Saturday, August 19, 2017

Born to Ride!

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Summer

I have just finished two hours on the new zero-turn mowing machine - and I am proud to report that I have mastered the monster.   In two hours of mowing I cut nearly four hours worth of grass - based on what the old mower would have done - and that included quite a bit of maneuvering just for practice.  Later this afternoon I will go out and try to finish.   The yard normally takes a significant  bite out of three days - or more.

I mentioned in the previous post that operating this new contraption was not intuitive.  I was trying to think through every action and response.  Now I feel just the opposite.  After some relaxed practice I found the operation of the zero-turn machine to be completely intuitive.  Once I quit trying to over-think everything  and just developed a feel for the machine's capabilities, it began to feel like it was an extension of myself.  I thought about what I wanted the mower to do - and not necessarily the process for doing it - and the mower responded.

Yesterday I was feeling like John Travolta being thrown around by a mechanical bull - but today I was Dennis Hopper roaring down the highway on a Harley!

Damn, I'm good!

Pa Rock Does the Zero-Turn Thing

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Summer

It's been an unusually cool and rainy August, and while the respite from the sweltering days of mid-July is most certainly welcome, the unpredictable rain showers have served to halt progress on many outdoor endeavors.  During the past two weeks the young raccoon who had taken up residence in the barn inexplicably died, leaving no clue as to what brought about his demise.  The cats and all of the poultry remain fine.  Also two young fawns, one still spotted, have been frolicking about various sections of the farm.  And the skunks, bless them, seem to have moved on.

The sun was out yesterday and I rushed outside to begin mowing - and was, of course, met with mower problems.  My riding mower, which is on its fourth season and recently underwent a major tune-up, was having belt issues.  After an hour of repair efforts by my patient son, it still wasn't working - and I gave up and went mower shopping.  When I returned late in the afternoon, I was the proud owner of an expensive zero-turn machine that cuts a 54-inch swath.

The mower was delivered an hour or so before dark, and the fellow who brought it patiently showed me how to use the yard monster.  When he had completed his spiel and demonstration, I got on and tried my luck.  It turned out to be a performance worthy of a YouTube video.

Nothing on the new mowing machine worked the way that I intuitively felt that it should.  It jerked about as I tried to maneuver using only my hands, sped up each time I tried to effect a turn, and didn't seem to want to stop when I did.  At one point it even shot out into the road with me struggling to stay in the saddle - and the deliveryman running out beside me frantically waving his arms in case any of the neighbors came barrelling by in their cars.  Fortunately I had caught a break in the traffic.

I was reminded of a story Aunt Mary once told me about my Grandfather Macy's one and only attempt to drive a car.  She said that he went round and round in a pasture yelling "Whoa, dammit, whoa!"

Today I will be out "practicing" again - on a straight stretch of land well back from the road.  No doubt the neighbors will soon tire of me yelling "Whoa, dammit, whoa!"

Friday, August 18, 2017

Jefferson Davis Tarred and Feathered

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Donald Trump had barely finished caterwauling about the loss of the "beautiful statues and monuments" following the Charlottesville tragedy when somebody out in Arizona decided to get truly creative in dealing with one of these edifices to a time when slavery was the law of the land.  A vandal - or a freedom-inspired artist - depending on one's point of view, took it upon himself or herself to deface a roadside monument to Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederacy, and the medium used in the attack was one with a long history in America's struggle with race:  tar and feathers.

The incident occurred near Gold Canyon, Arizona, a community sometimes mistakenly referred to as "Gold Camp" along Highway 60 southeast of Apache Junction and about forty miles west of Phoenix.  The area where Arizona holds its annual Renaissance Festival is just a bit further down the same highway.

The monument to  Jefferson Davis was erected by the Daughters of the Confederacy in the 1940's.  One area resident was quoted in the Phoenix press as saying that someone had put a lot of thought into the attack, and it would be expensive to clean up.  Police have taken samples of the tar and feathers used in the incident.

It is unclear at this time whether or not any local poultry have been detained for questioning.

Also this week in the Scorpion State, someone hung a "second-place participation" banner on a memorial to the state's Confederate soldiers at the State Capitol in Phoenix.  It had a ribbon with the message, "You lost, get over it."

Trump is coming to visit next Tuesday, Arizona - tell him how you really feel!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Trump Heads West for Ego Massage

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

When Sally Field's character - an aging soap opera actress - in the movie Soapdish needed an emotional uplift, her friend - and the soap opera's head writer - Whoopi Goldberg, would take her out to a shopping center in New Jersey, arrange to have her suddenly recognized by shopping housewives, and then stand back as Sally's fans swarmed her in praise and adulation.  It was a world-class ego massage designed to bring the actress out of her funk.

Donald Trump is coming off of a very, very bad week, one in which he equivocated and tripped all over himself as he attempted to respond to racial violence in Virginia in a presidential manner without offending the rabid racist elements of his political base.    The Donald was having trouble feeling the love.

The time for an ego massage was definitely at hand - and what venue could be more fitting than a road trip to Arizona, the place where Candidate Trump held seven rallies during the campaign.  The Trump circus would head to Phoenix so the boss could feel the love of the desert dwellers and perhaps even make some major news while he was there.

While Donald Trump may have virtually lived in Arizona during the campaign, he has not been back to the Scorpion State since his inauguration - and he's ready to get out there and soak up some love.  Next Tuesday he will be speaking at the Phoenix Convention Center which is downtown and not too far from Sky Harbor Airport where Air Force One will land.

Many of the state's Republican office holders are expected to be on stage with Trump at the campaign-style rally - with the notable exception of two.  Both Republican United States senators from Arizona,,John McCain and Jeff Flake, are likely to be targets of Trump's infamous ire.  There is even a rumor floating about that Trump will use the rally to endorse a primary opponent of Flake - most likely State Treasurer  Jeff DeWit.

It is also very likely that a convicted felon, former Maricopa County sheriff, Joe Arpaio, will join Trump at the rally.  Trump has strongly hinted over the past few days that he may give Arpaio a presidential pardon for his crimes.  With both Trump and Arpaio's love of the spotlight, the Phoenix rally would seem to be the perfect place to make that big announcement.

And Trump, ever the showman, has promised that he will be making a big announcement next week in Phoenix.

But not everybody loves The Donald, not even in Phoenix.  The city's mayor, Greg Stanton, is encouraging Trump to cancel because "our nation is still healing from the tragic events in Charlottesville."

Trump has other ideas, however.  He is going to Phoenix to forget about Charlottesville and change the subject.   One of the problems with that is that Trump always slides back into his comfort zone of bigotry and snarling hatred.  At his core, Donald Trump is Donald Trump, and a road trip isn't going to change that.

