Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Week That Was

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Spring

It started a week ago yesterday when my big - and very necessary - riding lawnmower broke down after hitting a rock that wouldn't budge.   The injuries to the mower were so serious that the young man from the repair shop began talking about selling me a new one as he loaded my old one onto his truck.

Wednesday night at pinochle there was some animus in evidence for the second week in a row.  I play to relax and have fun, but some of my fellow senior citizens seem to regard pinochle as a blood sport.  I have now decided to forgo the pleasure of their company for at least the time being.

Friday I had a local company come out to the farm to hookup my two new storage buildings to electricity.  It was a company I have used before - with mixed results.  I had arranged for an estimate before the work was to be done and had the necessary resources budgeted.  Unfortunately things did not go as planned, and the workers ran into trouble.  By the end of the day not only were the two new buildings not hooked to the current, the other outbuildings at the farm had lost their power as well - and the budget was blown.  The workers informed me that, due to the holiday, they would not be able to return until Tuesday.

Friday afternoon I got in my pickup truck to run to the feed store.  The truck, which had just come back from the shop the week before with a new starter, would not start - and my mechanic's shop would not be open until - you guessed it - Tuesday - again because of the holiday.

Friday night, with my outside security light out due to the boondoggle caused by the electricians, a predator, or predators, got into the poultry pen and killed all eighteen of my young pullets and all seven ducks.  The following night one of the six geese also disappeared.  So, if you were counting on farm fresh eggs from Pa Rock this fall - don't.

Saturday night we had a ferocious storm which knocked out the remaining electricity for a couple of hours, and tore down half of a large tree just outside of the back door.  It also managed to blow over a large (and heavy) swing set.

The rest of the weekend was spent picking up tree limbs from the storm, mowing with push mowers, and slowly moving stuff from the garage to the new buildings - the ones with no power.

Tuesday finally arrived and things started getting back to normal.  The electricians came back, and after they still could not diagnose the problem, they called in the company's owner, a smart young fellow, who eventually got the problem solved.   He is also voluntarily fixing a problem caused by the company - before he owned it - and making that repair at the company's expense.  He is a good businessman who will have my future business.

My mechanic sprang for a tow truck to haul the pickup into the shop, so it is being looked at.

Later Tuesday afternoon I drove to Mountain View to check on the repair status of the mower and to look at some new ones.  I didn't commit, but I suspect that I will wind up buying a large, zero-turn, industrial type of mower - a beast - and keeping the old one for a spare.  If I am destined to spend the rest of my life as a groundskeeper, I might as well do it with the best equipment.

Tonight is pinochle, but I will be staying home and working on the never-ending chore of emptying the garage.  As twilight sets, I may even walk the remaining geese down to the pond for an evening frolic with the bullfrogs.  The geese love me, and they are not nearly as cranky as the old farts at the pinochle tables!

Life at the farm is what it is - and I guess it must suit me because I am still here!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Eloquence of Asha Deliverance

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Earlier this morning I posted a piece on this blog recognizing the eloquent open letter that journalist Dan Rather wrote to Donald Trump regarding the murders of two heroes (and the wounding of a third) on a Portland, Oregon, commuter train.  A few hours later I came across another open letter to Trump on the same subject, this one written by Asha Deliverance, the mother of one of the murder victims - twenty-three-year-old Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche

The words of Asha Deliverance are also eloquent and in need of repeating.  This lady has suffered horrendous loss at the hands of a madman, yet she stands strong as a symbol of love and compassion.  We can all learn much from her.

Here is what Asha Deliverance wrote to Donald Trump:

May 29, 2017
Memorial Day

Dear President Trump,

I’m writing to you today, Memorial Day, to share my heart after losing my son.
Taliesin died a hero, like many other Americans who have died defending freedom. He was just 23, a year out of college with a degree in economics, working, had just bought his first home and was thinking about starting a family. Our family grieves, but we are proud that through his selfless action he, along with the other two men, has changed the world, when in the face of hate he did not hesitate to act with love.

Two precious lives were lost this Memorial Day weekend in Portland and one more, nearly so. All three were strangers to each other, and to those they were defending. They fearlessly risked their lives for two young women who were threatened by an act of bigotry & terror. These brave men saw the immediate injustice and didn’t hesitate to act. They recognized the truth: we are more alike than we are different. To ride the train home without being assaulted because of the color of your skin or your religious beliefs, is an inalienable right.

You have said that you will be President for all Americans. So, I ask you Mr. President to take action at this time. Your words and actions are meaningful, here in America and throughout the world.
Please encourage all Americans to protect and watch out for one another. Please condemn any acts of violence, which result directly from hate speech & hate groups. I am praying you will use your leadership to do so.

It would deeply honor Taliesin’s sacrifice, which has been amplified by the millions of voices who have supported our family in response to this tragedy.

With Peace In My Heart,
Asha Deliverance

The Eloquence of Dan Rather

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Sunday morning, after our national embarrassment was safely back in the White House, Donald Trump resumed his passion:  tweeting.  With thumbs flying, The Donald banged out twenty-some tweets covering a range of things which he deemed important:  things like the "success" of his first foreign trip as a national leader, the Republican victory in the Montana special election - as well as his anger over the media's "poor" coverage of that election, complaints about "fake news," anger over leaks of British intelligence, tax reform plans, and the media's complaints about his social media usage - a fair sampling of Trump's standard whine.

Several news outlets were quick to point out what Trump ignored - the killing of two men in Portland, Oregon, as they interceded to stop a lunatic who was shouting profanities at a couple of young girls, one of whom appeared to be a Muslim.  Some noted that while Trump is always quick to highlight acts of hate committed by Muslims, he appeared to be ignoring an example of the situation reversed.

Donald Trump has two Twitter accounts:  one, his private account and the one he mostly uses is @realDonaldTrump, and a second, one which can be accessed by him or members of his staff is @POTUS.  Yesterday afternoon (Monday) the Portland oversight was finally corrected with an acknowledgement of the incident on the @POTUS, a tweet that could have been coughed up by a staff member.

One of the things that was undoubtedly instrumental in pressuring a response from the Trump administration was an open letter to Trump that was penned by veteran newsman Dan Rather.   The ageless reporter spoke for all of America when he wrote:

Dear President Trump,

Their names were Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche and Ricky John Best. One was a recent college graduate. The other was an army veteran and father of four. I wish we would hear you say these names, or even just tweet them. They were brave Americans who died at the hands of someone who, when all the facts are collected, we may have every right to call a terrorist. A third brave man, Micah David-Cole Fletcher, was wounded in the knife attack.

This story may not neatly fit into a narrative you pushed on the campaign trail and that has followed you into the White House. They were not killed by an undocumented immigrant or a "radical Islamic terrorist." They were killed in an act of civic love, facing down a man allegedly spewing hate speech directed at two teenage girls, one of whom was wearing a hijab. That man seems to have a public record of "extremist ideology" - a term issued by the Portland Police Bureau.

This "extremism" may be of a different type than gets most of your attention, or even the attention in the press. But that doesn't make it any less serious, or deadly. And this kind of "extremism" is on the rise, especially in the wake of your political ascendency. Most people who study these sorts of things do not think that is a coincidence. I do not blame you directly for this incident. Nor do I think other people should. But what a President says, who he has around him, and the tone he sets can set the tone for the nation at large.

Perhaps Portland, Oregon is off your radar. It is, after all, a rather liberal place. It's even a "sanctuary city." But it is still an American city. And you are its President. Two Americans have died leaving family and friends behind. They are mourned by millions more who are also deeply worried about what might come next.

I hope you can find it worthy of your time to take notice.

In the end, Trump, or more likely one of his staffers, did take notice and posted a comment.  It was the least that could be done.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Monday's Poetry: "I Have a Rendezvous with Death"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, one hundred years ago today.  His life was cut short by an assassin less than forty-seven years later, but during Kennedy's brief time on earth he distinguished himself as a war hero, a Pulitzer Prize winning author, and election as the thirty-fifth President of the United States.

Kennedy was, like his wife Jacquelyn, a fan of poetry.  He initiated the modern practice of including a poet to speak at Presidential inaugurations by extending an invitation to New England's best known poet, Robert Frost, to recite one of his works at the inauguration.  Kennedy asked that the aging poet either read his sixteen-line work, "The Gift Outright," or an original work written especially for the inauguration.  Frost, who was excited about the invitation, chose at the last minute to create an original poem for the occasion.  That forty-two line effort, entitled "Dedication," was too lengthy for Frost to memorize before the ceremony, so he chose instead to read the piece.  The weather, however, did not cooperate, and once Frost began trying to read the poem he realized that he could not overcome the sun's glare off of the snow-covered ground.  He put the new poem back in his pocket and opted to return to the original plan and recite "The Gift Outright.".

