Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Another Day, Another Trump Tantrum

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Before turning in early last night, I did one final check of headlines on the internet - not necessarily a wise practice when one is hoping to get to sleep - particularly in these challenging times.  These was one big emerging story, a notice that the Acting Attorney General of the United States, Sally Q. Yates, was instructing Justice Department lawyers not to defend Trump's executive order on immigration and refugees.  Yates was a holdover from the Obama administration who was keeping the seat warm for Trump's incoming Attorney General, which more than likely will be Senator Jefferson Beauregard "the South will rise again" Sessions, III.

I went to bed secure in the knowledge that Trump would annihilate and fire the Acting AG as soon as he could get logged into his Twitter account.  And before the sun rose over the Potomac, he had done just that - except that he fired the uppity woman with a letter instead of a tweet.   He went on to ravage her in a firestorm of vitriol.  Among other things the whiner-in chief charged was that Ms Yates was "weak on borders" and "very weak on illegal immigration."   A later White House statement also snarled that she had "betrayed" the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce Trump's order.

Sally, babe, you're fired!  And the fact that you're a woman - well, that's just gravy!  His (xenophobic, misogynistic, barely literate) Petulance has spoken!

Before the ink was even dry on the letter firing Ms. Yates, a video from 2015 was unearthed and posted on the internet which showed Senator Sessions grilling Sally Yates as to her fitness to be the Deputy Attorney General of the United States.  Ironically, Sessions wanted to know if Yates would have the cajones to go against the President if he wanted her to behave in a manner that was unconstitutional or illegal.  She assured him that she would always uphold the Constitution and the rule of law - and last night she proved it - though the President she defied was not the one Sessions had in mind.    Now someone needs to ask Jeff Sessions the same question and hold his feet to the fire until he gives an honest answer.

The other thing suddenly floating around the internet is a history lesson on Richard Nixon's infamous "Saturday Night Massacre," referencing the time way back in 1973 when President Nixon was being investigated by a Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox as a result of the Watergate scandal.  Nixon, peeved at Cox's subpoenaing of his clandestine White House tape recordings, instructed Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire Cox.  Richardson had promised Congress when Cox was appointed to the post that he would not fire him except for cause, so he declined to do as instructed by the President - and resigned his office.  Nixon then called on Deputy Attorney General William Ruckleshaus to fire Cox, but he also declined and resigned.  Solicitor General Robert Bork was suddenly promoted to Acting Attorney General and given the same demand by the President - and  Bork caved and fired Archibald Cox.  All of that occurred on one Saturday night in October of 1973.  Nixon himself resigned from office less than a year later.

It took Richard Nixon nearly five years to go to dig a hole that deep.  Trump has been in office less than two weeks.  Just imagine how far down he could be like in five years!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Monday's Poetry: "Home"

Presented by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Today, right on the heels of Donald Trump's colossal act of hate in banning refugees from America as well as travelers from selected Muslim countries - but not the ones where Trump has business interests - and his repulsive ham-fisted attempt to establish Christianity as the official state religion of the United States, it seemed to be a necessary and urgent time to present a poem dealing with the plight of refugees.

I have published poetry in this space before that reflects the now-tarnished American ideal in accepting people from other countries into our land - such as "The New Colossus" by Emma Lazarus, the words of which are etched on the base of the Statue of Liberty - as well as poetry focused on the hardships that some endure in getting here - such as "Running to America" by Luis J. Rodriguez.

Today's selection is called "Home," and it was penned by Somali born poet Warsan Shire, a lady still on the front side of thirty who lives and works in London and Los Angeles.  Like the poem by Luis J. Rodriquez, this also makes it very clear that people only become refugees when they have no home left to cling to - or when "home" is "the mouth of a shark."  It is a very moving look at the hardships endured by those fleeing a hazardous past and searching for peace and security in which to live, work, and raise their families.

Kudo's to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada who has stepped forward to restate his country's continued support and acceptance of immigrants and refugees.  Kudos to actor Kal Penn who has raised over half-a-million dollars to support refugees from Syria in just one day - money that he will donate to the International Rescue Committee.  Kudos to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz for his announced plan to hire 10,000 refugees over the next five years - as well as plans to help more of his employees with health insurance.  And kudos to every good American who showed up at America's airports - as well as at some Trump hotels - to protest our nation's new and shameful stance on immigration.

Trump's poorly thought-out and executed policies to limit immigration and effectively ban Muslims from entering the United States will make our enemies stronger.

Here is why people try so desperately to get here.    To stand in their way is immoral and self-defeating.  We are better than this.

by Warsan Shire

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land

no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten

no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough

go home blacks
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off

or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home

unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
be hunger
forget pride
your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Kal Penn Gets His Rage On

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Yesterday actor, college instructor, and former White House Associate Kal Penn was having a conversation on Twitter with a friend regarding an Iraqi who had been caught up in Trump's executive orders halting refugees and banning immigration from seven Muslim nations - and how unfairly the man and his family were being treated.  Right on cue a racist troll jumped into the conversation and informed Penn, an Indian American, that he did not belong in this country and was a "fucking joke."

Kal Penn responded to the jerk, as Michelle Obama would say, by "going high."  Instead of getting into a battle of tweets with a moron, Penn opted instead to start a fundraising page for Syrian refugees in honor of the fellow who had trolled him.   He created a "Crowdrise" page to raise money for Syrian refugees.  As of a few minutes ago more than $190,000 had been contributed to the site.

Donations may be made here:   https://www.crowdrise.com/donating-to-syrian-refugees-in-the-name-of-the-dude-who-said-i-dont-belong-in-america/fundraiser/kalpenn

Kal Penn is what a good American looks like - in case Donald Trump or anyone in the current White House was wondering.

Kumar rocks!   Follow his tweets  @kalpenn

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Pence Fires Up Forced Birthers

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The National Park Service had to clean up after another big march in Washington, DC, yesterday, this one a gathering of anti-abortion advocates calling itself a "March for Life," an annual event held to commemorate the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v Wade decision that legalized abortion in the United States.    This one was a bit more pumped than some of the those held in past years because the event finally succeeded, after forty years, in attracting a nationally-elected official - even if it was only Vice President Mike Pence.  Pence earned his chops as a congressman and then governor of Indiana who stood foursquare against the evils of abortion and same-sex marriage.

Indeed, Mike Pence's interest in other people's bedrooms is almost legendary - and was a critical factor in propelling him into the national spotlight.

Pence, with an able assist from White House mouthpiece Kellyanne Conway, threw red meat to the crowd  with a promise that next week Trump would nominate a justice to the Supreme Court "who will uphold the God-given liberty enshrined in our Constitution in the tradition of the late and great Justice Antonin Scalia.”

Justice Scalia died a year ago while on a hunting trip in Texas that was a gift from someone who had business before the Supreme Court.  Alas, poor Nino, a bribe by any other name is still a bribe.

The Vice President also delivered "greetings" from his boss, a man who up until recently was a pro-choice advocate in the abortion debate.  The crowd roared its amnesiac approval every time Trump's name was mentioned.

Some things are probably best forgotten.

Also forgotten, or at least conveniently overlooked, was the fact that most Americans are in favor of women having the right to have an abortion in all or most cases.  The Pew Research Center found that to be the case with 59% of Americans in a 2016 poll.

But yesterday's marchers won't be deterred by facts or numbers.  They have God on their side, plus an array of opportunistic politicians, and at least one admitted sexual predator - for the time-being anyway.  They envision a world in which all life is sacred, from inception as a one-celled zygote until the doctor slaps it on the bottom.  After that, of course, it is on its own.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Who's Really Going to Pay for Trump's Ego Wall?