Stay strong, Phoenix!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Walmart Begins Pulling Away from Trump

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Donald Trump and people of his ilk, those who prefer their drinking water to come from golden faucets, have special places where they can retreat to avoid rubbing elbows with common folk.  In the rarefied air of places like Bedminster and Mar-a-Lago Trump can relax and enjoy life among people who, though not his equals, are nevertheless head-and-shoulders above the unwashed masses who elected him to the highest office in the land.  Those dumb asses ain't getting on a Trump property - unless they come to clean rooms!

But Bill Joe Bob and Wanda Jolene have their own sanctuaries, too, places where they can congregate with their friends and neighbors to show off their MAGA ball caps and ill-fitting tee shirts.  The social clubs where Trump supporters meet and regale themselves with stories about how much better America is today than it was when the Muslim Negro was in the White House are called Walmarts - and the high-falutin' ones are called Supercenters.

And they truly are social centers.

Recently I read an article regarding research in some rural areas where the local Walmarts had been closed for business reasons.  A closed Walmart represents not only a significant loss in local taxes, jobs, and commercial activities, a closed Walmart also deprives a community of its meeting place - the place where people go to push around a cart while they look for old friends and acquaintances to visit with.

But besides being a nice place to stop and chat, Walmart is where much of America goes to buy its guns, ammo, Viagra, birth control, liquor,  tobacco,  groceries, pet food, sweat shop clothing, and tiki torches.

Obviously not every Walmart shopper is a Trump supporter, but it would be naive  not to think that a Trump sighting in the parking lot would all but empty many a Supercenter, particularly here in the Midwest.  He is their guy because he is just like them - from the ridiculous hair to the expansive gut and broad butt - to internals like a big streak of meanness and bigotry cloaked in "cultural pride."  The only thing missing is the money, and the lottery is going to fix that someday.

With all of that Trump love flowing up and down the aisles of Walmart, and with the store being controlled by one of the least charitable coven of billionaires in the world, it was quite a surprise when the CEO of Walmart, Doug McMillion, yesterday sent out a letter to store employees (2.3 million worldwide) that was critical of Trump's latest flipflop on the racist-fueled atrocity that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend.  In his letter McMillion said Trump has "missed a critical opportunity to help bring our country together by unequivocally rejecting the appalling actions of white supremacists."

That had to hurt.  Trump had personally attacked several of the other CEO's who had left some of his boards and commissions as a result of his soft-pedaling the actions of the fascist groups who converged in Charlottesville,  but with the rebuke from the Walmart CEO, Trump just brushed it off saying McMillion was making a "political statement."  Walmart, after all, is almost family.  The corporation, which once had a young Hillary Clinton as the only female member of its board of directors,  openly supported Trump's candidacy, and even sponsored a ball for the inauguration.

And McMillion, too, showed some restraint.  He did not vacate his position on Trump's economic and advisory council, a group officially known as the Strategy and Policy Forum - apparently feeling that there was more to be gained by working from the inside.  (If McMillion was waiting for a more dramatic moment to jump from that particular ship, however, he has missed his opportunity because the ever-petulant Trump disbanded the group today.)

But make no mistake, Doug McMillion has thrown down a marker, and the man whom Walmart - and its "shoppers" - helped propel to the White House would be well advised not to ignore the warning.

Minorities work at Walmart, and minorities shop there, too.  And they vote.  Donald Trump would do well to listen to Doug McMillion and to the Americans who still care about real American values - values that have truly made America great.

And bigotry is not one of those values.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Trump Threatens to Pardon Arpaio

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Donald Trump is coming off of a very hard couple of days as a result of his botched comments on the extreme racial violence that wracked Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend.   His initial response was to blame all sides in the conflict, and to not call out by name the racist and fascist groups whose members showed up in the streets to protest the removal of a Confederate statue.  News reports indicated that many of the protesters were from outside of the area - and were armed and shouting obscenities about racial minorities and Jews.

Trump blamed "all sides," and tried to equate the current strife and violence with things that happened during the presidency of Barack Obama as well - a vague and half-hearted response that seemed to be giving cover to the extremists whose actions had precipitated the day's events.  Two days later he regrouped and mumbled a soft condemnation of the KKK and neo-Nazis.  By then nobody was taking him seriously, not even the groups he had finally chosen to criticize.

Donald Trump had placed himself in a public relations box, and to extricate himself from that box he had to go on record and speak critically about groups made up of individuals who had been at the core of his campaign.  When that wash is finally hung out on the line to dry, it won't have changed much.  People who never liked Trump to begin with will be a bit more steadfast in their disgust of the man and his actions - and people who always fed at his trough of hatred will still be happily gobbling up his swill.

But Trump had been called out for his thinly-veiled racist ardor - and he had been forced to mouth words that weren't part of his actual belief system.  Not only had Democrats and their left-wing "fake news" press singled him out for criticism, but some Republican politicians and a few national businessmen had turned on him as well.  He had been gut-punched, and he was damned well going to punch back.

Yesterday Donald Trump floated a trial balloon.  In an attempt to shift the focus away from racism against blacks and back toward his comfort zone of racism against Latinos, Trump told Fox News (of course) that he would likely be pardoning former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio.  Arpaio, who was recently convicted of criminal contempt of court because he blatantly ignored a court order to stop targeting the state's Latino residents in his notorious traffic checks and investigations.   Now Arpaio is awaiting sentencing, a process that could land him behind bars for up to six months.

So Donald Trump lost a big public relations battle in Virginia through his own ineptitude, and now he is trying to balance his racist ledger by using the powers of his office to showcase and forgive another bigot.

Trump pardoning Joe Arpaio would be a case of two flabby old white guys massaging each other's egos.  It would be another of Trump's grand distractions as he continues his failure to govern.  And a Trump pardon of Joe Arpaio would be an insult to thoughtful and caring Americans everywhere - not just those with brown skin.

It would also be a valentine to his fascist base.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Monday's Poetry: "Gentle on My Mind"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Music superstar Glen Campbell passed away this past week.   Campbell, the son of an Arkansas sharecropper, had a distinctive voice that weaved its way though country and pop music for several decades.  The day after Campbell's passing, I asked Alexa to play some of his music - and I was literally entertained for hours with many wonderful songs recorded by Glen Campbell.

One of the songs that I liked best was the iconic "Gentle on My Mind," a beautiful work that was written by John Hartford.   (Hartford, himself a distinctive singer and musician, said that he wrote the piece in about fifteen minutes shortly after watching the movie, Dr. Zhivago.)  Many artists went on to record "Gentle on My Mind," but it was the version by Glen Campbell that most of us remember and love.