One of Kennedy's favorite poems was "I Have a Rendezvous with Death" by Alan Seeger.  Seeger, an American, served with the French Foreign Legion during World War I and was killed while fighting in France.  His poem seemed to foretell his own death, and it shouldn't be too much of a stretch to imagine that it also stirred thoughts in young John Kennedy of his own demise.  JFK reportedly enjoyed having Jackie recite Seeger's poem to him.

(For those with long memories, I also used this poem last year on Memorial Day as the focus of this post.  Because of its connection to John Kennedy, I decided to run it again this year both out of respect to JFK as well as to honor Memorial Day.)

Alan Seeger, an uncle to folksinger Pete Seeger and a classmate of T.S. Eliot at Harvard, rendezvoused with death at the Battle of the Somme on July 4, 1916 when he was just twenty-eight-years-old.   Kennedy's rendezvous with death was on November 22, 1963, in Dallas Texas.  Both lives were cut needlessly short through acts of violence.  Both young men packed a lot of life into their few years, understanding the urgency of living and the certainty of dying.

Here is the poem that prepared them for that final rendezvous.

I Have a Rendezvous with Death
by Alan Seeger

I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
When Spring comes back with rustling shade
And apple-blossoms fill the air-
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.

It may be he shall take my hand
And lead me into his dark land
And close my eyes and quench my breath-
It may be I shall pass him still.
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear.

God knows 'twere better to be deep
Pillowed in silk and scented down,
Where love throbs out in blissful sleep,
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,
Where hushed awakenings are dear...
But I've a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,
When Spring trips north again this year,
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Is Every American Entitled to Eat? Or to Receive Health Care?

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The Trump administration is proposing steep cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or "food stamps" as it is more commonly known, and while America's farming and agricultural communities tend to be on the conservative end of the political spectrum, many farmers support the concept of nutritional assistance, or food stamps,  because it is one more market for what they produce, and it tends to help stabilize market prices in their favor.  That reality places legislators from farming communities in a precarious position as they struggle on the one hand to kowtow to their farming constituents, and on the other hand to keep their lips firmly attached to the plump posterior of the politician who excites such passion among rural voters.  Does pleasing Trump trump meeting the economic and nutritional needs of an important part of their constituency back home?

Yesterday morning that dilemma played out over the radio as NPR's Scott Simon interviewed Congressman Adrian Smith from the farm state of Nebraska.  Simon wanted the congressman's views on Trump's proposed cuts to the food stamp program, but getting a straight answer from the waffling politician proved too much for the seasoned radio correspondent.  Finally, an exasperated Scott Simon said, "Let me ask you this bluntly:  Is every American entitled to eat?"  Simon, in fact, wound up asking the question three times - and never getting a direct answer from Congressman Smith.

Adrian Smith, who once attended Jerry Falwell's Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, and is a member of the Tea Party Caucus in Congress, undoubtedly regards himself as a good Christian, yet he could not bring himself to publicly support the concept of every American having a right to nourishment.

Jesus would have probably shown no hesitancy in offering up an opinion on the subject.

My own area, a rural segment of southern Missouri, is also represented by a man named "Smith" in Congress.  Jason Smith is a Sunday School teacher and lawyer who represents Missouri's 8th district as a Republican in Congress.  Our Mr. Smith has been an outspoken supporter of all things Donald Trump, and never misses an opportunity to carry water for the obese New Yorker,  Jason Smith appeared to be absolutely joyous in photos taken of him at the Trumpcare victory party put on by the White House in early May - a celebration of legislation that will remove health insurance from millions of Americans.  (For the past couple of weeks, though, Trump's name has been conspicuously absent from Jason Smith's weekly newsletters to the folks back home, no doubt highlighting Smith's concerns as Trump keeps digging his political hole wider and deeper.)

Still, nothing says GOP values like a continuing disdain for the neediest among us.

The quality of "Mr. Smiths" who go to Washington has slipped markedly since Jimmy Stewart's time!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Trump's Budget Is About Protecting Money and Privilege

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I have run for public office exactly one time in my life.  Years ago I was living and working in a small town, a community that I loved, when the city's police department began exerting itself in what appeared to be a calculated effort to take over governance of the town.   Acting upon the encouragement of friends, I filed to run for city council against a five-term incumbent - a person who appeared to be doing the bidding of the head of the police department.  I campaigned hard, visiting each household in my precinct, and on election day my efforts were rewarded by a tie vote with the incumbent.   The election was eventually decided through a toss of a coin - rather than go through an expensive second election.  I won that coin toss.

I served ably in the city council, trying to stay fully aware and informed of all business being discussed by our government body.  Having quite a bit of experience in school administration, I had an understanding of the importance of the budgeting process, and when the mayor failed to appoint me to the upcoming budget planning committee, I made a fuss and appointed myself.  Somehow or other,  the mayor chose to acquiesce to my demand, and I was able to become part of the process for establishing the budget -  a defining component of government.

A budget codifies the philosophy of a government body, sets priorities, and establishes a blueprint for getting those priorities accomplished.

Donald Trump submitted his first budget to Congress last week, and with that document he showed Congress and the nation exactly the type of America he wants to create.  The Trump budget asked for big increases in military spending and money for domestic law enforcement.   As a counter to those drastic new expenditures, he proposed cutting sixty-six programs which mostly benefit the poor, the disabled, and the environment.  His vision of America is of a police state with a strong international military presence, and a nation devoid of many of the cultural niceties (like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Meals on Wheels, food stamps, Head Start, and climate and space research) that certain segments of the population have come to appreciate.  Human services are also not valued in Trump's America.

Before Trump's budget came out, we only had hints as to where he wanted to take the country.  Now, with the proposed budget, his horrible vision is articulated - it is out there for all to see.  Trump's America is no longer some abstract parlor game.  He has a plan and it's a published fact.  Yes, Congress will make changes, and situations will arise that force changes in spending plans, but anyone who wants to know where Trump's head is at today needs only to look at his budget.

Trump's budget is about protecting money and privilege.  It is not about services to those in need.

Trump's America is a cold and mean place - his budget tells us so.

Friday, May 26, 2017

America's King Lords It Over Europe

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

While Donald Trump's notable deference to King Salman of Saudi Arabia may have made some of his Muslim-hating supporters back home uncomfortable - or even angry, and his massive arms deal with Saudi Arabia will undoubtedly make one of the world's most dangerous regions even more unstable, it has been our Dear Leader's behavior in Europe that has really frosted the cake of American ugliness abroad.

Donald Trump is arrogance personified.  Nowhere was the American leader's sense of privilege and entitlement more apparent than in Brussels at the NATO summit where Trump shamelessly pushed aside Dusko Markovic, the Prime Minister of Montenegro, so that he (Trump) could be at the center of a photo op.  Trump's sense of diplomacy played out as "Get the hell out of the way.  This is all about me!"  It was certainly not America's finest hour on the world stage.

Another interesting juxtaposition of Trump's cultural values versus those of the civilized world occurred when he arrived in Vatican City for a visit with Pope Francis at the Vatican library.  Trump showed up in all of his glory being chauffeured in an armored Chevy Suburban.  The Pontiff was also chauffeured to the meeting, but he arrived in his personal 2008 Ford Focus.  Of course, in Trump's defense, he probably could not fit in the backseat of a Ford Focus.

Meanwhile as all of that was taking place and most of Europe was averting its eyes from our embarrassing leader, former President Obama was entering Berlin like a rock star, drawing crowds of cheering supporters that stretched for miles.

Now Trump has moved on to the G-7 conference in Sicily where he no doubt is busy impressing the leaders of the other big industrialized nations with his superior knowledge of world economics and matters relating to climate change.  Surely nothing embarrassing can come of that!

Trump's ultimate coup de grace in Europe, however, may come this October when His Magnificence has an official state visit to Great Britain.  British Prime Minister Theresa May issued the invitation, a move which proved to be unpopular with a large segment of the British population.  More than a million people signed a petition on the government's website asking that the invitation be rescinded, with more than one thousand people per minute signing the petition at one point.  Prime Minister May decided to ignore the petition and the will of her constituents - and the invitation still stands.

Trump, in showing his deep understanding of the sensibilities of the British people, is insisting that the upcoming visit to Great Britain include a ride - with the Queen - to Buckingham Palace in her golden coach that is drawn by six white horses.

