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Friday, December 7, 2018

"Fascism A Warning" by Madeleine Albright---Book Review

Albright, Madeleine with Bill Woodward. Fascism A Warning, (New York, NY, Harper Collins, 2018)

Madeleine Albright was US Secretary of State from 1997 to 2001 under President Bill Clinton.  She was born in 1937 in Smichov, Prague, Czech Republic and her family emigrated in the buildup to World War II, first to London and then to the United States.  She literally grew up in the shadow of the abject fear which Fascism generates.  There is no better person alive to write or speak on the subject of Fascism than Albright.  Just as James Clapper and John McCain produced their very important books with a co-writer, Albright worked with Bill Woodward to produce this book and five others.  I have not read the other books by Albright and  Woodward but I can assure you, based on this wonderful book, they are worth reading.  The relationship between Albright and Woodward has been nearly as lengthy and has produced nearly as many major works as the similar relationship between McCain and his co-writer Mark Salter.  Therefore, I am willing to accept that this work delivers exactly what Albright intended.  

Madeleine Albright photo by Smithsonian Magazine

Albright states that this book was a work in progress even before the electoral disaster of 2016 and it does not go to great lengths to discuss TRAITOR & Spawn Of Satan Trump.  To her credit, it is very deep in the book before Albright ever uses the word "president" to describe TRAITOR & Spawn Of Satan Trump.  It is a shame that she ever did use that word in reference to him.  But she makes absolutely clear that she has no respect for him, no faith in him, and significant fear of his still creating a disaster of world wide proportions.  But, Thank God, he is not remotely the focus of this book.  He just happens to be one of the guilty parties who made it necessary for a former US Secretary of State to write such a book and to join a former Director Of National Intelligence, a former FBI Director, a former US Presidential nominee, and dozens of other legitimate journalists, researchers, and 27 of the best, most respected, most experienced psychiatrists in America in stepping forward to address the danger the man presents

This book provides an excellent history of Fascism and a well reasoned prognosis for world affairs in the face of those Fascists and would be Fascists who are living today and working diligently to destroy the world or, at the very least, to reshape it in the image which they desire in their efforts to spread their Fascist dreams.  One of the most interesting statements in the book concerns the political origin of the phrase "drain the swamp" which has always been a rallying cry for the Tea Party Movement, TRAITOR & Spawn Of Satan Trump, and other Right Wing Radical operatives in America.  The first political use of the phrase was actually in Italian from Benito Mussolini, the father of modern Fascism.  The Italian verbiage for the phrase is "drenare la palude" which Mussolini began using as he rose to power in order to justify the firing of more than 35,000 Italian civil servants as he prepared Italy psychologically, morally, and politically to become the Fascist stronghold it was in World War II.  Now in the twenty-first century it has been joyfully adopted by nearly all Right Wing Repugnican Radicals in America and by Vladimir Putin's illegal occupant of the White House. A major portion of the US citizenry have blindly accepted it just as the Italian citizenry did in 1938.  

On page 5 of the book, as Albright lays the historical and political groundwork for the book and begins her initial education of her readers about Fascism and its dangers she says: 
"...why, this far into the twenty-first century, are we once again talking about Fascism?  One reason, frankly, is Donald Trump, If we think of Fascism as a wound from the past that had almost healed, putting Trump in the White House was like ripping off the bandage and picking at the scab." (Albright & Woodward, "Fascism A Warning" p.5)
That, dear reader, is a powerful metaphor and absolutely accurate.  We have seen a constitutionally guaranteed Free Press assaulted on a daily basis since this would be dictator jumped into the 2016 presidential race.  Recently the illegitimate occupier of the White House ordered that the press pass of CNN Correspondent Jim Acosta be taken because Acosta rightly and rightfully confronted him during one of his rare press conferences which appeared to have been held in an attempt to preempt fallout from further pending indictments from the Mueller investigation which are likely to come against numerous key members of the criminal conspiracy to seize the White House.  During the flurry of public statements about the incident which was wrongfully and illegally used to take the press pass, the White House actually released and attempted to defend a doctored video of the incident which precipitated that attack on Acosta, CNN, and the entirety of the US Free Press.  CNN chose to sue in federal court and Federal Judge Timothy J. Kelly issued a ruling ordering the White House to restore Acosta's press pass on a temporary basis pending a decision from US District Court on the full merits of the case.  The White House response to the court ruling was for TRAITOR & Spawn Of Satan Trump to say that "It's not a big deal. What they said, though, is that we have to create rules and regulations for conduct, etcetera. We're going to write them up. It's not a big deal. If he misbehaves, we'll throw him out or we'll stop the news conference."  That kind of action is outright and outrageous suppression of a constitutionally guaranteed free press.  That kind of action is unconscionable and unconstitutional.  That kind of action is Fascism in a nutshell. It is also one of the best reasons for any and all Americans to read this book by Madeleine Albright.  Additionally, on November 29, 2018, Michael Cohen returned to US District Court in New York to plead guilty to further federal charges.  In his new guilty plea, Cohen stated that "Individual #1, which the entire world understands to be TRAITOR & Spawn Of Satan Trump, was aware of ongoing contacts between Cohen and Russia about building a Trump Tower in Moscow up until about the date of the 2016 Repugnican Convention.  The plea deal also said that "Individual #1" was aware of the infamous meeting with the Kremlin connected Russian lawyer in Trump Tower. Also, on December 7, 2018, former Secretary of State Russ Tillerson has said in a speech that during his time in that office he was directed by TRAITOR & Spawn Of Satan Trump to do things that were illegal and that he, Tillerson, would refuse and declare the desired actions to be illegal. 

