Sunday, December 31, 2017

A Monster Evolves

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I received one of those day-by-day calendars for Christmas this year - one that features "Trumpisms" or quotes by Donald John Trump for each day of the year.  Since unwrapping that particular gift I have leisurely thumbed trough the entries and markedly increased my knowledge of our so-called leader.  A lot of what is contained on the calendar's small pages I already knew.  There are numerous examples of Trump's disgust with (and fear of) smart women.  Not only does he gleefully disparage Hillary, but he also takes cheap shots at Rosie O'Donnell, Bette Midler, and Cher.  In fact, his general disdain of women taken together with his remarks about his own "good looks" and his "great brain" would almost lead one to think that he views women through a lens of jealousy.

Trump also bangs on and on about "losers and haters."   "Losers" in Trump-speak include anyone who has less wealth or material goods than he does, a circumstance which makes most of his supporters "losers."  "Haters" is an all-inclusive group of anyone who has ever dared to speak out against Donald Trump.

Of all Trump quotes included in the calendar, the one that I felt was most revealing was this gem which is highlighted on Friday, February 23, 2018.  The quote, taken from Trump's The Art of the Deal  (1987), is this:

"In the second grade, I actually gave a teacher a black eye - I punched my music teacher because I didn't think he knew anything about music, and I almost got expelled."
There is no stated remorse.  There is no tale about angry or disappointed parents correcting the child once they got him home.  It is simply - and proudly - a tale of a child striking a teacher and suffering no consequences for his action.  There is not even an acknowledgement more than fifty years later that he was wrong to have hit the teacher.  Donald is never wrong now - and he was never wrong then.

A second grader strikes a teacher in the face and doesn't get expelled (suspended).  What does that say about about entitled and privileged children?  Trump, the slumlord's son growing up on Long Island was undoubtedly being educated at a private school - of the type favored by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.  What does this incident say about the efficacy of this type of educational opportunity?  Is this the promised land of education, the type of school where we should all aspire to send our kids?

A child hits a teacher, a parent rescues the child by spreading around some cash.   The teacher learns that he is powerless and a target.   The child learns he is immune from school rules and the dictates of teachers. The child slowly and steadily evolves into a monster.

Who could possibly expect any other outcome?

Let's all vow to support our public schools and their valiant, struggling teachers.  Education is the cornerstone of freedom and democracy.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Charitable Thoughts

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

As the first year of America under Trump wheezes to a close, it seems a good time to reflect on those whose lives became worse during the rush by the administration and Congress to trash health and safety regulations, rape the environment, give the military more than it wants, and transfer what remains of the country's wealth to the plutocracy.  The "losers," as Trump likes to call those less fortunate than himself, lost bigly in 2017.

My email inbox has literally been stuffed with "urgent" requests for donations this week.  Politicians and charities alike want to slip their hands into my pockets one last time before the end of the year.  Charities, particularly those with a tax-deductible status, want me to know that there are only hours left in which to make a donation that could conceivably benefit me on this year's taxes.

During the year there are a dozen or so charities that I support, usually with a one-time, very small gift.  I like the work of the Carter Center and Habitat for Humanity, and support both.  The Southern Poverty Law Center also does good work that is directed toward meeting the needs of some of America's most vulnerable - as does the American Civil Liberties Union.  I also respect and support the work of the Salvation Army and Planned Parenthood.

But there are three charities whose work has always tugged at my heartstrings and which I eagerly support, often with multiple donations throughout the year.

The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric Aids Foundation was founded by Elizabeth Glaser and a couple of her friends after her daughter, Ariel, succumbed to AIDS at the age of seven.  Ms. Glaser became infected with the AIDS virus in 1981 through a blood transfusion she received at the time of Ariel's birth.  She subsequently passed the virus on to her daughter, and later her son, through breast-feeding.  Elizabeth Glaser died of AIDS in 1994, but her work continues, and much of the progress that has been made in the fight against juvenile AIDS has come about through the efforts of her organization.

The Ali Forney Center in New York City operates a homeless shelter for LGBTQ youth and does outreach work with that at-risk community.  A large portion of our nation's homeless citizens are represented in the LGBTQ youth demographic - kids who have been driven from their homes by family who will not accept them for who they are.  After learning about the Ali Forney Center and giving a benefit performance for them, the late actress Bea Arthur developed such a strong bond with the kids in need that she left a surprise gift of $300,000 for the Center in her will - money that was used to create a new residence center and expand the number of youth that the center can serve.

Doctors Without Borders literally goes where other relief agencies often fear to tread.  When a natural disaster or humanitarian crisis strikes in any remote corner of the world, Doctors Without Borders usually has the first boots on the ground.  I first began donating to Doctors Without Borders after its heroic response to the tsunami in southeast Asia in 2004, and have been contributing monthly ever since.  Doctors Without Borders won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999.  Its work and reputation is stellar.

As the Trump administration and the GOP Congress systematically savage the nation's social safety net, it becomes more important than ever for private citizens to come forward and take up the slack.  Trump can craft a government in his own greedy and uncaring image, but he cannot control the better impulses of the good people he once swore to serve.  If Donald Trump and his hate-riddled followers will not stand up for people in need, then the rest of us must.

Find a worthwhile cause and support it - that will truly make America great again!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Bundle Up!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Yesterday evening after a grueling day of golf at his exclusive Florida country club, Donald Trump took to Twitter and told the rest of us to "bundle up."   Trump, stealing a march from comedian Rush Limbaugh who used to offer "proof" that global warming was a hoax because it had snowed somewhere that day,  posted an end-of-day tweet in which he essentially parroted Limbaugh's malevolence with this gem:

"In the East, it could be the COLDEST New Year’s Eve on record. Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against. Bundle up!"
Not surprisingly, prominent Democrats almost knocked each other over racing for their keyboards to reply to  Trump's ignorance and insufferable arrogance.  One of the best was Rep. Kathleen Rice of New York who compared him to a "child who hates science class," and then blistered the golfer-in-chief with these gems of her own:

"Instead of tweeting like a child who hates science class, if you're so worried about the cold you could always send your 45M+ followers info about how to find shelter, prevent hypothermia & frost bite, prevent pipes from freezing, protect their pets, etc."
Which was followed by:

"Not even to mention the fact that you are in Florida. At your country club. Where you played golf today. Again. There are people all over America who will sleep outside tonight because they have no warm place to go."

Can you imagine how awful it would be to live in a country that divides its wealth between the military and those who are already wealthy - while thousands huddle in the bitter cold without bare necessities like proper clothing, adequate food, medicine or basic medical care, or adequate shelter?  Sadly, that is today's real America, a blighted landscape that extends along our urbanized coasts and out into the Midwest.  Someday soon our disenfranchised brothers and sisters will be be encamped at the very gates of Trumpworld, and then The Donald will finally act - and have them arrested - or deported.

Climate change is real, and the whole world knows it with the exception being the angry dullards who view Donald Trump as some sort of plain-spoken oracle.  It's cold today in the Midwest and along the eastern seaboard, but overall temperatures are climbing each year, and ice sheets are breaking loose from places like Greenland and Antarctica, and sea levels are rising.  Today sea water routinely washes into the streets of Miami, and soon, very soon, it will be washing over the greens and fairways of Mar-a-Lago.

Maybe then Donald Trump will give a shit.

Until then the forecast is for uninterrupted ignorance followed by seasons of disease, pestilence, and natural disasters that will dwarf those of Biblical times.

Bundle up.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Roy Moore Sucks on Sour Apples

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Alabama elected a new United States Senator sixteen days ago on December 12th.   The election was a nasty affair in which a devout racist and homophobe who has twice been removed from the state's supreme court for failing to follow the Constitution ran against a prosecutor known for convicting racists and terrorists.  It should have been a no-brainer for Alabama, but somehow the civil rights lawyer managed to win.

Roy Moore, the twice-rebuffed Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, refused to concede.  Alabama is a white man's state, and Roy had it on good authority that blacks had voted in the election - and probably some of them gays, as well.  It was outrageous!  Roy wanted a recount, but Doug Jones' margin of victory was big enough to preclude a mandatory recount.

Now Roy Moore is headed to court to sue and try to block his opponent from being declared the winner.  He is still shouting about election fraud, but now instead of demanding a recount (which Moore would have to pay for), he is asking for a re-do.  Moore says he was the victim of "systematic voter fraud."  What is more likely is that he is the product of "systematic voter fraud."

Yup.  Roy wants a new election.  He has probably found a few cemeteries that were under-counted last time and is planning to leave no plot un-voted this time around.