An American King is demanding his royal due.  God save the Queen - and the horses!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Assault Under Big Skies

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

There is an election in Montana today to fill the congressional seat that was vacated by Trump's new Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke.  The state has a strong early-voting program, and many of the state's residents have already cast their ballots.  The remainder have until 8:00 p.m. today to get registered and vote.   Montana leans Republican and voted for Trump bigly, but most analysts think this race will be close.

The candidates are Republican Greg Gianforte, a multi-millionaire who moved to the state from New Jersey twenty years ago - and Rob Quist, the Democrat, a folk singer who is from the poor end of the economic spectrum.

Republicans are desperate to save this seat for their team because their majority in Congress is small and every vote is important - and also because a loss might look like a rejection of Trump and be a precursor of a possible Democratic congressional "wave" 2018.  They want to nip this democracy stuff in the bud - in Montana - right now!

Democrats, conversely, would like to have a Montana victory as a way of edging closer to control in Congress and as evidence of Trump's fallibility.

The election was going to be close anyway, with most polls showing a slight GOP lead but with a tightening of results over the past few weeks.  Last night, however, all of that seems to have been thrown into a cocked hat.

Greg Gianforte, the GOP candidate, was having a discussion yesterday evening with a group of reporters from Fox News when Ben Jacobs, a reporter for the British newspaper, The Guardian, entered the room with a tape recorder and tried to get Gianforte to comment on the newly released Congressional Budget Office figures on the revised American Health Care Act.  Gianforte tried to deflect or redirect the determined reporter who persisted in his attempt to question the candidate.  Then, to everyone's shock, the candidate apparently grabbed the reporter around the neck with both hands and threw him to the floor where he commenced to pound the guy in the face with his fists.

Jacobs, who had to be taken to a local hospital for x-rays, had his glasses broken during the beating.   The candidate was charged with misdemeanor assault and has a court date in June.

In normal times, in a civilized setting, this incident might signal the end of Greg Gianforte's political career.  In reality,  however, a certain segment of the American population came of political age listening to candidate Trump deride reporters and their "fake" news -  while encouraging incivility at public political events.   The times are not normal, and the rule of law is fast becoming more of an exception than a rule.

Montana's three leading newspapers all withdrew their endorsements of Gianforte overnight, but we are living in the age of the bully.   Instead of wrecking his campaign through a fit of anger,  Gianforte may have tapped into the fount of righteous rage that propelled Donald Trump to the White House.  Greg Gianforte could win today - and if he does, civility will have lost once again - and physical violence encouraged or perpetrated by candidates will be that much closer to becoming the new campaign normal.

America can and must be better than that.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Monster Pigs

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Spring

Yesterday my son and I had the opportunity to visit a little farm located in an extremely remote corner of "Howl" County.  The roads to the place were of the dirt and gravel variety, and had been left nearly impassable after all of our recent flooding, but through careful navigation we were eventually able to make it to the secluded rural property.

The residents, I'll call them Earl and Alice, were an older couple who appeared to make their entire living off of their small patch of land and the menagerie who shared the property with them.  Their house was a rusted-out old trailer, and there were also several weather-beaten out-buildings nearby - a goat barn, shed, and shelters of various descriptions.  There was a nice garden area fenced off to protect it from the hungry critters who also called the farm home.

The most unique feature of the place, however, was an extensive warren of cages and pens that housed a variety of unusual livestock and stretched across a large pasture area.  There were chickens, guineas, and turkeys running loose, as well as a corral that was home to several young colts and Shetland ponies, a burro, and a couple of cows.  Alice walked my son and I through the goat barn where we were greeted by a dozen frolicking young bucks and does, as well as several goat kids.  Alice handed me one young kid to hold while we talked.

As we were leaving the goat barn. Earl asked if we would like to see the hogs.  "Of course," I responded, because at some point in the near future I want to bring in a couple of hogs to seal the pond at The Roost.  A short distance later we came upon two penned pigs - a large black-and-white boar who had a pen and shack all to himself, and next door in a separate pen, the female:  the largest hog I have ever seen!   Earl said the sow, a Hampshire, weighed about eight hundred pounds.  Her body was the size of a cow, but rested on much shorter legs.  She looked as though she could have easily supported a saddle and an adult rider.  According to Earl, she had nineteen piglets in her  last litter.  While we were standing there admiring the monster sow, Alice pulled a chicken egg from her pocket and handed it to Earl.  He, in turn, gave it to the sow, and she happily swallowed the treat.

Later, as my son and I were driving away, I noticed the "Trump-Pence" sign attached to their rusty front gate.  Apparently the old couple's love of monster pigs did not end at the old sow's pen!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

McCain "Almost" Speechless

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

John McCain, Arizona's carbuncle of a U.S. senator, has logged more air time on the Sunday morning television talk shows than Tim Russert, David Brinkley, and Lawrence Spivak combined.  The networks like Johnny Mac because he always has plenty to say whether he has any specific knowledge on the subject or not.  McCain calls his incessant lip-flapping "straight talk."

This past Sunday while McCain was a guest on Fox News Sunday, the subject of Trump's meeting with two Russian diplomats in the White House came up.  At that meeting Trump reportedly told Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov that James Comey, the FBI Director fired by Trump the preceding week, was "a real nutjob."  McCain, in responding to Trump's derogatory description of Comey, said that he had been "almost speechless" upon hearing the comment.  McCain then went on to disparage Foreign Minister Lavrov whom he described as "nothing but a propagandist" who had "no business in the White House."

When Johnny Mac finished disparaging the Russian foreign minister, he turned to disparaging Trump and his ever-widening scandal which he described last week as "approaching Watergate size and scale."  He had plenty to say about that as well.

McCain speechless?  That'll be the day!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Monday's Poetry: "Rondel of Merciless Beauty"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

For the past couple of weeks I have been watching Season 2 of "The Last Kingdom," a truly epic tale about life in a less-than-merry Olde England.  The BBC show, based on the "Saxon Stories" of Bernard Cornwell, tells the tale of a fictional Uhtred of Bebbanburg who, at the tender age of eleven, sneaks out of the house and follows his Saxon warrior father, also named Uhtred, off to battle.  The senior Uhtred is killed by invading Danes, and the little Uhtred is kidnapped and hauled off to Danish outpost of Leeds where he is accepted into the household of his captor and raised as one of his sons.

Young Uhtred grows up as a Dane and fits very well into the pagan freedoms of the Danish culture.  He becomes a fearsome warrior, a condition that comes into full flower when his adopted family is attacked and decimated by a group of rogue Danes. Uhtred flees for his life and eventually ends up in the Wessex, the only place in Britain not under the control of the Danes.

Wessex is being consolidated into a kingdom by a young king named Alfred (the Great) who has ambitions of eventually driving the Danes out of all of Britain and uniting the various kingdoms into one country.  Uhtred, the mighty warrior, pledges himself to Alfred, and the two embark on a quest for power and peace in which each must rely on the strengths and wisdom of the other, yet each can never get to the point where he fully trusts the other.

The most captivating thing about this series is the realism with which it depicts life in medieval Britain - the muck, the mire, the mud - a land of regal privilege, warrior strength, and abject poverty.  Every scene feels real, so accurate in its portrayal that one can almost smell the pigs as they trot along behind the king's procession.

Uhtred is not only a fearsome warrior, he is also a great lover - never lacking a pretty woman to share his bed - or his bedroll.  The women, in fact, are pivotal in moving this story of medieval intrigues forward.  Alfred's daughter, Aethelflaed, is a central character in Season 2 as she marries to unite the kingdoms of Wessex and Mercia, and then has an affair with her Dane captor which forges a connection to the pagans.

It is with "The Last Kingdom's " nod to the strength of medieval women, that I have selected this love poem by Geoffrey Chaucer for today's poetry selection.  "Rondel of Merciless Beauty" captures Chaucer's own admiration for the women of his time.

(But first, this note of historical interest:  Geoffrey Chaucer was the first poet buried in London's famed Westminster Abbey, the final resting place of some of England's monarchs and other famous individuals.  The section he was buried in became known as "Poet's Corner" because it eventually housed the remains of several literary giants of Great Britain.  While stumbling about Westminster Abbey without the benefit of a tour guide back in 2003, I became frustrated that I couldn't locate Poet's Corner - and, in particular, the burial site of Chaucer.  Finally I snagged the attention of a young guide.  When I asked him to direct me to Poet's Corner, he laughed (politely) and said, "This may embarrass you, but you are standing in the center of it."   I wasn't embarrassed.  Then I asked about Chaucer's burial site, and he said that it wasn't marked, but "It's around here somewhere.")

Thank heavens Chaucer's body of work, unlike his corporeal body, has not been misplaced!

Please enjoy.