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Attention Walmart Shoppers:  Mexico will not be paying for the Great Wall of Trump - you will!

Donald Trump has maintained all along that the construction costs of his self-aggrandizing wall project would be borne by Mexico, a claim that was quickly refuted and ridiculed by our neighbor to the south.  And many even here in the United States questioned how Trump could effectively force a foreign nation to fund something that will essentially be an insult to their national character and pride.  The answer, of course, is that he can't.

The Great Wall, once envisioned by many of Trump's loyal supporters as being thirty feet high and stretching along the entire United States border with Mexico, is now being discussed in much simpler terms - not as massive, and stretching along only a few hundred miles of the more turbulent border area.  And much of the wall would actually be a fence.

But even with this dramatic demise, cost estimates still range upward of forty billion dollars, something the struggling economy of Mexico could not cough up even if it was of a mind to.  That's forty billion of today's dollars - and God knows what the actual cost would be with overruns, payoffs, kickbacks, and who-knows-what by the time the damned thing actually gets built.  (Remember Donald, building a wall will not be like building a hotel.   When the government orders something built, contractors have to be paid - there will be no stiffing bill collectors, hiding from honestly-incurred debt, cheating employees, and seeking protection from creditors in bankruptcy court.)

Mexico is becoming pissed at Trump's ceaseless braggadocio.  Yesterday President Pena Nieto cancelled a planned meeting with Trump to protest his continued plans to build a wall as well as his nonsensical threats to make Mexico pay for it.  If Donald Trump wanted to alienate out neighbor to the south, and one of our most important trading partners, he has succeeded.

After Pena Nieto cancelled his trip to the United States, word began to leak out of the White House as to how Mexico would be made to "pay" for Trump's glorious edifice to himself.  The idea being floated was that Trump was going to place a twenty-percent tax on all imports coming into the United States from Mexico.  Yes, that move would hurt the Mexican economy because it would ultimately decrease their total exports to the United States.  But - Mexico would not be paying those import duties.  Those taxes would be paid by you, Walmart shoppers, on every Mexican tortilla, tomato, head of lettuce, avocado, strawberry, jumping bean, bottle of tequila, and big screen television that was manufactured south of the border down Mexico way.

Who will you have to thank for these higher prices?  Donald John Trump, that's who!

And then, as in all good trade wars, Mexico will retaliate by slapping higher taxes on our exports - thus decreasing U.S. sales to their country and costing us jobs here at home.

Again, thank Trump as he stands atop his glorious wall and admires himself.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

NY Times Headline Reports Trump Lied

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Our whiner-in chief, Donald Trump, is having a very difficult time accepting the fact that he lost the popular vote in the 2016 general election by nearly three million votes.  Trump apparently feels that the bigness of that loss will cast a cloud over his "legitimacy" to serve as this country's leader - which is rich considering that he spent years questioning the legitimacy of Barack Obama to serve as President, a man who won the popular vote twice - bigly!

Trump is now tweeting threats of an investigation to show that he was denied the popular vote by millions of illegals and dead people who voted against him.  And while the extremely few cases of voter fraud that were uncovered all seem to be people who were illegally voting for him, The Donald has never been one to let facts get in his way.  He shamelessly lies with ease.

A few weeks ago there was a brouhaha in the press over how to address the incoming President's penchant for the intentional misstatement of facts, with much of the press pulling back from using the "L-word" because to do so would imply that he intended to lie - when intent is difficult to gauge and prove.  It looked as though his deliberate falsehoods might go unchallenged by a timid press.

But now Trump is in office, and he is still cranking out the whoppers - and now the press has to make some hard decisions.  Trump has been beating the drum about millions of illegal votes - not one of which was cast for him - and he is, of course, threatening the aforementioned investigation.  Cower, press, cower!  Suddenly, however, one brave newspaper, the New York Times, Trump's hometown daily, stood up to the bully and basically said enough is enough.

This Tuesday, the New York Times, considered the Old Gray Lady of American journalism, published a front page article with the headline:  "Meeting with Top Lawmakers, Trump Repeats an Election Lie."  Not a misunderstanding, not an alternative fact, but a LIE.  The same headline appeared on the Times website.

Thank you New York Times for shining a light on our flamboyant emperor and showing the world that he truly is naked - grotesque and naked.  Hopefully other journalists and publications will follow your lead and hold Mr. Trump accountable for his words - particularly those which are blatantly untrue.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Ranking the Presidents of the United States

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Yesterday in this space I presented an overview into my political belief system by reviewing the votes that I have cast in the one dozen presidential elections in which I have been eligible to vote.  That amounted to one person's view of the modern presidency.  Now I would like to expand the perspective and look at the men who have served as our nation's top leader from the point of view of persons who are professionals in the fields of history and politics - people who are way above the pay grade of this enthusiastic voter.

I came across a publication in the magazine section of the local Walgreen's a couple of months ago entitled "American Presidents:  The Greatest . . . and the Worst!"  It was a slick affair that had many biographies of forty-one of the forty-three men who had served as President of the United States from George Washington through Barack Obama.  As the ultimate purpose of the magazine was to rank those individuals from most to least effective, two were omitted because they served extremely brief tenures:  William Henry Harrison who died of pneumonia just thirty-two days into his presidency, and James Garfield who was assassinated after serving only six months.  Remember also that while our Presidents number up through Obama at forty-four, only forty-three individuals have actually served in the office because Grover Cleveland holds down two numbers for being elected to two non-consecutive terms.

To achieve a ranking on the Presidents, this publication took into account five individual polls and then aggregated their numbers.  The first was a poll of presidential scholars that was conducted by historian Arthur Schlesinger in 1996.

The second was the Wall Street Journal 2005 poll of the Federalist Society and included "130 prominent professors of history, law, political science, and economics" who were "ideologically balanced." 

The third measure was the C-Span 2009 poll where Rice University professor David Brinkley asked 65 historians to rate the Presidents on qualities which included public persuasion, economic management, and moral authority.

The 2010 Siena College poll was the fourth measure used in the ranking.  It asked 238 scholars to rank the Presidents in 20 categories.

The final poll used in the project was of the American Political Science Association, of which 162 members responded.  It was conducted in 2015.

A few anomalies occurred during the process including that of Reagan, who had been number twenty-five in the Schlesinger poll, rocketing all the way to number six in the poll conducted by the Wall Street Journal, the top two spots in the Siena College poll went to the Roosevelts, Franklin and Theodore, respectively, and finally, in the American Political Science Association poll, Bill Clinton finished unusually high at number eight.  The editors of the publication did note that despite a span of two decades in polling, the results remained fairly stable.

The Rankings:  The publication separated the Presidents into four levels:  Icons, Greatness in Action, Capable Hands, and Feet of Clay.


1.  Abraham Lincoln:  The Great Emancipator and the man who successfully waged the war to preserve the Union.

2.  George Washington:  The originator of the office and the man who set much of the precedent for being President.

3.  Franklin D. Roosevelt:  The indomitable spirit who brought America out of the Great Depression and led the country through most of the Second World War.

