffany and her husband celebrate their first year of marriage by retaking their vows, this time before friends and family.  Tomorrow will also be the eighth birthday of my grandniece Ruby.  Little Ruby was born in England, resides in Chicago, and occasionally travels to third-world countries like Arkansas - and Uncle Rocky is always happy to get the chance to see her and her sister, Lauren!

Did I mention that it's hotter than blazes today?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Jeff Sessions Should Resign

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, III, the Attorney General of the United States, should resign his august office and head back to the hills of Alabama, and he should do so post haste.   Sessions, a diminutive rapscallion who could pass for the love child of a Keebler elf and Granny Clampett, has worked tirelessly over the past several months to return America to the glory days of George Wallace and Orville Faubus, and he has done so at the behest of Donald John Trump.

Jeff Sessions has been the loyalest of soldiers in Trump's war on fairness and common decency, but now his generalissimo has suddenly turned on him.

This week Donald Trump inexplicably gave an interview to the New York Times, a newspaper that he has routinely bitched and moaned about during his first six months in office, a publication that does not hesitate to label Trump's almost constant stream of falsehoods as what they are - lies.  But, for reasons unknown to mere mortals, Trump chose to talk to the Times, and the Times chose to listen.

During that interview the subject of the Russia investigation came up, and Trump went off on a tangent about Sessions recusing himself from dealing with any aspects of the investigation, never mind that Sessions himself apparently met with Russians on behalf of Trump both prior to and after the election.  Trump said Sessions should have never recused himself, and that if he (Trump) had known that would happen, he would have never appointed Sessions as Attorney General to begin with.

Did you hear that, Jefferson?  You proved to be a disappointment to your boss, and he's sorry that he ever selected you for the job.  Fat Boy not only threw you under the bus, he also got behind the wheel and ran over your cracker carcass - multiple times.

An honorable man would resign.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Jay Ashcroft Enables Voter Suppression Commission

by Pa Rock
Missouri Voter

Today marks the first time that Trump's "Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity" will meet, and while the idea of promoting election integrity sounds laudable, particularly after what appears to be an atrocious amount of interference by the Russian government in our last national election, many suspect that the commission's true aims are likely as sinister as those of the Russians.

Mr. Trump's "non-partisan" commission is actually quite partisan and is being headed by Vice President Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, both Republicans - and both with histories of actively seeking to suppress the votes of minorities in their home states.  The make-up of the commission, in fact, would strongly indicate that it will be far more concerned with suppressing votes than it will with the concept of election integrity

Kris Kobach joined the Trump transition team last fall with an eye toward pushing voter suppression efforts nationwide.  Trump's popular vote loss by nearly three million votes set the whiner-in-chief to wailing that he must have been cheated, an idea that folded nicely into Kobach's nefarious schemes to relieve minorities of their constitutional right to vote.  Hence, the creation of a problem which never actually existed, and the establishment of a commission to resolve it.

One of the first acts of this commission, an act that occurred before the commission ever actually met, was to issue a call to all fifty states for a list of voters along with a wealth of information on each.  A few states complied in full, some complied in part, and several refused to play along with this thinly veiled assault on democracy.  Mississippi's secretary of state, in fact, suggested that the committee could take a flying jump into the Gulf of Mexico, and suggested that his state would be a fine place from which to launch that leap.

Three states, however, saw fit to not only comply with the sweeping request, but to also commend the feds on their blatant overreach.  Colorado, Tennessee, and (sadly) Missouri thought the national gambit to control who votes was an endeavor worthy of effusive praise.

I sent a letter to Missouri's secretary of state, Jay Ashcroft, on July 1st, stating my displeasure with the effort of Pence, Kobach and company to suppress voter turnout on a national level.  Ashcroft had recently been on a state tour promoting Missouri's new voter i.d. law that had been passed by the Republican legislature and signed into law by our new Republican governor - another tool in the state's war on minority voting.  My letter, eight paragraphs, was thoughtful and carefully crafted to explain my arguments against the state surrendering volumes of voter information to a national committee whose true aims were, at best, unclear.

A response arrived two weeks later.

I'm not sure what I expected Jay Ashcroft to say in regarding my request, but I did expect him to at least read my letter and respond to the points I made.  Instead, I received a form letter saying that he was complying with state law - so there!  The "Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity" is to be commended, and a concerned voter from West Plains is to be mollified by a form letter stuffed into an envelope by an intern working for a lazy state politician.

