Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Bottom Line in Houston

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The bottom line is that Houston - and, indeed, much of coastal Texas and Louisiana - needs our help.  Hurricane Harvey dumped rainfall on the low and densely populated areas of those states so deep that it had to be reported in feet rather than in inches.  The resulting flood would have gotten the attention of Noah, and it was just one of several occurring worldwide at that same time.

Texas politicians are among some of the hardest to convince that the earth is undergoing dramatic climate changes - and that those changes are the result of actions by mankind, never mind that the evidence is flooding the streets and homes of the people who vote them into office.  But regardless of the ignorance and indifference of their politicians, the people of Houston need our help.  That's the bottom line.

A big part of the reason that the flood damage has been so colossal in and around Houston is that the city and the state of Texas have never been proactive in addressing the danger of potential flooding.  Governing bodies are elected to find ways to increase gun sales, dumb down education, and stymie abortions.  Anything else is probably socialist in nature and can best be addressed through individual initiative or the good will of charities.  But the people who have traditionally never had a voice in Houston are now standing in four feet of water - and they need our help.  That is the bottom line.

Texas politicians were among some of the most mean-spirited in Congress when it cane to providing disaster relief to people in New Jersey and along the East Coast after the horrors of Hurricane Sandy - with over twenty members of the Texas congressional delegation and hateful Senator Ted Cruz voting against the aid package.  But now the shoe is on the other foot, and we must hope and pray as a nation that New Jersey's politicians possess more true Christian charity than their Texas brothers in Christ.  That's the bottom line - Houston and its neighbors need our help.

Joel Osteen, the well-heeled pastor of a Houston mega-church, an edifice to the glory of God that seats in excess of 16,000 donating souls at its regular services, literally tripped all over himself this week as he struggled to justify not opening his church's doors to the bedraggled and muddy refugees of the storm.   Negative publicity and increasing public pressure for some good old-fashioned Christian compassion has apparently finally succeeded in forcing Rev. Osteen to open the doors of God's showplace to the muddy masses, albeit belatedly and reluctantly. 

But this crisis isn't about protecting carpets and plush pews, or sticking it to East Coast liberals, or issuing recriminations against Texas for being Texas.  This is about casting a lifeline to those in need.  It is about the social obligations that should be felt by all humans - and that is the bottom line.

The Salvation Army has my donation.  I have had involvement with them through several disasters, and know firsthand they can be relied upon to spend the money where it is actually needed.  But regardless of how one chooses to get involved,  it is imperative that we all do something.

Houston needs our help.   That is the bottom line. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Kansas City Sings Along with Garrison Keillor

by Pa Rock
Cultural Artifact

My son Tim phoned a couple of months ago and told me that Garrison Keillor was coming to Kansas City.  Did I want a ticket, he asked.  Having missed the opportunity to see Keillor perform with his beloved radio show, A Prairie Home Companion, I jumped at the opportunity to at least see the man himself.  Yes, I told Tim, get me a ticket.

Tim is always on the lookout for good shows headed into the Kansas City area, and consequently, since returning to the Midwest nearly four years ago, I have seen some stellar performances:  Cher and Cindi Lauper, Diana Ross, Art Garfunkel - and also attended some wonderful plays.  Not bad for an aging hillbilly stuck two hours on the wrong side of Springfield, Missouri!

And when it comes to snagging a good seat, Tim never falters as he wields Old Dad's credit card with wild abandon.  He had me on the front row last night - just left of center - at the historic old Uptown Theatre (built in 1928) in beautiful downtown Kansas City.

Ordering the ticket for the Keillor performance was such a spur-of-the-moment thing that Tim and I both forgot about it until last week when he got a email reminder.  Tim called and got me geared up for a quick trip to the city - and then the pump in the well house went out and it looked as though I would miss out on the show afterall.   But the pump repairman came early Monday morning, installed a new part,  and had my well pumping water within five minutes - all for about the price of a front row seat-and-a-half at a Garrison Keillor event.

So, with the water restored at The Roost, Rosie and I headed northwest to Kansas City - where everything remains disgustingly up-to-date.