Greatness in Action:

4. Theodore Roosevelt   5. Thomas Jefferson   6. Harry Truman   7.  Dwight Eisenhower   
8.  Woodrow Wilson    9.  Andrew Jackson

 Capable Hands:

10.  John F. Kennedy   11.  James K. Polk   12.  James Monroe   13.  Ronald Reagan   
14.  Lyndon B. Johnson   15.  James Madison   16.  John Adams,  17.  Bill Clinton 
18.  Barack Obama   19.  William McKinley   20.  Grover Cleveland   21. George H.W. Bush 
22.  John Quincy Adams

Feet of Clay:

23.  William Taft   24.  Martin Van Buren   25.  Gerald Ford   26.  Calvin Coolidge 
27.  Rutherford B. Hayes   28.  Chester Arthur   29.  Ulysses S. Grant   30.  Benjamin Harrison 
31.  Jimmy Carter   32.  Zachary Taylor   33.  George W. Bush  34. Richard Nixon,
35.  Herbert Hoover   36.  John Tyler   37.  Millard Fillmore   38.  Franklin Pierce,
39.  Andrew Johnson   40.  Warren Harding   41.  James Buchanan

That's the list, and while I don't agree with some of its finer points (In what kind of a world, for instance, would a Bill Clinton outrank a Barack Obama?), it does seem to be a fairly accurate accounting of the impact that each of these men had on the country they served.  Abraham Lincoln would have certainly been my own pick for best President ever, and while Jimmy Carter disappointed many with his lackluster term in the White House, if there ever is a ranking of the achievements of Former Presidents, I have no doubt that Carter will be at its pinnacle.

I won't be around if this same survey of polls in conducted again in fifty or one hundred years, but I would appreciate it if someone would email me a copy!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

A Brief History of Voting

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I am someone who has an interest in politics and history, and, in particular American government and history.  My undergraduate degree had a major in history and a minor in political science, and I spent several years teaching history and civics at every level from sixth grade in middle school on through community college.  I do my bit to inform and direct history and politics through minor efforts like stating (and blogging) my opinion - and voting in every election.

I have been voting in presidential elections since 1972, the fist time I was old enough to cast a ballot.  That time I voted Democratic for Senator George McGovern, who ultimately lost the race to the incumbent and most odious Richard Nixon.  In 1976 I cast my first vote for a winner - Governor Jimmy Carter of Georgia who defeated the Constitutionally-installed Gerald Ford.  Four years after that I had cooled toward Carter and cast my vote for an independent, Congressman John Anderson of Illinois.  Ronald Reagan, the former governor of California, went on to win the contest in a landslide.

By the time the next presidential rolled around in 1984, I was actively engaged in the political process.  As the Democratic County Chairman of McDonald County, Missouri, my focus was on winning seats up and down the ballot.  I voted for Walter Mondale over Reagan, but he, too, lost by big numbers.  One of my personal highlights of that campaign was meeting the candidate's daughter, Eleanor Mondale, at a political rally.

Supporting Governor Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts over Vice-President George H.W. Bush in 1988 was an easy choice for me, even though Bush's somewhat sleazy campaign (remember Willie Horton?) led him to victory.  The election of 1992 was a bit more fun as Bush struggled for re-election against young Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas and third-party candidate Ross Perot.  To me, Perot came across as a funnier and meaner version of the elder Bush, so I cast my vote for Clinton - who went on to win the three-way race with less than 50 percent of the vote.

Clinton ran for re-election in 1996 against Senator Bob Dole of Kansas.  A friend of mine who had grown up in Kansas liked to refer to Dole as a "mean bastard."   Heeding his admonition, and not yet fed up with the Clinton presidency, I voted again for Bill Clinton.

The only presidential vote that I regret over the years is the one I cast in 2000.  By the time that election rolled around I was definitely through with the embarrassment of the Clinton years, and rather than support his Vice-President, and the Democratic nominee, Al Gore, I again voted third party.  That time for consumer safety crusader Ralph Nader.  George W. Bush won that election via the electoral college, even though he lost the popular vote.   If I had voted for Gore, it would not have changed the outcome, but it would have put one more vote in his column and added one more bit of embarrassment to the Bush "win."

One other vote in 2000, however, was particularly satisfying.  Missouri's Governor Mel Carnahan, a Democrat, was locked in a very tight race to oust John Ashcroft, a Republican, from the U.S. Senate.  I knew Governor Carnahan personally and had a great respect for him - so I, like the rest of the state and much of the nation, was shocked when he was killed in a private plane crash just a couple of weeks before the election.  It was too late for his name to be removed from the ballot, and many feared (or hoped) that Ashcroft would be automatically re-elected.  I cast my vote for Carnahan, as did many of my friends, and when the results were tallied that evening, Governor Mel Carnahan, a literal dead man, defeated John Ashcroft for his seat in the United States Senate!  I was proud of that vote - you betcha I was!

My vote in 2004 went to the Democrat, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts over the incumbent George W. Bush.  Bush went on to win that election, though some, such as Robert F. Kennedy, Jr, argued for years that the election outcome had been rigged by Ohio's Secretary of State.

(Interesting fact:  Since the presidential election of 1988 and up through today, the Republican candidate for President has only won the popular vote one time - and that was in 2004 - and even that was questionable.)

I was sending money and encouragement to Barack Obama by mid-year of 2007, and the first entry into this blog was in early November of 2007, exactly one year to the day of his election to the White House.  That first entry was entitled "Obama - '08!"   The following year, during the campaign, I was able to see him in person in a large auditorium in Phoenix where he appeared with Arizona Governor Janet Napalitano and Caroline Kennedy, both of whom went on to play important roles in his administration.  So, yes - I enthusiastically voted for Obama over my own senator at the time, John McCain.   Four years later, still riding high on the dream, I voted for him again, this time over former Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts.

Bernie Sanders was my choice to head the Democratic ticket in 2016, and to say that I was unenthusiastic about bringing the Clinton circus back into the White House would be serious understatement.  And even though Bernie did manage to win the Missouri county I live in during the primary season, it seemed to be apparent throughout the campaign that the fix was in with the party establishment and Hillary Clinton would carry the Democratic banner into the fall election.  I struggled with who to vote for for a long time.  Hillary wasn't going to carry Missouri - as evidenced by the polls and the fact that she even declined to campaign here, so electoral college-speaking, I could cast my vote for any third party candidate and not hurt her chances - and I regarded two of the third-party candidates, Jill Stein and Gary Johnson, far preferable to her.  But I also remembered the close election of 2000 where I voted third-party and thus denied Al Gore a fragment of a figment of a bit more legitimacy.  So, in the end, I voted for Hillary -who went on to win the popular vote by nearly three million - a fact that our Dear Leader is still whining and lying about to this very day.

I'm glad that I voted for Hillary if for no other reason than it makes Trump appear even more illegitimate as our "elected" leader.

Whine on, Hair Furor, whine on.  We'll be renegotiating your contract on America in 2020, and Pa Rock, hopefully, will still be voting.  See you at the polls!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Monday's Poetry: "I Am a Nasty Woman"

Shared by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

The crowds who came to Washington, D.C. this past weekend to witness the Trump inauguration were so surprisingly sparse that the media had little choice to report the low turnout.  And while the flagging numbers were newsworthy, what became even more of a story was the way The Donald and his loyal flack, Press Secretary Sean Spicer, felt obliged to inflate the numbers and then accuse the media of intentionally lying.

Someone was lying. alright - and it wasn't the media.

If the Trump team wanted to see what a real crowd looked like, a yuuuggge crowd, all they had to do was to check out the Capitol Mall the next day when the Women's March came to town.  It was a sea of pink crashing up onto the marble shores of government - thousands and thousands and thousands of women and their supporters carrying signs, singing, chanting, and reminding us all that America is more than just a cluster rich old white men sitting on their stock portfolios.  The numbers of people participating in the Women's March easily eclipsed those of the Trumpettes the day before.

And it wasn't just in the nation's capital.  Women marched through major cities - and more than a few minor ones - across the United States, as well as across every populated continent in the world.  It was an international event of epic proportions.

And no one needed to lie about their numbers.

The speakers at the Washington Women's March represented some of the best known and outspoken feminists in America, everyone from Gloria Steinem to Madonna.  Filmmaker Michael Moore was in the process of finishing his remarks to the group when Ashley Judd, the actress, walked out onto the stage and interrupted his closing with, "My name is Ashley Judd and I am a feminist!  And I want to say hello to Independence Avenue in the back, all the way down to 17th Street, and I bring you words from Nina Donovan, a 19-year-old in Middle, Tennessee.  She has given me the privilege of telling you what she has to say."