Hey Jay - and Kris - and Mike:   Roll up your sleeves and begin working for the good of the nation and all of her people - not just the white ones with money and privilege.  Earn the respect and trust of Americans and you will have their votes - without having to rig elections.   Instead of fantasizing about election integrity, show some personal integrity and work to open the voting franchise to everyone.

Let people vote!  It's a concept called democracy and it is what America is all about!

(A copy of my original letter to Secretary Ashcroft appears in the July 1st posting of his blog.)

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Rep. Jason Smith on Farm Chores and Health Care

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Congressman Jason Smith of Missouri's 8th District sends out an email newsletter each Saturday in which shares a limited amount of news from our nation's capital and spends most of the effort shining a light of achievements of folks back home.    It is a newsy little effort full of warm fuzzies and pats on the back for himself and others.

Smith, once an unabashed cheerleader for Donald Trump, has become more cautious in his praise of the Republican Party leader over the last several months.  In his most recent newsletter, however, he did rattle on about his disappointment with the United States Senate's failure to get Trump appointments confirmed and in place, never mind that the stumbling and fumbling White House has yet to even make nominations for many of the executive branch vacancies.  Somehow, in Smith's worldview, this has nothing to do with the ineptitude of the Trump administration, but is the fault solely of "Senate Liberals" a term that he uses, well, liberally - six times in the final three paragraphs of his Washington section of the newsletter. 

Jason Smith also blames "Senate Liberals" for the fact that the Senate has stalled or killed 226 of the 269 bills passed by the House this session.  He neglects to mention that Republicans have majority control of the Senate.  They could pass anything they damned well pleased if their leader, Mitch McConnell, was as skilled at passing Republican legislation as he was in blocking President Obama's programs and appointments.

While Jason Smith voted to repeal and replace Obamacare in the House, he is now being a bit more contrite on the subject in his newsletters.   In this past Saturday's edition he equated doing farm chores with the need to repeal Obamacare, and then he conflated Obamacare with tax regulations, all in an effort to muddy the water regarding America's need for affordable health care.

When Jason Smith is back home in rural Missouri he hustles around doing photo ops with cows and farm equipment, but like so many of his Republican colleagues in the House and Senate, he seldom makes himself available for town halls or pre-announced constituent gatherings.  He has only been in Congress four short years - since a special election in June of 2013 - and in that time has managed to corral over three-and-a-half million dollars in campaign donations including $150,000 from the insurance industry and $188,150 from Health Professionals, so he undoubtedly has plenty of knowledge of America's needs with regard to health care from their perspectives, and the views of ordinary citizens at town halls would only be a distraction from the important business of dismantling Obamacare.

Right now it looks as if Obamacare - the Affordable Care Act -  may be safe from Mitch's machete, but evil tends to regroup and rise again, like zombies.  If Republicans are ultimately successful in taking away medical coverage of millions of Americans, and if Americans begin needlessly dying in places like rural Missouri, and if small clinics and hospitals like those in rural Missouri begin closing their doors due to cuts in insurance and Medicaid, people like Jason Smith will undoubtedly rise in sanctimonious smugness and cast the blame on "Senate Liberals."  It is always someone else's fault.

Good governance is about more than holding your hand out for cash,  Congressman Smith, and it involves more than just toadying for big corporations and people born into privilege.  The people of southeast Missouri elected you to look out for their interests, and those are not necessarily the same as the interests of Anheuser Busch and Town and Country Bank.  Your constituents need access to real and affordable health care, the the rural hospitals and clinics in your district need the income streams provided by Medicaid and other insurance plans.

They need your efforts and your commitment to their futures and well-being.

And what you need, Congressman Smith, is to stuff the name-calling and get to work.  Take care of your constituents.  They need the same health care plan that our government gives you - and at the same cost.  Anything less would be pure hypocrisy on your part.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Monday's Poetry: "A Sycophant, a Narcissist, and a Sociopath..."

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

While surfing the net this week I came upon the following short piece that seemed to encapsulate the personality of our Dear Leader, a man who lies with abandon, only listens to praise, and never accepts responsibility for bad news or botched decisions.