Keillor retired from hosting A Prairie Home Companion last year, or possibly the year before - so I wasn't sure what to expect.  Friends of mine saw him perform in Nashville a decade ago and said the show was primarily a monologue with some music.  As I entered the auditorium it was apparent from the stage setup that a small band would be on hand to liven up the show.

The program was billed as the "Prairie Home Love and Comedy Tour," so I had hopes of seeing some of the show's regulars that I had listened to for years.  I was not disappointed.  Rich Dworsky rocked the house with his piano-pounding skills, and sound effects genius Fred Newman proved amazing beyond description.  At one point Newman sang while playing a "jaw harp" and later whistled while playing the same primitive instrument.  Keillor challenged Newman several times during the three-hour show with stories involving all types of weird things, animals, and events to which Newman automatically responded with appropriate sounds - a game that they often played on the old radio program.

The stage band consisted of four members including Dworsky.   A beautiful and very pregnant vocalist by the name of Aiofe O'Donovan was also a central focus of the show.  The young lady sang numerous duets with Keillor and performed several individual numbers.  Miss O'Donovan had a powerful voice, echoing a bit of Loretta Lynn, and accompanied herself with a guitar on a few of her numbers.

Keillor was a bit of a surprise as appearance goes.  At the mature age of seventy-five he remains instantly recognizable to those who are familiar with his work.  But for an elite individual who reportedly spends much of each year living in Paris (France, not Texas), his wardrobe was remarkably relaxed.  He wore a beige suit that was so rumpled that it could have easily come directly from the bottom of a laundry hamper.  He also wore a long-sleeved white shirt adorned with a red silk tie, and red socks and red sneakers.  The sneakers were understandable for a person who was required to spend the better part of three hours standing on a stage and walking through the auditorium.  The sneaks probably had a long personal history with the star, because they were obviously older than at least his teenage daughter - and the right sneaker had a pronounced hole along its outside edge.  (Okay, maybe I was too close to the stage!)

But the man definitely looked comfortable, and through his storytelling and singing he made several hundred folks from the Midwest comfortable as well.

There is little point in trying to describe Garrison Keillor's performance.  Most of graying America has listened to him for decades, and he is, in person, exactly what one would expect.  Keillor is familiar with Kansas City, and he managed to weave quite a bit about the community into his monologue - as he does with all cities that he visits.  He sang one of own compositions which focused on the names of many rivers in Missouri, and he made several references to the  Starlight Theatre, the venue which he has initially intended to use for last night's performance.  Keillor made the audience feel that he was at home in Kansas City as they were.

The show began on time (yeah, team!) with Keillor strolling out into the audience and leading the house in a sing-along.  He began his set with "My Country Tis of Thee," progressed through "Shenandoah"  and several other familiar American classics, and ended on stage with the Beatles' "I Saw Her Standing There."  As he closed out the sing-along he solemnly noted that the people in that theatre were among the last generation who would be able to sing those tunes without frantically searching for the lyrics on their phones!

Two hours after the show began, Keillor (who never left the stage) called for an intermission.  He told people they could go out in the lobby for a drink, work on their cars, or do whatever they needed to do to get ready for the rest of the performance.  He then added that he would spend the intermission singing.  A few ran for the bathrooms, but most members of the audience stood by their seats and sang along with the one of the most familiar voices in America.  We sang verse after verse of "Home on the Range" and even did "Silent Night."  The Uptown's acoustics combined with the gentle exuberance of the crowd to create a group vocal experience that sounded like it could have originated in Vienna (Austria, not Missouri).

The Love and Comedy Tour presented several staples of the familiar radio program.  "Powder Milk Biscuits" and "The Catsup Advisory Board" were both nominal sponsors of the event, and "Lefty" of "Dusty and Lefty" also put in an appearance at an Old West saloon where he he had a spelling duel with a character given voice by Fred Newman.  It was during the cowboy skit that Keillor and Newman combined to poke some good-natured fun at Donald Trump.  Sadly, Guy Noir was a no-show.