Rondel of Merciless Beauty
by Geoffrey Chaucer

Your two great eyes will slay me suddenly;
Their beauty shakes me who was once serene;
Straight through my heart the wound is quick and keen.

Only your word will heal the injury
To my hurt heart, while yet the wound is clean -
Your two great eyes will slay me suddenly;
Their beauty shakes me who was once serene.

Upon my word, I tell you faithfully
Through life and after death you are my queen;
For with my death the whole truth shall be seen.
Your two great eyes will slay me suddenly;
Their beauty shakes me who was once serene;
Straight through my heart the wound is quick and keen.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Survival Tips for an American Despot

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

As Donald Trump does Saudi Arabia where he scrapes, and bows, and perhaps even curtsies before the country's Muslim king, his political troubles back home show no sign of abating.  Indeed, poor Donald John may return next week to find that the political quagmire that threatens to suck him under has grown wider and deeper in his absence.  The man whom British and Vegas bookies both see as likely to be impeached or driven from office, appears to be sinking with alarming speed.

But that does not have to be the case.  Trump, at present, is obviously taking advice from an inept cadre of political hacks and inexperienced aides - and perhaps even some individuals who are surreptitiously plotting his downfall.  If there was ever a time for rampaging paranoia, this is it!

Donald John, it's not too late to save yourself.  What follows are a few of my humble suggestions to preserve and protect your reign over these United States.  Please feel free to use them as you like.

  • Cover-up!  Lie, forget, stonewall.  Impede the investigation at every turn by using every dirty trick in the book.  The bastards are out to get you - don't do anything to make their job any easier!
  • Threaten subordinates.  Keep those insects in a state of constant panic.
  • Record every speck of White House conversation.  Some day it could be the basis of a really great reality television show - and you will own the tapes!
  • Keep a tight rein on the press.  Journalists are nothing but a plague of two-legged locusts that need to be eradicated.  Avoid them, ridicule them, and spray them with your poisonous invective whenever the opportunity arises.  Never let them forget that they are nothing but inconsequential purveyors of fake news.
  • Know your enemies. Who would be in line to benefit most from your downfall?  Let Mike Pence and Paul Ryan both know that if you go down you will take them with you.  Hardball, Donnie, hardball! 
  • Tweet!  Tweet till the cows come home.  Set a goal of fifty angry tweets a day - that will show the world how tough you are.   They don't have to make sense and spelling isn't important, but the tweets must show your absolute strength and rage.  (A tray of martinis would probably help to juice up your thought processes.)
  • Avoid exercise at all costs.  It's a known fact that people have died while exercising.  Don't become a statistic.  Paul Ryan is a gym rat, and you know you are going to be around to dance at his funeral - and probably make a grab or two at the widow while you stumble across the dance floor.
  • Sleep?  Who needs it.  Nighttime is tweet time!
  • Nourishment?  Culver's has a fantastic Butter Burger (order a bag full) and fried cheese curds, and Burger King has a bacon double cheeseburger that is to die for - and there's always the Big Mac!     All of that can be had with double fries, shakes aplenty, and soft dip ice cream and pie for dessert!  Salads are for rabbits - and losers!
Keeping your tiny hands on the levers of power will take hard work on your part, Donald John - but we are all pulling for you - honest, we are!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Trump's Most Excellent Muslim Vacation

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Yesterday Donald Trump began his first foreign trip as our nation's sort-of elected leader, and the world seems to be collectively holding its breath to see how the egomaniac handles himself on the world stage during this eight-day travelpalooza.

The first stop is in Saudi Arabia where, among other things, an assemblage of world leaders has been convened by the Saudi's to welcome their new best friend, Donald John, the American arms merchant.  (One has to wonder how many of those American-manufactured weapons being sold into Middle Eastern arsenals will ultimately be responsible for injuries and deaths of members of America's military?)

More than thirty of the world leaders gathered by the Saudis to meet Trump will be from predominantly Muslim countries, a situation that could be embarrassing for anyone capable of feeling either remorse or shame, but probably not for Donald John.  The man who trashed Muslims with wild abandon during the presidential campaign and played on the fears of his under-educated supporters, has now firmly shifted into his world statesman mode and all of that previous slobbering hatred has been relegated to the bin of  "just campaign talk."

While on the ground in Saudi Arabia, Donald Trump will be treated like a royal potentate by the Saudis, wallowing in a style he no doubt feels he deserves, but he will also have work to do.  Trump will there representing American businesses, and in particular arms dealers.  He also plans to deliver an address to the Saudis and the world to clear up some on his misunderstood views on Islam and to encourage the world's Muslims to unite against Islamic extremists.  According to H.R. McMaster, Trump's National Security Adviser:

"He (Trump) will develop a strong, respectful message that the United States and the entire civilized world expects our Muslim allies to take a strong stand against radical Islamist ideology, an ideology that uses a perverted interpretation of religion to justify crimes against all humanity."

Calling out religious extremism and encouraging responsible followers of the religion to rise up and counter the fringe forces attached to their religion is a sensible approach to addressing the problem.  It almost makes one wonder why Trump would not use that same approach here at home to quell the atrocities of Christian extremists.

Trump, however, cannot rail against Christian extremists because he is their love child.  He can only gnash his teeth and bemoan those terrible, awful, horrible, Mooslims.

In the world view of Donald Trump and his peeps, the Tsarnaev brothers were  religious extremists.  Dylann Roof and Eric Rudolph were not. 

Religious extremism, it would seem, is in the eye of the beholder.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Tillerson Gives Dumbest Answer Ever

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Rex Tillerson, a billionaire businessman who was the long-time head of Exxon, may be smart enough to run an oil company, but as a diplomat on the world stage, he still has a lot to learn.

This past week as one of the Trump scandals broke - the one where Donald John posing as a statesman blurted out state secrets to two visiting Russian diplomats - Russian President Vladimir Putin, being ever so cutesy-putesy, offered to provide Congress with a transcript of the meeting that had occurred inside of the White House.

Journalist Andrea Mitchell seized on this bit of Russian bravado and turned it into a question which she then proceeded to ask Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.  Mitchell's question, in response to Putin's offer of a transcript of the meeting, was this:  "Do you think the Russians are bugging the Oval Office?"

Tillerson, who is a bit of a cold fish when it comes to cultivating reporters or dealing with the public in general, stammered back:  "I have no way of knowing that."

The answer was no doubt correct.  How could someone as august and important as a United States Secretary of State possibly know if listening devices had been sprinkled among the ferns in the Oval Office or sewn into the historic room's curtains?

But, more importantly, how could he not know?  Does the most heavily armed nation on earth just allow foreign agents to waltz in and out of its corridors of power planting bugs willy-nilly?

The answer should have been "no," Rex - and not "no" but "hell no!"  When you speak to the press or to any diplomatic assemblage you are a voice of the nation, and not just the vocal expulsions of some bumbling bureaucrat.  Putin was playing a game with his challenge to provide a transcript, and you ceded the diplomatic victory to him with your milque toast response.

Smarten up - or shuffle off!

Do the Russians have the Oval Office bugged?  Hopefully the Secret Service will rip the place apart to find out for sure, but my guess would be that they do not.  Why go to all of that trouble and expense to learn what the President is up to when they can just call Trump and ask him - or tell him!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Boone Macy Graduates from High School

by Pa Rock
Proud Grandpa

My oldest grandchild, Boone Macy, turned eighteen less than two weeks ago, and tonight he will graduate from high school.  Everyone in the family is very proud of him.  Here are a few of my thoughts on this significant transitioning point in Boone's life - presented as a letter to him.

Dear Boone,

Tonight you will walk across the stage and receive your high school diploma, graduating "cum laude" no less!  It will be a big night for you, and hopefully only one of many grand achievements that you will chalk up in life.  You have always been a good student, and I know that your natural curiosity and inquisitive nature will serve you well as you start college in the fall.  

The years that you spend in college will help to set a direction for the rest of your life.  It will also be in college where your world will begin to rapidly expand as you become friends with students from other parts of the state, the nation, and the world.  Some of those friendships will last a lifetime, and a few will be instrumental in the job choices that you make and the places you choose to live.  College will be an important experience in your life on so many different levels.

The courses you take and the interests you pursue in college will not only set the general direction that you will take in life, they will also be key in building the knowledge base and collection of skills that you will use to forge your way forward.  

Your time in college will come and go very quickly.  Make good choices while you are there, and take as much from the experience as you possibly can.   Go to class, read assignments, ask questions, and listen to what everyone has to say.  If something catches your interest, dig in and study it in greater depth.  College is all about growing and learning.  Find your passion and cultivate it.