From there Ms. Judd launched into an impassioned recitation of a poem by Ms. Donovan, a manifesto entitled "I Am a Nasty Woman."  Ms. Judd's famous mother, country music legend Naomi Judd, has said that she hasn't watched some of her daughter's movies due to their containing "profanity, nudity, sex, or violence."  With that proviso in place, Naomi probably was not too pleased with Ashley's recitation of this poem in front of a national audience.  "I Am a Nasty Woman," which harkens back to Trump's accusatory description of Hillary during one of their debates, uses language that will offend many, but it also serves to highlight what the Trump people dismissively and light-heartedly labeled as "locker room talk."

"I Am a Nasty Woman" is a raucous rebuttal to the status quo regarding women as expressed by Donald Trump and people like him.  It is, at its very core, pussy grabbing back.

(This piece is hard to find in written form on the Internet.  The following was taking from a "transcript" of Judd's remarks.  The recitation may be viewed at http://motto.time.com/4642357/ashley-judd-womens-march-poem/)

I Am a Nasty Woman
by Nina Donovan
(as interpreted by Ashley Judd)

I am a nasty woman.
I'm as nasty as a man who looks like he bathes in Cheetos dust.
A man whose words are a distract to America.
Electoral college-sanctioned,
     hate-speech contaminating this national anthem.
I'm not as nasty as Confederate flags being tattooed across my city.
Maybe the South actually is going to rise again.
Maybe for some it never really fell.
Blacks are still in shackles and graves, just for being black.
Slavery has been reinterpreted as the prison system 
     in front of people who see melanin as animal skin.
I am not as nasty as a swastika painted on a pride flag,
     and I didn't know devils could be resurrected,
     but I feel Hitler in these streets.
A mustache traded for a toupee.
Nazis renamed the Cabinet Electoral Conversion Therapy,
     the new gas chambers shaming the gay out of America,
     turning rainbows into suicide.
I am not as nasty as racism, fraud, conflict of interest, 
     homophobia, sexual assault, transphobia, white supremacy,
     misogyny, ignorance, white privilege - 
your daughter being your favorite sex symbol,
     like your wet dreams infused with your own genes.

Yeah, I'm a nasty woman - a loud, vulgar, proud woman.

I am not nasty like the combo of Trump and Pence
     being served up to me in my voting booths.
I am nasty like the battles my grandmothers fought
     to get me into that voting booth.
I'm nasty like the fight for wage equality.
Scarlett Johansson, why were the female actors paid 
     less than half of what the male actors earned last year?
See, even when we do go into higher paying jobs,
     our wages are still cut with blades sharpened by testosterone.
Why is the work of a Black woman and a Hispanic woman
     worth only 63 and 54 cents of a white man's privileged daughter?
This is not a feminist myth.  
This is inequality. 
So we are not here to be debunked.
We are here to be respected.
We are here to be nasty.

I am nasty like my bloodstains on my bed sheets.
We don't actually choose if and when to have our periods.
Believe me if we could some of us would.
We do not like throwing away our favorite pairs of underpants.
Tell me, why are pads and tampons still taxed 
     when Viagra and Rogaine are not?
Is your erection really more 
     than protecting the sacred messy part of my womanhood?
Is the bloodstain on my jeans more embarrassing
     than the thinning of your hair?

I know it is hard to look at your own entitlement and privilege.
You may be afraid of the truth.
I am unafraid to be honest.
It may sound petty bringing up a few extra cents.
It adds up to a pile of change I have yet to see in my country.
I can't see.
My eyes are too busy praying to my feet 
    hoping you don't mistake eye contact for wanting physical contact.
Half my life I have zipping up my smile 
     hoping you don think I want to unzip your jeans.
I am unafraid to be nasty because I am nasty
     like Susan, Elizabeth, Eleanor, Amelia, Rosa, Gloria,  
     Condoleezza, Sonia, Malala, Michelle, Hillary!

And our pussies ain't for grabbing.
They're for reminding you that our walls are stronger
     than America's ever will be.
Our pussies are for our pleasure.  
They are for birthing new generations of filthy, vulgar, nasty, proud, 
     Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh, you name it,
     for new generations of nasty women.
So if you are a nasty woman, or you love someone who is,
     let me hear you say,
     "hell, yeah!"

 Hell, yeah!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Age of Petulance

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Apparently the primary qualification for being press secretary in the Trump administration is the ability to lie with a straight face. Yesterday Trump's official flack, press secretary Sean Spicer, was trotted out in front of the press corps where he charged in a fit of pique that reporters had lied about the number of people who had been at the inauguration - making the total much smaller than it actually was.   The actual liar, of course, was Spicer, and everyone in the press room knew it.  Sean Spicer then refused to take questions and fled the stage.

Later in the day, lying Sean's boss, The Donald, went to a meeting with the CIA where he, himself, felt obliged to also whine about the press's failure to inflate the numbers of people who attended the inauguration.  It was despicable that they would report that only 250,000 people attended, particularly while also reminding the public that 1.8 million had attended Obama's first inauguration. 

Politicians lie, for a raft of reasons, and it shouldn't surprise anyone that a President or his press secretary would misspeak, misdirect, or tiptoe through a field of falsehoods.  But to do so on their first full day in office, and to do so for something as trivial as a squabble over crowd size, is just sad - and it reflects poorly on the new President.  It shows the world just how easily Donald Trump can be baited and played.  What so many hoped would be an age of promise is quickly morphing into an age of petulance.

And petulance is not presidential.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Jumping for Bread, Day by Day

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Winter

The glum of winter still hangs over the Ozarks like a moldy, tattered quilt, but quick glimpses of spring are beginning to break through in sudden shafts of sunlight.  The Roost endured a couple of weeks of bitter cold  this winter, followed by a couple more weeks of mists and cold rain.  The mud froze and thawed and spread about the place on the soles of the farmer's worn work shoes, leaving brown, crusty trails from chore to chore to chore.

The farmer is up before daylight every day, arising by instinct and without the aid of an alarm clock.  The dogs are ready to venture out for their morning ablutions while the farmer bundles up in his old warm clothes and prepares to trudge into the dark morning and get The Roost ready for another day.

Fiona the cat is the first to greet the farmer as he makes his way toward the chicken coop.  Most nights Fiona willingly goes into the coop where she is locked in with the poultry, but she somehow manages to make her way to freedom during the night and is often up close to the house waiting for the farmer to make his appearance in the darkness of morning.  Feeding Fiona a can of cat food is the first priority of the morning.  She enjoys her breakfast in the chicken pen while the farmer goes about spreading grain for the rest of the poultry.  He follows a set routine that ensures that all of the birds have access to a good breakfast.

Hector, the duck, now sleeps in the coop with the chickens.  He is always up when the farmer arrives in the mornings, the first of the fowl to greet the farmer and welcome the new day.   But as the farmer putters in and out of the coop collecting and scattering grain, poor Hector stays inside, stumbling about in the dark and quacking in frustration as he waits for his brother and sister chickens to fly down and go outside with him.  Hector won't leave the coop by himself.

The farmer takes about fifteen minutes to finish his morning chores.  Daylight is making its presence known as he makes his way back to the house where he tends to indoor business until brunch.  The farmer serves bread for brunch.  The dogs get a bit, and then he tromps back outside to share bread bits with all of the other farm residents.  Fiona demands more than her share, probably feeling that if she doesn't get it, the chickens will.  And the chickens get their share even so - as do the peacocks.  But it is the three guineas who truly enjoy brunch.  They rush squawking toward the house the moment the farmer steps outside onto the back porch, and Ol' Speck, the leader of the guineas, is stationed at the farmer's feet throughout the entire brunch process, begging on a par with Fiona.  Ol' Speck, the same guinea who spent ten minutes one afternoon last summer eating a mouse, has now taken to jumping up and taking bread from the farmer's hands.