Please enjoy its message of undying love one more time.


Gentle on My Mind
by John Hartford

It's knowin' that your door is always open
And your path is free to walk
That makes me tend to leave my sleepin' bag rolled up
And stashed behind your couch

And it's knowin' I'm not shackled by forgotten words and bonds
And the ink stains that have dried upon some lines
That keeps you in the back roads
By the rivers of my memory and keeps you ever gentle on my mind

It's not clingin' to the rocks and ivy
Planted on their columns now that bind me
Or somethin' that somebody said because
They thought we fit together walkin'

It's just knowin' that the world will not be cursin' or forgivin'
When I walk along some railroad track and find
That you're movin' on the back roads
By the rivers of my memory and for hours you're just gentle on my mind

Though the wheat fields and the coal mines and the junkyards
And the highways come between us
And some other woman's cryin' to her mother
'Cause she turned and I was gone

I still might run in silence tears of joy might stain my face
And the summer sun might burn me till I'm blind
But not to where I cannot see
You walkin' on the back roads by the rivers flowin' gentle on my mind

I dip my cup of soup
Back from some gurglin', cracklin' cauldron in some train yard
My beard a roughenin' coal pile
And a dirty hat pulled low across my face

Through cupped hands 'round a tin can
I pretend to hold you to my breast and find
That you're wavin' from the back roads
By the rivers of my memory ever smilin', ever gentle on my mind

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Heather Heyer, a Casualty of Trump's America

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Heather Heyer was just thirty-two-years-old when she was run down by a maniac with delusions of Third Reich grandeur.   Heather grew up in Charlottesville, Virginia, she worked there as a paralegal, and yesterday she died in Charlottesville.  She was peacefully protesting an assortment of Klansmen, Neo-Nazis' and other fascist interlopers who had descended on her fair city to express their outrage at the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

Heather had a right to be in Charlottesville, and she certainly had a right to peacefully protest the presence of the fascists.

The fascists, of course, also had a right to come to Charlottesville and make their own views heard.

But then something awful happened, something which permanently removed Heather Heyer's right to peacefully assemble and protest.  As Heather and an group of quiet but determined anti-fascists gathered on a side street, a steel-gray Dodge Challenger came roaring down that street and plowed into them.   Heather was killed and more than thirty others were injured.  The driver, twenty-year-old James Fields, Jr., managed to turn his vehicle around and flee.  He was later captured and has been charged with second-degree murder.

Fields, who is a resident of Ohio, had been photographed earlier in the day posing with a group of individuals holding shields bearing the logo of a hate group called Vanguard America.  He was dressed the same as the other members of the group in the photo (white polo shirt and tan slacks), yet by the time of his arrest, Vanguard America was denying that he was a member of their organization.  Sometime later in the day Fields made the decision to move beyond just posing for pictures.  Fields got behind the wheel of what one news outlet dubbed his "beloved" Dodge Challenger, stepped on the gas, and tore into a group of counter-protesters - sending bodies flying.

Donald Trump, a man with at least three fascist sympathizers in his inner-circle - Bannon, Miller, and Gorka - issued a statement on the incident which seemed to cast blame on all parties involved in the day's events:

"We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides. It's been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama, it's been going on for a long, long time."
Translated into English, that gibberish might mean "everybody's guilty, shame on them, and that's the way it's always been."   But Trump said it, so who knows what he meant.

Today some of Trump's flacks went on the Sunday morning talk shows and tried to walk back his garbled comment - and Attorney General Sessions has indicated that the Justice Department will be looking at the incident as a "civil rights" matter.  Sadly, with Jefferson Beauregard Sessions at the helm of the Justice Department, a civil rights abuse might not generate the same sense of moral outrage and assured justice as it would have in previous administrations.

Racism and intolerance are on the rise in America.   Charlottesville has shown us that feelings and emotions which people once had the common decency to keep to themselves, are now being proudly displayed for the whole world to witness.  Ignorance not only lives, it is standing tall - and often waving a Confederate flag , or giving a Nazi salute, or throwing a white power sign.   Shame has all but evaporated, and what we are now seeing is the American underbelly - the miscreants who are emboldened by Trump's ugly rhetoric and offenses against common decency.

Donald Trump is reshaping American norms and values.   He is, through his personal guidance of words and deeds, creating a new America that fosters hatred and divisiveness, an America where dangerous people feel empowered to exercise their rights of free speech through acts of violence.

Heather Heyes died in the streets trying to defend another America - the one she knew and loved - an America where everyone could have their say without trembling in fear for their very lives.

May Heather's death become a turning point in our national descent into madness.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Horseman Pass By

by Pa Rock
Proud Nephew

My uncle, Floyd Edgar Sreaves, was born on September 5th, 1930, the youngest child of Dan and Siss Sreaves of rural Newton County, Missouri.  He spent his entire life within a few miles of his birthplace and, at the time of his death this past Wednesday he owned and was living on a property across the road from the place where he had grown up.  He had been the last surviving child of Dan and Siss.

(Uncle Floyd told me once of how he had been at home alone with his mother when he was young, and her dress had caught fire from the wood stove.  He said that he had stayed calm and led her outside and rolled her on the yard to put the fire out.  I am retelling that story here because I don't want it to be lost to history.)

Uncle Floyd was my mother's baby brother.  He was seventeen when I was born in 1948, and Mom told the story of his coming to the hospital to meet me.   Somebody handed me off to Floyd, and after a few minutes of examining his new nephew, he threw my mother into a state of panic when he loudly announced, "Why Florine, he's only got nine toes!"  A hurried recount by Mom revealed that her brother was just being funny - though she was not amused!

Many parents, especially those with several children, "call the roll" when they are angry or upset, snapping children's names at random until they land on the right one.  I was the only boy in our family, and when Mom was angry with me she would often revert back to her birth family and call me"Floyd."

Uncle Floyd's funeral was held today at the Swars Prairie Baptist Church in Newton County, and the burial was in the church's lovely old cemetery - the place where his parents and all four of his grandparents are interred.   Floyd,  a farmer and horseman, was delivered to the church this morning on a beautiful and ornate wooden wagon pulled by two horses, and after the funeral service, his casket was taken out into the cemetery by the same contrivance.

Apparently one of the most affected mourners was Floyd's old mule, Pete.  Pete wasn't at the service, but the minister did discuss him at length in the eulogy.   There was also a color photo of Uncle Floyd sitting astride Pete which was displayed on the front of the funeral program.  They were standing in front of the church's sign out next to the road.