College will be an adventure, Boone.  Enjoy it and learn all you possibly can.  Never forget that you have lots of people in your corner who are rooting for your success in life.  Make us proud.

Much love,

Pa Rock

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Republicans Fleeing Trump are in Full Stampede Mode

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Yesterday in this space I commented on the Trump scandal de jour, which was his blabbing of secret information to Russian diplomats, and noted that some prominent Republicans were beginning to jump ship in order to distance themselves from their leader.  That story fit a developing pattern with the administration's handling of leaks:  a story breaks in the press, there is an immediate "White House" denial, and then Trump finally comes forward, usually in a tweet, and says essentially, "Yeah, I did it - and so what are you going to do about it?"  When all else fails, let loose the bully.

But today is a new day, and, of course, we are now knee-deep in another scandal.   Late yesterday it was reported in the press that last February, one day after he fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, Trump pressured FBI Director James Comey to drop his agency's investigation of General Flynn and his ties to Russia.  The "White House" has denied the story, and now the country is waiting impatiently for Trump to own it - and dare anyone to do anything about it.

Here's what is known:  Director Comey was invited to the White House for a meal and conversation in mid-February.  Also present with Trump and Comey were Vice-President Pence and Attorney General Sessions.  After the meal, Trump dismissed Pence and Sessions so that he could have a private talk with Comey.  According to a memo for record written by Comey after the meal - and then shared with other officials at the FBI, Trump said the following regarding the FBI's investigation of Flynn:

"I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go.  He's a good guy.  I hope you let this go."

Pressure, pressure, pressure!  Comey, however did not let it go, and three months later he was fired by the man who had tried to get him to drop the investigation.

If the GOP rats were jumping ship yesterday to get away from the ever-expanding Trump drama, today they are in full stampede mode and trampling one another as they rush to save their scandal-scarred hides.    Fox News, long a stable for Republican talkers, could not find any member of the GOP willing to say more than "no comment" regarding today's scandal.  CBS This Morning reached out to twenty prominent Republicans to comment on air on the Comey memo - and all twenty declined.

But a few are talking.

Now some Republicans are even letting the word "impeachment" slip into their running commentary on the collapsing Trump administration.  Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan was asked by The Hill if the Comey memo was true, would it merit impeachment?  Amash's to-the-point answer was "Yes."

Crusty old John McCain, who yesterday had been "disturbed" by Trump leaking classified information to Russia, now says that allegations against the Trump administration have reached "Watergate size and scale."  (Journalists hungry fro a good quote know that Johnny Mac can always be relied upon to go well beyond a puny "no comment.")

John Dean, who as a young man was Richard Nixon's White House lawyer, is still kicking - and talking.  Dean says that the Comey memo is the "smoking gun" that could bring Trump down - "like Nixon."

It's getting wide and it's getting deep.

Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz, the head of the House Oversight Committee, has suddenly kicked into gear.   The once reluctant investigator on behalf of the American people, now seems to have taken an interest in finding out what is really going on in Trumpland.  Yesterday he sent a letter to the acting head of the FBI requesting all "memoranda, notes, summaries, and recordings" of discussions between Trump and Comey.  Chaffetz noted in his letter that he has he "subpoena pen" at the ready.  He set a May 24th deadline for the FBI to voluntarily comply.

Politicians, like rats everywhere, know a storm is coming.  As the dark clouds of impeachment begin to gather on the horizon, their survival instincts are kicking into gear and they are running for high ground.  Some will make it, others will get trampled, and still others will be pulled under by a desperate despot as he flails in vain to make himself great again.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Trump's Rats Are Jumping Ship

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Donald Trump assumed the presidency, an office for which he was totally unprepared, less than four months ago, and during the several weeks of his reign of petulance and bombast he has proven time and again that he is completely unfit to lead our nation.   Even without Trump's continuous and shameless attempts to promote his personal businesses through the presidency - and his unnerving closeness to Russian oligarchs and the Kremlin, Trump shows an almost daily determination to be his own worst enemy.   Regrettably, as he destroys himself, he is also pulling our country down with him.

Yesterday the Washington Post broke a story that Trump had shared classified information with Russia's ambassador and foreign minister when they visited the White House last week.  The nature of the information was apparently something which would expose covert American intelligence sources to the Russians.  The information was reportedly so sensitive that it had not even shared with our allies.  Today it was reported that the source of the intelligence was Israel, our closest ally in the Middle East.  That probably has Netanyahu wishing he had his old nemesis, Barack Obama, back in the White House.

(Be careful what you pray for, Benjie!)

One of the scenarios being floated as to how something this outrageous could have happened has the pompous Trump bloviating to his Russian guests, trying to impress them with his deep knowledge of world affairs, - and proving his point by openly discussing highly classified information.

The White House initially went into full-denial mode, but Trump later owned up to the incident through his favorite medium - Twitter.    Essentially he said that a president can declassify and discuss whatever he damn well pleases - and, for once, he is right.  But being right about process does not abate the potential of harm caused by his rash and careless action. 

Donnie Boy, if you were a reader and/or had even a basic knowledge of American history, you would have undoubtedly come across the old World War II slogan that encouraged all of America to be very cautious regarding military information    Posters across the nation reminded the patriotic folks at home as well as those on the front lines that  "Loose Lips Sink Ships."  Sooner or later people with the ability to start the impeachment process are going to get tired of watching you sink your own battleships - and ours!

Democrats, with the possible exception of Senator Joe Manchin, are fairly open in their disgust with the reckless behavior and excesses of Donald Trump.  Now, not too surprisingly, Republicans, who stood pretty much en masse behind their deeply flawed candidate last November, are also starting to air concerns.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Bloomberg News:

"I think we could do with a little less drama from the White House - on a lot of things."
 Or, to paraphrase The Mitchster:  "Hey Fat Boy, STFU!"

John McCain, the geriatric senator from Arizona, said that he is "disturbed" about Trump's erratic behavior - and if McCain is disturbed, Lindsey probably has the vapors!

Tennessee's Bob Corker,  one of the more respected and sensible GOP members of the Senate, observed that the Trump presidency appears to be in a "downward spiral."

But, perhaps most damning of all are the views currently being expressed by Satan's Pit Bull, Ann Coulter.  The rabid right-wing commentator and book huckster is openly talking a splitting with Trump, a candidate she ardently supported last year despite what she saw as his "grotesque personality."  The severely disillusioned Ms. Coulter laments the fact that Trump is utterly failing to keep his campaign promises - and she seems to be especially chagrined that construction of the much vaunted wall between the United States and Mexico no longer appears to be a Trump priority.

Rats, it would seem, know instinctively when a ship is about to sink.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Monday's Poetry: "A Goose and a Duck"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Life ebbs and flows on a farm.  This past week witnessed the passing of Caesar, the little goat who had been in residence at Rock's Roost for less than a week - and yesterday an older friend also appeared to be preparing to depart this idyllic rural life.

Hector, the senior duck at the farm, has been a fixture here since his birth in a incubator on my kitchen table top last July.  The beautiful black Cayuga was undoubtedly lonely through most of his existence here at the farm, being the only creature in residence with webbed feet.  Six weeks or so ago I brought home four little Cayuga ducklings and six Toulouse goslings.  I kept the little birds together in a caged area for a month or so until I felt they had reached sufficient size to survive life in a penned compound.  Hector, who had begun to notice that they bore some resemblance to himself, offered no resistance when I ushered him into the penned area to join them.

There is a garden shed in the pen, and Hector wisely slept there the first night, but the little water fowl dog-piled into a corner of the pen for safety.   Nevertheless, some stealthy predator entered the pen and made off with one of the ducklings the first night that they spent outside of the caged area.  The next day I smartened up and erected a couple of barricades behind which the little birds could hide.  I also set up a radio in the yard and let a classic rock station play across the outdoor area for the next several nights, giving the illusion that humans were active throughout the evening hours.

The radio worked amazingly well, and I believe that the syndicated radio program, "Nights with Alice Cooper" was especially instrumental in keeping the predators at bay.  Now I only play the radio at night on an occasional basis, yet the raids on the poultry have not resumed.

Thanks, Alice.

Hector is a strange and crafty duck.  He often disappears in the evenings, and try as I might I can't figure out where he goes - but he is always back by the next morning.  Some mornings he would reappear within the closed hen house, meaning that he had actually been there all evening, but the not-too-bright farmer was not able to find him.  Once Hector moved in with the ducks and geese, he began hiding and sleeping during the day and then patrolling the pen at night.