A Narcissist's Prayer
(author unknown)

That didn't happen.
And if it did, it wasn't that bad.
And if it was, that's not a big deal.
And if it is, that's not my fault.
And if it was, I didn't mean it.
And if I did...
You deserved it.


And a little further digging unearthed the following gem, a twisted blend of personalities that seems eerily familiar. 

Godspeed, Robert Mueller!
 

A Sycophant, a Narcissist, and a Sociopath...
by Tiffany Simar
A sycophant, a narcissist, and a sociopath walk into a bar
The sycophant is the best dressed by far
He sweet talks the bartender for a while
She only brushes him off and offers a free smile
The narcissist says he refuses to pay
The sociopath steals a drink while the two have the bartender distracted
The guys eventually look on in awe
But the sociopath has no shame for what he has done
The sycophant tries to put a two dollar tip in a waitresses bra
She slaps him up and then carries on
The other two laugh louder than they should
Then the narcissist pulls another waitress in and whispers something in her ear
In that moment the sociopath steals another beer
As the night carries on the three men get bored
But just then as they get ready to head out the door
Guess who walks in...
A guy named Jake with his buddy Rich
And behind them stumbles in another guy who whines like a little bitch
They cause a stir as they push their way through
So the other three men know just what to do
They start a brawl by pushing poor Jake
He hits the first waitress and she spills her drinks
Then they trip Richard who falls into waitress two
And the whiny bitch is already holding up the bartender with all of the crap that he spews
So in all of the commotion the three men rush in
The each grab an armful of beer and race to the nearest exit
They are greeted in the parking lot by a priest, a Jew, and some guy named Lou
They only look on at this crazy crew
The priest says a prayer, the Jew is in shock, and Lou would rather be hanging out with this      crazy lot
But it is too late
For the sycophant, narcissist, and sociopath are taking off with their drinks
Driving into the distance
As they often do
A suck-up, a selfish bastard, and a no-shame fool!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Under the Stars: An American in Paris

by Pa Rock
Theatre Fan

The outing to Kansas City is over, and Rosie and I are safely back at The Roost.  The three kittens are in good homes and are reported to be adjusting well to life in suburbia.   Fiona doesn't appear to be stressed over the forced removal of her offspring, and her only concern when we arrived back at the farm today was letting me know that she was powerful hungry.  That situation has been remedied.  The little black kitten who hid in fear as I was snatching his siblings Friday morning, is now back to playing underfoot.

Stopped in Springfield on the way home to visit with a dear friend who is in the hospital after suffering a stroke last week.  Those of you who know Mertie H. can email me and I will give you a more complete account of her situation.  She is a wonderful person!

The major news out of the Kansas City area is this:  Little Olive, age five, went the the pool with her mother and little brother yesterday evening while her dad and I were at the theatre.  While at the pool, she climbed the ladder and stepped boldly off of the high diving board!  Mother caught it all on video.  This was Olive's first time jumping from the high dive, and she showed no hesitation at all!  Way to go, Olive - you rock!

Tim and I spent yesterday evening at Kansas City's beautiful Starlight Theatre enjoying a Broadway touring version of "An American in Paris," a recently developed musical stage production based on the 1951 film of the same name that starred Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron.  Tim secured two separate seats for us - one of the best in the house and one of the worst.  He put me on the front row near the center where I had a great view not only of the stage, but of the orchestra pit as well.  It was kind of a bifocal situation where I could alternate views of two distinct shows.  Youngest son got himself a seat in the nosebleed section and then moved down into decent seating once the show was underway.

The show was good, in fact, it was a very solid production of song and dance numbers woven into a story about three young men who met in Paris immediately after World War II - two Americans and a rich Frenchman who had been in the resistance during the war.  Unfortunately the three new friends all managed to fall in love with the same young woman - a dancer.  The Frenchman's family funded a special ballet to showcase the young lady's dance skills.  One of the Americans designed the set for the production, and the other wrote the musical score.

The play, of course, revolved around which lucky young man will wind up with the beautiful dancer.

I'm a bit jaded when it comes to ballet because I have been fortunate to see some of the world's finest - the Bolshoi in Moscow and the Kirov in St. Petersburg - and while the dancers in last night's show were skilled in their craft, none approached the caliber of a Natalis Osipova, Rudolf Nureyev, or Mikhail Baryshnikov.  To be fair, I did hear several members of the audience praising the dance performances after the show, with a couple saying it was one of the best nusicals they had ever attended.