And then there was the jewel of the show, Garrison Keillor's iconic "News from Lake Woebegone" (where all the women are strong, all the men good-looking, and all of the children above average).  This particular monologue contained classic bits from older shows - including on of my favorites where the twenty-four large Lutheran ministers go for a cruise on a twenty-two foot pontoon boat.  It took Keillor about two fifteen-minute stints to get through all of the "news" from Lake Woebegone.  He related it all, in his dulcet tones, without notes while sitting on a stool at the edge of the stage directly in front of his biggest fan in West Plains, Missouri.  It felt like he was looking directly at me as he chatted about the good folks in Lake Woebegone.  That seat was priceless!

I missed out on seeing a live broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion during the years that Garrison Keillor was at the helm, but with last night's Love and Comedy Tour I managed to get awfully damned close to correcting that bit of personal history.

Garrison Keillor is a comic genius and folksy entertainer who remains at the top of his game!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Road to Nuclear Annihiliation for Dummies

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

North Korea has been on a fairly steady course of developing a nuclear capability for several years now, a feat it is accomplishing by directing massive amounts of the nation's struggling economy toward the military and a missile program while letting millions of its citizens essentially starve.  North Korea is a nation constantly on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe, yet it is also an increasing military threat to the rest of the world.

The Obama administration tried to leverage good behavior from North Korea through diplomatic efforts and sanctions, a strategy that worked to some extent and slowed the expansion of their missile program.  Those types of measures are viewed as soft by the Trump White House which prefers to practice diplomacy through 140-character insults and threats.

The world has witnessed an unprecedented increase in the threat level from North Korea since Donald Trump took office in January.  The North Koreans began lobbing their missiles into the sea and demonstrating an ever-increasing distance range.  Trump, ever the showman, responded to this growing threat to world order with what he considered to be a bigger threat - his infamous "fire and fury" comment.

North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un, who is himself a bit like Donald Trump, responded ot Trump's unhinged bluster with a threat of his own to fire a missile at the U.S. Territory of Guam.  Japan then entered the verbal fray and noted that it would shoot down any North Korean missile headed toward Guam.  It was at that point that Kim Jong Un did his only retreat, modest though it was, by saying North Korea would only shoot a couple of missiles into the sea close to Guam.

Over the past few months we have learned first that North Korea has missiles capable of reaching Alaska and a few points within the continental United States.  A few days ago we began hearing that North Korean missiles can now reach any point within the continental United States.

But we don't worry because the United States, like our allies in Japan, has the capability of shooting down North Korean missiles - right?  (And, of course, we also have legions of goobers with guns crawling the hills eager to protect us from whatever menace the NRA and the Klan identifies as a threat.)

Yesterday North Korea launched a missile that flew over northern Japan and then landed in the sea.  The Japanese failed to shoot down a missile flying over its own homeland and instead implored the people of Japan to "take cover!"

Thankfully, one must suppose, Donald Trump was busy reinventing segregation and dealing with the flooding in Texas.

We live in dangerous times, ones where a pair of ignorant blowhards control the fate of every living thing on the planet.  We may cling to hope that Donald Trump will be held in check by the knowledge of what even a few limited nuclear strikes would do to the world economy and ultimately to his personal fortune, but Kim Jong Un has less skin in the game - he has no golden towers to worry about.

Donald bellows "You wouldn't dare!"  And Kim does.

Wouldn't this be a wonderful time to have an adult in the White House.

Pa Rock predicts that fallout shelters are going to be making a comeback.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Monday's Poetry: "Total Eclipse of the Heart"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

It would have been far more appropriate to post the lyrics to this song last week on the day of the solar eclipse, and to my credit I did mention in that post that Bonnie Tyler had been hired by a cruise ship company to sing "Total Eclipse of the Heart" on a voyage during the big event.  But for reasons now lost in the murkiness of time, I opted instead to rerun "The Daffodil Poem."

Today Rosie and I are in Kansas City, and I always try to make mental notes of unusual things that I see on the long drive between my home and KC.  One oddity that I came across on today's trip was a feature on a car that I happened to pass somewhere near Bolivar, Missouri.  It was a very small, boxy white car that bore long eyelashes above each headlight.  Eyelashes on cars may be common sights in some areas of the country, but for this old timer from the sticks it was a first.  The lashes were about eight inches long and curled upward with the wind - and were actually quite becoming.