The music for the service was exceptional.  Sheet music was handed out at the door so the mourners could all join in on "I'll Fly Away," a song originally penned by Albert Brumley in McDonald County, Missouri- the county just south of Newton County.  The final selection that played during the viewing of the body was a recording of "Happy Trails" by Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.   The song was looped so that it played throughout the entire viewing.

When the time comes, Pa Rock would like to have both of those tunes played at his funeral service.

The service was a relaxed affair.  I probably stuck out for being in a jacket and tie, but most of the men were dressed far more casually.  The organist, in fact, a friend of Uncle Floyd's who appeared to be in his eighties, was clad in bib overalls.  If I could have shucked my jacket and tie without creating a disturbance, I would have.

Cousins were everywhere.  I visited with one whom I had not seen since I was a little boy in the mid-1950's - and another that I had last encountered at our grandfather's funeral in the same church in 1970.  Most of us were able to figure out who each other was - and one cousin and I had a serious discussion about how all of the others had aged significantly more than we had!

Today was a farewell to Uncle Floyd and it was a good one.  Floyd Sreaves was a nice guy and a good person.  I will miss him.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Trump Sucks - and So Does Your Mother

by Pa Rock
Road Warrior

Rosie and I hit the road this afternoon and drove to northwest Arkansas so that I would be within driving range of a family funeral that will be held in southwest Missouri in the morning.  The trip was fairly uneventful - until we got to Springdale.

When I was a youngster in rural Missouri a half a century ago, northwest Arkansas was little more than a handful of small communities surrounded by pastureland.  Today the area is basically a fifty-mile-long city stretching from the Missouri border to the south side of Fayetteville.  The four-lane highway that traverses the north-south axis is currently being expanded to six lanes, and it will surely be eight by the time my grand-nieces and nephews are driving.  It is fast-becoming what the Trumpers would contemptuously call "cosmopolitan."

Despite the fact that this area of Arkansas is home to Walmart and the mega-greedy Walton family, it still exhibits progressive leanings and has cultural opportunities that are rare in other parts of Arkansas.   But, it is still Arkansas, and some knuckleheads still persist in thinking that things here are like they were when Orval Faubus was governor.  The Springdale section of the metroplex, in particular, seems to harbor more than its fair share of tobacco-spitting rednecks driving big pick-up trucks.

I pulled in behind one of them at a McDonalds in Springdale this afternoon.  The fellow, a big brute driving a big truck, had a bumper sticker that trumpeted his contempt for the more progressive elements who are now populating his Arkansas.  It was a plain yellow sticker with black stenciled lettering that declared "Obama Sucks."

Point made and taken.

The imposing Neanderthal looked as though he would brook no challenge to his god-given opinion.

What, I wondered, would happen to the free speech advocate who felt compelled to put a bumper sticker on his Audi or Lexus or Land Rover (or 2005 Saturn Vue) which said "Trump Sucks"?  Would freedom of speech be a valued commodity then, or would that poor progressive get his ass kicked by a baboon in a baseball cap?  My guess is that confrontations would abound.

Last week I read an account from a friend in Indiana who chronicled a angry encounter that a Trump supporter initiated when he saw a woman getting out of a car that had a "Resist" bumper sticker.  The guy apparently became loud and obnoxious as he lectured the woman who dared to have an opinion other than the one he held.   He preached loudly and rudely on the importance of giving Trump a chance.

Trump has been in office more than two hudnred days now, more than a quarter of which he has spent playing golf, and it should be obvious to anyone with half-a-brain and opposable thumbs that he has had his chance - and yet he persists in sucking.  That is a fact, whether its proclaimed on a bumper sticker or just a generally known (and very sad) fact of life.

Donald Trump has, in fact spent much of his time in office name-calling and criticizing others - and it's high time that those of us who are less than enamored of him say so.

In fact, there's probably an "ap" for that!

Trump's Beautiful Russian Laundrette

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Money laundering is a process whereby money gained illegally is mixed into reputable businesses to the point that it begins taking on the appearance of legitimate cash.  I am currently streaming a show on Netflix called "Ozark" which tells the tale of a financial planner in Chicago who gets caught up in money laundering for the Mexican drug cartels.  After the financial planner's partner is killed for skimming profits from the cartel's funds, the planner is forced to flee to the Missouri Ozarks (in the vicinity around the Lake of the Ozarks) and set up a vast business enterprise to continue laundering the cartel's cash.

"Ozark" is phony in that it is almost entirely filmed in Georgia, but the story is interesting - and a careful viewer can come away with quite a bit of knowledge on the problems and profits associated with the process of money laundering.   A business that is shown favor by people laundering money can expect big cash infusions and significant growth.  When a money launderer comes to town, good times follow.

The New Republic magazine had an excellent investigative article last month entitled "Trump's Russian Laundromat.'  The piece's author, Craig Unger, presents a fairly comprehensive look at Donald Trump's business dealings with Russia, a connection that goes back thirty years to 1987 - just before the fall of the Soviet Union.  Unger's narrative suggests that Trump developed ties early on with the emerging Russian oligarchs as they were swooping in and taking over the state-run businesses, and then as those new millionaires and billionaires needed ways to conceal their sudden piles of profit, the Trump organization stood ready to help them invest their cash in glamorous properties.

After detailing some of the early Trump-Russia business dealings, Unger admits that as of yet there is no smoking gun showing that Trump or his organization was knowingly involved in Russian criminal activity, but that he (Trump) might have been a "convenient patsy" in the process with his condos and casinos.  But, "patsy" or not, according to Unger Trump benefited from his strong ties to Russia.

"But even without an investigation by Congress or a special prosecutor, there is much we already know about the president’s debt to Russia. A review of the public record reveals a clear and disturbing pattern: Trump owes much of his business success, and by extension his presidency, to a flow of highly suspicious money from Russia. Over the past three decades, at least 13 people with known or alleged links to Russian mobsters or oligarchs have owned, lived in, and even run criminal activities out of Trump Tower and other Trump properties. Many used his apartments and casinos to launder untold millions in dirty money. Some ran a worldwide high-stakes gambling ring out of Trump Tower—in a unit directly below one owned by Trump. Others provided Trump with lucrative branding deals that required no investment on his part. Taken together, the flow of money from Russia provided Trump with a crucial infusion of financing that helped rescue his empire from ruin, burnish his image, and launch his career in television and politics."

And now Donald Trump is being faced with an aggressive Special Prosecutor who is investigating not only Russian involvement in the 2016 election, the one that elevated the once-struggling businessman to the White House, but that same prosecutor is issuing subpoenas and conducting "no knock" raids apparently looking into business connections that Trump and his family and underlings had with Russia.