Good luck with that, Roy.  Meanwhile, why don't you crawl off into the woods and suck on a few sour apples while the rest of the world welcomes Doug Jones to the United States Senate.  And always remember, Roy, Doug would have never gotten there without you.  Thanks for giving Alabamans a reason to vote Democratic!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Harry and Meghan Set to Snub Trump Royally - and Bigly!

by Pa Rock
Society Editor

Great Britain's Prince Harry, the charismatic grandson of Queen Elizabeth, plans to wed his beautiful American girlfriend, Meghan Markle, this coming May, in a lavish royal wedding at Westminster Castle.  The wedding, a complicated production that will drag on for several hours, is not an official "state" affair which means that the happy couple will not be obligated to invite world leaders - which is a good thing because they apparently do not want to share their nuptials with Donald Trump, a raging narcissist who would undoubtedly be bent on making the whole party about him.

Ms. Markle, an actress and a divorcee who is the daughter of a black mother, has never been a fan of The Donald, and has, in fact, tweeted her disdain of our Dear Leader on multiple occasions.  So, Fat Boy, no invitation for you!

And while snubbing Donald Trump is apparently within the bride and groom's purview, there appears to be a political storm brewing in the political hierarchy of Great Britain over a couple whom the young royals do want to share in their special day.    Harry is a good friend of Barack and Michelle Obama, and he and Meghan seem to be determined to have America's popular former President and his lady on their guest list.

Some British political leaders are concerned that having the Obamas at the wedding while snubbing the Trumps would make it difficult for Great Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May to work with the Trump administration.  The thought is that Donald might react with some degree of pettiness and jealousy - and perhaps start tweeting threats to nuke the British Isles.

Stand strong, Harry and Meghan.  If your wedding doesn't have a luau theme, why invite a pig?  And if you want to class the affair up a bit, certainly invite the Obamas.  May 19th will be your big day - make it special!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

How the Gasbag Stole Christmas

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

For the past few days I have been staying at a residence which is outfitted with cable television, something that I do not have in my own home.  Over the years that I have been without a television service, I had begun to forget just how terrible it is - but now I remember.  In fact, it is even worse now than it was back when I cut the cord.  I guess we have Donald Trump and American Nazis to thank for that.

Last night as I was sitting at the computer going over the day's news, the television set was droning in the background set to some "news" channel.  All at once my attention was captured by an obvious political commercial in which individual people were thanking Trump for various things - accomplishments which they apparently deemed were fulfillments of his promise to "make America great again."  At the end of the silly diatribe a little girl thanked Trump for "letting us say 'Merry Christmas' again," with the obvious inference being that the black family who used to live in the White House were Satanists and had tried to kill Christmas.

So Christmas is saved, praise Jesus, and we can now proudly say "Merry Christmas" instead of being forced to hear that communist drivel of "Happy Holidays."  Christmas is saved and we have Donald John Trump to thank for it - a man who has never intentionally performed an act of Christian charity or done anything in his entire life that could be cloaked in the term "Christian."

But "Merry Christmas" and "Praise Trump" and never forget that black people in the White House should stay in the servants' quarters where they belong.  Don't expect to find Trump in the White House basking in his Christian afterglow, however, because he is in Florida playing golf, grabbing pussy, and bragging to his friends how he has just made them a lot richer!  Those are Trump's values, Christians - and like Dorian Gray's portrait, he is the unflinching reflection of the people who elected him.

Keep stuffing that fast food in your pie hole, Donald, and washing it down with Diet Cokes - and perhaps one day your gluttony will inadvertently make America great again.

God save Robert Mueller and the United States of America!

Monday, December 25, 2017

Capturing Christmas

by Pa Rock

The Ozarks awoke to a thin white blanket of snow yesterday, Christmas Eve, but today the snow is gone and the sky is dark and cloudy - wintry, but not Christmassy.

Olive just phoned in to discuss her Christmas haul.  She seemed to be really pleased with the camera that I got her, and said that she has already been busy taking pictures with it.  I hope that she sends me a few.  I got cameras for all four of my elementary-aged grandchildren, so maybe they will all send a few pictures to their old Grandpa, or at least trade photos among themselves.

My parents had an old box camera that they used when I was small.  When I was about twelve Santa brought me my own camera - a small Kodak in a kit that included a roll of film and some flash bulbs.  Remember flash bulbs?  Remember film?  Now we take pictures with our telephones and send them around electronically.  Who would have thunk it?

Olive told me that her little brother, Sully, got a "Tickle-Me Elmo" for Christmas.  (Actually, I already knew that because I sent it to him.)  Sully smiles and laughs all of the time, so Elmo should be a natural playmate for him.  I suspect that they may get into all manner of trouble together!

I haven't heard from the Oregon grandchildren yet, but they are two hours behind us early birds here in the Midwest.  Willow and Judah and Sebastian should all be snapping pictures of each other any minute now.  I hope they remember to send a few funny shots to Pa Rock.

Here in Noel, the Christmas City, Patti made waffles for breakfast, and her son Anthony is now busy making the holiday meal.  Aunt Gail called to say that she is leaving Fayetteville and will join us in an hour or so.  Rosie and I are very anxious to see her.

May you and yours have a wonderful Christmas and the happiest of New Years!  Stay happy - and healthy - and wise!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

No Home for the Holidays

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The holidays are in full swing, a time when many of us are wrapped in the security and warmth of our families as we make merry and reflect on our blessings.  But this is also a time when another America, one that is invisible to most of us, struggles to stay warm, find sustenance and a safe place to sleep, and to survive for another day.

The Guardian newspaper has been running an investigative series entitled "Outside in America" which is examining the escalating problem of homelessness in the United States.  It is a problem that has been with us since colonial times, but has been exacerbated in recent years as many communities go from treating the homeless with kindness and Christian charity to criminalizing the survival strategies that have long been employed by homeless individuals to enable their basic existence.

Being homeless in America truly is a case of "There but for the grace of God go I," because it is a circumstance that can find us all.   Today's waves of homeless individuals include those who lost their footing in society due to addictions, financial catastrophes, and plain old rotten luck.  America's homeless population includes people who fell through the unraveling social safety net - like the mentally ill who were dumped out of institutional care and onto the streets - and veterans who returned home from serving their country to find that their country was unable and unwilling to address the problems that they brought home from war.

America also has a large contingent of LGBTQ youth who were forced out of their families - or chose to leave - because of pressures from parents and other family members who could not accept these kids based on their sexual orientation.

Today cities and other communities are making it illegal to panhandle, sleep in doorways or on public beaches or over subway grates, construct temporary housing like tents or cardboard hovels, or "loiter" in certain areas.   Government, which was once focused on solutions, is now becoming a central part of the problem.

Christmas is a good time to think about this other America, the one that is living hand-to-mouth and sleeping in cars or huddled beneath overpasses .  We all need to support political candidates who speak and work for all people, not just those with means,  and we need to give to charities that really do give back to those in need.   And it would be a far more just world if our churches developed and sustained missions which actually promote the Golden Rule.

The homeless are not strangers among us, they are reflections of ourselves mired in unfortunate circumstances - and we define ourselves by how we react to them.

Keep Christ in Christmas by caring and sharing.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Happy Birthday, Patti!

by Pa Rock

Miss Patti is having a birthday today, a scant two days before Christmas.  I won't belabor the point by attaching a number to the big event, but suffice it to say that we were both born during the Truman administration, me during Harry's first term, and Patti closer to the end of his second. 

I am camped at Patti's place in Noel for her birthday and some holiday events.  There was a light snow last night, but not enough to dampen any plans.   We will be going out for a celebratory meal later today, tomorrow will center on a couple of events at Patti's church, and Monday, Christmas Day, we will be  having a holiday meal prepared by Patti's sons.  My sister, Gail, will be at Patti's for the Christmas meal, and on Tuesday we are headed into Arkansas to have a meal at a restaurant with Gail and her kids and grandkids. 

Rosie and I will head home on Wednesday.

Friday, December 22, 2017

GOP Golden Showers

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Donald Trump was late to the golf course this morning because he had to stop by the Oval Office and sign the new Tax "Reform" bill, his first major legislative victory in the year that he has been in office.  The bill, which puts more money in the pockets of the Trump family as well as the members of Congress who crafted and passed the self-serving measure, gives permanent major tax cuts to corporations - and temporary (and very modest) tax cuts to average working people.  What could be fairer than that?

Meanwhile the Children's Health Insurance Program expired October 1st and has yet to be renewed.  The CHIP program was crafted by a bipartisan effort in Congress in 1997 and has been very effective in reducing the number of uninsured children in the United States.  With no new funding, states are already beginning to stop enrollments. 

Congress has also steadfastly refused to act on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) which would allow young people who arrived in the United States as infants and children to remain in the US if they are pursuing an education.  It is a very popular program that was instituted by President Obama - and is supported by a large majority of Americans.

But, Donald Trump, and by extension his cattle in Congress, are openly opposed to anything proposed or implemented by the Obama administration - and they seem to be especially hostile to the needs of children.