And as I passed that little car, the phrase "turn around, bright eyes" popped into my head and has been camped out there ever since.  Now I am left to wonder if the car's eyes wink?

"Total Eclipse of the Heart"  is an iconic song that is primarily associated with one artist - Bonnie Tyler.  The song was actually written by James Richard Steinman.  May he and Tyler sop up royalties on this work forever because it is a poetic masterpiece given life by a resounding voice.

Total Eclipse of the Heart
by James Richard Steinman

Turn around, every now and then I get a little bit lonely
And you're never coming round
Turn around, every now and then I get a little bit tired
Of listening to the sound of my tears
Turn around, every now and then I get a little bit nervous
That the best of all the years have gone by
Turn around, every now and then I get a little bit terrified
And then I see the look in your eyes
Turn around bright eyes, every now and then I fall apart
Turn around bright eyes, every now and then I fall apart

And I need you now tonight
And I need you more than ever
And if you only hold me tight
We'll be holding on forever
And we'll only be making it right
'Cause we'll never be wrong together
We can take it to the end of the line
Your love is like a shadow on me all of the time (all of the time)
I don't know what to do and I'm always in the dark
We're living in a powder keg and giving off sparks
I really need you tonight
Forever's gonna start tonight
Forever's gonna start tonight

Once upon a time I was falling in love
But now I'm only falling apart
And there's nothing I can do
A total eclipse of the heart
Once upon a time there was light in my life
But now there's only love in the dark
Nothing I can say
A total eclipse of the heart

Turn around bright eyes, every now and then I fall apart
Turn around bright eyes, every now and then I fall apart

And I need you now tonight (and I need you now)
And I need you more than ever
And if you only hold me tight (and if you only)
We'll be holding on forever
And we'll only be making it right ('cause we'll never be wrong)
'Cause we'll never be wrong together
We can take it to the end of the line
Your love is like a shadow on me all of the time (all of the time)
I don't know what to do and I'm always in the dark
We're living in a powder keg and giving off sparks
I really need you tonight
Forever's gonna start tonight
Forever's gonna start tonight

Once upon a time I was falling in love
But now I'm only falling apart
And there's nothing I can say
A total eclipse of the heart
A total eclipse of the heart
A total eclipse of the heart
Turn around bright eyes

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Life in the Dry Lane

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Summer

I rise early here at The Roost, an hour or so before daylight.  I wake automatically without the aid of an alarm - and almost never oversleep.  My internal clock, it would seem, is one of the few components of this aging body that still works as well as it did when I was twenty.  (Though, come to think of it, I usually tended to oversleep in my wasted youth.)

My morning routine is fairly . . . well, routine.  I take care of some personal business and then let the dogs out so they can take care of theirs, and then I sit at the computer and check email until Rosie and Riley are ready to come back in.  If it's cold or rainy they are usually begging to be let back in before I even get logged on to my email account, but on nice mornings they enjoy more time in the yard.  After  my own personal needs and those of the dogs are taken care of, I go outside and open the hen house and scatter grain for the chickens, guineas, geese, and peacocks. 

Today's routine, however, was truncated by a crisis.  I discovered within moments of arising that there was no water.  I had had a couple of warnings earlier in the month but ignored them because I am getting ready to switch from getting my water from a well to connecting to the rural water provider.  It's going to be an expensive proposition involving purchasing a water meter, having to pay for twenty-five-hundred-or-so feet of digging for the new water line, and then paying someone to connect the new line to the house plumbing -  so I have been hemming-and-hawing when I should have been biting-the-bullet and writing checks.

And now I have no water - and to further complicate the issue, it is Sunday, a day when I am unlikely to find someone to help me through this crisis.

The water did come back on for just a few minutes - time that I used to rush about filling eight available milk cartons, watering the plants, and filling the dogs' water bowls - and then it shut off again.  I brushed my teeth later while standing on the back porch and using bottled water - and I suspect that I will make a trip to the laundromat before this day has ended.