The second act contained an eighteen-minute ballet sequence in which the young woman's true love interest was finally clarified,  And while that was the dance highlight of the entire production, I was more impressed with  a tap number set in a nightclub earlier in the same act.  The tap dancing scene had some of the best costuming of the show, and the dancers seemed to be more comfortable hoofing across the stage on their toes and heels instead of just their toes.  The segment ended with kick line that energized the show as well as the house.

The musical score was by George and Ira Gershwin - and it doesn't get any better than that!

The stars were sparkling at the Starlight Theatre last night, on the stage and across the heavens.  It was a beautiful evening!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Second Coming of Clarence Darrow

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

There is a new controversy brewing in the small town of Dayton, Tennessee, the community that became world famous in 1925 for being the scene of the Scopes Monkey Trial, a legal test of a Tennessee law which forbid the teaching of evolution in public schools.  And much like that courtroom drama of the last century, the new maelstrom pits fundamentalist Christians against some of the more open-minded members of the community.

The original trial, which went on to stir nearly a century of profitable tourism for Dayton, was a colorful legal battle between two of America's best known lawyers and orators of the time, William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow.  Bryan, a former United States Secretary of State and a three-time Democratic nominee for President, acted for the state as prosecutor and defender of the law.  Darrow, an agnostic, represented John T. Scopes, the young high school teacher who was on trial for teaching evolution to his students.  Much of the trial focused on Bryan's strong belief in a literal interpretation of the Bible  - and of Darrow's mockery of Bryan's rigid religious standards.

Bryan won for the state, but the judge minimized the victory by only levying a one hundred dollar fine against the teacher - and the verdict was soon overturned on a technicality.   Clarence Darrow had scored major points with the public as he pilloried Bryan, whom he put on the stand as a "Biblical expert," over literal truth of such things as if Eve was created from Adam's rib, where did Cain get his wife?  At one point when Darrow was questioning Bryan, the angry Bryan flared that Darrow's purpose in questioning him was "to cast ridicule on everybody who believes in the Bible."  Darrow shot back, equally angry, "We have the purpose of preventing bigots and ignoramuses from controlling the education of the United States!"

Hello, Donald John Trump and Betsy DeVos.

Throughout the famous exchange, which actually took place on the courthouse lawn due to overcrowding and the insufferable heat, William Jennings Bryan kept insisting that Darrow was "slurring" the Bible, and Clarence Darrow kept responding that Bryan's defense of the religious tome was "foolish."  The animosity between the two old friends was so intense, and the summer heat so unrelenting, that Bryan fell ill at the close of the trial and died in Dayton a few days later.

Fast forward to current times:

A statue of William Jennings Bryan was erected on the courthouse lawn in Dayton in 2005 by Bryan College, an evangelical Christian school that was established in the town a few years after the famous trial as a namesake of the famed orator.  After that statue was unveiled, some interested individuals and the county historical society began raising funds to place a statue of Clarence Darrow on the courthouse grounds as well.  That $150,000 project came to fruition last week when the new statue was unveiled and presented to the community.

Of course, it's still rural Tennessee, and a lot of people currently living in and around Dayton are just as close-minded as their grandparents were nearly a century ago.  One resident told a recent meeting of the county commission that she feared the presence of the Darrow statue might unleash a plague or a curse on the community.  She pleaded, "I rise in opposition to this atheist statue, all right?  This is very serious, folks!"

And on the other side of that coin, the co-president of the "Freedom from Religion" atheist group mused at the Darrow statue's unveiling that it represented a "missing link" in the courthouse display, proving beyond doubt that while atheists may be godless heathen, they do possess a sense of humor, a quality the religious right has never seemed to be interested in cultivating.

And in the soft breezes of a Tennessee evening, perhaps two old friends are once again sparring about the literal truth of the Bible - on the same lawn where they originally argued so many, many years ago - happy at last to be together again.


Friday, July 14, 2017

On the Road with Cats

by Pa Rock
Road Warrior

(Pig Update:  My second trip to try and coax the young sow up the road to The Roost yesterday was a bust.  She was gone - hopefully to a good home somewhere.  