On page 95 in the book, Albright quotes President Harry S. Truman's address at the fledgling United Nations in San Francisco that "Fascism did not die with Mussolini.  Hitler is finished, but the seeds spread by his disordered mind have firm root in too many fanatical brains.  It is easier to remove tyrants and destroy concentration camps than to kill the ideas which give them birth."  (Albright & Woodward, "Fascism A Warning" p. 95.)  Harry S. Truman did not know and did not meet TRAITOR & Spawn Of Satan Trump so far as we know.  But that quotation tells me and should also tell you that he "knew" the man.  TRAITOR & Spawn of Satan Trump's brain was one of those to which President Truman was referring.  Today, along the US border with Mexico, concentration camps have been created for men, women, and children who are attempting to escape drug wars, murder, and starvation across Central and South America.  Children are being gassed and kidnapped from their parents and placed in tent cities without due process or any modicum of human decency which should be commonplace in a so-called "civilized country" such as ours.  Many of those children and their parents may never be reunited because ICE did not create or even bother to attempt to create a tracking system for the parents and children in order to facilitate their eventual reunions.  Whether or not those parents are being deported, they have a legal right to regain custody of their children.  Doing anything less than facilitating those reunions is a crime.  It is kidnapping!  It is Fascism in practice.

Returning to our direct discussion of Madeleine Albright's truly important work in this book, on page 184 in the book in a section primarily about the Fascist practises of Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Mihaly Orban, she extends into a discussion of the Fascist uses of the plebiscite to spread and validate a falsehood.  The plebiscite is used widely in America by Right Wing Radical Repugnican political consultants in the form of political "polls" which are composed of "questions" which are preceded by relatively long introductions phrased in such a way as to alter the "subjects" responses in favor of the candidate or position these "pollsters" are promoting.  They were quite commonly used by Right Wing Radical Repugnican candidates who favored the TRAITOR & Spawn Of Satan Trump during the 2016 and 2018 US elections.  A typical "question in such "polls" might be phrased in this manner: "Candidate A (the "pollsters" opposition candidate) believes that baby ducks should be decapitated via use of his teeth and mouth.  Candidate B (the "pollsters" supported candidate and employer) believes that baby ducks should be protected from all forms of physical violence." Then comes the "question" phrased to virtually guarantee a response in favor the  "pollsters" candidate.  "Does knowing this make you more or less likely to vote for Candidate B?"  When "polls" and their "questions" are phrased in such a manner, it allows the "pollsters" and their candidates to receive "results" they have directly and deliberately influenced and doctored to make it appear that their candidate is winning and to discourage support for the opposition candidate. These tactics in the use of so-called "plebiscites or polls" absolutely makes a mockery of what ethical researchers and pollsters call "validity", "reliability", and "generalizability", which are defined in this manner. Validity is defined as the extent to which a concept is accurately measured in a quantitative study. Reliability is defined as the accuracy of a research poll.  Generalizability can be defined as the extension of research findings and conclusions from a study conducted on a sample population to the population at large. The more ethical and honest, or shall we say the more Valid and Reliable a poll or plebiscite is, the more one can Generalize the results. Albright concludes her discussion of these tactics in this manner:
"...the misuse of plebiscites was perfected by the Third Reich, which employed it to attach a small thread of legality to Hitler's rule. 'The most effective form of persuasion', said Goebbels, "is when you are aware of being persuaded." (Albright and Woodward, p. 184-185.)

The use of these doctored, unethical, and deliberately manipulative "polls" is quite common among the Repugnican Party today.  It is a practice which was perfected by and arose from the work of Fascists.  No matter what your political persuasion is, you should always ask yourself when you are taking a political poll, "Are these questions intended to induce me to give a particular response or come to a specified conclusion?"  If the answer to that question is yes, you are taking an Invalid, Unreliable, and Ungeneralizable "poll" and you should not come to any conclusion it is intended to produce.  You should not provide the answers it is seeking.  You should not support the candidate paying for that poll.  You should not ever, at any later date, believe any "poll" being produced by that company or "pollster".  