Tomorrow will no doubt involve begging tradesmen to do their jobs - and writing checks.

Life could be simpler, I suppose, but. if it was, it would not be nearly as interesting!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

A Racist, a Bully, and a Draft Dodger Walk into a Bar

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

In a Friday news dump that was epic even by Washington, DC, standards, Trump officials took out the trash yesterday evening and set it on the curb hoping that by the time the capital returned to business as usual on Monday (or Tuesday, in the case of Congress) much of the commotion over these news stories would have died down. 

The timing of the news dump was as good as the administration could have hoped for.  The three major television networks had completed their evening newscasts, and most news organizations were scrambling to cover the first major hurricane to hit the mainland United States in several years.  Maybe nobody would notice.

But "Trump Pardons Arpaio" was a headline that could not be blown off of the front page, even by a hurricane.   Everyone did notice, though few were surprised.  One racist bully looking after another is little more than business as usual in Donald Trump's America.     Those who were still suffering under the delusion that all persons are equal before the law in this country now officially know better.  The law is a contrivance to keep America's underclass in its place - and it does not apply in equal measure to the masterclass.

Another story that the Trump administration tried to bury in the Friday news dump revealed that Donald John had finally signed his promised ban on transgender individuals serving in the military.  The notion that a two-bit draft dodger can presume to decide which patriotic Americans may and may not serve in our nation's military is a manure sauce so rich and creamy that it merits being poured over the famous chocolate cakes at Mar-a-Lago.

And there was a third story that made its way into the dump, a story that has the potential to offend a big segment of Trump's white nationalist base.  Right-wing counter-terrorism adviser Sebastian Gorka "resigned" and will likely slither on back to Breitbart to be with his buddy, Steve Bannon.  Multiple White House sources have indicated that Gorka's "resignation" was requested.    While no one working in the White House seems to have yet figured out how to control the boss's late night Twitter assaults, it would appear that an adult has at last come upon the scene and is ridding the place of bomb-lobbing assistants.  Thank you for that, General Kelly.

Donald Trump is sitting alone at the bar, but he has his ego and his many personalities to keep him company - and there is always his adoring fan base.  People love him, he knows that - and he deserves their love and adoration, he knows that, too. 

Just don't expect him to buy a round for the house because generosity is for losers.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Trump Trains his Fire on Republican Senators

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

During Donald John Trump's trip to Phoenix earlier this week he took pot shots at the state's two United States Senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake.  Trump's attack on McCain was oblique with a complaint about the repeal of Obamacare failing in the Senate by just one vote - presumably McCain's.  Then, moments later he pivoted to Flake, though taking care not to call him out by name:

"Nobody wants me to talk about your other senator, who’s weak on borders, weak on crime, so I won’t talk about him.”
Trump met with three potential Republican primary opponents to Flake while he was in Phoenix, reportedly trying to arrange a strong primary challenger to the incumbent senator. 
Got that?  Trump doesn't like McCain and he sure as hell doesn't like Flake.  Together those two are two percent of the entire United States Senate - and they are Republicans, members of Trump's own political party.

But McCain and Flake not the only Republican senators who have captured The Donald's ire.   Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska suggested before the election that he would prefer taking his children on a tour of dumpster fires than to actively work for Trump.  Senator Lindsey Graham who doubles as a personal body servant to McCain,has also garnered Trump's wrath on occasion, as has Senator Dean Heller of Nevada.

And then there's Mitch McConnell, the majority leader of the Senate - and also (obviously) a Republican.  Trump never tires of telling the politically seasoned McConnell how to do his job, and the story is now going around that the two haven't spoken in weeks and that their last conversation was a telephone call that was heavy with profanity and ill-temper.

And now there's Corker.

Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee comes across as a statesmanlike figure and is one senator who can usually be relied on to approach matters with calm deliberation before issuing carefully thought-out opinions.  Corker is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  He was widely rumored to have been in serious consideration for Trump's running mate in 2016, and some thought that he might even be named Secretary of State in the new administration.  Corker has a bit of gravitas.  People tend to listen to him.