The opposite side of the road from the farm has been trashed as of late by some of my good neighbors who don't believe in paying a trash service to collect their waste, and after failing in my quest to secure the pig, I spent a half-hour climbing  through the ditch, in the scorching heat, picking up aluminum cans.  I came up with thirty-four cans in about half-a-block.   I have several large containers full of crushed cans that I have been collecting for the past three-plus years.  If the price of aluminum gets right, I will sell them and use the proceeds to dine on some fine pig at a tourist luau when I visit my friend Valerie in Hawaii this winter.

Perhaps that is why the little pig yesterday wouldn't follow me home.  She sensed a "luau"vibe!)

Rosie and I are in Kansas City.  Three of our little farm kitties came along for the ride and are now at a new home in Merriam, Kansas, where one will live and the other two will await further placement.  They were not happy about being taken from their mother and the tranquility of The Roost.  I was scratched and bitten multiple times while getting them loaded into a large and comfortable traveling cage.  Once in the cage, however, they were perfect travelers and didn't make a sound on the 277-mile journey.  (In fact, Rosie did not seem to realize that they were even in the car.)  And, even though the little cats enjoyed a large breakfast before the trip, there was zero mess in the cage upon arrival in Kansas.

Costco tomorrow, then tomorrow night Tim and I have tickets to see a live production of An American in Paris at Kansas City's beautiful outdoor venue, the Starlight Theatre.  It is a show that I have always wanted to see.

Donald Trump is in Paris today.   He made news for making an inappropriate remark about the fine figure of France's First Lady.  Years from now when a movie is filmed based on that visit, expect the title to be An American Pig in Paris.

Trump is no Gene Kelly - Emmett Kelly, maybe, but not Gene Kelly! 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Here Pig, Pig, Piggy!

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Summer

I let the dogs out before daylight this morning to do their business, but they immediately started making such a racket that I had to hustle them back inside.  Something was out there - something about which Rosie and Riley had very strong feelings.

We have had several skunks in the neighborhood of late.  My son killed a couple, and the neighbor got rid of two more with his bush-hog.  Skunks often carry rabies, so I am very cautious when they are about.  Both dogs are up-to-date on their rabies shots, but Pa Rock is not!

About an hour ago a neighbor whom I did not know pulled up in the driveway and came to the door - which again set the dogs off.  I struggled to get past the overly protective canines and out onto the porch to see what the man wanted.  Once I was outside, he told me that there was a small pig loose on the road and he wanted to know if it was mine.  It wasn't.  He pointed out the poor creature a hundred or so yards to the north, wandering on and off the roadway.  I thanked the man and told him that I would attempt a rescue.

The young pig, a sow weighing fifty pounds or so, let me pet her, but she would not be coaxed into following me back to The Roost.  Her snout was green from rooting through the grass, and she appeared to have been well taken care of.  I eventually retreated to my air-conditioned home to put some more thought into the matter.  I don't need a pig, but I fear that someone will hit her with their vehicle.

A pig along the road is an oddity,  Unlike a stray dog or cat, pigs have some street value - they can always be taken home and stored in a freezer!  Or, a smart piggy can make it to Pa Rock's Roost and live pampered life of luxury that would shame a Trump!

And now I am heading back out into the insufferable heat to engage in a battle of wills with a pig.  This was not the day I had planned.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

In Praise of Good Neighbors

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Summer

Basically I live alone on a ten-acre farm in rural Missouri, and my responsibilities include mowing slightly more than half of the acreage with a rough-and-tumble riding mower, and taking care of small drabs of livestock:  dogs, cats, guineas, chickens, peacocks, and geese.  It's all that I can do to keep up with things during the best of times, and when something unexpected arises, such as the sprawling maple tree outside of my front window suddenly decides to start dying - or two peahens get viciously killed by predators, the emergencies take all of my available energy and the necessaries get pushed aside.

Last week things had piled up to the point that I was actively planning on getting rid of most of the livestock and placing the farm up for sale.  But that was then . . .