One school of thought is that the ultimate focus of the Mueller investigation is money laundering, and that many of the almost bizarre pronouncements and tweets by Donald Trump are launched specifically to keep the public's focus off of Mueller's digging.   Trump's tweets are meant to be distractions.

Russia appears to have been the key to Donald Trump's political success, and, quite fittingly, it also seems to be his Achilles Heel.    Mueller needs to keep following the money - and it's fairly obvious where that is leading.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

A Bit About Guam

by Pa Rock
World Traveler

Guam is an official "territory" of the United States that was acquired as a result of the Spanish American War more than a century ago.  Both Guam and its sister territory of Puerto Rico are occasionally discussed in terms of becoming future American states.

And both are beautiful almost beyond description.

I have been to Guam three times, and would hop on a plane and head there again tomorrow if the opportunity presented itself.  My first trip there was in 1973 as we were leaving Okinawa.  Our plane landed on Guam late at night for a quick refill of fuel, but I was helping to care for an upset infant and did not have the energy to even step off of the plane to look around.  Today Guam still functions as a gas station for international flights.  Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had been hopping around Asia when his boss made the controversial "fire and fury" statement.  Coincidentally, when Tillerson was finally able to stand before the press and address Trump's absurd remark, he did so on an airstrip in Guam where his plane had stopped to refuel.

My next two visits to the small island of Guam occurred nearly forty years after that initial pit stop of 1973.  While I was working on Okinawa in 2011, one of the airlines began a direct flight to Guam, and my co-worker, Valerie, and I decided to check it out.  We spent three or four days at a hotel on the beach in the capital of Agana, and rented a car to tour the island.  Guam is barely a speck in the big Pacific Ocean.   It totals a mere 210 square miles and has a population of less than 200,000.  Many of the island's residents are descendants of the Chamorro people who first settled the island thousands of years ago.

Touring Guam in a rental car was not a difficult process.  The island is so small that it is easy to drive the circumference in about two hours.  Valerie and I took the better part of a day on our drive about, stopping to shop and swim and view the old Spanish fortifications along the way.  Guam is one of those places where postcard views abound.

Guam also has many stores from the mainland United States that draw American visitors.  The island has a K-Mart, a Ross's, and even a Macy's - as well as a nice American Cineplex that shows current U.S. movies.

The following year, 2012, Valerie and I visited Guam once more.  During that trip we again circumvented the island and met and visited with many of the locals.  We rode a water buffalo, and hiked out to a spot in the jungle where two Japanese soldiers had been discovered in 1972 still hiding from the allied forces who had captured the island twenty-seven years earlier.  I especially enjoyed fresh mangoes that I picked myself.  We also visited the PX at Andersen Air Force Base and drove across the U.S. Naval Base on Guam.  More that 6,000 American troops are stationed on the island.

Today North Korea seems to be backing off of its threat to annihilate Guam and is now talking about simply lobbing four missiles into the ocean close to Guam.  And Donald Trump, never one to be out-talked by anyone, is now lamenting that his off-the-cuff threat to unleash "fire and fury" on North Korea may have not been tough enough.

Perhaps if both sides were to involve some adults in their discussions, we could move beyond this dangerous name-calling phase of statesmanship.  The world deserves the leadership of cooler (and smarter) heads than those of Kim Jong Un and Donald J. Trump.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Playing with Fire and Fury

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Playing endless golf would seem to be an emboldening experience for America's Golfer-in-Chief.  Yesterday he climbed out of his golf cart long enough to make his rashest and brashest statement yet against the government of North Korea.  Trump, never the diplomat, threatened the North Koreans with a schoolyard taunt that could have catastrophic consequences.  Our bellicose leader warned:

"North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen."

Fire and fury.  That left no room for misunderstanding.  Our temperamental and tyrannical leader was threatening their temperamental and tyrannical leader with a nuclear holocaust.  It didn't take long for Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, to fire back his own threat with a suggestion that his country would retaliate by hurling a nuke at the U.S. Territory of Guam, a small island in the Pacific that houses two American bases and over 6,000 United States troops.

John McCain, a senator from Trump's own Republican Party who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, warned that Trump needs to hold off on threats unless he is "ready to act."  McCain labeled Trump's "fire and fury" comment as "mostly bluster."

McCain is right.  Trump is mostly hot air and bluster, but, with the nuclear codes close at hand, he is by no means impotent.  And when two bullies go toe-to-toe, sooner or later someone will throw a punch.

I take exception to Donald Trump's threats to the peace and order of the world. It doesn't seem right that someone who barely has the approval of a third of his countrymen should avail himself of our national megaphone without benefit of sound diplomatic advice or the counsel of individuals steeped in history.   Dealing with a dangerous nuclear adversary should involve multi-level discussions covering a wide spectrum of issues vital to both nations - and not be relegated to off-the-cuff threats and braggadocio.

Some of Trump's advisers need to make an effort to explain to him what the world would look like after the first nuclear bomb is unleashed.   North Korea only has shared borders with two other countries, South Korea and China.  Seoul, the important industrial city that is the capital of South Korea, is only thirty-five miles south of the border with North Korea.  A nuclear strike on North Korea would destabilize South Korea, one of our most important allies in the region, and it would be tantamount to an attack on China - a nation capable of a significant nuclear response.

And then there is that retaliation thing.  Yes, Kim Jong Un might lob a missile with a miniaturized nuclear warhead toward Guam, and he might just hit the very small target.   But he could also change his mind at the last minute and go for a closer and bigger prize - such as Tokyo - where millions could be maimed and killed in the carnage.

If Trump thinks he has had immigration issues before, just wait until he sees the floods of people rushing about seeking safety once a nuclear device has been exploded on humanity.  One nuclear explosion would kill thousands, imperil millions, disrupt economies, and throw the world in chaos for decades.  A second nuclear explosion would bring down civilizations.

And when the world begins to crumble,  the towers of megalomaniacs will be little more than hoary curiosities of a bygone era - and entertainments such as golf will disappear beneath mankind's struggle for basic survival.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Dems Propose 'A Better Deal' (Yawn)

by Pa RockCitizen Journalist

Last week our Democratic Party betters, personified by the over-the-hill duo of Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer  and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, announced a bold new effort to bring party members who have strayed over the years back into the herd.  In particular this effort seems to be aimed at reclaiming the love of white, working class individuals whose parents and grandparents were once stalwarts of  the political party built and fashioned by the likes of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Lyndon Baines Johnson.