But Hector disappeared for a couple of days, which was unusual, and did not reappear until yesterday afternoon.  He presented as weak and lethargic.  When some of the young roosters decided to take advantage of his weakened condition and attack, I jumped in and sent the feathered bullies fleeing for safety.  Then I picked poor Hector up, something he would normally never allow.  He emptied his gullet of water as I held him - and he looked to be very frail.

Hector, in his nearly a year at the farm, had never discovered the small pond that sits over a slight rise about a hundred yards from the hen house.  I carried him to the edge of the pond and sat him down.  He waddled out into the water and went for a swim.  I came back about an hour later and found him still in water sitting among the reeds next to the bank .  He appeared content, though far from frolicsome.   When I again returned just before dusk, the duck was gone - and he was not around this morning.

I fear that this time Hector is gone for good - which is sad because he was on the verge of having a community of web-footed friends with whom to share his farm existence.  Not only are the six goslings, now half-grown, and three Cayuga ducklings all still doing well, but two weeks ago I brought home an additional four Cayugas.  Rock's Roost is fast becoming "Ducks and Geese R Us!"  Hector would have so loved that - particularly as he would have been the Big Duck in the very small pond.

(In related news, Sony Pictures has announced a remake of 1964's "Father Goose" which will feature a mature Ryan Gosling in the title role  - and MGM/UA is set to begin filming an as yet untitled psychodrama staring Ben and Casey Affleck as a pair of obnoxious insurance salesmen.  The musical score for the untitled flick is being composed by Drake.  Honk!  Quack!)

Please enjoy today's simple and fantastical farm poem, "A Goose and a Duck" by Jade Elizabeth Trainor.  If Hector has moved on to a different life, I hope he has a goose, or some other friend, to be his companion.

A Goose and a Duck
by Jade Elizabeth Trainor

A goose and a duck walked through a farm,
Holding each others wings like arms,
The farmer froze and watched them cross the yard,
His wife stock still and staring hard.
A dog started to bark loudly at the two,
It startled them so into the air they flew,
Past the farm and into the town,
It never occurred to them to look down.
Past the town and into the city,
The air smelled stale and slightly gritty,
They landed in a large flock of birds,
But neither could understand a single word.
Into the sunrise they set off the next day,
They didn’t have time for the slightest delay,
Side by side the flew through the air,
The city folk all stopped at once to stare.
Upon their return home to the farm,
The cold night air still and calm,
They flew into the barn to sleep,
Wings around each other not a peep.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Missing Mom on Mother's Day

by Pa Rock
Proud Son

Mother's Day 2017.

This is a day for honoring mothers, the hearts, souls, and unifying forces of families all around the world.  My own mother, Ruby "Florine" Sreaves Macy, has been gone for over thirty years now, but there is hardly a day goes by that I don't have occasion to stop what I am doing and think of her.  She was a couple of years younger than I am now when she passed away back in the winter of 1986, a life cut short by chain-smoking and a never-ending stream of hard work and service to others.

It's the little things that I remember clearest about Mom.   She always had a job and often my little sister and I would have to scramble to come up with breakfast or lunch, but Mom always had a good supper on the table.  The evening meal would include some type of meat, often meatloaf - but never steak, a vegetable, and fried potatoes.  Her fried potatoes were wonderful, crisp and brown, crunchy and tasty.   Desert was often coconut pie or Mom's wonderful spice cake, both of which seemed to permanently reside on her kitchen counter

Mom dressed nice, but on a budget.  She wore many of the same clothes for years, raising and lowering hemlines in order to stay fashionable.  Dressing her children properly for school was the priority. She liked to sew and make clothes, particularly for herself and my sister, and for awhile she worked for J.C. Penney in the backroom doing alterations.  In her time Mom made dozens of household pretties like doilies, throw pillows, quilts, and all of the household curtains. 

In her later years my mother joined a group of ladies who were all learning to paint, and through the Riverside Art Guild, Mom created many beautiful landscapes and rural scenes that have honored places in the homes of her children and grandchildren today.

My mother grew up and came of age during the Great Depression and World War II.  It was a time when young people were were literally thrust upon the world, whether they were ready for it or not, and through those rugged experiences, she realized the need for her children to become independent and self-reliant.   Nevertheless, I will always remember the first time she and my dad visited me at college.  I had been away from home for about a month, living in the dormitory, when they came on a Sunday afternoon to take me out to lunch.  After the meal Mom said that she would collect whatever dirty clothes I had accumulated and take them home to wash.  She was surprised (probably shocked) and obviously disappointed when I told her that I had been up late the previous night getting all of the laundry caught up myself!

She had taught me well.

Mom, I miss you.  Thanks for the good start in life.

And while I'm at it:

Happy Mother's Day to my daughter, Molly Macy Files, and my daughter-in-law, Erin Macy.  Molly is a stay-at-home mother of three children, ages five to nine.   She does everything but stay at home.  Molly is constantly on the road running a Mom Taxi to various schools, lessons, play dates, and all of the other child-related obligations that populate modern life.  Erin works outside of the home almost every day but still finds time to be an energetic and involved mother to two little ones, ages five and almost one.  When I visit either of these young women, I barely have the energy to watch them, much less even try to keep up with them.  Mothering ain't for sissies!

Happy Mother's Day to the world's true heroes!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Of Pots, Kettles, and Showboats

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

This past week Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey.  He did so in a very calm and deliberative manner after carefully reviewing Comey's job performance and conducting a thorough appraisal of how Comey's removal would be likely to play out across on-going FBI investigations.  Donald Trump was the epitome of a professional executive as he terminated the services of a government employee.

Well, not exactly . . .

Trump apparently made the decision late last Tuesday afternoon to fire Director Comey who was serving the third year of a ten-year term as head of the FBI.  At the time Comey was in Los Angeles speaking to FBI west coast field agents.  Trump drafted a quick letter and sent it to Comey's Washington, D.C. office by courier.

It then fell to the administration full-time stooge and occasional press secretary, Sean Spicer, to notify the wolverines in the press corps.  Spicer's first instinct was to email the bombshell news to the  reporters who cover the White House, but his email system was having some performance issues, so the erstwhile flack stepped into his office doorway and "yelled" the news to reporters who were gathered there.  Tweets began flying, and within five minutes it was national news.

James Comey learned about his removal from office while speaking in Los Angeles as news bulletins flashed across a nearby television screen.  Comey said later that his initial reaction was to assume it was a joke - fake news, if you will.

It's hard to get more professional than that.  But Donald already had his shovel dirty and he was determined to just keep digging.

Trump's initial justification for the firing of James Comey was that it was based on a report submitted to him by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Assistant Attorney General-designate Rod Rosenstein which outlined Comey's shortcomings in office, particularly in regard to the alleged mishandling of Hillary Clinton's email situation.  Trump claimed in that letter that Comey had told him three times that he, Trump, was not the subject of any FBI investigation - an attempt at misdirection so blatant that it led many to conclude that Trump's hostility to the FBI's investigation of ties between his campaign and Russia was undoubtedly the primary factor in the firing.

But he had a report from Sessions and Rosenstein - a justification for getting rid of James Comey.

Trump, however, is like a dog with a bone.  Once he buries the bone, he just can't let it stay buried - he has to keep digging it up and burying it again and again.

So his story changed.  By the end of the week Trump said that he had fired James Comey as a result of the report from the leaders of the Justice Department, but added the caveat that he had already determined, even before seeing the report, that he was going to fire James Comey anyway.

The following day, as if to underscore the Russian connection, Trump met in the Oval Office with two prominent Russian officials:  Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.  Photos of that brief meeting undoubtedly helped to strengthen the notion that many American's had regarding Trump's unusually strong ties to Russia.

But that wasn't enough of the old thumb-in-your-eye Trump style of communicating.  Minutes after the Russians left, Trump had another meeting in the Oval Office, this one with Richard Nixon's former secretary of state, Henry Kissinger.  The optics from that meeting helped to cement the growing public perception of a similarity between Nixon's "Saturday Night Massacre" and Trump's "Tuesday Night Massacre."

The Donald was either too dumb to parse all of that out ahead of time and realize the impressions that those meetings could create, or he was in his full emperor mode and daring the world to make something of it.

And then the leaks started as the White House and FBI headquarters both became veritable waterfalls of unofficial information provided by anonymous sources.  Particularly galling to Trump were reports that Comey had retained the loyalty and support of FBI agents - despite White House claims to the contrary.  Trump, in one of his Twitter rages warned that Comey had better hope the conversations he had with Trump had not been taped - because apparently whatever Comey's people were leaking could be counteracted with the tapes.  The only thing Trump succeeded in doing with that not-so-veiled threat was to make investigators aware that Trump was likely taping his meetings - a la Richard Nixon.  Hello, subpoenas!