 On page 211 in the book, Albright addresses the propensity of TRAITOR & Spawn Of Satan Trump to praise, cater to, and seek the approval of dictators world wide both living and dead. She discusses how he "often endorses actions by foreign leaders that weaken democratic institutions" and goes on to pick fights with, denigrate, and directly attack our allies while using his truncated phraseology by referring to those allies as "bad, very bad", or "sad, very sad".  That kind of phraseology is both the mark of a poorly educated and marginally intelligent person but also intended to seek the approval of others who are even less educated and more likely to approve of such actions which are damaging to the rights of the general public.  On the very next page of the book, page 212, Albright addresses how TRAITOR & Spawn Of Satan Trump has managed to spread his Fascist messages to the point that other similarly minded criminals take the actions which they believe he will approve such as Thai officials who kicked several American reporters out of the country and then responded to questions about that action by saying that "they perceived a clear message from Trump that "news broadcast by those media outlets doesn't reflect the truth" and that such media outlets "must respect the states power".  Later in the same chapter, on page 215, Albright states that "His analysis is filled with full-throated assertions that are riddled with bunkum and his arguments are designed to exploit insecurities and stir up resentment."  While those words are absolutely honest and accurate, they are also a major understatement of his willingness to lie deliberately and outrageously in order to get his way.   On page 218 Albright goes on to discuss his repeated attacks on NATO as too expensive and damaging to the interests of the United States by saying "Personally, I have conceived of NATO as a business proposition; it is something far more valuable.  The Alliance is a unique political and military arrangement that for more than seven decades has allowed Europe and the United States to prepare, train share intelligence, and fight against common dangers.  It is the cornerstone of world peace and a living testament to our collective will; you can't put a price on that."  But these attacks on NATO are parroted by TRAITOR & Spawn Of Satan Trump from similar attacks by Vladimir Putin.  A recent article from the news service VOX uses this opening sentence to discuss the source of the attacks: "Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to divide NATO. President Donald Trump is doing that for him."  Two pages later, Albright continues her argument by citing recent opinion poll figures from citizens of our allies concerning their level of trust for the leadership of America.
"Since early 2017, surveys show a marked decline in respect for the United States.   In Germany, belief that the American president can be counted on to do the right thing shrank from 86 percent under his predecessor to 11 percent under Trump.  In France, the fall was from 84 percent to 14; in Japan, 74 to 24; in South Korea 84 to 17." (Albright & Woodward, page 220.)
On the next page, 221, Albright speaks her own mind about her faith in the United States to recover from the ongoing damage  being generated by the TRAITOR who occupies the White House:
"I continue to believe that the United States banked enough international goodwill in the interval between George Washington and Barack Obama to recover from the present embarrassment-- but I am not sure how extensive or lasting the harm will be, hence the worries."  (Albright & Woodward, p. 221.)
 My own opinion, as expressed briefly above, is that the damage to America is and will continue to be cumulative, will last for at least a generation, and could well lead to deterioration in this country socially, politically, morally, and ethically which will be nearly impossible to erase unless the American justice system, as personified by the Mueller investigation, takes the necessary and appropriate actions and indicts, convicts, impeaches, and imprisons this TRAITOR and all of his co-conspirators.  In this country today, parents are raising a generation of children who have known no other occupant of the White House and have no other barometer by which to measure appropriate moral leadership until this conspiracy is brought to justice.  The price, over their lifetimes could be sufficient to totally destroy both America and American Democracy.  As she builds to her conclusion of the book, Albright states: 
"What the country needs is a plainspoken commitment by responsible leaders from both parties to address national needs together, accompanied by a general plan of action for doing so....Years from now, we may look back on Trump as a one time oddity who taught us a lesson we will not forget about the quirks of democracy.  We may also look back on his as the agent of a political fracturing from which it will take decades to recover, during which every president will fail because the only candidates elected are those who make promises impossible to keep." ( Albright & Woodward, pages 233-234.)

As she reaches her conclusions in the book, Albright comes to a bleak possibility and I concur with her in believing that the potential for such a disaster is very real.  But I also know that she, I, and hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of Americans are working daily to keep the disaster she foresees as being possible from ever happening.  But here is the conclusion she reaches and the reason we are fighting every day to prevent it:
"Trump is the first anti-democratic president in modern U. S. history...If transplanted to a country with fewer democratic safeguards, he would audition for dictator, because that is where his instincts lead.  This frightening fact has consequences.  The herd mentality is powerful in international affairs.  Leaders around the globe observe, learn from, and mimic one another.  They see where their peers are heading, what they can get away with, and how they can augment and perpetuate their power.  They walk in one another's footsteps, as Hitler did with Mussolini--and today the herd is moving in a Fascist direction."  (Albright & Woodward, p. 246.)
That bleak and terrorizing picture is what we all must, as Americans, fight against on a daily basis.  We must lot allow one criminal to destroy what several billion patriots have built over the last 250 years.  We must hold firm to the values on which this country was built and has prospered.  We must right the ship.  We must protect, defend, and perpetuate American Democracy as the Founding Fathers created it and we must not allow one TRAITOR and his co-conspirators to destroy it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