Schumer and Pelosi and their ragtag assemblage of second-string political players are calling their Hail Mary effort "A Better Deal," a lackluster and insipid moniker that has so far inspired more derision than it has brand enthusiasm.   Some acknowledge that it echoes progressive slogans of the past - Teddy Roosevelt's "Square Deal" and FDR's "New Deal," while others go farther afield by noting its similarities to Papa John's "Better Ingredients, Better Pizza" slogan.

The name, "A Better Deal," is, quite frankly, a big yawn.  The saddest aspect of the Democratic Party's latest effort to unify and ignite its base is that it undoubtedly put a wad of cash in the pocket of some political consultant, money that could have gone toward providing actual jobs or alleviating some real poverty of individuals in need.

But I guess political consultants have to eat, too.

The new slogan has a three-point plan to back it up.  "A Better Deal" calls for an increase in the pay of individuals, a reduction in the cost of living - so wages will go farther, and providing workers with the training and skills they need to work in the 21st century.  And while those program points are all forward-looking, they fail to capture the fire of the leaders of the Democratic left flank - people like Bernie Sanders (actually an Independent),Senator Elizabeth Warren, and Senator Kamala Harris.  While the party regulars are mumbling self-righteously about raising pay, others are out setting fires with talk of a $15.00 an hour minimum wage, real consumer protections, and single-payer health insurance for everyone.

The time for trying to out-Republican the Republicans has passed - that train has left the station.  The GOP owns all of the talking points that benefit the rich and big business, and running along the track frantically screaming "Us, too!  Us, too!" benefits no one and captures no voting blocks.

America doesn't need "A Better Deal."  The status quo is a failed experience for many in this country, and they have nothing to gain by supporting Democratic party elders as they add more spit and polish to worn out approaches and yesterday's answers.   Yes, our workers need to be prepared to face the realities of the 21st century - and so do our voters.

The Democratic Party is struggling to strike a match in the dark - when what it needs is to draw down a lightening bolt.  America needs  big ideas, bold strokes, an unbridled determination to reach into our very souls and pull forth those values that made our country truly great in the first place.  The other party promotes a return to "greatness" in the guise of greed and hatred.   Democrats need to grab the term back and define it in terms of people, all people.

America will never achieve its full potential if we are forced to stand on the backs of our brothers and sisters in order to reach it.  A "great" America will be one in which everyone enjoys a share of her bounty - and not just the privileged few.  "A Better Deal" sounds like too little, too late - and it is definitely too lame.  The time fast approaches for  "A Bulldozer Deal"  to come in and topple some of America's prize pigs and tip a few of our big bulls.  The leadership of the Democratic Party needs to figure that out before their relevance completely evaporates.

And the heat is rising.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Monday's Poetry: "The New Colossus"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

One of the many stinks generated by the Trump administration over just the past few days centered on a poem - and not just any poem, but lines of such national import that they have served as a welcome statement for immigrants arriving on our eastern seaboard for more than a century.

It's not that Donald Trump has a personal issue with immigrants.  Indeed, he has profited off of the backs of immigrant labor throughout his entire business career.  But Donald Trump is also a politician, and as a politician he has an established constituency of voters with whom he has to show allegiance - and Trump's constituency is a broad swath of know-nothings who are steeped in a belief that their lives are in the crapper because immigrants have taken all of the good jobs and advantages that should have gone to people were born here - especially white people.  Trump's constituency is angry, and Trump constantly strives to fan that anger and keep it raging.

This week a Trump senior aide by the name of Stephen Miller answered questions from the press regarding immigration, a favorite bogeyman of the Trump administration.  During that session Miller got into verbal combat with Jim Acosta, a reporter from CNN, a news network routinely vilified by Trump and his minions.  After Acosta brought up the poem, "The New Colossus," by Emma Lazarus along with the notion that the Trump anti-immigration stance was going against the spirit of that verse, Miller bit back and declared that the poem was added later and was not a part of the Statue of Liberty as it was designed.

Stephen Miller, in minimizing the words of Emma Lazarus, was restating an old argument of far right critics of immigration.  One white supremacist, Richard Spencer, has been outspoken in his disgust over the imagery of "ugliness, weakness, and deformity" that the Lazarus poem brought to the Statue of Liberty, and he was especially bent out of shape over the terms "wretched refuse" and "teeming shore."  Klansman David Duke has also been outspoken in his belief that Emma Lazarus was speaking for Jewish immigrants, and he sought to emphasize that Lazarus herself was a Jew.  In their view, the words of Emma Lazarus had not enhanced the meaning of the Statue of Liberty, they had defiled it.

I have highlighted "The New Colossus" in this space previously (April 26, 2010), and it's obviously time to run it again.   Hatred and racism are cancers that weaken society, but a healthy flow of immigration has always made us stronger.

The New Colossus
by Emma Lazarus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Summer Takes a Break

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Summer

The hot, arid days that scorched the Ozarks in late July have been replaced with unseasonably mild weather. 

It was so nice here last week that I was able to finish the latest round of mowing in relative comfort, and then spend some time working on the farm pond which retains only a small amount of water at its very center.  Because it is usually near empty, I amuse myself by keeping the bowl (that would be a pond if it had water) mowed.  But there is one large hole in the side of the bowl and a couple of erosion trenches that block the mower - so this week I have been filling them with rocks and then cementing over those rock-filled areas.  Now the mower can reach much more of the dry pond.  If I keep up the patchwork I will eventually have a cement pond like the one the Clampett's had at their California home - the cement pond in which Elly Mae taught her cat to swim.

Sadly the geese have not taken to the water that is in the pond.  They much prefer for me to fill a plastic kiddie pool for them to bath and play in.  The five geese will walk right up to the edge of the small amount of water that is in the pond, but they won't splash on in.  They do like eating the tall grasses around the pond, but prefer their water to come from a tap.

If anyone ever compares you to a goose, be very offended.  Geese are as curious as cats, but have only a fraction of the intelligence of felines.  Last week I was in the house when I heard an awful commotion out in the backyard.  It sounded as through some varmint was killing one of the geese.  I rushed outside and discovered a goose dragging a pair of tomato cages across the yard, trying to free himself of the clanging wire devices - and the four other geese were close by honking wild support for their friend!  The goose finally broke free, and I gathered up the tomato cages and put them back next to the house where they had been stacked out of the way - or so I thought.

The tomato cages are next to the house and not out giving support to tomato plants laden with heavy summer fruit because of . . . well, the geese.  The first rule of farming is that a person may raise geese - or tomatoes - but not both.  This spring as I planted tomatoes and peppers, the young geese almost knocked me down as they rushed to devour the green delicacies!  Someone told me that placing rubber snakes in a tomato patch would keep the geese away, and I tried that - only to learn that the geese were delighted with the snakes and would carry them all over the farm in their beaks.  My geese are very fortunate - not every farmer would have bought them toys!