Give America's wealth to the wealthiest and piss on everyone else.  It's called "trickle-down," and if you want to know how well it works, just ask anyone in Kansas.

But in the short term, it might be smart to take that tax-saving and spend it on a good umbrella!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

World to Trump: "Screw You, Bigly!"

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Just one day after the United States' U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, threatened the delegates of other member nations that she was keeping a "naughty" list of countries that voted to condemn the U.S. for moving its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem - and one day after Donald Trump strongly implied that the United States would cut off foreign aid to countries that voted for the same resolution - the rest of the world told Trump what they actually thought of the bully in the White House - and it wasn't pretty!

In a stunning rebuke to the Trump administration's threats and demagoguery, the member nations of voted by a lop-sided 128 to nine (with 35 abstentions) to condemn the United States for its unilateral action - an action perpetrated by Donald John Trump while showing no regard or concern for what the rest of the world thought, and an action almost guaranteed to set the Middle East peace process back by years.

Well, now Trump knows what the rest of the world thinks.  (Keep in mind that one of those "no" votes came from the United States itself - so that only leaves eight on Nikki's "nice" list.)  Those countries - the ones standing with the United States, were Israel (of course), Guatemala, Honduras, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Marshall Islands, and Togo - powerhouses one and all.    Significantly, Great Britain, France, Japan, and Germany all voted in support of the resolution and stood up to Trump's bluster.  Canada and Mexico abstained.

Hey Donzo, if you do try and withhold some of that foreign aid, maybe you or your brain, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, could draft a quick amendment to the new tax code to insure that the country's billionaires and big corporations reap the windfall - because if you don't, those damned Democrats might try to spend it on children's health care.

And if you really want to save some U.S. greenbacks, you might also consider taking Netanyahu off of America's payroll.

Oh, and happy holidays!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Cardinal Law Will be Remembered for his Failure to Protect Children

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Cardinal Bernard Law, a "prince" of the Catholic Church who oversaw the Archdiocese of Boston from the mid--1980's until just after the start of the new millennium, has died in Rome following a long illness.

Law and Cardinal John J. O'Connor of New York were point men in Pope John Paul II's effort to return the American faithful to the more orthodox precepts of the Catholic religion.   The pair were so staunch in their support of the Vatican's right-wing dicta that they were dubbed Cardinals "Law and Order."

Some members of the Church hierarchy regarded Cardinal Law as overly ambitious and eager to earn the accolades of Rome - and some felt that he had designs on becoming the first Pope from the United States.  All of those ambitions were tossed into a cocked hat when the massive scandal that involved the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests began breaking in and around the Boston Archdiocese.  It soon became apparent that Cardinal Law had "handled" the potential of a scandal by shuffling pedophile priests from one church to another and covering-up their records of abuse.    His actions brought harm to hundreds of additional children.  He literally became the face of priest sex-crimes in America, a fact headlined in almost every press notice of his passing.

Cardinal Law was recalled to Rome by Pope John Paul II in 2002 and given an assignment there.  He remained in Rome until his death yesterday.

Cardinal Law has always been a person of interest to me.   As a former child abuse investigator, I saw Law's overt concealment of serious crimes as a textbook example of how persons of power and influence always struggled to maintain and nourish their demons in the darkness while the less-privileged were dragged out into the open and forced to own theirs.  Law built a house of cards as he played "hide the pedophile," and eventually his fragile structure of subterfuge collapsed.

I also have followed Cardinal Law's career over the years because he is the only Cardinal of the Catholic Church that I have known personally.    He served as the Catholic Bishop of the Springfield-Cape Girardeau Diocese from 1973-1984, a section of real estate covering all of southern Missouri.

As a practicing Catholic at the time I had the opportunity to see and interact with Bishop Law on several occasions, including once where I spent an exceptionally boring evening in Willow Springs, Missouri, in a small group listening to him drone on at a training for Parish Council members.  The last time I saw Bishop Law was in my hometown of Noel, Missouri, where he was leaving the local Catholic Church and heading back to his home in Springfield.  Shortly after that brief encounter he was appointed to the position of Archbishop of Boston - and then a year later he was elevated to the rank of Cardinal.

Bernard Law was active in the United States civil rights movement of the 1960's, and he served the Church with dignity and honor during his early years as a priest and bishop.  Sadly it will not be those achievements for which he will be best remembered.  Law's ambition and poor judgment teamed up to lead him into some very bad decisions - decisions which ultimately brought harm to children and shame to his beloved Church.   It is for those awful choices that he is being remembered today.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

A Memory of Okinawa

by Pa Rock
Former World Traveler

This morning I have been exchanging emails with Murphy, a good friend who is an American psychologist living and working for the U.S. military in Japan.  Murphy and I worked in the same mental health unit at Kadena Air Base on Okinawa during the two years that I was there:  July of 2010 until July of 2012.

Murphy's time on Okinawa predated my own, and by the time I arrived there he had a fairly broad knowledge of the island and some on ifs more unique characters and businesses. 

This past weekend as I was listening to Groucho Marx (of all people!) sing a few tunes courtesy of Alexa, I was particularly delighted to hear his rendition of "Lydia the Tattooed Lady," a tune that Murphy attempted on the couple of occasions in which we visited the British Wine and Tea Shop in a remote patch of Okinawa.  The owner of that exceptionally fine eatery was a British fellow named John Farmer, and John's Japanese wife, Maki, was expecting their first baby - a girl child that they planned to name "Lydia."  When that name was mentioned, Murphy would break into song.

John was a skilled chef who oversaw the work in the kitchen, but, if memory serves, the food was prepared by Maki and perhaps one other individual.  Seating was very limited, only three or four tables, and paying guests were given the choice of just two meals - offerings which changed daily.  John would often join his guests and their table and chatter away as they ate.  The food was delicious.

The tea shop itself was a collection of curiosities.  John collected military "coins" which he badgered from his guests.  He also had a large collection of original drawings by Welsh illustrator Ralph Steadman, a man who was perhaps best known for illustrating many of the works of American journalist and author Hunter S. Thompson.   Steadman, an old friend of the chef, also designed the tea shop's business sign and the logo that went onto its business cards.

Murphy hung around Okinawa after I left and was there to meet little Lydia.  He informs me that the business has closed and John and his family have returned to Great Britain.

Perhaps I will stumble into another of John's shops again some day.  It would be nice to think so.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Monday's Poetry: "Daybreak in Alabama"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Alabama is a state that is not known for lifting itself into the national news very often - as it did this past week with the surprise election of a Democrat to the United States Senate.  This flurry of national attention brought with it an examination of the racial divide that still persists across Alabama and indeed much of the nation, and a belief in some circles that the white Democratic candidate prevailed over the white Republican candidate largely through the efforts of the state's black population.

To honor that proud achievement, I have selected a poem written by a black man (albeit one from Missouri) that addresses the need for Alabamians of all colors to work together for their common good.  One must suspect that Langston Hughes would have been heartened by what happened in Alabama last Tuesday and might have seen it as the dawn of an awakening day, a day that promises to be a good one for Alabama.

Daybreak in Alabama
by Langston Hughes

When I get to be a composer
I'm gonna write me some music about
Daybreak in Alabama
And I'm gonna put the purtiest songs in it
Rising out of the ground like a swamp mist
And falling out of heaven like soft dew.
I'm gonna put some tall tall trees in it
And the scent of pine needles
And the smell of red clay after rain
And long red necks
And poppy colored faces
And big brown arms
And the field daisy eyes
Of black and white black white black people
And I'm gonna put white hands
And black hands and brown and yellow hands
And red clay earth hands in it
Touching everybody with kind fingers
And touching each other natural as dew
In that dawn of music when I
Get to be a composer
And write about daybreak
In Alabama. 

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Molly Files, Full of Smiles at Forty-One

by Pa Rock
Proud Father

My daughter, Molly Miranda Macy Files, was born forty-one years ago today in Joplin, Missouri.  Now she is a wife, mother, and homemaker in Oregon where she spends much of each day shuffling her and Scott's three children - Sebastian, Judah, and Willow - to their various schools, activities, and events.  Keeping up with Molly on just a "normal" day would make the Roadrunner look like a slacker!

Molly was born in the "bicentennial" year of 1976.  Her birth also occurred during one of our country's "interregnums," periods of time between the election and swearing-in of new Presidents.  Gerald Ford had lost the presidential election to Jimmy Carter in November, Molly was born in December, and Carter was sworn in as President in January.