Toward the end of the week my neighbor from across the street, a man who grew up in the house where I now reside, came over and offered to mow a few strips of the yard that borders the paved road between our houses.  That land is on a slant, and I mow it with a push mower because I don't trust my rider not to turn over or involuntarily careen out into the road.  It takes me about an hour, and the neighbor said he could do it in ten minutes with his rider.  (He is a braver soul than I am.)  The neighbor said he felt sorry seeing me push my way up and down the edge of the road, particularly on the hot days like those currently bearing down on us.  After a bit of playing hesitant, I finally agreed to his request - and I will do something for him in the near future to repay the kindness.

Then I began mowing.  It took three days of about three hours a day to get the rest of it under control.  I mow more of the land than any previous owners because I want to keep the snakes at a safe distance - and even with that caution, one four-foot charmer kept popping up to watch as I mowed the area around the pond.  It would have been easy to mow over him, but that's not the way I roll!

About the time I finished the every-two-weeks mowing chore, another neighbor who lives a couple of miles down the road showed up to bush-hog the rest of the property - a task which he completes twice a year.  I pay that neighbor, though he charges me well below market rate.  After he finished a morning of mowing, I took him out by the new storage buildings to point out a very high limb that was interfering with the wiring going to the buildings.  I was seeking his advice on how to remove that particular limb, and he said not to worry about it - he could take care of the problem in just a few minutes with his pole saw.

That neighbor came back the next morning to finish the bush-hogging, and while he was here he took out the bothersome limb, cut down a large dead tree and cut it up, and even moved a brush pile with his tractor.

Now, with all of that done, the place looks amazing!  I may be able to last another year - and much of that change in attitude is due to good neighbors!

Thanks Doug and Rex.    You are the best neighbors ever!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Breeding Tells

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

After eight years of stories about the presidential children being a couple of sweet girls struggling to lead ordinary lives under the glare of the White House floodlights, shifting gears to deal with the Trump children, particularly the three oldest - Ivanka, Donald, Jr., and Eric - is more than a bit disconcerting.  It is almost as if the families raised their kids on two different planets.

Ivanka, Donald, Jr., and Eric appear to be anything but sweet.  If the White House is, as it is often characterized, a "fish bowl," the Trump children are more closely related to sharks than they are to goldfish.

Ivanka does seem to have an interest in some issues that are of particular importance to women, such as paid maternity leave, but her statements have had little or no impact on the actions her tempestuous father.  Ivanka maintains a status, of sorts, as a label for a line of apparel manufactured in the third world by extremely low-paid individuals whom some describe as modern-day slaves.    Ivanka, the daughter and granddaughter of slumlords, married a slumlord, and seems to be well acclimated to her status in life - which is higher than the status of almost all other Americans.

Eric Trump had made a bit of a name for himself as a promoter of a charity that addresses childhood cancer, and, in fairness to him, much of the money that his charity raised has gone to respectable causes - such as St. Jude's Children's Hospital in Memphis.  But it is also beginning to become clear that some of the money raised by Eric's charity has been plowed back into enterprises run by the Trump family.  New York's attorney general has been investigating that situation.

And then there is Donald, Junior.   The young Donald has been in the news for the past two weeks regarding a meeting that he had with a Russian lawyer right after his daddy became the nominee-apparent last summer.  The story has developed in drips and drabs, and Donald, Jr. has adjusted his version as more and more of the tale became public.  The latest version is that a former tabloid reporter approached Trump via an email saying that a Russian lawyer wanted a sit-down with Donnie, Jr., and that she had political dirt to share on Hillary Clinton - and that the Russian government had an interest in the senior Trump winning the election.

His reply to the invitation:  "If it's what you say, I love it!"

Donald Trump, Jr., did not bother to tell the FBI that he had received information that a foreign government was talking about influencing the American election.   Instead, he jumped at the chance to meet with the lawyer and brought along his brother-in-law, Jared Kushner (Ivanka's husband) and Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.  Trump, Jr. is apparently still maintaining that nothing related to the election was discussed at the meeting - no matter how much he may have wanted to hear some dirt on Clinton.  Some wags are describing his behavior in the matter as "treasonous."

So Sasha and Malia be gone!  The times have changed and the goldfish have swum out of view.   Now we are seeing a different type of presidential offspring.  The Trumps aren't cute, they're sharks - inept sharks, but sharks nonetheless.