There is a birdbath out in front of my living room window that has always drawn the passing interest of the local birds.  There are, however, so many watering dishes strewn about The Roost, that birds have an abundance of places at which to bathe - so the official birdbath is nothing special - or at least it wasn't until recently.  A young male robin has taken to bathing there on a daily basis - usually in the mornings - and by bathing, I mean scouring.  The little fellow soaks himself from head to toe and vigorously scrubs and shakes.  His regular routine takes five minutes or more, and when he is finished he has to be the cleanest bird for miles around.  Making sure that birdbath is cleaned out and full of fresh water each morning has become one of my priorities!

It's raining this morning, a slow soaking rain that will help the grass grow and soon have me back out on the mower.   The guineas and geese are all out in the rain, but most of the poultry has better sense and is gathered in the chicken coop - probably playing pinochle.  I have an early variation of something in the crock pot that I am calling "Pa Rock's Hillbilly Jambalaya."   I can already tell that it will take a couple of more tries to perfect, but today's version appears both passable and edible.

Maybe I'll make some cornbread, and read a bit, and enjoy the peacefulness of this rainy day.  Summer will return soon enough.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Trump Flees Dump

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Donald Trump, who, for the record, has denied a report in Sports Illustrated and confirmed by multiple witnesses that he described the White House as "a real dump" to golfing buddies, has abandoned his free public housing for most of the month of August so that he can enjoy a "working" vacation at his private golf club in New Jersey.  Now all that remains to be seen is whether he will be working nine, eighteen, or thirty-six-hole days.

I'll admit to being somewhat pleased when I learned that Trump would be heading off on yet another vacation.  His absence would give the caretakers of our White House an opportunity get things in order - and maybe even fumigate.  But I was just being snarky.  Little did I know that crews would rush into the West Wing to begin serious renovations during the time that Trump was out working the links.  One of the problems that the workers would be tackling is an infestation of common house flies in the Oval Office.

There are no flies in Trump-owned properties, especially "common" flies.

Several structural repairs are also being made to the historic building during Trump's absence.  The White House was essentially gutted and rebuilt from the inside out during the Truman administration seventy years ago, but little has been done in the way of major repairs since that time.

There is no word yet on whether the domestic staff will have to follow the lead of that poor hotel in Moscow and change the mattresses in the master suite while the boss is out of town working.

Friday, August 4, 2017

It's Mueller Time!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Yesterday the word got out that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has impaneled a grand jury to assist in his investigation of Russia's alleged meddling in the 2016 election and ties that Russia may have had with the Trump campaign.   It also became known that Mueller is issuing subpoenas with regard to Trump Junior's meeting with a Russian lawyer who had promised to provide dirt on Hillary Clinton.  And while having an assist from a grand jury is apparently fairly standard procedure in an investigation of this magnitude, the announcement of its existence nevertheless served to twist the tail of the pig.

Trump went on a major verbal rampage in West Virginia last night with an all-out attack on the Mueller investigation, implying that it was an attempt to derail democracy.  Here is a snippet of his spew:

"They can’t beat us at the voting booths, so they’re trying to cheat you out of the future and the future that you want. They’re trying to cheat you out of the leadership that you want with a fake story that is demeaning to all of us, and most importantly demeaning to our country and demeaning to our Constitution.”
Poor me, poor me, witch hunt, poor me, poor me.

Trump may be the future that West Virginia wants - no argument there - but he is not the future that a majority of American's wanted when they went to the polls last November.   Robert Mueller has been charged with looking into that election and figuring out what impact a foreign nation had on the process - and if that foreign nation colluded with the Trump campaign in engineering the outcome.  It is a matter that needs to be thoroughly aired and investigated - regardless of how loudly Donald John Trump squeals.

Also yesterday I saw a picture on Twitter that snagged my interest.  It was of a smiling man who was wearing a tee-shirt that with a logo that stated:  "It's Mueller Time!"  I smiled back and thought, "I'll drink to that!"  Later in the day I visited Amazon.com to determine if those shirts were readily available for purchase, and I found them listed with multiple vendors.  The one I bought was black with white lettering and is large enough to fit me comfortably - and it was priced under fifteen dollars!

It's good to know that Donald Trump and his relatives aren't the only one profiting off of his new job.  Gotta love that First Amendment!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Psychopaths on Parade

by Pa Rock
TV Junkie

First of all allow me to apologize to regular readers of this blog, some days numbering in the dozens, for the misleading title of today's entry.  No, this piece is not about Donald Trump's inner circle or his cabinet, nor is it even about the concentration of Nazis who make up the Justice Department of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, III.  Today I am taking a break from the Trump Circus of Crime and Carnage, and opting instead to write about a television show, one which features almost as many psychopathic characters as those who dine daily at the White House.

Mr. Robot is an original series of the USA Network, and the first two seasons (22 episodes in all) are currently streaming on Amazon Prime.  The third season is in production at this time.

The story line of this engrossing program revolves around a group of young people, computer hackers with the goal of bringing down the biggest corporation in America and throwing world financial markets into chaos.  (It is apparent, even to someone with limited computer skills like me, that lots of careful research has gone into the making of Mr. Robot, particularly with regard to the methodology of hacking.)  The corporation that the hackers are hoping to topple is a massive conglomerate with tentacles reaching into many businesses and industries stretching across America and around the globe.  It is known as "Evil Corp."

The main character in this fast-paced television drama is Elliot Alderson.  He is portrayed by a mesmerizing young actor named Rami Malek.  Malek's acting skills in the series were recognized in 2016 when he received an Emmy for Best Actor in a Drama for his role in Mr. Robot.

Elliot (Malek) is the leader of the hackers, but his life and mission are complicated by the fact that he is a diagnosed schizophrenic who won't take his meds - but he does have a dependency on crushed morphine tablets which he snorts.  Elliot's friends and co-conspirators, at least one of whom is imaginary, sustain him.  Elliot is motivated to bring down Evil Corp because its wanton disregard for environmental regulations led to the cancer that killed his father.  Elliot also has a mixed legacy of feelings toward his father which color his actions throughout this cyber drama.  (In fact, if the show's creator and writer, Sam Esmail, had sought my opinion on the matter, which he did not, I would have suggested naming this primary character Bud Anderson, as a counter-punch to a television son whose father always knew best.)

Christian Slater plays the title role of Mr. Robot.  He serves as a motivator and enabler for the group of young hackers, and he is often pitted against Elliot who does not want to injure or kill anyone with the group's otherwise illegal pursuits.  Mr. Robot, who once pushed his young son out of a second-story window, has no qualms at all when it comes to violence.