I was in the delivery room when Molly was born - my first viewing of a live birth.  A few years later Tim's birth would be my second and (hopefully) final attendance at a live birth.  That evening my parents drove to Joplin to see their new granddaughter.  It was probably a full moon because the baby-viewing room was full with over thirty tiny new human beings.  (Happy birthday to rest of you guys, as well!)  Molly was on the front row, with tight little red curls on her head.  My  mother took one look at the multitude of infants and then pointed directly at Molly saying, "That's our baby right there!"

And now she is forty-one with babies of her own!

Happy birthday, Honey.  May you enjoy many, many more in the warmth and happiness of your own family.  You continue to be a blessing!

"Lost" with Polar Bears

by Pa Rock
TV Junkie

The ABC television series "Lost" ran in prime time from September of 2004 until May of 2010.  During its six full seasons on the air - and 120 episodes - the show won critical acclaim and garnered many prestigious awards - including an Emmy for Best Drama Series, Golden Globe and BAFTA awards for the same achievement, as well as a dramatic writing award from the Screen Writer's Guild.  It was a big hit that brought in millions of new viewers to the once-struggling American Broadcasting Company.  The Internet Movie Database (IMDB) ranked "Lost" as the number one television series of the last ten years.

I heard about "Lost" back at the time it first aired on television, but that was a transitional time in my life, one in which I managed to reside in three different states in a twelve-month period - not an ideal situation for becoming hooked on a particular program.  But the people I knew who were watching it raved.

Now that I am retired and finally dropped anchor, I determined to go back and work my way through the "Lost" collection that is available through Netflix.  I began the process last summer, and most evenings managed to view one episode.  Last evening I finished the effort, and, as with most extended projects, I am feeling a sense of loss now that it has ended.

"Lost" is the story of the survivors of Oceanic 815, a fictional airline flight that was enroute to Los Angeles from Sydney, Australia.  The plane encountered difficulty over the South Pacific and had to turn around an head toward Fiji.  Unfortunately, the plane's radio went on the fritz and no one on the ground knew that the aircraft had altered course.  Then it broke up in the air and many of the passengers came to on what seemed to be a deserted tropical island.

The first few episodes were updates of Robinson Crusoe or The Swiss Family Robinson, people learning to survive in a new and exotic environment while building and maintaining signal fires on the beach in an attempt to bring about their rescue.  It wasn't too far into the series, however, when things began to get weird:  strange radio transmissions, a gigantic racing and deadly column of smoke, the discovery of other people on the island, and even polar bears.

The main characters - the survivors - were carefully introduced in the early episodes through in-depth flashbacks, scenes of their lives before they boarded the ill-fated flight.  As the story progressed, the flashbacks became flash-forwards allowing viewers to see the impact that the time spent on the island would have on the lives of the survivors once they had returned to their regular lives.  Then, toward the end of the series, the flash scenes led to an oblique world in which the characters, though basically the same, were cast in different roles.  Sawyer, a professional conman, for instance, was suddenly a cop in Los Angeles, and Hugo, once a mental patient, transformed into a very wealthy business executive.

And while all of that sounds confusing, it did add another layer of understanding to each of the characters and served to expand their humanity.

There was also a second group of individuals living on the island, referred to as the "Others" who were remnants of an earlier group of researchers who lived on the island and studied its strange powers and qualities.  The show had a couple of minor villains, and one super-villain, a billionaire who had discovered the island during World War II and who wanted to harness its powers for his own nefarious ends.  There was also a god-like figure who maintained the island's myths and powers.

"Lost"is a very well written and complex program that explores human faults and emotions on a variety of levels.  It is a show that demands focus, but it is so well done that it would be hard not to stay focused.  It is smart, and clever, and very enjoyable.

About the only thing that I did not eventually understand was the polar bears!

But I will give this one three thumbs up anyway!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Trump Administration Has Its Own Seven Dirty Words

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

How fortunate we all are to live in a country where the government filters what we hear and read.  Imagine how confusing life might become if we were given too much description or information.

Way back in 1966, the year this poor typist graduated from high school, comedian Lenny Bruce was arrested for using nine particularly profane words in a comedy routine.  Six years later another comedian, George Carlin, shortened that list by dropping the two least controversial entries, and incorporated his revised list into a comedy album.  The segment was called "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television."  Carlin, like Bruce before him, was arrested after a public performance of the material.

Today, of course, the culture has shifted and society is more difficult to shock.   After viewing just a few hours of cable, Lenny Bruce and George Carlin would undoubtedly have to come up with a whole new shtick.

But never fear, America.  If the big cable companies won't protect us from ourselves, Donald Trump stands ready to limit what we hear and see in print.  The Trump administration has now come up with its own list of seven dirty words - or in this case seven words and phrases that it will not allow the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to use in documents pertaining to next year's budget, information which should be essential in keeping the public informed about the priorities and activities of this agency which purports to protect the public health.

Trump's seven dirty words and phrases that the CDC must never put to print are:   diversity, fetus, transgender, vulnerable, entitlement, science-based, and evidence-based - undoubtedly dangerous words, one and all.  Alternatives were provided by the administration for some of the words and terms which have been banned.  The phrase "science-based" may be changed to "CDC bases it recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes."

(If the definition of science is going to be based on the standards and wishes of the under-educated, redneck, crime-prone community in which I live, we are all in deep shit  - to borrow a dirty word from the Bruce and Carlin lists.)

How lucky we are to have a leader who stands ready to stick his stubby little fingers in our ears as well as censor what we read.  That puts us right up there with Russia.  Elections really do have consequences, something Putin knew all along.  Lucky us!

Friday, December 15, 2017

USA Today Stands Up for America

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

When ti comes to dealing with women, Donald Trump usually assigns them to one of two piles:  those with irreversible character flaws - sluts, whores, and liars - and those who are so unattractive as to not merit any of his valuable attention.  Well to be totally honest, there is a third group - those he uses and then throws on one of the two piles.

Women are resources to be used and then thrown away in Trump's world.

Trump has a particular hostility toward women in positions of power.  It's been almost a year since a Constitutional quirk denied the presidency to Hillary Clinton, yet Trump, never magnanimous, cannot let go and never misses an opportunity to take a cheap shot at the former First Lady, Senator, and U.S. Secretary of State.  He also seems to have an irrational fear of the superior intellect of Senator Elizabeth Warren and regularly attacks her with name-calling, most notably "Pocahantas" as a way of demeaning her Native American heritage.

Women in positions of power are especially maddening to Donald John Trump.  He never lets up on the Hillary's and Elizabeth Warren's of the world, and when a new female threat begins to show signs of rising, she must be dealt with quickly and forcefully.

This past Monday Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, a woman with a powerful political base already in place and functional, dared to speak out against Trump and said that he should be investigated and resign over sexual abuse allegations - currently numbering at least seventeen.  Trump fired back a now infamous tweet in which he suggested that Senator Gillibrand was a "lightweight" who frequented his office seeking political donations - and would do "anything" for those donations - or in Trump-speak - he called her a whore.

Senator Warren tweeted into the conversation with her own appraisal that Trump had "slut-shamed" Senator Gillibrand.

But Senator Gillibrand probably did not need the assist from Warren.  She appeared to be ready to spar with the pompous ex-reality television personality the following day when she went on the Today Show and had this to say:

"It was certainly just a sexist smear intended to silence me.  And I'm not going to be silenced on this issue. I have heard the testimony of many women, numerous accusers. I believe them and he should resign for that."

As the war of words escalated, the editorial board of USA Today decided that it also had an opinion worthy of sharing.   That national publication which had encouraged its readers to "resist the siren song of a dangerous demagogue" (Trump) last fall and vote for someone else - but did not directly endorse Hillary - wrote a scathing editorial on Wednesday in which if flatly stated that Donald Trump was not fit to "clean the restrooms in Obama's presidential library - or shine the shoes of George W. Bush."

(Those lines have been repeated and chuckled over - and no doubt raged over - ad nauseam the past couple of days.  But damn it, I wanted them to be part of the historical record of this blog as well, and this is the first chance I've had to include them.) 

That editorial also included this note on what does not make America great:

"A president who shows such disrespect for the truth, for ethics, for the basic duties of the job and for decency toward others fails at the very essence of what has always made America great."

I was a subscriber to USA Today back during the 1990's before the internet began bringing the news of the world to my work space.  It was a respected source of news and opinion back then, and obviously still is.  It may be time to look at renewing the subscription.

Thank you, USA Today, for continuing to stand up for America!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Newtown Horror, Five Years On

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Today is the fifth anniversary of one of the most horrific mass shootings in the history of the United States.  The shooting was not the most deadly in our country's bloody history, but, because of who the victims were, it was one of the most awful incidents in the annals of American crime.

Adam Lanza, a twenty-year-old disturbed individual with easy access to guns. began the morning by shooting and killing his mother, the woman who had taken him to the local gun range on numerous occasions and taught him how to shoot.  Then he took her automatic rifle and a pistol - and several magazines of ammunition, and headed to the local elementary school five miles way in Newtown, Connecticut.  Once at Sandy Hook Elementary, Lanza shot the protective glass out of the school's door and forced his way inside where he began systematically murdering students and faculty members.