"Tea" is served in the late afternoon - an offering of sunflower seeds and dry dog food.   The poultry all like sunflower seeds, with the exception of poor Hector who has trouble scooping them up in his rounded bill.  Hector also presents as quite awkward when it comes to gathering up the bread bits at brunch - but, he is focused and aggressive when it comes to the dry dog food.   When the dog food is scattered on the ground, Hector becomes an eating machine.  He is voracious!

Fiona gets the final meal of the day.  Each evening, just before dark, the farmer gives her a small amount of dry cat food before closing her and all of the fowl up for the evening.  Fiona sleeps one of the hen's laying boxes until sometime in the middle of the night, and then her cat nature takes over and she breaks out of her confinement and goes on the prowl.    When the farmer comes outside into the morning dark, she will be there waiting for him

And then it all begins again.

Friday, January 20, 2017

There Is No Joy in Mudville

by Pa Rock

The sun has risen on the final morning of the Obama administration, and with its passing go the hopes of millions.

Inauguration Day, a time of change, and this time the results can't be laid at the feet of Democracy, for indeed, Democracy gave a different result.  This time we have done it to ourselves with our arcane election rules, our insoluble racism, our penchant for mindless thunder, and our instinctual desire to stomp sandcastles and the dreams that sustain them.

All in all, it's a good day to go back to bed.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Barack and Michelle: Best Parents Ever!

by Pa Rock
Obama Fan

One of the angry old people in my pinochle group remarked in passing the other night that the Obama's were going to be staying in Washington, DC, after the inauguration so that Barack could keep trying to run things.  That, of course, is not true.  The Obama's are remaining in the nation's capital for much the same reason as the new First Lady will be staying in New York City - so as not to have to move a child out of their established school.  Fifteen-year-old Sasha Obama is a high school student, and her parents have made a decision not to force her to change schools just because of her father's unemployment.

Staying in the vortex of Washington, DC's noise and sausage-grinding is undoubtedly a great personal sacrifice for the out-going President and his lady.  But it's not surprising because the Obama's have always strived to meet the needs of their children.

When Obama was sworn into the Presidency eight years ago, he and Michelle both understood that her role as First Lady would be almost as daunting and time-consuming as his job -  a situation that would create special challenges in fulfilling their parental responsibilities to Sasha and Malia.  To meet those concerns, they moved Michelle's mother into the White House both as a live-in babysitter and as a parental substitute for those occasions when the nation's business consumed the parents.  It was far from ideal, but the long and short of the situation was that the girls were always under the care and supervision of a loving family member.

And the nation got to watch Sasha and Malia as they grew up because they were often included in what their parents were doing.  Several years ago there was a story about the President taking the First Daughters to the big independent bookstore in Washington's Dupont Circle where they spent the afternoon exploring the stacks and Christmas shopping.  (That story stuck with me because that bookstore is one of my favorite places in our nation's capital.)  America watched over the years as the President and First Lady played an active role in guiding their daughters into becoming the beautiful and thoughtful young women that they are today - and we were often apprised of their reading lists!

Earlier this year the girls and Grandma spent their spring break in Cuba with Barack and Michelle.  They undoubtedly enjoyed countless opportunities for travel and educational experiences during eight years of living in the White House, but a lot of what they were able to see and do as First Daughters remains beyond the realm of public consumption because their parents were very focused on keeping their private lives away from the glare of the press.  Today it was revealed, for instance, that Malia recently spent several weeks on an educational tour with a group of young people in Bolivia and Peru, and she was able to enjoy that experience without the general public gaping over her shoulder.

And now the Obama daughters are almost grown.  Malia heads off to Harvard this fall, and Sasha goes back to an undoubtedly busy schedule in high school.  After eight long years they will finally be out of the fish bowl and able to exist with a bit more freedom than they have been accustomed to, but one has to suspect, given their records thus far, that even with the increased freedom that will come from being out of the White House, Sasha and Malia will continue to be exemplary role models for America's youth.

That's what comes from having great parents!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Chelsea Manning to Go Free!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

President Obama did himself proud yesterday with an announcement that he is commuting the 35-year prison sentence of Chelsea Manning for the unauthorized release of government documents (whistle-blowing) to the nearly seven years that she has already served behind bars.  Manning, who was arrested in Iraq in 2010, pleaded guilty to ten charges related to copying government materials, but steadfastly denied the more serious charges of giving aid and comfort to the enemy.  She was acquitted on the more serious charges.

Chelsea Manning's actual "crime" was embarrassing the military and the administration, or, as I noted in this space on December 6, 2016 in a blog post entitled "Free Chelsea Manning:"

"What Chelsea Manning was guilty of was embarrassing a bunch of over-stuffed generals who thought they were running a secure computer network - as well as the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton's State Department.  While the generals slept secure in the knowledge that their computer networks were safe behind fourteen-character passwords that were changed every ninety days, young Private Manning kicked back at her desk listening to music while she downloaded reams of secret correspondence onto plug-in devices that could be bought at any Walmart."
Chelsea Manning did not try to avoid arrest and she owned up to her crimes.  She has already served more time behind bars than any other person accused of similar crimes.  Obama's commutation of her sentence is an acknowledgement that justice has been served.

Obama's commutation calls for Manning to be released on May 17, 2017

Arrested as a male, Private Bradley Manning soon revealed that he regarded himself as a woman born into a man's body.  The military eventually allowed her to begin hormone replacement therapy at the Ft. Leavenworth Disciplinary Barracks where she is confined, and the base commander at Leavenworth has recently approved her request for gender reassignment surgery.  The psychological strain of existing as a woman in a men's military prison twice led Manning to attempt suicide.

The commutation of Chelsea Manning's sentence by President Obama promises to be one of the more controversial acts of his administration, and, right on cue, Republicans began springing for microphones to denounce compassionate gesture.  Noted political hack and Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, called the move "outrageous," and Senators John McCain and Tom Cotton, both veterans of armed conflict, snorted their disapproval.

Julian Assange, the head of Wikileaks, the organization that published much of the government material that was released by Private Manning, has indicated that he plans to follow through on his promise to travel to the United States and make himself available for arrest by the government as a result of the President's decision to commute Manning's sentence.  Assange has been living at Ecuador's embassy in London for the past several years.

Edward Snowden, a civilian contractor who also released much classified information to the media, is still living on the run in Russia, and Putin's government has recently announced that it has extended Snowden's permit to stay in that country for another three years.  Snowden has never admitted any guilt nor served any time behind bars as a result of his actions.   President Obama has given no indication that he any plans to pardon Snowden.   However, an intercession by the Putin government with the next U.S. administration on behalf of Snowden remains a distinct possibility.

Now, President Obama, please consider showing gracious mercy to Leonard Peltier, a man who has spent forty years in prison - six of those in solitary confinement - as much for political symbolism as for any crimes he may have committed.  It's time for this frail old gentleman to go home and be with family.

Thank you, President Obama, for doing the right thing for Chelsea Manning.  She has admitted her crimes, served an adequate amount of time, and needs to be free to get on with her life. Thank you, sir, for making that possible.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Trump's Team of Terribles: Rick Perry

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

In Donald Trump's rush to make sure that he has a fox in charge of every hen house, it almost looks as if he is trying to destroy the federal government, department by department.  The selection of his billionaire campaign donor, Betsy DeVos, for instance, to head the Education Department looks to be a very thinly veiled attempt to destroy public education in America - something that neither Trump and his family, nor DeVos and hers, ever experienced while growing up rich in their bubbles of privilege. And the selection of fast food king, Andy Puzder, a man who opposes the very notion of a minimum wage, as Secretary of Labor is a bold assurance to America's low wage workers that nobody will have their backs in a Trump administration.