Last week, after Donald Trump failed to castigate white nationalists for the violence and intimidation in Charlottesville, Bob Corker seemed to have reached his limit with the new administration.  In a statement to reporters in his home state of Tennessee, Corker said, in part:

"The President has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful."

Got that?  Trump has yet to demonstrate stability, therefore he is . . .

Trump's front-line liar, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said essentially that the administration would not dignify Corker's comments with a response, but the ever-petulant Trump could not let it go at that.  This morning he vented his spleen in a tweet and hinted at a political reprisal:

"Strange statement by Bob Corker considering that he is constantly asking me whether or not he should run again in '18. Tennessee not happy!"
McCain, Flake, Graham, Heller, Sasse, McConnell, and Corker are all Republicans, and should the House of Representatives ever vote to impeach Trump, he will be tried in the Senate -  and each of those senators who have suffered from Trump's Twitter tantrums and bullying will have their say.  And then Donald Trump had best hope that they are not as mean-spirited and vindictive as he is - because payback is a bitch!

They will have the collective power to say, "Trump, you're fired!"

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Crisis in Six Scenes

by Pa Rock
TV Junkie

I'm old enough to remember Woody Allen doing stand-up comedy routines on the Ed Sullivan Show back in the 1960's, but for the past half-century or so the prolific writer, director, and actor has showcased his comedic and dramatic skills on the big screen - with an amazing total of twenty-four Oscar nominations for his work in those three areas.  Allen is, whether one cares for his work or not, literally in an artistic class by himself.

Now, fifty years after doing self-deprecating monologues on the Ed Sullivan Show, Woody Allen  has returned to the small screen with a six-part mini-series for Amazon, a series which he, not surprisingly wrote, directed, and starred in.  The show is titled "Crisis in Six Scenes."  In addition to Woody Allen, the series stars another comedic genius, Elaine May, and former Disney star Miley Cyrus.

Allen's foray into television collectively isn't much longer than a movie, with the six episodes being less than thirty minutes each.  The brevity of the project however does not limit the laughter.  The story centers on Allen and May playing an old married couple living on Long Island in the politically turbulent 1960's.  Allen is a writer of commercials who has had modest success with a couple of novels, but has fallen short of his life's goal of becoming the next J.D. Salinger.  May is a marriage therapist who works out of their home and has some unconventional approaches to saving marriages.

The plot kicks into gear when Miley Cyrus's character, an escaped sixties' radical, slips into their home one night seeking sanctuary until she can organize a relocation to Cuba.  The Cyrus character is the daughter of people that May had known earlier and thus has a connection with her.  May is supportive of the new arrival, but Allen is resentful (she eats his food) and paranoid that because he has helped to harbor a fugitive, he will spend the rest of his life in prison where he will be badly used by big convicts in the showers.

The show offers a refresher course in the philosophies of Chairman Mao and Che Guevara, along with a sense of what it was like to oppose the Vietnam War from behind the security fence of wealth and privilege.  And through the entire ordeal radical ideas are shared, tolerances and alliances are formed, and laughter prevails.

"Crisis in Six Scenes" is Woody Allen at his absolute best, and Elaine May ain't too shabby either!

Highly recommended!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Milo, Erik, and the Profits of War

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Joseph Heller's Catch-22 was written in the 1950's and had its roots in Heller's actual experiences in the Second World War.  

Milo Minderbinder was one of the Heller's most unique characters in Catch-22.  Milo was a mess officer in the fictionalized Army Air Corps unit stationed on a small island in the Mediterranean.   He figured out early on that war is nothing more than business.  Milo went on to build a highly profitable syndicate by buying and selling food and supplies that were intended for use by the troops.  As his business grew, he eventually was arranging military outcomes for profit, and, at one point, even had his own unit bombed as a part of a business transaction.  Milo Minderbinder was the ultimate war-profiteer.

Joseph Heller saw war as being fought by one class of individuals for the financial benefit of another class - the poor fight and the rich cash in.  Milo figured that out and managed to move himself to the winning side off that equation.