Adam Lanza fired one-hundred-and-fifty-six rounds during his murderous spree.  In his rampage he killed twenty first graders, all between the ages of six and seven, and six faculty members before turning the pistol on himself.

It was a crime that brought moral America to tears.   The nation and the world thought that Congress would now be forced to tackle the issues surrounding easy access to guns in America.  But Congress stood firm in its denial of the obvious causes of mass shootings and continued working toward easier access for guns so that Americans could "protect" themselves, a false narrative that wears more thin and meaningless with each murderous rampage.

The insanity continued in places like Charleston, Roseberg, San Bernadino, Orlando, and Las Vegas - and who-knows-where tomorrow.  Each time Congress reacted with a "minute of silence" and a sincere effort to get even more guns onto the streets so that we will all be safer.

The irony is as rich and red and thick as the blood in the streets - or in the hallways of our local schools.

Congress owns that blood, and the institution and its gun-culture-enablers must be held accountable.  Sooner or later gun violence will impact us all.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Bannon and Trump Fail to Elect a Bigot in Alabama

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

When a pair of prominent white supremacists like Steve Bannon and his flunky, Donald John Trump, can't muster enough political muscle to win a Senate race for a well known bigot in Alabama, of all places, well, that's big news - a story made all the more delicious by the fact that the once honorable Republican National Committee also weighed in with support and money for the homophobic, anti-Semitic, and alleged child abuser, Roy Moore.

Moore lost bigly to Democrat Doug Jones yesterday.  The Jones' victory will decrease the Republican majority in the United States Senate from 52-48 to a razor-thin 51-49, and it couldn't happen to a sweeter bunch of guys.

Trump, in fact, has been on the losing end of the stick in Alabama twice now.  He backed Alabama's appointed incumbent senator, Luther Strange, in the primary - an election that Strange lost to Roy Moore- and then became an enthusiastic supporter of Roy Moore in the general election.  Two losses in Alabama is an odd  position for a politician who fancies himself to be God's gift to backwoods white America.

The Republican National Committee is now also a two-time loser in Alabama, as is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Congressman Bradley Byrne of Alabama's 1st congressional district, was a guest on National Public Radio (NPR) this morning where he spoke about yesterday's Senate election in his state.  Byrne, a Republican, said that although he is a personal friend on Senator-elect Doug Jones, he had voted a straight Republican ticket.  He blamed yesterday's results on a series of party errors beginning with Governor Bently's problematic appointment of Attorney General Luther Strange to Jeff Sessions' vacant Senate seat last spring.  Strange was in the process of investigating Bently, an investigation which he dropped when the governor elevated him to the Senate.

The next error, according to Congressman Bradley, came when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell endorsed Luther Strange in the primary against Roy Moore, giving the impression that the national party was trying to impose its will on Alabama.  Then, after Roy Moore became the official Republican nominee, the national party and McConnell initially distanced themselves from him and, in fact, looked for alternatives to supporting him.

Congressman  Byrne seemed to think that his Alabama would recover and he predicted confidently that Doug Jones would lose his re-election bid in November of 2020 - or in Jeff Sessions-speak, "The South will rise again!"

Or, another way of looking at yesterday's results is that the Democratic Party is once again realizing the importance of campaigning everywhere (Howard Dean's fifty-state strategy), and the absolute need to organize, organize, organize!

Wouldn't it be great if we lived in a land where every adult was allowed and encouraged to vote?  What a wonderful world this could be!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Gillibrand Twists the Pig's Tail

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The tail of a pig is usually a small, curley-que affair that is far from its most prominent feature - much less noticeable than its piggish snout and true cloven hooves, for example.  But, minuscule size aside, New York's Senator Kirsten Gillibrand somehow managed to grab Donald Trump's itty-bitty tail and give it a mighty twist . . . and, oh boy, did that pig squeal!

Trump was no doubt tanked on Diet Coke and basking in the warm glow of hour number seven or eight of Fox News yesterday when the story broke that Gillibrand had called for his resignation over a dozen-plus allegations of sexual abuse.  Trump, who has publicly admitted to the sexual abuse of women based on his "star" status, was not amused.

Gillibrand's call for Trump's resignation came on the same day that several of his accusers were banding together to give interviews and generate public interest in their stories of sexual abuse at the hands of a man who has openly bragged about grabbing women by the genitals and kissing them without their consent.

Trump, predictably, could not let the senator's affront go unanswered.  He grabbed his iPhone and banged out this hasty Tweet:

"Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Chuck Schumer and someone who would come to my office “begging” for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump. Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!"

("Lightweight?"  Really, Pork Chop?  Is that the best you've got?  Compared to you, most of the world is "lightweight!")

Besides being a powerful argument for Twitter going back to its old character limit on 140, Trump managed  to spew his anger not only on Gillibrand, a Democratic presidential possibility in 2020, but onto other New York "enemies" as well including Senator Schumer and Bill and Hillary Clinton.  The most stinging part of the rebuke was undoubtedly intended to be the statement that Gillibrand had been to see Trump "begging" for contributions and would do "anything" for them.

How did that grab you, Kirsten?

That was Trump squealing pure pig.  If he's down to name-calling, the smell of frying bacon will soon be wafting in on the breeze.

Keep twisting, Senator.  Keep twisting!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Monday's Poetry: "Christmas Shopping"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Walmart is a commercial cancer that developed in Arkansas and began spreading across America and the world nearly fifty years ago.  During its ascendancy the mega-retailer has sucked the life out of Main Street America, effectively turning a picturesque assemblage of once grand old stores into block-after-block of flea markets and vacant buildings.   By-and-large, Mom and Pop no longer run their own small businesses, and salaried retail sales people no longer make enough to support themselves, let alone their families.

And as for Christmas shopping . . . well, fighting the mob in a Walmart ain't exactly the stuff of a Norman Rockwell painting.

But now the tide is turning and even the billionaires who own Walmart are feeling the pinch as America's shopping public rushes to embrace a new paradigm for acquiring goods and services.  Purchases which once required bundling up and heading out into the cold are now being made from the comfort of home - on-line.

Walmart was late getting into the on-line sales game, but it is rushing to establish a strong presence in a marketplace where competition once again rules the shopping season.  True, Amazon is now the big dog in e-sales, but the internet offers thousands-upon-thousands of retail outlets from every corner of the world.  Suddenly the world is awash in choices that far exceed what is offered by Walmart - or even Amazon for that matter.

Yesterday I spent a couple of hours holiday shopping - most of it through Amazon and none through Walmart - and all from the warm convenience of my own home.  My gifts are all being sent (free) directly to the recipients, and I will receive notices when they arrive.  Easy-damned-peazy!

Today's poetry selection, "Christmas Shopping," is by Kay Roberts.  It takes a holistic view of the process from buying in stores to shopping on-line, and seems to graciously gravitate toward the more modern approach.

Let it snow - and break out the Mulled Wine.  There's shopping to do!

Christmas Shopping
by Kay Roberts

Wrapping paper,
Some gift tags,
Bows and ribbon,
Stuffed in Bags.
Baubles, tinsel,
Christmas cards,
Rushing around,
This shopping’s hard.
Grandpa’s hankies,
Granny’s shawl,
Uncle Albert’s socks,
I want to bawl.
Bruised and battered,
Bumped and shoved,
Just back off,
I won’t be rushed.
Parents panicking,
Yells and screams,
Fighting to buy the toy,
Of their child’s dreams.
I’m off home,
To do my shopping on line,
Sit in comfort,
With a glass of Mulled Wine.
I don’t care,
If you think I’m lazy,
I’m not doing that again,
I’m not crazy.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

A Five Million Dollar Roll in the Hay

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The unfolding saga of the unraveling political career of former Congressman Trent Franks of Arizona continues to get kinkier and stinkier.

Late last week Franks announced that he would be leaving Congress at the end of January due to statements that he had made regarding "surrogacy" to a couple of female staff members, remarks which, according to Franks, were seen as insensitive by the women.  The morally rigid Franks lamented that he and his wife desperately wanted another child but were plagued with infertility problems.  He approached the female staffers with regard to the issue, and at least one of the two made a report which reached the House Ethics Committee - and an investigation was begun.

So Trent Franks decided to bail at a point about seven weeks in the future, a delay that would give him time to faithfully carry some additional water for House Speaker Paul Ryan and insure that America's wealthiest had his vote on the tax bill that would stuff more of America's money into their pockets.

And in helping get the tax bill through, Franks would stuff more money into his own pocket as well.