A day or two after all of that, Trump got back onto the Comey firing again, saying essentially that the former FBI Director had become too self-absorbed and had turned into a "grand-stander" and a "showboat."

It was at that point that I began to develop my first glimmer of respect for Mr. Comey.  Being called a "showboat" by the showboat of all showboats should be an honor almost beyond measure!  Why, a man with that type of public affirmation ought to be a shoe-in for future public office and maybe even his own reality television show!

Pot, kettle - Mr. Tiny Hands - pot, kettle!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Vote Suppression Goes National

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Donald John Trump, the man who claimed an historic landslide last November, never mind the fact that his opponent received three million more votes than he did, has been smarting over those pesky vote totals for months now.  A loss by any measure is difficult for someone with an ego the size of the Goodyear blimp to handle.  Donald John quickly decided that he lost the popular vote due to fraudulent votes cast for Hillary Clinton.  It was a convenient falsehood that not only painted the Democrats as crooks, but took a nice little sideswipe at immigrants as well - the people seen by Trump's yeehaws as the ones most likely to have cast those illegal votes.  It was a twofer!

Yesterday, in a move to address the imaginary issue of voter fraud (and to take the focus off of the current swirl of news around Trump's firing of the FBI Director), Donald John announced that he was setting up a "Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity," to counteract all of that massive voter fraud that had tainted what should have been his huge victory last fall.

Republican state legislatures around the country have been focused on"voter fraud" over the past several election cycles (when they weren't focused on gerrymandering), though their actual intent was not to lessen voter fraud, a phenomenon so rare as to be virtually non-existent, but rather to suppress the votes of the poor, those likely to be living more transitory lifestyles, and the elderly who sometimes experience difficulty in coming up with original documents like birth certificates.    This shameless manipulation of the voting rules was designed for one purpose only - to keep people from exercising their Constitutional right to vote.

Now Donald John wants to drag this electoral sleight-of-hand onto the national stage, to take the hillbilly hokum propagated by (predominantly white and male) used car dealers, insurance salesmen, and farmers in rural legislatures and give it a federal stamp of approval.   To direct this monument to fake news, Trump has chosen a master vote-manipulator and immigrant-basher, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.  Kobach is not only the author of Arizona's odious SB 1070, the "show me your papers" law, he has also helped to write voter identification (suppression) laws in a number of other states as well.  Kobach is well steeped in the lie of voter fraud, and now he will have a national platform from which to entertain and incite the gullible.

How fortunate we are to live in a country where our politicians work so diligently to restrain our involvement in the workings of their government.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Death on the Farm

by Pa Rock

Farms are places that witness the full spectrum of life, from the joyousness of birth to the ultimate demise through death.  The reality of the cycle of life is perhaps even more readily apparent on small farms, like mine, where many of the animals have names and interact daily with the humans who stumble through their world.  Everyone on the farm operates in the knowledge that what is playing underfoot today may be gone by tomorrow.

Still it is hard when a farm creature dies.

Caesar, the little goat that I wrote about earlier this week, became a family member at Rock's Roost this past Saturday when I brought him home from a swap meet.  He was just twelve days old when he arrived here, and he was still being fed with a bottle.

Caesar and I had a good Saturday as he got to know the farm and his new neighbors.  Saturday evening I fed him a bottle he eagerly consumed.  Sunday morning he was ill, and he stayed sick throughout the day.  I figured out, correctly, that I had mixed his formula too strong.  Monday, when he was back on his feed and acting friskier, I called the veterinarian.  The vet said that his symptoms indicated that the formula had been too strong, but he suggested that if Caesar was feeling better - and he was - to wait two additional weeks before bringing him in, at which time he would be wormed and receive an all-purpose shot.

Tuesday morning Caesar was fine and consumed a full bottle of formula.  At lunch time, however, he declined another bottle - but was playful, nonetheless.  By that evening things suddenly turned worse.  I found Caesar lying lethargically in the straw, though with no signs of pain.  At dawn the following morning he was dead.

Caesar's spirit has crossed the Rubicon in search of greener pastures, and his temporal body has been buried beneath the root ball of a holly tree that my son planted on the farm yesterday.  The evergreen reminder of the young life cut short will serve as habitat for other life at the farm for years to come.  I suspect that the little goat would have liked that.

The question I neglected to ask at the swap meet was this:  "Why has this little goat been removed from his mother?"  Was he ill to begin with, or, like the Russian infants that I saw in a Moscow orphanage, was he suffering in silent despair at the loss of his mother, his first and strongest connection to the strange world that he had abruptly entered two weeks earlier.  The lesson I have learned is to never adopt an animal that has not been weaned.

Caesar, I regret any role that I played in the brevity of your time on this earth.  I will think of you as I watch the holly tree reaching for the sky and providing safety and comfort to other life on the farm.  Play on, young spirit, play on.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Trump Channels Nixon

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

It took Richard Nixon nearly five years in office before he sank to the point of firing individuals to impede an investigation that posed a threat to his presidency.  Donald Trump, never one to be outdone by anybody, managed to reach Nixon's insane level of paranoia in just one-hundred-and-nine days. 

Yesterday, in a move that stunned much of the country and most of its elected leaders, Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, a termination that was so sudden and unexpected that Comey himself, when he heard the news, thought it was a joke.  The comparisons to Nixon were instantaneous, with adjectives like "Nixonian" being sprinkled throughout news commentary - along with a stream of reminders and comparison's to Nixon's "Saturday Night Massacre" where he had to fire his attorney general and assistant attorney general before he came up with a lackey who would agree to fire the Watergate Special Prosecutor.

Trump said he was firing Comey based on recommendations by his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, and the assistant attorney general.  He said the firing was a direct result of Comey's mishandling of Hillary Clinton's email situation, a clumsy debacle of justice that ultimately put Donald Trump in the White House.  Donald Trump said all of that - and Donald Trump lied. 

Trump fired Comey because the FBI was persisting in its investigation of the Trump campaign's ties to the Russian government.  He fired Comey on the very day that a federal grand jury connected to the FBI investigation issued subpoenas.  Trump, exactly like Nixon, was trying to impede an investigation that could sink his presidency.

The news was less than an hour old when some reporters began referring to Comey's firing as the "Tuesday Night Massacre."

Those of us of a certain age have seen it all before.  Once Nixon had been reduced to firing his perceived enemies, it all began unraveling quickly.  Soon he was hitting the sauce and stumbling around the Lincoln Memorial in the middle of the night - and finally our long national nightmare culminated in his resignation.

One of these days not too remote, President Pence will be providing a blanket pardon to Trump for any crimes and misdemeanors he may have committed while serving in his sole political office - and we will have a new spate of ethics laws and guidelines to govern our elected officials.

The pendulum, she swings.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Trump Loses France, Bigly

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Donald Trump, a man who fell three million votes short of carrying his own country in an election last fall, nevertheless feels that he holds great sway on the world stage.  In remarks dating back to the days when he was just a candidate - part of the pack of racist Republican wild hogs - Trump the hate-monger and immigrant-basher was quick to cast himself and his "tough" border stance as a prime reason for Britain voting itself out of the European Union ("Brexit") and for the ascension of Theresa May to head of the British government.  May was also quick to claim  a strong comradeship to Trump.  The two apparently harbored visions of being this decade's Reagan and Thatcher.

Now the British resolve to go it alone on trade appears to be cracking, and Scotland may very well vote to leave the United Kingdom.

But meanwhile back at Mar-a-Lago:

Trump had envisioned the start of a movement that was going to sweep the world.   Trumpism would encourage nativism,  close borders to specific groups, build walls, strengthen militaries, and howl unrelentingly about foreign entanglements like NATO and the European Union.   It was a movement, and it was on the march.

Then, this past Sunday, Trumpism hit a wall when Donald John's preferred candidate in the French Presidential election,  Marine Le Pen, an arch conservative, lost disastrously to moderate Emmanuel Macron.  Trump never actually endorsed Le Pen, not wanting to risk tarnishing his brand in the event she lost, but he did "handicap" the race with this pronouncement:

“She (Le Pen) is the strongest on borders, and she's the strongest on what's been going on in France. Whoever is the toughest on radical Islamic terrorism, and whoever is the toughest at the borders will do well in the election.”
In other words, Trump predicted Le Pen would "do well" because she was of a fascist stripe, like himself.  She didn't do well, and, in fact, Le Pen lost to Macron by more than a two-to-one margin.   France, it would seem, will stay in the European Union for the foreseeable future, and it will not get officially batshit crazy every time a black Muslim from north Africa wades ashore on French soil.  The French, as did the majority of Americans last fall, voted to retain a semblance of common decency and humanity.