"Conquerors Of The Dark Hills" by Rufus Mitchell Reed--Book Review

Reed, Rufus Mitchell: Conquerors Of The Dark Hills (New York, Vantage Press, 1979)

Once in a while we stumble into a book which surprises us with its quality, applicability to our needs, and general utility.  For me this was such a book.  I bought my copy from a local speculator in antiques and collectibles who had bought most of the estate of a local newspaper writer and poet who had known many of the published authors in Eastern Kentucky in particular and the whole of Kentucky in general.  My copy was autographed by the author and inscribed to the aforementioned local newspaper writer.  The book was published by Vantage Press which, for several years, was the largest vanity press in America before losing $3.5million in damages in a civil suit due to having defrauded several hundred authors.  Vantage also lost all credibility and eventually went out of business in 2012.  But this book is a reasonably high quality hardcover and my copy was still in its paper dust cover which is also in good to very good condition.  But enough about the physical state of the book.  Let's talk about its writing, content, and applicability to my needs as a student, researcher, and writer in the areas of Appalachian Studies and Appalachian Literature.  

Rufus Mitchell Reed Photo by The Reed Family

Rufus Mitchell Reed was born in 1895 in Martin County Kentucky near Lovely, Kentucky, in the Tug River Valley.  He lived his entire life in Martin County and worked most of that time as a surveyor.  But he was also apparently a student of Appalachian Culture, the local genealogy and history, and the flora and fauna of the entire Tug River Region.  His writing is well above average and I am somewhat surprised by the fact that he had published the book with a vanity press.  The quality and accuracy of the work and comprehensive nature of his knowledge about Appalachia in his time were more than sufficient for a regional press to have published his work.  He also published several volumes of poetry  over the course of his lifetime, none of which I have ever read.  But as soon as I can lay hands of copies of his other books, I will gladly purchase, read, write about, and retain them in my ever growing collection of Appalachian books.  

Rufus Mitchell Reed Photo by The Reed Family
"Conquerors Of The Dark Hills" can best be described as memoir but it addresses a significant number of aspects of life in the Tug River Valley in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  The book was published in 1979 when the author was eighty-four years old and I am sure it was his last ditch effort to have his impressions of his life and those of his family and neighbors recorded for posterity.  He is an articulate, skillful writer whose grammar, syntax, and style are well within the good to better category.  His knowledge of Appalachian Culture, history, and the area in and around Lovely, Kentucky, and the Tug River Valley are comprehensive, accurate, and honest.  This is a book which deserved to have been printed by a legitimate academic press which could have successfully marketed it across the wider Appalachian area. 

The chapters discuss early Kentucky and Appalachian history and a variety of topics of everyday life in the period from about 1800 to 1980.  It is a book which draws the reader in, makes you eager to read every word of it, and leaves you wishing for more when you reach the end far too soon.  For the fledgling student of Appalachia, it is wonderful source of cultural information.  For the accomplished Appalachian scholar it is a useful source of first hand information about life in the Tug River Valley in the early twentieth century.  It left me wishing I could have known Rufus Mitchell Reed, Rufe as he was known by his family and friends.  Due to the vanity press publication, there are a limited number of copies to be found on the open market and some of them are a bit steeply priced by sellers of rare books.  But I will gladly recommend to the reader that you buy one when you can find it.  You will not be disappointed.  

The individual chapters address several of the same topics I have addressed in the life of this blog plus several others such as education, hog killing, family life in Appalachia, Appalachian religion, digging ginseng, and hoedowns.  If you can find your copy, read it, enjoy it, hang on it for dear life, and arrange to pass it on to another lover of Appalachia when you die. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The Mixed Blessings Of Having Writers As Friends

As I have said on several occasions in this blog, I have known and been mentored by several of the most important writers in Appalachia.  I have had published writers as friends, mentors, professors, and colleagues since I was in my early teens.  I have written about several of those relationships and people on this blog over the last seven years.  I have benefited greatly, in a variety of ways, by having known these people.  I do not say that all of them have been glowing examples of the human race.  One or two I have known have been many of the things most people work diligently to try to never become. A few others have been nearly everything decent, honorable, and caring humans strive to become.  At least one of these relationships extends all the way back to the early 1970's.  Others have only been my friends for a few years.  Yet at least one of those brief friendships is one of my closest today.  For a time I was a member of a group of Appalachian writers, both professors and students, which is thought of by many in the fields of Appalachian Studies and Appalachian Literature as having been one of the more significant groups of writers in Appalachia.  