Erik Prince is a real person who, unlike the fictional Milo, had the good sense to be born rich.   Erik developed an ardor for the glamour of combat - though he still understood the business realities and unlimited profit potential of war.  Prince founded the company originally known as Blackwater which provided contractor services like body guards and mercenaries for the Bush wars in the Middle East.

Erik Prince was an early adviser to the Trump campaign, and when Trump took office he seemed to have an inordinate amount of access to ear of the narcissist in the White House, most likely through the friendly channels of Trump's chief adviser, Steve Bannon.  Not only was Erik being heard on important matters like war, but his older sister, Betsy DeVos, was putting her indelible stamp on other matters of national import in her new position as Trump's Secretary of Education.

But now Bannon is out, and Trump has begun plotting war strategy without the able assistance of Erik Prince - and the war entrepreneur is not happy.

In fact, Erik has just referred to Trump's proposed new start in Afghanistan as "Obama Lite."  He said Trump's plan was a "continuation of the same limited or failed strategy of the last sixteen years."

What is Erik Prince's answer to turning things around in Afghanistan?  Erik believes the U.S. needs to be using private contractors instead of military personnel, services he would no doubt eagerly provide - for a healthy profit, of course.

And Betsy believes schools should be owned and operated by private businesses.

Milo would love them both - and he would trademark "Obama Lite!"

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The War in Afghanistan Gets a New Owner

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Last night the bloodshed and unrelenting horror that is the war in Afghanistan became the personal property of hotelier Donald Trump.    In a major televised address, Trump announced an about-face from his earlier position when, as a candidate, he had advocated for the United States withdrawing from the war.  Now the United States is apparently in it to win it.

Donald John might do well to turn off Fox News and watch the History Channel instead - because it is doubtful he would ever commit to reading anything as mundane as history.   The Afghan peoples have been fighting off the Brits, the Soviets, and now the Americans for nearly two centuries and all of the invaders have learned the hard way that the people and the terrain are almost impossible to subdue.  The British were involved militarily in Afghanistan three times between 1839 and 1919 and achieved a mixed record at best.  The Soviet war in Afghanistan (1979-1989) was such a disaster that it is credited as being a major factor in the collapse of the Soviet Union.

And now the United States has been fighting there for sixteen years - and has been unable to conquer what is essentially still a third-world nation.

But Trump is going to fix that.  He is the man with the plan, although he was careful not to say what that plan was other than he was going to leave the war to "his" generals.  There are currently 8,400 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and that number will rise.  Trump won't say how many additional troops will be heading there, but "his" generals are hinting that the initial increase will be around fifty-percent - or four thousand more men and women in U.S. uniforms.  Trump will also tell us when we have won, though the criteria he will use in making that determination will be kept secret.

Trump's war in Afghanistan will have to be won militarily because, after six long months in office, Donald John still has not nominated an ambassador to Afghanistan.  Diplomacy, one must assume, is for losers.   "His" generals are probably still back-slapping each other this morning now that they are going to have free-rein to pursue this war.   But one has to wonder how the generals will be feeling six months or a year from now when no visible progress has been made, and a tantrum-prone Trump begins pointing his fat little fingers and assigning blame.

Military careers are going to end in scorn and ridicule.

Nothing is ever Trump's fault.

Monday, August 21, 2017

An Eclipse and the Return of the Daffodil Poem

by Pa Rock
Proud Grandfather

Much of the United States will witness a total eclipse of the sun in a couple of hours, and here, near West Plains, Missouri, about ninety-six percent of the sun's surface will be hidden by the passing moon.  I viewed a partial eclipse while on Okinawa a few years back, but this will be the closest that I ever get to witnessing a "total" eclipse.  I am staying at home and not rushing north to capture the full effect because I want to see how my best friends, the farm animals and deer who live on and around Rock's Roost, react to the sudden change in their environment.

I saw on the internet that Bonnie Tyler will sing her 1983 chart-buster, "Total Eclipse of the Heart," later today while on a cruise ship - just as the eclipse occurs.

But, even so, the noonday darkness will find me at the farm.