(Trent Franks was a wealthy individual when he was first elected to Congress in 2003.  He and his brothers were investors in a couple of petroleum companies which had made Trent a single-digit millionaire.  But, according to data analyzed by Ballotpedia, his net worth has increased by a staggering $25 million since he left the dust of West Phoenix for the marbled halls of Congress.) 

But then more details of Franks' surrogacy began to become public, his wife was hospitalized, and Trent regrouped.  Trent Franks decided to resign this past Friday instead of at the end of January.  While the pious Arizona millionaire hustled to protect his good name and avoid a "trial by media," Paul Ryan could be carrying his own damned water.

Trent and Josephine Franks wanted another child to be a younger sibling to their twins, a boy and girl who were born through a surrogacy procedure.  He discussed his family situation and desire to find a suitable surrogate with the female staffers, and reportedly went so far as to suggest a cash payment of $5 million with one of the women.  Both ladies said that they felt pressured by Franks and thought he was proposing a situation in which he would personally impregnate one of them through sexual intercourse rather than a laboratory procedure.

A man starts talking to women at the office about his desire to father another child.  The man proposes a scheme in which one of the women would become pregnant with his child.  The man offers to make one of the women an instant millionaire for carrying his child.  That man is the boss.

Yeah, that sounds like sexual harassment.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Congress, Show Us Your Rodents!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Way back in 1995 the United States Congress passed the Congressional Accountability Act, a law which set up a system for dealing with allegations of sexual abuse toward members of Congress, a piece of legislation which some now say traumatizes victims more than the sexual abuse they initially suffered at the hands of our elected leaders.  The act forces victims into counseling and mediation before they can sue their attackers, and then, if they sue and win, payoffs are made through a secret hush fund of public money.

According to a recent account by Fox News, over 200 secret payments totaling more that $17 million have been paid out since the law to protect the reputations of members of Congress went into effect twenty-two years ago.  The Washington Post puts the number of payoffs at two hundred and sixty-seven.  Representative John Conyers of Michigan reportedly tapped the secret fund for $27,000 to pay off an accuser, and Representative Blake Farenthold of Texas made news this week when he promised to reimburse the government $80,000 that was used to pay off his accuser.

Victims who receive payouts through the congressional hush fund sign a confidentiality agreement to keep their settlement secret.  Now, of course, there is a movement underway to roll back the secrecy and let Americans see which of their esteemed leaders have benefited from taxpayer-funded payoffs.

Again according to  Fox:

"A nonpartisan ethics watchdog, the Foundation for Accountability and Civil Trust (FACT), has called for the immediate release of the names of all lawmakers connected to the taxpayer payouts by the Office of Compliance to settle harassment suits over the past two decades." 
FACT Executive Director Kendra Arnold was quoted as saying:

"That is an egregious affront to all the victims, as well as taxpayers.   We don't need speeches and public posturing - we need the internal policy to change and immediate transparency."
Lift the veil of secrecy, Congress.  Show us your rodents!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Silence Breakers Bring Down Two More in Congress

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Yesterday proved  to be an especially hard one for sexual abusers and harassers in Congress.  Early in the day Senator Al Franken of Minnesota succumbed to an effort by several of his female colleagues - and a couple of males - in the Senate to force his resignation and announced that he would give up his senate seat in the "near future."  Franken, a man who has been an unrelenting advocate for advancing the rights of women, denied some of the allegations against him, but presumably saw the need to remove himself from the headlines so that Democrats could retain the high ground in the growing tide of sexual abuse revelations.  Some of the senators who had called on him to resign reportedly cried as he did so.

The other resignation came from a man who is not nearly as revered as Franken.  Arizona Congressman Trent Franks, my former representative in Congress, announced that he would resign at the end of January over allegations made by a pair of his former staffers.  Franks admitted that he was being investigated by the House Ethics Committee over comments regarding "surrogacy" that he had made to two female staff members.    It turns out that the highly sanctimonious congressman had essentially asked the women to consider having his baby.  He said that he and Mrs. Franks desperately wanted a child but were unable to conceive.

Trent Franks is a one-trick-pony as a congressman, only springing to attention whenever the subject of abortion is being discussed.  He built his career on being a ferocious advocate of fetuses, and a constant thorn in the side of the pro-choice movement.  Franks' total focus on sexual reproduction and limiting health care options of women provided an ironic backdrop to the allegations that he tried to talk a pair of women in a subservient position to him into carrying his child.  That dog didn't hunt well at all!

Time Magazine has announced that the "silence breakers," the women who have started coming forth to illuminate America's long, shabby history of sexual abuse leveled against women by men in positions of power, will be this year's collective "person of the year."   Their brave efforts represent a cathartic moment in American history, one that is beginning to unwind a long and complicated history of repugnant and illegal behavior.  As these women bravely step forward, hopefully they will kick down barriers and allow all women to enjoy a life of fairness and respect that their mothers and grandmothers were denied under the hard shell of the patriarchy.

And good riddance to vagina-monitor Trent Franks!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Family Night at the Movies

by Pa Rock
Proud Patriarch

Last night was one of those welcome, yet rare, times when a significant portion of my family managed to collect in one spot.   The gathering was for the West Plains premier of Tim's second movie, Tatterdemalion, which was filmed in and around West Plains in the summer of 2015.  The event was a big success with the local cine-plex, The Glass Sword Theatre, opening four screens for simultaneous viewing.  Last night's premier was by invitation only, but the movie will run for general admission for the coming week - and possibly two weeks.

A "red carpet" reception was held at the threatre preceding the showing which featured snacks provided by El Charro, a local Mexican eatery.  Ramaa Mosley, the film's director introduced the movie, and a question-and-answer session hosted by Mosley, screenwriter Tim Macy, and several cast members took place after the show.

Unfortunately the show's two central characters were unable to be in attendance.  Leven Rambin, who played Fern Sreaves, an army veteran who returned home to the Ozarks for the funeral of her father and to locate her troubled brother, was in Paris promoting her new series for NBC called "Gone."  Landon Edwards, who played Cecil, the tatterdemalion living alone in the woods, was at home in Arkansas taking his middle school finals and could not attend last night's showing - but his little sister was on hand.  Tatterdemalion was Landon's first film, but he has since had the lead in another movie entitled Snow.

The director, Ramaa Mosely, stressed how much she and the film crew had enjoyed working in West Plains and getting to know the community.  She shared many anecdotes about things that she had experienced while filming in the Ozarks.  Mosley was on the ground in Missouri for just a few hours yesterday.  She flew in from her home in Los Angeles, and late in the evening she had to fly out to Vancouver, British Columbia, where she is filming a commercial today.  She and screenwriter Tim Macy have one previous film together, The Brass teapot (2012), and she indicated last night that the duo my have a third production in the planning stages.

Mosley said that Tatterdemalion is being sold to a distributor who will give it a limited run in a dozen or so movie houses, and that the film will eventually be available through streaming venues such as Netflix.

After the big evening at the theatre concluded, the Macy clan headed over to the after-party at Roper's Saloon on the square in West Plains.  Our group included Tim and his wife, Erin, and their two children, Olive and Sully, Erin's sister, Bree and her husband, Ricardo and their son, Niko (all from the Kansas City area), Miss Patti from Noel, and Tim's proud father.  Tim's older brother Nick, had been at the movie premier but skipped the after-party.  (The "saloon" is actually a nice family restaurant that happens to serve alcohol.)  This morning the group reassembled at Pa Rock's farm where the kids chased geese and peacocks and the parents bundled in coats and blankets, trudged after them.  Olive and Niko both left with peacock feathers - and Niko planned to take his to show-and-tell at his school.

And all of this has been Pa Rock's show-and-tell.  He had a wonderful time visiting with family and reveling in his son's accomplishment.  It just doesn't get much better than this!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

"Tatterdemalion" Opens Tonight in West Plains

by Pa Rock
Proud Papa

"Tatterdemalion," a feature-length motion picture that was filmed in and around West Plains, Missouri, in the summer of 2015, is coming home.  The movie, which had its world premiere at the Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis this past October, will debut in West Plains this evening in a "Red Carpet" premier at the town's local multi-plex, The Glass Sword Cinema.  Tonight's first showing is by invitation only, with the cast and crew using the opportunity to bring in their relatives and friends to see the finished product that consumed so much of their lives back in the summer of 2015.

Early reports indicate that the number of "invitees" totals in excess of six-hundred and will require three screens for the showing.  In addition to the invitees, a Facebook page created to support the movie gave away sixty-seven pairs of tickets to lucky individuals.

Tonight's initial showing will be followed by a question-and answer session.  The evening will culminate with an open gathering at Roper's Saloon on the West Plains Square with everyone welcome.  The local premier is being sponsored by the Glass Sword Cinema and the West Plains Downtown Revitalization Committee.