However, knowing numerous writers  is, in general, a bit like knowing all of the dogs in your neighborhood or the racehorses at your favorite track.  Some of them will bite without provocation.  Some will be your best friend so long as you have food to eat, a warm house, or something to drink or smoke.  Some of them will be winners.  Some will always finish well behind the pack.  Some will only be consistent consumers of favors and influence while others will be consistent producers of both great literature and fond memories.  Over the last few weeks I have had occasion to be reminded of this for several reasons.  I recently acquired a few books from the estate of a lesser known poet and newspaper write in my area and most of those books had been autographed by their authors and given to the writer  of whose estate I had managed to buy part.  During her lifetime, she had known many of the most influential writers in the state of Kentucky.  During my lifetime, I have done the same with a similar group of writers from both Kentucky and West Virginia.  I also have a similar collection of books written, autographed, and presented to me by writers I have known.  I even bought a wood stove once from one of the most famous Kentucky writers without anything other than home heating having ever been discussed between us.  

Also during this recent period, I acquired four or five books written by two or three of my friends.  One of those friends I have known since about 1995.  The other I met just this past summer.  One is an excellent writer.  The other is not.  I have been in fairly regular contact with both over the time I have known the later.  The recent friend has provided me with warmth, friendship, and respect.  The other, whom I have known much longer has been in contact on superficial levels and been less than forthcoming in many ways.  The new friend, during the course of writing their third published book, sought my input and even included a piece of a great writer's production in that book to make a point.  It was not the point I would made with the same excerpt but I do know that my friend had never before seen that writer's work until they knew me and chose to use the work mentioned when I made them aware of it.  The second writer, whom I have know considerably longer also published a couple of books recently which would have been better left in a manila envelope under a bed for some auctioneer, yet unborn, to include in a box lot at an estate sale.  At some point, I offered this second mistakenly ambitious writer some constructive criticism pending their willingness to hear it.  I never even got a response which in some ways did not surprise me.  I refer you once again to my earlier metaphor about dogs and racehorses.  The new friend has produced a well written, respectable book which will not likely ever be famous but is likely to be kept in some bookshelves for the foreseeable future.  The other produced a book which would, as I said earlier, have been better placed elsewhere other than in the public market.  At about the same time this series of exchanges was transpiring, a third writer friend who work in several area has been well reviewed by random strangers over the last several decades asked me to consider providing input on an upcoming book which leads me to believe that my input is not totally worthless.  

To put all this in a neat little package, or at least as neat a package as possible, I will say that despite having been bitten and ravaged by fleas on a few occasions in addition to having been kicked, pawed, and dragged by several horses, I still pet strange dogs, admire and sometimes even bet on new horses, waste my time picking up strays, and have even paid to neuter two stray kittens lately.  I will probably not stop expressing my opinions to writers whom I know and some I have still not met. 

Monday, November 26, 2018

The Murder Of Chief Deputy Bristol Taylor

Chief Deputy Bristol Taylor Photo by The Taylor Family

On Friday, November 23, 1973, Knott County Kentucky Chief Deputy Bristol Taylor was shot and killed while responding to a call about a drunk and disorderly man at the Blue Star Restaurant in Mousie, Kentucky. As he and another deputy, Herman Gibson, approached the shooter's vehicle the man, who was later identified as Marvin Gibson, opened fire on them with a .357 caliber revolver.  He shot Chief Deputy Taylor four times. The other deputy was shot once and wounded.  In a subsequent trial, the shooter was only convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 16 years in prison.  Chief Deputy Taylor was a U.S. Army veteran and had served with the Knott County Sheriff's Department for four years. He was survived by his wife Fern and four children, Tony, Deronda, Mickey, and Gary.  He was only twenty-nine years old and had been the Chief Deputy Sheriff in Knott County about four years.  He was buried in the Taylor Family Cemetery on Branham's Creek Road in Knott County.  

Marvin Gibson was able to win a change of venue to Pike County Circuit Court in Pikeville, Kentucky.  The trial was under the jurisdiction of Pike Circuit Judge E. N. Venters. During the brief trial in 1974, Marvin Gibson admitted to the crime. He was convicted of manslaughter in Taylor’s death and of wounding Herman Gibson. He was sentenced to a total of 16 years in prison by Judge E.N. Venters.

Chief Deputy Bristol Taylor & Family Photo by Troublesome Creek Times

Due to a complex schedule, I have not searched either newspaper or court records from the time of the murder and trial of the shooter, but I remember the shooting and sentencing of the killer.  The fact that the killer was only convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to only sixteen years after having killed a deputy and wounding another is a travesty of the highest order.  In today's world, most killers of police officers all across the country receive life sentences without the possibility of parole.  I will pursue the newspaper coverage of this incident and the trial proceedings and bring this post more up to date in the near future.  With Kentucky Parole Board standards at the time, it is highly likely that the killer was out of prison before Chief Deputy Taylor's youngest child was legally an adult.  