The solar eclipse, however exciting, is not the major news here at The Roost this week.  Granddaughter Olive started kindergarten last Tuesday, and Grandson Boone begins college today.  Within the next couple of weeks, Granddaughter Willow will also begin kindergarten.  Pa Rock is thrilled about the new wonders that his grandchildren will soon be experiencing.

This is Monday, so a poem is in order.  Back in the spring of 2014 I used a piece from an episode of the Little Rascals that proved to be very popular with readers of this blog.  In the short film of 1932 entitled Readin' and Writin', the kids are welcoming a new teacher.  Their beloved Miss McGillicuddy has left, and her replacement, Miss Crabtree, has taken over the classroom.  One of the students, Sherwood (Sherwood Bailey) (sometimes known as "Spud") arrives at school with a welcoming poem for the new teacher which his mother had written.  The kids laugh at him, but he reads it anyway - much to the delight of Miss Crabtree.

Another student, Breezy Brisbane, (Kendall McComas), doesn't want to be in school.  His life goal is not to grow up to be the President, but rather to get expelled so that he can pursue his true desire of becoming a streetcar conductor.  "Boy, do they get the nickels!"  Breezy can't get Miss Crabtree to expel him until he throws a spit wad and hits Sherwood.  After that, she sends him home and tells him that he cannot return until he memorizes Sherwood's poem.

Here is the poem that Breezy had to learn and recite - which he eventually did.

The Daffodil Poem
by Sherwood's Mother

High up grew a daffodil,
I couldn't hardly reach her
Said I to me I think I will
get it for my teacher
I clumb to get the daffodil
out on a limb so thin
I tumbled down like Jack and Jill
and skinned my little shin
And here's the pretty daffodil
I brought to my new teacher
I love her dear and I always will:
I'm awful glad to meetcha!

Education is a lifetime adventure - make the absolute most of it!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Huckabee's "Christian" Response to Charlottesville

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Reverend Mike Huckabee is one of two world class grifters to have been born into modest circumstances in the little town of Hope, Arkansas, and then gone on to achieve wealth and riches after serving a stint as governor of Arkansas.  The other grifter from Hope was, of course, Bill Clinton.

Clinton started out as a professor at the University of Arkansas, but quickly slid over into politics - so the arc of his ascendancy into power and wealth was fairly predictable.  Huckabee, on the other hand, got his political footing while traipsing the hills of Arkansas as a Baptist minister, a more circuitous route from rags to riches.

Curiously, both of these men developed aspirations to become President of the United States.  One achieved that goal, and the other made it to the "also ran" status of being a declared candidate for his party's nomination.   Perhaps there were some stellar teachers in rural Arkansas back in the day who encouraged these two fellows onward in their political aspirations, or perhaps equally likely,  there was an undetected issue with the town's drinking water.

Mike Huckabee made a run for the White House back in 2008, and after fairing poorly in the process he licked his wounds and took his preacherly gift of gab to Fox News where he opinionated and sold books for several years.  Back in 2015 Huckabee sent ripples through the mainstream news when he criticized Barack and Michelle Obama as being poor parents because they were not censoring the music that their daughters were listening to.

Huckabee's comments were rich with hypocrisy if for no other reason than Sasha and Malia are perhaps the two best adjusted young people to have ever served time in the White House.  Add to that Mike Huckabee's own questionable successes as a parent - one son was fired from his job as counselor at a Boy Scout camp for taking part in the killing of a dog - and Huck's daughter is currently on the public payroll as a paid liar for Donald Trump (Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders) - and Sasha and Malia literally sparkle by comparison.

This past week retired minister Mike Huckabee again made national news when he climbed into the fray over Donald Trump's tepid response to the terrorism in Charlottesville.   Huckabee, in castigating those who dared to criticize his daughter's employer, said that some of them would not have been happy if Trump had suddenly come to Virginia and shot the young man who drove the car into the crowd of counter-protesters "between the eyes."

Yup, Donald Trump could have shot the driver between the eyes and still some of those hard core liberals would not have been happy.

What the hell's wrong with liberals anyway?

God and guns, Mike.  God and guns!  More bloodshed is what Jesus would have wanted.

Please pass the fried chicken, Reverend Huckabee, and don't hog the biscuits.

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.