The French voted and Donald Trump lost.

And today, in South Korea, a left-of-center candidate appears to be winning the election to become the country's new President.

Trump is having a tough week.  Maybe he needs another vacation.

Viva Macron!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Monday's Poetry: "May Day"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

May Day, a date set aside to honor the world's labor movement, was celebrated a week ago today on May 1st.  But May Day in our country also has a long history of being identified with the blossoming of spring.  Schools in my parents' time had celebrations of May Day with May baskets and children dancing around a May pole.

This poem, "May Day" by Tess Taylor is more aligned with the old time rites of spring May Day than with any political or labor movement.  Taylor looks with a nostalgic eye toward a flower-strewn, sweetly scented spring day, and a season that is almost gone before we can take the time to properly appreciate it.  "The parade I barely noticed was beginning - is already halfway down the street."  Those insightful words could also describe life itself.

(And on this day in May, life at Rock's Roost is rollicking and joyous.  Caesar appears to have fully recovered and enjoyed a good breakfast.  Fiona pranced out of the barn at daybreak, suddenly skinny, with babies undoubtedly hidden in the loft, and the little geese have discovered their swimming pool and are delighting in splashing about.  There is nothing as grand as a day in May!)

May Day
by Tess Taylor

They go, the early flags, the gory maples—
so too the daffodils & Lenten roses.
Other petals swirl & nights warm.
Buds thicken and cast shadows:
in a thunderstorm
I almost forget the ice that was.
Narcissi suckle watery paths;
meadows heap up emerald masses.
How green & I want to delight
except this undertow—it pulls so fast
passing before I recognize it—
like souls in Dante who can’t see the present,
white lilacs curdle in pre-summer heat.
The parade I barely noticed was beginning
is already halfway down the street.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Hail Caesar!

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Spring

One of the biggest advantages to not being tied down in marital bliss is that I am free to make decisions.  I don't have to take a vote whenever I want to go somewhere or make a purchase.  That, however, can also be a big problem to someone who is genetically disposed to impulse buying - like me.  I fight the urge to buy things I really don't need by staying out of flea markets and off of eBay - and, of course, I haven't been in a Walmart in many, many years - so that helps too.

But try as I might to control the urge to splurge, occasionally I find myself totally captivated by something that I truly do not need, and if I happen to have money in my pocket, it is invariably on its way to someone else's wallet - or bib overalls.

That happened yesterday.  I headed two miles out of town early in the morning to attend a poultry "swap meet" where I intended to shop for a few more little pullets as well as any Cayuga ducklings that were there looking for a new home.  As luck would have it, I came across four little Cayuga duck babies and was in the act of purchasing them from the farmer and his wife for a pricey three dollars each when I heard a baby cry directly behind me.  I turned and came upon the most beautiful little Nubian goat in a small cage begging for attention.

The little fellow, a buck, was tri-colored - resembling a calico cat with lop rabbit ears.  The beautiful brown, white, and black creature was just twelve days old and already as tall as a grown cocker spaniel.  I knew immediately that I would wind up taking the kid home with me, but I walked away twice in order to let someone else root their way in and save me from the impulse buy.  Ten minutes later Pa Rock handed the nice lady three crisp twenty dollar bills and left with his new ward.

The little goat was not weaned, but the farmer's wife assured me that he would be eating solid food within a couple of days.  In order to meet his immediate needs she gave me a makeshift soda bottle with a nipple and instructions of where to get his dry formula and how to mix it.

The little goat and I went home and I placed him in the garden pen with the little ducks and geese.  He followed me around most of the afternoon, almost like a lonely puppy, as he got used to his new environs and his noisy pen mates.  One of the names the baby goat and I discussed was "Billy Bob," but he didn't seem to attach to it very well, so we finally settled on "Caesar" - knowing full well that other goats would eventually taunt him with "Caesar, Caesar, nanny pleaser!"  We will handle that situation when the need arises.

I tried my hand at making a bottle late in the afternoon, and botched the job.  Caesar drank the whole bottle, but I suspect that I got the proportions wrong and made it too rich because he became ill shortly after the meal.  Today he has been lying in the sun all day and not eating.  Tomorrow he goes to the vet, regardless of how he appears to be feeling.  Tonight we are trying a much weaker mixture.

Parenting is no walk in the park, but I have high expectations that young Caesar will make it through this setback, and so will his friend, the farmer.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Boone Macy Reaches the Age of Majority

by Pa Rock
Proud Grandpa

My oldest grandchild officially drops the "child" appellation today on the occasion of his eighteenth birthday.  Boone Macy is a man now, able to vote, fight for his country, assume debt, marry without anyone's permission, and make all manner of decisions traditionally reserved for grown-ups.  Today is literally the first day of his adult life.

Boone is my only grandchild who was born in the previous millennium.   He arrived at the Ozark Medical Center in West Plains, Missouri, in 1999 about an hour-and-a-half after that year's Cinco de Mayo stumbled off into history.  I was doing a college internship in Waynesville, Missouri, a little more than a hundred miles away, when his maternal grandmother called to awaken me with the news.  The next day I drove to West Plains to meet the future of the Macy family.

Boone is a budding young musician.  Several years ago I bought him an acoustic guitar, and a few years later when he was ready to learn to play it, he self-taught by watching YouTube videos.  Boone is now a skilled guitarist, and he can sing as well.  He has even been paid to perform at a coffee house in the city where he goes to school.

I am proud of Boone.  He has is a senior in high school and will graduate in twelve days - and then it's off to college, an experience that will rock his young world and give him direction for the rest of his life. 

Keep your head on straight, Boone, and step boldly into the future.  The world is yours - go get it!

Friday, May 5, 2017

The Sun, She Shines

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Spring

The sun is out in southern Missouri, at long last, and it is a beautiful blue and green day!  Alexa just gave the farmer an extended weather forecast which calls for bright, sunny days up until next Wednesday, when it may rain again.  It would appear as though the farmer has five days in which to make hay while the sun is shining!

First up on the farmer's chore list is getting the yard mowed and the garden planted.  He also has to fill the large flower pots with fresh dirt and new flowers, and fill the large hole that was left from the removal of the old (busted) basketball goal.  The little goslings, who still have all of their baby fuzz but are now the size of adult ducks, need to be moved to new, outdoor quarters, along with their close friends, the four baby ducks - who are also getting way too large for their little pen.  Moving them will require hauling fresh straw to the enclosed garden area and shed where they will be staying - and then cleaning out their muddy and nasty old area so that the baby chickens can be upgraded into it.  Then the area that the baby chicks have been living in will also have to be cleaned.

When all of that is under control, the farmer will shift his focus to getting things moved into the two new utility buildings and then making some major renovations to the garage - and any "spare" time he has will  be spent on the lawnmower.

Or, to paraphrase Miss Emily Litella, when it comes to life on the farm, "It's always something."

Enjoy the sunshine - and make some hay!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Congressman Jason Smith Hears from Me - Again

by Pa Rock
Rural Missourian

It took several attempts on the telephone this morning, but I finally was able to get through to the office of my congressman, Jason Smith, a Republican representing Missouri's 8th congressional district.  I hope, based on the amount of telephone traffic that he is apparently receiving, that the congressman is getting his ear well bent on the subject of health care in America.

The young lady who eventually answered by call was very pleasant and polite.  Unfortunately, she did not reveal her identity or else I would send the congressman a note complimenting her by name.

This is the second time that I have called the Congressman's Smith's office to talk on the subject of health care.  I was familiar with the routine and did not expect to actually get to speak to the secluded politician - and, of course, that expectation was met.

During my brief conversation with Smith's telephone operator, I made five points.  She assured me that each would be presented to the congressman.  The concerns I expressed were:

  • The American Health Care Act (Trumpcare) is phony coverage that will leave millions without access to health care.
  •  Trumpcare will devastate rural hospitals and clinics such as those in my town of West Plains.
  • Why can't the richest nation on earth take care of our ill and infirm?
  • I would like to hear what the Congressional Budget Office has to say about the measure - before Congress votes.  Why don't members want to know what it will actually cost?
  • If money is the issue, perhaps Trump should cut back on his weekend jetaways to Florida.

That was all.  It was a simple message presented in a respectful manner.  Now, will Congressman Smith repay that respect by giving my concerns at least cursory consideration?

I've said my piece - twice.  Now it's time for the rest of America to say theirs.  Even if you think there is zero chance that it will do any good at all, call your congressman before today's vote and weigh in on the subject of health care in America - and then post about the call on social media.

Silence is an option that will cost us all dearly.