In 2012, based on efforts by State Representative John Short, the Kentucky General Asembly passed a resolution to name Kentucky 1393, Branham's Creek Road where the family cemetery is located, the  Deputy Bristol Taylor Memorial Highway. The ceremony to dedicate the highway was held on Friday, June 22, 2012, near the Taylor Cemetery, where Bristol Taylor is buried. The ceremony was open to the public and was attended by numerous public officials, family members, and law enforcement officers.  The ceremony began with the Presentation of Colors by Knott County DAV Chapter 171 with Arthur Mullins acting as their Commander. Kyra Short sang the National Anthem. Pastor McCoy Taylor held prayer and State Rep. John Short spoke and presented the formal declaration from the state legislature to the Taylor Family. Bristol Taylor’s sons Mickey and Tony spoke on behalf of the family.  The family unveiled the sign designating the highway as the Deputy Bristol Taylor Memorial Highway. A crew from Highway District 12 installed signs at the intersection of Ky. 899 and Ky. 1393 and at the intersection of Ky. 1393 and Ky. 582.

Bristol Taylor had been born to Everett and Mattie Short Taylor on March 17, 1944. He served in the U.S. Army and the U.S. Army Reserves from 1960- 1966, including a tour of duty in France. When Taulbee Pratt was elected Knott County Sheriff in 1969, he appointed Taylor chief deputy. He served in that capacity until his death.  While many law enforcement and judicial practices were markedly different in 1973, than they are today, it is unconscionable that a competent judge and jury could have only convicted the shooter of the lesser charge of manslaughter in what was a cold blooded murder and attempted murder.  The designation of a minor country road in honor of Chief Deputy Bristol Taylor was a commendable but less than sufficient act in light of his proven dedication to serve his country and community over an extended period both in the military and law enforcement.  Chief Deputy Bristol Taylor deserves more to be done in his honor.  

Monday, November 19, 2018

Morgan County Kentucky Court House Annex--WPA Construction

Morgan County Courthouse Annex Front (East) Photo by Roger D. Hicks

The Morgan County Kentucky Courthouse Annex is for all intents and purposes the actual Morgan County Courthouse since what is known as the courthouse is actually leased to the Appalachian Regional Healthcare System.  It holds the offices of the County Judge Executive, the County Clerk, the Sheriff, the Property Valuation Administrator, and meeting rooms for the Fiscal Court composed of the County Judge Executive and the Magistrates.  There is also a gymnasium on the ground floor and the basement is leased to a day care program.  This building is the most historic building in the county.  It was built by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in the heart of the Great Depression and originally served as the local high school.  It was dedicated by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and Kentucky Governor Happy Chandler.  There is a large bronze plaque in the main hallway discussing this historic building and its history.  I will add photos of the interior and the information on the plaque in a few days.  I shot these exterior photos on Sunday, November 18, 2018, in order to do it at a time when there were not large numbers of cars in the parking lots or heavy passing traffic.  The photos are not perfect and I apologize for that.  When I can locate better photographs by other people and gain permission to use them, I will add those.

Morgan County Courthouse Annex (Northeast Corner View) Photo by Roger D. Hicks

The building is an excellent example of Depression Era stone work by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) which was one of the many New Deal programs instituted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in order to bring the country out of the Great Depression which had been caused by the economic mismanagement of the Hoover administration.  These WPA stone buildings were built all over the southeastern United States where local stone was available of acceptable quality.  They are rapidly disappearing and all of them which are still in useful condition need to be restored and saved.  Thanks to some interesting circumstances and the high quality of the stone work this wonderful building has survived and remained in productive use almost every day since the day it was opened.  

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt Photo by Yousuf Karsh

President Roosevelt issued an executive order on May 6, 1935, which established the Works Progress Administration (WPA) at a time when the national unemployment rate was 20%.  The WPA was the greatest infrastructure operation in the history of the country.  It employed several million  previously unemployed people and in the eight years of its existence it built more than 4,000 new school buildings, 130 new hospitals, 9,000 miles of storm drains and sewer lines, 29,000 new bridges, 150 new airfields, paved and repaired more than a quarter million miles of roads and planted 24 million trees.  Many of those schools, hospitals, sewer lines, bridges, airports, and roads were in areas which had not had such infrastructure previously and many of them are still in daily operation today in one capacity or another whether or not they are being used for their original purposes.  The Morgan County High School, now known as the Morgan County Court House Annex was simply one small project among thousands of others nationwide which the WPA was building at the time.  In June of 1943, the WPA was disbanded after national unemployment had  dropped to less than 5% as a result of the economic recovery and the effort to build war time armaments.  But it will always be one of the most important economic and infrastructure programs in the history of the country. 

Photo of Kentucky Governor Albert B. "Happy" Chandler Photo by Murat Shrine

On March 2, 2012, the town of West Liberty, Kentucky, was literally destroyed by a major tornado but the Court House Annex withstood the blast which killed six people in the county and destroyed nearly every other major public building within the city limits.  I am adding two photos from the aftermath of the tornado to show just how clearly the town was destroyed around this magnificent building.  But the WPA stonework withstood the tornado with some damage to roof and windows which was easily repaired as the effort to rebuild the town began.