Trump also has an incoming Secretary of Housing and Urban Development - Ben Carson - who managed to get a fine education through extensive government assistance, but now opposes others who come from modest circumstances having those same advantages.   Carson, who will be over public housing in the United States, is on record as opposing programs which assist and benefit the public - fearing that they foster a sense of dependence.

Trump's pick for Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, is a man who made many of his billions by buying distressed companies and the "restructuring" them.  (Note:  "Restructuring" is a Vulgarian term meaning to sell off assets and lay off workers.)

Then this week came the revelation that Georgia Representative (Dr.) Tom Price, Trump's pick to be Secretary of Health and Human Services, bought shares of a medical device company and then introduced legislation in Congress to benefit that company.  With the actions of Dr. Price, there wasn't even a pretense of operating in an ethical manner.

All in all, Trump seems more focused on disabling federal agencies than he is in running them.  One can almost envision some evil power lurking behind Trump's throne and pulling strings to dismantle the nation from the inside.  But who could that evil power possibly be?

No discussion of shameless cabinet-level spawn would be complete, however, without at least a mention of the most obvious department-destroyer on Trump's Team of Terribles:  Rick Perry, the nominee to head the Energy Department - our supposed watchdog over energy responsibility, conservancy, and usage in the United States.  Perry, a former multi-term governor of Texas, is known to be a close ally of Big Oil.  He has benefited from their political largess through cash donations to his campaigns - to the tune of millions of dollars - and he has been a continual foe of laws aimed at limiting pollution from energy producers.  Perry is also a staunch denier of climate science.

With Rick Perry in charge of the Energy Department, we are no longer dealing with a charade.  An Energy Department run by Rick Perry will quickly become a government agency under the complete control of the industry it was intended to regulate.

Many of Donald Trump's cabinet selections are god-awful, but Rick Perry has to be the god-awfullest of them all - and getting ahead of Betsy DeVos in that line is really saying something!  The United States Senate must not approve Rick Perry as Secretary of Energy.  His ascension to that post will divert American fuels to overseas ports, raise energy prices here at home, and maximize profits for companies and individuals who already control obscene amounts of our national treasure.  Rick Perry may be a great selection for Exxon and BP, but he will be a disaster for those of us who have to pull in at the pump several times a week.

The only thing more absurd than Rick Perry trying to run the Energy Department would be naming some American oligarch, like the CEO of Exxon, for instance, to be Secretary of State.  Oh, wait . . . on, hell!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Monday's Poetry: "'Hope" Is a Thing with Feathers"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Bill Clinton and Mike Huckabee may have both been "from" Hope (Arkansas), but it was Barack Obama who so skillfully weaved the promise of hope into the social fabric of America.   With the imminent ascension of Donald Trump to the presidency at the end of this week, many of those whose dreams were given shape and voice by Obama now fear that hope is about to be sucked down one of Trump's golden toilets.

But as Emily Dickinson points out, "Hope" is one tough little bird.  Hang tough, America, and keep hope alive in the sanctuary of the soul.  Trump, too, shall pass.

"Hope" Is a Thing with Feathers
by Emily Dickinson

"Hope" is a thing with feathers - 
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words - 
And never stops - at all - 

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I've heard it in the chillest land - 
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Ringling Brothers Set to Bring Down Its Big Top

by Pa Rock
Kid at Heart

The corporation which owns Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus announced today that the world famous circus troupe will be performing its final thirty shows this spring - and that sometime in May the Big Top would be collapsed for good.  The closing, hailed as a victory by animal rights groups which have long protested the inhumane treatment of animals by "the greatest show on earth," nevertheless represents the end of one of America's most iconic and colorful entertainment venues.

Ringling Brothers began as a family venture in 1884 in Baraboo, Wisconsin, when five of seven brothers started their own circus.  One of the staples of the growing business was animal acts, and particularly the Ringling's world famous elephants.  But tales of cruelty to the big, lovable pachyderms by trainers led to fairly constant protests over the past several years.  The company finally took the elephants off of its travel circuit and paid a fine to the Department of Agriculture over the reputed mistreatment of the animals.  All of that has led to a significant decline in ticket sales - and ultimately to the announcement of the show's closure for good.

In recent years Ringling Brothers has set aside a 200-acre elephant conservation area in rural Florida, a place designed to preserve and enhance the Asian elephant population.

Growing up in relative modest circumstances, my circus experiences were with the small, dirty, traveling varieties that traipsed across the Midwest every summer.  One of my earliest memories is of my mother and I visiting with a man and an elephant inside of a circus tent - probably in or around Goodman, Missouri, in the early 1950's.  It wasn't the actual circus show.  Mom had just taken me into a tent as they were setting up, or tearing down, so that I could see the elephant.

Poor little Rocky never got to go to "the greatest show on earth," the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus - but he did have a close encounter with the traveling spectacle many years later.

There was a period of several years in the late eighties and early nineties when I practiced journalism as a sideline.  Part of that hobby employment was doing freelance work for the Neosho Daily News, and my byline eventually read "McDonald County Correspondent."  As a freelancer, I wasn't housed in the newspaper office but instead brought my articles by as time permitted.  The office was on the edge of Neosho, Missouri, backed-up against a hillside.  Halfway up that hillside was a train track.

One day after dropping off my material, I came out to my car just as a train began to pass behind (and above) the newspaper office.  To my delight, it was the long and highly decorated Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus train!  I stood transfixed for ten minutes or so as the legenday circus train chugged past.   I had stumbled into a storybook experience.  It wasn't until later that I realized that a good journalist would have rushed back into the newspaper office and snagged a photographer.  But I wasn't a journalist, I was a kid - and I was mesmerized!

I am sorry that the circus animals have had to endure neglect and suffering and derogation over the years, and I appreciate that the Ringling organization has recently taken measures to recognize and offer redress for that deplorable situation.  But a part of me also grieves for the slow, yet steady, disappearance of traveling entertainments - tent revivals, medicine shows, Vaudeville, carnivals, and circuses - that brought Americans out of their homes and into contact with the world.  Now it seems we get all of the "spectacle" we can handle on-line - and we are once again hunkered down in our hovels.

Goodbye Ringling Brothers. With your passing, America is bidding farewell to a significant part of its past.   Thanks for the amazement and joy that you brought to so many for so long!   We miss you already!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

DNC Chair Race Heats Up

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Seven aspirants, all of whom hope to become the next Chair of the Democratic Party, are meeting in Phoenix today for the first of four national forums to introduce themselves to America.  It doesn't take the likes of a Sherlock Holmes to deduce rather quickly that the collection of individuals are, at their core, real Democrats.   The group includes a politically active housewife, a Muslim, an Hispanic, and a first-generation American.  Three members of the assemblage are black, two are female, and the two white (non-Hispanic) males are both gay.

It would be hard to envision a slice of America more diversified and more likely to be Democrats than this bunch who are meeting today in Phoenix.

The front-runners for the august position appear to be Keith Ellison, a congressman from Minnesota who was the first Muslim elected to Congress and a former supporter of Bernie Sanders, and Tom Perez, an Hispanic who serves as President Obama's Secretary of Labor and was a Hillary supporter in the primaries.  Perez is reportedly President Obama's horse in this race.