Breeding tells.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Monday's Poetry: "Dog"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Today is Rosie's third birthday, and while my little Chihuahua receives royal treatment every day, I thought this might be a good time to feature a poem with a canine theme in honor of Rosie's big day.   I was looking for a verse that stressed the close bond between dogs and humans, a bond that has developed and strengthened over countless millennia, but opted instead for a poem simply titled "Dog" by San Francisco poet and peace activist, Lawrence Ferlinghetti.  Instead of highlighting a dog's dependence on man, or vice-versa, Ferlinghetti chose to focus on the independent nature of a San Francisco street dog.

Ferlinghetti's "Dog" is a charming creature who traverses his world as a curious spirit, one who is living a life unchained with a level of freedom that most of us humans will never get to experience.

Rosie's life is quite different from the one described in this poem, but, I suspect, she, too, is enjoying a level of peace and contentment that eludes most humans.

Happy birthday, Rosie!  May we celebrate many, many more special days together.


Dog
by Lawrence Ferlinghetti


The dog trots freely in the street
and sees reality
and the things he sees
are bigger than himself
and the things he sees
are his reality
Drunks in doorways
Moons on trees
The dog trots freely thru the street
and the things he sees
are smaller than himself
Fish on newsprint
Ants in holes
Chickens in Chinatown windows
their heads a block away
The dog trots freely in the street
and the things he smells
smell something like himself
The dog trots freely in the street
past puddles and babies
cats and cigars
poolrooms and policemen
He doesn’t hate cops
He merely has no use for them
and he goes past them
and past the dead cows hung up whole
in front of the San Francisco Meat Market
He would rather eat a tender cow
than a tough policeman
though either might do
And he goes past the Romeo Ravioli Factory
and past Coit’s Tower
and past Congressman Doyle
He’s afraid of Coit’s Tower
but he’s not afraid of Congressman Doyle
although what he hears is very discouraging
very depressing
very absurd
to a sad young dog like himself
to a serious dog like himself
But he has his own free world to live in
His own fleas to eat
He will not be muzzled
Congressman Doyle is just another
fire hydrant
to him
The dog trots freely in the street
and has his own dog’s life to live
and to think about
and to reflect upon
touching and tasting and testing everything
investigating everything
without benefit of perjury
a real realist
with a real tale to tell
and a real tail to tell it with
a real live
              barking
                         democratic dog
engaged in real
                      free enterprise
with something to say
                             about ontology
something to say
                        about reality
                                        and how to see it
                                                               and how to hear it
with his head cocked sideways
                                       at streetcorners
as if he is just about to have
                                       his picture taken
                                                             for Victor Records
                                  listening for
                                                   His Master’s Voice
                      and looking
                                       like a living questionmark
                                                                 into the
                                                              great gramaphone
                                                           of puzzling existence
                 with its wondrous hollow horn
                         which always seems
                     just about to spout forth
                                                      some Victorious answer
                                                              to everything

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Oh My God, It's Obama!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Barack Obama will no doubt go down in history as one of our nation's most out-going and approachable Presidents.  He truly enjoys interacting with ordinary people.

Several years ago as I was standing in a long line outside of a Phoenix bookstore waiting to have a book signed by Jimmy Carter,  I began chatting with the strangers who were next to me in line.  Our topic of conversation centered on the times that we had actually seen U.S. Presidents, and each of us had a few stories to tell.  The most memorable tale, at least the only one which I remember to this day, came from the lady who was standing behind me.  She said she had run into Barack and Michelle Obama on the grounds of a hotel in Colorado during the very brief time that he was a United States senator from Illinois.   It was after Obama had delivered that memorable speech at the 2004 Democratic convention, when it was obvious that he was a rising star in national politics.

The stranger beside me said that she had introduced herself to the Obamas and that they had cordially shook hands with her.  She then asked if she could get her picture taken with the senator, and Michelle obligingly took the woman's camera and snapped a couple of shots of Barack and his fan.  The lady ended her recounting of that chance encounter by pulling up those photos on her camera and showing them to the gaggle of very impressed on-lookers.

Barack Obama had been approachable before he got to the White House, and his open nature did not close when he assumed the highest office in the land.  Over the eight years of his presidency America bore witness many times to Obama interacting with ordinary Americans, and particularly with babies and children, always with that infectiously happy smile on his face.