Downtown West Liberty After The Tornado Photo by CNN

Gas Station Across Street From Courthouse Annex After Tornado Photo by Flickr

The two photos immediately above were taken by professional photographers in the next few days after the West Liberty Tornado in early March 2012.  So far, I have been unable to locate a photo of the Court House Annex taken immediately after the tornado and will continue to search for one and post it when I can. It appears that since the building withstood the tornado with little damage the professionals were looking for "real disaster" photos and did not focus on the Court House Annex But the first photo immediately above of the gas station directly across the street from the Court House Annex shows some of the damage in the immediate area.  The sidewalk visible in the foreground of the photo is directly in front of the Court House Annex.  The photographer would have been standing in the edge of the small parking lot beside the Court House Annex.  The old wood sided Morgan County Board of Education building which stood directly to the south of the Court House Annex was immediately destroyed as was the John F. Kennedy Public Library which stood directly to the north side of the parking lot from which the photograph above was shot.  Diagonally across the street to the northeast, the building in which a physical therapy facility was operated and had originally been an automobile dealership was also completely destroyed.  Diagonally across the street to the southeast, a Dollar General store was totally destroyed.  Without the high quality stonework of the WPA, the Court House Annex would not exist today.   

Morgan County Courthouse Annex (North View) Photo By Roger D. Hicks

This historic WPA building still functions perfectly well as the primary site of Morgan County Kentucky government operations and is likely to continue to do so for many years in the future. It deserves to be added to the National Register of Historic Places and I will begin to work in the near future to see if I can facilitate that along with help from as many citizens of Morgan County and the general public as can make a phone call, sign a petition, write a letter, or send an e-mail to the appropriate agencies and people to support the effort.  Placement on the National Register would further guarantee for the foreseeable future that this wonderful, iconic, and historic WPA project would be protected, honored, and preserved as it should. 
Morgan County Courthouse Annex (Northwest Corner View) Photo By Roger D. Hicks

Morgan County Courthouse Annex (West/Rear View) Photo by Roger D. Hicks

Morgan County Courthouse Annex (South West Corner View) Photo by Roger D. Hicks

Morgan County Courthouse Annex (South View) Photo by Roger D. Hicks

Morgan County Courthouse Annex (Southeast Corner View) Photo by Roger D. Hicks

Morgan County Courthouse Annex (East/Front View) Photo by Roger D. Hicks

Friday, November 16, 2018

Mass Murder In Allen Kentucky 1981

As mass murder has become almost a daily occurrence in the United States with three hundred and seven being reported in 2018 as of November 16, 2018, we tend to generally believe that it is a relatively recent phenomenon.  But that is not entirely true.  Mass murders have been happening in America since at least since 1966 when Richard Speck murdered eight nurses in one night in Chicago.  On Labor Day in 1949 what is generally believed to be the first mass murder in America occurred when Howard Unruh murdered thirteen people in Camden, New Jersey.  But this blog is generally centered on subjects within Central and Southern Appalachia.  The first mass murder I remember in Appalachia happened in Allen, Kentucky, in October 1981 when five men were murdered in an auto parts store in Allen, Kentucky, less than twenty miles from where I grew up in Dema, Kentucky, and about three miles from Banner, Kentucky, where I operated an auction house for several years.  

On Friday, October 16, 1981, William "Okie" Bevins, a seventy year old retired miner walked into a small auto parts store on the banks of the Big Sandy River and shot eight men, fatally wounding five of them.  According to news coverage of the event at the time, Bevins drove back to his home at Printer, Kentucky, after the murders, dropped the gun down a hand dug well and was sitting on his porch when the arresting officers arrived.  He claimed that he had been bitten by a spider earlier in the day and had no memory of any of the day's events afterward.  Bevins had been convicted of a previous murder in 1930. He had served seven years on a life sentence in that case.  Witnesses who knew Bevins and at least one of his victims believed that the murders had occurred because of an ongoing relationship with the wife of one of the dead men,  twenty-eight year old Roger Click of Allen.  The other seven men, including the three wounded survivors, all seem to have been only what the military calls "collateral damage".   The general consensus at the time was that Bevins simply intended to murder all the witnesses to the crime.  As is common in such crimes, Bevins was transferred to the Laurel County Jail in London, Kentucky, for his own protection and claimed during the investigative interviews conducted there that he did know Roger Click who had previously rented a house from him and that Click always paid his rent on time.  

The other victims of the shooting were Rufus Hamilton, whom Bevins claimed he had worked with in the mines for more than ten years, Roger Hatfield, 34, Mohawk, W. Va.; Jarvey Hamilton, 27, Grethel, Kentucky, and Michael Halbert, 28, Allen, a co-owner of the auto parts store.  According to the testimony of his thirteen year old brother, Roger Click called home from the store just seconds before he was murdered.  Stanley Click, 13, answered the telephone at the home of their mother. He said the person on the other end didn't identify himself but Stanley Click was certain it was his brother.  He told investigators that "Roger yelled out as loud as I ever heard, 'God help me, Mommy!' Then it sounded like a belt popping, I handed the phone to Mommy and she heard it, too." At least one other witness, Tommy Joe Reitz, testified that he saw Bevins and Click arguing outside the store before Click went inside and asked to use the telephone.  Reitz went on to say that he saw Bevins follow Click inside the store and left immediately.  Autopsy reports on the bodies of the five victims revealed that each of them had been shot between two and eight times and colloquial reports from the area always agreed that Bevins had shot each victim at least once after they fell to make certain that they were dead. The story was so unusual and violent that it actually made the New York Times.  Sadly, in today's world, such stories of mass murder do not survive much longer than the victims. 