For those who failed to score an invitation to the premier or win free tickets, the movie will run through next week at the Glass Sword, open to the general public - and, if demand exists, the theatre has agreed to run it a second week.

The film's director, Ramaa Mosely, will be on hand for the big event, along with the movie's writer, Tim Macy - as well as most of the cast and crew.  Mosely is from Los Angeles, and Macy, a native of Howell County, lives in the Kansas City area.  Both have developed strong ties to this area.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The John Conyers' Estate

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

John Conyers first went to Congress in 1965, and he was, until this morning, the senior member of that legislative body.  In the more than fifty years that John Conyers has represented the 13th district of Michigan, he has made a name for himself as a leading progressive who was not afraid to challenge the status quo and go up against formidable political opposition.  He was the immediate past chairman of the powerful House Judiciary Committee, as well as a past chairman of the House Oversight Committee.  Conyers was also a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

This morning John Conyers resigned from the House of Representatives from his hospital bed in Michigan where he is currently recovering from media-induced stress brought on by news stories regarding a $27,000 government payoff to a woman who had accused Conyers, her former boss, of sexual harassment.   Conyers denied the allegation and the charge is currently being investigated by the House Ethics Committee.  Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, a former Speaker of the House, initially referred to Conyers as an "icon" and a champion of women's rights and insisted that he have an opportunity to rebut the charges.  Pelosi, however, later modified her position and stated that the charges were believable and Conyers should resign.

And resign he did.

But even with his resignation from Congress, John Conyers continues to stir controversy.  As he announced his resignation on a Detroit radio program this morning, he added a postscript by endorsing his son, John Conyers III, to fill the newly vacant seat.  And while John III may expect to receive his rightful inheritance in due course, his path to grabbing it will include dealing with a claim by another grasping relative.  The Congressman's grand-nephew, Ian Conyers, is indicating that he will run for the family seat at the government trough.

A seat in Congress is a terrible thing to waste!

The Republican Party, which, according to its latest tax scam, believes strongly in the right to inherit without government encumbrances, so perhaps it will not object to the Conyers' family continuing to claim sole ownership of Michigan's 13th.

The Detroit-area seat is likely to remain in Democratic hands, even if it slips outside of the powerful reach of the Conyers' family.   Some are beginning to give voice to the notion that it might be fitting if the new representative from Michigan's 13th was a woman.  That outcome would be ironic, with just a touch of the poetic.

Best to you in your golden years of retirement Congressman Conyers.  Happy trails!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Monday's Poetry: "Letter to a Tyrant"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Donald Trump is on another Twitter tear, this morning waging an all-out attack on the FBI.  That, of course, is an old and continuing tactic in Trump's playbook.  Any time he is criticized or senses danger, he lashes out with a barrage of accusations intended to de-legitimize his potential accusers.  As David Leonhardt pointed out in the editorial pages of today's New York Times: 

(Trump) "has previously done (the same thing) with C.I.A. agents, federal judges, scientists, Congress Budget Office analysts and journalists, among others.  The president wants to undercut just about anybody who is an independent source of information."
Trump wants the focus to be on him, and not his wide array of critics and accusers.   He is a constant victim and he suffers well in the bright lights of public attention.  His cunning and guile are limitless, and he literally knows no shame.

Donald Trump is, in the true spirit of a third-world dictator, a despot who has no intention of ever becoming enlightened.

Today's selection, "Letter to a Tyrant," is by Nigerian poet Ephraim Nnawihe, a relatively unknown man of letters who nevertheless managed to capture the character of a despotic individual in just a few lines.   Nnawihe's tyrant bears an uncanny resemblance to our own - and his last line offers a glimmer of hope in our long struggle to resist the craziness emanating from the executive branch.

Letter to a Tyrant
by Ephraim Nnawhie

You claim to be a boss to me
And forcefully have your way in me
I may be your assistant
But please keep your distance
I cant stand your uncivilized manner
With all due respect sir ''you are mad."

You gain your way to the top
But take away water from our cup
Rendering people homeless gives you joy
You can break or amend as though we are your toy
With all due respect sir ''you are wicked."

You know much well you cant earn our votes
So you rig the polls and make us scapegoats
You turn female graduates to prostitute
You are a goodman that kills the truth
With all due respect sir ''you are a fraud."

I will bring transformation to our nation
No nepotism, no discrimination
But you loot our nation's treasures
To satisfy your endless pleasures
With all due respect sir ''you are a thief."

You claim to be a man of peace
But kill our children, tear them piece by piece
You spill our father's blood
To are a lord
With all due respect sir ''you are an animal."

Time shall come when the earth shall speak
Kill all those things that make you tick
And then the trees shall ring the bells
And birds of the earth your tale shall tell
And the most feeble creature shall say to thee
With all due respect sir ''you are under arrest."

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Judah Is Eight and Doing Great!

by Pa Rock
Proud Grandpa

My grandson, Judah Files, turns eight-years-old today.  He lives in Oregon with his big brother, Sebastian, and his younger sister, Willow - and his parents, Scott and Molly.  I know that Judah's Grandfather and Grandmother Files are visiting this week to be on hand for his and his sister's birthdays, and hopefully they are all having a wonderful time.

Judah likes animals and knows how to ride a horse.  This past summer when he visited me on the farm he enjoyed being around the animals and especially had fun chasing the geese. 

Judah is also a big fan of cars and has quite a collection of toy cars and trucks.  His favorite movies are the three Pixar "Cars" films, each of which he has seen multiple times.  I didn't know much about the gang at Radiator Springs until I spent an afternoon watching the first "Cars" movie one afternoon with Judah.  I understand that his birthday party will have a "Cars 3" theme.

Happy birthday, Judah.  I heard that you got a new racetrack for your cars today.  Enjoy it!

I will see you in January!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Godspeed, Robert Mueller!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

To say that Donald John Trump has trouble speaking the truth would be among the grossest of understatements.   He lies with ease and abandon, often when it is not even necessary.  Lying is a habit to Trump - like grabbing any woman within reach and shoveling fast food into his expansive pie-hole.

Lying is an integral part of Donald Trump's existence, such a pervasive part of his being that the news media seems to tire of fact-checking and correcting him - perhaps out of the realization that everyone capable of rational thought already knows he is lying.  Why restate the obvious?

But today Donald Trump spit up a Twitter hairball that is worth repeating - and while it was obviously a lie, it would be a fun one to believe because it would likely be an admission that Trump had obstructed justice.

Yesterday Trump's former National Security Adviser, Mike Flynn, admitted that he had lied to the FBI in the Russia probe.  Today Trump, who is in obvious panic mode over what Flynn is likely swapping for fewer charges and a lighter sentence, went after him on Twitter:

"I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!"
Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, the former director of the FBI and who was appointed to his current legal perch by the current assistant director of the FBI, undoubtedly has full access to FBI records.  If Trump's bizarre - and belated - claim that he fired Flynn for lying to the FBI would happen to be true, and if Trump dutifully reported Flynn's lying to the FBI, then those facts are undoubtedly noted somewhere in the agency's record.  But if Trump fired Flynn for lying to the FBI (as he now states via Twitter), and then failed to notify the FBI that Flynn had lied to that agency, then it would seem to this grinning observer that Donald John Trump has willfully obstructed justice.  And if that is the case, then it's definitely Mueller time!

If Donald John Trump obstructed justice, then . . .

Lock him up - and impeach the sorry piece of bloated humanity! 

In that order.

Godspeed, Robert Mueller!

Friday, December 1, 2017

A Macy Holiday Tradition

by Pa Rock
Festivities Director

A year ago this month Tim and Erin and I took little Olive, who had just turned five, to see her first live theatre production.  We attended the Kansas City Repertory Theatre's 36th annual production of "A Christmas Carol."  Somehow we had managed to get front row seats, and Olive sat mesmerized throughout the entire performance.

Last night we again went to see "A Christmas Carol" at the KC Rep, and again Olive appeared to be enraptured by what was occurring on stage.  The play, which undergoes changes each year, was a delightful conglomeration of the Charles Dickens' famous story told among Victorian carolers who were strolling the stage and singing holiday music as the tale unfolded.

2017 is the 150th anniversary of Dickens' second trip to America, one in which he did public readings from "A Christmas Carol" both for his own financial benefit as well as to meet the needs of several charities.  This year's KC Rep presentation featured the character of Charles Dickens narrating portions of the play, much as he did with the text of his book a century-and-a-half ago.

This time Patti was a member of our happy group, and again we managed to score front row seats.

It would seem we are on the verge of starting a holiday tradition!

God bless us - and you - everyone!

Willow Is Six!

by Pa Rock
Proud Grandpa

My youngest granddaughter, Willow Files, turned six-years-old yesterday.   She celebrated her birthday at home with her older brothers, Sebastian and Judah.