Earlier this week the former president was traveling inauspiciously when a surprised woman spotted him in a terminal for private planes at the Anchorage International Airport.  Jolene Jackinsky said that she was walking across the terminal holding her six-month-old daughter, Giselle, when she spotted a man in casual attire that she thought bore a strong resemblance to President Obama.  As she got closer, Jolene thought, "Oh my God, it is Obama!"  At that point the still active statesman approached her and asked, regarding Giselle, "Who is this pretty girl?"  The still stunned mother handed her daughter over to the delighted ex-president, and then proceeded to snap a few pictures of the two.

And with those snapshots of Barack Obama and little Giselle, America was given a brief glance back into happier times.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

It's More Than Just Potholes

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

President Barack Obama tried on numerous occasions to address the problem of America's crumbling infrastructure, a wise use of money that would not only have repaired the roads, bridges, rails, and airports on which Americans depend and travel daily, it would have also provided thousands and thousands of good jobs and benefited the economy immensely.   Republicans in Congress, all of whom represented constituents who would have personally benefited from government spending on  improving the nation's infrastructure, nevertheless stayed in lockstep with their leaders and refused to move on the issue, primarily out of fear of doing anything that might make President Obama look good - even though their inaction was causing injury and death to people they were elected to serve.

When Donald Trump came into power it was suddenly permissible in Republican circles to start talking about infrastructure again, and in the process try to blame the steadily growing problem on Democrats.  Why hadn't their President done anything while he was in office? Why indeed!

Trump made a campaign pledge saying that he would spend one trillion dollars on infrastructure.  After his first budget came out, that campaign promise appeared to be largely smoke and mirrors.  Trump's plan called for reducing infrastructure expenditures from $250 billion by twenty-percent to just $200 billion, and then developing a plan where private companies would fund the remaining $800 billion over the next ten years.

Hello turnpikes and toll bridges - and goodbye Amtrak.

So basically the federal government is planning on doing even less in regard to repairing our failing infrastructure than it was able to accomplish during the Obama years when Congress was actively blocking improvements to roads, bridges, and airports.  The federal government, at best, will continue to dribble out money to the states to keep filling potholes.

But it's more than just potholes.

A few weeks ago the rural area in which I live, an area that voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump, suffered what has been referred to as a five-hundred-year flood.  Massive amounts of damage were done to local homes and businesses, most of which were not covered by flood insurance.  And, not surprisingly, serious damage was also suffered by local infrastructure.

The extent of that damage was brought home to me last weekend when I took my out-of-state visitors out to a favorite swimming hole.  I wanted my daughter and her children to enjoy the beach at Devil's Backbone State Park in Ozark County, about fifteen miles from West Plains.  I hadn't been there in several months, not since my son and his family enjoyed a swim at the scenic spot last fall.

As were were driving down the final hill toward the park, a sign suddenly appeared along the roadway warning, "Bridge Out."  The large highway bridge just past the park had been completely destroyed by the recent flood waters.  To complicate the situation, hundreds of large trees had also been pushed over by the flood waters.  It was Armageddon on the North Fork.

I had heard that some of the rural bridges had been washed away, but this was a major highway bridge.  It turns out there were others.  The repair and cleanup costs would be astronomical.

Then a day or two later our local newspaper reported that the state had let contracts on that particular bridge and one other.  The contract price for the highway bridge out by Devil's Backbone was $2,797,915!   That was just for one bridge of several that will have to be replaced, expenses that had not been anticipated or budgeted - an expenditure of near three million dollars which means a helluva lot of potholes will have to go unfilled.

Smoke and mirrors won't fill the potholes, Donald, and they damned sure won't resurface roads, rebuild bridges, fix and extend runways, or even build a useless wall.  America's infrastructure requires real money  - and it requires it now - and if that means unplugging a war somewhere and bringing that money home, so be it.  Maybe if you would get out of your bubble of privilege and ride around on some real American roads and cross some shaky, old American bridges you would get a sense of what life in the rest of these United States is actually like.

Real life happens where the rubber hits the road, and the quality of that life is directly related to the quality of the roads.    People who voted for Donald Trump down here in the Ozarks are busy figuring new ways to get across the river so they can get to work or just buy groceries.  That's real life in America, and it's a lot more complicated than just hopping from one private golf course to another on government helicopters.

Come see us, Donnie, and enjoy a drive across our beautiful hills and hollers - but bring some comfortable shoes in case you have to get out and walk!