Sally Boynton Brown is a housewife and mother of three who serves at the Executive Director of Idaho's Democratic Party and is President of the Association of State Democratic Executive Directors.  When she entered the race to head the DNC, she was the only woman running, and that seemed to be the focal point of her campaign.

Now, however, there are two women vying for the position.  Jehmu Greene, a Fox News Analyst with a history of social activism is also in the race.  Ms. Greene, the daughter of Liberian immigrants, is a person who takes her democratic rights seriously.

The other three contenders are Jaime Harrison, Chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party and a protege of Rep. Jim Clyburn, Pete Buttigieg, the Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and an Afghanistan War veteran, and Ray Buckley, Chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party.  Buttigieg and Buckley are both openly gay.

Somehow, a portion of the American public will study this group and come away with opinions on which one should actually head the party as it tries to heal itself and regroup for the upcoming electoral challenges.  Hopefully they will be able to convey those opinions to the actual members of the Democratic National Committee who will then select their next leader.  If that happens, and if the Party listens, Americans have an opportunity to have a bit of ownership in the organization which will ultimately decide who tries to knock out Trump in Round Two - scheduled for 2020.

My own thoughts on the subject are these:  although I love Barack Obama and always will, he selected the last Democratic Chair - the disaster named Debbie Wasserman Schultz whose heavy-handedness and un-democratic behaviors lost us the election of 2016.  I am hesitant, therefore, to stand quietly by and watch him try to select the party's next chair.  Bernie has more right to do that than Obama.

But Bernie's candidate, Mr. Ellison, has issues as well.

What the party actually needs is someone with street smarts and an uncanny ability to organize people from the precinct level on up.  Barack Obama would fit that bill himself - and his acceptance of the job of rebuilding the party would be a stellar way to atone for the Wasserman-Schultz fiasco.

Take the job, Barack, and then make those seven wannabes your deputies and regional organizers.  January 21st is our day one - and it's time to get moving!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Lest I Forget

by Pa Rock
Hermit Wannabe

I received a nice package of information yesterday from Publisher's Clearing House, material that made it crystal clear that I was literally on the verge of becoming a multi-millionaire - free money so near that I could almost reach out and take it.

The thing is that I have never, ever, in my entire life bought anything through Publisher's Clearing House nor, at this late stage of my life, am I likely to do so.  Yet they keep writing.  When I move they find me with alarming speed and the junk mail resumes.  Eventually their desperate entreaties wind up in the wood stove in my garage where they help to ignite the kindling.  Thanks for that, PCH!

And the crime bosses over in Bentonville also keep in touch - through weekly flyers in my mailbox and the ubiquitous plastic bags blowing across my yard and becoming tangled in the highest tree branches where they wave like the evil Chinese flags they actually are.  It has been nearly twenty years since I was last inside a Walmart, and quarter-of-a-century has passed since I regularly shopped there, but they still keep in touch.

Approaching senility, one must suppose, motivates these corporate slugs to keep reaching out to poor old Pa Rock.  Sooner or later he will forget where he is - and who he is - and then he will shop with us.  Until that happy day, we'll keep cranking out the junk mail and roadside litter lest (or until) he forgets.

Weather Update:  It's 31 degrees in West Plains, Missouri, according to Alexa.  The maple tree in the front yard has a thin coating of ice, but the red birds and woodpeckers are clinging tenaciously to its branches as they dart to and from the bird feeder.  There is no current precipitation, but the forecast calls for ice and rain through tomorrow.  Traffic on the road out front is sparse, but what there is seems to be moving at normal speed.  There is a fresh batch of chili in the crockpot, and the dogs are snoozing contentedly.

Stay warm!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

GOP Suddenly Not Interested in Sexploits of Politicians

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Remember the Dark Ages - that time less than two decades ago when the Republicans in Congress set all of their important work aside so that they could try to impeach President Bill Clinton and remove him from office over a sexual dalliance with a female intern.  An adult man (physically, at least), an adult woman (barely), an incident of oral sex in an anteroom off of the Oval Office, and a stained dress.  It's a wonder democracy survived.   The House did impeach the old lech, but when he was tried in the Senate, that august body could not even muster a majority vote against him, much less the two-thirds needed for his removal from office.

Those were the good old days, and those sanctimonious Republicans were righteously offended by Clinton's immorality.

But that was then, and this is now.

Now there is almost absolute silence from God's chosen political party as allegations swirl that their own man, President-Elect Donald Trump, has close ties with the government of Russia and has been involved in "perverted sexual acts" with Russian hookers.  The story, as noted in the likes of Buzzfeed and Newsweek, is based on a classified dossier that was reportedly prepared by a former British intelligence operative.  It alleges that The Donald was supplied with a "bevy" of prostitutes in Russia while staying at Moscow's Ritz Carlton Hotel, and that one of the things that occurred during that lewd encounter was a "urination" show performed by the ladies.

The report also said that Trump chose the Ritz Carlton personally because he knew that was where the Obama's stayed when they were in Moscow, and he wanted to defile the bed that Barack and Michelle had slept in.

Trump lashed out at the "perverted sexual acts" report yesterday, calling it "fake news."  While Trump and his minions may have spread "fake news" like it was Grade A compost during the recent election, it becomes a much more serious matter when it is directed toward the blowhard himself.

As of this time the "news" of events in Russia is nothing more than unconfirmed allegations, as are the reports of Trump's various business dealings with the Russian government.  A dossier of the sex stuff has apparently made its way through the sweaty palms of some members of Congress, and Senator John McCain supposedly passed it on to the FBI.  From there the highlights made their way into part of the report that the intelligence communities gave to President Obama and Mr. Trump.

But back to the Republican hypocrisy:

I, for one, felt that Bill Clinton deserved to be raked over the coals for having sexual contact with a young woman in the White House, someone over whom he had influence and power - and then lied about it.  Only a group as politically inept as the Republican Party of that era could have turned it into a political victory for Clinton - which they somehow managed to do.

Now, however, we have an incoming President who is dragging along sexual allegations far more salacious than those that rocked Clinton's presidency, and the current sexploits pose dangers to our national security in ways that Bill and Monica could not imagine. 

In the interests of peace and global security, Congress must endeavor to find out if Russia has some sort of stranglehold on Trump - but so far all the GOP majority in Congress can cough up is a bored "ho hum."  To those of us who harbor a sense of skepticism toward our current legislative branch, it looks as though they are far more interested in relieving Americans of their health insurance than they are in thwarting the Russian menace.

Do your job, Congress.  Explore the Putin-Trump connection and find out exactly what is going on.  You need to know - and so do we, the people!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Trump's Team of Terribles: Andrew Puzder

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Andrew Puzder, the man Donald Trump wants to be his Secretary of Labor, is not someone who is likely to advocate for America's low-wage workers.  He is, in fact, someone who profits from the desperate circumstances in which so many in this country find themselves.

Puzder, by training a lawyer who helped to craft one of Missouri's most draconian anti-abortion laws, took an early career detour into the corporate world where he eventually rose to become CEO of CKE Restaurants, a position he still holds.  CKE Restaurants is the parent organization of Hardee's and Carl's Jr, a pair of ubiquitous fast food franchises that thrive off of the labors of minimally-paid employees.

But while Puzder's personal fortune may have accumulated on the backs of hard-working poor people,  he, like his future boss, balks when it comes to fairly compensating his employees for their time and toil.  Andy Puzder is on the record as opposing a federal minimum wage, and he has said that if wages rise too high, he would consider replacing his employees with robots.

Nice one, Mr. Secretary of Labor.  Full employment for machines.  Have you looked into doing home delivery with drones?

Six years ago Puzder co-authored a book with a business professor that was sharply critical of government regulations and labor unions.   Puzder's companies also have some long-standing issues with women.  By one estimate nearly two-thirds of the female employees in his restaurants have experienced sexual harassment at work.