Willow is in kindergarten and likes school.

I spoke with Willow on the phone yesterday evening and learned that she was having a good birthday.  We talked about movies, and she told that she had recently been to see "Trolls," which she liked.  Later Willow's mother texted a picture of Willow with her favorite birthday gift.  It was a box of "hair chalk" that I had sent to her.

Willow, I will be out to see you in January.  Maybe then you can figure out what color of chalk to use on Pa Rock's white hair!  While I am there we can go see a movie - pick out a good one!

Happy birthday, Sweetie!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Et Tu, Garrison?

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The patriarchy which has dominated American life and culture since the nation's founding suddenly seems to be teetering on complete collapse.  Yesterday while Congressman John Conyers was busy checking himself into a hospital to be treated for media-induced stress and Matt Lauer struggled to clear out his desk at NBC after being fired, Minnesota Public Radio announced that Garrison Keillor, the leading citizen of Lake Woebegone, Minnesota, had been fired over a couple of allegations of sexual misconduct.  The firing effectively ends several long-standing business ventures that Keillor had with MPR.

And, as if knocking one of the most prominent figures in public radio off of his celebrity perch wasn't enough in the way of retribution, Minnesota Public Radio also said that it would be changing the name of A Prairie Home Companion, the beloved radio program that Keillor created and hosted for decades.

Garrison Keillor, for his part, minimized at least one of the allegations, and appeared to take some pride in being fired.    He noted, perhaps a bit tongue-in-cheek:

"I'm doing fine. Getting fired is a real distinction in broadcasting and I've waited 50 years for the honor. All of my heroes got fired.   I only wish it could've been for something more heroic,"

He also said that getting fired was "poetic irony of a high order."

Just this past week Garrison Keillor had spoken out on the sexual abuse controversy surrounding fellow Minnesotan, Senator Al Franken.  He encouraged Franken not to resign from the Senate, and labeled his alleged groping of women as "humor of a low order."

Perhaps they both see it as being less humorous today.

A couple of days ago I referred to this "moment" in American history as a "tsunami of truth."   The big wave is sweeping across the landscape and washing away shame and humiliation of countless women as it carries a generation of men who abused power and privilege off to the sidelines of society.  Women are speaking up, forcefully, and the world is changing for the better.

If Garrison Keillor can be caught up in the moment and washed aside, it can happen to any man, anywhere - except perhaps in cultural backwaters like Alabama and the Trump White House.

But . . . never say never.

The moment continues.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Another One Bites the Dust

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Matt Lauer, the longtime host of The Today Show, has been fired by NBC following an allegation of sexual harassment of a female.  What's perhaps the most notable aspect of Lauer's dismissal is how quickly it happened.  The allegation was not given time to percolate in public for a few days while NBC and Lauer stumbled around trying to come up with a rationale to save the individual whom one NBC commentator just referred to as "the most powerful newsman at NBC."  The story was that Lauer had been accused - and he had been fired.  Fiat accompli.

The news networks are in a particularly tough spot with regard to sexual abuse allegations.  With the visceral image of Donald Trump hanging over them like a vulture at feeding time and wearing a ball cap proclaiming "Fake News," they have no room for any moves that could possibly be interpreted as being soft on harassers - not after shining the bright light of public scrutiny on odious visages like Roy Moore and Donald Trump himself.  There is zero room for appearing to harbor a double standard.

The timing of this allegation and response is particularly egregious in that Trump has recently chosen to challenge the infamous "pussy-grabbing" Access Hollywood tape that is a property of NBC.   Trump, who basically ignored the tape for over a year and dismissed it as "locker room talk," is now alleging that it is a phony - and he never uttered that statement.  Lying apparently comes as easily to Trump as breathing.

A friend and I attended The Today Show on a bitterly cold morning back in January of 2009.  Al Roker wasn't working that morning because he was on an out-of-town assignment (and, in fact, we had seen him leaving at the airport on the day we arrived), but the rest of the gang was there and on duty.  Meredith Vieira and Ann Curry came outside, into the cold, every time there was a break - and smoozed with the crazy tourists who were braving the cold.  Matt Lauer rushed out one time, bundled to the teeth, didn't speak to anyone, and quickly rushed back into the building at 30 Rock.  He came off as a bit of a prima dona. 

Four years later Lauer, who had a history of not getting along with Ann Curry, had her "promoted" off of the show, ripping a hole in the once "happy family" image of the show.

Somewhere today Ann is probably doing back-flips!

If Matt Lauer is innocent, may he have his day in court and achieve his vindication.  If he is guilty, may he man-up, own his actions, and work to make the world a safer and better place for those who have suffered in silence for far too long. 

The moment continues.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Granny Pelosi Misses the Moment

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

America was in the midst of a moment - and Nancy Pelosi missed it.    Perhaps her hearing aids were on the fritz, or maybe she was enjoying a well deserved nap.

A wave of moral indignation was sweeping across the country, taking down men of privilege who had wantonly used their wealth and positions of power to sexually harass and abuse females. – women who, until recently, had felt forced to remain quiet and compliant out of fear of  workplace reprisals or simply not being believed.   The dam, which had been cracked many times in the past with allegations of abuse leveled at prominent figures like Bill Clinton and Clarence Thomas, had finally broken, and women were suddenly empowered to step forward and tell their tales of being harassed, abused, and assaulted by men in power.

It was a wave, a tsunami of truth that was taking down executives, entertainers, and politicians of every stripe – and party.   But former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi  could not wrap her partisan head around the fact that  allegations of sexual abuse could cross party lines.

When asked on Meet the Press this past Sunday about charges leveled against John Conyers, a Democrat who is also the senior member of the House of Representatives, Pelosi immediately swung into the “fairness” mode noting that Conyers deserved a “fair hearing” on the matter, a position which could be defended as long as it is applied equally to members of both political parties.  But then she went into overreach with this gem:

“Just because someone is accused — was it one accusation? Was it two? John Conyers is an icon in our country. He's done a great deal to protect women.”

An “icon,” is it, Nancy?  Are we creating a special category for abusers, one where a past history of idealism negates the seriousness of sex crimes?

Some might argue that John Conyers has already had his “fair hearing” when he responded to an allegation of abuse by paying off his accuser with government funds.  Of course he should resign – and so should Donald Trump and (sadly) Al Franken - and the entire state of Alabama should undergo a massive lobotomy if it sends Roy Moore to the Senate!

And Nancy, while we are on the subject of resignations, perhaps you should consider submitting yours as well.  You could spend more time with your grandchildren, and let someone who is in-tune with the current century take your place in Congress.

America is having a moment with regard to sexual abuse, and those who interfere with the moment are dragging us backward.   History is on the march, Nancy, and you can best serve it by getting out of the way!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Monday's Poetry: "Feeding the Birds"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Though hard winters here in the Ozarks are pretty much a thing of the past, the season of we still call "winter" is rapidly approaching - and with it comes shorter days at cooler temperatures.   It is a time when nature's wildlife instinctively turns into its survival mode, finding food and building up body fat in an effort to make it until the warmth and green of spring breaks through the cold shell of winter.

I don't feed the birds and squirrels when the weather is warm because I believe they have a role to play in the natural order of things that involves being a check in the life cycle of bugs and other small creatures.  But food options decrease in winter and I try to step in and balance things out a little. 

I have a bird feeder hanging in the tree outside of the window where I write, and three squirrel feeders are also within the same view.   I began filling the bird feeder a couple of weeks ago, and yesterday I placed ears of corn in each of the squirrel feeders.  The smaller birds have already found their feeder and the larger birds and squirrels will not be far behind.  Watching the wildlife socializing and eating keeps me feeling warm and happy in the chilly season.

The geese and peacocks who live here at The Roost have also discovered the bird feeder and make several trips a day to feast on whatever has fallen from its hanging bounty.  It is an outdoor dining room that accommodates all visitors.

Today's selection, "Feeding the Birds" is a simple poem by a Brit who writes under the name "Teddybard."  Teddybard describes himself thusly:

"I am an old man English by birth. English by marriage. English by inclination.  The fact that no one understands you; does not mean you are a poet for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.   'Alcohol ' because no great story ever started with one eating salad or tomato."
So much for salads!

Feeding the Birds
by Teddybard

Of course my heart is open to the birds
whose song may lift my soul both night and day.
Cheering better with their song than words
could ever bring  happiness into play.
In feeding the birds I hope to attract
the small ones that twitter and tweet in tune.
I'm hoping the kindness in this small act
may cause my little feathered friends to croon.
My plan worked as well as any plan does
the garden is now full of pretty birds
but also attracts some far larger crows
and from our neighbours  some rather harsh words.
Into my feeders I fit a large scoop
and clean the car daily, it takes off the poop.