Bevins initially plead not guilty and a jury trial began in Floyd Circuit Court in Prestonsburg, Kentucky.  But following early testimony, Bevins instructed his legal counsel to withdraw his plea of not guilty, entered a plea of guilty to all charges, and ask for the judge to proceed with sentencing.  The judge sustained the motion by counsel and proceeded to sentence Bevins to death.  On March 20, 1986, the Kentucky Supreme Court delivered a ruling on an appeal by Bevins in which he claimed nearly a dozen errors in the trial and sentence.  The ruling stated "We have conducted an independent review of these circumstances and conclude that these circumstances exceed any minimum threshold justifying capital punishment. The sentence is not excessive or disproportionate to the death penalty imposed in other cases.  The judgment is affirmed."  In 1972, the US Supreme court ruled in Furman v. Georgia that the death penalty was unconstitutional and Bevins' death sentence was commuted to life.  He died in prison. 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

A Moderately Thankful Thanksgiving

On November 22, 2017, I wrote a Thanksgiving post titled Another Thanksgiving With Little To Be Thankful For.  I had written a similar post the previous year titled Thanksgiving 2016 So Little To Be Thankful For.  This year I am somewhat more positive than in the two previous years about conditions in America but we still have a great deal to be genuinely fearful and disgusted about.  We got a very mixed result in the November elections at a time when America should have been voting straight Democratic.  We were able to regain Democratic control of the House Of Representatives but we failed to gain control of the US Senate at a time when control of both houses of congress would have assured that we could put an end to the illegal occupation of the White House by TRAITOR & Spawn Of Satan Trump.  Democrats gained control of a total of seven governors offices that had previously been held by Republicans. We should have won every one of those offices which were up for grabs.  In Kentucky's 6th Congressional District, Lt. Col Amy McGrath (Ret.) lost to Andy Barr in Central Kentucky despite being supported by former Vice President Joe Biden and most of the living former governors of Kentucky.  With the US Senate race in Florida still hanging in the balance as of today, November 15, 2018, Democrats have lost one seat in the Senate.  But we did gain control of Senator John McCain's seat in Arizona with a win from US Senator elect Kyrsten Sinema, the first openly bisexual senator to be elected in America.  

We can look forward to a House under Democratic control and the likelihood of significant investigations being carried out into the crime spree of TRAITOR &  Spawn Of Satan Trump.  Congressman Elijah Cummings will most likely be the chair of the House Oversight Committee and once again he will prove his courage, patriotism, and commitment to democracy by investigating TRAITOR & Spawn Of Satan Trump’s tax returns as well as delving into dealings between the federal government and the Trump International Hotel near the White House.  But it does not appear likely that we will see a successful impeachment of the worst traitor in world history unless one of the investigations or the Mueller investigation can unearth video evidence depicting him giving US classified information to Russia.  Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell will do literally anything to help TRAITOR & Spawn Of Satan Trump cling to his illegally gotten power and position.  In many ways despite the wins in elections across America, we are still facing the possibility that the crime spree will continue until January 20, 2021.  And if that occurs, it will be a real tragedy.

We are facing an unprecedented and unconstitutional attack on the free press!  At least three female African American reporters have been verbally attacked by TRAITOR & Spawn Of Satan Trump.  Jim Acosta and his employer CNN have been forced to sue TRAITOR & Spawn Of Satan Trump in US District Court because Mr. Acosta's White House press credential was revoked out of spite because he had the courage to ask justifiable questions about the crimes of TRAITOR & Spawn Of Satan Trump.  These attacks on a free press are an early indicator of pending Fascism if America is not rescued from the Russian Owned Criminal Syndicate which lives in the White House.

Millions of US citizens in Florida, Texas, and California are being denied appropriate disaster services following natural disasters of both hurricanes and raging wildfires which have killed hundreds, left hundreds of thousands homeless, and destroyed billions of dollars worth of personal property, real estate, and public buildings and services.  Such deliberate refusal of necessary services to US citizens in the wake of disasters has never been seen before and will, hopefully, never be seen again if we do the right thing and indict, convict, impeach, and imprison TRAITOR & Spawn Of Satan Trump.  

But I began this blog post by saying that this is a moderately thankful Thanksgiving.  We do have control of the US House of Representatives.  We did win a few governors offices.  We do have Elijah Cummings prepared to stand up for America one more time.  We do have a committed Resistance in America and I am proud to be a part of it.  You should be too!