All in all, Andy Puzder doesn't come across as someone who will be able to identify with (or be sympathetic to) people who flip burgers for a living.  His interests and his loyalties are far more likely to be aligned with those who profit off of American labor - not with those who perform it.

Andrew Puzder might be an acceptable fit for Secretary of Commerce, but it is hard to picture him effectively advocating for working Americans.

The United States Senate needs to reject nomination of Andrew Puzder to be Secretary of Labor.  His selection to that post would be an affront to the millions of Americans who perform the jobs that really do make our country great and keep it running.  American workers need safe environments in which to work, health benefits, fair compensation, and good retirement packages - and not another rich guy trying to make their lives even more miserable than they already are.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Trump's "Very Good" Brain Is Overrated

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Donald Trump has famously described himself as having "a very good brain," something which is generally not in evidence.  Perhaps if he wills that brain to science he will eventually be proved right when the gelatinous mess hits the scales, but I doubt it.  But while Trump's brain may be no better than that of the average south Arkansawyer, his mouth and the garbage it routinely spews are worthy of note.

Donald Trump is petulant and a bit of a cry baby.   He can't take a slight from anyone without going into full attack mode - usually played out as a Twitter rant in the wee hours of the morning.  Twitter suits the blowhard because of his limited vocabulary.  Tony Schwartz, the ghostwriter who actually wrote Trump's award winning book, The Art of the Deal, famously noted during the campaign that the businessman/politician has around a 200-word vocabulary.

(For the historical record, Trump's predecessor in the White House, Barack Obama, was a professor of Constitutional law and had a massive vocabulary - as well as an exceptional brain - and he wrote all of his own books himself.)

Trump's limited vocabulary is beginning to impact his Twitter performance.  I noted on Twitter yesterday that The Donald seemed to be getting stuck on using the word "overrated."  Just based on the workings of my own brain, which is fair to middlin', I pointed out that he had just called actress Meryl Streep "overrated," and he had used the same word a few months before to belittle the hit Broadway musical, Hamilton.  My personal feeling was that Trump's using the word "overrated" to excess might just be a bit hypocritical - because clearly someone is overrated.

Today I learned through the website Newser that Trump's use of the word "overrated" is about as common as Chinese steel in his buildings.   The Newser article pointed out that he has used the word to not only describe Streep and Hamilton,  but that he has also slathered it on the likes of Hillary Clinton, Megyn Kelly, Marco Rubio, Charles Krauthammer, Jon Stewart, Jerry Seinfeld, Barack Obama, and George Will - with multiple hits landing on Kelly, Stewart, Krauthammer, and Will.  (Those four must really be overrated!)

Of the two hundred words Donald Trump knows well enough to use, "overrated" appears to be one of his very favorites!  Perhaps if he spent less time ranting - or making fun of disabled individuals - and more time reading, he could add a few more words to his list.  He would be better for the effort, as would we all.

Any very good brain that focuses solely on self-promotion or the mocking of others is overrated indeed.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Monday's Poetry: "Love Poem to Los Angeles"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Los Angeles, the City of Angels, has been on my mind of late, primarily, no doubt, because I have been watching the series "Bosch" on Amazon Prime.   "Bosch" is a police procedural set in modern day Hollywood area of Los Angeles and based on the novels of Michael Connelly.  In the series, Harry Bosch is a police detective who lives better than the average cop thanks to money he earned by selling some of his personal experiences to a movie studio, but his daily existence still centers on fighting crime on the sinister streets of Hollywood.   Bosch is a tough cop who fears little, is quick to break any rule that gets in his way, and loves the ladies - and the glitter and grime of Los Angeles surrounds and smothers his life like the syrup that he stylistically pours under his pancakes.

The news this morning is also, in a sense, about Los Angeles.  The new film, La La Land, a retro-fitted musical set in Los Angeles, won a record seven awards at last night's Golden Globes, and the movie industry, as well as the general public, is busy chattering about the movie today - and La La Land is Los Angeles.

All of which brings me to today's poetry selection, a poem entitled "Love Poem to Los Angeles" that was written just last year by the current Poet Laureate of Los Angeles - so named by Mayor Eric Garcetti - the very talented Luis J. Rodriguez.  I had the pleasure of meeting and visiting with Mr. Rodriguez at a conference in Phoenix several years ago, and I am a great admirer of his poetry - some of which has previously appeared in this blog.

Please enjoy the poet's words from the heart.

Love Poem to Los Angeles
by Luis J. Rodriguez

(with a respectful nod to Jack Hirschmon)

To say I love Los Angeles is to say
I love its shadows and nightlights,
its meandering streets,
the stretch of sunset-colored beaches.
It’s to say I love the squawking wild parrots,
the palm trees that fail to topple in robust winds,
that within a half hour of L.A.’s center
you can cavort in snow, deserts, mountains, beaches.
This is a multi-layered city,
unceremoniously built on hills,
valleys, ravines.
Flying into Burbank airport in the day,
you observe gradations of trees and earth.
A “city” seems to be an afterthought,
skyscrapers popping up from the greenery,
guarded by the mighty San Gabriels. 
Layers of history reach deep,
run red, scarring the soul of the city,
a land where Chinese were lynched,
Mexican resistance fighters hounded,
workers and immigrants exploited,
Japanese removed to concentration camps,
blacks forced from farmlands in the South,
then segregated, diminished.
Here also are blessed native lands,
where first peoples like the Tataviam and Tongva
bonded with nature’s gifts;
people of peace, deep stature, loving hands.
Yet for all my love
I also abhor the “poison” time,
starting with Spanish settlers, the Missions,
where 80 percent of natives
who lived and worked in them died,
to the ruthless murder of Indians
during and after the Gold Rush,
the worst slaughter of tribes in the country.
From all manner of uprisings,
a city of acceptance began to emerge.
This is “riot city” after all—
more civil disturbances in Los Angeles
in the past hundred years
than any other city. 
To truly love L.A. you have to see it
with different eyes,
askew perhaps,
beyond the fantasy-induced Hollywood spectacles.
“El Lay” is also known
for the most violent street gangs,
the largest Skid Row,
the greatest number of poor.
Yet I loved L.A.
even during heroin-induced nods
or running down rain-soaked alleys or getting shot at.
Even when I slept in abandoned cars,
alongside the “concrete” river,
and during all-night movie showings
in downtown Art Deco theaters.
The city beckoned as I tried to escape
the prison-like grip of its shallowness,
sun-soaked image, suburban quiet,
all disarming,
hiding the murderous heart
that can beat at its center.
L.A. is also lovers’ embraces,
the most magnificent lies,
the largest commercial ports,
graveyard shifts,
poetry readings,
lowriding culture,
a sound that hybridized
black, Mexican, as well as Asian
and white migrant cultures.
You wouldn’t have musicians like
Ritchie Valens, The Doors, War,
Los Lobos, Charles Wright &
the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band,
Hiroshima, Motley Crue, NWA, or Quetzal
without Los Angeles.
Or John Fante, Chester Himes, Charles Bukowski,
Marisela Norte, and Wanda Coleman as its jester poets. 
I love L.A., I can’t forget its smells,
I love to make love in L.A.,
it’s a great city, a city without a handle,
the world’s most mixed metropolis,
of intolerance and divisions,
how I love it, how I hate it,
Zootsuit “riots,”
can’t stay away,
city of hungers, city of angers,
Ruben Salazar, Rodney King,
I’d like to kick its face in,
bone city, dried blood on walls,
wildfires, taunting dove wails,
car fumes and oil derricks,
water thievery,
with every industry possible
and still a “one-industry town,”
lined by those majestic palm trees
and like its people
with solid roots, supple trunks,