Angela Moss (Portia Doubleday) is a fringe player with the hackers who is also an executive with Evil Corp working to bring it down from the inside.  Angela, like Elliot, is motivated for revenge because Evil Corp also caused her mother to develop cancer and die.

Darlene (Carly Chaikin) plays Elliot's sister, Darlene, who steps in to manage the hackers during her brother's occasional mental breaks.   Darlene is one of the more ruthless characters in this drama, and will not hesitate to murder when the need arises.

B.D. Wong, of Law and Order SVU,  has a dual role in Mr. Robot in which he plays both a male Chinese diplomat as well as a female Chinese revolutionary/anarchist by the name of "White Rose."  Wong is very cunning and believable as he drifts effortlessly between genders.

Swedish actor Martin Wallstrom gives an edgy performance as Tyrell Wellick, a Wall Street executive who is passed over for an important promotion at Evil Corp.   Wellick, too, is brilliant with computers, but he has a dark side that smolders with depravity and violence.  Wellick satiates himself by roughing up his pregnant wife (Danish actress Stephanie Corneliussen) at her insistence and careful direction.  Wellick, in fact, enjoys aggressive sex with other women - and men -  and is also capable of murder.  There is enough psychopathy between him and his wife to sustain a boatload of bloodthirsty Vikings.

Law enforcement is represented in part by FBI Special Agent Dominique DiPierro (Grace Gummer), appropriately known as "Dom."  Her focus on the hackers in all-consuming, a situation which leaves her as emotionally flawed at the individuals she is pursuing.

And those are just a few of the main characters who populate this tightly-wound psychodrama.  There is also a second tier of players who are just as vile and brutal - like the drug dealer who had  his own brother killed, a porn ring,  and a serial philanderer who, even though he is married, works hard at maintaining relationships with several other women.


Mr. Robot ain't the Trump White House, but it ain't bad.   Those who devote the time to watching it will come away with a more realistic view of the actual threats to personal security and world order that computer hackers pose.   It is a gripping and extremely enthralling look into a future that is likely not too far distant.

I highly recommend Mr. Robot.  It will definitely rattle your security cage.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

America's House, a Real Dump

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The White House, the historic residence in Washington, D.C. where the President traditionally lives and works, is emblematic of America.  It is, in every sense of the word, America's House.  To disparage the White House is nothing less than insulting the United States of America and all of the opportunities, freedoms, and liberties that she represents.

I had the opportunity to visit the White House in the spring of 1999 with a group of graduate social work students from the University of Missouri.  One member of our group had a relative who was a pilot aboard Air Force Two (Al Gore's plane at that time), and was able to get us special tickets for an evening tour of the White House through her special connection.

Evening tours were better than those offered during working hours because we were allowed to go places that were off-limits when the building was a fully-functioning work environment.   We stood in the doorway of the Oval Office, for instance, and looked across the room where decisions affecting the well-being of the world were made on a daily basis, something that would have been impossible during a daylight tour when Bill Clinton would have likely been sitting at his desk working.  We also visited the White House kitchen in the basement where we were able to see the actual scorched walls from where the British burned the original building during the War of 1812.

And we saw beautiful art, stylish furniture, and profuse floral arrangements -  a truly elegant expression of the very best of America.

The White House in 1999 was not a dump - yet now Donald John Trump has told his rich and privileged friends at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, that the reason he spends his weekends away from the White House is that it is a "real dump."  Or, to quote him verbatim:  "That White House is a real dump."

Is it a "real dump," Donald, because it doesn't have a grand escalator and you actually have to pick up your tiny feet and walk up and down stairs?  Or is it a "real dump" because the bathrooms don't have golden fixtures?   Perhaps it is a "real dump" because tour groups filled with ordinary (ick!) people roam the halls during the days - and even a few in the evenings.

The place probably began looking like a dump when the trash arrived last January.

Chelsea Clinton, who was a young adult living in the White House back when I was privileged to visit, acknowledged in a tweet earlier today that the White House is more than just a home
"Thank you to all the White House ushers, butlers, maids, chefs, florists, gardeners, plumbers, engineers & curators for all you do every day."

Donald Trump's callous depiction of America's House is more than just sad, it is deplorable.  A person who has no sense of pride in the building that has housed every President and his family since John Adams doesn't deserve to live there.  There is a vulgarity that passes for a hotel just down the street in the Old Post Office.  Perhaps Mr. Trump should pack up his baubles and move there.

Donald Trump has insulted the White House, and in so doing he has belittled America.  The legendary Merle Haggard was focused on hippies and war protesters when he sang the following famous lines, but he could have just as easily been talking about Trump:

"When they're runnin' down my country, man,
They're walkin' on the fightin' side of me."

Merle Haggard would have appreciated the privilege of living in America's House.   Donald John Trump clearly does not.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Mooch: Life in the Fast Lane

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Stephen Colbert must be in mourning.

Anthony Scaramucci, the 53-year-old "wonder kid," was relieved of his duties as the White House Communications Director yesterday and escorted off the grounds.  He was on his eleventh day in that job when he was shown the door. 

And while the tenure of "The Mooch" may have been brief, it was certainly one marked by numerous achievements.  During the 250 hours in which Anthony Scaramucci served his golden idol, Donald Trump, he underwent some remarkable professional and personal achievements.

During the time that "The Mooch" groveled before his glorious master he gave an unforgettable interview to Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker, one in which he unloaded on other White House staff with a barrage of threats and expletives so intensely colorful that it made multiple news cycles.  He also dined at the White House with Sean Hannity and other unbiased and "fair and balanced" personalities from Fox News, and was on hand to cheer his boss on as he gave a completely inappropriate political speech to the Boy Scouts' National Jamboree.

Also during those ten-plus days in July Scaramucci became a free man, of sorts, when his wife, Deidre Ball, filed for divorce.   The aggrieved spouse was so outspoken in her displeasure with Anthony's salivating eagerness to work for Trump that she practically tagged The Donald as a co-respondent in the matter.  Then, a day or two later, Ms. Ball gave birth to a son, her second child with Scaramucci.

Hired for his dream job, dining with Hannity, demonstrating his communication skills to Ryan Lizza, flying on Air Force One, getting rid of the old ball-and-chain, having a son, and getting fired.  Anthony Scaramucci truly was living life in the fast lane.

But all  of that was just the cake.  The frosting arrived when The Mooch checked out his listing in the latest Harvard Alumni Directory and discovered that he was dead.  That really had to hurt!

Where does Trump find these people?